Monthly Archives: June 2008

Weekly Geek

I’ve recently joined in on the Weekly Geek challenges hosted by The Hidden Side of A Leaf who also hosted this past Saturday’s 24 hour Read-A-Thon which I wasn’t able to participate in. Based on Devourer of Books Blog it sounds like the marathon was pretty fun and active. Each hour prizes were awarded for minor challenges in addition to all the reading.

Weekly Geek sounds like a fun way to organize my blog. As each week a new theme is announced I can plan my weekly reading or updating around.

This week’s theme is challenges.

The Rules:

1. If you participate in any challenges, get organized! Update your lists, post about any you haven’t mentioned, add links of reviews to your lists if you do that, go to the challenge blog if there is one and post there, etc.

2. If you don’t participate in any challenges, then join one! There’s a good selection of possibilities over on my right hand sidebar (scroll down) where I list those I participate in. There’s also A Novel Challenge, a blog that keeps track of all sorts of reading challenges.

3. Towards the end of the week, write a wrap-up post about getting your challenges organized OR if you’re joining your first challenge, post about that any time during the week. Once you have your post up, come back and sign Mr Linky with the link to the specific post, not just to your blog.

So, as stipulated in the Weekly Geek rules, I will have my first Weekly Geek wrap-up posted on Saturday.

In The Time of the Butterflies – Review

Jullia Alvarez’s beautifully written and engrossing novel In The Time of the Butterflies, is based on the true of events that occurred in the Dominican Republic during the 1960’s. During the final days of the Trujillo dictatorship, three sisters and their driver were ambushed on their way back from home from visiting their jailed husbands. These sisters had been part of an underground movement to overthrow Trujillo and bring freedom back to the people of the Dominican Republic. In their death, these women, known as the Mariposas (the Butterflies) were martyred and became legendary creatures in this country.

While researching and writing this book, Alvarez fictionalized the events and characters, while still keeping true to the spirit of the women during this time. Although the three sisters, Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa were murdered, their fourth sister, Dede and their mother lived to tell the tale. The novel is written primarily through the eyes of Dede, and also from the journal of Maria Teresa as well as narratives from Patria and Minerva. This method fills in the gaps and provides explanations for the changes occurring in the sisters as well as highlighting their strong unity as a family.

The novel tracks the lives of the sisters under the Trujillo dictatorship from their childhood well into their adulthood. We see the girls fall in love, fall out of love, fight against the dictator, sent to jail, and raise their own families. The novel is quickly paced and Alvazez does not linger too much on description, focusing more on the plot. She adds a sense of humanity to these women. While they are strong and symbols of freedom for this country, they are still human with vulnerabilities.

Each narrative is delicately interwoven, where you will see the same scene through a couple of different eyes, overhear the change the conversations but in a different context. In some chapters you are deaf as to what is going with the revolution and in others you are right in the center of the action. Each sister has an identity all her own, and I really admire Alvarez’s ability to do so with the sisters. There were moments in this book where I wanted to cry, I wanted to scream at the injustice of the government, of the inability of change and at the overarching dominance of Trujillo into the everyday lives of the people.

This is a fantastic novel, i really recommend this book.

Find this book at your local library

Buy this book on Amazon

In the Time of the Butterflies

In the Time of the Butterflies
by Julia Alvarez
Plume/Penguin Books, 1994
ISBN 0452274427
324 pages

Other works by the author:

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

Before We Were Free

Cuando Tia Lola Vino (de visita) a Quedarse

Once Upon a Quinceanera: Coming of Age in the USA

Finding Miracles

Saving The World

In The Name of Salome

The Other Side

Homecoming

Yo!

Something To Declare

Update

I promise I will have a book review up by Friday. I’ve been very engrossed in the book I’m reading right now, and I keep delaying reading it, because I don’t want to find out what happens, even though I’m told in the first two pages of the book! That’s a sign of good writing.

This week has been pretty hectic for me since I started my new job at the library branch. There has been quite a bit of training, but I love every second of it. Its an amazing feeling helping someone find the books they are looking for, working on programming to help enlighten and empower the residents of a somewhat poor neighborhood. The library patrons have so far been very understanding with my bubbling around, trying to find out the answers to seemingly routine questions. No troublesome teens, but I think that may pick up when school starts up again in September. Either way, I’m happy where I am. Now I need to start thinking of some original programming I can do on my own. So far, I’m just tagging along with the current set of programs, but I really should start something constant. Maybe in a month or so, when I get a better feel for the patron needs. I’ve so far been put in charge of the upkeep of the entire Nonfiction and Sci-Fi/Fantasy sections of library, making sure everything is up-to-date and being read. Sci-Fi sections tend to get neglected in most libraries since sci-fi readers tend to buy rather than borrow those books. I think its because the books are written in series and its just easier to keep up wit the latest in the series by just buying it.

Cody’s Bookstore – final days

This is very disheartening for the Bay Area. The SF Chronicle reports that Cody’s Bookstore, the treasured and somewhat legendary literary landmark in the Bay Area is shutting its doors due to lagging sales.

Cody’s was something of a symbol in Berkeley, a witness to and supporter of the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s, a well-stocked cornerstone of literacy for the thousands of students and faculty patrons from nearby UC Berkeley and a practitioner, in its own right, of free-speech principles.”

I’ve seen many a great author hold reading at this bookstore, and my best friend and I would always wander around the store of a few hours every time I went to visit her at UC Berkeley.

You can read the full article below the link.

Continue reading

Book Giveaway by author Scott Douglas

Taking a page out of the Choose Your Own Adventure series (which I particularly adored as a child) author and librarian Scott Douglas, announced on his Blog that he is giving away eBooks of a book he wrote. You can go to a wiki page that he set up and have a chance to change parts of the book that you don’t necessarily like. You can make modifications to scenes, characters, descriptions, etc.

There are a few ways to get this book:
1. Go to the blog for the book (librarytree.blogspot.com)
2. Download a PDF, MS Word, or TXT version of the book on my website (http://www.scottdouglas.org/thelibrarytree.htm)
3. Go right to the wiki page (http://librarytree.wetpaint.com).

Keep in mind you will need to start a free Wetpaint Wiki account in order to make the changes.

Live Your Road Trip Dream – Review

Live Your Road Trip Dream by Phil and Carol White is a comprehensive, detailed and well organized reference source for anyone interested in taking a year long road trip. The book is broken into two parts. Part 1 discusses all the logistics of planning a trip of this nature. Part 2 provides a week by week summary of the year long trip by the Whites, which inspired this book.

The book began with a very slow start. I immediately sensed that the target audience for this book is the upper class soon-to-retire age group. Once I read past chapter three, the advice and tips became applicable for a wide range of vacation plans for all ages, not just extended trips.

Part one covers every detail that needs to be considered before leaving for an extended trip. Bills, family obligations, cars, health plans, etc. The White provide valuable tips and suggestions to make the transition easier, from selling the house, to renting or just leasing the house for the duration of the trip. Most high school graduates usually don’t have major expenses of obligations and will not need to take extensive measures for their trip, but parents and/or grandparents will have more to consider. Other valuable tips include budgeting strategies as well as vehicle selection (the Whites chose a modest 19 foot RV for their travels).

At the end of the book there is a Traveler’s Resource List which provides websites as well as worksheets for budgeting, itineraries and other maintenance issues. My boyfriend’s parents travel a lot in their RV, they go on weekend long trips and sometimes month long trips, and I think this book would be a perfect addition to their collection of resources. The advice is practical and universal whatever your specific trip purpose may be.

You can also check out their website www.roadtripdream.com for more information, and pictures of the White’s road trip.

Find this book at your local library

Buy this book on Amazon

Travel for a Year for the Cost of Staying Home

Live Your Road Trip Dream
by Phil and Carol White
RLI Press, 2004
ISBN: 9780975292839
269 pages

The Invention of Hugo Cabret – Review

At first look, this book seems quite a daunting read for children. It is short and fat, at over 500 pages of a beautifully written story about one of France’s most legendary filmmakers, Georges Méliès. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick is a uniquely creative book about a fictional account of Méliès’ life after retiring from the film industry.

Although this book is over 500 pages, 284 of these pages include illustrations, which take over the storyline. The phrase, a picture is worth a thousand words, is more than applicable to this book. I would place the age group for this book at ages 8 and up. Some of the text fills up the entire page, sometimes only 4 lines and occasionally only 1 line of the page. The illustrations pick up the more complicated parts of the story, showing rather than the telling the adventures of Hugo Cabret, the twelve year old nephew to the Timekeeper at a Paris Metro station in 1931.

The pictures vary from charcoal images, to photographic prints of early cinema. This book is a fantastic introduction to early cinema, starting with A Trip To The Moon.

So, now to explain the plot. This is the story of Hugo Cabret and an automaton he found in the rubble of a museum consumed by fire. It was in the attic of this same museum where Hugo tragically lost his father. Hugo was then taken by his uncle to work as an apprentice to the Clock Keeper at the metro, until his uncle one day disappeared. Hugo, still continuing the work left behind by his uncle survived by living a quiet life, stealing food and drink when necessary, and occasionally toys from the toy store. It was at this toy store when he was one day caught and had a most treasured notebook taken from him by the shopkeeper.

With mysterious meetings with Isabelle, a young orphan living with the shopkeeper and his life, Hugo slowly begins to piece together puzzles from his life while working for the shopkeeper, and working on the automaton. This automaton is special, because it is in the shape of a man sitting a desk, pen in hand, ready to deliver a message that will forever alter Hugo’s future.

Although it is a very quick read due to the limited amount of text, I spent a lot of time with the illustrations, and reading the story through the eyes of the artist. This work is part story, part graphic novel, part movie picture book. The story is rich with symbolism and metaphors and the story is an exciting Cinderella tale for young boys.

A Trip to the Moon on YouTube: Georges Melies – A trip to the moon (1902)

Find this book at your local library

Buy this book on Amazon

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

The Invention of Hugo Cabret
By Brian Selznick
Scholastic Press, 2007
ISBN: 0439813786
533 pages

One Minute Book Classics

I came across this blog, and I couldn’t resist myself. This is the website for anyone who doesn’t want to trudge through the classics, but still wants to get a feel for the book.

My particular favorites include: Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. All three I studied for days and days in college, if only I had come across this site sooner.

Jakob Wywialowski and the Angels – Review

I’m not even sure where to begin reviewing this short story, Jakob Wywialowski and the Angels by Audrey Niffenegger. It is a 1,255 words, 7 page short story about an elderly man, Jakob Wywialowski finding angels in his attic, and finding an exterminator to come and “angel-proof” his house.

This story is funny, sweet and ripe with imagery and humor. It is very different from Time Traveler’s Wife, but then again, so is everything else Niffenegger has written. Soon after reading Time Traveler’s Wife, I read The Three Incestuous Sister: An Illustrated Novel which really proved the depth and variety of Niffenegger’s style. She is quick to understand human suffering and emotional tragedy, but she also has a keen sense of humor. I fell in love with Time Traveler’s Wife, and I think I would fork over my entire library (minus The Princess and the Goblin) just to have a one hour sit-down conversation with the author.

This short is available through Amazon Shorts for 49 cents, and is sent directly immediately to your e-mail account. You can save this piece to your desktop, print it, or just keep it electronically linked in your Amazon Media Library.

It would be a really cool present to pick out some shorts by favorite authors, print them out, have them professionally bound and present it to a close friend/mate/parent. Its a very original anthology by yours truly, complete with your own dedication page and illustrations if you feel creative enough.

Forgotten Bread – Review

Forgotten Bread is a wonderful collection of poems, novel excerpts and short stories from some of the most famous first generation Armenian-American authors in the United States, complied and edited by David Kherdian. I find that usually when I mention Armenian literature, most people tend to think of William Saroyan. Although most of his work has permeated into modern society, (Come on-a my house my house – theme song for E!’s Girls Next Door), William Saroyan is not the only Armenian to garner an illustrious career, a much coveted education, and various levels or reputation in the States.

This collection includes snippets by seventeen first generation authors, preluded by seventeen introductions from second generation Armenian-American authors gives a valuable insight into the Armenian mind-frame and world. One of the most constant and steady themes I recognized in each selection was a sense of loneliness, alienation and a desperate search for identity and stability. In the crux of the Middle East, Armenia is a country that belongs to the world, but is still orphaned by tragedy throughout its history. Armenia is in the middle between western civilization and Middle Eastern mentalities. The lone Christian populous in an Islamic regime. Despite the various conquests, and the Genocide of 1915 by the Turkish government, Armenians have managed to survive. We have diluted ourselves throughout the world, sharing our stories, drinking our teas and reminiscing over the past.

Armenian story-telling is not superficial, and it is not overly dramatic. Armenian storytelling is an honest and raw look into the human psyche. Many of the authors in this selection write about their lives, write about their losses, or create characters that can better explain the author’s sense of being.

My favorite work was the poetry of Majorie Housepian and the short stories of  Leon Surmelian. Both hit a nerve with me, in terms of merging  Armenian traditions with American lifestyle, a struggle is never easy, no matter what the decade.

This book will be a welcome addition to any Armenian household, introducing new authors, providing stories from those already well known. I think other cultures would enjoy this book, to take a look into the lives of a forgotten nation.

Find this book at your local library

First-Generation Armenian American Writers

Forgotten Bread
Edited by David Kherdian
Heyday Books, 2007
ISBN 1597140694
481 pages