We owe it to each other to tell stories - Neil Gaiman

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Book Stats: Gone with the Wind

Title: Gone with the Wind

Author: Margaret Mitchell

Date of Publication: 1936

Other Notable works: Gone with the Wind is the only book that Margaret Mitchell wrote during her life time

Number of Pages: 1042

Where I got it: The Local Library

Why I read it: For the Back to the Classics Challenge and because it is one of the books
that you want to have read.

Interesting Fact: Margaret Mitchell began writing Gone with the Wind, her only book, in 1928. It took her seven years to write and a further eight months to check the thousands of historical and social references.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Happy Easter and Happy Reading

I hope that everyone is having a wonderful Easter weekend and Easter Monday so far. I also hope that this weekend has been a great time for everyone to catch up on all the reading that gets left by the wayside when we are all so very busy with life.

I have been fairly productive as far as reading goes - finishing a novel nibble, and three books. I want to do a bit more reading this week so that I can give studying for exams my full attention in two weeks time.

So let me catch you all up on what I have been doing reading wise...

1. I signed up for the Iliad readalong at A Literary Odyssey, this is the readalong for May. This epic poem has been halved for posting purposes. The first 12 books will be posted on on the 16th of May, whilst the last 12 books will be posted on on the 31st of May - plenty of time to master this giant. If you would like to sign up go over to A Literary Odyssey and do so - my edition is the Chicago version translated by Richmond Lattimore. I cannot commend this translation as so many spellings are off from the way I learnt to spell them for Classics, but it is the version that the Classics Department wanted us to read, so it is the one that I have. The Robert Fagles edition is supposed to be really good, so go for that one when buying your copy.

2. I started reading Gone with the Wind - I didn't know what to expect when reading this book, I just didn't think that I would like it as much as I do straight off the bat. I think I thought it was going to be one of those books that are a real schlep to read, but reading it has really been a breeze so far. This book consists of 5 parts, 1042 pages. So for the sake of covering the book fully and giving it the review I think it deserves I shall be posting on each of the 5 parts of this wonderful novel. So look out for part 1 of 5 of Gone with the Wind soon.

3. My review copy of Spin the Plate arrived! I was very excited, and could not wait to go to the Post Office to collect it. I will not say too much about it so look out for the review that will be up soon.

4. I read The Color Purple for the Back to the Classics Challenge. This was the first time that I had read it since my initial read in 2009, also it was the first time that I read my copy, which is quite exquisite, but that I will tell you all about in my review, so keep an eye out for that.

5. I read Debora Geary's two latest offerings - To Love a Witch and A Modern Witch. I can sincerely say that I am a fan, but for more than that you will have to wait for the reviews, so check back soon to see my thoughts.

6. Any one who knows me knows that I am a great Oprah fan, and ofcourse the books that she suggests and talks about are books that I always look for. So the past two weeks she mentioned 3 books that I will be looking to order soon [please note that South Africa's broadcasts of the Oprah Winfrey Show are not on par with those ib the USA - so you are likely to have heard about these books before]. The three books, are Decoded by Jay-Z, Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi and Me by Ricky Martin. I had heard about Unbearable Lightness before, but Ricky Martin and Jay-Z's books were news to me, I clearly have not been on top of my game when it comes to knowing which books are newly released.

7. With regards to the Back to the Classics Challenge, I have decided to read the Tale of Mr Tod for the Children's Classic instead of Alice in Wonderland, so look out for the Tale of Mr Tod, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Atonement and a to be decided book for the 19th Century Classic.

So now that we are all caught up on the "admin" side of things, I can now get round to reviewing all those books that I have read.

P.S. You may have noticed that I have a slightly different style of reviewing now, it works for me a lot better than the way I had been reviewing books before. Previously I would sort of summarize the book and talk about what I liked and disliked at the same time - this did not allow for very clear thoughts. So the new way of reviewing is starting off with a synopsis or summary of the book, followed by my thoughts - it is just easier for me to keep track of what I wanted to say about the story by just saying it, it is a lot simpler too.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Roald Dahl stories to be on millions of cereal boxes

Excerpts from Roald Dahl books will appear on tens of millions of cereal boxes over the next few weeks as part of an ambitious attempt to encourage more children to read.

The publisher has realised that children, from even before the age they can read, pick up cereal boxes from the breakfast table and scan the back for games and information. By replacing the games and adverts with an excerpt from a book, it hopes to spark an interest in literature.

The Roald Dahl museum
A Quentin Blake illustration from The BFG, a Roald Dahl classic

The innovation is being pioneered by Puffin, which has struck a deal with the estate of Roald Dahl, the much loved children's author, and Asda, the supermarket. The excerpts from The Witches; The Twits, The BFG; Danny, the Champion of the World and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will appear on at least ten million boxes of cereal sold in Asda over the next few weeks. They will appear on the back of all of the supermarket's own-brand children's cereals, such as rice pops, frosted flakes and honey hoops.

The extracts are only a couple of hundreds of words long, but Francesca Dow, the managing director of Penguin's children books, which owns Puffin, said she hoped many would be intrigued enough to track down the whole book after reading the boxes: "The great thing about a cereal box, is that it potentially is reaching millions of households that just don't read any literature outside of school.

"There could be an enormous number of children discovering Roald Dahl for the first time, bleary eyed over the breakfast table."

They have chose extracts that are "the most immediately exciting bit, something that plunges you straight into the story," she said.

In total 127 million boxes of children's cereal are sold in Britain every year and Puffin is keen to work with other supermarkets and other authors. It also publishes the popular books by Jeremy Strong and the Artemis Fowl series of books.

Ms Dow added: "There is a real awareness in the publishing world that there is an increasingly tight competition for children's time, especially from digital activities such as games consoles, as they grow up. And combine that with anxieties about school budgets being cut and libraries closing and we need to find different ways to get books in front of children, especially children growing up in households that don't read."

A survey of 8 to 12 year olds conducted by Asda found that, while 78 per cent chose watching television as their favourite after-school activity and 69 per cent chose video games, 40 per cent chose reading.

A recent report from ChildWise found that children now spend an average of an hour and 50 minutes online and two hours and 40 minutes in front of the television every day.


Something I had to share

The Library: More Than Books; Sometimes A Sanctuary

The Concept Of Sharing A Common Stock Of Books Is One Worth Preserving

I grew up riding my bike to the library. I was a bookish, somewhat solitary child, given to ducking out of whiffle ball games and hiding in the upstairs bathroom to read. When the neighborhood kids came knocking, wondering what happened to their 2nd baseman, my mother, bless her, never gave me away.

On summer mornings, I would bike to swim team practice and stop at the library on the way home. I remember sitting with my new book on the backdoor step on cool June mornings, reading and warming my shivering self in the sunshine.

Our town’s library was homey and small. The children’s section took up the ground floor, fiction on one side, non-fiction on the other. The checkout counter split the difference, and behind the counter was a drinking fountain with water so cold it stung my front teeth, top and bottom.

The fiction section was hit or miss. Most children’s novels started out just fine, but as Annie Dillard reminds me in her gorgeous memoir An American Childhood, they sometimes disappointed.

In fact, it was a plain truth that most books fell apart halfway through. They fell apart as their protagonists quit, without any apparent reluctance, like idiots diving voluntarily into buckets, the most interesting part of their lives, and entered upon decades of unrelieved boredom. I was forewarned, and would not so bobble my adult life; when things got dull, I would go to sea.

It’s almost funny how true that paragraph rings when I read it as an adult. The second half of so many so-called children’s books (this being well before the more recent blooming of many excellent YA novels), old English novels mainly with a smattering of American mysteries, petered out and left me close to frustrated tears.

Non-fiction, to my young mind, was where the action was. Biographies were the best. One sharp children’s librarian kindly pointed out the Childhood of Famous Americans series, and I was hooked. I read those books for two summers, waltzing through the alphabet, wishing myself born at a time when I could pull myself up by my bootstraps, tiptoe through the woods like an Indian and split wood.

When I was 12, my family moved to a bigger place with a bigger, more institutionalized library. Getting there required a trip in the car on busy roads with strip malls and traffic lights. No more biking to the library on a whim. The huge building felt alien and unfriendly. My middle school years, sadly, were lost reading years.

Ten years ago, when my husband and I were expecting our first child and looking to buy a house, my only criteria was that it be within walking distance of a good library.

In the weeks after that first baby was born, shocked by the sudden bracing solitariness of life at home with an infant, I’d often strap little Nell into her front pack and walk to the Mystic & Noank Library, where I’d be sure to find a friendly face behind the desk and the welcome diversion of a new book for the long hours of breastfeeding on the couch.

As our babies grew into toddlers, each in turn was bundled off to Story Hour with Miss Michelle or Miss Roberta or Miss Diane. The kids adored these classes. And now these librarians know my kids. They know what they like to read and set aside books for them. They chat with them. They treat them as real, known people.

Our library is a sanctuary. The building itself is gorgeous, inside and out. But more to the point, the people who work there have become friends. Sometimes when the dishes are done and the kids are in bed, when I crave the feel of something new in my hands, I’ll stroll to the library in the evening dark. I’ll have a little chat about books with Marilyn at the front desk, and leave with something bold to explore, some new adventure under my arm.

The idea of the library, a place for sharing, for everyone contributing to and taking from a common stock of books, is a concept worth preserving. Outside of childhood, we are not a culture prone to sharing. Here in Mystic, we are lucky to have such a lovely space to share. I cannot imagine my life without the library.

http://groton.patch.com/articles/the-library-more-than-books-sometimes-a-sanctuary Pam Dolan.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Any Witch Way - Annastaysia Savage

Any Witch Way, is the second book by Annastaysia Savage, here is the summary of Any Witch Way from the publishing house JournalStone, after which follows my review.

Enduring the teasing and ridicule of her school mates, Sadie struggles through life as a pre-teen on the eve of her 13th birthday. Three years ago, a car crash took her mother, but Sadie never saw her body. She refuses to believe her mother is really gone. Holding fast to that feeling earns her the nickname "Crazy Sadie".
Despite her one wish to be normal. Sadie only finds solace with a snal group of unusual characters. These unlikely friends give her a "semi-normal" life outside of school in a bookstore where strange and mystical things seem to happen. In fact, if Sadie entertains her deepest suspicions, her friends are a little mystical.

Faced with fantastical encounters, unexplainable transformations, and startling fears, Sadie struggles against an unknown evil - all while searching for her real identity.

The Review:

This book reminded me a lot of Oliver Twist - in the way that you see some light at the end of the tunnel for the protagonist, but then things just get worse for them until things get better again. Whilst this book is not bad nor is it badly written, it was just not my kind of book - I am certainly not part of the target audience. There was just too much drama - too much went wrong for Sadie, and it was just a little too much for me. The publishers say that the target audience is readers age 10 and up and young adult, so I am a bit far off. I think a younger reader would appreciate it more, as I am a better read reader and expect something different from books that I read.

I do give Any Witch Way some credit for its inclusion of so many mythical creatures such as Centaurs, Sprites and Lorelei. Its a good story that has a happy ending, but I feel that the author tries too hard to make it dramatic. I will say that the plot was not transparant and I was a bit surprised when I discovered who the antagonist was. All in all, it is a good book, but something for a younger audience.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Matchmakers 2.0 - Debora Geary

If you are in the mood for a light-hearted story, then Matchmakers 2.0 is just the story for you! I won this delightful Nibble a few weeks ago at LibraryThing and I am so glad that I did because I loved reading Matchmakers 2.0.

Here is the synopsis from Novel Nibbles' website:

Have you ever wondered who really does the matches for those online-dating sites?

MickGuppy scientist and victim of her self-inflicted dating adventures.
MiriAstrology whiz and promoter of steamy sex for the greater good.
DerrickData genius and life idiot.

Meet the match team at MatchMakers.com, the web 2.0 online-dating service with a personal touch. Can Mick lead her team, find a guy, and finally win Match the Loser?

And now the review:

Matchmakers 2.0 is just the book you should go to when you need to unwind and just feel good about romance again. Entertaining and funny, it is just what we all need every now and then. It is very cleverly written, and has many interesting landmarks that make this delightful novella the little gem that it is. From matching up little old ladies, kinky musicians, geeks uniting, knitting and matching up losers to opening up astrology bookstores and erotica - this book covers so many bases that it can be nothing but enthralling!

I enjoyed Matchmakers 2.0 that I read it twice in a row - which is something that I never do. And I am pleased to say that Debora Geary is working on a sequel to Matchmakers 2.0 which is wonderful because I want to know what happens with Mick and Sam because they just seem so perfect together!

Spin the Plate Short Story - Donna Anastasi

As promised, here is the long awaited review of Spin the Plate - a wonderful short story by Donna Anastasi. How did I get it? Well, I signed up on LibraryThing a few weeks ago, and entered the member giveaway competition and this is one of the first books that I won. Before I get into the summary and review, here is some info about the author - Donna Anastasi that I got from her website, http://www.spintheplate.org :

Donna Anastasi wrote the popular Complete Guide to Gerbil Care in 2005 (Bowtie Press) and a chinchilla guide in 2008. Spin the Plate is her first novel. She lives north of Boston in Hollis, New Hampshire with her husband, two teenaged daughters, and an ever-changing menagerie."

The summary from GoodReads:
Spin the Plate is the story of Jo, a woman who has come through a traumatic childhood not battered and broken, but powerful and enraged. A tattoo artist by day, she roams the streets of Boston nightly to forget her past and feed her two passions: rescuing mistreated creatures and inflicting bodily harm on their perpetrators. Unassuming and unafraid, Francis, a man harboring his own back story, is the one person Jo can't seem to scare off. Right from the start, he sees clearly the caring soul buried deep within Jo's hard exterior and puts into motion a succession of life-altering happenings for them both. A compelling story on living as an incest survivor and the how-to's of faith, love, and healing.

And now for the review:

Spin the Plate short story, is a story that cannot be described as a set genre - there are so many aspects to it. When I started reading it, I did not know what to expect from Spin the Plate - I was a bit taken aback by Jo and her brashness. But then you start to realise that no one is born that way, but rather you become that way because of something that happens to you. And then we learn what happens to Jo to turn her into this hardened person.

When Jo meets Francis she is vexed by his questions - because nobody wants to talk to you for no reason, there has to be a catch. She agrees to go out with him - I think this is because she sees that he is not a threat to her, and realises that she could pummel him in an instant. Jo who is so tightly guarded against everyone opens up to Francis, telling him the whole story of the sexual abuse she endured from her father. She tells him of her stint in juvenile prison - and we see how that enabled her to be the hardened person that could no longer be hurt by her father.

What really got me about this story, is that Jo did not let her father's abuse destroy her - it hardened her and part of her was crushed, but she was able to move on with her life. I was so glad when she got her vengeance, and I wish that would happen for more victims of abuse. The only thing I did not understand is why she chose to see her father in jail for as long as she did. I suppose it shows how big a person she is.

I love the subtlety of Francis in his courtship of Jo, he was not overt in his intentions, and did not push Jo, because I am sure she would have hurt him if he did. Francis plays a great role in healing Jo and helping her to become the person she is meant to be, taking something from the abuse, but not letting it keep her as the hardened person that she became. He teaches her to trust again, but above all he teaches her how to be loved without being hurt which is the best thing that he does for her.

Spin the Plate is a story of victory and triumph over the sadness that comes from childhood hurt. It shows that even the darkest cloud has a silver lining if you look deeply enough into yourself and make things change for the better.

And now for the suprise:

If you like Spin the Plate the short story, it is available for free on Smashwords, or can be purchased on Amazon. Follow this link to Smashwords. And if you like the short story like I do, then buy the full novel.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Like Atlas carrying the world on his shoulders

I had the tremendous weight of two essays on my shoulders, the first one I submitted Sunday night, and I would have submitted the second one a few minutes ago, but the Unisa website is down, even though they say on the portal that they will be down only from 19:00 - 23:59. This is very annoying for two reasons. 1. My assignment is due today, so I would like to submit it already and 2. I want to move on with my life.

I think that I will just rest for the remainder of today once I submit that darn assignment, and then tomorrow I will get back to blogging. Two posts to look forward to as I think I promised them a while back are, Spin the Plate and Matchmakers 2.0. Be prepared for a little surprise with both book posts.

I decided to work my way through the Southern Vampire books by Charlaine Harris again, and I must say I am enjoying them just as much as I did the last time I read them. I am a bit dismayed that there are things I do not remember, but that has nothing to do with Ms Harris' talent, but rather the antidepressants that I was on - there are large chunks of books and movies and even series that I cannot remember. That is part of the reason that I decided to reread, another reason is I would like to remember everything when Dead Reckoning comes out in a few months, and after reading some of the posts out there asking whether we are reading too fast - something I had thinking about before reading the posts - I decided to take pause, and go back to the books that I have already read. Yes it means that if I die tomorrow I will not have read as many books as I would have liked to, but it also means that I have really enjoyed and spent time with the books that I have read.

I won't be reposting on the Southern Vampire books, as I feel I did an adequate review when I read them last year. But do look out for another kind of post on them in the not too distant future.

I must say that some good has come out of this time that I am waiting for the Unisa portal to go back up again, I have been trawling Goodreads for something new to read, and I came across some good series which I have managed to track down, so you can look forward to some mystery series reviews. I actually find that I quite enjoy these mystery series, and I have to reread some of them so that I can post on them, because I did not post on all the books that I read last year.

I am hoping to be back and blogging again, but do know that my absence means that I am taking strain academically and not that I have decided to quit. I enjoy blogging, its like having a book journal, but one that works better for me because I always misplace whatever book I am writing in.

Have a great Friday!