Challenges, challenges and more challenges!

Ok, so there were a few challenges that ended this month.  There are also some new challenges starting tomorrow, so I figured I do somewhat of a challenge round up.  First off . . .

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This was actually the first challenge I ever entered and I wanted to make sure I didn’t over-extend myself, so I only obligated myself to complete Peril in the Second, which required me to read two books by today.  I actually went way above and beyond the two books–it’s hard not to get caught up in the Halloween/fall spirit around this time!  I read:

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, by Katherine Howe

Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger

One Foot Wrong, Sofie Laguna

Twilight, Stephenie Meyer

The House of the Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne

Honestly, I would have read more for this challenge if I’d had the time!  I’m already anticipating RIP V!

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The Maud Hart Lovelace reading challenge only ran for a month, so I knew when I started it that I would never be able to read all ten Betsy and Tacy books unless I chose to forego all other reading material.  I am happy to say, however, that I read the first four books.  I hope to read the remaining six very soon.  I read:

Betsy-Tacy

Betsy, Tacy and Tib

Betsy and Tacy go Over the Big Hill

Betsy and Tacy go Downtown

For those of you that aren’t familiar with this series, I strongly urge you to check it out!

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There is still a month left for this challenge, but I wanted to give a status update.  For the month of October, my stats are:

19 books read

9 were books I owned

3 were review copies

1 was a loaner from my mom

2 were from Bookswim

4 were from the library

So overall I did really well in this challenge for this month, with a 47%!!  Of course, the read-a-thon helped my cause immensly–I am willing to bet my percentage next month is nowhere near this high.

And now for a new challenge!!

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You can find all the info on this challenge at the blog created specifically for it, but I will go ahead and list some of the specifications and rules below.

The challenge runs from November 1, 2009-November 30, 2010, but you may join in the fun whenever you wish!   Participants are encouraged to read nonfiction and fiction books related to the rather broad idea of ‘women’s studies.’

For nonfiction, this would include books on feminism, history books focused on women, biographies of women, memoirs (or travelogues) by women, essays by women and cultural books focused on women (body image, motherhood, etc.).  The topics I’ve listed aren’t mean to be exhaustive; if you come across a nonfiction book whose subject is female-related, it counts!  Of course, if you’re not sure you can always ask about it in a comment.  And if you need some ideas for specific books, check out the ‘Reading Lists’ page.

It’s trickier to say what is applicable as fiction. Obviously, any classic fiction written by a feminist is applicable. But where do we go from there? To speak generally, if the book takes a thoughtful look at the place of women in society, it will probably count. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to explain in your review why you chose this for the challenge and its connection to women’s studies. Once again, if you need some specific ideas, check out the ‘Reading Lists’ page.

One quick note about author gender. There isn’t a rule if a book’s written by a woman it counts and if by a man it doesn’t count. I firmly believe that men can be feminists and that not all women are feminists. As long as the book adheres to the definition of women’s studies I’ve shared above, it counts.

Interested in participating? Great! There are three levels you can choose as a reader (you can count books for other challenges as well):

  • Philogynist: read at least two books, including at least one nonfiction one.
  • Bluestocking: read at least five books, including at least two nonfiction ones.
  • Suffragette: read at least eight books, including at least three nonfiction ones.

I plan on participating at the bluestocking level.  I am unsure at this point what books I’ll be reading, but here are the possibilities:

Fiction:

Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson

Beloved, Toni Morrison

The Color Purple, Alice Walker

Housekeeping, Marilynn Robinson

Nonfiction:

Death and the Maidens, Janet Todd

Obviously my list is lacking, especially when it comes to nonfiction.  Hopefully I’ll be adding to it–I’m open to suggestions!

Book Review: Betsy and Tacy go Downtown

downtownBetsy and Tacy go Downtown

Maud Hart Lovelace

Harper Trophy

2000

Originally titled Downtown and published in 1943, Betsy and Tacy go Downtown is the fourth book in Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy series.  Just last month, the last six Besty-Tacy books were reissued, and I had made it my goal to read all of them, including the first four books that are for a younger audience and were not reissued.  This coincided with the Maud Hart Lovelace reading challenge going on at A Library is a Hospital for the Mind.  Unfortunately, the challenge ends tomorrow, but I knew going into it that I wouldn’t read all ten books.  I’m happy to have gotten the first four books read though so that now I can move on to the new reissues.

Downtown is a little more difficult than the first three books but the format is the same.  Now Betsy, Tacy and Tib are twelve, and just as spunky as ever!  We’re introduced to some new characters; Mrs Poppy is the lonely wife of the owner of the opera house.  A portly woman, she is a former actress and seems very glamorous compared to the other women of Deep Valley.  We soon learn, however, that she has lost her only daughter, so to fill that void she becomes friendly with Betsy, Tacy and Tib and often invites them over to keep company with her.

Meanwhile, there is also Winona, a spoiled child who often gets special privilages because her father works for the newspaper.  At the beginning of the book, she has received four tickets to see the stage version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Betsy, Tacy and Tib are dying to go.  The next few chapters showcase their deviousness as they try to formulate plans to get an deccc060ada06a38886e2210.Linvitation to the play.  These exchanges with Winona were my favorite–she was a fun character and able to plot almost as well as Betsy, Tacy and Tib, so their back and forth was fun to read.

I’m glad I’ve now moved on to the rest of the series.  While I’ve enjoyed the first four books, I read them only in anticipation for the later books.  I wanted to lay all the groundwork for the series, and I figured I would be better off reading the earlier books as opposed to just jumping in in the middle.  And now that I have the first four books, I think I may try to get Ally to read them.  She’s nine, so that’s a good age, but I’m afraid she’ll find them dull–she prefers scary stories.  So we’ll see whether I’m successful or not!

Other reviews:

Booking Mama

The Well Read Child

I’m Booking It

A Library is a Hospital for the Mind

Diary of an Eccentric

A Chair, a Fireplace & a Tea Cozy

Book Review: I Know it’s Over

n311661I Know it’s Over

CK Kelly Martin

Random House

244 pages

I chose this book to kick off the read-a-thon and it did not let me down. I Know it’s Over is the story of Nick, a teenager who enjoys hanging out with his friends and spending time with his new girlfriend Sasha. Pretty quickly, the relationship turns sexual and Sasha and Nick both lose their virginity to one another. As they continue to have sex, Sasha becomes scared and withdrawn, breaking off the relationship because she can’t deal with the ramifications of sex. Nick is beside himself, but has started to move on when, on Christmas Eve, Sasha breaks the news to him that she’s pregnant. Although Sasha feels Nick has a right to know, she doesn’t want him involved at all in the decision making process and ends up isolating herself as she tries to decide what to do about the pregnancy. Nick is frightened at the prospect of being a father so young, but he makes the effort to be there for Sasha and abide by whatever decision she makes.

Sasha was somewhat of a solitary character. Her relationship with Nick was somewhat fast paced, considering that they were both virgins and only new one another as classmates until all of a sudden they were in a relationship. Sasha seemed two-dimensional, especially once she found out she was pregnant, and devoid of emotion. But, then again, Nick is the narrator and we’re only told how HE feels, so it’s possible Sasha was just as tormented about the situation as Nick and we just weren’t privy to that. I am ashamed to admit though that I empathized little with Sasha. I have no issues with the fact that she took the decision on herself and decided to do what was best for her. I was just surprised at her rigidity and unwillingness to communicate with Nick.

As for the portrayal of teenage sex and the ramifications, do I think this book was realistic? Yes. I’ve read reviews of this book that said it wasn’t realistic enough or that it did not showcase every option available to pregnant teens. That may be true. I don’t believe Sasha and Nick ever discussed adoption, nor did they seem to seriously consider having the baby. I didn’t have a problem with that though. This is one story out of many that can be told, and in this instance I think that it worked well and was still realistic. In fact, abortion can be so taboo—I find books about adoption or teenage parenthood to be more prevalent, in my experience, so it was nice to have a book that highlighted the option of abortion. ckinterview[1]

The fact that the narrator was the teenage father and not the pregnant teen herself was a nice change of pace too. We rarely ever hear from teenage fathers, and surely some of them must have something to say on the matter as well. I admit that, for me, one of the most unrealistic aspects of the book was Nick’s willingness to go along with Sasha’s decision while still being supportive. He seemed much to mature for his age, for one. I expected him to shy away from his responsibility, at least somewhat, but he was so willing to be there for Sasha and to go with whatever decision she wanted to make without voicing his own opinion. It seemed too idealistic to me.

Overall, I enjoyed I Know it’s Over. It’s great, worthwhile YA fiction.

Other reviews:

Becky’s Book Reviews

Liv’s Book Reviews

Juiciliciousss Reviews

Maw Books Blog

Book Nymph

Reader Rabbit

Reading Keeps You Sane

Teen Book Review

B is for Books

The Ya Ya Yas

Reviewer X

Finding Wonderland

Just Blinded Book Reviews

S Krishna’s Books

Wondrous Reads

Dog Eared and Well Read

Books by Their Covers

Library Loot

library-lootLibrary Loot is a weekly meme hosted by Marg and Eva.

This week was pretty successful when it comes to library books.  I had a few holds so I stopped in and picked them up–and came away with more than just my holds!!  I already have WAY too much to read so I don’t know why I always feel so ambitious.

Here is what I picked up this week.

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Book Review: Paper Towns

s3jKcKqzhoj1r2la6h8YuZ6Ko1_400Paper Towns

John Green

Audiobook

8 hours

Let me start off by saying I really loathe this cover.  On its own, it is fine, but when I realize it is supposed to be Margo Roth Spiegelman, I’m not a happy camper.  That is not how I picture her in my head AT ALL.  So I prefer the cover with the map and the pushpin on it.  But anyway . . .

Paper Towns is the story of Quentin “Q” Jacobsen.  Q is part of the nerdier crowd.  He used to, as a child, play with his neighbor, Margo Roth Speigelman, but she has moved onto the more popular crowd so Q must watch her from afar.  Until one night a few weeks prior to their high school graduation.  Margo has discovered that her boyfriend has been cheating on her with her best friend.  Not only that–she believes that her other best friend, Lacey, has been in on the secret and purposely keeping it from Margo.  So Margo decides to seek revenge.

Margo shows up at Q’s window one night in full black face paint and requests that Q escort her on her revenge mission.  Q aquiesces and the two spend a long night playing over the top pranks as well as breaking into Sea World.  Q wakes up the next morning itching to get to school so he can see Margo, but she never shows.  Turns out she’s gone.  Q is convinced she’s left clues for him so he tirelessly tries to discover her whereabouts.

The synopsis above probably sounds trite.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t convey it in the way I wanted to, because this book is anything but trite.  It is one of the most thought provoking YA novels I’ve ever read–in fact, I would say it read more like an adult novel.  From the start of her disappearance, Margo is an enigma.  We get all these glimpses of her from different people–her parents, Q, Lacey . . . and all seem vastly different.  The reader really starts to question the idea of perception.  The way I see myself may not be how she sees me or he sees me, etc. etc.  This idea is really driven home during the end of the book.  Unfortunately, by that time, I was admitedly getting a little annoyed with the book.  The first few chapters, with agloe164-highlight-300x269Q and Margo on there one night adventure was stunning–some of the best fiction I have read all year.  But then Margo disappears.  And Q starts looking for her.  And you think he’s discovered her.  And then he hasn’t.  But then maybe he has.  But he hasn’t.  The whole thing became very repetative to me and I ended up getting bored with the story.

There is, however, a lot to be gained by listening to the book on audio.  Margo is awesome.  I fell in love with her right away.  The narrator was a man, but he was able to convey Margo’s voice in a way that worked well for me and I loved listening to his rendition of her.  Radar and Ben, Q’s two best friends, really shone through as well on the narration.  They added a comic element that really spiced things up.

As much as I loved Margo at the beginning of the book, I wasn’t too sure about those feelings by the time the book ended.  Did I like her or did I not?  And if I didn’t like her, was that really any fault of her own?  Or was it because she didn’t live up to my expectations?  It was almost as if I myself became a character in the book.  I felt like I had invested almost as much as the others had in their search for her.

I haven’t read Green’s other books yet, although I plan to.  I’ll be interested to see how they compare to Paper Towns.

Other reviews:

Fizzy Thoughts

Teen Book Review

Things Mean a Lot

Book Addiction

Young Adult (and Kids) Books Central Blog

Liv’s Book Reviews

Look at That Book

Becky’s Book Review

Dreadlock Girl

Em’s Bookshelf

Just Listen Book Reviews

The Book Pirate

il primo

YAnnabe

Au Courant

Confessions of a Bibliovore

Casual Dread

Fyrefly’s Book Blog

YA Reads

Random Thoughts From a Random Teen

Reader Rabbit

Regular Rumination

Book-Lover Carol

And Another Book Read

Harmony Book Reviews

Bookshelves of Doom

Teaser Tuesday: The Stone Gods

teaser-tuesdayTeaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Miz B of Should Be Reading.

My teaser this week comes from The Stone Gods, by Jeannette Winterson.

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Book synopsis from Publisher’s Weekly:

Prize-winning Brit Winterson applies her fantastical touch to a sci-fi, postapocalyptic setting. Heroine Billie Crusoe appears in three different end-of-the-world scenarios, allowing Winterson to explore the repetitive and destructive nature of human history and an inability (or unwillingness) of people to learn from previous mistakes. In the first section, inhabitants of the pollution-choked planet Orbus have discovered Planet Blue (Earth), and soon set about launching an asteroid at it to kill the dinosaurs that would prevent them from colonizing the planet. The second and third sections are set on Earth in 1774 and then in the Post-3 War era. Though passionate condemnations of global warming and war appear frequently, the book also contains a triptych love story: Billie meets Spike, a female Robo sapien capable of emotion and evolution, and falls (reluctantly) in love with her. In each of the scenarios, Billie and Spike (or versions of them) fall in love anew while encroaching annihilation looms in the background. Winterson’s lapses into polemic can be tedious, but her prose—as stunning, lyrical and evocative as ever—and intelligence easily carry the book.

Teaser:

And so, while we were all arguing about whether is was Christian or Pagan, Democratic or Conservative to save the planet, and whether technology would solve all of our problems, and whether we should fly less, drive less, eat less, weight less, consume less, dump less, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rose to 550 parts per million, the ice caps melted, and Iran launched a nuclear attack on the USA.

The policy wonks had miscalculated.  We got blown up.

Book review: Twilight

twilight_book_coverTwilight

Stephenie Meyer

Hatchette

498 pages

Ok, so it’s time to crack down on the backlog of reviews created by the read-a-thon.  I usually try to get my reviews done ASAP but now I’ve got quite a few to do.

I fought tooth and nail against reading Twilight.  That is not an exaggeration.  I’m not sure what my problem was, because I should have figured it would be a good story, right?  Anyway, my book club chose it as this month’s book and I steadfastly refused to read it.  I guess I’m more of a book snob than I would care to admit.  Then, my best friend guilted me into reading it.  So I did.  And I enjoyed it.

As pretty much everyone knows by now, Twilight is the story of Bella Swan.  Bella has just moved to Forks, a dismal rainy place in Washington that has practically no sunlight.  I imagined it to be one of the most depressing placed on earth.  Bella is immediately captivated by Edward Cullen, whose description repeatedly portrays him as devestatingly handsome.  Edward keeps to his clique of family members: Alice, Emmett, Rosalie and Jasper.  None of the members of this clique socialize with their peers, until Edward begins to venture out with Bella.  But before this happens, he actually seems to be completely repulsed by her.  Eventually, the reader is told what was already known from the beginning–Edward is a vampire!

Ok, so I’ll admit that everything I’ve relayed above was pretty boring to me.  I read the first half of the book and could not, for the life of me, figure out what all the fuss was about.  Overall, it seemed repetative.  Edward and Bella.  Edward and Bella.  Edward and Bella.  I didn’t really find myself interested in the story until Bella met Edward’s family.  In fact, I think it’s a shame that Meyer chose to focus so much on Bella and Edward.  They were the two most boring characters in the book.  Rosalie, Emmett, Jasper, Alice, Carlisle and Esme were all much more fascinating but Meyer didn’t develop them at all, with the exception of Alice and even then I’d say the development was minimal.  I’m hoping that in the next three books, more focus and explanation is given to them.

Bella’s relationship with Charlie was also cause for concern to me.  The way she treated both her parents, actually, was aggravating.  Until the end, neither seemed to garner any respect from her.  And the fact that she referred to her father as Charlie unless he was within earshot really grated on my nerves.  I guess you could say I really just didn’t like Bella.  I respect that she was independent, but I thought she went about it the wrong way.  And I also didn’t like the way she acted around Edward.  I can see someone making concessions for the person they love, but I thought she took her relationship with Edward too far.  I think Meyer romanticized their relationship as a whole.  Do I envision Edward and Bella as an example of true3353400 love?  No way!

But despite all my issues with Twilight, I should have probably read it sooner.  It wasn’t bad and the story that Meyer tells is a good one.  My boyfriend was nice enough to buy me the three remaining books in the series and I do intend to read them at some point.  I’ll be interested to see where Meyers takes it from here–I can picture myself loving or hating the remaining books so we’ll see.

For those of you that have read the Twilight series, which book is your favorite?  Which is your least favorite?

Other reviews:

Love Vampires

Em’s Bookshelf

I’m Booking It

Today I Read

Sweet Reads

Tez Says

Book Critiques

Deliciously Clean Reads

A Book a Week

Book Dweeb

My Friend Amy

Ciara Stewart

I Smell Books

Book Review Maniac

So Many Books, So Little Time

A Library is a Hospital for the Mind

Confessions of a Bibliophile

The Medieval Bookworm

Stuff as Dreams are Made On

Reading Adventures

Devourer of Books

Please let me know if I’ve missed your review!

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