Friday, December 28, 2012

A Review of 'Snail Mail My Email' by Ivan Cash

"Feeling nostalgic for the almost forgotten written letter, author and former ad man Ivan Cash fell upon a simple idea: he invited anyone in the world to send him an email and he's write it out in a letter and mail it, for free.  Participants could even request a doodle or to seal it with a kiss.

What started out as a personal art project exploded into a worldwide event.  As requests poured in, Cash enlisted an international army of volunteers who helped create more than 10,000 letters sent all over the globe.

An addictive and artful window into everyday lives, Snail Mail My Email is a collection of the most memorable letters and moments from the project, and a reminder of the power of personal connection in a digital world."

If you're familiar with the Post Secret project, this is something very similar.  While Post Secret is an on-going project asking people to mail in their secrets on postcards, the Snail Mail my Email project lasted only a month and it encourages people to send out letters as opposed to emails when it comes to their special notes.  The extra incentive: email your notes and this large group of volunteers will write them down, draw some pictures, and send them all over the world, all to show how important and meaningful snail mail is.

I liked that the letters were so different from each other.  Yes, there were a lot of love letters, but some of them were pretty quirky, including what I'm sure are inside jokes between the writer and the recipient.  These inside jokes made the letters funny to read.  My favorite letter is one from a grandma to her grandchild saying, "You should write to me every once in a while, jackass."  Maybe my maturity level is on the lower end, but I just cracked up upon reading it because there was a drawing of a donkey next to it and the wording was bold.  What an interesting grandma!  I just hope that I never receive a letter from her...

This is a very quick read-- it'll take a couple hours to get through because the letters are short, but you'll stay for the pictures and the sentiments left on the paper.

I liked this book, but somehow, it was less satisfying than reading Post Secret.  Maybe it's because the letters weren't anonymous and that made them feel a little less genuine.  With no name, you can say what you please and forego your filter, to a certain degree.  A degree more than with Snail Mail My Email.

I give 'Snail Mail My Email':
Thanks for Reading!

--Jude

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

19 Reasons Why It's Great to be Alive!

It's pretty great to be alive for scene like this as well...
1.  First and last days of things-- I love the anticipation beforehand and I love the sense of accomplishment or even the relief of being done afterwards!

2.  Good food on the holidays (and most other days too)

3.  The satisfaction I feel after taking care of someone or something, whether that's feeding my fish, watering my cacti, or helping a friend through a problem they're having

4.  Leisure time, when it actually comes

5.  Productivity, when it actually comes

6.  Inspiration, when it actually comes

7.  A clean room after several months of living in a pigsty filled with scattered papers and dust

8.  Old-fashioned things, whether or not they are from a time I was alive.  Most of the time, they are before my time

9.  People who appreciate books and are willing to have conversations about them with you

10.  Having people who want to be your friend and not for material reasons

11.  Living in close proximity to your friends

12.  Having periods of time when I get to read what I want and not was a professor tells me I need to read in order to receive a grade

13.  Funny Sisters that are challenging me, time and time again, to redefine my schema for Nuns

14.  Biological sisters that are there to listen, bounce ideas off of, and giggle with until our sides and cheeks hurt

15.  Other languages and the ability to acquire them

16.  Having friends in other countries.  Not just so that I can have a place to stay when I return to these places (and other selfish reasons), but so that I can be humbled by cultural differences and learn to love people who live in a different culture than my own.  Understanding is very important to me

17.  Having a place to sleep during the holidays when my dorm room is closed for the rest of December

18.  Family, no matter the moods they're in or the demeanor of them

19.  Being in higher education and not regretting my decision to enter this crazy, crazy world.  I know that by the time I graduate, I'm going to have met so many wonderful, intelligent, witty, creative, hard-working, and beautiful women and I will recognize how fortunate I am

***I meant to have this done by my 19th birthday (20 December), but that was a day busier than I care to mention, so it didn't get done.  But I thought that it was still worth posting, if only for the sake of keeping a relatively new tradition

Thanks for Reading!!

--Jude

Sunday, December 16, 2012

College Adventures: Tough Decisions

Hello there!

Do you remember me?  I definitely haven't been much of a presence on this blog, but trust me, I still receive your comments and I'm still lurking in the shadows.

Life has been incredibly busy here.  I have finals on the 19th and 20th of December, I've been struggling to make my Christmas plans work (it's been complicated because of my job), and I've kind of been having a bit of a mental break-down because of all of these things happening at once.  I have called my boyfriend in tears as well as my own mother.  I almost cried in front of my boss due to frustration.  I have woken up in the middle of the night after a few hours of restless dreaming and I've just wanted to cry.

I don't think I've ever felt this way or come this close to an actual break-down.

Perhaps it's poor timing, perhaps it's a lack of communication from a variety of parties, perhaps it's my own inability to set limits for myself.

With the New Year and a new semester coming up, I think it's time to at least consider a change.  It's definitely a pre-meditated change, a week or two in the making, but I think it's a step that I must make in order to keep my sanity and do my very best in school, because school is my priority at this point in my life.

I love having a job and the place where I work is, for the most part, pretty great.  There are a few problems that I have with it, but it's very much related to being a full-time undergraduate student.  I won't go into detail about that here though.  Besides these problems, I'm having trouble balancing everything.  I have been procrastinating more than I usually do (doing things the day of as opposed to a night or two before the due-date) and because of this, I feel like I'm not doing as well of a job as I know that I am capable of doing.

These things are the most critical parts of my decision, but then I thought of this: I am also missing out on many, many experiences in college.  I have a friend that has asked me on several occasions if I would go swing dancing with her, but I've always had to say no because I work on the days this usually takes place.  I want to be able to say "Yes!!" for once.  Not only this, but I don't think I've been able to foster my friendships very well.  I have met so many wonderful people, but I haven't been able to make memories with them or get to know them better because I'm never around.

So I have to make some tough decisions.  I think that no matter what my decision ultimately is that I can make it work and it will be very beneficial to me.  I need to learn to accept that I cannot make everyone happy at the same time and I need to learn what my limits are.  I need to learn more about sacrifice and compromise.  I need to learn how to be more assertive (I've been very bad at that and that's a big reason why I've gotten myself into this predicament).

If you'd like to share, what are some difficult decisions that you've had to make?  How did you come to a conclusion for your problem?  How did you go about acting on this decision?  I could use all the help I can get...

Thank you for reading!  I will try to post more reviews soon.  After finals are over, I will have a lot more time to just sit and read.

--Jude

Thursday, November 22, 2012

30 Days In November, 30 Things To Be Thankful For!

1. A nice, warm bed that is easy to fall asleep in at night.  And during naptimes during the day, for that matter!

2. My job.  While I do not want to work at Barnes & Noble for the rest of my life, I think this is a good job to have to supplement the things that I want to do in the relatively near future.

3. My family.  I honestly didn't realize how much I relied and continue to rely on them and how much I'd miss them until after leaving for college.

4. Mail.  I love communication in all of it's forms.  I especially appreciate the hand-written letters I receive.  It's gives me even more pleasure to be able to sit down and write them!

5. Days off.  From work, from homework, from any kind of obligation.

6. Netflix.  I love you.  You entertain me.

7. Beautiful days in the middle of what should be winter right now.  It's nice when you're in denial about the coming of winter and the weather supports that.

8. Listening ears.  Seriously, my sanity has been saved many a time because of you.

9. Plenty of food.  I never have to worry about going hungry and I'm so grateful.

10. An empty room outside of my dorm room that is good for video chatting with friends late into the night.

11. My friends.  The ones who are close to home and thousands of miles away.

12. The French language.  Thank you for being beautiful and for constantly being something I can refer to and get excited over!

13. Disney songs.  Believe me, there have been many an opera session featuring these songs.

14. The patience of the people in the dorms surrounding me.  I don't know if you can hear my opera sessions, but if you can, thank you for not charging over and telling me to shut up.

15. A roommate that doesn't cause problems of any kind.  Not for me and not for everyone else.  This is a drama-free dorm room and it's a very beautiful thing!

16. Metro Transit.  I have taken advantage of you so many times in the past few months alone.  You're just so handy!

17. Eric Whittacre.  You make wonderful music.

18. A relatively quiet dorm floor.  Sure, there's the occasional giggly girl and herd of ladies running up and down the hall, but compared to what I've heard about some of the other floors in this building, we lead pretty drama-free lives.

19. Sparknotes.  I'm only half ashamed to admit this.  Thank you for being there to support my behavior when I just don't want to read the book/haven't read the latest chapter but still want to appear knowledgeable in class.

20. The Study Abroad office.  Thank you for being there so that I can start to prepare for my departure in two years.  It helps to at least get thinking about my extremely pre-meditated adventures.

21. My boyfriend.  Four years and still going strong!  I love you :)

22. Discussions.  You're good for clarifying and tossing out ideas.  You've been ubiquitous in my life lately, but I can't help but love you so.  You make me think.

23. The three hour gap between my first and second classes this first semester.  I get so much work done.  Not even joking.  Well, maybe a little :)

24. Guitar music.  I miss my own... listening to someone else play as opposed to me just messing around and sounding like crap is the next most fun thing.

25. Excitement.  You're such a wonderful motivator!

26. Opportunities.  I may not take advantage of all of them, but I'm happy that you at least have a presence in my life.

27. Peaceful places.  'Nough said.

28. Good books to read.  You know, the ones I want to read.  Not necessarily the ones I'm "supposed" to be reading.  It's my form of escapism.

29. Pleasant people.  The people I know are also pleasant, but in this case, I'm talking about the people I don't know personally.  It's really easy to treat someone you don't know like crap because statistically, you'll never see them again.  So thank you for choosing to be a decent human being.

30. Imagination.  Without this, I'm not sure where I would be right now.  I kind of rely on imagination a lot.

I'm sure this is going to be a very common thing across the blogosphere, but what is something that you're thankful for?  Tell me in the comment section below or leave a link to your own list!

Thanks for Reading!

--Jude

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Review of 'Open Adoption, Open Heart: An Adoptive Father's Inspiring Journey' by Russell Elkins (Blog Tour)


I am participating in the Open Adoption, Open Heart Blog Tour today!  This tour is hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and it is going on through 20 December.  You can CLICK HERE to go to the main Blog Tour page and get links to the websites of everyone participating!

Any way, here's my review and I hope you enjoy!


"The world of adoption has changed dramatically over the past twenty years.  No longer do biological parents have to say goodbye to their child forever.  they now have more options when deciding the type of adoption to pursue, such as open adoption.  Open adoption creates the opportunity for a special relationship between biological parents, the adoptive parents, and the child.

'Open Adoption, Open Heart' is an inspiring and true story, which takes the reader deeper into the feelings and emotions experienced by adoptive parents.  As you read this incredible story, you will experience the joys, difficulties, and amazing victories facing adoptive couples.  Russell and his wife, Jammie, invite you to share in their inspiring and heartwarming journey."



Purchase




I was excited when I was asked to read this!  This is the first time I've been asked to read a book before it was released (is this considered an ARC even if I read it in eBook format?).

'Open Adoption, Open Heart' is a great read if you or someone you know is considering adoption.  I think most readers will be familiar with a closed adoption, but there are a number of misconceptions about Open Adoption.  This is a topic I had very little knowledge about, so reading this was a learning experience.  Open Adoption is such a unique experience.  It was really cool to read about how open this particular couple was with the birth mother of their child.  I kind of expected it to be really awkward between this couple and this fifteen-year-old girl, but that didn't seem to be the case at all.  Open adoption is all about communication and I found that to be such a cool relationship to have.

I am very interested in knowing more about Brianna, the birth mother.  What was going through her head?  What was her process?  We know what she ended up doing, but what made her make those decisions?  One thing that I've found that makes a good companion to this book is the author and his wife's YOUTUBE CHANNEL because you get that extra perspective.  I don't think either of the birth moms have made an appearance on this channel, but you can at least hear Jammie's point of view.  The family also has a BLOG that includes many of these videos and some extras.

There was one 'plot-line' that just wasn't tied up for me by the end of the book.  What happened to the first birth mom?  I mean, the first birth mom that approached them before Brianna?  I read that Russel and Jammie were planning to adopt both children, but did that actually happen?  I see two adopted babies (they say they are both adopted) in their videos, but I don't know if the youngest is the other baby mentioned in the book or if she came a bit later.  I'm left wondering what happened.

Overall, this was a very informative and amazing story, but it was lacking in a few key areas.

I give 'Open Adoption, Open Heart':
Thanks for Reading and enjoy the rest of the tour!

--Jude


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Monday, November 19, 2012

A Review of 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' by Stephen Chbosky

 "The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a story about what it's like to travel that strange course through the uncharted territory of high school.  The world of first dates, family dramas, and new friends.  Of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  Of those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up."

I swear, the description doesn't do this book any justice.  It sounds just like any other YA novel, and to a certain degree, it is, but it's been a while since I've read a story so relate-able as Charlie's story.  A story that is told so eloquently.

Charlie begins to write letters to an unknown recipient starting from the time a few weeks before the first day of his freshman year of high school and ending when his senior friends graduate and move away from home.  I don't know who the recipient is and I'm not sure if it's important if we know in the first place.  I've been wracking my brains since I finished the book, and I can't think of who it might be.  I don't think it would be Bill, because Charlie talks to Bill anyway.  For a while, I thought it might be Bill's girlfriend whom Charlie was writing to, but since she lives with Bill, she might hear about what Bill and Charlie talk about, so I kind of dis-included her in my list of options.  Any way, I don't think that it's that important who Charlie is writing to, it's just important that he is writing to someone.  Even if that someone doesn't really know who he is.

The characters in this story were so great.  They felt human to me, even in a surreal way at times.  When Sam climbs into the back of the truck and stands up in the tunnel.  When Charlie is watching Sam play Magenta in The Rocky Horror Picture Show each month.  I think that's just the way Charlie writes.  His style is kind of dreamy in that the things he says don't always seem real and when they are undoubtedly real (you know, for fiction), the style is wispy and at times a bit off-handed.  It's a little hard to describe.  If you've read this book, perhaps you know what I'm talking about and can help me be a little more articulate about it.

When Charlie talks about Sam, time seems to slow down and I think that's why his writing style is so dreamy at times and like a typical teenager other times.  It just further shows how much he loves her.  And he doesn't even have to say it out loud for us to know.  That's my second and final attempt at being articulate about this.

I thought it was really cool that Charlie had such a cool English teacher who would challenge him by giving him piles of other books and having him write papers on them.  What I find to be even more cool is that fact that his teacher, whom he is told to call 'Bill,' was only planning to be a teacher for a year or two before embarking on the difficult path to becoming a recognized writer or moving onto another profession.  But after the year with Charlie as his student, he decided to remain.  This is slightly aggravating and mostly awe-inspiring.  It is aggravating because why would you become a teacher if you only mean for it to be a short-term plan?  I mean, what's the point?  I feel like it would be harder to enjoy your time because you'd have a sort of count down in your head when things are going wrong.  Likewise, you'd be counting down when things are going well and then you'd be sad that your time is so limited.  Teaching is such a wonderful (and challenging) profession and to know that mere students (kind of the lifeblood of the profession... just kind of) can change the mind of someone who would initially rather do something else.  That's probably not what I was "supposed" to get out of this book, but that's one of the things I've taken with me.

I equally liked and hated some of the underlying issues in this book.  When I say 'liked,' I don't mean enjoyed.  I mean that I'm glad that they're in the book because it sheds light on such serious subjects like rape, depression, supreme grief, etc.  Chbosky doesn't down-play the things that are happening, but he doesn't turn the book into a public service announcement and have the book center around those things, which would be very easy to do.

Overall, I really, really liked this book.  This is something that is going to be on my shelf for a long, long time. It is not trivial and it takes life with all of its imperfections and highs and embraces each and every aspect of it.

I can't wait to see the movie now.  I've heard that Chbosky also wrote the screenplay.

I give 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower':
Thanks for Reading!

--Jude

P.S. I have several reviews brewing at the moment.  I haven't really had a lot of time to sit down and write these, so I'm glad I at least have this one to give you today.  Hopefully I'll get a lot of reading done over Thanksgiving Break!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

College Adventures: Stuck

I'm in college, but a number of my friends are still in my general vicinity.  One night I was talking to my boyfriend, Jack, and I told him that The Avengers was playing on the big screen on campus and that he was totally welcome to come.  My friend Avery was already coming over to see the movie as well.  She came over right after her school ended, I fed her, we got to hang out for a while, and then we went to pick up Jack at the front gate (it's a little intimidating be the "only" dude on an all-girls campus) so that we could go to the movie.

So we went to the movie and had the loveliest of times-- The Avengers was really good and even funny at times!  Sadly, Avery had to go home, so we all went down to the bus stop and waited with her until her bus came so that she wouldn't be kidnapped by creepers (not that that's too big of a problem in my area, but still, safety first!).  We got her on the bus with no problems and she let me know when she was back home.

But Jack was still there.  I told him that he was welcome to stay longer if he'd like.  And he did!  So I brought him back to my dorm and we watched cartoons and talked.  Finally, it was around 11 or midnight, so Jack decided that it would probably be best to start heading back to his own campus.  So I walked down to the bus stop again and we waited.

And waited.

And, you know, did a little more waiting.

We waited at the bus stop for ten minutes before we decided that maybe it would be a good idea to check the schedule.  Okay, it said 11:30, so no problem.  There was still a little bit of time.

11:30 rolls by and the bus is still not here.  That's okay, the buses tend to run a few minutes late.

We wait until 11:45.  Okay, something is wrong...

We check the schedule again and we realize the error of our ways: it said 11:30 AM.  Not PM.  The bus Jack was waiting for had stopped running around 6:30PM, which was when Jack arrived on my campus in the first place.  It wouldn't start running again until 5AM.  So, what were we going to do?

On any other campus this wouldn't be a problem.  Jack would have stayed in my dorm for the night, gotten up at 5AM or later in order to catch the bus (except that wasn't possible either-- the bus in question doesn't run on weekends... but I didn't know that at the time) and get back to campus, and everything would have been dandy.  But the rules on my campus are slightly different just because it's an all-girls school.  We have male visiting hours.  They last from 9AM to 2AM, after that, if you're caught with a boy in your room (not that our rooms are searched like in prison), you both get in trouble.  So Jack needed to get back, but we were running out of ideas.  He didn't know anyone on campus that had a car that could come pick him up, we didn't know of any other buses he could take (we know what they are now), and his family wasn't picking up (because they're normal human beings who are asleep at midnight).  We got the number for a taxi as a last resort, but Jack decided to call his family one more time.  And he finally got hold of his dad.  His dad came and picked him up from my campus and brought him back to his own campus-- it turned into a bit of a laughing matter and it wasn't really a big deal.

Fast forward to the very next week.  We decide that it's my turn to come and visit Jack at his campus.  I take the bus that drops me off right in front of Jack's dorm and everything is dandy.  We go across the river and explore that area, having dinner, and then coming back to Jack's dorm to watch some My Little Pony.  It starts to get late.  I look up buses that I can take and I find a route, so around 10PM, we're down at the bus stop waiting.  I get on the bus knowing that I'm looking for Snelling Avenue.  It's supposed to take maybe two minutes to get there on the bus.  But ten minutes pass and I haven't seen Snelling nor have I heard the bus driver call it out.  I decide to ask him.  Apparently Snelling passed a long time ago.  I must be tired, I didn't even hear it!  It turns out I was headed to Downtown Minneapolis in a bus filled with ready-to-party college students.  I was headed in the wrong direction.  So the very helpful bus driver tells me how to get myself turned around, letting me off in a very brightly lit area with a lot of police roaming around.  Nothing had happened, it's just that a lot of college students go out drinking on the weekends.  It's the thing to do, I guess.

So I get on the bus with the same number, but heading in the right direction this time.  I reach Snelling, I get off, and I head to the first bus shelter that I see.  There's no schedule for the next bus that I need.  I figure that I must be in the wrong place again.  By now, I'm fighting back tears because I'm scared and tired... so I call Jack and ask him if I could possibly come back to his dorm to figure things out.  Of course that's okay, so I head back and we go to the lounge where he and another friend are playing Magic: The Gathering.  It's a confusing game and I'm still panicking about what I'm supposed to do, so I hardly pay attention.

You're probably thinking, Jude, just spend the night and figure things out in the morning.  Yeah, ordinarily, I probably would have done that, but for the first month of school, I had class on Saturdays.  Bad luck.  So I needed to be back.  I decided to call my family and see if anyone was awake.  By sheer luck, my mom was up and just heading to bed.  She didn't sound very happy with me on the phone when I called telling her that I was stuck and that I needed help getting back to campus.

"Didn't you just go through this last week?" she asked.

"Yeah..."  Super embarrassing, even if I wasn't the one who was stuck on a foreign campus.

My wonderful mother pulled on a jacket, got in the car, and drove all the way to Jack's campus to pick me up and bring me back to my own campus.  She told me that she was having trouble getting mad at me, especially when I told her what had happened.  She was glad that I felt comfortable enough calling home and asking for help.

So, moral of the story, be really nice to your parents because they're awesome at fixing problems and being solutions.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

College Adventures: Going to a Play!

Last week, a new friend of mine and I decided to go and see the play that Miss Ezra Zee was performing in!  It was Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespeare.  Very good, from what I saw (I'll get to that part) and I'll definitely have to read it and then see the whole thing.

So my friend, whose name is Marlee, happened to have her mother's car for the weekend, which worked out nicely.  We were both very excited for the play!  It was on a Thursday, so I had only one class in the morning and she had work in the afternoon, but this still happened to work.  I thought that I told her that the play started at 7pm, but I guess that she heard me say 7:30pm, so we set off at about quarter to seven.  I didn't think anything of it, I just thought that our destination was closer to us than I initially thought.  Marlee had looked up directions on Google Maps, so I took the position of navigator on our excursion.  

Everything was fine until we needed to navigate highways.  Ordinarily, this would have been no problem with Marlee driving and me reading the directions, but the root of our highway problems was the sun.  Stupid sun... it was in the process of going down, so even the visors couldn't hide it.  We were driving straight towards the sun with nothing to keep the light at bay, so we were driving half-blind.  We knew which highway we were looking for, but spotting it was a different thing altogether.  We were looking for Highway 5 I believe.  Our conversation sounded a little bit like this:

M: We're looking for 5, right?

J: Yeah, that's right.  

M: That's it right there!

J: No, no, that's definitely 55.

M: Wait, are you absolutely sure?

J: Positive!

M: We're looking for a 5...

Yeah, turns out that that particular highway in question was the one we were supposed to take.  My bad... so we were going in the wrong direction, but we didn't figure that out for a few more minutes.  We were forced to take an exit because of a crazy driver, but that crazy driver must have been the hands of Fate, because we were back in familiar territory again.  We were heading in the direction of my permanent address and Marlee's as well.  So we were back on track.

After our driving adventures, we finally made it to the play!  We parked the car and walked up to the building so that we could go in-- we were only about thirty minutes late, which in the scheme of things wasn't so bad considering our many gaffs.  Here was our next problem: The door was locked.  We had both been to plays before, and usually the doors are kept unlocked so that people who were coming could slip in to the back.  Even in an intimate setting.  They would just stand up until intermission and then go find an available seat.  But the entire school was locked in this case.  There was a cleaning lady by the door, so Marlee and I waved our hands wildly trying to get her attention.  When we finally did get her attention, she told us that it was against the rules for her to let us in.  Luckily, she was super nice and went to find someone who could.

Some people who were in the play, but not at the present moment, came to the door and said that they still couldn't let us in.  They explained that the play was already a quarter of the way through and there really wasn't much of a point in staying.  Plus, they didn't have the lock box to give us tickets.  I told them that I didn't care if I had missed a quarter of the play already and that we were still willing to pay to get in because I had promised Ezra that I'd come.  I might have tried to come the next night to see the whole thing, but the night in question was the last night Much Ado was being performed.  They told us that we could still come and see the show, but we'd have to get in after intermission.  Which meant we couldn't come in the building.  They didn't want us wandering around...

So we were stuck outside of the school for the next hour.

The part of town we were in seemed like such a secluded area.  There was one straight of road, so we walked up and down the street looking for something to do.  The coffee shops were closed, so that option was out.  We found a baby store and an antique shop.  The antique shop, Marlee and I decided that we needed to come back to some other time (it was also closed).  The baby store had an interesting window with giraffes and this display included a peculiar map.  Almost all of the countries in the world were off in one way or another.  the most striking part of the map for me were the countries France and Europe.  You read that right.  Europe was a country all on its own and France took up the normal space of France all the way down to Italy and over to the Atlantic coast.  That was rather disappointing... I feel sorry for the child of the family who buys that otherwise beautiful painting.

Around 8:30, we headed back to the school, but the doors were still locked.  Determined to get into the play, we waited.  Another lady joined us who had also come late.  Marlee and I discussed the Mayan calendar and superheroes-- this is how friendships are made, seriously-- up until the point where a friend of the other lady waiting with us came out and opened the door for us.  I think the other lady was more bitter about not getting into the play right away than we were.  I mean, we were disappointed that we couldn't just sneak in, make a fool of ourselves a little bit, and enjoy at least three quarters of the show, but at least we could make the most of our situation.

The lady sitting close to us contacted her friend inside, so when intermission came along, the doors were opened and we were able to slip inside, get our tickets, and... well, awkwardly wait for a spot until we figured out that some people who were present during the first half just left.  I was sad that I had missed sixteen of Ezra's nineteen lines, but I was happy that I could at least see the second half.

It was a very off-the-wall performance, complete with squeaky cupcakes and trench coats, but the play itself was quite comical and made for a lovely evening.

Now I just have to go and read the play myself so I know what I missed!

Stay tuned for more college adventures.

Thanks for Reading!

--Jude

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Review of 'Dubliners' by James Joyce

"Perhaps the greatest short story collection in the English language, James Joyce's 'Dubliners' is both a vivid and unflinching portrait of 'dear, dirty Dublin' at the turn of the twentieth century and a moral history of a nation and a people whose 'golden age' has passed.  His richly drawn characters-- at once intensely Irish and utterly universal-- may forever haunt the reader.  In mesmerizing writing that evokes rich imagery, Joyce delves into the heart of the city of his birth, capturing the cadences of Dubliners' speech in remarkably realistic portrayals of their inner lives.  This magnificent collection of fifteen stories reveals Joyce at his most accessible and perhaps his most profound."

This book has led to many an interesting discussion in my Irish and Scottish Literature class.  I really don't care for the short story format, but after reading through Dubliners (and especially after discussing it), I think I can say I'm a James Joyce fan.

This is going to be a mildly difficult review because I can't really touch on any of the characters... we'll see how well I can do!

First of all, Joyce's writing style is very interesting.  He switches between points of view effortlessly through most of the stories, shedding light on different aspects of the various stories and making the reader question what they just read (as in, think critically about his writing, not stop and wonder what the heck this guy is talking about).

Something that is really very interesting is how Joyce focuses on those people who are generally ignored.  A young boy who looks up to a dead priest; a woman who falls in love, but not really; three sisters who will never marry... the downtrodden, the underdogs are what make up these stories.  My theory is that by not having very popular characters like Katniss Everdeen or Harry Potter, we will feel empathy for these characters on a different level.  The characters are a focal point in each story, but they are closer to the average reader's level as far as social status, if not lower down.  You want these characters to succeed, but someone, nothing seems to work out for any of them.

This book is a celebration of Irish culture.  For me, it's very interesting because I haven't been exposed to the Irish culture even in a minor way... except maybe St. Patrick's day, but I'm not sure if that is an event that really counts... but any way, it's nice to get a feel of what Irish culture is like.  I had no idea how important the Catholic faith was for a lot of Ireland.  I didn't realize that (at least in the early nineteen-hundreds) poverty was a huge problem.  Maybe I figured that before, but this book brings this to light and makes it click.

What was really frustrating about each of the stories were the endings.  The stories go along quite nicely: it's set up (usually because the story starts somewhere in the middle; like a dream), the characters are introduced to us, bad things continue to happen, those bad things get worse (usually), but then the story ends.  Often we're left hanging on a bad or disappointing note.  There's very little resolution to any of the stories.  But since it bothers me so much that the stories are unresolved, it must be a good sign that the stories are pretty good.

Overall, 'Dubliners' is a good read if you are looking to enjoy a collection of short stories or are looking to indulge in Irish culture.  I look forward to reading more James Joyce in the future.

I give 'Dubliners':
Thanks for Reading!

--Jude

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Review of 'Frankenstein' by Mary Shelley

"Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only eighteen.  At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein.  Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but: upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature's hideousness.  Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.

Frankenstein, an instant bestseller and an important ancestor of both the horror and science fiction genres, not only tells a terrifying story, but also raises profound, disturbing questions about the very nature of life and the place of humankind within the cosmos: What does it mean to be human?  What responsibilities do we have to each other?  How far can we go in tampering with Nature?  In our age, filled with news of organ donation, genetic engineering, and bio-terrorism, these questions are more relevant than ever."

I had the honor of reading and discussing this over the internet with Ezra!  I'm glad that I did too, because I would have been hopelessly confused for much of the book.  It helps to read this a few times to completely understand and gain meaning.

Dr. Frankenstein is really annoying.  He puts together a body made of human parts, reanimates it, and then runs away from his Creation because he thinks that he (the creation) is absolutely ugly and not worthy of being alive.  What's really disturbing is how long and how far he is willing to run from his problems, refusing to handle them.  The number of lives this "problem" costs is staggering-- far too many.  And those characters who died were relatively good ones too... Justine, Elizabeth, Frankenstein's brother, Henry... it's so sad.  And even after the many deaths of people he loves, Frankenstein refuses to stop running and avoiding the issue at hand.  Grr...

I loved how Frankenstein's creation developed as a character.  He was by far the most impressive, and not just because he is essentially the focal point of the story.  No.  Mary Shelley takes the time to explain (however indirectly) how this creation came to be, from living an aloof lifestyle in the shed of a rather unfortunate family.  There, he learns language and works up the confidence to assert what he wants.  In this respect, the story is very relate-able.  Who hasn't experienced that crippling moment where you know you want something but you don't feel that you're good enough to accomplish it?  He's looking for acceptance.  Who hasn't wanted or gone out searching for that?

Overall, this book is infuriating and devastating at the same time.  If you like science fiction, horror, and classics, this is a book that is definitely worth trying.

I give 'Frankenstein':
Thanks for Reading!

--Jude

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Review of 'A Drowned Maiden's Hair' by Laura Amy Schlitz

"On the morning of the best day of her life, Maud Flynn was locked in the outhouse, singing, 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic.'

That is the day that Maud-- 'plain, clever, and bad' girl of the Barbary Asylum for Female Orphans-- is adopted into a real family, surprising even Maud herself.  The elderly Hawthorne sisters, led by the charismatic Hyacinth, think that Maud Flynn is absolutely perfect, and Maud follows them eagerly into a brand-new life, expecting to be pampered and cherished beyond her wildest dreams.

Once she settles in with Hyacinth, Judith, and Victoria to live out an orphan's fantasy, however, Maud learns that 'perfection' has more to do with the secret role she can play in the high-stakes and eerie 'family business' than with her potential as a beloved family member.  Not one to give up easily, Maud persists in playing her role in the hopes of someday being rewarded with genuine affection.  But the burden of keeping secrets and perpetuating lies grows heavy even for Maud, and she must ultimately decide just how much she is willing to endure for the sake of being loved."

I haven't read middle grade books in such a long time, but it's time to switch gears for a little bit.  I first read this years ago, but I remembered liking it, so I decided to read it again-- this time, for review purposes!

In general, the story is pretty intriguing.  I love the fact that seances are included in this story.  I've never attended one, so it's interesting to toy with the thought of what one would be like.  The stakes are set even higher because of Maud's role in this story.  She manipulates the spiritual and assists the Hawthorne sisters in the deception of their customers.

There's a moral dilemma that I keep thinking about because of this book.  Is it better for someone to have closure or to receive the truth?  The answer is probably the very reason why people go to see psychics or have seances.  I would love to know your thoughts.

Maud was a great character.  The connections she made with other people, even someone who was harder to communicate with like Muffet (Anna).  I thought it was really awesome how maternal Muffet was for Maud, especially since the Hawthorne sisters weren't as interested in being Guardians as they were in paying off their various debts and being spiritualists.  That was very sad to know that they adopted for selfish reasons.  Just as a child should never be born into this world with a task (for example, curing unhappiness in depressed mothers), an adopted child should never have to be brought into a family that expect so much from her and are willing to give very little in return.

What I really like about this book is that even though the situation is a bit foreign to the modern reader, it is still very much read-able.  The story takes place in the Victorian era (I'm pretty sure), but Maud is such a good narrator, that everything seems so strange, yet so familiar.  When the Hawthorne's and Maud are in Cape Calypso, Maud goes to the boardwalk at night where there is a small amusement park.  Her descriptions appeal to all of the senses making you feel like you're actually there.

One thing that I really didn't like was Hyacinth.  She was for sure a two-faced character, there's no denying that, but the thing that bothers me (aside from her infuriating responses and utterly selfish character) is that there really didn't seem to be a transition between sweet old woman and psycho-spiritualist-lady.  Even reading this a second time, I was left rather confused when she suddenly turns on Maud, essentially for being affectionate.  I guess I would prefer more of an obvious transition.

Another thing that I didn't like was how uninvolved Judith and Victoria were despite knowing perfectly well what they were doing with the seances and how prepared they were to take care of Maud.  Why didn't they do anything?  They were horrible advocates for Maud.  Even if they believed that they couldn't take care of Maud, they should have rallied for better care or they should have at least stood up for Maud more often.

One last thing that I didn't care for was the ending.  Judith and Victoria did pretty much the only decent thing for Maud and return her to the orphanage, admitting that they failed her and not the other way around.  I appreciate this kind of dip in the plot.  Everything is supposed to be getting better at this point, but it doesn't until the very end.  When Mrs. Lambert turns up saying that she wants to adopt Maud, everything begins to feel very forced.  Ultimately, there is closure to Maud's story, but it just seems like a very anti-climactic ending.  It just seems so logical and yet outlandish.  Logical in the sense that Mrs. Lambert has been following Maud around Cape Calypso and she's really the only remaining character we've been introduced to.  It's outlandish in the sense that Maud has hurt Mrs. Lambert very deeply.  Why on earth would Mrs. Lambert ever feel like adopting Maud was the solution?  There was closure to the ending, but it really feels like the book should have ended in a better way.  It was just a little bit too cheesy for me.

Overall, 'A Drowned Maiden's Hair' is a fairly well-written book for younger readers, but there are a handful of drawbacks when reading this book.

I give 'A Drowned Maiden's Hair':
Thanks for Reading!

--Jude

P.S. I'm working on writing more reviews, even if they're for movies, and I'm also working on writing up my college adventures, so at least you'll see some kind of content from me each week.  Have a lovely first week of October!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Movie Time! 'Snow White and the Huntsman'

"In a twist to the fairy tale, the Huntsman ordered to take Snow White into the woods to be killed winds up becoming her protector and mentor in a quest to vanquish the Evil Queen."

I saw this movie last night on campus, so I thought that I'd share my thoughts with you!  You know, since I've been rather absent lately.

The entire film was exquisite in its cinematography.  Every image captured on screen was crisp and wonderful, just as any fairy tale captured on screen ought to be.  But once you get past that and look at the actual story, that's where it seems to be lacking.

The story focuses on the relationship between Snow White and the Huntsman (ergo, the title), but I didn't feel that there was much of a connection there.  He was sent on a task to retrieve Snow White, who had just escaped from the dark Queen Ravenna.  The Huntsman had a task and even though he changed and never brought Snow White back to the castle, there still wasn't anything to remark on as far as a relationship.

Kristen Stewart (Snow White) was awfully similar to Bella Swan in Twilight, what with her nervous blinking and heavy breathing all of the time.  Not to mention that both characters took a really long time to die... however, I feel that she's improved a bit as an actress since Twilight, so that's always a good thing.

William should never have been part of the story.  He was in Snow White's childhood and he came back towards the end of the movie to help her get to Hammond's castle, but really, he had such a small function in the movie.  I found it a little funny that he assumed he and Snow White would fall madly in love purely because they had history together.  When he kissed Snow White after biting the apple, it was really strange because they hadn't seen each other in like, ten years or something.  It just struck me as incredibly weird and the director/writer should have figured out a way to edit him out.

The Queen and her brother... ew.  The brother was so disgusting that chills were running up and down my spine.  He was just... gross.  From his haircut-gone-awry to his incredibly confusing relationship with the queen, it raised more than a few questions.

Questions were raised throughout the movie.  There were key things that I felt should have been known about each of the characters, but instead were not.  Why did Queen Ravenna want Snow White's father's kingdom (I believe his name was Magnus)?  What happened to the Huntman's first wife?  That was never really clarified, even though I know they addressed this at some point.  As a result, I really didn't care about any of the characters.  When and if they died or were severely injured, it didn't matter to me.

The ending.  Oh my god.  That was the most infuriating part!  There's no closure!  Snow White is crowned Queen, but we still don't know what happens with her and the Huntsman, the man who is supposedly her true love, given that he was the one to awaken her from the dead.  The movie ends with her coronation and the Huntsman is lurking in the background.

What the crap?!  I feel like there isn't a lot left for a sequel (if the writers and director think so, I'd be very interested in knowing their thoughts), so I'm left to assume that I'll never know exactly how this movie ends.  There is no closure and for me, that's very unsettling.  I'm left to assume that Snow White will fix the kingdom (because of some fickle power that movie-goers can't really see but is implied all the time) and the Huntsman will go back to doing what he's always done, despite being Snow White's true love (and really, who didn't see that one coming?).

Overall, I was disappointed by a lot of things in this movie, but the cinematography and the handful of great actors and characters really saved what could have been an absolute train wreck.  Instead, it was just a small train wreck.

Thanks for Reading!

--Jude

Sunday, September 16, 2012

College Adventures: Oh, College!

I have had my first full week of class this past week!  Orientation has come and gone-- it was quite helpful.  Now I know about the different resources available to me and just about all of my questions have been answered regarding how and where I could possibly get involved in something besides academics.  There is an activities fair on the twentieth, so I'm for sure going to go to that so that I can join French Club, maybe Social Dance, and who knows what else is out there on campus!

The first few days of college were difficult as I adjusted and tried to make friends.  No matter what happened, my dorm and everything around me just wasn't home.  But after that initial first couple of days, I grew accustomed to the fact that this new dorm was going to be my home for the next year and this campus for the next next four.  I accepted it and was ready to accept the next challenges that come after homesickness.  My orientation group happened to be made up of the people in one of my classes, so that was very helpful.  I've grown to know a good handful of people in that class and while I haven't hung out with all of them, I have hung out with a couple of them and they are delightful people!  So I had a few friends outside of my roommate.  I don't need a giant group to follow me around, just a few people that I can really get to know.

I became pretty self-sufficient, even in just two short weeks.  I know that I need to get certain things done each week (laundry, cleaning the fish aquarium, washing dishes, studying/homework, etc.) and I've been able to motivate myself to take a break every once in a while during studying or between classes and just get a couple of these things done.

This weekend, I came home for a day (my dad's birthday party) and my mom noticed how efficient I've become and how I've changed in other ways.  When I initially got here early Saturday afternoon, she left sheets and a pillow case on my bed so that I'd have a place to stay so that I could make my bed.  She also knew that I needed to do laundry (I brought my big orange laundry bag home... I was honked at while walking the four to six blocks from the bus stop... why was this attractive to those men in the car?).  I was outside talking to the adults most of the night, but every once in a while, I'd slip inside, start a load of laundry, switch from the washer to the dryer, and then made my bed so that when my blanket was done being washed, I could go right to bed.  She was about to head to bed and she said, "Before you shower, maybe you should get your laundry started," to which I responded that I was already completely done.  She came into my room while I was folding my laundry and offered to help me make my bed, but it was already done.

I felt like I kind of put her out a little bit by already having things done when she offered to help, but at the same time, I find it interesting that in such a short space of time, I have already acquired this mindset that my parents aren't there to remind me when to do things, so I have to make sure they get done myself.  My roommate will not say, "Jude, do your homework,"  "Did you study for your psychology exam?  I'd really get on that now... it's next Thursday," "Jude, did you do your laundry?" "Did you brush your teeth and make your bed?" "You're wearing that thing again?" "Did you wash your dishes?"  You know, be a mom. I don't want and don't expect my roommate to be my mom in this dorm situation.  Nor will I be hers, because we're adults now.

My mom was also a little impressed that I'm already thinking about J-Term and what I could possibly do for that month.  I think that I'm going to take philosophy at one of my school's brother schools.  It's considered a general at my school, so that would be one less thing for me to do during the rest of my time here.

My parents have made sure to ask if I can think of anything that I need that I can get while I'm here.  I have a short list now, but the list that I have of things to bring from my room is longer, but luckily, I lot of things on that list are flat or don't take up a lot of space.

The transition was harder than I thought it would be, but not altogether impossible to get through.  I'm doing very well in college.  I have become efficient and even assertive.  I'm having less of a problem talking on the phone with people when I need help (though I still hate talking on the phone... for me, it's very awkward because I can never anticipate when someone is about to talk because I can't see their mouths open in preparation.  I always end up talking over them accidentally and then I feel bad).

I have applied for five or six jobs, so this week, I get the joy of contacting them all and following up (with the exception of one who said that they'd call me sometime this week because she's finally done interviewing!).  Hurray phones...

Perhaps between book reviews (I'm afraid they're going to be a little far and few between) I think I'll post college adventures, since I've had a few and many of them will be ones I'll tell my kids when they head off to college.  They are tales of fear and stupidity, aggravation, and hilarity.

I'll see you next time and thanks for reading!

--Jude

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

An Explanation

Hello Everyone,

So about three days ago, I moved into college and I've since then begun my classwork and have begun to realize my course-load.  Because of this (and I kind of said this as an after-thought the last time I completed the Friday memes) I cannot promise you consistent book reviews.  I am taking an English class this semester though, so there will be a few coming your way, I promise.

If you find yourself missing me, don't worry, I'll be posting things here every once in a while, whether that's a review or just a post to get my thoughts out there.

Well, I've got to make a video and then hit the books while my laundry is going!

Thanks for Reading!

--Jude

Friday, August 31, 2012

Happy Friday!

Welcome to Friday!  I hope you had a lovely first week back to school/continuation of your summer vacation/not too stressful week at work!  This week, I will only be answering the questions posed by Ginger @ Greads (TGIF) and Melissa @ i swim for oceans (Let's Talk).  Alas, this will be the last TGIF for a while.  I will certainly miss it, but I completely understand Ginger's reasons for discontinuing it for the time being.  Any way, let's get into it!

Choose Your Next Read: How do you go about choosing what you read next?  Do you have a schedule you follow or do you read whatever makes you happy at the moment?

After I'm done reading a book, then I choose (almost immediately) what I'm going to read next.  Even if I already have three or four other books going at the same time.  I try to do it this way because I'm never sure what a book is going to do to me by the time I turn to that last page.  I could be emotionally drained and I'll need to read something that is more uplifting in order to bounce back.  I might not be affected at all and in that case, it's a mystery even to me what I will read next.  For example, one of the books I'm currently reading  is 'Silence of the Lambs' by Thomas Harris.  It's for sure a horror novel, but I haven't yet reached a frightening part, though certain things have already reached a level of creepy for me... I'm probably going to have to read something lighter like, 'My Name is Memory' by Ann Brashares.

Do you like issue books?  Why or why not.

I think I prefer issue books.  Well, the ones that are well-written, any way.  I tend to gravitate towards these types of books whenever possible because they aren't pristine.  They're about broken people as opposed to the books where the description in the inside flap says, "So-and-so was the ideal/perfect/perfectly ordinary ."  I just think that issue books have so many options as to where they can go because they typically deal with broken and often desperate characters.  In books with perfect characters, there are really only one direction they can go: down. It's the only option for them if the story is to remain somewhat interesting.

Thank you for stopping by my blog today!  I hope you all enjoy your weekends!  I know I'm definitely going to enjoy mine.  Tomorrow, I pack up the rest of my things and then Sunday, I'm moving into my dorm for the year!  I'm very excited to begin my first year of college!  That being said, though I don't have much of a schedule for posting reviews here, I will be even more unpredictable in the coming months because I will need to get in the swing of balancing my time like a normal person.  I will not make any promises to you until I can be sure that I can keep them. Just know that I'll still be around and I'll pop up every once in a while.

Thanks for Reading!

--Jude

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Review of 'The Patron Saint of Butterflies' by Cecilia Galante

"Agnes and Honey have always been different, but the older they get, the more they are growing apart.  Born into Mount Blessing, a religious commune with stringent rules and guarded secrets, the girls are complete opposites of each other.  While Agnes has made it her life's purpose to become a saint, Honey wants to her as far away from the commune as possible.  When Agnes's grandmother Nana Pete unexpectedly visits, she discovers one of the commune's most sinister secrets.  Fearing for their safety, Nana Pete takes the girls and flees Mount Blessing.

During their journey from the commune toward what Honey hopes will be a normal life, the girls test the bonds of their lifelong friendship, and Agnes struggles to hang on to the life she had.  Only when the biggest-- and most dangerous-- lie is finally unearthed does Agnes realize she must find the courage to make her own future.

This stunning debut novel, inspired by the author's own experiences, is a powerful tale of faith, friendship, and the true meaning of love."

After finishing this book, I am a little bit speechless.  It's been a while since I read a book that I can relate to so well and yet still get so angry at.  It was really difficult to make a choice regarding which "side" I was on: Honey's or Agnes's.  I hated how far-gone Agnes was, delving into the extremes of Christianity.  Whenever someone tried to talk a little sense (and by that, I do not mean convert) into her, she shut her ears and refused to listen, following the antics of a seven-year-old.  I have no problem reading books about religion, but this was one book that got my heart racing, I was so scared.  The word that comes to mind when I think of Mount Blessing is, "cult."  One person was telling everyone at the commune how to think. It was absolutely frightening for me to read about this and the author did such a great job of going into detail and not holding anything back.

I didn't completely agree with Honey either, though I could relate more to her than I could to Agnes.  For a while, it was really hard to tell whether or not she actually believed in God, the way she was talking to Agnes.  I've come to the conclusion that she is just a less extreme Christian.  She was enjoying herself immensely when they went to a Baptist service.  I appreciated her attempts to reverse Agnes's brainwashing (though, maybe instead of "brainwashing," we could say "upbringing").

I will also say that I loved that this Young Adult book did not contain a love triangle.  Finally!  It's absolutely possible!  This made this book quite refreshing, even if it is about four years old.

Nana Pete was such a powerful character.  I admire her to the ends of the earth for bringing her grandchildren out of the situation they were in.  It was very gutsy to take her grandchildren away from their parents without their permission (even then permission of one of her grandchildren) and just leave.

The most powerful thing in this book, in my opinion, is that you do not have to lead a perfect life in order to follow God or whomever you believe in.  You don't have to be as extreme as Agnes was.  You can still live a free life.  I think you could even go so far as to say you need only be a decent human being.  You do not have to do this in the name of a higher power, but if that helps you, that's fine.  You do not need to prove your goodness.  If you are good, you are good.  Any higher power will be able to see this.

Overall, this book was very eye-opening and it was nice to get two perspectives.  I think just about everything about this book worked for this story.  It's a beautiful debut novel by Cecilia Galante.

I give 'The Patron Saint of Butterflies':
Thanks for Reading!

--Jude

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Memes!

Hello Everyone!  Welcome to Friday on the Blogosphere where many choose to answer the questions posed by Parajunkee, Melissa @ i swim for oceans, Jennifer @ Crazy-for-Books, and Ginger @ GReads.  Feel free to click the links below and join in on the fun for yourself!

Worst cover?  What is the worst cover of a book that you've read and loved?

This one is really difficult to answer because part of how I choose the books I read is the cover.  But there is one particular book that I didn't exactly choose to read of my own accord where I thought that the cover was atrocious:
I mean, come on.  The 'A' in 'The Scarlet Letter' is very important, but that's not all that there is to this book.  There are about a million covers for 'The Scarlet Letter' and this is among the worst.  It's just so boring...

What are your top three favorite series of all time and why?

1. The Harry Potter Series-- I grew up with Harry Potter and yet, they've proven to be timeless.  The books are filled with characters that people want to strive to live as.  I don't mean walking around like a witch or a wizard necessarily, but just the way they are as a person.  

2. A Series of Unfortunate Events-- Even though they are, at times, frustrating because of the way the adults act, the writing is just so clever and the stories are complete with a mystery that keeps you wondering until the very end.

3. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants-- I think this one is the most relate-able of the series.  The things these girls go through are (mostly) true to life which allows you to really care for the characters.  It's beautiful!

What is your favorite thing about blogging?

I like having an outlet to tell people what I think.  I'm not exactly the most eloquent speaker on the face of the earth.  When someone asks me in person what they should read next, I can shoot titles at them rapid fire, but when it comes to telling that person what they're actually about and what I thought was awesome, it feels like I need to tell them everything and at the same time that I can't.  Essentially, it all comes out in a garbled mess.  So writing down my thoughts about books makes me appear more well-spoken than I am in real life.  That's one of my most favorite things about blogging, among a bazillion other things.

Back To School Reading: Which books would you like to see in today's high school literature classrooms?


I'm happy to say that I will eventually have some kind of control over what will be read in today's high school literature classrooms, if all goes well.  :)

Thank you very much for taking the time to stop by my blog today!  If you'd like, feel free to leave your own web address below and I'll try my best to come by for a visit this weekend!

Thanks for Reading!

--Jude

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Review of 'Crossed' by Ally Condie

"Rules are different outside the Society.

Chasing down an uncertain future, Cassia makes her way to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky-- taken by the Society to his sure death-- only to find that he has escaped into the majestic, but treacherous, canyons.  On this wild frontier are glimmers of a different life and the enthralling promise of rebellion.  But even as Cassia sacrifices everything to reunite with Ky, ingenious surprises from Xander may change the game once again.

Narrated from both Cassia's and Ky's points of view, this hotly anticipated sequel to Matched will take them both to the edge of Society, where nothing is as expected and crosses and double crosses make their paths more twisted than ever."

It took a little longer for me to get into 'Crossed' than it did for me to get into 'Matched.'  The beginning was interesting because first of all, we are reunited with Cassia and Ky.  That's really nice because they were great characters in 'Matched.'  Now they're in a completely different setting.  They're in a completely different place than the Society.

There was a lot of running and walking around in this book.  This is what bothered me the most about this book.  Ky and Cassia (along with Eli, Indie, and a couple other characters) were walking around in search of each other and then the Rising.  I didn't feel like a lot of character development happened in this part and that would have been a perfect time for this to happen.  It's true, these characters have a number of choices that they need to make, but for me, it still feels like the characters are going about making these decisions in a way that they would have had they been forced to make them in the beginning of the book.  Cassia was still clinging to Ky and wanting nothing more than to touch him.  This is definitely part of being love, but in this case, it just felt clingy... and given the situation where they could be killed or discovered at any moment, it just didn't feel right.

I was also disappointed at the lack of The Rising.  There was a lot of talking about it, but it didn't really make an appearance until the last quarter or third of the book.  On one hand, I really wish that they had talked about it more, but on the other, I'm really excited to read about The Rising in action in the last installment of this trilogy.

I liked that we are able to learn a little more about Ky's history.  He's such a closed book that even the smallest glimpses were interesting to read about.  I look forward to piecing it all together in the next book.

Some of the individual characters were pretty interesting to read about.  I'm very interested in hearing more about Indie, the girl who was kicked out of the Society for attempting to escape to the ocean.  Eli, because he's so young, I still don't really know why he was exiled from the Society.  I know that whatever happened, it was by his own hand that he was reclassified.  I think Eli is the character that interests me the most.  I really do hope we hear more about him in the next book.

Overall, I wasn't as impressed with 'Crossed' as I was with 'Matched,' but there are several things in this book that are essential to know for the next book that it is a necessary read for this trilogy.

I give 'Crossed':
Thanks for reading!

--Jude

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Review of 'Running with Scissors' by Augusten Burroughs

"Running with Scissors is the true story of a boy whose mother (a poet with delusions of Anne sexton) gave him away to be raised by her unorthodox psychiatrist who bore a striking resemblance to Santa Claus.  So at the age of twelve, Burroughs found himself amidst Victorian squalor living with the doctor's bizarre family, and befriending a pedophile who resided in the backyard shed.  The story of an outlaw childhood where rules were unheard of, and the Christmas tree stayed up all year-round, where Valium was consumed like candy, and if things got dull, an electroshock-therapy machine could provide entertainment.  The funny, harrowing, and bestselling account of an ordinary boy's survival under the most extraordinary circumstances."

'Running with Scissors' is one of those books that has always hovered in the foreground of my life, but I had never thought to pick it up and read it until now.

It's certainly a strange book and not meant for younger readers-- there is a ton of swearing and sex scenes.  If these things don't particularly bother you in a book, then it could very well be worth a shot.

The amount of disorder in this book was staggering.  I'm not referring to Augusten Burroughs' writing style, but just the life he led in his earlier years.  It would definitely take a strong person to deal with the environment Augusten was put in.  I don't believe that I could ever handle that life the way he did.  Everything was dirty all the time and there were essentially no rules.  The people living in Dr. Finch's house were not expected to go to school, they could live with whomever they pleased, take new parents, sleep with drastically older lovers... there was no structure.  With this fact alone, everyone who sits down with this is in for a very interesting read.

It was extremely helpful that Burroughs kept everything in a roughly linear order.  It was very easy to tell what part of his story was "the present time" and when he was going off on a tangent in order to make something clearer for the reader.

It was nice to be able to see how Burroughs' younger self developed as years passed.  Through him, we could see the people around him develop.  I never expected Natalie to do as well in life as she did.  She was definitely a strong personality, but I could never truly tell how serious she was about the things that I consider worthwhile (such as education).

I would have loved to have learned more about Augusten's mother.  For me, she was one of the more intriguing people because of the poised way in which she carried herself.  She was a classy lady that sometimes lapsed into psychotic episodes.  The scariest part was when her episodes reared their ugly head more violently and more often.

Even more interesting than Augusten's mother was the family dynamic between the Finch's.  Agnes and Dr. Finch were the center of the family, but it seemed to be the kids who were essentially in control.  It was a very different experience in reading, that's for certain.

I liked Burroughs' writing style.  It strikes a balance between judgmental and subjective-- he offers up his opinion on the situations he's in and the ones he's not and speaks honestly and bluntly.  It's very nice to read this kind of style, but also very startling at times.

Overall, 'Running With Scissors' is a memoir that has and will continue to intrigue readers everywhere.  It's a very striking and honest memoir.  It should not be read by those who are bothered by sex or swearing.  Because there are quite a few parts like this.

I give 'Running With Scissors':
Thanks for Reading!

--Jude

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Happy Friday (On Saturday)!

Welcome to Friday Memes on Saturday!  TGIF, The Blog Hop, Let's Talk, and Follow Friday are brought to you by Ginger @ GReads, Jennifer @ Crazy for Books, Melissa @ i swim for oceans, and Parajunkee respectfully.  Feel free to follow the links I provide you so that you may link up with all sorts of fine people!  Let's get started.



Unexpected Books: Which books did you have reservations about reading, but ended up loving once you did?



I tend to have reservations when it comes to new books that people are just raving about in the social circles outside the internet and on the blogosphere.  Maybe I'm just waiting for a second opinion or I don't particularly like being apart of a gushing crowd before I've read the book.  Wither by Lauren DeStefano was one of those books for me.  I found it at Half-Price Books months after it came out and the hype for it had dropped significantlyand I decided, "Why not?"  So that's when I picked it up and found that I was absolutely enthralled by this story.  This is the most recent title that comes to mind.


Who is your go-to author when you're in a reading rut?

I think it's between J.K. Rowling, Gabrielle Zevin, Markus Zusak, and John Green.  It all depends on what kind of mood I'm in at the time.

Who are your top literary crushes and why?


Hermione Granger: She is such a strong character-- a role model to women everywhere and of all ages.  She knocks down walls that were created for seemingly no reason at all.  She is loyal, very clever, and she has a certain tenacity that I just love.



Augustus Waters: He's so young (well, maybe not quite that young), but already he has this great insight on life because of what he's had to face with his sickness.  He decided that his disease would not stop him from living and being a great human being.  He was a beautiful boyfriend to Hazel.  He tried so hard to be strong for her and her failing lungs and it was very difficult to see him be brought to his knees when his disease returned stronger than ever.  There will never be another character like Augustus Waters.


What would you do if you were to start your blog again from scratch?

There isn't a lot that I would want to do from the beginning.  I'd like to have had a better idea of what I wanted to do on this blog from the beginning, but I don't even think I'd want to do that because it took some time to decide that yes, I really wanted this blog to be a book blog.  I needed that time to play around with my options and then make the jump and transition this blog from there.  So really, I wouldn't change a thing.

Thank you very much for stopping by!  If you'd like for me to visit your blog, leave your web address below and I'll try my best to make my way over to you this weekend!

Thanks for Reading!

--Jude