Saturday, March 31, 2007

"Reading is a discount ticket to anywhere." ~ Mary Schmich

I'm writing more than reading, lately, so here's my backup report. Shylah Fionne, 80-ish days old.

"I'm gonna get you dogs coming up the stairs. You better watch out, you're mine. Wait! Come back! I don't know how to go down yet."

She gained five pounds in a week. She has 20 different ways of snorting. When really happy, she sleeps flat on her back. She's eaten two pom-poms off my slippers, half a sock, the edge of a cardboard box, and part of an iPod instruction manual. She attacks the golden retriever, but rolls over when the German Shepherd growls at her. When wet, she loses half of her apparent bulk. She likes to lick wax out of the dogs' ears. She snuggles deep into my armpit, and then sighs. When given a choice of a soft blanket, chenille towel, and my old sweatshirt, she'll choose my scented rags every time.

We will breed her, but I won't be able to give up the puppies. I see myself laying in my sun porch, surrounded by warm rolls of fluffy, snorting, nibbling dogs, reading and petting, reading and petting.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

24. "A Separate Peace" ~ John Knowles

I've complained before about the New England prep school stories... there are just so many of them. Exeter, anyone? "Write what you know" was taken too seriously by several male authors.

This is the first book (other than A Prayer for Owen Meany) that I have adored despite its setting. Perhaps it's because this isn't the typical drivel of cranky professors in musty classroom. It is about boys becoming men under the frightening haze of World War II, particularly what that last year of school is like for 17-year-olds looking at enlistment or the draft.

Of course it's deeper and more meaningful than that. But this is one of those books that resonated with me for several days after completion. I'm not going to spoil it for you here.

4.75 out of 5.0 Graveyard Spirits.

Banned book: "Detractors cite offensive language and sex as dangerous elements in this novel." Whuuut? Methinks thou dost protest too much.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

23. "Geography Club" ~ Brent Hartinger

Russell thinks he's the only gay kid in his high school, so it's a surprise when he goes to an internet chat room for gay teens and sees someone from his relatively small hometown. Lo and behold, he meets up with another gay teen... the hot baseball player.

He tells his best friend. What do you know; she's bisexual. It's a happy little set of coincidences. They decide to create the Geography Club, a way for the five students who are gay/bisexual to talk.

Quick read. Good read, if you allow room for too many circumstances to be realistically portrayed. Excellent for that teen who may think he or she is alone.

3.0 out of 5.0 Flaming Dr. Peppers.

Banned book: It was repeatedly challenged because of them there homophobic folks in y'all places down South. However, it was actually banned in Tacoma, Washington schools because of, get this, "it romanticizes Internet hook-ups." Snicker-snort.

Friday, March 16, 2007

22. "Sons and Lovers" ~ D.H. Lawrence

This is the "best" of Lawrence's books, according to many bibliomaniacs, though I preferred Lady Chatterly's Lover.

The Morel family consists of a miner father (Lawrence's father was a miner), three sons - one of whom works as a clerk and is sickly (Lawrence worked as a clerk and had pneumonia repeatedly), and a doting, jealous mother. Need I fill in the blank for Lawrence's relationship with his?

This is the stuff of Freudian dreams. Lay upon the sofa and tell me about your mother. If interpreted this way, Lawrence really needed to cut the apron strings a lot sooner. Or, well, mothers really are the centers of their sons' universes.

Paul, the clerk, wants to form a deep relationship with Miriam, but his love for his mother, as well as her deep control over his emotions, creates mental havoc. Basically, this is Oedipal complexes at their most vivid.

Other than the siblings, this is purely autobiographical. His other books explore power in sexuality. I'm sure you could read about how mothers and sons introduce the first struggle, but, as the mother of boys, I'm a bit grossed out, in all honesty. Perhaps if I wait ten years I will read this differently.

1.5 out of 5.0 Dirty Mother-In-Laws.

Banned book: Hello? Sexual innuendos of an incestual bend.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

"The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame." ~ Oscar Wilde

A change in our regularly scheduled books for breakfast menu - serving only banned and challenged books for the next few months.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

"A lot of fellows nowadays have a B.A., M.D., or Ph.D. Unfortunately, they don't have a J.O.B." ~ Fats Domino

Your J.O.B., if you choose to accept it, is to join me and many others in "The Banned Book Challenge."

My dear mentor and friend, Rebecca Fjelland Davis, always puts this bumper sticker on her office door: "I Read Banned Books!"

Now, if I can finish this novel-in-process, I could hope to be a banned book someday...

21. "The White Cascade" ~ Gary Krist

"The White Cascade: The Great Northern Railway Disaster and America's Deadliest Avalanche."

In 1910, east of Spokane in the rugged Cascade mountains, two trains were stranded because of horrific blizzard conditions. After much debate and worry, some of the passengers hiked the dangerous path to a town seven miles away. Others stayed, and in the early morning hours of March 1 were hit by an avalanche that broke some of the cars like matches, killing more than a hundred people.

This book's title is misleading, however. The story is about the railroad system from the late 1860s through 1910. It's about one man, James H. O'Neill, and his desperate dedication to the trapped trains, a man who was in charge of the entire western railroad system, but shoveled snow alongside immigrant workers. It is also about greed, and how James J. Hill (a St. Paul businessman) used his power to shush this disaster.

The historical chapters were frustrating for me because, like many, I wanted to get to the disaster. I wanted to see how some triumphed. But the event itself garners only a chapter in the book.

However, Krist pieces the days before the avalanche in painstaking detail. All dialogue is original, copied from journals and survivor interviews. As far as historical nonfiction, this is an amazing creation. But, I felt mislead by the title... perhaps, "The White Cascade: The Days Leading Up to the Greatest Railroad Disaster" would have been more truthful.

3.8 out of 5.0 Snowballs.

20. "Infamous" ~ Justin D'Ath

Tim wants to help his best friend, Greer, and her mom make more money at their milkshop. A sighting of an extremely rare thylacine would do it, so he paints his dog, Elvis, with stripes and hides in the bushes.

It works. Chaos falls upon the small town, and Tim and Greer must decide whether to come clean. But what about the other thylacine sightings?

Very short, very cute book. However, I have no idea how it ended up on my book list.

4.0 out of 5.0 for the milk-drinking set.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Per request...

Shylah is 9 weeks old now and:

  1. Pees outside, but poos in her crate, then rolls in it;
  2. Attacks the golden retriever, German shepherd, bathmat, and lilac bushes;
  3. Received the full name "Shylah Fionne," which means "white, loyal, strong."
  4. Will be bred someday because everyone needs a dog like her;
  5. Thinks I'm the head of the pack and curls up against me like "a fluffy crescent roll" (description by kid).

This blog is going to end up "Books for Breakfast, Drinks for Dinner, Puppies for Picnics." Except that sounds kind of like we're eating dogs. Eww.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

19. "Wide Sargasso Sea" ~ Jean Rhys

Antoinette lives on a plantation in Jamaica during the early nineteenth century, a time when the Emancipation Act of 1833 caused financial ruin to many slave owners. Freed blacks still worked for some families, but they were considered "black Englishmen" and their bosses "white niggers."

An angry mob burns down Antoinette's home, leaving her bound for the only safe haven - the convent.

The next section or "book" is told from the perspective of Antoinette's nameless husband. Desperate for money, he agreed to the marriage quickly for the dowry. He believes she is crazy, which proves to be an apt perception as Antoinette's voice returns at the end of the novella.

The first ten pages steamed with details about Jamaica, its vegetation, its wildlife. Then, suddenly, it drops off, and other than the occasional seashore vista, the book could have easily been in scene elsewhere.

2.5 out of 5.0 Jamaican Yo-Yo.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

18. "Revolutionary Road" ~ Richard Yates

Happy suburbanites Frank and April Wheeler pretend to buck conformity and plan on leaving their 1950s life of safety and security for an unknown adventure in Paris. Or Europe. Someplace. Just anywhere but there, where lawns must be mowed perfectly and friends dance with each other's wives.

Not. Gonna. Happen. Of course. Or there would be no point to this tale.

Though there are some similarities to An American Tragedy, this book is much cleaner, its language like vodka instead of moonshine.

But this isn't a challenged/banned book? Whuut? I am confused by the definition, then, of what is needed to be considered a challenged/banned book.

Lovely work, amazing imagery. It's the first one I've truly liked in a while, and that feels good.

4.5 out of 5.0 Resolution Martinis.