Thursday, May 29, 2014

Guest Post: Samantha talks about Book Awards

  Greetings fellow readers, I'm Samantha. Sophia is so thoughtful - she picked me because our names start with the same letter so there's less to adjust to. Like Sophia, I am a reader. Unlike Sophia, I have not been blogging for years. This isn't really a post of thoughts on a subject with a point in mind. It's more like a compilation of information and recommendation. So bear with me - Sophia will be back soon*.

3 ALA Children's Book Awards

So let's take a look at a very well-known award: the John Newbery Medal and its honor:

They are awarded yearly, criteria being literary merit for children. The honor can be given to up to five books. This one has been around since 1922 so some older winners may be hard to find. Also, the method of choosing a winner has changed over the years.
The 2014 winner is Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures,
written by Kate DiCamillo(Author of The Tale of Despereaux):

I have some favorites in that list, but more Super Favorites List come from the Micheal L. Printz award which is a little more recent (2000):

This award recognizes the best book for teens based on literary merit.
There can be up to four honor books.
The 2014 winner is Midwinterblood By Marcus Sedgwick:

Several winners and honors that I recommend in order:
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Dodger by Terry Pratchet
Monster by Walter Dean Myers
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Along with the Newbery, the Randolph Caldecott Medal is considered one of the most illustrious awards for children's books.
The Caldecott annually recognizes the best picture books for children since 1938.

If you've never read a Caldecott, you're missing out. Now, I realize that you may have to go over to the children's section to find them, but it's worth the walk. Caldecott winners are so beautiful and diverse in the different styles and mediums.
The 2014 winner is Locomotive, written and illustrated by Brian Floca.

Interesting Fact: Author and illustrator Robert Lawson's books have been recipients of the Newbery, the Caldecott, and both honors!

       These previous children's award winners have all been selected by committees of adults based on the book's literary merit. Now I am going to point something out using Harry Potter. Because what better way is there to point something out?
        The NestlĂ© Smarties Book Prize was an award chosen in part by children. The first three Harry Potter books won the Gold Smartie awards three years in a row! (J.K.Rowling actually removed The Goblet of Fire from the running to let others have a chance) Harry Potter books didn't win the literary merit awards. They were bestsellers, editor's picks, ALA Noteable Book title, bestseller lists. They won the children's vote. There is a difference between being voted popular by children and being chosen by a committee of adults.

       That concludes the compilation of information and recommendation. You know it was awesome. ...Don't unsubscribe?

*How soon is soon? It's relative. It may be several lifetimes if you're a mayfly.


Also could you refer to me as Samantha Gamgee?
Where you can find me:

Thanks so much for this awesome honor!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Freebie!

Hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.
Today, we get to pick our own topic. So I'm picking something that really only slightly has to do with blogging: Top Ten Things I've Learned This Past (School) Year.

1. Blogging is a HUGE commitment and harder than I thought. No way did I expect to be this caught up in book blogging. I thought I'd post once a week or so, on random things that came to mind. SUDDENLY I discover this giant book blogging community, and Top Ten Tuesday, and Classics Club, and readalongs, and challenges, and.... now I feel guilty if I don't post at least three times a week!

2. I have awesome parents. I mean, I knew this before, but this year I have been especially grateful for having parents who are super involved in my life, but not TOO involved. They have somehow found that perfect balance of guiding me, but still letting me be who I am and sorting out my own problems. I love them ever so much!

3. How to change a tire. Yup. I had my first flat last month, and now I know how to change a tire. I'm an independent woman! WOOT

4. The way to a man's heart IS through his stomach. In fact, the way to ANYONE'S heart is through their stomach. If you give people food, they will like you.

5. If you are putting up posters in a Starbucks, and a cute barista offers to help, don't get all "independent woman" on him - let him help you, for heaven's sake! Well, that was rather specific, wasn't it... :-P It translates to the broader life lesson of - "Accept help gracefully." You don't have to do everything by yourself, and people like to know they're being helpful.

6. Money is important. I knew this one before this year too, but I didn't REALLY understand how important money was. My parents payed for my clothing and food, and I didn't buy expensive things or ask for the newest gadgets or whatever. But now with this whole college thing - sheesh, my personal savings don't even cover a year at university! (And I'm not going to an expensive one, by far.) I have a new appreciation for the value of money. :-P

7. Books are my zen. Everyone has their zen - the thing they do or the place they go to escape from the world and rejuvenate. My mom gardens. My sister goes to work out. I read.
Of course, I did know this to some extent - I wrote my general college application essay on it. But I didn't realize just how dependent on books I was. A few months ago, I had a week where I wasn't reading anything for fun - just school assignments. And I was also super crabby, argumentative, and easily annoyed. Coincidence? I don't think so.

8. Everything really works out the way it's supposed to. I (along with my mother) was nervous about this whole college application process. What if I don't get into any of my top programs? What if I get into both of my top programs - which do I pick? Little things like that - uncertainties - nagged at me. But ultimately, it all worked out for the best, and I'm looking forward to this fall with no qualms about my future! (And guess what - I got into one program and not the other - problem solved.)

9. I really don't like makeup. I've made the decision that I won't force myself to wear makeup just because I'm going to a party (and my sister's wearing it). If I feel like wearing it, sure. A little lipstick here and there, too. But otherwise - why put myself through the hassle? I can make myself feel pretty with clothes and accessories. And I always end up forgetting I'm wearing makeup and smudging my eyeliner anyway. :-)

10. Blogging is way more community oriented than I realized! When I started blogging, I never thought that there were these huge book-blogging communities and networks. I thought I'd post, and somehow people would read it. (Yeah, I was super naive.) But over this past year I've spread out and discovered so many fun things around the blogosphere like Top Ten Tuesdays and the Classics Club, and also had so many great book discussions in the comments of someone else's post. It's such a fantastic experience!

What about you? What "life lessons" (profound or otherwise) have you had this last year?


Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Bible Project: Week 21 (2 Chron 28-36; Ezra)

(Chapters 28-36)

Yeah, this didn't exactly cut it for me. As I said last week, both books of Chronicles were bo-oring, since dry history usually is relatively uninteresting for me. Oh well. At least we're done with it.

Though not quite, since both Ezra and Nehemiah are considered to be work of the Chronicler as well. All four books (1 Chron, 2 Chron, Ezra, and Nehemiah) used to be all one huge work.

I liked Ezra much better than the two Chronicle books. It had a main character (Ezra, of course), and it had a clear story (the Israelites reclaiming their land and religion after being taken over by the Persians). Ezra became their new spiritual leader, helping them revive their old religious practices.

I hope Nehemiah won't go back to the old "Chronicles" way of storytelling. We shall see.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Libraries of Ancient Rome

Hello everyone! Yes, I know I'm supposed to just sit back here in Italy and let my previously scheduled posts go up, but I wanted to give you an update about how it's going - specifically tell you about a temporary exhibit that I saw at the Coliseum. So pardon any bad spelling, grammar, or formatting - I'm writing this from an iPhone touch screen keyboard. 

The exhibit was called La Biblioteca Infinita (the infinite library). The title was taken from a quote by Jorge Luis Borges: the library, the source of culture, has no boundaries because it corresponds with the universe; its main characteristic is thus universality.

A prime example of this infinity and universality are the first libraries of history - Alexandria etc. Here's the first panel of the exhibit - it's beautifully written:

Here's a scroll by the poet Posydippus of Pella, inscribed in Alexandria. You may have to click on it to zoom in. Or it may be humongous and stretch across the web page. Sorry - I can't preview things on my phone.

Scrolls - the ancient correlary to our books!

Here's how the scrolls were stored:

My mom and I assumed that the busts of the authors were in front of the scrolls for easy finding and reference. But that's just our hypothesis. 

So how did these ancient libraries work? Well, they weren't like modern libraries, where you can take out books. No, the books were there for patrons to enjoy inside the library. Anyone could go into the library and read the scrolls, they just couldn't remove them. Here are the rules of one such library - the library of Titus Flavius Pantainos:

What's that? You can't understand it? Well, for those of you who can't read Greek*, here's what it says:

No book is to be taken out of the library, for we have sworn an oath; the library is to be open from the first unto the sixth hour. 

So, as you saw, the scrolls were stored on tall shelves, and once Latin literature became a "thing" in 3 BC, they separated the scrolls by language. The Greek scrolls were in one hall, and the Latin in another. Apart from that, libraries also had a space for cataloging the texts, and an auditorium for orations. Speeches are very close relatives to essays, after all!

Here's a poster on how libraries were cataloged and run:

Remember what I said about everyone having access to the texts in a library? Well, that wasn't necessarily true. It wasn't until Julius Cesar opened the first public library that the populus had access to knowledge. 

Oh and here's a nice map of the ancient libraries of Rome. 

Wasn't that a cool exhibit? Oh and one more thing - I may have told you that this summer we are renovating my parents' old study into a reading/study space for me (oho, I get my own bookshelves! Woo!). At the end of the exhibit was this cool column, and my mom had the genius idea of possibly applying this sort of design to one of the walls of my new space. It has random classical art of people reading and writing. Fun, huh? 

So that's all for now. I'm off to Venice on the fast train, and if I see anything else interesting and bookish, I'll keep you posted. :)



(This is titled "the stele of Timocrates, a scribe capable of writing correctly". ) 

*for the record, I can't understand Greek either. There was a convenient translation on a sign nearby. :)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Lost Beauty of Twilight

Let's play with words! I'll occasionally have more posts where we have fun with language, and they'll be tagged as such.

Before this, I had a few other posts on fun words - namely, weird literary terms. If you care to read about malapropisms, mondegreens, and echophonesis, check them out!

Okay, on to twilight.

The English language is a flexible language. Yes, we have "grammar," but there is no official language society that tells us what to do (like there is in France and some other languages). Words take on different meanings as we move through time. They can take on different connotations, depending on how they have been used in culture. One such word is twilight.

Seriously, when you hear the word twilight, separate from any context, what do you think of? Honestly.

I'll confess that I generally picture this:

rather than this:

And if you search "twilight" in Google Images, you get this:

That's because that's the most common use of the word today.* We think of sparkling vampires, shirtless werewolves, weirdly-obsessed tween girls.** Mention the word twilight in conversation, and half the population will go "Ugh," and half will squeal and giggle. (I like to think that it's more of a 4:1, 5:1, or even 6:1 ratio, though.)

But look at the dictionary meaning of twilight. 

1. the soft glowing light from the sky when the sun is below the horizon, caused by the refraction and scattering of the sun's rays from the atmosphere. 
2. a period or state of obscurity, ambiguity, or gradual decline.

It's beautiful (soft glowing light), it's scientific (refraction...atmosphere), it's deep (#2). This is such  a beautiful word, really. Banish all thought of teenage romanticized vampires and werewolves from your mind and think about the word twilight in it's real, ancient sense. It's dusky and purple and cozy and mysterious and a bit scary all at the same time. It has a sense of closure that can be calming and peaceful - or dark and foreboding. 

Twilight is that time when REAL vampires and werewolves come out - the kind who want to attack you and drink your blood, and not just watch you sleep.

The word twilight has been changed - and, I think, changed for the worse. Don't let such a gorgeous word go to waste! It's too beautiful.

Do you know of any words that have changed their connotation/meaning for the worse - or for the better? Let me know!



*I have never read the Twilight books (though I've read a few excerpts - and so experienced enough "telling not showing" to make me NEVER want to read them). This makes me a fine example of how pop culture can pervert the connotation of a word in the mind of someone who hasn't even consumed the source of that perversion.

**No offence to those who like the Twilight books - just to those who think they are excellent examples of higher literature.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books About Friendship

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
Today's topic is Top Ten Books about Friendship. Note that some the following books may not be primarily about friendship - but I chose them for the awesomeness of the friendships within them, if that makes sense. This is technically more like my top ten friendships within literature.

1. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Sam and Frodo - the greatest bromance in literature. :-)

2. Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom. A touching friendship between a man at the end of his life, and a man trying to add meaning to his. (It made me cry.)

3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I love the closeness of Lizzie's and Jane's friendship.

4. Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. Watson and Holmes are up there for best bromance with Frodo and Sam... Do you realize how much Watson and Holmes need each other? They depend on each other so much, though neither realizes it - or if he does, won't admit it. 

5. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. This is the ultimate friendship book between sisters (and Laurie, of course).

Sorry, only five today. (You may remember my excuse.)

What are your favorite books about friendship?


Monday, May 19, 2014

1 Year Blogoversary!

So, wierdly enough, I realized I forgot to post this on Saturday. I had it all written, I just forgot to click "Publish." Yay me. Forgetting my own blogoversary.
Oh well, what's a few days. So here it is, my little commemorative blogoversary post.

Wow, it's really been a year since I started this blog. That's just mind blowing. It's been a fantastic experience and I have no intention of quitting anytime soon! :-) LOOKIE I have fifteen followers! (That's counting the email ones.)

But of course, May isn't exactly the best time for blogoversaries - it's finals time, and I haven't really had time to plan anything exciting to celebrate. So instead, I thought I'd look back on my favorite and most popular posts of all time, and then talk about what I'm planning to do this next year with the blog.

Looking Back
My Favorites (in no particular order):

1. The Real Mr. Darcy Why is every girl's dream to meet "her Mr. Darcy"? He's not exactly that dreamy of a husband.

2. The Island of Doctor Moreau. For some reason I just loved writing this review.

3. Mondegreens! Know what they are? This post was one is a series of fun adventures into weird literary terms.

Most Popular (with #1 having most views):

1. Shakespeare's Language - my tips and tricks on reading Shakespeare for the Classic Club's Shakespeare month in January. I'm crediting Google search with the high stats on this one!

2. Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my Spring TBR. And so far, I've only read two. This list is being shifted to summer!

3. Are Abridged Books Bad? What do you think?

Looking Ahead

Some plans for the future:

I will be getting a Twitter account for this blog, and possibly a Facebook page. I'd also love to get a Goodreads, so we'll see.

I would also love to do a giveaway, but I'm still a little shy.

And finally, I'd like to host my own challenge or readalong at some point. They look like fun!

Whether you're new, or have been with me for the whole year, thanks for hanging out with me in my little corner of the internet. Onward, to greater, crazier, nerdier adventures! :-)


Departure for Italia!

Today I get on a plane headed for the land of Caesar, Dante, and Verdi.*
We'll be spending most of our time in Rome, with a few days in Venice and a day trip to Florence. 

It hasn't revealed itself through my writing yet, so here you go:

Aaaaaaaaaaa Holy Saint Francis I am so EXCITED AAAAAAAAAAAAA

All right now, back to sophistication. :)

Whenever I think about the fact that I'll be staying in an apartment in Rome, all I can think of is The Count of Monte Cristo and how he just rents houses all over the place in Rome. Anything that suits his fancy.

"If you care to find me, I'll be at my villa in Rome. I might pop down to my place in Venice for a few days, though, so you might have to search there too... But if you come, you won't regret it - I'll have my personal chef Alfredo cook something exotic and magical for you. And then perhaps we could stroll in my vineyard or - if we're in Venice - Benito my gondolier can take us around and I'll show you the sights."

~said by me, if I were Monte Cristo.

Well, I don't think that's quite how it will be.

Anyway, here is what I've got in my suitcase (besides necessities, of course):

- Le Morte D'Arthur by Thomas Malory (still working on this one). 
- My journal (so I can tell myself I'll actually write - and then promptly forget).
- Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

This is a relatively short list, but both my books are rather fat, so I don't think I'll run out of reading material.
My Kindle really and truly died a while ago (at least it looks like it did - maybe it'll resurrect like last time), so no more convenient portable travel reading for me! :(

While I'm away, there are some fun posts scheduled to pop up a few times each week (I return on June 5th). Aside from the customary Top Ten Tuesdays and Bible Project Sundays (which I apologize for if they are not exactly long or, in the case of the TTT's, ten... I was a little pressed for time), the most exciting thing happening while I am away is:
 (drumroll please)

A GUEST POST by my bibliophilic and artistic friend Samantha Gamgee** on award winning books!

How exciting!

And also, I will continue to moderate and respond to comments as usual, because now I have a phone that is smart and can do those things. However, it may take me a bit longer to respond, and I definitely won't be super active commenting on other blogs myself.

Arrivederci and ciao, I'm off to Italia!


*And Vivaldi, and Corelli, and Puccini, and Rossini.... Come on, I could only pick ONE Italian composer, or it would ruin the flow if the sentence!

**If you were wondering, no, not her real name, unfortunately. It's how she's known around the interwebz. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Bible Project: Week 20 (2 Chron 1-27)

(Chapters 1 - 27)

So I'm SUPER busy today - packing for Italy* (our flight's tomorrow!) and attending graduation parties ('tis the season!) So this is all I will say about 2 Chronicles so far.

I don't like it. It is super boring. It's a recap of everything from Samuel and Kings and ugh can we please be done with it already? Yes, I know it's the "chronicles" of the history of Israel, and I've really got nothing against the Chronicler. But I just don't like history - at all. So there you have it. I can't wait to be over with this stuff and move onto more detailed narratives like Tobit. Woo!


*Yes, yes, I will tell you all about our travel plans tomorrow morning. :-)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Book Jealousy

I don't think of myself as someone who gets jealous easily. That's definitely not one of my faults. Other people's happiness doesn't diminish my own, and naturally, I thought that would also apply to book-happiness.

Well, clearly it doesn't, if my sister is involved.

I was at the library yesterday (where I got Gone With the Wind) and my sister announces that she's going to get Dune (by Frank Herbert). I instantly protested. Now, here are a few things you should know.

1. I'm a bigger reader than my sister. She is definitely a lover of books, just not to the extent that I am. There has rarely been a book that haven't read before she did. And in one of those rare cases where she read a book before I got to it, it was a book that I wasn't particularly interested in. (The example that comes to mind is Mysterious Island by Jules Verne. My sister adores that book, and I haven't even read it.)
The book causing this sisterly contention

2. I haven't read Dune - but I really really want to.

The conversation went like this:

Sister: "I think I'm going to get Dune."
Me: "Why!?"
Sister: "Oh, I don't know. I want to read it."
Me: [Trying to formulate a logical argument in my head of why she shouldn't get it] "Uhh - but - Why don't you get something else?"
Sister: "I think I want to get Dune though."
Me: [Now, trying to figure out why the heck I don't want her to get it] "Well, I - I haven't read it yet. There are so many other books you could get!"
Sister: "No, I think I'm going to get Dune."
Me: [In mild exasperation*] "But I want to read it first! I haven't read it yet!"
Sister: "So? You don't have to read everything first. I'm going to get Dune."

That evening, I thought about why I so vehemently didn't want my sister to read Dune. I realized that I was jealous that she would read a book before I did - and of all things, a book that I wanted to read. This sort of freaked me out, because, as I said, I don't think of myself as a jealous or selfish person. But when it comes to books and the person closest to me - my sister - I become super jealous and selfish.

See, I know there are thousands of other people that have read thousands of books that I want to read. And this doesn't bug me. But because my sister is so close to me, and, though I tend to ignore it, there is a certain sense of competitiveness between us, my jealousy flared up when she DARED to read a book I wanted to.

So this post is sort of becoming therapy for me - getting over my jealousy of my sister reading Dune, and realizing that we're not competing for books. Heck, there's more than one copy of Dune at the library. But it's the idea that I don't have time to read Dune right now, and she'll finish it before I do - that makes me illogically jealous of her. I need to stop. :-)

Thanks for letting me spew all this stuff. Have any of you experienced book jealousy? Especially with someone you normally thought you wouldn't be jealous of? Tell me about it!


*You can only get mildly exasperated in a library.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card // Nullo Is Awesome!

Boy, it felt good to breeze through a book. I'm getting tired of month-long projects.
I read Ender's Game in a weekend. You know what that means?
It means the approach of freedom.
It means Summer is coming.
The amount of time it takes for me to read a book is directly proportional to the amount of homework I have. Homework is lessening. I have more time for reading.

Anyway, let's talk about Ender's Game.

Ender's Game is set in an alternate version of our world. We have expanded into the universe and are fighting with aliens that we call "buggers." We've already had two major Invasions, and we are preparing for the Third Invasion. 
Ender is a six year old boy genius (SIX. I love it. But we'll talk characters later.), who is chosen to save our world from the buggers. He is taken from his family - from his dearly beloved sister - to be trained in semi-isolation in the space-station Battle School, where future space soldiers learn tactics and fighting. 

Let's digress a bit and talk about the lessons. They train in zero-gravity ("nullo," they call it), which I would LOVE to try. I love this idea of zero-gravity so much that I had a dream about it and was trying to employ the techniques that Ender was using in the book. WAT.

Now then:

What I Loved

(The whole concept of nullo, obviously. But besides that.)

The fact that Ender is SIX. He has the brain of someone much older, but still, he is SIX (in the beginning, at least). A character so young is so unconventional, and I love it. For most of the book, he is not even a tween. It's great. It also makes it hard to picture him as a little kid, because his vocabulary and his mental processes are just so above that age, and I had to keep reminding myself as I read.

I also loved the detail about the technology and the techniques that Ender and his fellow students learned. Hey, it allowed me to dream about it better! :-)

I felt so bad for Ender throughout the whole book. I wanted to give him a hug, say, "Don't worry, you can cry on my shoulder, I'm not trying to use you, I just want you to be happy!" And then when I read this...

"We have to go. I'm almost happy here... I've lived too long with pain. I won't know who I am without it." heart broke for him.

Ender had never known a life of happiness, a life where there wasn't someone, somewhere, who was in control of him. 

Oooh ooh let's talk about the ending! 
Man, was that a superb twist! It just jumped on me out of nowhere (the same way it did on Ender, except I wasn't QUITE as emotionally involved), and gave me tingles, the way good twist endings do. And the final chapter tied it up neatly, in an epilogue sort of way, where it didn't feel rushed but dealt with practically every loose end. 

One confusion I had with the ending, but it involves a spoiler, so... (Highlight to reveal spoilers)

Did the other kids - Petra, Alai, Bean, etc - know that it wasn't a game? Did they also think that they were just piloting little dots of light on a screen? Wouldn't they be just as freaked as Ender? And if they DID know - wait, is that even LEGAL? I don't get it. Don't they deserve just as much pity as Ender? They were fighting real things too. They were killing and destroying real beings too. They probably will have a decent amount of PTSD. Darnded I.F.. I hate them, ruining little kids like that. Yeah, yeah, I know they saved the world. STILL.

If you can please clear up this confustion, I'd appreciate it. Just give good spoiler warnings in the comments so no one else gets spoiled. :-)

What I Didn't Love So Much

The one thing I didn't exactly like was that Card's writing occasionally slips into telling, instead of showing. In fact, this happens more than occasionally. It makes some sense, since the book spans a good number of years, but still, it can dull the reading.

Ender's Game was a fun book. It was clever, it was funny, it was engaging, and it was deep. It dealt with intense issues in a non-intense way. It surprised me with it's plot and with its characters.

Now to read the rest of the series... I've heard different things about which books to read next - Ender's Shadow? Ender in Exile? Or a different one? What do you think? Which order do YOU think is the best?


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I ALMOST Put Down

As always, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
Today's topic is Books I Almost Put Down - But Didn't.
I'm going to take that to mean - books I sloughed through.

1. Moby Dick by Herman Melville.
This book was rather boring. WAY too many nonfictional digressions on the history of whaling and the anatomy of a whale and the symbolism of whales etc.

2. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.
Here, there were a LOT of philosophical digressions - but that's just par for the course with Russian literature. However, I do not regret finishing this book. It was NOT a waste of time, and was a fantastic experience. And now I can say I read War and Peace cover to cover! (And wrote a pretty nice essay on it, too!)

3. Bel Ami by Guy de Maupassant.
I know I ranted about this one before. I love Guy de Maupassant - he has an excellent way with words - but Bel Ami was just so unsatisfying for me. The reason I didn't put it down was because I had hope that he would end it well. He didn't.
(Oh, and I found the post where I ranted about it, by the way.)

4. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.
I bet you didn't think you'd see this guy on this list, did you? I've sung my praises of Les Miz on here more than once, but that was after I'd read it for the second time.
See, the first time I read it, I was - twelve? thirteen? - and I did enjoy it. But there were far too many digressions for me to not have doubts, and I did consider putting it down. THANK GOD I DIDN'T. The second time I read it, I was ready for the digressions, and took them as they came. Some I read. Some I didn't. But I relished the story more because I wasn't freaking out about missing something just because I skipped some random section on the history and philosophy of slang.

Well, only four today, I guess. This one was a bit difficult for me. I guess I rarely finish books that I am considering putting down.

What about you? What books have you almost put down - but didn't?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Spin Results

So the results of the Classics Club spin have been revealed! The book I will be reading is...

(...drumroll please...)

This is going to be a reread for me, since I read this book back when I was ten years old. I was reading The Count of Monte Cristo at the time, but my friend insisted that I read Gone with the Wind next. Considering that Count is a rather long book, she was insisting for a rather long time - but I eventually read it. And loved it! 

But I haven't read it in a good many years so I'm looking forward to revisiting it. It's a little longer than I was hoping for, since I'm leaving for Italy in a week and would rather not lug a tome that heavy in my suitcase. Oh well. (More about Italy later this week.)

If you're doing the spin, what book did you get?

And if you've ever been to Rome (or Venice or Florence), got any recommendations on experiences I absolutely shouldn't miss? :-)


Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Bible Project: Week 18 and 19 (1 Chronicles)

Hey, look at that! I'm back on track with my reading schedule!

1 Chronicles can be split into two parts:

Ch. 1-9: NAMES and MORE NAMES. The Chronicler really liked genealogy, and seemed to have a thing for identifying every single person involved in every single battle and great event. Every single person and their children, too.

Ch. 10-23: Retelling of David's story from back in 2 Samuel.

So really, nothing new. I'm sure if I read super carefully, I could write a discussion on the differences between the Chronicler and the writer of 2 Samuel, but I don't have time for such super in-depth analysis right now.
One difference that an annotation in my Bible pointed out to me was a wording change in 1 Chron 21:1. ("A satan rose up against Israel, and he enticed David into taking a census of Israel." - A census was sinful because the idea was that the people belonged to the Lord, not to the king, and thus only the Lord should know their exact number.) Here's what the annotation has to say about it:
In the parallel passage of 2 Sam 24:1, A satan is instead the Lord's anger. The change in the term reflects the changed theological outlook of postexilic Israel, when evil could no longer be attributed directly to God.... Here, as in later Judaism and in the New Testament, satan, or the "devil," designates an evil spirit who tempts men to wrongdoing.
So here we have the first mention of the Devil, which I thought was pretty cool.

That's all for today - the spin book is revealed tomorrow!


Monday, May 5, 2014

The Bible Project: Week 17 (2 Kings)

I know I've been somewhat AWOL in the blogosphere for the last week or so, but I do have excuses. These next two weeks are incredibly full of finals and I have been studying for them like crazy.

Anyway, on to 2 Kings. (It's actually week 18, but I promise I'll catch up soon...)

1 Kings and 2 Kings have a very similar style, which would make sense considering that they were originally part of the same book. So in 2 Kings we have more summaries of the lives of various rulers with confusing names. Some of them are loyal to God, but many do not follow God's laws.  They make temples to other gods on high places, and even when there is that one rare king that destroys all the pagan temples, it's still isn't enough for God to for completely forgive his people. 

I don't really have that much to say about this book. I read that Chronicles is actually an expansion of the Books of Kings, so I'm not sure if I'm looking forward to that or not. We shall see. I'm not really that big on history. 


Post Script: I know my plans for National Poetry Month didn't exactly work out, but April was just so busy. The cumulative poem sort of failed but it was a rather spontaneous idea so I wasn't expecting that much out of it. All we have are three lines, which are as follows:

The light of the lantern slowly shifts to eerie blue - but no one sees.
A Mighty Metamorphosis that raged across the labile land, 

        Grew stronger as the cobblestone was turned to sacred silver sand.

Deep, huh? :-) 

Classics Club Spin #6

So instead of doing a Top Ten Tuesday, I'm going to post my options for the Classics Club Spin #6.

For those of you who don't know, here are the rules of the Spin:

1. I pick out 20 books from my Classics Club list and number them 1-20
2. The Classics Club announces a number on Monday, May 12th.
3. I read the book that I assigned to that number by July 7th!

I think I'm going to be lazy and grab my list from the last spin. I just will replace a couple books.

So here's the list:


1. Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell
2. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.
3. Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
4. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
5. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Orczy

I Can't Wait to Read:
6. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather 
7. 1984 by George Orwell
8. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
9. Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand
10. The Sea Wolf by Jack London

I'm Dreading:
11. Ben Hur by Lew Wallace (I started this one a few years back and only got a few chapters in.)
12. The White Company by A. Conan Doyle (Can you believe I've started this onetwice and haven't finished it yet?)
13. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (Well, this is both dreaded and anticipated. I'm both excited yet a little intimidated by the size...)
14. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
15. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

I'm Neutral About:

16. The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
17. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
18. The Man Who would be King by Rudyard Kipling
19. An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde
20. The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Friday, May 2, 2014

Gawain and the Green Knight

I read this translation by Brian Stone
Gawain and The Green Knight was written by an unknown poet people call the Pearl Poet, since he also wrote the poem Pearl. There are numerous translations from the old English of Gawain, including one by Tolkien, which I didn't read unfortunately. (I have read Tolkien's translation of Pearl, though!)

I finished Gawain a while ago, but I didn't write my essay for the Arthurian Lit course until recently, so here it is: the idea of Parallellism in Gawain and how it binds the story together.

Throughout Gawain and the Green Knight, the Pearl Poet incorporates many examples of parallelism. This provides an insight into the deeper meanings of the story, and also helps the reader make connections as they progress through the book. These parallels, through similarities as well as through contrasts, help in the interpretation of the book, and ultimately reveal what the Pearl Poet is trying to say about the search for truth and virtue.
The most obvious example of parallelism in Gawain and the Green Knight is a comparison between Gawain’s actions for three days with his host’s wife, and the three blows that the Green Knight gives him at the climax of the story. As Gawain gave in and took the green sash from the lady, so he again gives in to his fear and flinches before the Green Knight’s first blow. The second blow stops short, paralleling Gawain’s resistance to anything else but kisses from the knight’s wife. And the third blow leaves him with a small scar on his neck, to constantly remind him of his deception towards his host.
Another example of parallelism can be seen between the three animals Sir Bertilak kills on his hunts, and the three temptations given by the host’s wife. The first animal, the fox, is a symbol of deceit, pretending to be dead in order to trap his prey. The second animal, the deer, symbolizes the flesh and carnal desires. And the boar, the third animal, is a symbol of worldly treachery. The Pearl Poet uses this parallel, and characterizes the hostess as representing the flesh, deceit, worldliness.
Medieval artwork depicting the Green Knight
Parallels can also be found between the covenants in each of the fits. The covenant made in Arthur’s court between Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is closely interwoven with Gawain’s temptations in the Green Knight’s castle, and a strong sense of right in truth and fair exchange emerges from the beheading in Arthur’s court, the temptations by the hostess, and the final encounter between the Green Knight and Gawain.
                The Pearl Poet also provides parallels through contrast, such as between the lively hunt and the quiet bedchamber, as well as between Gawain’s harsh, cold journey and Sir Bertilak’s warm castle. The most obvious example of contrast is between Sir Bertilak’s beautiful young wife and her old, ugly lady in waiting, who is actually Morgan le Fay in disguise. The contrast between the noble Gawain and the Green Knight is also striking, as the Green Knight is described as lacking chivalry.
                Yet another example of parallelism through contrast can be seen in the two different roles the Green Knight takes on through the story. In the beginning, he is harsh, evil, and unchivalrous, clearly coming from some supernatural source. But eventually, he takes on the role of Gawain’s confessor, who teaches Gawain a lesson and helps him see his faults.
                The ultimate contrast is between Gawain’s pentangle symbol in the opening of his journey, and his green baldric in the end. At the outset, the pentangle – the symbol of the valiant, truthful knight – showed the world that Gawain was a perfect knight, and he himself only saw his faith in the Virgin Mary. By the end, however, the world now sees his shame in the baldric, the green belt he sinfully accepted from the Green Knight’s wife. Though they see his sinfulness, the rest of Arthur’s knights forgive him his fault and wear green sashes as well.

                The story ends with the motto “Hony soyt qui mal y pense” – “Evil to him who evil thinks.” This emphasizes the Pearl Poet’s theme of truth and virtue, for, as Gawain says, “Man can conceal sin, but not dissever for it” (p. 114). Ultimately, Gawain and the Green Knight is a moral tale, using parallelism and contrast to reveal its lesson: no human is perfect, but, despite our flaws, we should all should strive to achieve truth.
Art by John Howe for the Tolkien translation