Musing Mondays

Musing Mondays: Young Adult

Musing MondaysWhy do you think that the Young Adult genre is so popular with even the adult readers? Do you read YA books, yourself?

I think YA is popular for several reasons. First of all, it’s in the midst of some kind of renaissance, perhaps ushered in by writers like Lois Lowry and Laurie Halse Anderson. There is simply a lot of really good YA fiction out there right now. I think one of the reasons it is popular with adult readers is that we were all young adults once, and I think good fiction, whether the protagonist is a little girl like Scout Finch or an elderly man like Jacob Jankowski, is always appealing. Therefore, I don’t see why a teen protagonist shouldn’t appeal to an adult. I also think the [amazon_link id=”0545162076″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter[/amazon_link] series, the [amazon_link id=”031613290X” target=”_blank” ]Twilight[/amazon_link] series, and the [amazon_link id=”0545265355″ target=”_blank” ]Hunger Games[/amazon_link] series had massive appeal for fans of all ages. Perhaps one reason for the popularity of YA is that these books prompted readers to pick up other YA fiction.

I do read YA. As a matter of fact, I am on my third YA book this month. I don’t read it exclusively or even a lot when compared with my normal reading habits, but I have never felt any shame in reading it, and I have enjoyed reading it since I was a young adult myself.

Musing Mondays

Musing Mondays—June 13, 2011

Musing MondaysThis week’s musing asks

What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn’t put it down?

I devoured [amazon_link id=”1565125606″ target=”_blank” ]Water for Elephants[/amazon_link] by Sara Gruen (review) in the space of a day, but I can’t remember how late I stayed up reading to finish it. I do remember clearly staying up really late because I was hooked on [amazon_link id=”0385737637″ target=”_blank” ]Revolution[/amazon_link] by Jennifer Donnelly (review). It’s not something I have done in a while; I have had a run of four-star and lower books. It’s usually the five-star books that keep me up at night. I will say that [amazon_link id=”1439191697″ target=”_blank” ]The Kitchen Daughter[/amazon_link] by Jael McHenry is running on five stars right now, as is [amazon_link id=”1401302025″ target=”_blank” ]The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory, and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School[/amazon_link] by Alexandra Robbins. I think some of the books that have kept me up most have been the [amazon_link id=”0545162076″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter[/amazon_link] series and the [amazon_link id=”0545265355″ target=”_blank” ]Hunger Games[/amazon_link] series. I have yet to read books to match those two series for making it impossible for me stop turning pages.

Booking Through Thursday: Current Reading

Lost in Literature

This week’s Booking Through Thursday asks readers what they’re currently reading and what they think of it. I posted a reading update just a few days ago, and nothing has really changed since my update. I’m still reading The Heretic’s Daughter, The House of Seven Gables, and Great Expectations. I haven’t started Jamaica Inn on audio yet.

However, I will say that while I find The Heretic’s Daughter interesting in its historical detail, and even a good and fair account of the Salem witch trials (at least the part of the book which I’ve read), it’s not grabbing me, and I am not itching to pick it up. I think it’s suffering unfairly from my just having finished The Hunger Games trilogy. That kind of action and edge-of-your-seat reading is rare—after all, the novels have rightly become a publishing phenomenon for that reason. I think I always knew The House of Seven Gables would be a slower read for me, and it’s not suffering from any discrepancy regarding my expectations.

What I’m more interested in talking about is the fact that I’m reading three or four books at the same time. I didn’t used to be the kind of person who could do that, or I suppose I should say I didn’t *think* I could, so I didn’t attempt it. However, I have discovered the ability to juggle several books at once in the last couple of years. It depends on the way I read. I usually have one book going in DailyLit, which is very slow going with just a five-minute portion of the book each day; however, I have managed to read five books in the last couple of years in this way, and I think at least three of them, I never would have finished had I tried to read them any other way. I usually try to have an audio book going, too. Aside from that, I’ve discovered I can read two other books either in print or on my Kindle. But four seems to be my max, and I can only read four if two are in some format aside from print/e-book.

It turns out NPR’s Talk of the Nation recently ran a story about folks who read more than one book at a time. The story calls them polyreaders. Interestingly, the story mentions that some folks frown on reading more than one book at a time. I found that curious because I have never met anyone who frowned on the practice. Have you? It seems a strange thing to be disdainful about!

What do you do? Do you read one book at a time or several at once? Why?

photo credit: truds09

Hunger Games Withdrawal

Why are books always better than movies?

What am I going to do now? I finished Mockingjay, and I don’t have another Hunger Games series book to snatch up and gulp down. The folks over at Forever Young Adult have a name for this serious condition. They call it TEABS—The End of an Awesome Book Syndrome. I have a bad case of it. In fact, I think it’s why I was grumpy for absolutely no discernible reason yesterday. After all, I had the day off. I should have been pretty happy. Instead I was surly and snappish. One of my Goodreads buddies suggested it was because I didn’t have another Hunger Games book to read, and I thought, “He’s absolutely right.” Oh, I picked up The House of the Seven Gables again and began The Heretic’s Daughter. It won’t be the same. I might even love those books in their way, who knows. But they will probably always be like the rebound boyfriend—who knows how it could have worked out if you hadn’t tried to go out with him after the guy you thought was The One broke up with you. It’s a strange feeling, being on the other side of having read a fantastic series, left only with the feeling that there won’t be any more. I felt the same way (only worse) when I had finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I have grad school to throw my effort into, and in fact, I had better take that seriously or I’ll be in some trouble. I need to do some work on my portfolio.

Jonah Lehrer speculates on “The Future of Reading” in Wired. So do we read differently on e-readers? I know I highlight and annotate more because I am not worried about mucking up the book with my scribbling. Aside from my Kindle books, the only books I highlight and annotate are textbooks and professional reading. And there is something to be said for feeling free to talk back to my books. An annotation I added last night in The House of the Seven Gables was a simple observation that Nathaniel Hawthorne sure likes to break the fourth wall. I also highlighted a particularly good barb about the Puritans in The Heretic’s Daughter that I’ll probably share with students when we study The Crucible. And did you know you can access your highlights and annotations online? You have to log in, which keeps your notes secure, but still, how cool is that? On the other hand, I will never decide I don’t want to hold a real book in my hand. It was nice reading The Hunger Games series like that. You knew I was going to bring it back around to that, didn’t you. I should probably stop blogging and get to work on my portfolio. Throwing myself into my work—isn’t that the classic way to get over that lost relationship? Whatever works.

One last note and I am leaving. If you all had told me I would find more pleasure in my book blog than my education blog, and that I would post more frequently, despite the fact that anything I write over there gets comments now, whereas comments are somewhat scarce around here, I would have told you you were crazy. This poor blog has limped along for years. It didn’t even find a focus until I’d been writing for at least four years. That’s kind of crazy. I’m so happy to feel like a part of the book bloggers’ table in the cafeteria. Even if I don’t quite feel like the cool book bloggers with the black turtlenecks—the ones who have friends who are French foreign exchange students.

photo credit: Massimo Barbieri


Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games)Mockingjay is the third and final book in the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. I can’t talk about this book without spoiling it for folks who aren’t finished with it yet, so please read on after the jump if you are finished. If not, come back later so we can talk about it.

Continue reading “Mockingjay”

Catching Fire

Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games)This review might be a bit spoilery if you haven’t read the first book in this series because it’s difficult to talk about events in this book without revealing the end of the first.

Suzanne Collins’s second book in The Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire, picks up the story of Katniss Everdeen after she and fellow District 12 resident have become popular winners of the 74th Hunger Games. Katniss and Peeta must tour the districts, where they are greeted with signs of unrest—and Katniss seems to have become an unwitting rallying point for rebels. President Snow, loathsome leader of Panem, blames these new problems on Katniss’s defiance of the Capitol at the Games when she threatened to kill herself rather than kill Peeta. For the 75th Hunger Games, the 3rd Quarter Quell, President Snow has something special in mind. The pool of competitors will be drawn from each district’s former winners. And Katniss is the only female winner from District 12. She will have to go back into the arena, and this time, she will be facing her most dangerous competitors: people who have managed through shrewdness and strength to win the Hunger Games in the past. How can she hope to survive her second turn in the arena? And if she can’t, how can she at least protect Peeta?

I had heard some readers say this book was not as good as the first, but I have to admit I didn’t see it. Others had complained that the first half was somewhat slow, but I managed to turn the pages as quickly as I had with The Hunger Games. It was intriguing to me to see how Katniss handled being a victor, seeing her life change. I also found the changes in her district interesting. Katniss is not the kind of girl to sit idly by and do nothing if anyone she cares about is being hurt. Because the real news about what is going on in Panem is kept from the districts, it’s only by accident—seeing a news program meant for District 12’s mayor and running into some escapees from District 8 in the woods while she is hunting—that Katniss realizes her act of defiance in the Hunger Games has turned her into a symbol for rebellion. On her district tour, she witnesses some of the unrest for herself. Seeing Katniss compete in the arena this time, with new threats devised by the Gamemakers, had me turning the pages well past 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. One of my students said in class on Friday that the end of this volume of the trilogy was “epic,” and I would agree. So much happens so fast at the end, and as we readers are following events from Katniss’s confused perspective, it’s difficult to figure out what is going on. I was also right about some speculation I had while reading The Hunger Games, but it’s a pretty spoilery if you haven’t read the first book or even the second.

I told my dad the other day that I had just read the new Harry Potter after I’d finished The Hunger Games. I really don’t think these books will reach that level of popularity, and maybe won’t reach even the level of the Twilight series, which is a shame because despite their darkness, I think they’re better. What I meant was I had found a new book that had me turning the pages in the exact same way as the Harry Potter series. Virtually everyone I know is reading these books or has just finished them.

Suzanne Collins is on a twelve-city book tour to promote Mockingjay, but she isn’t venturing into the South. Unfortunately, she has strained her hand and will not be signing books on her tour. I have wondered a couple of times as I read what Collins makes of the books’ popularity. I purchased my copy of Mockingjay at the Little Shop of Stories yesterday while we were at the Decatur Book Festival. Now I just have to resist reading it for a little while as I try to get to work on my portfolio for graduate school.

Rating: ★★★★★

Full disclosure: I borrowed this book from my friend Catherine.

The Gutenberg Bible Turns 554

Gutenberg BibleDid you know that it was today in 1456 that the printing of the Gutenberg Bible was completed? It was the first major book printed using the movable type printing press. Twenty-one complete copies survive, but other incomplete copies remain. Font nerds might be interested to know that Gutenberg used typefaces called Textualis and Schwabacher. Textualis is sometimes just called Gothic now. The columns were also justified, which you can see from the photograph. Of course, justified columns are still used today in books and newspapers. It was an instant bestseller, selling out of its initial print run of 180 copies. Interestingly, many buyers purchased the Bibles in order to donate them to religious institutions. I’m sure they thought that would be a check in the “nice” column for when they met St. Peter at the pearly gates. One of my own ancestors, David Kennedy, appears to have donated a Bible (not a Gutenberg, of course) to his church with a similar motivation. Germany possesses the most remaining copies at 12, but you can find 11 copies in the United States and 8 in the United Kingdom. The Library of Congress, Pierpont Morgan Library, Yale, Harvard, and the University of Texas at Austin have complete copies. I might have guessed Harvard and Yale would have the kind of endowments necessary to own a complete Gutenberg Bible, but I was surprised at UT Austin. They apparently acquired their Gutenberg in 1978 from the Carl H. Pforzheimer Foundation. The first volume has been illuminated by a former owner about which we know nothing. It also bears annotations that indicate it has been owned and loved. I adore the fact that some annotations are corrections. I correct errors in books sometimes, too.

The Hunger GamesIn completely unrelated news, I am putting The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen on hold to read The Hunger Games. Not one person I know has had anything less than absolute and unequivocal praise for Suzanne Collins’s trilogy. I need to see what the fuss is all about.

JulietAlso, Amazon sent me an email today suggesting I might be interested in Juliet by Anne Fortier, and I am. Check out the Publisher’s Weekly blurb:

Fortier bobs and weaves between Shakespearean tragedy and popular romance for a high-flying debut in which American Julie Jacobs travels to Siena in search of her Italian heritage—and possibly an inheritance—only to discover she is descended from 14th-century Giulietta Tomei, whose love for Romeo defied their feuding families and inspired Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Julie’s hunt leads her to the families’ descendants, still living in Siena, still feuding, and still struggling under the curse of the friar who wished a plague on both their houses. Julie’s unraveling of the past is assisted by a Felliniesque contessa and the contessa’s handsome nephew, and complicated by mobsters, police, and a mysterious motorcyclist. To understand what happened centuries ago, in the previous generation, and all around her, Julie relies on relics: a painting, a journal, a dagger, a ring. Readers enjoy the additional benefit of antique texts alternating with contemporary narratives, written in the language of modern romance and enlivened by brisk storytelling. Fortier navigates around false clues and twists, resulting in a dense, heavily plotted love story that reads like a Da Vinci Code for the smart modern woman.

So who took liberties? Shakespeare or Fortier? It was no friar who wished a plague on both house (it was Mercutio). How did Juliet have descendants? And why Siena instead of fair Verona? Still, I am intrigued. And it was probably Shakespeare.

Photo credit Kevin Eng.