Thursday, December 31, 2009

The not wrap-up post

I've decided I'm not going to do a 2009 wrap-up post. This year was an amazing year for me in everything except reading. Even my three week Christmas vacation did not bring as much reading as I thought. In order to keep from being filled with sadness and regret, I'm just going to go on and pretend the book blogging world is not resetting their challenges and how many books they've read for a new year. The first half of my reading year was fantastic.

I started this blog in the first place to challenge myself to read different kinds of books, read as much as I can, and write reviews so I can look back and remember what I read more easily. I've done all of these things. Just because I am disappointed that I didn't get as much reading done as crazy people like Eva has, I shouldn't get hard on myself.

Instead of telling how many books I've read this year, let's focus on the positives. Here are my favorite reads of this year.

A Prayer For Owen Meany ( One of the best books I've ever read. I had to read it for a class this semester. I'll never forget this book!

The Jewel of Medina ( I'm really resisting adding this to my rereading list! I suggested that my mom buy it on her Kindle which she got for Christmas.

The Road ( Reading my review on this book again makes ME want to read it again! Oh boy...

Do Hard Things I didn't write an actual review on this, but this book has popped up many times in my everyday conversation and a handful of blog posts.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn ( I actually started rereading this but didn't have the time. I'll probably pick it back up to finish rereading it during J-term.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

We Didn't Start the Fire Challenge 2010: Post your reviews here!

Post a link to any reviews you write for this challenge or and posts related to the challenge (booklists, etc). I will put a link to this post in the sidebar of my blog so it will be handy through the rest of the year.

This challenge is open to anyone at any time, as long as you make a commitment and stick to it! 2010 hasn't evenn started so there is still time to join if you haven't already. Read more about it in my original post

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Revolutions by Justin Calderone: Thoughts


Revolutions is a book of contemporary poetry about beginnings and endings, the realization that there cannot be day without night. The poems in Revolutions are not written in traditional poetry format; they are closer to song lyrics than standar poetry, and the way the words are used and spelled are vital to the context of the poem. Written in diary form, Revolutions is about small things in life that affect us the most and the memories that we carry forever. It is a contemporary poetry book of hopes, dreams, prayers, love, loss and wishes. Revolutions is written right now about yesterday and today. And tomorrow.

Revolutions by Justin Calderone is a diary of poems. Calderone writes a poem whenever the mood strikes for two years, which turns into this book of poetry.

Revolutions is the purest poetry I have seen. Calderone does not title his poems. In his introduction, he states “These poems are what you think they are.” Usually when we read poetry, we feel this pressure to find the deeper meaning to every little thing in the poem, which sometimes takes away some things you shouldn’t. This is why I don’t have a big appreciation for poetry. Some poetry is better off being analyzed, but a lot of it just needs to be read and soaked in. Calderone invited us all to soak in his very conversational style of poetry.

Unlike many poets, Calderone does not edit his poems much. He says he can’t go back and edit days later because he is a different person than when he first read the poem. You are reading it just as it comes out of his mind.

This book of poetry is perfect for someone who wants to enjoy poetry but doesn’t exactly want to pick up Shakespeare’s sonnets or some Emily Dickinson. The poems read like song lyrics and move along quickly. Every so often, a line will pop out that is extremely clever or deep, just like what would happen if you were listening to music.

One of my favorite stanzas appears near the beginning of the book, on page 5.

If I tell you that I’m going

Then you know I’m already gone

If I tell you that I’m singing

Then I’m already in the song

If I tell you that I love you

Then my love is twice as strong

This is what poetry should be. It should be easy to enjoy, not pressure the reader, and leave the reader wanting more. I just finished a class this semester where 2/3 of it was poetry. Even though I was on poetry overload and I didn’t want to read another poem for a couple years, Revolutions found its way into my life.

Winter-you’re one old man-who moves faster than me-See-I stop for the cold-But you’re too old


The book ends with a bang. The last poem is the only poem with a title. It is also more personal than the rest of the poems in the book. Calderone is more specific to what the past two years were like for him.

These years have killed me

These years have thrilled me

I touched Heaven

And burned in Hell

I cried myself to sleep

In that soul crying way

Every night

Just to hear someone say

That they love me too.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Anthem by Ayn Rand: Thoughts

Don’t judge a book by its author. That’s what I learned from reading Ayn Rand’s Anthem. I read The Fountainhead earlier this year and did not enjoy it at all. My friend Becky loves The Fountainhead so much she inspired me to give Ayn Rand another shot, so I picked up Anthem.

Anthem is like The Giver by Lois Lowry and 1984 by George Orwell made a really good book baby. The good parts of each book are combined in Anthem to form what I think is the best politically paranoid book I have read. (Politically paranoid is what I call books like Fahrenheit 451, 1984, Animal Farm, etc)

Anthem takes place in a world where people are assigned their occupations, reproduction is highly controlled, and the word “I” is unheard of. People are numbers and basically robots. Anthem is told through the eyes of a street sweeper who violates all the rules of his society and hides in a tunnel to write and conduct experiments. He meets a peasant girl who he calls the Golden One. Together, the violate everything their society values, the communal life.

My big thing against The Fountainhead was that it took hundreds of pages to say what could have been said in about 200. Anthem solves this problem. There is a powerful deeper message with a page-turning story all within about 120 pages. When life is crazy, we sometime have to rely on short novels to satisfy our cravings. Anthem is a wonderful choice. It crams so much into its small length. Love, Danger, Philosophy, and more.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Sunday Salon: Where I get back in the groove!

I've finished two books since I went on break on Wednesday! This is the most pleasure reading I have done since before I started working at camp in June!
I started with a reread of a book I know I like and would finish so I would get back in the groove of reading. Reading textbooks is different from reading novels. You can skim textbooks, but not novels, so I want to reset my ways of reading by readng As I Have Loved You by Nikki Arana again. I read it for the first time around this time last year and loved it. It spoke to me again in a whole new way. Two of the major issues in the book I am dealing with right now and it really made me think about how I am dealing with those things in my life. Read my quick thoughts on it here: (The author even commented on the post! It made me so excited at the time!)

I started and finished Anthem by Ayn Rand yesterday. I read The Fountainhead earlier this year and didn't really like it. It was one of those books that took hundreds of pages to say what it could have said just fine in half the length. Anthem was refreshing. It was like the good parts of 1984 and The Giver combined together. I really enjoyed it, but you'll have to wait to see how much I enjoyed it until I write a seperate post on it!

I am doing most of my reading in a new spot. It is perfect! We moved to a new house in September, so I really haven't spent too much time in it because I go to school three hours away. My new spot is by huge windows where I can see all the snow we got yesterday, has a good windowsil to lay down my books and a cup of tea, and the most comfy ikea chair ever!

I'm in the middle of two other books and I am about to start a third, probably even more after I pick up more books from the library. The library in this new town is TINY, so I am fully relying on interlibrary loan!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas reading plan!

Tomorrow at 6:00pm I will be done with finals. Today is my last written finals, but tomorrow I go home! My big plans include going to a camp party and READING! YES!!

I just went crazy and interlibrary loaned a whole bunch of books. I had an orderly list of books I wanted to read over my three week break, but I expanded some. Here's what is in my pile for my break!

The Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare
Revolutions by Justin Calderone
The Lovely Bones
Anthem by Ayn rand
The Testament by John Grisham
The Pact by Jodi Picouly
Juniper Tree Burning by Goldberry Long
Special Topics in calamity Physics
Columbine by Dave Cullen
Unhooked by Laura Stepp
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (reread if I have time)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Review: A Prayer for Owen Meany

I don't even know how to describe it! This book was fantastic and refreshing and challenging and I just want to tell everyone I meet about it. There is so much depth to this novel that if you read it over and over again you would still feel you could juice more literary goodness out of it, yet you would still feel like you are good friends with the characters. This is one of the best books I've read in a long, long time.

All the synopses on the book fail to capture even the slightest bit about this novel. In general, this is a coming of age novel told from Owen's best friend John's point of view. John writes after all the events of the novel have happened and he is a cynical middle aged man. John says Owen is the reason he believes in God, but does not have a solid relationship with his religious beliefs. His religious actions are actually quite contradictory. Owen is a short little guy with a terrifying voice and is crazy smart. Owen is willing to do anything for John, including stay back a grade so he can be in the same grade as John.

It amazed me how much symbolism and motifs there are. It is a diamond mine of themes and motifs and things to think deeply about. That is the main reason why I love this book. Most novels I have read make you struggle to read between the lines, but A Prayer For Owen Meany makes it easy because all the little symbols and things are extremely important to the story. John Irving doesn't want us to miss out on any of the important little details.

This book reminded me of The Catcher and the Rye and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. All the good things from The Catcher in the Rye were put into this, and the quirkiness of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn were put into this book.

I really don't know what else to say without spoiling the whole thing, and I think I've raved quite enough! Go read this. Right now.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

We Didn't Start the Fire Challenge 2010

I am hosting a new challenge this year! This is my first time hosting a challenge, so please don’t hesitate to contact me if you see any problems or want to make suggestions!

The “We Didn’t Start the Fire” challenge runs from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010.

Do you know Billy Joel’s song “We Didn’t Start the Fire?” The song has plenty of historical and pop culture references, which offer us book junkies plenty of opportunities for reading material! I like 80s music, especially this song, but I don’t know anything about some of the things in the song. The goal of this challenge is for you to learn about some of the many topics mentioned in the song.

I want this challenge to be flexible for you, so all I want you to do is pick a level of commitment and stick to it! You don’t need to list your books beforehand or write a certain amount of reviews. Overlaps with other challenges are absolutely fine!

This site has the lyrics to the song as well as a video with pictures of what each thing in the song is as well as a link to a site for each topic for more detail.

Here are the levels:


Bronze Fiction: Read 5 books specifically mentioned in the song or a book by an author specifically mentioned. Or, read a work of fiction about something else mentioned in the song.

Silver Fiction: Read 8 books within the same criteria mentioned above.

Gold Fiction: Read 10 books within the same criteria mentioned above.


Bronze Nonfiction: Read 5 nonfiction books about any topic in the song.

Silver Nonfiction: Read 8 nonfiction books about any topic in the song.

Gold Nonfiction: Read 10 nonfiction books about any topic in the song.


Bronze Combo: Read any combination of 5 fiction or nonfiction books related to the song.

Silver Combo: Read any combination of 8 fiction or nonfiction books related to the song.

Gold Combo: Read any combination of 10 fiction or nonfiction books related to the song.

Sign up by commenting on this post.

I will put up another post for you to link to your reviews in January.

Feel free to use the graphic at the beginning of the post! Good luck and have a blast!

I need a plan!

I haven't read any books for fun. I need a plan so I'll actually read!

So, instead of paying attention in my first year seminar class, a class I shouldn't have to take, I brainstormed. Here's what I came up with:

Read one book per month. This must be a very high-quality book that isn't some obscure title. Books I have read in the past that would fit into this category would be books like East of Eden, The Poisonwood Bible, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Memoirs of a Geisha, and more recently- A Prayer For Owen Meany.

I want to read a book that is worth my time. I want this book to have depth and really great characters or have a really fast plot like My Sister's Keeper or The Kitchen god's Wife.

So this is where all of you come in. Can you suggest any really great books for me to read? I will look up every book that is suggested and find out things about it so see if it is something I may want to read. I am so excited for this! I just fished John Irving's A Prayer For Owen Meany for my English class. I wasn't expecting anything from this book, but it was amazing!! Definitely, I should think about reviewing it on here! was really really really good!

So, know of any books with lots of depth, motifs and great themes? Know of any with a page-turning plot? I'll be checking to see if I have any comments on this post probably a little too frequently!