Monday, February 28, 2011

An Unrealistic Dystopian Novel?

There has been a lot of talk lately about dystopian novels. Lucky me because that is one of my all-time favorite genres. Unfortunately, one of my favorites within that genre, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, has come under fire by a lot of my friends during many of our discussions. Not by everyone, but by some. I’ve found it’s a love it or hate it kind of book.
Now, if they don’t like the book then they don’t like the book. I can’t change that. However I do have a tendency to a little personally offended when one of my favorite books is on the attack. It’s a flaw of mine, but then it does lead me to some good post topics, so it can’t be all bad!
Maybe they don’t like the way the plot develops or the style of Atwood’s writing. I could perfectly understand those points (and I have come across those people as well). However, one of the reasons I’ve heard for some of their dislike is…well a bit odd to say the least. How do I put this? They find the premise unrealistic. Um, it’s a dystopian novel. It’s supposed to be about a futuristic society. There are dystopian novels about ZOMBIES for crying out loud people. ZOMBIES! But this one, a dystopian novel where the United States has been overthrown and women are basically used solely for the service of men (it’s literally a feminist’s worst nightmare), is the unrealistic book? I cannot for the life of me think of any future that could possibly lead to being at war with zombies, yet I still think that would be a fun book to read.

But let’s continue with this “unrealistic premise” idea. Because it is true that at the core of most dystopian novels the point is that they’re making a statement about our current society. Then you take that statement and you push it to the extreme. But to say it has no basis at all in reality missing the mark. I mean, if it’s not what am I doing with this blog? I must be missing my pair of rose-colored glasses for sure. Wasn’t it about three years ago that Senator Clinton was giving a speech and some guy held up a sign asking her to “Iron My Shirt?” She was running for President at the time but still the sexist remarks came. And not just by college jerks that I think did it to win a radio contest or something, other politicians and pundits were no better, more subtle sure, but no better. Sarah Palin got it too. Sexists jokes and remarks are so prevalent that so much of the time people are unaware of how they are even being offensive. And have you read a book by “renowned” author Philip Roth? Yuck! The misogynism literally drips off the page. And he’s won about every literature award under the sun. Hooray! While Roe v. Wade is still in place today, politicians are trying every day to overturn it and who knows what is going to happen in the years to come. Some pharmacists won't even give you your own birth control prescriptions because it goes against their conscience (which is all fine and dandy until you think about the poor woman who lives in the middle of nowhere and only has access to one pharmacy within 70 miles or so, she can't just go to the other Walgreens down the block).

But I guess it’s still ridiculous to imagine a dystopian novel in which a sexist world (way way way way way in the future) has taken over. And I'll stop now before this post turns into a full-on feminist rant. Bring on the Zombie War!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

And the Award Goes To...

Well those of you that caught my post accepting my prestigious Stylish Blogger Award are well aware of my love of movies. As I said that day, I have seen all of the movies nominated for Oscars excepting two (127 Hours and Winter's Bone).

So what am I doing tonight? Watching the Oscars of course!
I know a lot of people probably find this type of evening exceedingly dull but I'm super excited that Oscar Night is finally here. #1 because I get to see all of the Hollywood Glitterati all dressed up (I'm a feminist but I still enjoy these things, it's true); and #2 because each year my family and I partake in an Oscar poll where we guess what movie/actor will win which award. I'm undefeated and I plan on staying that way! And the prize is massive, lemme tell ya. TEN WHOLE DOLLARS to the winner! I could buy a book with that cash!

So I'll share with you my predictions:
Best Picture: The King's Speech
Best Actress: Natalie Portman - Black Swan
Best Actor: Colin Firth - The King's Speech
Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo - The Fighter
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale - The Fighter
Best Animated Film: Toy Story 3
Best Director: David Fincher - The Social Network
Best Foreign Film: In a Better World (Denmark)

And those are the only categories my family includes in the poll. Wish me luck on winning the $10 :)

And we'll be back to our regular scheduled literary posting tomorrow, I promise! ;)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Books, Treats and Kitties, Oh My!

It's only 2:00 and already I've had the best day! Okay, so I woke up with a migraine (yup, I'm a migraine sufferer, anyone else? boy do they suck! I get about one a week) and it still hasn't gone away. And it's snowing AGAIN. And the temperature dropped AGAIN. And I have no idea when spring is actually going to arrive even though I'm trying to will it here by putting my sunglasses in my purse yesterday. IT WILL HAPPEN!

Anyway, it's still the BEST day because I just came back from the bookstore and bought a ton of books :) Now, as I'm sure most of you have heard, Borders have filed for bankruptcy, which means that tons of stores are going to be going out of business all over the place.
Well lot's of stores were already shutting their doors but now it's even more widespread. As much as it breaks my heart to see bookstores closing up (I really love them, I could spend hours upon hours in one), it is awesome because then I can get lots of books for discounted prices. Yay me!

I live basically like a retired senior citizen in that I survive on a fixed income. Thus, I have no money most of the time to buy fancy things like books. And, alas, it is one of my most loved things to do! So I survive by borrowing from the library (which in the last few months have started lending books at a snail's pace), downloaded free classics on my Kindle and stealing acquiring books from my parents' house. But store closings or special sales make my heart go pitter patter!

So today I hopped on the L and hiked over to the North and Halsted Borders(so all you folks in the Chicago area can do the same). The shelves were already pretty picked over but I found some gems.

To fulfill my love of classics I got:

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier - I've been wanting to read this ever since I finished Rebecca last year.

Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte - It's the only Bronte sister I have yet to read, so I'm pretty excited. I also tried to find The Tenant of Wildfell Hall but they didn't seem to have it.

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald - I've only read The Great Gatsby by him so far and I thought it was very good if not infuriating. But when I picked this up the description seemed very intriguing. Like a lot of it could have been taken from his own marriage. So I'm in!

Then I moved on to a couple history books:

The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang - I actually found this while in the African History section (it seems the store was in a bit of disarray) because I wanted to find some more books about the Congo. But this has been on my TBR for a while so I figured I should pick it up while it was right in front of me and cheap. It's a horrible story of the rape, torture and murder of the Chinese village of Nanking by the Japanese army in 1937. I'm kind of afraid to get started to be honest.

How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill - I've heard mixed reviews of this one, but again, it was right in front of me so I figured why not. And I'm Irish so I need to start learning my own heritage right? But the title pretty much speaks for itself on this one I think.

Finally, I picked up a book that wasn't on my TBR, but looked really interesting. I found it while looking for the book Blindness, which wasn't there, and instead came away with something else by the same author:

All the Names by Jose Saramago - It's about a guy that basically lives a mundane life issuing birth and death certificates, things like that. Then he inexplicably becomes obsessed with the records of one anonymous young woman he happens across. He sets off to follow this thread of records to lead himself to her. Like I said, it sounded intriguing and I wanted to get ONE book that I hadn't heard of before that was totally new to me. This I decided was it. And the author is supposed to be great so I figure it will hopefully be a good enough choice.

So that was my best day! And I ended it with a trip to Starbucks to get a huge Marshmallow Dream Bar. Yummers :) Now I'm sitting here, all curled up on the couch with tons of books, my delicious treat and my kitty purring on my lap. Awesome.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Fantastic Five Friday!

Well, I know the month is almost over, but I couldn't let it pass by without mentioning that it's Black History Month. But it's gone by so quickly (where has the time gone?). So this Fantastic Five Friday is going to be dedicated to those awesome African-American female writers that we should recognize even more this month than usual, but let's face it, we should be recognizing them every month. Now I haven't read stuff by all of these women yet but I sure do plan on it. Regardless, their influence and greatness cannot be denied.

So here it is: Fantastic Five Friday: African-American Female Writers!

Toni Morrison
Now this is an author I actually have had a chance to read. And boy oh boy, it was a doozy! Not for the faint at heart, lemme tell ya.
Morrison was the first African-American woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. The theme of her novels usually focus on black women facing unjust circumstances (like I said, not light reading). And she's written some really famous ones, including: The Bluest Eye, Sula, Beloved (the one I've read), Tar Baby, Jazz and Love.

Alice Walker
Most of you will probably know her name from her ultra-famous novel, The Color Purple, that was adapted in the ultra-famous movie of the same name. Unfortunately I have yet to read this one but it's on my TBR. For that novel Walker won a Pulitzer Prize. She was also the one that worked to uncover the basically lost work of another famous African-American female author: Zora Neale Hurston. And she's a great advocate in the fight against female circumcision.

Maya Angelou
Known around the world for one of the most famous works ever: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, she has been called "America's most visible female black autobiographer." She was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her work and has tons of poetry and other works since. Huge in the Civil Rights Movement she has also been friends/colleagues with basically every poltician since the 70s.

Phillis Wheatley
This one is an oldie but a goodie. She was a poet way back before America even declared independence from the British. Well, WHILE they were in the middle of declaring independence more like. She was actually the first African-American woman who had her stuff published. George Washington was a fan! Not surprisingly for the times, a lot of her stuff revolved around religious themes. She gained fame with a collection of work called Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. But most didn't at first believe that a slave could possess the literary skills to write poetry and she had to prove that the poems were, in fact, her own works.

Octavia Butler
An African-American female science-fiction writer! Oh my! No seriously, it's true. I have one of her books on my TBR too and I can't wait to buy and it start reading: Kindred. It's about black woman that is transported back to the days of slavery, specifically the early 19th century. Though she technically cateogized this particular novel of hers as not as a sci-fi, it kind of sounds like a mix between that and regular literature. Intriguing! Butler was also the first sci-fi writer to win the MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant.

So there you have it. Enjoy the rest of your Black History Month. Go out and learn something!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Circle of Sarcasm

Oh my goodness, oh my goodness. Well I’ve had this blog for how long? Less than one month? And I already have OVER 50 FOLLOWERS! I’m just blown away! You like me! You really like me!
In all seriousness though, the reason I decided to call this blog the “Sarcastic Female Literary Circle” even though there is just one of me posting here wasn’t just to be ridiculous and humorous (okay, that was part of it, but still). It was because I was hoping that the circle I would eventually create would be a mutual dialogue between me and my potential followers where we could all discuss books, feminism, our crazy lives…anything! And it’s already happening. I’m so proud, look at me blush ;)

And through this great circle I’ve been noticing other great feminist themes in some blogs as of late which is just AMAZING. I’m not going to say it’s been my influence or anything because it’s obviously not and well, I’m not THAT conceited, but it’s just so refreshing to see :)

So here are a couple other blogs that ya’ll (yeah I said it, what?) should check out in your free time. I’m just going to link to their main blog page but hunt around, you’ll find what I’m talking about I’m sure and other cool blog posts in general:
Oh and if you want to look at a really humorous post I have to highlight umseti’s last one here:
So go forth circle of awesomeness! Spread the word of our sarcasm and greatness! And tune in tomorrow for Fantastic Five Friday (I have no idea what I’ll be posting yet but I’ll try to make it good).
(if you check back tomorrow I‘m told there should be a good post there!) 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Review for You - Othello

Othello by William Shakespeare
4 stars
Everyone knows the tale of Othello, or almost everyone at least. A Moor (otherwise known as black guy), Othello, falls in love and marries a white woman, Desdemona, and through the evilness of his servant, Iago, is tricked into thinking her untrue and unloyal and kills her in a fit of rage. Sorry for the spoiler there but, like I said, who doesn’t know this story? I knew it before I read it. The real point of reading it is in the beauty of the language and to see it all unfold.

From the moment the play starts Iago feels slighted for basically no reason at all and sets it in his mind to ruin his master, Othello. To do this he enlists the help of his friend, Roderigo, who wants the lovely Desdemona for his own. They come up with a wonderful plan to make Othello think that Desdemona is sleeping around with Cassio, Othello’s lieutenant. However Iago doesn’t really tell Roderigo the whole plan because well, it won’t work if Roderigo LIVES at the end of it. Of course, Othello thinks of Iago as nothing but a kind and loyal servant and calls him “honest” over and over again. So naturally when he calls Desdemona unfaithful Othello believes him almost immediately. The wheels having been so easily set in motion, Othello goes into her room at night and utters the famous line: “Have you prayed tonight, Desdemona?” And thusly strangles her.

Now this was a fantastic Shakespeare play. It had all the elements to make it great, even though I knew the ending. Murder, deception, jealousy, intrigue. However a feminist work it certainly was not. I could not count the number of times the men threw about the words “whore” and “strumpet” simply because the women said something they did not like or because Othello wrongly thought Desdemona untrue. And the implication that it is alright to KILL your WIFE just because she cheats on you is entirely ridiculous as it is. Only when Othello finds out that he was wrong and Iago tricked him does he feel any sort of remorse for his actions.

So, read it for the language and the awesomeness that is Shakespeare. But don’t expect to feel all warm and tingly inside afterwards. And Iago is a very good evil villain indeed.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bechdel Test Tuesday!

Here we go again…it’s Bechdel Test Tuesday! Who’s excited (all of you I know!)? I’ve gotten a bunch of new followers in the last week thanks to an awesome blog hop I participated in so if you’re unfamiliar with my really cool weekly meme than here’s a quick overview of what the Bechdel Test is all about. The twist is that I use this for books (oooo...ahhhh...)

Last week that wonderful bard (Shakespeare) was unfortunately given a failing grade for his play, Othello (my review will be up tomorrow). What’s going to happen this week? It’s anyone’s guess! Get ready for it…

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
1. Does it have at least 2 women in it?
Well yes. I think maybe 3 or 4. Definitely more than 2 though.
2. Do they talk to each other?
Arg. Yes. But not much. I think there is like one “scene” where a couple women talk during Guy Montag’s (the protagonist) semi-freak-out at his house.
3. About something besides a man?
Yes. But again, it’s very brief. They do talk about a man (the protagonist) but also other things. But I wouldn’t say this is a great shining example of passing this test.
Yeah, so not an A+ or anything, but not failing either. It’s nice to mix it up a bit I think anyway.

Come back next time for another nail-biting installment of Bechdel Test Tuesday! And if you have any suggestions for future titles to be featured, please leave them in the comments :)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Girls With Grit

Okay, so I know I kind of lambasted Entertainment Weekly the other day with their list of “New Classics” (but come on! Classics most of those books were not) but I was strolling around their website yesterday and happened upon this interesting article: Girls with Grit. It’s about the lack of women (young women) in literature nowadays that one can really look up to and see as a tough girl, the main character of the story and someone that maybe possibly could be seen as a role model for the younger girls reading these books. Although it does say that the few movies/books that now have a strong lead female character shows that we're heading in the right direction. I agree.

Now, I don’t really read a lot of YA (or any YA really, though I am getting a bit interested in The Hunger Games) but I have to agree with this article. And this isn’t a new phenomenon. Young women are not normally the central character of blockbuster books, especially ones that send out a good message to other young girls (Twilight anyone?). And yes, Lisbeth Salander of the Stieg Larsson books is a kick-ass female and a good feminist role model (not perfect by any stretch, but the best characters are flawed). But there is no way that those books could be described as for a younger audience. They’re very graphic in parts and disturbing. If I had a daughter, I wouldn’t want her reading that book until…well I don’t know the age requirement I’d put on it, but it’s not a YA book for sure!

But I think this just shows the normal attitudes present in pop culture in general. Women are good supporting players but they rarely take the reins by themselves. It’s upsetting.

So that article pointed out four books (that were/are being turned into films) where women were kicking butt and flawed yet good role models for other young women. They were The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, True Grit by Charles Portis, the Stieg Larsson books and Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell. But I think the only YA in there is The Hunger Games. And the author of the article was seemingly talking about recent books but True Grit is not at all recent, just recently turned into a movie (again). But I’m struggling, with all the books I’ve read recently to make a longer list. And, like I said, I don’t know YA books at all so I’m hoping there’s a few I’m just missing because I don’t even know they exist. But so let's just think of any and all books. Books in general with strong female lead characters that you would be happy to have your daughter (fictitious or not) look up to a little bit.

So come on people, help me out! There have to be other books out there, let’s go with old and new, that have a strong female protagonist. She doesn’t have to be perfect (as I said, flawed characters make for better stories) but just four books is not good enough.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Let's Go Bookspotting

Ugh, this has been a loooong weekend! Sorry to all my loyal followers who missed me yesterday. I know you all were very sad about my blogging absence (heartbroken really) but I was without internet access all day (the horror!).

But now I'm back. Hooray! But I don't have much time so I'm taking this post today from a fellow blogger that I follow over at A Kindle in Hong Kong (it's a great blog, go check it out!).

What have you seen people reading lately? While I'm out and about (I'm such a busy person) I always see people reading...on buses, at lunch, etc. I really like glancing around at what others are reading; I guess you could call it nosy but I find it interesting. Yay books!

Lately I've been noticing a lot of people reading either the second or the third Steig Larsson book. Also Room by Emma Donoghue has been a popular one. Oh, and the other day I saw some guy reading the book Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern.

So what about you all? What books have you seen people reading lately? Do you ever have fun bookspotting?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fantastic Five Friday!

Welcome back to my Fantastic Five Friday! For this week’s meme I thought it would be fun to talk about our normal reading lives (I know, I’m such a hoot!). I mean, we can talk about great authors and poems and stories all day long, but at the end of the day, we actually have to find the time and energy and space to read them, right? And sometimes that in and of itself can be a challenge! Especially with my lovely kitty trying to cram her little behind right in front of my face every time there’s a book in front of me (“no Mommy, pay attention to me!”).

So this week we have: Fantastic Five Friday: Five Great Places to Read! And yes, I’d like to say sitting atop a lovely mountain in the quiet fog or in zen garden or on a quiet private beach, but these are REALISTIC places that I can get to in my everyday life.

On the bus going to and from work – okay it sounds not fun I’m sure (what with all those people around stepping on your toes) but this is really a great way for me to start my day. It’s only a 10-15 minute trip, depending on traffic, but just to get in that little bit of “me” time is really necessary. And after work is done it’s a great unwind as well. A nice breather.

Wherever I’m eating lunch – I get an hour break for lunch at my job and I use that time to read (and eat, obviously). I pick places that have good tables where you can sit down and aren’t too loud. That way when I’m done eating (and while I’m eating, I multi-task) I can stay and read my book. Breaking up my work day with reading helps me not dislike my job QUITE so much ;)

The dog park – this is for warmer weather but it can be the perfect place. It’s right down the street from my apartment and helps me not be a shut-in even though I have my nose in my books! I don’t own a dog but it’s nice to feel the fresh air and it’s not too loud.

While taking a nice bubble bath – this is as close to heaven as it comes to me living in a noisy city and cramped apartment. Almost every night in the winter before I go to bed I run myself a nice warm bubble bath and get in and read. Ahh…

Under the covers right before bed – I have a nice set up in my bed with comfy pillows and a good nightstand light, everything to make just before bedtime the perfect time to read a bit. My cat jumps up, puts her butt in my face until I push aside and then she’ll lay next to me and we’ll read together until we drift off towards slumberland. Sometimes her purring does get in the way of the reading though.

So there you have it, my 5 great places. What are yours?

And SheWriters that are still coming over from the blog hop, be sure to check out my Welcome post from yesterday!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

SheWrites B&W Blogger Ball!

Welcome SheWriters! To my followers that don’t know, I’m participating in a blog hop. It’s Blogging about Books and Writing Group Ball!
I’ve never done a blog hop before so I don’t exactly know what to put here before aside welcome one and all :) As you can see from my blog roll I’m fairly new to the blogging business but I love it very much already…and it’s addicting!

If it’s tips you’re looking for all I can really say is to stay true to yourself. My blog is an extension of my personality and I think that my followers really appreciate that. I put my own humor into each post and I think, even in the short time I’ve been around, my few loyal friends and followers have come to know my tone (and hopefully like it!). Also I try to make sure I reply to people’s comments on my posts, make them know I’m listening to them when they’re listening to me. It gives a nice personal touch.

So take some time and look around my blog. As you can see, it won’t take long. I have several reviews and also some opinion pieces. I do two weekly memes: Bechdel Test Tuesday and Fantastic Five Friday. Hope you all enjoy!

And I’ll be stopping by your blogs as well :)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Challenge Me Will Ya!

I seriously really truly was planning on NOT signing up for any reading challenges this year. But alas! The challenges have won! I have found two that have somehow (bribery?) convinced me to participate, and (bonus!) they kind of even overlap with one another.

The first is via blogger Bethany over at Subtle Melodrama. It’s called the Victorian Literature Challenge and basically it involves reading books that were published any time during Queen Victoria’s reign (1837-1901).

They don’t necessarily have to be “Victorian” according to the challenge rules so that gives you even more book options to choose from. There are four different levels to join for the challenge and I’ve chosen to aim for Hard Times (meaning I’ll read between 10-14 books). It’s actually an underestimate for me, but I like to aim as low as possible so as to never be disappointed! I’ve already read three so far this year (yay me!):

(click on the titles to see my full reviews)

The second challenge is by way of blogger Marisa over at Armchair Archives called the Oscar Wilde Reading Challenge (can you already see how they’re going to overlap? sneaky of me isn’t it?). And I’m sure all my smart followers can guess what’s involved in this challenge: reading Oscar Wilde’s works.

I’ve opted to be Willfully Wilde, which means to read any 4 of his works. And as pointed out above, I’ve already read his one and only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray.

I’ll keep you all updated on my progress as time goes on. And, of course, I’ll post reviews here of each book I read.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Bechdel Test Tuesday!

Welcome back for another exciting addition of Bechdel Test Tuesday! Now you have to shout that last part like a game show host, otherwise it’s simply not as fun. Are you all as pumped as I am (of course you are!)? First time looking in on my awesome weekly meme? Well then here’s a quick overview of what the Bechdel Test is all about.

Well, last week the book Rebecca passed the challenge with flying colors! Will it be quite so simple for the book I pick this time around? It’s time to find out. Let's step up to the plate with…Othello!

Othello by William Shakespeare
1. Does it have at least 2 women in it?
It does. Though not a lot. Only 3 women total.
2. Do they talk to each other?
Only 2 of them talk to each other: Desdemona and her maid, Emilia.
3. About something besides a man?
Nope nope nope nope nope! Unfortunately Emilia and Desdemona do have lengthy conversations but it is ENTIRELY about Othello! What's he thinking? Why is he acting like this? Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!
Sorry Shakespeare. I’m going to have to fail you. But I had a feeling it was coming with what this play was about and all…better luck next time!

Tune in next week for another awesome installment of Bechdel Test Tuesday! And if you have any suggestions for future titles to be featured, please leave them in the comments :)

Review for You - The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
3 Stars
This was an intense read to say the least. I mean, the book literally just kind of kept chugging along. And parts would kind of just jump out and hit you in the face and make you feel miserable. Others would make you sit down and think really long and hard.

It was my first Kingsolver book and while it was a good one, and while I will say a very important book in feminist literature, I’m not going to call it a favorite or anything. It’s the story of the Price Family who is lead by their preacher father, Nathan, to the Congo in 1960 to head up the mission there in the small village of Kilanga. The four daughters (Rachel, Leah, Adah and Ruth May, in order of age) could not be more different from one another and each speak in their own voice throughout the novel. Nathan is ALL about the Bible and thinks they’ve literally come to the darkest Africa to save these savages from themselves and his whole goal is to baptize every last one of the villagers in the river. Little does he know that the likelihood of that happening is next to zero thanks to the friendly crocodiles that the villagers are rightfully afraid of. I think one recently at one of the villagers actually. Good luck Father Price! Not to mention the fact that they have their own values and customs and religion and do not need some white savior to come in to rescue them. Nathan Price is a violent man and pig-headed and refuses to accept the fact that his mission is a failure. His wife, Orleanna, tries her best not to step on his toes until she realizes that staying in the Congo will probably mean the end of her family, in a very very real sense.
Living in the Congo changes each of the daughters in ways they could not imagine and it’s really a story of them growing up and apart from one another and out of the shadow of their boorish father. So the theme was certainly intriguing, and that’s why I say it was certainly a feminist read. And the way it was set up was unique. Each chapter was in a different point of view. One would be from Leah’s, then Adah’s, etc. Also each section of the book opened from the point of view of their mother, as if she’s trying to explain to them how she could have lived with such an abusive and horrible man such as their father. Those are very interesting from a psychological perspective.

Of course, it has a lot of xenophobia and sexism intentionally mixed in. The story takes so many different routes throughout its many pages it’s kind of hard to nail down. I think the main problem I had with it was that Kingsolver did not seem to know where she wanted to end it, or how she wanted to end. It. The majority of the book is about the family’s time at the mission just before the Congo declared independence and shortly thereafter. But then it kept dragging on for another 150 pages and I think kept going until the late 1980s. I understand that Kingsolver was trying to bring the reader up to date on the struggles in Africa and the girls’ journeys but I felt it tedious at many points. The last chapters were basically the daughters giving their own opinions on things, as it should be with this kind of book I think, but really the only one I found that added anything to the novel was Rachel’s chapter. Since she was basically one-note during the whole book I think her final chapter gave a new insight into her, otherwise it was more of the same from every other character. Another reason it dragged down at the end.

So it was disappointing that I couldn’t rate this book higher, having heard so many great things about it. Not that I didn’t like it, I did. I just felt it could have been, should have been, better.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! I hope everyone has had as lovely a day as possible, be it with friends or significant others…or pets! My kitty is my Valentine (aw shucks!).

And how fitting was it that on this Hallmark Holiday I finished up the very un-romantic Shakespearean play, Othello, where the main character is driven insane with jealousy planted in his head by the evil Iago and therefore decides to murder the innocent Desdemona. Not a very feminist play, eh? Especially seeing as how Othello thinks he did absolutely nothing wrong by committing that horrid act of domestic violence UNTIL he finds out that his wife was in fact true and faithful the whole time. Because otherwise it’s perfectly acceptable to go around killing your wife! Strumpets all of them! But my full review is to come later. I promise.

But, since I don’t want to seem totally unromantic, I will leave you with a beautiful Shakespearean sonnet to lighten the mood. I’m sure many of you know it already. It’s one of his most famous:

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest;
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

-William Shakespeare

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Over 2 Weeks Already!

Well, my blog has been going for 2 full weeks now. Woohoo! In just this short time it’s already been a great experience. I’ve met some new people, found some great blogs, and started writing more. What more could a gal ask for?

Well, suggestions! That’s what I could ask for, haha. I’d just like to hear from you all, my lovely loyal followers, about how you think the blog is going and/or what you’d like to see on it in the future. Like maybe you have some books that you’d like to know if I’ve read/reviewed? Or if there is a book that you want me to do for Bechdel Test Tuesday. Maybe there’s some aspect of literature that you wanted my humorous opinion on (because who wouldn’t want MY opinion, right?). Or anything else under the sun. It’s a very new blog, as you know, so I love getting suggestions and ideas that could improve it.

Oh and also THANKS to all of you that have been tuning in to listen to my babblings. I hope everyone had a great weekend!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Little Shakespeare Anyone?

Alright, I admit it, William Shakespeare is my favorite author of all time. It’s true. And it’s not just because of his dashing good looks (mmm, bald spots). I own his complete works on my shelf at home and I’ve even downloaded several of his plays onto my Kindle, just so I have them with me at all times (because that complete works collection is a heavy load to carry, I’ll tell you!).

I can always count on Shakespeare for a good read, delightful wordplay, elegant prose and rhyme schemes and universal truths. I mean, even a so-so Shakespeare play is going to be better than the majority of most of the other garbage out there (sorry books, you know I love you!) I don’t know how many times I’ve read Romeo & Juliet (my favorite of all his works). I also played Ophelia in my high school production of Hamlet (I know, I’m so talented, you‘re so kind to say so). I’ve been to several different productions of several different plays, and before seeing each one I always have to read it over again. I think it just gives you a better sense of it and a richer appreciation for the play as a whole.

My brother hates Shakespeare unfortunately, which is too bad because I think if he took the time to really read and understand him then he’d find some of his plays rather humorous and right up his alley. Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing still throws me into fits of laughter.

But there are still so many of Shakespeare’s plays (even the great works) that I have yet to read. King Lear comes to mind. I just started Othello today and hope to be done very soon. I can’t believe I haven’t read it before, probably just because I already knew the plot (I mean, who doesn’t?). But I’m very excited about finally tackling it.

What about the rest of you? Anyone else in love with Shakespeare? How many of his plays have YOU read? What are your favorites/least favorites? Anyone read every single one of his plays? Now that would be an impressive accomplishment (one that I hope to tackle before I die).

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fantastic Five Friday!

It’s that time again: Fantastic Five Friday!! Who was bubbling with anticipation all week long? This week my Fantastic Fives are inspired by my post yesterday on the “New Classics.” A few of those books are on my to-be-read list and I really cannot wait to get to reading them, it’s simply a matter of going to the bookstore/downloading them on my Kindle and getting cracking! So that got me thinking, what are the books I’m most looking forward to reading next (I seem to talk to myself a lot)?

So without further ado, I give you Fantastic Five Friday: Five Books I Can’t Wait to Read (in no particular order)

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

I’ve already read one of Ishiguro’s books (Never Let Me Go) and I thought it was very very good. I’ve been wanting to pick another one up for some time and my mother recommended this to me. It’s about an English butler during World War II who is oblivious to the world around him and the fact that his employer is apparently a Nazi sympathizer. Sounds fascinating!

The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century by Ian Mortimer

Well the title really explains the whole book. This is a non-fiction one. I’ve been waiting to read this one for a while now and it’s been “in-transit” at the Chicago Public Library for about 6 weeks now. But they finally e-mailed me saying it’s ready for pick-up. Hooray! I’ve heard nothing but great things about it so I cannot wait to physically get my hands on it.

Zeitoun by David Eggers
Another non-fiction. Now this one I already do own, but since I was so busy reading other things when I bought it I lent it to my mom to read first. But I’ve heard so much about it (and since it has to do with Hurricane Katrina) I’m very excited to read it. I’ve never read Eggers’ stuff before and I’ve heard he’s fantastic. This is the story of Zeitoun, a Muslim man who chose to stay behind during Katrina to help those in need and protect his house. Then he disappeared…

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

I stole (that's such a horrible word) acquired through certain clever mean this book from my parents’ house last weekend so hopefully I’ll get to it sometime soon…ish. It’ll be my second McCarthy (already read and loved The Road). And honestly I don’t know much about it. It takes place around the Mexico border in the 1850s…and that’s about it. It’s violent…um, I’m still very on the edge of my seat to read it That’s how much I enjoyed The Road.

Villette by Charlotte Bronte

I feel I simply must read this before too long considering that Jane Eyre is my favorite book of all time. It is ridiculous that I haven’t read this one yet, in my opinion. I’ve heard mixed things. Some say it’s great and others a let down. Maybe that’s why I’ve put it off. I don’t want to be disappointed. It is about Lucy Snowe who goes to the city of Villette to teach at an all girls’ school. It’s apparently very psychological, which does intrigue me greatly so I’m hoping it doesn’t disappoint!

So that’s it. What do you think of my choices? What are your Fantastic Fives today?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Are These Really Classics?

So I'm making my post today from Wall-to-Wall Books’ post about this list of “New Classics” over at Entertainment Weekly‘s website (I don't know when the list was made because I can't find it, maybe in 2008?). I find it especially funny since they’re listed as being from 1983-2008 and so these would really be the classics of my lifetime…apparently.

Now, no offense to Entertainment Weekly, but this is not the website or magazine I go to when I’m fiending for book reviews/knowledge/tips/anything book related really (okay maybe that is a shot at Entertainment Weekly but the only books I’ve seen highlighted recently on there are Bristol Palin’s memoirs and the Twilight series).

Anyway, I’ve only read 11 books on this list of 100 “New Classics” but even still I can’t say that out of those 11 all of them should be on there. I thought The Daily Show’s book America was laugh-out-loud hilarious, but would I ever deem to label it a classic? Um, I don’t think so. Sorry Jon Stewart. I still love you! And while The Road is the only Cormac McCarthy novel I’ve read so far (and I did find it incredible) I’m surprised that’s the one that was picked of his works since I’ve heard so many people like other books of his better. In fact, of the ones I’ve read I can only really say there are two I fully agree with: The Handmaid’s Tale and Beloved. I fully see those being classics in 100 years. I want to say The Poisonwood Bible as well but I’m not quite done with it yet so I’m refraining. The Corrections? Yuck!

So here’s the list (along with the date of publication). I’ve bolded the ones I’ve read.

1. The Road , Cormac McCarthy (2006)
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)
3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)

4. The Liars’ Club, Mary Karr (1995)
5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)
7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996)
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997)
11. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (1997)
12. Blindness, José Saramago (1998)
13. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87)
14. Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates (1992)
15. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers (2000)
16. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood (1986)

17. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (1988)
18. Rabbit at Rest, John Updike (1990)
19. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (2005)
20. Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding (1998)
21. On Writing, Stephen King (2000)
22. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz (2007)
23. The Ghost Road, Pat Barker (1996)
24. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985)
25. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
26. Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984)
27. Possession, A.S. Byatt (1990)
28. Naked, David Sedaris (1997)
29. Bel Canto, Anne Patchett (2001)
30. Case Histories, Kate Atkinson (2004)
31. The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien (1990)
32. Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch (1988)
33. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion (2005)
34. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold (2002)

35. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
36. Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt (1996)
37. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (2003)
38. Birds of America, Lorrie Moore (1998)
39. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri (2000)
40. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (1995-2000)
41. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (1984)
42. LaBrava, Elmore Leonard (1983)
43. Borrowed Time, Paul Monette (1988)
44. Praying for Sheetrock, Melissa Fay Greene (1991)
45. Eva Luna, Isabel Allende (1988)
46. Sandman, Neil Gaiman (1988-1996)
47. World’s Fair, E.L. Doctorow (1985)
48. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (1998)

49. Clockers, Richard Price (1992)
50. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (2001)

51. The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcom (1990)
52. Waiting to Exhale, Terry McMillan (1992)
53. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon (2000)
54. Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware (2000)
55. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (2006)
56. The Night Manager, John le Carré (1993)
57. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe (1987)
58. Drop City, TC Boyle (2003)
59. Krik? Krak! Edwidge Danticat (1995)
60. Nickel & Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
61. Money, Martin Amis (1985)
62. Last Train To Memphis, Peter Guralnick (1994)
63. Pastoralia, George Saunders (2000)
64. Underworld, Don DeLillo (1997)
65. The Giver, Lois Lowry (1993)
66. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace (1997)
67. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003)
68. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel (2006)
69. Secret History, Donna Tartt (1992)
70. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
71. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Ann Fadiman (1997)
72. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (2003)
73. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (1989)

74. Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger (1990)
75. Cathedral, Raymond Carver (1983)
76. A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ruth Rendell (1998)
77. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)
78. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
79. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
80. Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney (1984)
81. Backlash, Susan Faludi (1991)
82. Atonement, Ian McEwan (2002)

83. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields (1994)
84. Holes, Louis Sachar (1998)
85. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson (2004)
86. And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts (1987)
87. The Ruins, Scott Smith (2006)
88. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (1995)
89. Close Range, Annie Proulx (1999)
90. Comfort Me With Apples, Ruth Reichl (2001)
91. Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (2003)
92. Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987)
93. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (1991)
94. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (2001)

95. Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman (1998)
96. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003)

97. Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson (1992)
98. The Predators’ Ball, Connie Bruck (1988)
99. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman (1995)
100. America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004)

So what do you all think of this lovely list of “New Classics?” Are there any glaring omissions? Any huge question marks looming in your mind? What did they get completely and utterly wrong?