30 Days of Books – Day 23 – A Book You’ve Wanted to Read for a Long Time but Still Haven’t

Whooo that’s a long title for what is sure to be a very brief entry. Not a lot one can say about a book one hasn’t read, eh?

In my queue since high school (trust me, it’s been long enough for that to be notable):

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov (this is entirely due to The Police’s hit “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”)

The Stranger, Albert Camus

Since early college I’ve had a policy of trying to alternate reading books that are “good for me” with ones that are purely fun to read, balancing the All-Bran with the Lucky Charms of literature. This began at Barnes and Noble with their candy-colored copies of the classics in paperback. So far these four haven’t popped up at a price point under ten-dollars, and I can be a real skinflint when it comes to books I’ve never read.

I do have a copy of The Grapes of Wrath, procured at the local used bookseller, just waiting for me to finish the two Whartons I picked up along with it (and probably the two books on Celtic ritual I bought for researching my novel).


Top Ten Tuesdays – Books I’d Like to Give a Theme Song

For the past few Tuesdays I’ve been reading top ten lists over on The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhh, on topics put forth by The Broke and the Bookish, and this week I like the theme so much I just had to join in.

Presenting the top ten books I’d give a theme song.

1. The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton – Jill Sobule “Supermodel”

The lyrics of this song really get at the core of Undine Spragg’s character: shallow, striving, delusional. I see it as Sofia Coppola/Marie Antoinette style combination. Bustles and Louboutins, formal balls and fashion shows.

2. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater – Florence + The Machine “What the Water Gave Me”

There is a very literal link between the lyrics of the song and the content of the book, but there is also a moody wildness to the sound that suits the tone of the novel. Windy cliffs and slate-dark seas.

3.  Uglies/Pretties/Specials by Scott Westerfeld – Nine Inch Nails “The Hand That Feeds”

Would make an excellent hoverboarding song, and is up to the Specials’s level of physical scariness.

4. Feed by M.T. Anderson – Nada Surf “Popular”

I imagine this playing during one of the parties, as people are dancing with the draggy elbows and twitching in fugue on the floor. It has that sort of lethargic malaise (is that redundant?) Titus becomes aware of the longer he is with Violet.

5. Strange Attractors by William Sleator – Broken Social Scene “Two Girls”

Warning: this song is kiiiinda dirty.
Eve basically is two girls, and Max digs it.

6. White Oleander by Janet Fitch – “Wonderwall” written by Oasis, as performed by Ryan Adams

Astrid keeps hoping for rescue, though she knows deep down it isn’t coming.

7. Summer by Edith Wharton – Toad the Wet Sprocket “All I Want”

Oh Charity Royall, “and it won’t matter now, whatever happens to me. Though the air speaks of all we’ll never be, it won’t trouble me.”

8. Carrie by Stephen King – My Chemical Romance “Teenagers”

They could care less, as long as someone will bleed!

9. Paint it Black by Janet Fitch – Yeasayer “Madder Red”

Warning: This video is probably too weird for a lot of people.
I imagine this as Michael’s respone to Josie’s searching.

10. Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks – Comsat Angels “Falling”

Poor Cadel, all science and no philosophy.

30 Days of Books – Day 22 – Favorite Book You Own

I believe I have mentioned here before that I am visual artist, and the book I chose for today is one that I love as an object. It has beautiful, comeplex, colorful, and creative illustrations and a whimsical design.

Plus I got it on super clearance during the last days of Borders.

Return of the Dapper Men by Jim McCann and Janet Lee

This book is gorgeous from endpaper to endpaper. It features a foreword by Tim Gunn, whom I love, including an illustration of him as one of the dapper men. Delightful! The illustrations are a mixed-media mishmash of art nouveau and steampunk influences. There are two special sections at the end: one by the illustrator explaining how the visuals for this unique volume were created, and one featuring other artists’s renderings of the characters and themes in the story.

The story itself is thought-provoking, set in a world where there are no adults and time has stopped.  Human children live underground while mechanical people occupy the surface, never mingling, because the children only want to

play while the machines only want to work. Except for one fair-minded little boy, and one mechanical girl without a memory. The two go on a journey to restore the natural order, aided by the return of the dapper men.

This is the kind of story a person reads over and over again, turning it over in their mind and getting soemthing new each time. The illustrations are equally complex, yielding new treasures with each viewing. It’s a lovely, smart book that is colorful in every sense of the word. 


30 Days of Books – Day 21 – Favorite Book From Your Childhood

Finally an easy one! There is a book I liked so much from my childhood, for its story and illustrations, that I bought a copy on E-Bay while I was in college. Note: this was necessary because one day while I was in junior high my sister took a bunch of my books and Strawberry Shortcake videos and gave them to the daycare she worked for. I was very upset. She was always giving away my books. Scowl.

I scowl a lot. In fact, I am quite the grumpy bear. Which is probably why I was such a fan of The Magic Words, a Tale From the Care Bears. This literary masterpiece was penned by Maria B. Murad in 1984.

Being a grumpy bear, this tale of friends who hit a rough patch that can only be resolved by a Grumpy Bear/Love-A-Lot Bear double team really resonated with my young self. It hit all of my favorite points: kids on a swing on the cover. Check. Big fan of swingin’ over here. Fast bikes. Check. Picnics with PB&J. Check. Magic bears with fat tummies that shoot rays of powerful emotion? Check, check, check.

Did I read better books as a kid? Absolutely. Did I have ones with nicer illustrations or less pedestrian stories? Sure. But I loved this one.  

Loved it.

30 Days of Books – Day 20 – Favorite Romance Book

Since I started this blog I have become obsessed with the little bar at the top of the page which tells me how many people have visited. After weeks and weeks of seven visits per day max, with an all-time high of twenty-five that would have had me hooking my thumbs through my suspenders if I wore them, one day last week the count hit FORTY-SEVEN. Small potatoes to the freshly pressed but for me…I’ve hit the big time!

The next day the views plummeted back to their previous level, hovering around five, and the anomaly of forty-seven views has been niggling at my brain ever since. Today, I figured it out.

I mentioned Edward Cullen.

The day of forty-seven views also happened to be the day I posted about my favorite male character in literature, and made a passing reference to both Edward Cullen and Fitzwilliam Darcy. Astonishingly powerful stuff!

Today I realize I have dug my own grave, going on and on about how Romance is forever at the very bottom of my reading barrel (no, please don’t cry, I would never store my books in a barrel). Today I am forced to shove my hand into those moldy depths and come up with something I actually enjoyed.

I haven’t read too much romance: some of the grocery-store paperbacks my sister used to hide in her closet, the first page of a Danielle Steele my mother had in her car (she writes romances, right?), Austen, The Twilight Saga and Wolves of Mercy Falls, and the Miley Cyrus-vehicle The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks.

Not a lot to choose from, so instead I shall be my weird self and choose a book that I love, which just so happens to center around a romance.

These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The little girl from the big woods is all grown up, teaching school far from home over the course of a hard winter to keep her sister Mary in college for the blind. De Smet farmer Almanzo Wilder is kind enough to drive his horses out and bring her home every weekend. At first Laura is determined that Almanzo should know that she appreciates the kind gesture as a friend, and nothing more, but as winter gives way to spring so does Laura’s heart thaw toward her knight with shining horses.

All of the great historical recollections of pioneer life are here, wrapped around the tale of how Almanzo and Laura found their way to the altar. It’s a sweet love story, advancing at a slow but agreeable pace as social customs of the time would have dictated. These Happy Golden Years is an account of a golden time in Ingalls Wilder’s youth, and her straightforward account creates a love story that is sweet without ever being saccharine.

30 Days of Books – Day 19 – Favorite Book Turned Into A Movie

This one required some thought because I wanted to pick a good book that was turned into an enjoyable movie. That left out White Oleander (no great loss, since I already used it). Though I adore Stand By Me I haven’t actually read the novella it was adapted from. The Princess Bride is a wonderful film but a ponderous novel. That narrowed it down to Pride and Prejudice (BBC version with Colin Firth, of course) or

It, Stephen King

I have been a Stephen King fan since I was but a wee lass: I pretended I was Charlie from Firestarter as a toddler and made mom stop driving before eight every night of a road trip to catch the Tommyknockers miniseries as it aired, but it was It that kicked off my mission to read every King novel I could lay my hands on. This is one of the better King miniseries, if not the best. There could be no Pennywise more creepily perfect than Tim Curry. The novel is a monstrous tome, and the miniseries captured the feeling of it at every point, rather than re-creating it in painstaking detail. No mean feat: It is very much a psychological scare, playing off the unique terrors of each of its heroes and victims, which is not an easy thing to convey visually.

As for the novel itself, despite  the action being driven by ageless evil that preys on children (and the young-at-heart), it reads like a love letter to King’s childhood. Summer days spent damming creeks and catching a monster movie matinee, silver bikes and inhalers rendered talismans through sheer belief in their power, the crystalline purity of a first crush. This youthful intensity of spirit and faith provides a bright counterpoint to the monster attacking children in the form of their most baseless fears, the fears that are the most powerful (and perhaps the most enduring).

The climax is one that sticks out to me above all of King’s other novels, for what it represents in terms of good and evil, courage, faith, and where humanity fits in. It’s deep, man. The miniseries managed something pretty good, but that part of the novel is just something that can’t translate to a visual medium.

I would recommend this novel to anyone who has dismissed King for any reason: too commercial, gore porn, “genre” writer. If you can’t see past the blood and guts, you are really missing out.

30 Days of Books – Day 18 – A Book That Disappointed You

A few years ago while cruising the aisles of the local bookstore I picked up a book on a whim. Rather distant from my usual reading material: a mystery (which ranks only slightly above romance on my genre hierarchy), crime drama, translated from Japanese and set in Tokyo.

Out by Natsuo Kirino

The novel introduced a host of interesting characters, varied personalities who were intertwined due to circumstances ranging from the mundane to the seedy. Much of the novel took place during the night shift at a boxed-lunch factory in Tokyo, filled with details of the work that I found strangely fascinating. The plot deals with a woman who kills her husband in a moment of anger and then calls upon her co-workers to help her dispose of the body. They turn out to be uniquely suited to the work and develop a sort of cottage industry disposing of bodies for local criminals, each for her own reasons.

I was really enjoying Out: the very dark humor, the dynamic between the female characters, and the glimpse into workaday Tokyo; then it all went off the rails. The conclusion just seemed bizarre, and completely unsatisfying. It may be that this is due to cultural differences in storytelling, I understand that this author is very popular in Japan, but I found it completely off-putting. Depraved, almost grotesque.

Disappointing, when I had enjoyed the rest of the novel so much. In the end I just didn’t have the stomach for it.