31 October 2014

28 October 2014

Top 10 Halloweeny Books or Movies

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. To learn more about Top Ten Tuesday or see the list of future topics click here.

Top Ten Books/Movies to Read or Watch to Get in the Halloween Spirit

Five Movies
Links to IMdB

The Nightmare Before Christmas : Tim Burton's film (directed by Henry Selick) is a wonderful way to get in the Halloween spirit - despite the fact the film is about Jack Skellington's discovery of the strange Christmas Town.

The Amityville Horror : I am most definitely talking about the 1979 version, not the 2005 remake. In this fun and frolicking tale, some newlyweds buy a haunted house and are treated to terror.

Poltergeist : Young blond chick staring at a fuzzy television screen. You've seen this and even just that image freaked you out.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre : 1974, not 2003 version. Grave-robbing cannibals take out some kids with a chainsaw.

Hocus Pocus : This is clearly the number 1 Halloween movie of all time, and you should run out and buy a copy right now if you don't already have one.

Five Books
Links to my reviews

In A Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu : A collection of five stories, 3 focused on "spectral illusions" and 2 on "monsters", this is a perfectly creepy read where you aren't sure if the supernatural elements are real or the result of guilty/overactive psyches.

Dracula by Bram Stoker (especially the annotated edition) : The story of Dracula itself is entertaining, thought-provoking, beautifully Victorian, and compelling; but to read the story with a scholar's notes at your side - a scholar who chooses to believe it is a true story - is absolutely fantastic....and creepy.

The Sandman Series (graphic novels) by Neil Gaiman : Many times when I read something I deem creepy, it's in a sporadic, silly, or disgusting way, but not this novel. Gaiman sets a creepy tone and maintains it throughout the entire story. The pictures accompanying the text - this is afterall a graphic novel - do nothing the diminish this tone. I never found myself smiling at a ridiculous image.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness : Truly unique, the tale features three stories from the monster which reveal important truths but not ones typical for a fairy tale. I was so impressed with these stories: the way they worked together to complement the main narrative and the way they revealed humanity and not a pat moral. A Monster Calls also uses numerous illustrations throughout and they are done in a wonderfully creepy, gray scale style.

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury : This is my number 1 Halloween book. Cooger & Dark's is more than just a dingy, dirty, dark carnival; it is alive, it breathes, it feeds. It is temptation, and that is why Bradbury's carnival creation is so much more sinister than other literary carnivals and freakshows I have read about. What a beautifully mysterious tale of good and evil.

22 October 2014

Update. With Pictures!!!

Things have been strange for me lately as I cope with vacationing babysitters. First, my mother - who quite often watches The Baby Formally Known as Nutter Now Known Primarily as Goose - went on vacation for a little over a week. She is Goose's primary caregiver for two days a week, so that had to be covered. Then THE EXACT SAME DAY my mother came home, my grandmother left for her 5 week trip (that's right people, 5 weeks). She watches Goose the other three work days per week. My mother can't cover that because she has a full time job (she just gets her two days off during the week). Luckily I live in the middle of a whole bunch of family, so my mother-in-law and my aunt have taken over grandma's days.

You should see my calendar. I have to check it every morning to make sure I know where I'm dropping M off. And M is being quite the trooper as she is shuffled from one place to the next, one person to the next. Honestly, I think she likes it. Being with my mother-in-law means she gets to spend the day at the farm which is, of course, super exciting. And being with her aunt means she gets to trash the house, eat whatever she wants, play with make up, playdoh, markers, and a drum set (possibly simultaneously). So, yeah, I think she's in seventh heaven. I, however, am going a wee bit bonkers with the all-over-the-place schedule and limited work time.

But look at that beautiful face. I can't complain much. The weather here has been spontaneously rainy, but when the clouds clear up, I am very much enjoying the cool weather. And Goose doesn't care if it's -4 or 90, she just loves being outside. Last Sunday, we have a fun day of bike riding and raking, and she was absolutely thrilled. Note to Self: A two-year-old trying to brush leaves off a driveway is going to leave the driveway in a bigger mess than when she found it.

I am, once again, a college student as I signed up for a Graduate Studies in Literary Theory course. To be honest, I don't truly know what the hell I am thinking. Here I am raising a two-year-old, working a full-time job, growing a baby, but hey, why not take a graduate level course in literature for shits 'n' giggles.

Then again, I am super excited. It has been 10 years (exactly 10 years as of December) since I have been a student, and I can't wait for the semester to start. Now, if I fail horribly due to a serious lack of time, I may not be so excited, but I'm hopeful that I will not only manage, but thrive. And if this experiment works out, I may actually go for a second Masters degree.

While waiting to start reading my textbooks, I've picked up a book inspired by the prompts for Nonfiction November. I decided to become an expert in Freak Shows. Yep, that's the topic I chose. Freak Shows.

The book is called Freak Show: Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement and Profit by Robert Bogden, and it is fascinating. Focused on Freak Shows as an institutionalized culture rather than a collection of individuals, the book really elaborates on the social construction of the "freak" and how that role changed considerably during its 100 year run (1840-1940). I am about 3/4 of the way through, and the book has been seriously enjoyable.

I actually have one more book on freak shows waiting in the wings, and I hope to at least get it started before I make my Nonfiction November post.

So how are you guys doing?

18 October 2014

Classics Club Check In

I haven't been very active on the Classics Club lately. Then again, I haven't been active at all, so that's understandable. I have, however, been reading a Classic or two since I joined up in March.

My list of Classics is - rather disgustingly - long, and only gets longer, so "progress" is relative. I have a list of 156 books, some of which have subsections listing the short stories, novellas, and even full length books within the larger compilation.

I've been slowly going through Kate Chopin's The Awakening and Other Stories. Slowly, in part due to my enjoyment but not love of Chopin combined with my exact same feelings regarding short stories. I've read The AwakeningDesiree's Baby, A Respectable Woman, and The Godmother and while I haven't been smacked across the face with awesome, I do like the stories and plan on finishing the collection.....at some point.

I started reading Fardorougha the Miser by William Carlton for a Classics Spin, but I tragically failed at finishing it. It's still lounging on the coffee table next to the couch, but it's a wee bit buried by about six other books at this time.

Right now, I'm in 3 of 5 stories in to In a Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu which I have already read (but never reviewed) and am reading again as I chose it for my Introduction to Literature course this semester. If you haven't already read this, I highly recommend it. There's monkeys and hallucinogenic tea, footsteps with no feet, a big ole heaping of getting what you deserve, vapid rich boys, and lesbian vampires.

I am - obviously - not as involved as I would like to be, but still I'm doing what I can and I hope (fingers crossed) to have more time to dedicate to blogging in general...or rather less time overall, but I'm working on limiting some other activities in my life that take away from blogging.

Just yesterday I started looking at what I was going to read next. I'm thinking of reading a Dostoevsky. I have Notes from the Underground, The Grand Inquisitor, Poor Folk, and Crime and Punishment on the shelves. Any recommendations?

15 October 2014

Stitches by David Small

I read this too fast. Emotionally smacking me in the face on page 12, Stitches hooked me in and I devoured this intense graphic novel in about 20 minutes. I clearly did not do this book justice, and I will have to read it again more closely sometime.

While - I am positive - all people react strongly to any mistreatment of children, I also believe that parents are more affected, more horrified, and more likely to have bad dreams. In Stitches, the main character, David, lives a nightmarish life in the midst of a neglectful and abusive family. Then at 14, he enters the hospital for a minor surgery and leaves missing his thyroid and his vocal cords. And, of course, he returns to a home life of neglect and abuse until finally escaping and finding his new voice in art.

Bad enough. Then I realize it is a graphic memoir aka totally not fiction - yeah, sometimes it takes me awhile - and my heart practically stops. I have a very strong desire to beat the living crap out of the adults in David's life. Clearly these adults are suffering from their own issues - secrecy, shame, isolation, and some actual crazy - but yeah, I want them punished.

Okay, enough rant, back to the book. In a lovely choice, Small mirrors form and content, using minimal words to relate a story about loss of voice (both literal and figurative). The images really shine here, telling as much of the story, if not more, than the actual text. The use of black and white, sketch-type images fits perfectly, highlighting the bleakness of the story and mirroring the stark portrayal of a complex life.

My only issue was a slight lack of clarity from time to time with the images. I wasn't sure exactly what was happening every now and again, sometimes due to the blending of David's reality and David's imagination and sometimes because the simplicity of the images didn't differentiate people enough for me. Then again, I really think the problem here is that I plowed through this in 20 minutes.

Random thought: I love the rabbit therapist.

I know I'm totally late to the "Stitches is Awesome" party, like 4 or 5 years behind the game I guess, but hey, better late than never, right?

13 October 2014

The Collector by Nora Roberts

Nora Roberts and I used to have quite the love affair. I was so obsessed with her books that I printed out her catalog, in chronological and series order, and pretty much used it like a check list. Made it through too. I have read every Roberts book published up to about 6 years ago. I'm only missing a handful of her 150+ collection.

The romance novels of Nora Roberts were my rebellion against the seriousness and difficulty of my undergrad and grad school reading, so I spent about 5 years reading everything I could get my hands on. Then my foray into blogging slowed down the romance novel reading as it introduced me to the new guilty pleasure of young adult paranormal romance. But at the suggestion of my grandmother, I picked up The Collector, a new one from Roberts.

Lila Emerson has an awesome job. She house-sits for vacationing rich people all over the world. How cool is that? She also has an unusual habit. Channeling James Stewart's character from Hitchcock's Rear Window, Lila spends a good chunk of time observing the neighbors....like with binoculars and everything. During one of her voyeuristic sessions, she witnesses a murder. A second body is found in the apartment, and the victim's brother enlists Lila's help to discover whodunit.

As a mystery, the story isn't bad. As a romance novel, the story isn't bad. The problem for me lies in the fact that it's a bit blah for both. I would have rather had a stronger romance or a stronger mystery. More sex or more suspense. A lot happens and a lot of people show up, but there is minimal depth. Definitely not one of my favorite Roberts' stories.

12 October 2014

Currently | 12 October

Time and Place // 9:48pm, on the couch

Eating and Drinking // Pretzels and cheese dip. Yummy yummy.

Reading // In a Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu - which is, as always, rocking my world. I believe this is the third time I've read the book. I'm also trying to finish up Of Monsters and Madness, but I'm pretty bored with it, so it's languishing on the back burner these days.

Blogging // This past week I've reviewed Melissa Marr's Carnival of Souls and the Veronica Mars franchise (meh and WOOHOO respectively). I also posted my thoughts on the Top Ten about Character-Driven novels, of which Game of Thrones tops the list.

Contemplating // I submitted my application fee, transcripts, and resume for admission into a graduate school. I'm thinking of getting a second Masters; although for now, I just want to take a class or two to see how I feel about the time commitment. Time is so scarce - but man I miss school.

Teaching // Grading. I hate grading. The husband has suggested I stop assigning homework. :) In other teaching news, I'm currently enrolled in a MOOC called Five Habits of Highly Creative Teachers. So far, it's interesting if a bit too reflective rather than active. Have any of you ever taken a MOOC?

Loving // My new stainless steel refrigerator. So much beautiful space.

Hating // My new stainless steel refrigerator. Did you know magnets don't freaking stick to stainless steel? What will I do without my magnets?

Avoiding // I think I should just permanently attach the phrase "grading papers" to this category. I'm surprised by what I will do to avoid grading papers these days. I may have actually found a way to make it more interesting:

I may have to give this a try...

So how are you guys doing today?

11 October 2014

Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr

Melissa Marr's Carnival of Souls - don't you love that title? - begins with a rather fascinating premise. For her safety, the daughter of a daimon king is spirited away to live in the human world under the protection of a witch. The truth hidden from her, she grows up ignorant of who she really is and the danger of her future. Back in the daimon world, called The City, Kaleb and Aya fight for power, he to escape the horror of his low social caste and her to escape the expectations of her gender.

The City is a fascinating place. The characters are relatively intriguing; although the wow factor has more to do with who they are than what they do. Outside of Kaleb and Zevi, I cared very little for the characters in this story. Nothing much happens here, and the action that does take place is either repetitive, only superficially related, or summarized as a past event. The story reads like a profile of characters and place, a brainstorm that could form the basis of an amazing story if some action were added in.

I had a few problems outside the lack of action as well. MINOR PLOT SPOILER Earlier I mentioned that Aya is fighting for power denied her because of her gender; however, further reading proves this only half-true. While Aya does seem to desire power enough to help make The City a better place, her real reason for gaining power is so she doesn't have to "breed" (I hate that word but it's what's used in the book and very appropriate here). As a female daimon, she has no real power; she will be sold off married to a male who will own her body and soul, and she will be expected to (forced to) bear children. Aya doesn't seem to mind this so much except that having a child will expose her secret - that she is a half-witch. If she wasn't a half-witch, it seems she wold just go right along with these horrifying gender roles. Not so awesome. END SPOILER

I would like to reiterate though, that despite my serious problems with this book, the world Marr has created here is pretty intriguing. I just wish more happened in that world. It is possible that Marr is using this book as a mere jumping off point for the rest of the series, but making the first book so slowly paced is a real risk. I am not sure if I will bother picking up the next in the series.

If any of you have read further installments, is it worth it?