Musing Mondays

Musing Mondays—August 29, 2011

Musing MondaysThis week’s Musing Mondays asks…

What was the last book you…
• borrowed from the library?
• bought?
• cried over?
• disliked and couldn’t finish?
• read & loved?
• got for review? (or: got in the mail?)
• gave to someone else?
• stayed up too late reading?

Ah, now these are excellent questions. I honestly can’t remember the last book I myself checked out of the library. I haven’t been in over a year. I helped Maggie check out some books on the Salem Witch Trials, I think, but I can’t recall getting anything for myself that time.

The last book I bought was probably [amazon_link id=”0439139600″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire[/amazon_link] because we could not find our copy. We are always reading those to death anyway. I think some of the books in that series are on their third copy.

The last book I cried over was [amazon_link id=”1565125606″ target=”_blank” ]Water for Elephants[/amazon_link] (review). I just loved that book, and parts of it were so sad.

The last book I disliked and couldn’t finish…hmmm….I want to say that was [amazon_link id=”0758254083″ target=”_blank” ]Wuthering Bites[/amazon_link], which made me sad because 1) it was a gift, and 2) I love [amazon_link id=”0143105434″ target=”_blank” ]Wuthering Heights[/amazon_link] and would like to believe I have a sense of humor about parodies of works I love, but this one just did not grab me. I don’t think I made it into chapter 2.

The last book I read and loved was [amazon_link id=”0451202503″ target=”_blank” ]The Songcatcher[/amazon_link] (review) by Sharyn McCrumb. I really, really liked [amazon_link id=”0451197399″ target=”_blank” ]The Ballad of Frankie Silver[/amazon_link] (review), perhaps even loved it, but if we’re talking it-went-on-my-list-of-favorites love, then that was The Songcatcher.

The last book I got for review that I actually have reviewed was [amazon_link id=”1401301045″ target=”_blank” ]The Wild Rose[/amazon_link] (review). I have some other review copies in my TBR pile (or on NetGalley, which amounts to the same thing).

Does PaperBackSwap count as giving a book to someone else? I’m going to say it does, in which case I mailed copies of [amazon_link id=”0061579289″ target=”_blank” ]Adam & Eve[/amazon_link] and [amazon_link id=”039592720X” target=”_blank” ]Interpreter of Maladies[/amazon_link] on the same day, which was August 24. Giving a book as a gift, it was probably Christmas. I gave books to the kids and a [amazon_link id=”B002FQJT3Q” target=”_blank” ]Kindle[/amazon_link] to Steve.

The last time I stayed up too late reading was probably…oh, shoot…I do this so much during the summer that it’s hard to keep track. I am going to say it was with Jennifer Donnelly’s “Rose” trilogy: [amazon_link id=”0312378025″ target=”_blank” ]The Tea Rose[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id=”1401307469″ target=”_blank” ]The Winter Rose[/amazon_link], and the aforementioned The Wild Rose. I ate those books up with a spoon.

Reading Update: October 24, 2010

flareAll the maple trees around here are beautiful shades of red and orange. Fall is my favorite season.

I think I am pretty much done with the R.I.P. Challenge. I gave up on Wuthering Bites, and I don’t see how I’ll finish Jamaica Inn when I haven’t even started it. However, I did read four books, which is two more than I thought I could, so I still met the challenge of Peril the First—for the first time ever!

I am still reading How the Irish Saved Civilization. If I have one complaint, it’s that I like books divided up into more chapters. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I finish a chapter, and the chapters in this book (at least some of them) are looooonng, which makes me feel less like I’m getting anywhere.

I am also going to begin Anne Fortier’s novel Juliet. Romeo and Juliet is fun to teach, and this will be the first year I have taught high school that I haven’t taught the play because it’s the first year I haven’t taught ninth grade. I love the play, but I needed a break. Instead, I will be starting Macbeth pretty soon. That one is great fun to teach.

I am looking for some good steampunk book suggestions that I can read for the Steampunk Challenge. I already plan to read The Dream of Perpetual Motion, and a friend in the know recommended Leviathan. If you have read any good ones, please share.

What are you reading?

photo credit: Aunt Owwee

No Vampires

Wuthering Bites, Well, Bites

No VampiresI gave Wuthering Bites a fair try. I actually read up to page 52. There will be no more vampires in my Wuthering Heights. Well, maybe psychological vampires, but not real ones. I honestly don’t think that mashing up Wuthering Heights with a vampire story is a bad idea, but the execution of the mash-up is what I object to. It’s sloppy. Every once in a while there is a random reference to the huge vampire problem Yorkshire seems to have developed. Some of it was funny, but funny bad, not funny ha-ha. I just can’t force myself through it anymore. What makes me sad is that my department chair bought me this book for my birthday. Oh, the perils of giving books as gifts! You just never know if the other person is going to enjoy it. I tried to! I really did want to like this book, and I think I gave it longer than I ordinarily would have.

I don’t think it’s my sense of humor. I can laugh at parodies of just about anything I love, but good parodies, you know? An example, so that you can see what I mean:

Mr. Heathcliff formed a contrast to his abode. Despite his dark-haired, dark-eyed gypsy looks, in dress and manners he seems a gentleman country squire. By his appearance, some might suspect a degree of underbred pride; gypsies are known for such arrogance, and I wonder if he could be one of them. Since the infestation of the vampires, the gypsy vampire slayers have become bold in their haughtiness. With some right, as it is their skill and courage to keep the beasties from devouring all of us and taking over our fair country. But I am running too fast, bestowing attributes on Mr. Heathcliff that might be unfounded. (4)

If you care, this is the passage’s “inspiration” in the original Wuthering Heights:

But Mr. Heathcliff forms a singular contrast to his abode and style of living. He is a dark-skinned gipsy in aspect, in dress and manners a gentleman: that is, as much a gentleman as many a country squire: rather slovenly, perhaps, yet not looking amiss with his negligence, because he has an erect and handsome figure; and rather morose. Possibly, some people might suspect him of a degree of under-bred pride; I have a sympathetic chord within that tells me it is nothing of the sort: I know, by instinct, his reserve springs from an aversion to showy displays of feeling—to manifestations of mutual kindliness. He’ll love and hate equally under cover, and esteem it a species of impertinence to be loved or hated again. No, I’m running on too fast: I bestow my own attributes over-liberally on him. (5-6)

So, yeah. There’s that. The biggest problem is that the vampires are just sort of plopped in there, and only serve to garble the plot. I decided to read the last page. If you plan to read this book, and I don’t recommend it, then close your eyes.

In this book, Lockwood marries Nelly Dean.

Yep. Here it goes:

In truth, it was more than the promised adventure that drew me; it was the seductive [!!!—sorry, had to interrupt; you may carry on] and fascinating Mrs. Dean. A gentleman I am, and a man of breeding and quality I do claim to be, but in fact, my own father was born into a family of shipwrights, and I learned honest labor before I was ever tucked off to Cambridge and the life of my betters. My parents and siblings and every last stitch and knob of kin have vanished, and if I wished to take a clever and loving woman to wife, what care I if she began her days below stairs? (361-362)

Wait, what? Stitch and knob? What the @#$%& is that supposed to mean? I Googled it, and I get three references to cars and one to a sewing machine.

Oh, and Hareton and young Cathy burn Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange to the ground. Gah. I wish I’d closed my own eyes.

OK, you can open your eyes now.

I don’t often make it a practice to review books I don’t finish, but I’m not likely to finish this one, and frankly, I don’t want anyone else to waste their time. Unless spontaneously bleeding from your eyes is, you know, your “thing.”

God, I hope this mash-up craze dies soon.

No Vampires Beyond this Point

Rating: ½☆☆☆☆

Update, 10/24/10: The BrontëBlog has reviewed this book (they agree with me, so you can assume I’m not crazy. In case you were.)

Cú Chulainn is Cooler than Hercules

9-22-10 first day of fallFall is here! The mornings are actually cold, even here in Georgia, and pumpkins are everywhere. The leaves are turning beautiful colors. Maggie and I went on a hike in the nearby nature trails with her Girl Scout troop today. The weather was gorgeous. Yesterday, we walked across the street to the Taste of Roswell Festival, and we tried all sorts of delicious food from local restaurants. I love living in an area with so much fun stuff going on and so much history, too. Or, I should say, in comparison to other places I’ve lived. Most of our local history is Civil War history, but it’s quite interesting.

Speaking of history, I’m reading Thomas Cahill’s book How the Irish Saved Civilization. It’s been such a pleasure to read so far. He discusses the Irish epic Táin Bó Cúailnge or The Cattle Raid of Cooley, which I read in a Celtic literature course I took in college. That class was the single most interesting and influential of all the English classes I ever took. It was fascinating. I must have learned a lot that I didn’t even remember I’d learned, too, because as I read Cahill’s book and he was discussing the two groups of Celtic languages, he mentions that one was Brythonic, and in my mind, I said, “and the other was Goidelic.” Then I turned the page, and sure enough, I was right. I have no idea where I pulled that out of my memory, but I can only have learned it in that class. Most of the literature we read in that class was pre-Christian, although of course was written down later by Christian monks, so like Beowulf, some of it has Christian elements now, although not as much, surprisingly, as Beowulf does. We studied some of the early Welsh stories, including Arthurian romances, which is how I know that Monty Python and the Holy Grail is much more like the original stories of Arthur than some of the other movies that profess to take the subject matter seriously (First Knight, I’m looking at you). Anyway, it’s been a great review, and it has only convinced me that I must, must, must read the Táin again, and I also need to check out some of the other stories, like the Legend of Derdriu and the Welsh Mabinogion and romances. I’m at a point in the book at which Cahill is discussing St. Patrick, and he was a heck of a lot more fascinating than I even realized. I love Greek myth, but Cú Chulainn is cooler than Hercules. Just sayin’.

Today was a really Celtic day around here as I fired up Pandora and listened to a Celtic station. We discovered my husband can’t sit still when he hears Celtic music, which was funny, but what was funnier was how much Dylan enjoyed it! He was bopping his head and wiggling his butt in his chair. It was pretty cute. I think it’s true that anyone with a little bit of the blood of the Celt in him responds in some visceral way to Celtic music. I know I do, and so many others seem to as well. Incidentally, if you’re looking for some good Celtic music, check out Mychael and Jeff Danna. I don’t think you’ll be sorry. Their inspiration is ancient Irish myth, and I have two albums—the only two Celtic albums I think they’ve created—A Celtic Tale and A Celtic Romance.

I’m also still giving Wuthering Bites a skeptical go, but so far, it’s a little weird. I want to see what Gray makes of Catherine wanting to be let in to her old room and scaring the bejesus out of Lockwood. So, what do you think? Is it really Catherine’s spirit, or is it a dream? I am still trying to decide, but I lean toward the former. Lockwood was asleep, but I am not sure it was all part of his dream.

What have you been up to this weekend?

photo credit: Kristymp

Reading Update: September 25, 2010

The Kindle Gazer, after Lilla Cabot PerryI am falling behind in my Everything Austen Reading Challenge, everyone. I set aside The House of the Seven Gables for now. I might still dip into it a little bit here and there, but I really need to finish some of the Austen-related reading I committed to. To that end, I picked up Syrie James’s novel The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen. I finished the R.I.P. Challenge at my commitment level (two books), so I am going to try to finish two more and meet the challenge level for Peril the First—four books. The two books I’ve chosen are Dracula, My Love, also by Syrie James, and Wuthering Bites, by Sarah Gray. Wuthering Bites is, of course, a mashup of Wuthering Heights and a vampire story. If you have read this blog for a while, you’ll recall Wuthering Heights is my favorite book, so it will be a test of my sense of humor to see how I deal with Heathcliff as a vampire, but then, if you think about it, it’s not much of a stretch.

I’ve added a new plugin that allows you to share your Twitter handle when you comment. There is a box beneath the text box for entering your comment that invites you to input your Twitter username. You don’t need to enter the URL for your profile, just your username. It should save the information and will work each time you comment unless you change your Twitter username. If you don’t have Twitter, you can safely ignore it. I thought it might be a fun way for commenters to discover great new Twitter feeds to follow. If you prefer not to put your Twitter username in the space, feel free to leave it blank.

So what are you reading? How are the reading challenges going?

photo credit: Mike Licht,

Reading Update: September 20, 2010

On the platform, reading

Friday was my birthday, and my parents usually send me a book gift card. The last few years, it’s been an Amazon card because I can get books shipped for free. An added bonus this year is that I can buy books for my Kindle instead. I haven’t spent all of it, but here is my haul to date:

I have been wanting a NKJV Bible for some time, and reviewers gave high marks to this study Bible. I think I will like having the annotations, and the NKJV is my favorite translation. Passion is the story of the Romantic poets Byron, Shelley, and Keats told through the point of view of the women who loved them. That sounds absolutely fascinating to me. From Slave Ship to Freedom Road is a children’s book by Julius Lester. The artwork is superb, and it tells the story of slavery like no other book I’ve read. I have actually used it with my students before and since I’m teaching American literature again, I decided to pick it up. Dracula, My Love is a new novel by Syrie James, whose previous work I have really enjoyed. As a bonus, I can read Dracula, My Love for the R.I.P. Challenge if I finish The Heretic’s Daughter and have time for more books—and I don’t see why I shouldn’t, as it’s not even October, and I’m nearly halfway finished with that book.

Wuthering BitesI’ve started Jamaica Inn on audio, or rather I will when I catch up on my podcasts. That book, too, can be counted as an R.I.P. Challenge book, and then I will have four, which means I can move up a level in commitment. Of course, my department chair also gave me Wuthering Bites, the latest mashup novel in the tradition of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and Jane Slayre. Heathcliff is supposed to be a vampire, which makes a lot of sense if you think about it. OK, I admit it looks good. We’ll have to see if my sense of humor can handle mocking my favorite book.

This week is the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, and as I work in a Jewish school, I have a half day on Wednesday and no school Thursday and Friday. I am excited to have some time to read. The first draft of my portfolio for grad school is finished, so I am not anticipating a ton of grad school work to impede my enjoyment of half a week off. I plan to spend the time reading.

Amazon sent me my replacement Kindle, I’ve sent the broken one back, and the new one is already up and running and loaded with good reads. What are you reading?

photo credit: Mo Riza