The Sunday Salon

Happy Sunday everyone!

I’ve had a somewhat slow reading week.  I finished Life as We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer, and now I am reading Lit, by Mary Karr.  Over a hundred pages left and it’s due back at the library tommorrow!  Which means I need to spend a good amount of time reading today!

Obviously reading should be on the back burner today, as it is the last day of Bloggiesta, so I should be focussing on my blog!

I am ashamed to say that all I have done up to this point is write three reviews.  I plan to write three more today, which will have me caught up completely.  I also need to update my challenges page.  After that, I will probably be done only because I don’t have anything else too dire and I would like to read instead!

Speaking of challenges, I am joining Meghan’s challenge, which can be found on her blog Medieval Bookworm.

This challenge is designed to get us all reading a little more medieval literature in 2010.  The challenge will run from January 1st to December 31st, 2010, and will be hosted right here at Medieval Bookworm.  Challenge genres include history, medieval literature, and historical fiction.  Medieval, for simplicity of definition, will be from 500-1500, and literature from all over the world is welcome, not just western Europe.  There are 3 levels:

  • Peasant – Read 3 medieval books of any kind.
  • Lord – Read 6 medieval books, at least one of each kind.
  • King – Read 9 medieval books, at least two of each kind.

I will be joining at the peasant level.  I do not have a list yet as to what I plan to read . . . I will probably just see what other people are reading and draw my inspiration from that, although I would like to read Mistress of the Art of Death, by Ariana Franklin.  Have you joined this challenge?  If so, what do you plan on reading?

I have also decided to raise my participation level in the Women Unbound challenge.  Once I finish Lit, I will only need one more book to complete the challenge, so I have decided I should raise the bar, so I am upgrading from a Bluestocking to a Suffragette!  I will now be committed to reading eight books, of which at least three must be nonfiction.

Lastly, I am hoping hoping hoping to be able to join in the East of Eden read-a-long.

It is being hosted by the Classic Reads Book Club, which is a read-a-long designed to read and discuss one classic book a quarter.  That way you don’t have to feel overwhelmed by a longer, more demanding classic–you can read it at a slower pace.  Here is the schedule for East of Eden.

January 25th – Section 1 (Chapters 1-11)
February 8th – Section 2 (Chapters 12-22)
February 22nd – Section 3 (Chapters 23-33)
March 8th – Section 4 (Chapters 34 – end)

I don’t think I should have a problem reading the first section by January 25, but I do have other obligations so we’ll see.

So there you go–that is what is going on for me right now in my reading.  What are you doing today–everyone blogging for bloggiesta or are you slacking like me?

Book Review: Letter to my Daughter

Letter to my Daughter

Maya Angelou

Random House

192 pages

I am convinced that most people do not grow up.  We find parking spaces and honor our credit cards.  We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up.  I think what we do is mostly grow old.  We carry accumulation of years in our bodies and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are still innocent and shy as magnolias.

We may act sophisticated and worldly but I believe we feel safest when we go inside ourselves and find home, a place where we belong and maybe the only place we really do.

I had no idea what to expect when I picked up Letter to my Daughter, by Maya Angelou.  I didn’t read the jacket or any type of description—I just knew I wanted to read it because I found I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings to be very inspirational.  I now know that Letter to my Daughter is its equal on that level.

Letter to my Daughter is a book of life lessons and inspirational messages that Angelou wants to pass on to women everywhere.  The book is divided into sections, each with an inspiring theme.  Some sections are more autobiographical than others; Angelou briefly touches on her childhood in Sparks , Arkansas as well as getting pregnant in high school with her son and the few years after it.  Other sections do not include the same type of anecdotal reminiscence but instead are Angelou’s expostulations on everyday issues.

Letter to my Daughter is very short—the formatting is the only reason the book reaches 192 pages.  The actual text of the book is probably around 100 pages.  It is definitely the type of book to take your time with and try to savor.

As Angelou says,

I gave birth to one child, a son, but I have thousands of daughters. You are Black and White, Jewish and Muslim, Asian and Spanish-speaking, Native American and Aleut. You are fat and thin and pretty and plain, gay and straight, educated and unlettered, and I am speaking to you all. Here is my offering to you

Fittingly, I read this book for the Women Unbound challenge.

Other reviews:

The Book Lady’s Blog

I borrowed this book from my local library

Book Review: Speak

Speak

Laurie Halse Anderson

Penguin Group

198 pages

First off, you’ve probably heard of Speak.  It is one of those books I felt remiss in not having read thus far.  I’ve read at least one other book by Laurie Halse Anderson but so far she is definitely most well known for this work.  Melinda is starting off her high school–literally, the book starts off on her first day of school.  The reader is aware right off the bat that something is not right–Melinda has been ostracized by what seems to be the entire school.  The full story is related in bits and pieces throughout the book; Melinda is raped by a classmate at a summer party which was being held at the home of one of their peers.  In the aftermath of the rape, Melinda calls the cops but becomes frightened when they arrive at the party and flees without reporting the rape.  So while everyone discovers that Melinda is the one that called the police, no one knows the true reason she did so.

Melinda spends her freshman year as an outcast.  She takes over an abandoned janitor’s closet and uses it as a hideaway.  She has no one to confide in or find comfort with; her friends have all turned against her and her parents are work-a-holics.  Melinda’s issues become obvious as she literally refuses to speak.  Her parents and teachers can’t seem to figure out what is wrong–they show concern but have a tough time deciphering Melinda’s emotions.

The one outlet Melinda has throughout the book is her art class.  Many times she is able to open up to herself in a way that doesn’t involve speaking, so that her art project becomes cathartic to her.  Mr Freeman, the art teacher, also seems to become someone whose insight Melinda trusts, even if they don’t necesarily form any kind of personal relationship.  At one point, Mr Freeman gives Melinda a ride after coming upon her walking in the rain.  During the car ride, he says to her:

Art without emotion is like chocolate cake without sugar.  It makes you gag . . . The next time you work on your trees, don’t think about trees.  Think about love, or hate, or joy, or rage–whatever makes you feel something, makes your palms sweat or your toes curl.  Focus on that feeling.  When people don’t express themselves, they die one piece at a time.  You’d be shocked at how many adults are really dead inside–walking through their days without any idea who they are, just waiting for a heart attack or cancer or a Mack truck to come along and finish the job.  It’s the saddest thing I know.

By far that passage stuck with me the most out of the entire book.  It felt like Anderson really struck gold in that paragraph, and to me it really summed up Melinda’s situation; either she could try to put the pieces back together and move on with her life by accepting the rape and the emotions that came along because of it, or she could numb herself to the world and, as a result, neglect to live her life fully.

I am not sure I liked the style of the the book.  Normally I am not put off by choppy, disjointed writing styles, but for some reason Speak threw me off.  In theory, it seems like the perfect way of writing this type of story, but in some ways it made it hard for me to relate to Melina and to understand where she was coming from.  I had a hard time connecting with her and that is where the story fell flat for me.  Maybe this issue had nothing to do with the style of the story, but in my mind the two are correlated.

Overall, I thought Speak was a worthwhile read; it tackled a heavy subject in a way that was relateable and readable.  I think there were a few kinks that could have been worked out to make the book stronger, but the overall style of the book does not detract from its powerful message.

Other reviews:

BermudaOnion’s Weblog

At Home with Books

Maw Books Blog

Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?

Lakeside Musings

A Novel Menagerie

The Bluestocking Society

things mean a lot

It’s All About Books

Stuff as Dreams are Made on . . .

The Zen Leaf

I read this book as a part of the Women Unbound challenge.  More information on this challenge can be found here.

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!

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