Books I've Read

Two More Books . . .

Still trying to catch up on all the books I’ve read so far. I’ve been a reading machine lately!

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare – this one was really good. I’ve read the first three books in her Mortal Instruments series (which I thought were supposed to be a trilogy, but there’s a new one out that I haven’t read yet) and thoroughly enjoyed them. Clockwork Angel is the first book in the Infernal Devices series, which is a prequel series to Mortal Instruments.

The story follows Tessa, a sixteen year old girl who moves to London after the death of her aunt and guardian. Her older brother has moved there already and gotten established. Once she arrives, she is immediately kidnapped and forced to develop a power that, until now, she didn’t even know she possessed. She can shape shift – morph into the likeness of other people. She doesn’t know why they are doing this, but she is rescued by the London Shadowhunters, who do what they can to help her and save her brother, who has also become entangled in London’s mysterious Downworld.

The thing I like best about Cassandra Clare’s writing is that despite her books being extremely dark and, at times, gruesome, there is so much humor it it. Tessa meets Will, one of the Shadowhunters, and they have an instant connection, even though she is pretty sure most of the time she hates him. Will can be cocky and arrogant, but he also has a vulnerable side. They both know how to push each other’s buttons though, and it’s very enjoyable to read.

I also finished The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien. I never know quite what to say about these. The book is amazing, of course, but I feel as though everything about Lord of the Rings has already been said. I can say that re-reading them with MarkReads has been wonderful – it’s such a good way to remember how it felt when I read these books for the first time. Sometimes re-reading books, even books that you love, can be tiresome. There are parts that you skim over, even though you know that they are important to the story. Reading this along with someone who is experiencing the magic for the first time is fun. We’ve already moved into Return of the King, and I can’t wait to see his reaction to how the whole series wraps up. It should be fun.

The new work schedule started on Monday and, so far, I really like it. I’ve been moving along with my writing. Plus it gives me extra time to post here as well!

Books I've Read

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

I came across Maureen Johnson the same place I found John Green – through YouTube. I know that’s a strange place to find new writers, but hey, it seems to work!

The Name of the Star follows the story of Rory Deveaux, a teenage girl who is sent to go to boarding school in London. A string of murders plague the city, mimicking those of Jack the Ripper. The places, the methods, even some of the victim’s names are similar to Jack the Ripper’s crimes. Then Rory meets a man who no one else seems to be able to see.

The press is baffled, the police completely stumped. Surveillance cameras show one of the victims being attacked by what looks like an invisible assailant. Everyone in London is obsessed with “Ripper-mania.”

I won’t say more so I don’t give away any of the surprises, but this book was great. It was incredibly spooky in the best way possible. I also love how much detail Johnson put into the history behind Jack the Ripper – she definitely did her research. The parallels between the current murders and the famous ones a century ago are perfectly done and very creepy.

Drabbles

Huzzah!!

Today I have officially met one of my New Year’s goals for 2012!

As many of you know, I have been having some issues with my job. For the most part, I like my job. It can be stressful at times, but I work with some really good people who help keep me sane. Lately, things have been really difficult. There has been a lot of tension in the air and most people don’t know what’s going on. The past few weeks in particular have been rough. I’ve had to work later than usual and have ended up taking the blame for things that are not my fault. Not cool.

The main issue with all of this is that once I have a really bad day at work, the drive to write in the evenings goes way downhill. When I am really tired or really stressed, my writing descends into this: “He was hungry. He went to the store. He bought an apple. It was red.” Boring, right? This was why I was trying to train myself to write in the mornings, figuring that I would get my creative juices going before a stressful workday could shut them down. The problem is that I am naturally a night owl. I really don’t do well getting up early. I have tried really hard, and can do it some mornings, but it’s really hard to make it stick.

So I decided today, despite the weird vibes, I would approach my boss and ask to reduce my hours. I knew it would be best if I sent it as an email – I communicate much better in writing than I do in speaking, especially when I’m nervous. I addressed all the possible objections I could think of, assuring my boss that my work performance would not suffer, that I would still be available to work a full day if I had to cover for someone who was out sick, and promising that if my reduced hours caused any kind of problem, I would go back to a regular schedule. Once I finished, it took me two hours to get up the nerve to actually send it. I heard back in twenty minutes.

My boss said YES!!!!!

She was fine with it, as long as I could still be counted on to cover for people when needed (I am the official “backup” for several positions in the office – one of the only people who can fill in for nearly everyone else). I ran up to her office to thank her in person, and she was so understanding and nice about it. So starting Monday, I will be going into work at 10:00 AM. This will give me nearly TWO FULL HOURS OF DEDICATED WRITING TIME!!! Now there can be no more excuses. I have the time, I just need to get the discipline and actually do it. Nose to the grindstone. Full steam ahead.

I can’t wait ’til Monday!

Books I've Read

Book #10

This next book comes from the Book Club over at the Mallorean Tavern. We just finished reading Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey and, I have to say, I’ve never read a book quite like it.

The main character is Phedre, a young woman who was born with a red mark on her left eye. This mark, called Kushiel’s Dart, is a sign from the god Kushiel that she is different – for the rest of her life, she will experience pleasure from pain. She is sold into indentured servitude until she can earn enough money to complete her marque, a large tattoo that covers her entire back. Phedre’s master, Anfiel Delauney, not only sees to her training as an adept, but also teaches her how to be observant and read people, using her to spy on various members of other noble houses. In the process, Phedre is pulled into a scheme that could threaten the entire kingdom.

The book does several things very well. The world that this takes place, Terre D’Ange, is very vividly described. The people there are descended from the angels and it is beautifully written. The culture is incredibly rich and detailed.

There were a few things that bothered me. For one thing, I had a difficult time getting involved with the story until about a third to a half of the way through. The beginning has so much to set up that it tended to be a lot of information dumping. There were so many names of places and people thrown at the reader so quickly, it was hard to keep track of who was who and how they were all related. The book is also full of sexuality, both heterosexual and homosexual. While this is not a bad thing, there are some scenes that were very explicit. Some of them were a little hard to read, especially since Phedre’s experiences were very sadomasochistic and some were very violent. Luckily, they are also fairly easy to skim over without missing large portions of the plot, if this sort of thing is uncomfortable for people to read.

Bottom line: the book ends with a fairly good cliffhanger, one that has convinced me to buy the next book. I’m guessing the next one will be easier since I now know the specifics of the story world. I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone, since I know some of the subject matter might be a turn off, but I thought it was pretty good.

Books I've Read

I’m a good girl, I am!

It’s been a while since I’ve updated my book list. I’ve been reading quite a bit, mind you, it’s just been a while since I’ve had a chance to add them up here. So I’ll start with the next book, or actually play, that I’ve read: Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw.

It’s really my husband’s fault that I decided to read Pygmalion. He is a big Audrey Hepburn fan, so one of his favorite movies is My Fair Lady. Around Christmas time, the movie was released on BluRay and, since we have recently purchased a BluRay player, it was a perfect present.

Who could resist a hat like that?

This famous movie musical was based on a play, but I was curious as to how faithful the movie was to its source. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it followed very closely. Several scenes were portrayed word for word – in fact, while reading it, I couldn’t help but hear Audrey Hepburn’s and Rex Harrison’s voices in my head! There were a few variations, naturally, but for the most part, it stayed fairly true.

The story is about Eliza Dolittle, a poor young lady who sells flowers on the street corners of London. There she meets Henry Higgins, a teacher of phonetics, the study of speech. He makes a boast that he could teach this bedraggled common girl how to speak properly and be able to fool anyone into thinking that she was royalty. Eliza takes him up on it. Her dream is to one day be a lady who owns her very own flower shop.

There are many other memorable characters. Colonel Pickering, another phonetics enthusiast who helps Higgins to teach Eliza. Eliza’s father Alfred, a drunkard who does whatever he can to get out of work. And Freddy Eynsford-Hill, a young man who falls madly in love with Eliza.

There are several places where the movie deviates from the play. For one thing, in the play, Eliza is able to learn how to speak “properly” much faster. The event where they go to show her off is much more understated. The movie also added in the famous scene at Ascot, where Eliza yells out, “Come on, Dover! Move your bloomin’ ass!” The most glaring difference is at the end of the play. The end of the movie, which I won’t spoil for anyone who hasn’t seen it, is a bit ambiguous. The play’s ending is similar, but then Shaw goes into an extended Epilogue, explaining where these characters end up.

I would recommend both the play and the movie. They are both definitely worth the time.

Drabbles

Valentine’s Day

So here it is. Valentine’s Day. A day to celebrate love and happiness.

It’s never been one of my favorite holidays.

When I was in high school, I was one of the kids who dressed all in black on Valentine’s Day, glaring at the giggly girls who walked down the hall carrying armloads of candy, Teddy bears, and balloons. They seemed so silly, so shallow and frivolous. It probably didn’t help that I never had a boyfriend in high school either. Once I grew up and got married, the holiday was a bit more tolerable. I had someone to buy me flowers and take me out to dinner. It was nice. But then something happened that forever damaged the day in my eyes.

My father died.

In the wee hours of February 13, 2001, my father passed away. He suffered a massive heart attack. It was quick. He had had no history of heart disease and, up until that moment, seemed perfectly healthy.

Needless to say, it has put a damper on Valentine’s Day for me. It’s hard to think about cute little candy hearts when all I can think about is how much I miss my dad. I always tell my husband not to get me anything, because I genuinely don’t want anything. I do always make sure to take flowers to my mom, because I know my dad would want me to. They are from him as much as from me.

This time of year usually brings on bouts of depression and anxiety, and this year is no exception. Some years are harder than others – this year is about medium. I always say that if I can survive from Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day, I’ll be okay. So I guess that’s what I’ll celebrate today. That, and the memory of a wonderful father and husband who left this world far too soon.

Books I've Read

The Little Red Hen – Feminist Icon!

One of the best things about having kids is that you get to relive your own childhood. I get to sit around playing with Barbies and My Little Ponies and, best of all, I get to read my favorite children’s books.

A few nights ago, my daughter chose to read The Little Red Hen. It was one of my favorites as a kid, so I was happy to give it to my daughter to read. The thing is, now that I’m older, the story takes on a whole new meaning. The story is about a hen who finds a grain of wheat. She decides to plant it, harvest it, take it to the mill to be made into flour, and then make bread. She keeps asking her neighbors – a duck, a goose, a cat, and a pig – to help her, but they famously answer, “Not I!” to her requests. Each time they let her down, she responds, “Then I will do it myself.”

To some, it might seem like a simple story of the importance of hard work. But I saw it differently this time around. The four other animals, all who are basically portrayed as male, refuse to help the Little Red Hen, despite her many polite requests for assistance. Does she complain? Nope. She very calmly asserts her own independence and does the work herself. The end of the story is what sells it. Once the bread is baked, she asks who would like to help her eat the bread. Of course, the duck, the goose, the cat, and the pig ALL want to eat the bread – who doesn’t love freshly baked bread? But the Little Red Hen doesn’t just sit back and let her hard work be taken advantage of. She replies, “No, I will eat it myself.”

And that’s exactly what she does.

You go, girl!

I realize that I am reading way, way, way too much into this, but after some of the things my daughter has been reading, this was refreshing. Part of being an English major back when I was in college was looking at literature of all kinds in many different ways. So I will look at this story as not just a parable about the rewards of working hard and the downfalls of being a slacker, but a beautiful tale about one female who lived life on her own terms. Long live the Little Red Hen!

Just wait until I get to Dr. Seuss . . .