Tuesday, July 30, 2013

American Lit: What I'm Reading

I have no idea what to write today so here's a list of all the stories and poems I'm reading for American Lit this semester.  Besides this massive list, there are a ton of articles. 

What I've Read:
  • The Parish and The Hill by Mary Doyle Curran (I really enjoyed this novel)
  • "Fat of the Land" from Hungry Hearts by Anzia Yezierska
  • "City of Refuge" by Rudolph Fisher
  • "Truant" by Claude McKay
  • "The Guilded Six-Bits" by Zora Neale Hurston
  • Excerpt from First Two Chapters of Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (I want to reread this now that I've read this excerpt again)
  • "Recitatif" by Toni Morrison (I didn't know that Toni Morrison had written a short story. This was really good and I suggest everyone read it!)
  • "Bright and Morning Star" by Richard Wright
  • "Exodus" by James Baldwin

What I Was Supposed to Read but Didn't (and reasons why):

  • Quicksand by Nella Larsen (it was only online and I wasn't reading a whole novel on my computer screen)
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (I've read it before and with everything else we have to read for this class there was no way I was rereading it in under a week)

Currently Reading:

  • Love Medicine by Louise Erdirch

Still to Read:

  • Storytelling (Poem) by Leslie Marmon Silko
  • Yellow Woman by Leslie Marmon Silko
  • The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie
  • House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday
  • I am Joaquin (Poem) by Rodolfo (Corky) Gonzalez
  • Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
  • After the Funeral of Assam Hamady (Poem) by Sam Hamod
  • Barbie Doll (Poem) by Marge Piercy
  • Try to Praise the Mutilated World (Poem) by Adam Zagajewski
  • For a Daughter who Leaves (Poem) by Janice Mirikitani
  • In Response to Executive Order 9066 (Poem) by Dwight Okita
  • Mama, Came Back (Poem) by Nellie Wong

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book Trailer Thursday - The Heartbreak Messenger

They say that breaking up is hard to do. So why not pay someone to do it for you?

Check out The Heartbreak Messenger, the new hilarious middle-grade novel by Alexander Vance. http://www.heartbreakmessenger.com.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Reading Events and Challenges: An Update

Here's a quick update on where I stand on my reading events and challenges for 2013:

TBR Pile Challenge
The Goal is to read 12 books from your "to be read" pile before the end of 2013.
I have read and reviewed 7 books and have 1 that I did not finish.

Jack's Widow by Eve Pollard - Completed 2/2/13
The Smart One and The Pretty One by  Claire LaZebnik - Completed 2/11/13
Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik - Completed 2/17/2013
The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James - Completed 3/8/13
The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by Gil McNeil - Completed 5/7/13
Needles and Pearls by Gil McNeil - Completed 5/27/13
Geektastic edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci - Completed 6/23/13
How to Be Single by Liz Tuccillo - DNF

Beats of Summer Reading Event
This Reading Event was to read books by Beat authors and those associated with the Beat Generation.
I had a goal of reading a lot more than I did, I managed to finish 3 books.

Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg  - Completed 6/1/2013
On the Road by Jack Kerouac - Completed 6/23/2013
A Different Beat: Writings by Women of the Beat Generation - Completed 6/27/2013

Austen in August Reading Event hosted by Roof Beam Reader
I have a lot going on in August so I'm not going to push myself. I plan on reading two books, both by author Kara Louise

Darcy's Voyage: A Tale of Uncharted Love on the Open Seas
Pirates and Prejudice

Friday, July 19, 2013

Just had to share...

this great tweet!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Book Trailer Thursday - This is How You Die

Published on Jul 16, 2013The machines started popping up around the world. The offer was tempting: with a simple blood test, anyone could know how they would die. But the machines didn't give dates or specific circumstances-just a single word or phrase. DROWNED, CANCER, OLD AGE, CHOKED ON A HANDFUL OF POPCORN. And though the predictions were always accurate, they were also often frustratingly vague. OLD AGE, it turned out, could mean either dying of natural causes, or being shot by an elderly, bedridden man in a botched home invasion. The machines held onto that old-world sense of irony in death: you can know how it's going to happen, but you'll still be surprised when it does. 
This addictive anthology--sinister, witty, existential, and fascinating--collects the best of the thousands of story submissions the editors received in the wake of the success of the first volume, and exceeds the first in every way. 
For more visit, http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titl... (from YouTube description)

I'm putting this on hold ASAP! Look great!

The Beats of Summer - Wrap Up

From Roof Beam Reader:
The Beats of Summer: A Reading Event! 
Summertime is coming, and what better time than Summer to immerse ourselves in the works of the most rebellious, daring, and “hot” generation of American writers?? 
For this event, the goal is to read as many pieces of “Beat Generation” literature as you want to, from June 1st through July 14th. Audiobooks, fiction, poetry, and non-fiction all count, as long as the writer is considered to be a part of the Beat Generation. Memoirs, biographies, essays, theory/criticism or other works of non-fiction written about The Beats are also acceptable!

I remember my first time reading anything from the Beat Generation in an American Lit class.  I really enjoyed it and had wanted to read more, but unfortunately I never got the chance.

Here are the books I checked out from the library:
If I finish those I'll move on to these:
  • Naked Lunch
  • Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg: the letters
  • American Scream: Allen Ginsberg's Howl and the making of the Beat Generation
  • Women of the Beat Generation
Notes on the event:
As you can see I only got to three of the four books that I checked out of the library.  I really thought I would enjoy what I read a lot more than I did and that I would get through more books.  If Adam hosts this event again I'll pick up where I left off and try to finish this list.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

TBR Pile Challenge - Geektastic

Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd HerdGeektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd by Holly Black
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As with any collection of stories there are some that you really like and some you could have done without, this collection was no different.  While I didn't completely dislike any one story, there were a few that if they weren't in this collection would have made this a five star book.  Instead of talking about them and why I didn't like them I'm just going to talk about the three stories I liked the most.

Once You're a Jedi, You're a Jedi All the Way by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci
Imagine you are at a Con and when you wake up you realize you are not in your room.  (This is not always a bad thing.) Now imagine that you are a Klingon and you wake up next to a Jedi. (go ahead freak out for a moment I'll wait.)  That's the plot of this funny story.  After waking up together our Jedi and Klingon characters trying to rationalize their attraction to each other while balancing the demands of their chosen groups.  As you read, ask yourself "Who would win in a battle of Klingons and Jedis?"

One of Us by Tracy Lynn
In today's society things aren't always as simple as 'those who geek' and 'those who don't geek'.  With the blockbuster success of stories and characters that once belonged strictly to 'those who geek' there are those cool people who 'sometimes geek'.  This is the background to this story.  A girlfriend wanting to understand her boyfriends who is a 'sometimes geek'.  She turns to the group of 'those who geek' for help.   At it's core I felt like this was a humorous story about understanding the other side.

The Quiet Knight by Garth Nix
I don't LLARP but I have a friend who has tried it a few times.  From what I can tell it's serious business and the characters in this story are no different.  The Quiet Knight is silent for a reason, a childhood injury to his vocal cords has left him with a really gravely sounding voice.  He keeps himself separated from his family, classmates and his fellow LLARPers. That is until a pretty girl joins their group.  Following their first meeting The Quiet Knight sees her in trouble at school and must decided if he is just acting as a knight or if he is in fact a true knight.

In between each story is a wonderfully geeky cartoon. My favorite was Top Five Words or Phrases You Need to Know in Klingon

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Book Review - The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three

The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three: Discovering the Radical Truth at the Heart of ChristianityThe Holy Trinity and the Law of Three: Discovering the Radical Truth at the Heart of Christianity by Cynthia Bourgeault
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I received an ebook ARC from Netgalley.

I dislike writing negative reviews.  Normally if I don't like a book, I won't review it, but I wanted to share some thoughts on this book, because while I didn't like it, I think it's a book that people will enjoy reading and gain a lot of information from the information Cynthia Bourgeault has collected and shared in the book.

What drew me to the book first was the title and the cover.  I personally wear a triquetra instead of a cross as a symbol of my faith.  I'm always open to reading different views of Christianity so I read the description of the book:
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  In this formula that Christians recite as though on autopilot lie the secrets for healing our world, rekindling our visionary imagination, and manifesting the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.  It’s an astonishing claim, but one that is supported by Cynthia Bourgeault’s  exploration of  Trinitarian theology—and by her bold work in further articulating the deep truth it contains.  She looks to the ancient concept in light of the ideas of G. I Gurdjieff and Jacob Boehme to reveal the Trinity as the “hidden driveshaft” within Christianity: the  compassionate expression of the Uncreated Reality in creation.
I really liked this description and thought there would be something of interest to me within the book.  Unfortunately I struggled with this book.  The beginning of the book is very theory based and the end of the book is very technical and with out the proper background it made very little sense to me.  Before starting the book I did do some research into the Law of Three and thought I had a basic understanding, I needed more of a background in these theories. Maybe those with more of a background could follow where the book was headed but I quickly got lost.  I never did figure out the connection between the Law of Three and 'feminizing the Trinity'.

One thing I think that this book did well (that I understood) was the inclusion of the article that Cynthia wrote that sparked the idea for the whole book.  It was great jumping off point and allowed the reader to really get the foundation for the rest of the book. I just wish I could have followed more of the book and would love it there was a way for Cynthia to write a book for those of us less versed in a lot of these theories.

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Beats of Summer - A Different Beat

A Different Beat: Writing by Women of the Beat GenerationA Different Beat: Writing by Women of the Beat Generation by Richard Peabody
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am so happy I read this book, it saved this whole reading challenge for me.  I was starting to think there was nothing of Beat writing that I would enjoy or understand.

Here is a quick rundown of the pieces I enjoyed most in his book:

Carolyn Cassady - from Off the Road: My Years with Cassady, Kerouac, and Ginsberg
What was really interesting about reading this pieces was reading it after reading On the Road.  Jack Kerouac really did pull from real life in creating the character of Dean and basing it on Neil Cassady.  In this passage Carolyn recounts how Neil had been living with a woman in NYC while she was still in California.  His new girlfriend calls Carolyn everyday to relate what's going on with her and Neil.  Carolyn grants the divorce but before it can be finalized Neil is already down in Mexico marrying his girl.  Then no sooner does he marry her than he's leaving and trying to get Carolyn back.  Of course Carolyn being a strong woman told him no, but he could be a part of the lives of his children.

Leo Skir - Elise Cowen: A brief memoir of the fifties
I didn't care for the poetry of Elise Cowen, but this account of her life was interesting.  She seemed to float around not really connected to any one, but not completely separate either.

Eileen Kaufman - from Who Wouldn't Walk with Tigers
This excerpt was about how Eileen met Bob Kaufman and became his woman.  I finished it and was like 'what?'.  Bob just tells her "You're my woman now." and she just accepts it and goes with it all. She was dedicated to him and his poetry so maybe it all made sense to her.

I thought the two excepts of work from two of the wives of Jack Kerouac were interesting. They both show that he was selfish and did what he wanted based on what he felt he needed.  There was also some work by his one daughter, one he claimed wasn't his. I really enjoyed the accounts of life during this time period in this social set.  Everyone kind of drifted along and did their own thing.  I don't know how they survived but they did and they really did impact American culture.

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Saturday, July 6, 2013

Camp NaNoWriMo - Week 1

So I decided to sign up to participate in Camp NaNoWriMo, but I know I don't have the time or focus to work on a full novel so I decided to try to work on some of my short stories.  I need to retool some of them before I send them off to see if I can get them published in a magazine or two. (fingers crossed).

First up I'm working on a stories I've titled "The Diner."  This week I've added on to the ending and rewrote the opening.

Original opening:
It’s three in the morning. Cassie is sitting alone in a diner waiting. She’s waiting for her ex-boyfriend’s brother; his twin brother. The twins don’t share many similarities: Dylan is outgoing and athletic with light hair and a perfectly tanned muscled body. D.J. is dark - his hair, his mood, and his clothes. What they do share is a love for Cassie.

After graduation Cassie went to school out of state and never looked back. Her plan was to forget them both and move on with her life, but that never happened. Cassie is a writer; she needs to write. Sitting at her computer one night she wrote the story she had always carried in her heart.

Just like in her real life, Cassie’s female character spent three years basking in the glow of her boyfriend. That fourth year she spent in his glow she also became the light in his twin’s dark life. When Cassie finished her manuscript she sent a copy to both Dylan and D.J. — not expecting a reply from either one. D.J. responded. She flew home, spent a week with her family, and was meeting him only hours before her flight back. She had put the meeting off for as long as she could.

“Cassie.” The voice startled her out of her reverie, and she looked up to see D.J., holding her manuscript. He looked practically the same since the last time she saw him, still handsomely dark and brooding.

“Sit. I guess we should talk,” Cassie said, gesturing to the bench across from her.

He slid into the seat and neither spoke for a moment. Then he looked up at her and smiled. “You look good.”

Here's my new opening:
A small town diner at three in the morning was the perfect place to people watch. As an author Cassie didn’t mind sitting in the booth alone. She sat scribbling notes in a battered notebook, drinking strong coffee and waiting. She started to write the scene out in her notebook. The diner was clean, but battered looking as though the years of use had been a hard fought battle. The few customers and the waitresses looked just as battle worn. She realized it was the perfect place for this meeting.

This meeting could be considered a battle, she hadn’t seen her opponent since she left home for college ten years ago. She knew the cause of this battle, her soon to be published first novel. A novel that just so happened to be semi-autobiographical. A novel that was both painful and cathartic to write. She hadn’t planned on writing this novel, but it just all came out one night as she sat struggling at her computer. She had to write this story and now she was getting ready to face a fight with one of the characters. She knew it was a possibility she would need to talk to them, legal issues that had to be resolved before the book could be published. She just didn’t expect to be asked to a face to face in her hometown.

“Cassie.” The voice startled her out of her reverie, and she looked up to see D.J., holding a file folder she knew contained her manuscript and the legal documents.

“Sit. I guess we should talk,” Cassie said, gesturing to the bench across from her.

He slid into the seat and neither spoke for a long while. They both just looked at each other, sizing each other up for the battle ahead. He looked practically the same and imagined his twin brother, her ex-boyfriend, looked similar. They always looked too much alike for their own good, it got them out of plenty of trouble as kids. Looks aside the twins didn’t share many similarities but Cassie had found something special in each of them. Dylan had been the one to ask her out first, something both she and D.J. later regretted, but by that time it was already too late. Things had already soured and Cassie was ready to leave and never come back.

One of the tired looking waitresses came over and poured D.J. some coffee. He declined her offer of a menu. Then he looked up at Cassie and smiled. “You look good.”

What do you think of my new opening? (I honestly want to know!)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Beats of Summer - On the Road

On the Road (movie tie-in)On the Road by Jack Kerouac
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I struggled with reading this, but I had to finish. I was complelled to finish and not give up. I had to know if Sal finally came to his senses about Dean.

*Spoiler Alert*

He doesn't.

So much of this book was just long rambling passages that just didn't work for me. I couldn't stay foucused and would put the book down and have to fight to pick it back up again.  Like Howl, I get the appeal of the book and of Kerouac as an author, I just don't get the book.

As the novel progresses you see as everyone else becomes disillusioned with Dean but Sal still gives him the benefit of the doubt.  At numerous points you think Sal will finally see Dean for what he is and walk away from him, but he see's Dean and still stays loyal.

When I finished the novel I wondered to myself, "Why doesn't Sal get it?  Why doesn't he understand that staying connected with Dean will ruin his life?"  But then I thought, "Is it that Sal doesn't get Dean they way we do, or is it that we're missing something about Dean that Sal sees?"

That was the deepest thought I had about this novel and I don't think it makes any sense, but I think I lost some sense when I finished this book.

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Book Review - Beckman

Beckman (Lonely Lords, #4)Beckman by Grace Burrowes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received an ebook copy from Netgalley.

There are three things I love about Grace Burrowes books:

1. The presence of Jane Austen
2. Strong female characters
3. The fact that the female character doesn't NEED the hero, but it sure does help that he's around.

Points 2 and 3 are the key reasons I love to read her books and Beckman is no different.  Beckman is book four in her Lonely Lords series.  I have not read the three previous books in the series (but I will now!) and I didn't feel like I was missing out on any connections to other books. 

Sara Hunt is not your typical housekeeper, something Beckman discovers quickly once he arrives at Three Springs.  Beckman is here at the bidding of his father, he is charged with fixing what's wrong with the house and the grounds.  Beckman finds that there is a lot of work to be done and not everyone is what they appear to be at this estate.

Sara is hiding out, she's hiding from life and seems content to keep on hiding.  She's not alone in her hiding, she has a daughter Allie and her sister Polly is the cook.  There is also North who is hiding out from his own life (I can't wait to read his book). It seems like the perfect place for Beck who is also kind of hiding from life.  Here at Three Springs this group can live separate themselves from the world outside the estate and the problems that live out there.

When the outside world invades Sara realizes that she can't keep hiding, and she needs to face her problems, specifically her brother-in-law.  She doesn't know what he wants, but she suspects it isn't good, especially with the strange going ons around the estate.  Beckman is set on fixing the problems of the estate and that means being there to help Sara and North with their problems. He also has time to focus on his own problems.  For Beckman and Sara the resolution to their problems requires them to be there for each other.

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