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Archive for August, 2009

This marks my very first Sunday Salon.  For a couple weeks, I have been reading all your wonderful Sunday discussions and decided that I would give it a shot.  After all, we all have book-ish topics on our minds.  Some come up in our reading, others come up just because life throws them our way.

This Sunday I’m coming to you from my campus library, where I work.  We have an pretty cool automated retrieval system and right now I’m manning that.  Luckily, since school is not in session, the back room is quiet and calm leaving me some free time to catch up with all the posts piling up in my google reader and hopefully (later on) some reading.  This week has been insanely hectic leaving me little time to read.  I’ve had work, rock climbing, moving, and social obligations all week that left me with very little spare time.  Because of my hectic schedule, I’ve fallen horribly behind on my reading schedule.  Currently, I’m about halfway through How to Buy a Love of Reading.  I hope to make the time to finish it tonight after I finish unpacking all my stuff.

My hectic schedule along with the book have led me to think about people’s excuses for not reading.  Sure, we all lead hectic lives with insanely busy schedules, but does that really mean that we don’t have time for reading?  Or does it just imply that we don’t make time for reading?  Some might say the two are the same, but I beg to differ, I believe they are very different.  Last year, I claimed I was too busy to do any reading aside from what was assigned to me in class.  After all, I was taking four classes, participating in a research project on the side, and working two jobs.  Some days, I barely had time for sleeping.  When I was complaining about this to a friend and co-worker, she insisted that I could make time for reading since it is something I enjoy.  She suggested setting aside time every day for reading even if it was only half an hour.  This summer, that is exactly what I have been doing.  If I don’t have time during the day to delve into a book, I read for half an hour before bed (frequently longer because I just can’t put the book down, who needs sleep anyway, right?).  After all, reading slowly is better than not reading at all.

Another wonderful thing I have to share with you (which I’m incredibly excited about!) are some awards!  Yes, I have received some blogging awards.  Can you believe that people are actually reading this and enjoying it?  I can’t!  Nevertheless, I am grateful and excited to both accept and pass on the awards I have gotten this week.

I received the Kreativ Blogger Award from Amy Reads Good Books.  After getting this award, you have to name seven favorite things and pass the award on to seven awesome bloggers.  This sounds both fun and easy!

Seven Favorite Things

  1. Starbucks Grande Nonfat Vanilla Lattes
  2. Summer sun
  3. Long nights of staying up and reading
  4. That wonderful feeling you get when you get things done
  5. The beach
  6. Freshly backed chocolate chip cookies
  7. Long walks along the Santa Clara campus

Seven Awesome Bloggers ( although really, you’re all awesome bloggers!)

  1. Kay @ The Infinite Shelf
  2. Megan @ Write Meg
  3. Natalie @ Book, Line, and Sinker
  4. Simon @ Savidge Reads
  5. Jenny @ Take Me Away
  6. Rebecca @ The Book Lady’s Blog
  7. Stephanie @ Stephanie’s Written Word

I received the My Top Blog Commenter Award from Take Me Away.  I find this award to be very important because I so deeply appreciate any and all comments that I get from you. So I’m passing this on to:

  1. Kathy @ Bermudaonion’s Weblog
  2. Megan @ Write Meg
  3. Kim @ Sophisticated Dorkiness
  4. Amy @ Amy Reads Good Books
  5. Lahni @ Nose in a Book

The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken – excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all…

I received this rather amusing award from Take Me Away and am excited to pass it on to the following bloggers:

  1. Amy @ Amy Reads Good Books
  2. Becca @ Bookstack
  3. Jennifer @ Book Club Girl
  4. Simon @ Savidge Reads
  5. Matt @ A Guy’s Moleskin Notebook

Happy Sunday, Happy Reading, and Happy Blogging friends.  I’d love to hear about your favorite blogs, your excuses not to read, and your Sunday plans, reads, and thoughts.

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Challenge: RIP

Going through my blogroll this morning, I saw numerous posts about the RIP IV Challenge (Readers Imbibing Peril) hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings and I just couldn’t help myself – I had to join in the festivities.  The challenge, at whatever level you choose, involves reading books from the following categories between September 1, 2009 and October 31, 2009:

Mystery.
Suspense.
Thriller.
Dark Fantasy.
Gothic.
Horror.
Supernatural
.

Wonderful idea, right?  Me being the aspiring overachiever that I am have decided to Peril the 1st meaning I am aiming to read four books from any scary sub genre I chose.  How exciting is that?  Some direction in my reading picks!  Now the list for this could be endless and I’m not entirely sure what I will end up reading, but here are some possibilities.  Also, any suggestions are welcome and if you’ve read any of the books listed below, I would love to hear your thoughts.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

The Eight by Catherine Neville

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Ghostwalk by Rebecca Scott

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

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Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following: Pick two random sentences from your current read.

“For years she’d been telling Francis something was missing in their only child, fears he’d dismissed as her being critical and controlling.  Carley didn’t want to become anything, Gretchen tried to tell him, but all Francis would say was, She already is something.”

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Enzo is not like other dogs.  He is so much more than a simple companion or the very cliched description of dogs as being “man’s best friend.”  No, Enzo is more like that little voice in the back of your head that tells you what’s right and what’s wrong because he really understands what’s going on.  Although Enzo is only a dog, he understands pain and suffering, love and loss, life and death more than some humans I know.  Oh, and he wants nothing more than to become a human so he can race cars in the rain like his master, Denny.  Enzo is like a superdog – he despises his primal habits and wishes more than anything to be refined and have opposable thumbs like humans.  Still, he does well for himself in his current dog form.  He cares for his family: Denny, Eve and Enzo in the best ways he knows how.  Sure, he wishes he could do more, but in so many ways he changes their lives without even realizing it.

I knew I was different from other dogs.  I had a certain willpower that was strong enough to overcome my more primal instincts. (37)

The books begins with Enzo sharing his plan; a plan he devised from watching TV documentaries about dogs in Mongolia.  Enzo is going to die; willingly die; so that he can become a man.  Once he becomes a man, he is going to find Denny and his daughter Zoe and tell them “Enzo says hi” so that they know what he has accomplished.  A strange way to begin a book, but effective.  It drew me in and I was hooked.  After sharing his plan, Enzo recalls everything he has experienced in his dog life: the wonderful life he lived with Denny, Eve, and Zoe.  The story that unfolds is an amazingly pure, beuatiful story about life.  It doesn’t always turn out the way you planned, but if you fight for what you believe in, you can get your happy ending.

There is no dishonor in losing the race.  There is only dishonor in not racing becuase you are afraid to lose (277)

The books is filled with amazing insights and racing metaphors that are both strikingly brilliant and insightful.  I found these pieces to be especially enjoyable.  Enzo learns so much about racing from Denny and he relates his lesson to the events he sees unfolding before him.  The story might not have been the most captivating, but seeing the events unfold through Enzo’s eyes was a special, unexpected treat.  He took what could have been a mundane story and turned it into a beautiful lesson with witty anecdotes that will stay with me for a long time.  Plus, I loved the piece about racing.  Enzo praised Denny for his racing skills and loved to watch the races on TV with (or without) Denny.  He studied them and admired all the subtle maneuvers that frequently go right over people’s heads.  I think it is these pieces of the story that made this book spectacular.  Maybe not the most original story ever, but the point of view definitely kept it from becoming mundane.  After reading it, I can assure you I want nothing more than to go out and buy a dog!

And now, because they were so incredibly poignant, I will share some of my favorite Enzo wisdom:

That which you manifest is before you (41)

Your car goes where your eyes go (94)

It makes one realize that the physicality of our world is a boundary to us only if our will is weak; a true champion can accomplish things that a normal person would think impossible (65)

The true hero is flawed.  The true test of a champion is not whether he can triumph, but whether he can overcome obstacles – preferably his own making – in order to triumph.  A hero without a flaw is of no interest to an audience or to the universe, which after all, is based on conflict and opposition, the irresistible force meeting the unmovable object (135).

I have already started to recommend this book to my family because I loved every page.  There were a few moments where things got weird (something about a possessed zebra toy), but the story is still a beautiful picture of family, love, perseverance and to me it really illustrates what it means to be both a hero and a champion.  I found the story to be extremely moving and especially motivating.

Overall Rating: B

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I have been so busy these past couple days!  I feel like I’m already beginning to neglect my blog.  In in the middle of reading The Art of Racing in the Rain and I’m absolutely loving it.  Expect a review either later today or tomorrow.  The book is difficult to put down because I am dying to know how it is going to end – but at the same time, I have to take breaks every now and then because I get so sad/mad/frustrated at what is happening to the characters that I’ve already grown to love.  More on this in the future …

This weekend, in celebration of my birthday which was last week (August 16), my parents took me up to the city (San Francisco) to see Wicked.  It was absolutely delightful.  I haven’t been to a musical in a while and I forgot how much fun they can be.  The show was funny, the music was delightful, the stage was beautiful and the special effects were phenomenal.  The story was extremely enjoyable: an interesting take on the classical story of Dorothy and Oz.  I have the book, but haven’t had a chance to read it yet – seeing the musical definitely makes me want to dig in sooner than later.  I’m sure that many of you have already read it or other books by Gregory Maguire – any insights on the book you’d like to share?  My sister read it, but didn’t have much to say afterward (extremely disappointing!) so I’m looking for some thoughts on the book before I get around to reading it myself.

In other news … I have also added a lot of new blogs to my google reader (it’s taking up a lot of time, but I’ve found it to be an enjoyable way of passing the time at work).  You all have such amazing insight and are reading such a diverse selection of books that I can’t help myself.  I’m going to be spending some time reading your blogs: getting some tips, ideas, ect so look out or my comments of awe and apreciation.  As I was reading, I was wondering, when a new reader comes along, do you like him/her to just start commenting on your posts, or do you like him/her to make an introduction in a comment first so you know who this person is and can check out his/her blog?  Personally, I have no idea what I prefer.  I like the idea of an introduction so I can know who is reading my blog – sometimes I wonder if anyone is reading this! – but I appreciate comments no matter what.  Do you even think about these things dear reader?  I find myself obsessing over them lately and constantly checking my blog for comments or some sort of life.  Maybe I’m just losing my mind?

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Finally, a book that I swear must have been written just for me.  I’m a broke, 20 year old stuck working in the campus library to make ends meet.  Julie Powell is a soon to be 30 year old, ex-theater geek who goes from temping to working for a bunch of republicans in charge of dealing with the aftermath of September 11th.  Needless to say, she does not like her job.  In fact, her life seems to be pretty mediocre.  It seems she’s living in a world where things seemed to pick her instead of her picking them.  (Do you ever feel that way, because some days I sure do.)

That is until she decides to start a wonderful culinary project: The Julie/Julia Project that is.  This project involves some wonderful things: blogging, Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, lots of butter and cheese, and a few breakdowns just for good measure.  The journey that Julie takes through Julia Child’s life and cookbooks is an absolutely wonderful read.  It’s funny, witty, sarcastic at times, and completely REAL. There is no overriding editorial censor preventing Julie Powell from saying anything about her year of cooking dangerously – she admits it all.  And this is why I found the book to be incredibly heartwarming. It’s not about the project or the blog or the fame that followed the blog – it’s about Julie’s journey and how Julia inspired her to make a change in her life.  It’s about creating something outside of the miserable setbacks in your life and finding some joy.  Honestly, I think we all get to a point in our lives where a project like this becomes a necessity.  Unfortunately, we don’t all find the time to embark on said project.

Julie’s biting tongue literally makes me want to find her and immediately become her best friend – as well as the fact that she’s probably got endless amounts of cooking tips for me!  The book made me laugh out loud and read with a constant smirk on my face.  It also made me incredibly hungry.  If anything, this book will make you want to go out and start cooking Julia Child recipes.  And for those of you who don’t immediately fall head over heels for Julie Powell, you will fall in love with Julia Child.  Unlike the movie, the book is predominantly about Julie Powell with only snipets about Julia and Paul Child.  Although I love Julia Child, I enjoyed seeing Julia through Julie’s eyes.  Biographical information of Julia can be found in other pieces of literature – this book is not meant to be about Julia and I like that.  I also like the awe and respect Julie uses when speaking of her culinary hero.  Instead of getting to meet Julia Child, we meet Julie’s Julia who for the purpose of the book is absolutely sufficient and approachable.  She’s that voice in your head that guides you – a guardian angel of sorts and I love that Julie comes to realize and embrace this fact.  We should all have a hero in the back of our heads – I think it would make us all better people.

Still, the book isn’t perfect (few books are!).  Its definitely made its way into my favorites category, but that’s mostly because I loved Julie’s voice.  The plot and narrative isn’t always clear and doesn’t always flow smoothly.  Julie’s stories are frequently interrupted by other stories which left me confused as to what she was really talking about in the first place.  That didn’t make the stories any less enjoyable per se, but I would have liked everything to be a little more straight forward.  I wanted a clear timeline so I could feel like I was taking the journey through Julia’s cookbook with Julie.  I wanted to experience every success and disaster in stride with her.  But the book doesn’t chronicle every day of the project.  Instead, it merely recounts highlights and lowlights along the journey.  It’s easy enough to follow the general plot, but I’m afraid that some things might have gotten lost for me.  Maybe a second read through would smooth this out for me (and I’m sure I’ll pick this up again soon – it’s definitely one of those feel good books you want to read when you’re feeling down).

One of my favorite pieces of the book was reading about Julie’s relationship with Eric, which I found to be awfully inspiring.  They prove the importance of viewing a marriage as a partnership: he supports her even if he doesn’t always understand why she’s doing what she’s doing.  His unwavering support is beautiful and I find their marriage to be extremely inspiring.  Even after bickering or anger or frustration, they return to their roots, and remember what brought them together.  It’s definitely what I hope I’m building with Brian, my boyfriend of two years – a relationship built on the strongest bonds of friendship.  On this subject, one passage really sticks with me:

I blame Eric.  It was only because of him that I started cooking in the first place – I was a picky kid, but he was the most mysterious and beautiful boy in school, and I would cook anything to impress him, no matter how weird.  It didn’t take long for things to get twisted.

Quail in Rose Petal Sauce was the first really bad sign. (250)

As you can see, Julie’s stories and anecdotes are not only funny (hilarious at times), they are so easy to relate to!  I remember trying to cook my way into boys’ hearts all throughout high school (and absolutely adoring Like Water for Chocolate – another book I absolutely adore).  I still try to cook my way deeper into Brian’s heart.  There is something about cooking for someone else that really shows that you just love them.  It’s really beautiful and heartwarming.  Perhaps, as Julie points out, it has to do with that indescribable joy you get when you create something absolutely delicious and fulfilling out of seemingly nothing.  You take ingredients that on there own would be disgusting and turn them into a beautiful masterpiece  that gives your body nutrients and you feel complete.  At least, that’s how I feel when I make a good meal that I can share with people I love.  I feel satisfied in all the best possible ways.

Julie and her delicious, heartwarming meals won me over.  Beautiful and charming book.  Not necessarily a literary masterpiece, but definitely a must read.  Please, do yourself a favor and read this book.  Then, if you haven’t, go see the movie.  You’ll be laughing yourself to tears in both cases.

BONUS: Julie Powell will be releasing a new book entitled Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession. I can’t wait to read more from her.  There was an excerpt in the back of my copy of Julie and Julia and I devoured the ten pages … can’t wait for more!

Overall rating: A-

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What’s the best book you’ve read recently?

This is my very first Booking Through Thursday (I feel an odd sense of excitement doing it!)  I’m very enthusiastic about the my answer to this question, because it’s an opportunity for me to endorse this book even more: the best book I’ve read recently would have to be Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride.  I can’t say enough good things about this wonderful book.  I made my mother read it.  I made my sister read it.  And I’m hoping that after my numerous endorsements and wonderful review, you will give it a shot.  Funnily enough, when I started reading The Robber Bride, it was anything but love at first sight.  I wasn’t even sure if I was going to tough it out and finish the thing.  But I am so glad I pushed forward because it turned out to be one of the most rewarding books I’ve read this summer!

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