Tuesday, January 25, 2011

a weekend, a book sale, and what to read next.

Hello and happy Tuesday evening.  It's the 25th, and I'm sorry (but honestly not surprised) to say that I've only read one book since my last post.  Out of context, that makes me sound like a bit of a maniac.  Ha.  I'm not too worried, though (and here comes something that will make me sound even worse), because I should be finishing my current read tonight, and then I'll cram in one more before February (more on that in a bit).

Maybe it was the snow last Friday, or the fact that the words "book," "sale," and "Blount County Library" were all together on one poster, but I could not stay away, and Joshua was gracious enough to give up a ski day and accompany me.  And it was magnificent.  And I've been wanting to blog about it every day since.

We all know how much I love that library, not to mention how much time I spend there, but I had no idea there was an entire warehouse of old books underneath it.  Yeah.  It's there.  They may only bring out the books for the sales, but it was still impressive.  And. So. Much. Fun.

We walked away with 40 books for just over $35.  Most of them came from a Surprise Box of Assorted Fiction that only cost $2.  Yeah.  Two bucks for 26 books.  Granted, pretty obscure books (the exception being a copy of Bridges of Madison County-- whoo-hoo), but still.

Here are a few of my favorite finds (not from the Surprise Box):
[Note:  I was feeling too lazy to charge my camera/upload pictures today, so I opted for the quicker Photo Booth approach.  Of course, I wanted to counteract the backwards-ness, so you could see the real covers.  Thus the double image.  Just... look at the one on the right.]

A copy of the 1950 edition of Jane Eyre, with dust jacket!... *swoon!*
Isn't it just gorgeous?!
This copy of Grimm's:
Yay illustrations!
Proof of pictures:
It's the frog prince!  I like this version.
The Wreckers, which I vaguely remember existing way-back-when, and always wanted to read.  It sounds really interesting, and makes me think of the Shipwreck Historeum I loved visiting in Key West as a kid.
Yay yay land pirates yay!
And, most excitingly, and possibly not legally, they had a whole section of young adult ARCs.  Very cool, right?  Granted, they were almost entirely of books already released, but I did find this:
I like this cover better than the official one, I think.
...which doesn't come out until February 1st!  So... I've got, like, 5 days to read it and claim an advanced-copy-reader-status that will actually count.  [Hence the cramming mentioned earlier.]  I'm actually pretty excited about this one.  I hear good things about it, and I like Lauren Oliver's blog, and I have a cat named Oliver, so there you go.  Meant to be.

In closing: this is me having fun reading books:

Happy slumbers!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

the first five books of 2011.

It's the 18th, and I've hit my book goal for the month.

But, shoo, what a selection.  I would have kept going with the Gregor books, as planned, but I was never able to get back to the library until today (hello, snowstorm), so I ended up going to the other library (the dinky Knox County one by the elementary school), and came out inundated with John Green.  By inundated, I mean I've read half his works now, and I'm a fan.  I think.  No, I know I'm a fan, I'm just not sure to whom I can recommend his books.

Julie, what are you doing reading books with teenagers having sex and engaging in mischief?  I thought that wasn't your scene?

I know, I know.  And it's true: non-marital sex (in movies, books, shows, and especially real life) makes me feel icky and squidgy and sad.  But something I have come to accept as a human being, a Christian, and a storyteller, is that I can appreciate--and often enjoy--anything, regardless of my personal convictions (most of the time--there is still a limit to this).  I MUST see the finished product for what it is.  I mean, look at Les Miserables.  It's my favorite musical of all time, and in the revival there is onstage "sex."  I could have done without it, but it doesn't make Les Mis any less my absolute favorite.

Looking For Alaska is ultimately not about sex, and if I had put the book down when it got uncomfortable for me, I would have missed all the wonderful things.  The good parts.  The big picture.  And the big picture of that book is that it's amazing, and it's one of my favorites.  Just don't go into it thinking, well, if Julie liked it, it must be tame, because, while it's not wild and downright filthy, it's not very tame, either.  Read at your own risk.

And think of me what you like.  I'm still counting it among the best I've read.

I think I intended for this post to be about all five books I've read so far in January, so here goes:

1.  Gregor The Overlander.  My goodness, Suzanne Colins, I adore the way you tell stories.  More, please?

2.  An Abundance of Katherines.  John Green.  Not as life-changing or gut wrenching as Alaska, but still fun and well written and highly enjoyable.  My only qualm:  it's supposed to be set in Middle Tennessee, but the girl went to high school in Milan, which, believe me, is in West Tennessee.  Also, the pronunciation of Milan (My-lan, instead of the "correct" Mi-lahn) is a gold mine.  Why didn't you go for that, John?  I would have laughed so hard.  Maybe that's because I'm the only person who would find it funny.

3.  Like a Thorn.  Clara Vidal.  This book caught me off guard.  I was attracted to the drawings on the cover, and the back sort of made it sound like a brief fairy tale, but it was ultimately misleading.  It's about a girl being driven to insanity by her equally unsound mother.  Kind of horrifying.  On a different note, it was written in third person present, which I actually enjoyed.  It was, strangely, a lot easier for me to read than first person present, which is always a challenge, even if I love the book.

4.  White Cat.  Holly Black.  Perfect example: Written in first person present, but I LOVED it (as much as one can "love" fiction, of course).  The world of this book is so bold and weird and scary.  It's like if "Heroes" had a magical mobster baby with "The Sopranos."  That's what this world is like.  I am so excited for the second book, Red Glove, which comes out in April.  Joshua laughed at me when I told him I wanted to buy it, but I don't care.  This is one for the bookshelf.

5.  Ah, Looking For Alaska.  Also John Green.  Sigh.  There may have been a few things that made me squirm, but who cares.  Ultimately, this book is so wonderful and true and important (albeit sad), that I can't hold anything against it.  It cracked me up (especially at the basketball games) and made me weep, and even made me cheer.  No wonder it won the Printz.  Excellent.  Excellent excellent.  Another one for the bookshelf.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

snow day: round two.

Joshua made it to work today, so I'm here all alone.  Ice and snow + misplaced phone = not leaving the house today again.  But that's just fine by me.  I'll miss checking out more books, but it'll be worth it to get some things done around the house (i.e. take naps and paint a picture).  It's only the 11th, and I'm already halfway through book #4 for this month.  I'm going to go ahead a stock up now, since I know I won't have as much time to read later on.

I'm starting to get super excited about camp this summer.  But when am I not excited about camp, really?

Anyway, who wants to see some cool pictures?  I perused The Boston Globe's 2010 in photos earlier, and some of them really struck me.  All are worth seeing (though, I will admit that I skipped over the viewer-discretion-advised ones--I have a small stomach), but here are a handful of my favorites:

A vigil for the late president of Poland.
A boy having fun in the rain in Cuba.
I guess gold miners don't mind being covered with the stuff they dig up.
In fact, this guy looks right jolly about it.  :)
Some things are the same on every continent.
Kids are adorable.
I love the falling olives.  Makes me think of Greece.
Three sisters showing a photo of their Christian mother,
who was sentenced to death for her beliefs.
On a lighter note, I want to go to this art exhibit.
Last but not least: safe and sound!
[For all the terrible things that happened in 2010,
wasn't it a thrill to have something to celebrate?]
And that's all I have to say about that.

In other news, I also discovered a neat-looking program called Blurb that helps you make your own books (like Mac photo books, but it doesn't have to be just for photos).  I can see myself wasting a lot of time and money here.  Wouldn't it be fun to take a bunch of neat pictures and turn them into a fairy tale book or something?  I see some very interesting Christmas presents in my loved one's futures.

Oh my gosh, I can't think about it too much or I'll get overly excited and not to ANYTHING today.

Oh, and one more thing.  We went skiing in the backyard yesterday.  I should have taken pictures.  Instead, here's a picture that shows up in Google image search under the words "skiing in the backyard."

original here

Yay snow!

Monday, January 10, 2011

three things about today.

One.  We are snowed in.

Two.  The wood stove is going strong.

Three.  Phineas & Ferb is on TV.

What more could I ask for?

"I know what we're going to do today!"
Do I ever.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

the beginnings of booksplurge 2011.

On the eighth day of 2011 (also known as yesterday), I came to a resolution I like the sound of.  It's not so much a resolution as a goal, really.

I want to read a hundred books by Christmas.  Ba-haa!!!  I read almost 30 last year, without trying, so I figure that if I try at it, I can easily read about 8 books a month.  Totally doable.  I read six books this past October (again, without trying), so how hard can it be?

Somewhere, someone with experience in this endeavor is laughing at me.

Long, thoughtful sigh...

Okay, so maybe not a hundred.  Let's say sixty, and if I go over, yay!  If not, then, hey.  I'll still be reading five books a month.  And I'll share them with you!  Thus far this month/year, I've read:
Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins, and
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green.

Two down, three to go.  Of course, Gregor is the first in a series of five, and, um, I kind of want to read them all tonight, so I have a feeling I'll exceed my goal (providing that the goal is five) for the month.  Not to mention the other two books I still have out from the library: Like A Thorn by Clara Vidal, and White Cat by Holly Black.  But I don't just want to read novels for young people this year (though they are, undoubtedly, my favorite).  For instance, I'm also currently in the middle of CS Lewis's gem Perelandra, which I cannot believe I never read before.  There are a TON of others on my list, not all fiction, not all for children, and not all written in prose.  Ooh!  I hope we can all be excited together.

This is me
(if I had really long, really dark hair
 and a highly pronounced collarbone),
drowning in 2011.
[from here]
Sidenote:  I'm not including the Bible in this particular goal, because it has its own resolution.  And I mean resolution.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

life with cats.

You see, it's funny because it's true.  Just picture a coffee table instead of a dining table, place mats instead of a tablecloth, and this happens just about every day.

january blues.

It's January all of a sudden.  I slept through the countdown for the first time EVER, and now I have to keep reminding myself that the year has changed.
It's very weird, because this is something I typically think about for a long time.  "This is a new year!," "How is this year going to be different from last year?," "When will I feel like it's this year and not last year?," "I have to remember to write 11 instead of 10"... stuff like that.  
But, this time, it's not there. For the past four days, all I've been thinking about is "I'm tired.  I have to go to work.  Let's go see a movie.  What do you want for dinner?"  And resolutions?  What are those?  My resolutions last year didn't take.  One of them I'm going to try for again (reading and studying the Bible--ahem, daily), but the other (running a marathon?  puh-lease) was a total joke.

On another note, I want to talk about something I don't like talking about.  Writing.
I am at a standstill.  I suddenly hate reading all the blogs and stuff that I used to really enjoy.  I am sick of feeling like I have to write in any certain way, or that I have to be totally original (a requirement I place on myself ruthlessly), or that if it's not going to sell, I shouldn't even bother... industry stuff.  Really?  Since when have I ever worried about industry stuff?
But, what creative person doesn't fantasize about their work being received by others?

I'm half-forcing and half-allowing myself not to care.  Not in this case.  It just doesn't mix with me;  I can't explain it.  I feel as if none of the "formulas" or insights apply.  
Conundrum:  Publication is not my primary goal (how could it be?  I've never done this before!), but I do want my work to reach what I would consider its "final state."  Reading up and learning about novel writing helps me feel like I have a solid chance of getting there.  Sadly, these same things make me feel like a worthless waste of energy for not caring so much about getting published.  Which makes me question why I even spend the time writing.

I came to a really big stopping point in what I'd been working on.  It's not the end, by any means, but it was my unofficial goal for 2010, I guess, and I made it there.  So I feel good about myself, you know?  I partially accomplished something!
Here's the rub:  I really want to go back and fix what I've already done before moving on.  And there is A LOT to fix.  Like, 75 pages' worth.  
And here's another rub:  As much as I love my days at the library, I am so ready to have an actual DAY OFF, where I can go to the store or read or (gasp!) stay home and play Epic Mickey all day.  This is a bad place for me to be.  I tend to over-simplify my life after feeling consumed by something.  For example:  how many times have I been back to Pier 1 (any Pier 1) after not working there anymore?  Once.  And it was right around the wedding, so, a long time ago.  I can't even make myself go inside a Pier 1, here.  Have I been back to Walden since I stopped working there?  Hardly.  Impellizzeri's?  Twice, maybe.
And what about running?  That was my everything for a while, but once I quit, I QUIT.  Why do I put so much distance between myself and these things?  Why the regression?

What a way to start the year, huh?  I promise, I'm not always this sour.  And wait, tomorrow I'll be singing the library's praises again.  One very fun thing about writing, when you take away the anxiety, is the propensity you find you have to surprise yourself.  If you just keep going, it'll come.  This is the sort of thing I have confidence in, because I've seen it.  Like my old pal, running.  Kinda sucks to get into it, but once you're there, the work starts to happen on its own.