Monday, June 30, 2008

1% Well-Read Challenge: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Title: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Author: Philip K. Dick
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 1968
Pages: 210
Rating: 8 / 10

I know I said I was going to read Life of Pi next, but I'm still waiting on my copy from the BookCrossing bookray I joined. In the meantime, I read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the book that was the inspiration for the movie Bladerunner (which I've never seen, but will probably rent sometime in the near future). Here's the story:

The year is 2021 (in my copy; in older editions the setting is 1992). A world war (referred to only as "World War Terminus") has left Earth completely destroyed. The fallout from the radiation has caused genetic mutations in some of the humans who are left behind; these people are referred to as "specials" or "chickenheads"*. Animals are endangered (or extinct); owning and caring for a pet is now considered a civic duty and a point of pride. Artificial animals have been engineered for people who can't afford the real thing, but don't want to be looked down on by their neighbors. Androids have also been created, and are given to humans who choose to live off-world to use as slaves. "Andys" are not allowed on Earth, because they are considered dangerous. Our protagonist, Rick Deckard, is a bounty hunter whose job is to locate rogue andys and "retire" (read: kill/destroy) them. The best way to tell an andy from a human is empathy - androids are unable to feel for anyone but themselves.
Empathy, [Deckard] once had decided, must be limited to herbivores or anyhow carnivores who could depart from a meat diet. Because, ultimately, the empathic gift blurred the boundaries between hunter and victim, between the successful and the defeated. As in the fusion with Mercer [a religious figure, similar to Sisyphus], everyone ascended together or, when the cycle had come to an end, fell together into the trough of the tomb world. Oddly, it resembled a sort of biological insurance, but double-edged. As long as some creature experienced joy, then the condition for all other creatures included a fragment of joy. However, if any living creature suffered, then for all the rest the shadow could not be entirely cast off. A herd animal such as man would acquire a higher survival factor through this; an owl or a cobra would be destroyed.

Evidently the humanoid robot constituted a solitary predator.
There's a bunch of other stuff going on, too, but the great thing about PKD is that he didn't explain everything as it happened; a lot of stuff I had to guess at or figure out later. It made the book very engrossing.

The characters were great, too. My favorite was John R. Isidore, one of the aforementioned specials. I felt so bad so him; everyone he met ridiculed him and looked down on him for being "stupid." When the narrative was from his point of view, he lamented the fact that he was slowly losing his cognitive faculties. He KNEW he was getting dumber, but there was nothing he could do about it. He also tried hard to please the people around him, even if they didn't appreciate it. I don't why I liked him so much more than Deckard, but I did. I didn't feel sympathy for Deckard - at one point, I was even convinced he was actually an android himself. I was a little disappointed in him, actually, because it seemed like he had this big, life-changing epiphany that was going to completely change him and make him a better person. And then it didn't happen. Or rather, he changed his mind about changing his mind. Oh, well.

At any rate, this was an excellent sci-fi novel. This was my first PKD book, but I'm looking forward to reading more.

Up next: Less Than Zero, by Bret Easton Ellis

* A term that gave me some pause the first time I saw it in the book; that's not how I normally hear it used. I'm not going to link to the definition at Urban Dictionary, but you can look it up yourself if you're curious. Just don't do it at work, or around small children. One of the perks of living in Atlanta is that I got to learn all sorts of interesting slang.

Life Books Challenge

Click here to go to the main page
Part I: Choose Your Life Books
What are the books that, in some aspect, define you? Think about who you are in terms of spirituality, love, economics, values, worldview--the list could go on and on. These might be nonfiction, self-help, fiction, picture books, children's books, etc. Give us your life in books. To see SmallWorld's example, click here. After you've picked your life books, write a post and leave the link on Mr. Linky. Be sure to copy and paste the button above on your blog somewhere!

Part II: Discover Something New
Check out the blogs of other participants and find at least two titles to add to your TBR list. Let us know what books you are adding by linking a second time to Mr. Linky with (Something New) by your name.

Part III: Read the Books
When you've read the new books, write a review and leave a link to your post in the comments here.

I'm still thinking about my Life Books, but this sounded like an interesting challenge and I wanted to get a post up.
UPDATE: My Life Books are here.

A Midsummer Night's Challenge

A friend of mine gave me a copy of A Midsummer Night's Dream a few years ago (way back in high school, actually) but it was so long ago that I didn't actually remember the majority of the play. Part of my problem was that I watched a lot of cartoons after school:

So I was really looking forward to re-reading it. Here's the story, for those of you who are unfamiliar:

Lysander and Demetrius are in love with Hermia. Hermia is in love with Lysander. Helena is in love with Demetrius. Hermia's father tells her she has to marry Demetrius, so she and Lysander decide to run off and elope. Meanwhile, Theseus and Hippolyta are getting married, and a group of actors has decided to perform a play for entertainment at the wedding. Both groups (the actors and the lovers) end up in the forest, where Oberon (the King of the Fairies) is hanging out with Puck. Oberon decides to play a trick on Titania (the Queen of the Fairies), and has Puck put a spell on her so that she falls in love with the first person thing she lays eyes on. Then Puck turns Bottom, one of the actors, into an ass (the donkey kind, not the jerk kind) and he turns out to be the person thing that Titania falls in love with. Oberon also tells Puck to do this to Demetrius* so that he will return Helena's love and leave Hermia alone, but Puck gets mixed up and Lysander ends up falling in love with Helena. And then Demetrius does, too, but Helena thinks it's a prank and gets upset. Of course, everything ends up getting fixed at the end - the couples are restored, and everyone goes to the wedding and watches the play, which turns out to be really bad.

It's not a bad play; it's pretty short, and easy to follow - I read it in an afternoon. It's just not as good as some of Shakespeare's other comedies (like Much Ado About Nothing). The fifth act seems superfluous to me. I understand that the marriage acts as a frame for the play (it opens with Theseus and Hippolyta discussing their upcoming wedding) so it makes sense to close with it, and the bad acting is funny, but it just seemed so different from the rest of the play that it was a bit jarring. I did like the characters, though (even Demetrius, I guess), and it is an amusing play. Titania's "Thou art as wise as thou art beautiful" is an excellent example of damning with faint praise.

The other book that I read for this challenge was Terry Pratchett's Lords and Ladies, which was hilarious. I have quotes!
There were other elves seated in a semicircle, except that "seated" was a barely satisfactory word. They lounged; elves could make themselves at home on a wire. And here there was more lace and velvet and fewer feathers, although it was hard to know if it meant that these were aristocrats - elves seemed to wear whatever they felt like wearing, confident of looking absolutely stunning.*

* The Monks of Cool, whose tiny and exclusive monastery is hidden in a really cool and laid-back valley in the lower Ramtops, have a passing-out test for a novice. He is taken into a room full of all types of clothing and asked: Yo,** my son, which of these is the most stylish to wear? And the correct answer is: Hey, whatever I select.

** Cool, but necessarily up to date.
Pratchett novels are always lousy with humorous footnotes. I like this one because I picture the Monks of Cool as extras in a Grease! production. I posted my other favorite quote (no footnotes in that one, sadly) for a mini-challenge during the 24 hour read-a-thon this weekend.

So, how does Lords and Ladies compare to A Midsummer Night's Dream? Well, it's not as easy to follow, for one thing. This was mostly because I've only read a few Discworld novels, so I'm not as familiar with all of the characters, settings, and relationships. The elves in the book are EVIL, rather than just mischievous, but a lot of other things are the same: the wedding, the lovers, the bad acting... Overall, it was very funny and I think reading A Midsummer Night's Dream beforehand added to my understanding and enjoyment of it.

Both of these books are registered on BookCrossing; if anyone wants one (or both) comment and I'll send it to you.

* Make him fall in love, not turn him into an ass - although you could argue that he already is one. :)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

July Book Blowout Challenge

Click here for the main page.
*Only books read between July 1 and July 31 count towards the challenge
*You can include re-reads - as long as they are read within the month of July
*Books you abandon will only count as half a book
*If you read to your children you can include all books which have more than 100 pages
*You can include up to two graphic novels
*You can include up to two audio books - (if you have a visual impairment that prevents you from reading then you can use just audio books for the challenge)
*Books you read for other challenges are eligible - use this as an opportunity to catch up!
*If you start a book before July 1 and then finish it during the month of July then you can count it as half a book

This is my stack of "currently reading"/"to-be-read" books:

I probably won't finish all of them in July, but I have a few YA lying around (including my recently rediscovered BSC book collection), so I'm going to say that my goal for this challenge is to read 10 books.

UPDATE (7/02) - So far, I have read:
Just Ella, by Margaret Peterson Haddix
The Baby-sitter's Club Super Special #1: Baby-sitters on Board!, by Ann M. Martin
The Baby-sitter's Club #53: Kristy for President, by Ann M. Martin
UPDATE (7/11):
The Baby-sitter's Club #55: Jessi's Gold Medal, by Ann M. Martin
The Baby-sitter's Club Super Special #5: California Girls!, by Ann M. Martin
The Baby-sitter's Club Super Special #6: New York, New York!, by Ann M. Martin
Y: The Last Man #10: Whys and Wherefores, by Brian K. Vaughn
UPDATE (7/18):
The Baby-Sitters Club Mystery #6: The Mystery at Claudia's House, Ann M. Martin
The Baby-Sitters Club Super Special #2: Baby-sitters' Summer Vacation, Ann M. Martin
The Baby-Sitters Club Super Special #3: Baby-sitters' Winter Vacation, Ann M. Martin
The Yiddish Policemen's Union, by Michael Chabon
UPDATE (7 / 20):
The Baby-Sitters Club Super Special #4: Baby-sitters' Island Adventure, Ann M. Martin
The Baby-Sitters Club Super Special #7: Snowbound, Ann M. Martin
The Jane Austen Book Club, Karen Joy Fowler
UPDATE (7 / 25):
The Baby-Sitters Club Mystery #1: Stacey and the Missing RIng, Ann M. Martin
Chloe Does Yale, Natalie Krinsky
Four Things My Geeky-Jock-of-a-Best Friend Must Do in Europe, Jane Harrington
The Killing Joke, Alan Moore
UPDATE (7 / 28):
The Princess Diaries Volume II: Princess in the Spotlight, Meg Cabot
The Hound of the Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle
Ever, Gail Carson Levine
Little Brother, Cory Doctorow
UPDATE (7 / 31)
Less Than Zero, by Brett Easton Ellis

I'm currently reading:
Stitch 'N Bitch, by Debbie Stoller

This is just to say

From flagpole, an Athens weekly paper:
Park Hall Poesy: An Errant Red Hand Truck Achieves Immortality Through Poetry, Sort Of

When Mike Hendrick, the longtime, soon-to-retire (again) Assistant Head of the UGA English department needed Park Hall’s red hand truck, he couldn’t find it. Naturally, he put out an alert on the Park Hall listserv. Probably, his use of the word “errant” triggered the response, started by Lisa Reeves’ reply, which led to a flood of poetic knockoffs. Flagpole could not resist reprinting this corpus of mock homage to a variety of well known poets and to the now immortal red hand truck. Can you name all the poems spoofed here?
Here's my favorite:
This Is Just to Say

I have pinched
the hand truck
that I happened to run across in
a convenient location

and which
you were probably
for your own future toils

Forgive me
it was so “dependable”
so red
and so obviously up for grabs

—Carl Rapp

Related: Mistakes Were Made, a This American Life episode in which regular contributors (including Sarah Vowell, whom I adore) created their own spoofs of William Carlos Williams. Good stuff.

The Sunday Salon - 29 June 2008

Last week, Jill at The Magic Lasso posted about the EW list of new classics. I didn't realize how many of these I'd actually read myself! Here's the list, with books that I've read in red and books on my to-be-read list in blue:

1. The Road , Cormac McCarthy (2006)
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)
3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
4. The Liars' Club, Mary Karr (1995)
5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)
7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996)
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997)
11. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (1997)
12. Blindness, José Saramago (1998)
13. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87)
14. Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates (1992)
15. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers (2000)
16. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood (1986)
17. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (1988)
18. Rabbit at Rest, John Updike (1990)
19. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (2005)
20. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding (1998)
21. On Writing, Stephen King (2000)
22. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz (2007)
23. The Ghost Road, Pat Barker (1996)
24. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985)
25. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
26. Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984)
27. Possession, A.S. Byatt (1990)
28. Naked, David Sedaris (1997)
29. Bel Canto, Anne Patchett (2001)
30. Case Histories, Kate Atkinson (2004)
31. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien (1990)
32. Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch (1988)
33. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion (2005)
34. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold (2002)
35. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
36. Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt (1996)
37. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (2003)
38. Birds of America, Lorrie Moore (1998)
39. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri (2000)
40. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (1995-2000)
41. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (1984) - I've read a few of her short stories, and they're wonderful!
42. LaBrava, Elmore Leonard (1983)
43. Borrowed Time, Paul Monette (1988)
44. Praying for Sheetrock, Melissa Fay Greene (1991)
45. Eva Luna, Isabel Allende (1988)
46. Sandman, Neil Gaiman (1988-1996) - How have I not read this before?!
47. World's Fair, E.L. Doctorow (1985)
48. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (1998)
49. Clockers, Richard Price (1992)
50. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (2001)
51. The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcom (1990)
52. Waiting to Exhale, Terry McMillan (1992)
53. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon (2000)
54. Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware (2000)
55. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (2006)
56. The Night Manager, John le Carré (1993)
57. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe (1987)
58. Drop City, TC Boyle (2003)
59. Krik? Krak! Edwidge Danticat (1995)
60. Nickel & Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
61. Money, Martin Amis (1985)
62. Last Train To Memphis, Peter Guralnick (1994)
63. Pastoralia, George Saunders (2000)
64. Underworld, Don DeLillo (1997)
65. The Giver, Lois Lowry (1993)
66. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace (1997)
67. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003)
68. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel (2006)
69. Secret History, Donna Tartt (1992)
70. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
71. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Ann Fadiman (1997)
72. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (2003)
73. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (1989)
74. Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger (1990)
75. Cathedral, Raymond Carver (1983)
76. A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ruth Rendell (1998)
77. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)
78. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
79. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
80. Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney (1984)
81. Backlash, Susan Faludi (1991)
82. Atonement, Ian McEwan (2002)
83. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields (1994)
84. Holes, Louis Sachar (1998)
85. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson (2004)
86. And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts (1987)
87. The Ruins, Scott Smith (2006)
88. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (1995)
89. Close Range, Annie Proulx (1999)
90. Comfort Me With Apples, Ruth Reichl (2001)
91. Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (2003)
92. Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987)
93. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (1991)
94. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (2001)
95. Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman (1998)
96. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003)
97. Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson (1992)
98. The Predators' Ball, Connie Bruck (1988)
99. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman (1995)
100. America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004)

Still a long way to go, though...

This week, I finished reading: Lords and Ladies (for the A Midsummer Night's Challenge). Reviews coming soon!

I reviewed: Nothing yet. See above. :)

I'm currently reading: The Yiddish Policemen's Union (still, but I made some more progress this week) and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (for the 1% Well-Read Challenge - I'm hoping to have this one finished tomorrow, so it'll still count for June)

Still to-be-read: Rant and a big ol' stack o' books I picked up at the Friends of the Library sale

Happy reading!

24 Hour Read-A-Thon Post Survey

1. Which hour was most daunting for you? I had to work both Saturday and Sunday, so I didn't really get a chance to visit and cheer everyone. I guess the most stressful time for me was during my mini-challenge this morning; I was trying to keep track of who had submitted an entry, cheerlead, and get ready for work at the same time. That was an interesting two hours. :)

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Anything by Neil Gaiman, Nick Hornby, or Jasper Fforde. The Twilight series. Graphic novels (Y: The Last Man, Watchmen, Persepolis) and YA (see bookshelves of doom for suggestions).

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Nope! This was fun. I just wish I could've participated more.

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? Everyone was so nice and enthusiastic, and the updates and challenges were really well organized.

5. How many books did you read? Part of one.

6. What were the names of the books you read? Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

7. Which book did you enjoy most? The only one I was reading. :)

8. Which did you enjoy least? NA

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? I know my biggest problem was that I didn't get a chance to visit everyone. Next time, I'll break down the list and try to cheer in some sort of order, so that I know I hit everybody.

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I will DEFINITELY do this again! Next time, I want to be a reader, though. I'll do a mini-challenge again, too; that was fun!

24 Hour Read-A-Thon Hour 20 Mini-Challenge Winner

Our winner is: Sean! Congrats to him! :) Our authors were:

Jane Austen
J.K. Rowling
Helen Fielding
Jodi Picoult
Alice Walker
David Sedaris (a reader posted this photo on their blog earlier in the 'thon, but I couldn't remember who it was)
Franz Kafka
Chinua Achebe
Haruki Murakami
Brian K. Vaughn (my favorite comic book writer; everyone should read Y: The Last Man)
Flannery O'Connor
Henry Fielding
James Patterson
George Eliot
Truman Capote
Thomas Hardy (the freebie)
Nicholas Sparks
Rudyard Kipling
Sara Gruen
Neil Gaiman
Madeline L'Engle
P.G. Wodehouse
Salman Rushdie
Michael Chabon
Margaret Atwood
Pablo Neruda
Jon Scieszka
Philippa Gregory
Mark Twain
Laura Esquivel
J.R.R. Tolkien
George Orwell
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Isabel Allende
C.S. Lewis
Chuck Palahniuk
Dan Brown
Elizabeth Gilbert

Thanks for playing, and happy reading! You're almost done!

24 Hour Read-A-Thon Hour 20 Mini-Challenge Update

There's still about 15 minutes to participate in my hour 20 mini-challenge! Here are the entries I have so far:


If your name isn't on the list, but you sent me an e-mail, comment and let me know. Thanks for playing! I'll be announcing the winner (and posting a list of the authors I used) sometime after 9 am EST.

24 Hour Read-A-Thon Hour 19 Mini-Challenge

Care posted a mini-challenge last hour; it's still up, so I'm going to take a crack at it. I haven't been reading for the read-a-thon, but I did finish Lords and Ladies last night and I had marked a few quotes that I wanted to share. This one isn't technically a run-on sentence, but it is sort of long. Mostly it amuses me:

Technically, a cat locked in a box may be alive or it may be dead. You never know until you look. In fact, the mere act of opening the box will determine the state of the cat, although in this case there were three determinate states the cat could be in: these being Alive, Dead, and Bloody Furious.

24 Hour Read-A-Thon Mini-Challenge

Welcome to my mini-challenge! You guys are doing an amazing job! I'm sure you're all tired, so take a break and watch this little video. Your challenge: to name as many of these authors as you can. Your prize: a selection of books from the Friends of the Library, including The Blind Assassin, Rise and Shine, The Coffee Trader, The Dante Club, and We Are All Welcome Here. Feel free to pause the video if you need more time to stare at a particular author. Oh, and one is a freebie, because I didn't realize his name was at the bottom of his picture until after I made the video. You're welcome. :) Send your guesses (with the subject line "Mini-Challenge") to xjessideex [at] gmail [dot] com. This challenge is open from 7 am to 9 am EST, and [UPDATED] Cheerleaders can play, too. Good luck!

24 Hour Read-A-Thon Hour 13 Mini-Challenge

I'm a cheerleader for the 24 Hour Read-a-thon this year, and I wasn't going to post anything (I'm dead tired from working all day and going to an A1A concert with my mom tonight), but I checked my Google Reader "one last time" before bed and saw this challenge from Vasillis and said to myself, "Well, one little post can't hurt." See that really long sentence? That's the sleepy talking. Anyway, here's my poem:

"La Reina" - Pablo Neruda

Yo te he nombrando reina.
Hay más altas que tú, más altas.
Hay más puras que tú, más puras.
Hay más bellas que tú, hay más bellas.

Ero tú eres la reina

Cuando vas por las calles
nadie te reconoce.
Nadie ve tú corona de cristal, nadie mira
la alfombra de oro rojo
que pisas cuando pasas,
la alfrombra que no existe.

Y cuando asomas
suenan todos los ríos
en mi cuerpo, sacuden
el cielo las campanas,
y un himno llena el mundo

Sóló tú y yo,
sóló tú y yo, amor mío,
lo escuchamos.

And in English:

"The Queen" - trans. Donald D. Walsh

I have named you queen
There are taller ones than you, taller.
There are purer ones than you, purer.
There are lovelier ones than you, lovelier.

But you are the queen.

When you go through the streets
no one recognizes you.
No one sees your crystal crown, no one looks
at the carpet of red gold
that you tread as you pass,
the nonexistent carpet

And when you appear
all the rivers sound
in my body, bells
shake the sky,
and a hymn fills the world.

Only you and I,
only you and I, my love,
listen to it.

Happy reading! I'll see y'all in about 6 hours for my mini-challenge. :)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Summer Reading Extravaganza Day 5: Oh, the Places You’ll Go (With a Book)!

The Friendly Book Nook Summer Reading Extravaganza!

Our final topic is books that transport you. It’s hard to take a trip with rising gas prices so thank God we can travel through reading! What are some of your favorite books that transport you to a new place?
I mentioned some of my favorite literary travel destinations in yesterday's post, so today I'm going to write about places that you can only travel to inside the pages of a book. Namely, other books.

I love a good sci-fi/fantasy novel, and Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series is one of the best examples, especially if you love books and reading - my friend DeAnna and I describe them as "English major porn." If you haven't read them, you are seriously missing out. The titles include: The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots, Something Rotten, and First Among Sequels. The series takes place in 1980's Swindon, and the protagonist is Thursday Next, a Jurisfiction detective who works inside books to help "maintain narrative stability." This includes finding a kidnapped Jane Eyre, living within the narrative of obscure books, talking on a "footnoter-phone," and other silly, book-related adventures. The stories can get confusing at times, but they are always fun. I would also recommend checking out Fforde Grand Central, which has information about the books, "Special Features," and a Dodo Emporium (re-engineered extinct species being a popular pet, naturally).

Visit The Friendly Book Nook for more fun places to visit with a book!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Definition

Today's Booking Through Thursday question:
What, in your opinion, is the definition of a “reader.” A person who indiscriminately reads everything in sight? A person who reads BOOKS? A person who reads, period, no matter what it is? … Or, more specific? Like the specific person who’s reading something you wrote?
This is a really hard question. At first, I'm tempted to say that a person who reads, no matter what they read, is a reader. But I think it goes a bit deeper than that. In my education classes, we stressed the importance of encouraging students to read and take on the label of reader. We encouraged that with anything school-related, actually - at the Early College, if a student self-identified as a "Mathematician," they were heaped with praise. Sounds silly, right? But it worked! So, considering this from an educator standpoint, I would say that anyone who self-identifies as a reader, would be a reader.

Also, I don't think readers of books are the only people who can be "readers." I consider reading comic books or graphic novels a form of visual literacy. I had a friend in college who was equally adept at studying physics, music, and creative writing because he could "read" equations and compositions as easily as a short story. Does that make him a super-reader? Probably. Years ago, I read a kid's book called Sixth Grade Sleepover. One of the characters couldn't read, but she faked it by listening to audiobooks and trying to follow along with the words. Does that make her a non-reader? (That's probably not the best example, honestly, because she vows to learn how to read at the end of the book, but it was the best I could come up with. The point is, audiobooks are still books, and they are most definitely a form of reading.)

Like I said, it's a difficult and interesting question. The English major in me is insisting that only novel readers and lovers should be considered readers, but the teacher in me wants to encourage everyone to consider themselves a reader. Any other thoughts?

Visit Booking Through Thursday for more opinions.

Summer Reading Extravaganza Day 4: Summer Reading Activities

The Friendly Book Nook Summer Reading Extravaganza!

Today’s topic is summer reading activities. What we love so much about reading is that it expands our world! If you have any fun traditions or activities that you share with your kids or students that have to do with reading, today is the day to share them.If you don’t have kids, maybe you have a bookclub that does has some fun traditions or you enjoy organizing your books in the summer. Be creative and share with us!

I don't have any kids, and I don't really have any summer reading traditions (yet), so today I'm going to talk about one that I would love to start.

I'm in the yellow jacket with the big smile on my face!The summer between my Sophomore and Junior years in college, I participated in a Study Abroad course. We actually had two classes (British Romanticism and Spirit of Place in British Literature). For two weeks, we read a bunch of books and came to class every day to discuss them. Then we traveled to the UK and spent two weeks visiting the places mentioned in the books! It was amazing! My two favorite places were Lyme Regis (I'm sure many of you remember the Cobb that Louisa Musgrove fell down in Persuasion) and Arthur's Seat (site of a rather sublime scene in James Hogg's Confessions of a Justified Sinner). Sittin' on top of the world! Spending three hours climbing to the top made the idea of seeing God in the clouds a lot more believable.

We also visited the moors of Haworth (Wuthering Heights), Wales (Tintern Abbey), Hampstead (home of Keats), Newstead Abbey (home of Byron), Dorchester (site of pretty much anything Thomas Hardy wrote), and various other literary locations. It was the most fun I've ever had reading.

I've been talking with friends and family about saving up some money this school year and going on a trip to Italy next summer. I probably won't be able to go for very long, but I'd love to make it a literary tour! Any suggestions for books set in Italy? I'll definitely be re-reading John Berendt's The City of Falling Angels, because Venice is so on my list of places to see.

Visit The Friendly Book Nook for more fun summer reading activities!

Camp Jane and other bookish awesomeness

Jane in June is a camp that teaches middle school girls about what life was like in the 1800s:
Lauren Dalme walked about the Kent Plantation House.
She peeked in at farm tools of the 19th century and a blacksmith stable.
The 11-year-old Pineville girl was whisked back to the age when a family lived at Kent House and of the era of Jane Austen.
But she hadn't completely gone back in time.
Lauren quickly snapped photos with her camera phone as she and the other 18 "Jane in June" campers toured the Alexandria plantation home Tuesday.
"I know they didn't have these, but they didn't have a lot of things like air conditioning and toilets," she said. "I couldn't imagine."
They also learn how to sew, garden, play various card games, keep a daily journal, and have daily tea parties! I'm going to mention this at our next Girl Scout leader meeting, because I think the girls would get a kick out of it. Found via Austen Blog.

This book is so going on my wishlist. Geek pride! Discovered through BoingBoing (they also have a link to an interview with the author).

The Times Online had critics chose their most loathed books. What would make your list? Mine would probably include Wuthering Heights, Pamela, and Heart of Darkness; I'm sure there are several more I'm forgetting. Found via bookshelves of doom.

This is why I'll be linking books on this blog to BookCrossing, BookMooch, Library Thing, Powell's Books, or my own review from now on.

There's a new book coming out claiming that Michelangelo hid secret Jewish codes in the Sistine Chapel. Anyone else having DaVinci Code flashbacks?

Amanda Grange is currently working on Henry Tilney's Diary (JOY!) and is blogging about the process (DOUBLE JOY!). Another one from Austen Blog.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Summer Reading Extravaganza Day 3: Magazines

We all love books, but how about magazines? Magazines are perfect for the shorter flight or poolside (so your book doesn’t get wet), don’t you think? What are your favorite magazines or what magazines would you recommend for book lovers? Or is there a magazine we should stay away from?

I discovered Marie Claire a few years ago, and I've had a subscription ever since. I used to read Cosmo, but got tired of the repetitive and ridiculous articles. (I also used to read JANE before it got cancelled. I refused to let them switch my subscription to Glamour out of principle. I want JANE back!) I picked up MC one day because it had Maggie Gyllenhaal (one of my favorite actresses) on the cover, and I was hooked! It has all the fun stuff that you would normally find in girlie magazines - (affordable) fashion, makeup and hair tips that I rarely use - but also book and movie reviews, political pieces, and an "Eye on the World" segment that interviews women from different countries to show problems they face and how they handle them.
I always learn something new after reading an issue.

I also read a few magazines for teachers, to help me get ideas for my class: Teacher Magazine, Instructor, and I have a digital subscription to EdWeek, which is probably more like a newspaper than a magazine.

My mom had a subscription to Newsweek for years while I was growing up, and I would always read it before her. Ditto for Reader's Digest (I still read this one when I'm at her house). I'll flip through Entertainment Weekly occasionally, or Wizard if I'm at the comic book store (which is rare now a days). And...that's about it!

Visit The Friendly Book Nook for more fun summer magazine suggestions!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

24 Hour Read-a-thon

Dewey over at The Hidden Side of a Leaf is hosting the 24 Hour Read-a-thon, which will take place starting at 9 am PST this Saturday. I can't participate this time (stupid work and awesome Jimmy Buffet tribute band concert), but I will be acting as a cheerleader and reading in my free time. Visit the main page to get more information or to sign up; there are prizes available for participants!

Summer Reading Extravaganza Day 2: Summer Reading for Children

Yesterday we talked about what we would be reading, but what will your kids be reading? You definitely want them to use some of this free time they have on books! We need suggestions for all age groups! If you don’t have kids, you can still share some of your favorite books from when you were kids, that you read to your grandkids, or your nieces and nephews. Today is the time to talk about books for kids from age 0-18!

Disclaimer: I don't have any kids myself, so all of these recommendations are based on what my students read at school.

The most popular series for my sixth and seventh grade boys was Hank the Cowdog. It's about a dog who is head of security on a ranch. There are quite a few books in the series (Powell's has 52 available, although there weren't that many at the school's library), and some of my students read the same one multiple times. The graphic novel-lite Diary of a Wimpy Kid and its sequel, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules was also a huge hit with the middle school boys.

My female middle school readers tended to like series set in high schools, such as Gossip Girl, Sweet Valley High, and The Princess Diaries.

The middle schoolers also really enjoyed Mildred D. Taylor's books, especially Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, but that might be a little too heavy for summer reading. Ditto for the Twilight saga; each book is 500 - 700 pages! Other popular books for middle schoolers: The Uglies Trilogy, Harry Potter (of course!), The Warriors, The Guardians of Ga'hoole, Artemis Fowl, The Clique, and anything by Gary Paulsen.

Visit The Friendly Book Nook for more fun summer reading for children!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Jodi Picoult giveaway

The book madness continues...a few people suggested Jodi Picoult novels for summer beach reads, so I did a little Googling. Turns out, Heather at Book Addiction is giving away five of her novels. Go here to be entered in the contest.

Summer Reading Extravaganza Day 1: Fun Summer Reads

Welcome to the Summer Reading Extravaganza! Our goal today is to get a bunch of reading ideas to help pass these hot summer days!
So we’re asking…what’s your favorite beach read or what’s in your beach bag?

Summertime is when I usually break out the chick lit or YA novels. Last year, I reread the Harry Potter series (who am I kidding, I do that pretty much every year), and before that it was Jane Austen. This year, I'm participating in three different reading challenges (the 1% Well-Read Challenge, A Midsummer Night's Challenge, and, starting next month, the Book Awards II Challenge), so I have a few books in my to-be-read pile specifically for them.

Those books aside, I love Amanda Grange's historical romances; I just read Captain Wentworth's Diary while at the beach earlier this month, and I'm looking forward to Edmund Bertram's Diary, even though he's my least favorite Austen "hero." I've also moved recently and have found a ton of old books that I read when I was younger (the Baby-sitter's Club series, Sweet Valley High, random choose-your-own-adventure novels), and I've enjoyed reading them again. My sister's picking out the ones she wants to keep, and the rest will be going on BookMooch later this summer.

Other books that I'd like to read this summer (based on recommendations from friends and other reading blogs): The Baum Plan for Financial Independence, Gifted, The Green Glass Sea, and The Clique Summer Collection (don't judge!).

Visit The Friendly Book Nook for more fun summer reading suggestions!

Cunning, ain't it?

I finally got around to adding the pompom ball up top. Yay! This one's for Fran, but I'll be making more for Dragon*Con later. My next project is an amigurumi penguin for Ashley, who's moving into the apartment complex this weekend.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Sunday Salon - 22 June 2008

This is my first Sunday Salon post, and it's a little late because I had work and a birthday party to attend today. So, I didn't get to do much reading today.

This week, I finished:
The Open Shadow, which is registered on BookCrossing and free to the first person who asks me for it
A Midsummer Night's Dream, which I haven't reviewed yet because it's part of the A Midsummer Night's Challenge

I'm currently reading:
The Yiddish Policemen's Union - It's not for a challenge or anything, I just really like Michael Chabon. I'm on page 197; I keep getting sidetracked by other books, so who knows when I'll actually finish this one. BoingBoing has a good review of it.
Lords and Ladies - This is the second part of the A Midsummer Night's Challenge. I'm enjoying it so far, but it's a bit confusing because I'm not terribly familiar with Disc World and there are quite a few characters I don't know. I love Terry Pratchett, though.

Still to-be-read:
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - my June 1% Well-Read Challenge book
Rant - Chuck Palahniuk is one of my favorite authors and this came out in paperback recently

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Are you ready to celebrate?

I don't know what's more awesome: the fact that the Phoenix rover found water ice on Mars, or that it has its own Twitter page to keep those of us stuck on Earth up-to-date.

Of course, naming a trench "Dodo-Goldilocks" is pretty cool, too.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My first Instructable, Part 2

So, yesterday I posted about my veggie Mexican lasagna recipe on Instructables. Today I check my e-mail, and guess what?

My recipe is being featured on the home page! I am so, so psyched about this. Tiffany came home just after I got the e-mail, and she was amused by my enthusiasm.

Now I'm off to get ready to go to a movie. With a boy! This day just gets better and better...

Summer Reading Extravaganza!

The Friendly Book Nook is hosting a Summer Reading Extravaganza! Each day next week, they will be posting a topic about summer reading that I will then be posting about here on casual dread. There are prizes, too, so go sign up! You don't have to write a blog yourself to participate, as long as you comment on what others write.

Monday, June 16, 2008

My first Instructable!

Tiffany and I have pretty much gotten settled into the new apartment. We were supposed to have some friends over for dinner tonight, but they had to work and canceled on us. Then Tiff decided to go to Athens with another friend. She invited me to come with, but I chose to stay home and cook the Mexican lasagna that we were going to have for dinner. And then I published it on Instructables! It's my first Instructable, so I'm very excited about it. Check it out here.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Fun in the sun

Pictures from our annual family trip to Hilton Head last week:

the view from our balcony

Sand sculptures!

a land shark eating a sunbathing tourist

an eel (?)

the requisite sandcastle


I didn't actually make any of these, but I thought they were cool and wanted to get pictures of them before the tide came up and washed them away. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that taking my camera from the nice, cold air conditioning into the hot, muggy sunshine would make the pictures come out fuzzy. Oh, well. I also have pictures from a kayaking trip we took through the marsh, but I used a waterproof disposable camera for those and am still waiting for them to get developed. I did make something on the trip (Mom and I both brought our creative outlets; she quilted, and I crocheted), but I'm still working on it. It's actually for Dragon*Con this year, and I'm hoping it'll be a big damn surprise for one of my fellow convention-goers.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Imitation is the craziest form of fandom

Chuck Klosterman wrote an article for the Guardian that looks at bands and their fans:
If you scrutinise the followers of any significant rock group, you will predominantly find unrelated, nondescript quasi-hipsters who represent nothing in particular; the clearest sign that any entity has become mainstream popular is when it appeals to random people who don't really care. Asking a band about who inhabits their fanbase tells you nothing. A better question is this: "Who are your fans that care too much?" Because it's always the fringe lunatics who matter more.

There's also a photo gallery that lets you test how well you can match the fans to the bands. Some of them are ridiculously easy (Marilyn Manson, Rod Stewart, Missy Elliot), and some are less so (The Klaxons? McFly?).

It's pretty interesting, and it makes me wonder: do people take your fanness less seriously if you don't emulate your object of obsession? This coming from the girl who's dressed up for Harry Potter book releases and is already planning her Dragon*Con costumes...

Sunday, June 01, 2008


This is one of the coolest articles I've read in a while:
WHAT could be described as a fairy tale turned real on Wednesday in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, as a cat allegedly turned into a middle-aged woman after being hit by a commercial motorcycle (Okada) on Aba/Port Harcourt Expressway.

Got that? A CAT turned into a WOMAN. And then a bunch of people started beating her up, and actually killed another cat (cat-woman?) that was with her. The third cat-woman got away.


Found via Neil Gaiman's journal.