Sep 29, 2011

Day 05 – A book that makes you happy

There are tons of books that make me happy.  Just seeing books generally makes me happy.  I tried to pick one I had never written about so as not to look like a copout, but a) this was the one I kept coming back to; and b) I have too much homework to do to write an extensive blog of praise to another book.  So, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus it is!  I mean, come on.  Is that not the cutest thing you've ever seen?

Sep 28, 2011

Day 04 - Your favorite coffee table book

Tracy Jordon of 30 Rock says it best: "A book hasn't caused this much trouble since Where's Waldo went to that barber pole factory." 

Some people try to impress houseguests with books that display their vast knowledge of art, history, or what have you.  Not me.  I put mine to the test.  They have to find Waldo. 

Sep 27, 2011

Day 03 – Your favorite series

The Baby-Sitters Club.  BAM, didn't even have to think on this one.  Now when I say the BSC is my favorite series, I'm including all of the series that branch off of this: Baby-Sitters Club Super Specials, Baby-sitters Little Sister, Babysitters Club Mysteries, California Diaries.   I love sooooo many different series, but this is by far my favorite (I don't really think of HP as a series...more of an entity.  Yeah). Really, I love them.  Here's why:

1) The baby block lettering used for the series titles.  There's really no explanation that I can give on why that makes it my favorite series.  Just accept it, I have. 

2) The babysitters (and their little sisters and their California counterparts) all have their own distinct personalities so that readers can identify with at least one.  Kind of like how those "American Girl" dolls worked when they realized that oh yeah, not everyone is white in America.  But every time I read one of the books, I would identify with a different girl: I'm like Claudia because I like to eat chocolate! I'm like Jessie because I dance! I'm like Mary Ann because I like to read! I'm like Kristy because I'm bossy! I could go on.  I never felt like Stacey though because I wasn't fashionable and didn't have diabetes.  Oh well. 

3) The book where they visit Stacey in NY taught me how filet mignon is not pronounced fill-it-mig-none.  All eight year olds need to learn this at some point.

4) The Dawn focused books inspired me to search my house for secret passages.  I didn't find one, but every now and then I knock on walls to see if they're hollow.  If I do this near you, know that it's a lingering effect of my childhood reading habits and not a behavioral disorder. 

5) It's super easy to just grab one, open up to chapter 5 or so, and jump into the story.  As a result, I reread them so often that I caught all of the typos of Byron and Bryon and never really knew what that kid's name was supposed to be.    

6) I used to have two whole shelves devoted to these books.  I had (have?) slight OCD and needed to own them all in order, so I would try to fill in the gaps of my collection using my hard earned report card money during school book fairs.  My parents used to try to get me to buy books I hadn't read yet because they knew I trucked at least 10 of these bad boys home with me from the library on a weekly basis, but I just loved owning them. 

I have a confession that may cause at least 2 of my friends to experience severe pain in their heart region and for that, I apologize.  I've never seen the movie, but I did read the novelization of the movie.  Does that still count? No?

Sep 26, 2011

Banned Books Week

It's Banned Books Week!  There's far too much to say on this topic that can be fit into one blog post.  Basically, celebrate your freedom to read and please don't hinder someone else's freedom just because your beliefs clash.  Make decisions on what's appropriate for you, not others.

Click on the picture of the nifty robot (who is unplugged...get it?) to read more information on banned books from the ALA.  Some of the challenges over the past years are fascinating.  Disturbing, but fascinating.

Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than 3 times

Ok, a book I've read more than three times, that would be almost half of the books I've ever read.  How does one narrow that down?  I won't go the obvious route and use one of the Harry Potters. So Gallows Hill, by Lois Duncan it is.

I used to be obsessed with the Salem Witch Trials.  There was a time in the 4th grade where a group of girls in my class pretended we were actually witches. led to some weird play that we  performed for other classrooms.  It was kind of awkward.  Moving on. 

This book is more effective if you actually have some knowledge about the specifics of what went on during the Salem Witch Trials.  Being from MA, I feel like I was privy to more of this information, but that might not have been the school system and could very easily have been the fact that I checked out and renewed nonfiction books enough to keep them to myself for a year.

I haven't read this in some time because my sister stole borrowed it from my oversized collection of young adult books.  Basically, a family moves to what is a fairly conservative town - it doesn't accept change all that well.  Sarah, the new girl in town, assumes the role of the fortune-teller at her school's Halloween fair and ends up seeing true visions.  Students start to turn on her and the events that transpire begin to mirror those of the Salem Witch Trials.  By the end, when the high schoolers attempt to hang her, it's clear that everyone in the Town is the reincarnation of either a famous victim or prosecutor/accuser from the Trials.  I vaguely recall that there's a fairly heavy male student whose fat is a stand-in for the heavy boulders that crushed Giles Corey to death in 1692 (yeah, I know my stuff). 

Wikipedia tells me that I've Been Waiting for You, a TV movie based on this novel, was released in 1998 and starred Punky Brewster and Stella from HIMYM.  I think I'm going to need to find and watch this now. 

Sep 25, 2011

Day 01 – Best book you read last year

This might be too difficult.  It's already a challenge for me to decide what to read next, so trying to decide which one of the 100 or so I read over the year is no easy task.  I'm pretty quick to declare things my new favorite, my all time favorite, one of the best things ever, etc., so it's hard to choose just one.  I'm also just as quick to declare something the worst thing ever, which is equally fun. 

But if I have to choose out of the books I read over the year then Nothing, by Janne Teller, was probably the best and definitely the most disturbing.  A teenage boy does some math and realizes that because there's no point to living, everyone should do nothing.  His version of nothing is to live in a tree while yelling existential stuff.  It's really cool:
“If you live to be eighty, you’ll have slept thirty years away, gone to school and sat with homework for nine, and worked for almost fourteen. Since you’ve already spent more than six years being little kids and playing, and you’re later going to be spending at least twelve cleaning house, cooking food, and looking after your own kids, it means you’ve got nine years at most to live.” 
So his friends attempt to prove there are, in fact, reasons to live.  They create a pile of meaning to show that there are things worth living for, but he is unconvinced because these are just tangible reminders of why life is worth living...they aren't actually the reasons life is good.  The book starts off with the kids giving up silly things like favorite books or shoes, but it quickly turns morbid when what matters the most to someone is hands for playing the guitar.

I read a lot of books last year.  I'd say this one was the best because it was definitely the most powerful.  Other books I read followed the usual tract of here's the story, here's some stuff that happens, now it's over.  With Nothing, the progression of the action was so chilling and it never really ended.  When I finished reading the book I was completely freaked out.  Reading this book actually made me want to prove that my life had some semblance of meaning and I'm practically Sally Cynical who loves all that negative crap.  That book must have magical powers. 

I've read plenty of "adult" fiction where people go about their lives trying to prove that there are merits to their existence, but I had never read one that focused on teenagers.  Usually children are the reasons adults come up with to prove their worth, so it was interesting to see how teenagers would react to a similar situation, albeit in an artificial world.  Definitely recommend reading this book.  It's a super fast read and it makes you think.  Makes you think that you are worthless, but hey, it makes you think! The original Danish edition was published in 2000, but the English translation came out just last year which makes it kind of hard to find.  I own it if anyone (cough, Bridget?) wants to read it. 

Sep 15, 2011

Review: Hero Type, by Barry Lyga

Over the past few weeks I've attempted to try reading what the people refer to as "chick lit," fully aware that I'd come to resent myself for such a decision.  I find that the women characters in these novels are borderline insane, with a "MUST.HAVE.EVERYTHING." mentality that I think readers are supposed to find relatable, but I just find laughable.  These novels are so formulaic that I couldn't really find anything to write about, other than they were fast reads and have the potential to increase your self-esteem by virtue of the fact that you are most likely much more respectable than the characters in the novel...except maybe for the "wise old caretaker person" because they will always have you beat. 

Thank goodness I found "Hero Type," a young adult novel that examines different perceptions of the right to free speech and questions what "support" actually means.  In a nutshell, Kevin Ross is a "hero" for saving a fellow student's life, but when he is caught throwing away a magnetic yellow ribbon that signifies supporting the troops, suddenly the entire town is against him.  This leads to a debate on free speech and whether or not tangible items like the flag actually mean anything outside what they're supposed to represent.  

The debate also includes a discussion on what support really means.  What are you actually doing when you put a yellow ribbon, or any other ribbon, on your car?  Are you actually supporting them or are you just showing everyone around you that you support the idea of supporting them?  We live in a world where our newsfeeds pressure us to copy and paste Facebook statuses in order to show our friends that we support this or that cause, but does this accomplish anything? Most people who copy and paste can't even be bothered to craft their own words of support, let alone take the time to volunteer or put together a care package.  I think this is the best argument in the text, because the young adults who read this have spent practically their entire lives in the digital world where passivity takes the place of activity. 

And it's not just about preaching which side is right or wrong.  While during the debate the point of view clearly favors Kevin's discussion of how symbols can be damaged without tarnishing the idea they represent, an interesting dilemma occurs when Kevin has to decide where to draw the line on desecration for fun's sake, allowing the reader to decide for himself what to believe.

I HIGHLY recommend this book; the engaging plot makes it a quick read, but unlike the "chick lit" I subjected myself to, it actually makes you think.