Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A classic love...

This is a bad deal. I need to STOP joining challenges. Before I go a little cuckoo! Between April 1st and October 31st, Trish is hosting the Classics Challenge! Choose between three options: a classic snack (four classics), a classic entree (five classics), or a classic feast (six classics). I have decided to bite the big one and make myself go completely bananas. My books will be...

1. Agnes Gray - Anne Bronte
2. The Aleph and Other Stories - Jorge Luis Borges
3. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
4. The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
5. Lady Audley's Secret - Elizabeth Mary Braddon
6. The Adventures of David Simple - Sarah Fielding

This is good. I'm crossing books off my lists and reading good, enjoyable stories. Despite going bananas.

The wrap up...

I thought I wasn't going to be able to finish this, but thankfully I was able to pull it off. This was a good challenge for me as I some day want to attempt everything on this list. Both original and updated version. I got a little discouraged while reading Blonde, but I got over it and moved on. I read...

Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte 4/5
Saturday - Ian McEwan 5/5
Blonde - Joyce Carol Oates 1/5
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson 2/5
The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins 5/5
The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde 3/5
The Poisonwood Bible - Barabara Kingsolver 1/5
Emma - Jane Austen 4/5
The Virgin Suicides - Jeffery Eugenides 4/5
Casino Royale - Ian Flemming 3/5

A good mix. Only three I disliked, although I am slightly ashamed that two of those I couldn't even finish. But I made it through 100 pages and that's good enough for me. I should see what percentage I am really at with this list...

Spring Awakening - Steven Sater

spring awakening
steven sater
c. 2007
94 pages
completed 2/23/2009

*may contain spoilers*

I love Love LOVE this show. LOVE IT. I heard previews for it on the radio and liked the sound of the music and so bought the soundtrack on itunes. And I love it. But I haven't been able to see it (that's a slight lie) so I had to read it instead. Spring Awakening is a Broadway musical based off a German play of the same name written in the 1890's by Frank Wedekind. It was banned for years, decades even, for how controversial the subject matter was. Even now, the new show is somewhat controversial and in some places graphic.

Both the original and new play are about adolescence and the joys and horrors that go along with it. The story follows intelligent rebel Melchior (who quests for truth and questions authority), his innocent and curious love Wendla (who is an aunt for the second time and still doesn't know where babies come from), his tragic and hopeless best friend Moritz (who is so freaked out by his own puberty that he needs Melchior to explain sex to him in essay form), and all their friends. Everything that could possibly happen to adolescent kids does, from the everyday troubles at school, puberty, and learning about love and sex, to the more horrifying abortion, sexual abuse, and suicide. The story's beautiful and sad and still very relevant despite originating and taking place in 1890.

There are a lot of things I like about this play. I like that the songs don't forward the story much at all. Instead they act as inner monologues, a way for the characters to express their true feelings of frustration and joy. I like how things happen simultaneously onstage when they don't happen that way in reality. I don't think that made sense. For example: Moritz fails out of school and asks Melchior's mother for money to run away to America. On one side of the stage we see and hear Frau Gabor writing a reply to Moritz, during which, on the other side of the stage, we see and hear Moritz reading and reacting to said letter. An interesting touch.

There were certain things that were changed from the original play to the new play, things that I think made certain characters more sympathetic and likable. In the original, nobody really likes Moritz except Melchior, but now all his classmates are his friends. In the original Melchior kind of rapes Wendla, but now their sex is consensual. Which is good.

I was surprised when I read it how funny it was. There is a lot of sadness and tragedy in this play, but there is also a lot of humor. Especially boy sex humor. Which I guess is expected from a play about puberty. For example, one of the boys masturbates in his bathroom and keeps being interrupted by his father. Funny. My favorite line in the show is from Moritz telling Melchior how desperately he wants puberty to stop so he can just concentrate on life, "Last night I prayed like Chirst in Gethsemane: Please God, give me consumption and take these sticky dreams away from me!" 


So, before I said I've never seen the show which is true, but is also a lie because I have managed to find a bootleg of the entire thing on youtube. Yea youtube! So for your enjoyment here is a clip of the show featuring the scene containing my favorite line and my second favorite song ("Touch Me"). It's not super awesome quality (seeing as it is bootlegged!), but you get the idea. And the second clip is the official Spring Awakening music video (I didn't know they made music videos), which is the song "The Bitch of Living." And is much better quality. Enjoy!!

Friday, February 20, 2009

A change is gonna come...

I am having a very hard time getting a hold of a copy of The Girl in Saskatoon. I think it's a fairly new book and I could probably get it from Canada, but I don't want to pay for the shipping. So I've ordered it from Amazon, but it's not in stock so they'll email me and ship it once it comes in, but I don't know how long that will be. Because of this, I'm going to have to take it off my list for the Well Seasoned Reader Challenge. Boo. Instead I'm going to substitute Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I hate changing my book lists! I feel like I'm failing. Oh well. I am still holding out hope that it will come in at some point, so it will stay on my list for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge. For the time being at least.

Casino Royale - Ian Fleming

casino royale
ian flemming
c. 1953
196 pages
completed 2/19/2009

read for: 1% challenge, 1001 books

*may contain spoilers*

Wasn't really sure what to expect going into this book. I've never really been too intrigued by James Bond. I've only seen the latest two movies with Daniel Craig, and while I thought they were both highly entertaining, I don't think the world will end if I never see the ones before. Anyway, onto the book.

There's not a whole lot I have to say about it. There's not too much depth or character development, but it was still entertaining. As my sister, the librarian, would say, "It does what it says on the box." I don't think I'll be rushing out to read the next one, but I enjoyed this one and I'm glad I read it. I was surprised by how alike the book was to the movie. I thought the movie just used the title and a few basic elements, but in actuality it was a fairly faithful adaptation. There were some details changed (for instance in the movie they played poker, whereas in the book they played baccarat) and some things were updated to the current decade, but for the most part the stories were very similar. I didn't expect that.


Friday, February 6, 2009

The wonderful h...

I found this on Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin? She had made her own list (of the letter "O"), I left a comment, she emailed me my letter, and here we are! 10 things I love that start with the letter H...

*DISCLAIMER: H was a hard letter for me, so a few of these are...odd.

1. HOT CHOCOLATE - However, I am very particular about it. It is not good when you go to restaurants of the IHOP/Denny's variety and they bring you chocolate milk that has been heated in a microwave and disguised with whipped cream. No no. My hot chocolate should be made with 1 packet of hot chocolate mix (whatever brand you prefer...I like Swiss Miss), I spoonful of sugar, and hot milk. The chocolate mix and sugar should be mixed together at the bottom of your mug, then a small amount of hot milk should be added and stirred to create a thick paste. Then the rest of the milk is added and stirred. Drink and enjoy!!

2. HEAT - I am always cold. ALWAYS. When I lived in Seattle, I didn't own a pair of shorts and lived through August with a sweatshirt.

3. HAM SALAD - I have never found this anywhere but in Delaware. My mother would go to the Zingo's (a little grocery store) and get it at the deli counter in a little pint-sized tub. It's the same idea as tuna salad or chicken salad, but was made from ground ham.

4. HOT PINK - One of the co-tackiest colors ever (the other being orange) and therefore my co-favorite color.

5. HOME - I don't think I need to explain this. There's no place like home.

6. HARRY POTTER - I love Love LOVE Harry Potter. I will never give up until Girlfriend actually reads them. Seeing the movie just isn't the same. For the record, my favorite is the third.

7. HAPPY HARRY'S - Which sounds like it could be some creepy guy, but is in fact the greatest drug store in the Mid-Atlantic.

8. HOROSCOPES - Girlfriend and I read our horoscopes every morning. And mine ALWAYS come true.

9. HOHORSE - This is where we really get into the odd ones...in high school, I dated a boy named Jorge. At some point during that time, my Nana came to visit. My Nana was from south Georgia, a little town called Ocilla, and for some reason she could not pronounce Jorge's name. "Hohorse" is how it came out. I miss my Nana.

10. HEATH - My (faux)big brother who just recently went from pot-head lame-o to responsible family man. I miss him, too.

So there's my list! If you have somehow stumbled upon my blog and would like to participate, leave me a comment and I'll assign you a letter.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Teahouse on Mulberry Street - Sharon Owens

the tea house on mulberry street
sharon owens
c. 2005
321 pages
completed 2/3/2009

read for: well seasoned reader challenge, what's in a name challenge

*may contain spoilers*

This book was a little too chick-lit for me. Which is not me dissing chick-lit. Though I know there are some exceptions, that particular genre is not for me. It just seems there's a little too much sunshine and rainbows, even when we're talking about very sad and depressing things. For some people, that is what they like about chick-lit. So. To each his own.

I was a little distressed by the amount of adultery that went on during this book. At least FIVE different story lines centered around people committing or seriously contemplating adultery. And that just seems like too much. Is no one in Belfast, Ireland happily married?


Monday, February 2, 2009

To be read...

I don't think there were very many this month...

The Book of Unholy Mischief - Elle Newmark
Memoirs of a Teenaged Amnesiac - Gabrielle Zevin
The Intellectual Devotional - David S Kidder and Noah D Oppenheim
The Book of Samson - David Maine
The End of the Alphabet - CS Richardson
Whistling in the Dark - Lesley Kagen
Sophia Petrovna - Lydia Chukoskaya
The Scarlet Lion - Elizabeth Chadwick
The School of Essential Ingredients - Erica Bauermeister
The Hour I First Believed - Wally Lamb
The Observations - Jane Harris
Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
The Housekeeper and the Professor - Yoko Ogawa
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas - John Boyne
Looking for Alaska - John Green
North River - Pete Hamill
Dark Angels - Karleen Koen
Forever Amber - Kathleen Windsor
Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen
The Rafael Affair - Iain Pears
Signora da Vinci - Robin Maxwell
The Needle in the Blood - Sarah Bower
Roseflower Creek - JL Mills
The Moreland Dynasty series - Cynthia Harrod Eagles

Okay, maybe not...23 books and 1 new series...

The Virgin Suicides - Jeffery Eugenides

the virgin suicides

c. 1993
256 pages
completed: 1/28/2009

read for: 1% challenge, 1001

*may contain spoilers*

This book was somewhat hard for me to read, and seems to be even harder for me to process my thoughts on it in order to review. I knew going into it that it probably would be as it's about a family of teen girls who all commit suicide, a subject that hits a little close to home. During my senior year of high school and the year after, my school went through three suicides (among other deaths), one of whom was a close friend of mine who lived up the street from me. So. A lot of memories surfaced while reading this book.

First, I just wanted to say that the girls in this book were just so sad. Their parents didn't know them. At all. And they kept them so sheltered and closed off that it's no wonder they were seen by the others in their town and school as peculiar. The girls said they just wanted to live. And no one would let them. Not their parents who shut them away in their house or the neighborhood boys who were obsessed with them.

I do think this was a very good look, not at the girls who commit suicide, but at those they left behind. The memories and impressions that an event like this makes on someone can't ever really go away. Mostly because it's something one can never fully understand. This is a different sort of grief. No there's no real way to understand the confusion and loss you personally feel, and it's even worse as an adult trying to help a youth understand that confusion and loss. One of the teachers or school principle in the story tried to compare the loss of Cecilia to when he lost a baseball game as a child. Not really the same. As a reader, you never really understand why the girls chose this way out. You can learn about their life and speculate, the same as the boys. But you never know for sure. Which is just like when this happens for real. You never really know why.