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Archive for September, 2009

In Which I Stray

Recently, I have been increasingly frustrated with academia.  For the longest time, I have sworn up and down that I was going to stay in academia for as long as possible, wanting to go to grad school for a million different topics, not to mention law school and business school if ever the opportunity arose.  I wanted to be a lifelong learner in as many topics as humanly possible.  I wanted to be The Librarian.

This semester, however, I started writing my thesis, have slightly fallen out of love with it, and have grown increasingly annoyed with certain classes that I loved just last semester.  I have started itching to graduate, wondering if my decision not to graduate a semester early was really the right choice.

And tonight I realized why: I have strayed.

I started college expecting to be an English major.  Well, either that or a Classics major.  Somewhere along the way, however, I found a new advisor, created my own thesis, and have wandered down the path of the social sciences.  Which is nice.  But not good enough for me.

My thesis advisor is a rhetoric and communications professor and has naturally therefore pushed me – gently! – towards that area, and, being the type of person that does not like to disappoint, I went, willingly.

And for a while, I loved it!  Here were all the ideas about technology and the internet that I had always wanted to discuss!  Here were people who were passionate about communication and the internet!  These were the people I had sought for so long!

However, the honeymoon is over.  I’m done.  Communications is far too wishy-washy for me.  There are so many different, often conflicting theories that can all be right and wrong at the same time.  Nothing is concrete.  And everyone seems to want to just talk about their personal experiences, which is all well and good for a time, but there comes a point, for me at least, where I would like to actually discuss something a bit more concrete.  While I admit there is a place in academia and learning in general for personal stories, I don’t think the focus should be on them.  And my professor certainly isn’t helping in that regard.

But anyway!  Tonight…

Tonight, on a whim, I went to a lecture being given by a professor from another school, in another state.  This woman is an English professor specializing in children’s literature, and is a strong feminist, a fact which influences her work greatly.  She has recently published a book about women’s narratives, which was the main topic tonight.  There was also a Q&A session after, which covered a plethora of topics.

And I realized that I loved this.  I love talking about literature and how it affects our lives!  I love the humanities!  Take me back!  Why oh why did I stray?!

So it’s a little too late to switch over to being an English major, but at least now I know that I will not be taking a single class in the social sciences next semester.  And if I hint that I will stray again, I will rely on you, my dear, dear friends, to ensure that that does. not. happen!  For the sake of my happiness (and yours, if you don’t like hearing me complain!), this is all I ask of you.

I have been revitalized, but I realize that it is merely momentary.  I am still stuck in a social sciences class and shall have to make the best of it for another 2 months and change.

Blargh.

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BBAW: Reading Habits!

BBAW_Celebrate_Books

Instructions: Today’s it’s all about the creativity.  We have this fabulous reading meme for you below and all you have to do?  Pick ONE or answer them all in as few words as possible!  Be creative, have fun, stand out!  That’s all!

In honor of it being the third day of BBAW, and the fact that 3 is my favorite number, I’m going to go ahead and answer all in just 3 words!  (I thought about haiku, but maybe another time…).  So, if any are confusing or intriguing, feel free to comment and ask about it!  I’m not limited to 3 words in the comments!

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack?

Chocolate or crunchies.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?

Only for school!

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open?

Nearest paper scrap

Fiction, Non-fiction, or both?

Gotta be interesting.

Hard copy or audiobooks?

Hard, then Kindle

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point?

Depends how engaging

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?

Rely on context

What are you currently reading?

A Country Affair

What is the last book you bought?

Seneca’s Thyestes (school!)

Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time?

More the merrier!

Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read?

Late into night

Do you prefer series books or stand alone books?

Series! (ergo fanfiction!)

Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?

Fforde’s Thursday Next

How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?)

Personal category -> name

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As part of my attempt to dive deep into the world of book blogging, I went ahead and signed up for an interview partner for Book Blogger Appreciation Week!  I was paired up with the fabulous and amazing Cinnamon from A Journey of Books!  To see a list of all the other interviews, go here (warning: there are hundreds – I kid you not! – so get comfortable!).

And so, without further ado, I present to you, Cinnamon!

Why did you start blogging?

I really started blogging because I got the opportunity to rediscover my love of reading.  With high school, college and then the birth of my daughter, reading kind of took a back burner to the rest of my life.  Near the beginning of 2009 I finally found myself with a bit of spare time on my hands and began burying myself in books.  Of course, once I started reading I needed to share my opinion with someone, so I started the blog as a way of just letting others know what I thought of the wonderful books I had become acquainted with.

Has it been as you expected?

I expected my blog to be just a way for me to get out my thoughts but I was amazed at the show of support from people stopping by to comment on my reviews or just say hi.  Plus, I love giving things to people and being able to hold contest on my blog really made the whole thing so much more exciting for me.  I’m thrilled that I can help other people visit books that I love.

What is the most rewarding part of running/having your blog?

Getting to meet new people and see their opinions on books that we have both read.  I love to see what others think and the things they picked up on that I may not have.  Also, back to the contests.  I love giving stuff away and the blog affords me the perfect opportunity to do that.

What’s the worst part about blogging?

Sometimes it’s the time commitment.  Right now I’m finding myself in a particularly difficult part of my Master’s program so trying to find the time for work, home, school and blogging is getting difficult, but I still manage to do it.

You have so many followers!  Do you work hard at attracting readers to your blog?  Care to share some secrets for the newbies?

Share secrets for newbies?  I am a newbie!  I do work very hard at attracting readers.  Honestly most of my readers have come to my blog from the various contests that I hold.  I give extra points for current readers that enter to award loyalty because it really makes me feel all warm and fuzzy knowing that there are other people out there reading my reviews and other thoughts.  Also, I have to give a shout out to my readers.  A good number of them have been with me from the beginning and the wonderful (and helpful) comments that I receive from them really make my day.

Do you participate in blog memes/awards (e.g. Sunday Salon, Wordless Wednesdays, etc or any of the numerous “blogger awards” that make the rounds)?  Why or why not?

I try to although lately I haven’t been keeping up as well as I should.  I find that with my lack of time currently, getting the reviews and author spotlights up is about as much as I can do.  I certainly wouldn’t want to sacrifice my actual reading time for online time so I had to make some decisions.  When I get time, I do try to participate in The Story Siren’s In My Mailbox.  I also try to do Teaser Tuesday, Waiting on Wednesday, and I do my own UnderCover Friday where I try to feature some amazing book cover that caught my eye that week.

Do you read blogs other than book blogs?  If so, what sort of blogs?

I read a lot of author blogs but outside of that, no.  Again, with my lack of time, book blogs and author blogs are all I have time for.  Plus, when you have so many great blogs out there, I really don’t need to go looking for more.  I could probably be content just staring at the computer and catching up on book blogs and author blogs all day long.

Do your family and friends know about your blogging habit?  If so, what do they think of it?  If not, why not?

It really is a habit, isn’t it.  Or an addiction.  Do you think there’s a twelve step program?  I’m sure my family would recommend one if there was.  Most are pleased with it, some are not.  Some think I devote too much time to it while others are glad that I have a project that I can actually complete (since each post only takes me an hour or less to write).  It’s not like knitting a scarf where I lose interest after a few weeks.

What do you envision for the future of your blog?

I just hope to continue posting my reviews, become acquainted with new and interesting books and above all meeting new and interesting people.  Did I mention how I love my readers?  I do.  They are what really keep my blogging and I hope to continue to offer them quality content.

How do you find your books to review?

Some of them are through the authors, some are through the publishers but a vast majority of the books that catch my eye are through other book bloggers.  That’s what I love about the sport/activity/habit/addiction; I get to learn about books that I normally wouldn’t pick up otherwise.  Some of my favorite books I have discovered through other book bloggers.

Do you review all the books you read?  If not, how do you decide which to review?

I don’t review every book that I read.  I review every book that I have accepted to review although the timing of when the review gets done may vary.  If you offer a book and I accept or I request a book then I feel obligated to give you a fair an honest review.  I don’t, however, review every book that I read from my own personal stash however because I simply don’t have the time.  I do try to get those reviews up as well, but books that I have received hold priority over those.

Do you prefer to keep books once read, or swap, or give away, or what?

I think I have an obsession.  It pains me to give away a book.  Literally pain.  Once, when I was in school, I went away on a trip and my beloved box of books was sold at a garage sale while I wasn’t there.  Admittedly I had not read the books in a while, but I still wish I had those books as there are often times that I would love to pick one of them back up again.  Plus, there were like five series in there.  Collecting series books is hard!  Occasionally I will take a book that I know I won’t read again to the used book store and trade it for something else but this is very rare and only ever happens with a book that personally offends me.  There have been only two books like that in 2009 so it’s not like it happens every day.

Once you start a book, do you absolutely have to finish it?  What’s the biggest reason you might decide not to finish a book?

I don’t absolutely have to finish every book that I start, but I always try to.  As above, if the books offends me, I won’t finish it.  If, however, I don’t just mesh well with a book but I have accepted it for review, I do force myself to finish it so that I can give the author or publisher a fair and honest review.  Sometimes these sorts of books don’t get reviewed for a while because I have to go through the book slowly taking frequent breaks, but eventually they get finished.  Usually it’s my own books that don’t get finished or get finished slowly because the review books become the priority.

What one thing might a reviewer say that would entice you to immediately add that book to your list?

Paranormal.  If that word is associated with the book, you can guarantee I’ll be taking a closer look.  I suppose another thing they might say is that they liked the book for one reason or another and would recommend it.  If it fits with the sorts of books that I like and one of the book bloggers that I follow likes it, I more than likely will give it a shot.

Is there anything (genres, authors…) you refuse to read?

You know, horror terrifies me.  Sometimes I wonder if I couldn’t be an awesome horror writer (probably not) because I have such vivid nightmares.  I am also horribly terrified of the dark.  Super scary books where the whole premise is just to frighten probably aren’t a good idea for me to read.  Also, many inspirational or political books I try not to read simply because I hate disliking a book simply because a difference in opinion.  I only really read books that I know I can do with an open mind, otherwise, I’m not being fare to the author.  Textbooks or anything that resembles something I read in college is also strictly a no-no.  I still have nightmares of having to repeat my undergrad studies.

What book(s) (or other reading-type-thing, like fanfic for me) is your guilty pleasure?

Hmmm, good question.  Young Adult Fantasy/Paranormal.  I say guilty pleasure because I’m an adult and anymore we’re not supposed to be reading YA.  Preposterous, I know.  Plus, my peers tend to make fun of me when I shop in the YA section.  Still, some of the best books and my favorite books are YA (The Last Vampire series by Christopher Pike).

Have your tastes changed since you’ve started blogging?

Not really.  I read more genres now than I would have before, but I still love Paranormals and Paranormal Romances the most.

Do you find yourself reading more, less, or about the same than pre-blog, now that there’s the extra pressure to post reviews?

Reading much more than pre-blog because of the books that I accept and the deadlines that I impose on my self.

Do you have any reading quirks/habits/rituals?

Oh, good question.  I make my husband drive to and from work (we work in the buildings next to each other) so that I can use the time to read.  I also find myself constantly in an internal debate between reading and homework.  My husband says he’s heard my audibly argue with myself.  As far as rituals, give me chocolate and a comfy spot to read and we are good.

What is your favorite book from the past year? Ever?

My favorite book ever is a toss up between Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Christopher Pike’s The Last Vampire series.  My favorite book this year is definitely Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer.

What one book would you suggest to someone who claims they don’t like to read?

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer.  Romance, action, adventure.  My husband hates to read and I think he’d love it.

Is there any book (or author) that you have always intended to read (and perhaps have on your shelf right now!) but never actually gotten around to?

Christine Feehan and Kelly Armstrong.  Those books sit and stare at me every day and yet review books always end up coming first.  Some day dear books, some day.

What do you do when you’re not reading or blogging?

Take care of my husband and toddler, work on my MBA program, and do actual work work.  It’s not glamorous, but then it can’t always be.

Do you harbor a dream to be a writer someday (or perhaps are one now?)?

It’d be nice.  I have authors as family members, but we’ll see.  The market is so competitive now and I tend to have a fairly defeatist attitude.

Who or what inspires you?

Great stories inspire me.  Truthfully.  A great story can keep me going throughout the week.  All I do is close my eyes for a second, imagine the story and my mood lifts.  Suddenly the world seems like so much more of a pleasant place.

Thank you so much!

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Sing with me!  We got cabin fever!  We got cabin fever!

Well, it’s not actually fun as all that.  Hélas!

It wasn’t very long ago that I was totally loving being back at school, swearing I never wanted to leave.  Just yesterday, in fact!

But today?

Today I’ve been chomping at the bit, feeling claustrophobic and tied up.  Classes and work are fine (probably since I’m engaged and actively accomplishing stuff), it’s just my “off” time that is feeling so grating.

Normally, I’m a total homebody, loving routine and comfort.  But every once in a while, I get this bug.

This bug that screams “GET ME OUT OF HERE!”

This bug that makes me push my friends away because I can’t stand to have anyone even stand near me, let alone try to make inane, daily conversation.

This bug that drives me out of my room to the library at 10 o’clock at night, just to escape the walls that are closing in.

This bug that makes me want to just say, “eff it all, I just don’t care anymore”.

I’m pretty sure I’m feeling this way because I have so much work to do on my thesis, and I just can’t seem to get started.  I tried this morning, and it took me an hour to get three sentences written.  Granted, that’s at least something, but in the long run?  Nada.

The obvious answer is just to sit down an DO IT, but I am almost at the hair-pulling-out, ranting-and-raving-like-a-lunatic-at-the-top-of-my-lungs, sobbing-like-a-maniac stage.

I know I just need to take it in chunks.

I know I just need to sit down and write, and if it’s crap, who cares?  At least it’s something to start with.

I know that I’m making it worse for myself.

But I’m stuck.

And open to suggestions?  Please?

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castle2Title: I Capture the Castle
Author: Dodie Smith
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: General Fiction, YA, Historical Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5!

From the back cover:

I Capture the Castle tells the story of seventeen-year-old Cassandra and her family, who live in not-so-genteel poverty in a ramshackle old English castle.  Here she strives, over six turbulant months, to hone her writing skills.  She fills three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries.  Her journals candidly chronicle the great changed that take place within the castle’s walls, and her own first descent into love.  By the time she pens her final entry, she has “captured the castle”–and the heart of the reader–in one of literature’s most enchanting entertainments.

I can’t remember how I originally came across I Capture the Castle.  I believe I picked it up randomly at my library’s book sale one year, and it sounded like the perfect book for me, what with the setting being a castle and all!  And I am so happy I did!

I normally am not a huge fan of first-person narration, but Cassandra’s voice is so strong that it works beautifully here!  I found myslef relating strongly to Cassandra in many ways and simply falling in love with her style of prose, which is at once both carefully thought-out and completely in the moment.  You can’t help but be drawn in by the story and the characters, who become like friends by the end of the novel.  This is definitely a book I plan to read over and over.

I loved the setting of the book, in a drafty old castle in the English countryside.  It is romantic, but also very real, as it is Cassandra’s home.  I must admit, though, despite the obvious problems associated with living in a run-down castle, this book did nothing to assuage my desire to live in a castle someday…  I know, I’m  a totally hopeless romantic.

Now, I classified this book above as being YA and historical fiction, but I feel I should explain a few things in case these seem off-putting to anyone.  It’s YA  because it is definitely a coming-of-age story told by a teenager, but I feel that adults would enjoy it as well, as with many YA books.  I also called it historical fiction because it is set in the 1930s.  It was written in the 1940s, so it wasn’t really historical fiction then, but I wanted to at least give you the reminder that it is set over 70 years ago, which seems historical to me!

With that being said, however, I think that anyone would enjoy I Capture the Castle, regardless of the types of books you “generally” read.

Also, there is a movie based on this book, but I haven’t seen it – have you?  Is it worth seeing?  Or does it completely destroy the book, as so many Hollywood adaptions do?  I can’t possibly see how they would adapt this book into a movie, but if it’s any good, perhaps I’ll give it a go…

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