Saturday, October 27, 2012

I Dig Reading Challenge Update. So. Long. Overdue.

Usually I let the I Dig Reading Challenge simmer on the back burner over the summer. This summer was no different, but I am shocked to see it's almost the end of October and I still haven't caught up with the challenge!

For shame!

First, I must confess that the donation I intended to make for my May challenge didn't make it to the funding group. When I went to make a donation, the group had already shut down their funding (it was a short-term summer project on a kickstarter-like website called Razoo). 

So, I have some make-up challenge money. 

What have I read since my last update?

In June I read... 

Unwind by Neal Shusterman. Loved it. Kind of blew my mind in many ways. Couldn't stop describing it to horrified friends.

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. I have liked her other books more. Nothing's wrong with this one by ANY means, but it just wasn't my personal favorite. Edward Tulane and Desperaux were such fantastic family read-alouds that anyone would have trouble living up to them. 

The Clockwork Three by Matthew Kirby. A funky American middle grade steampunk with lots of mystery. The metal creation (I can't give too much away) was stupendous. Just loved him/it. 

Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers. A well-written and harsh look at mean girls and former mean girls. It wasn't an enjoyable book to me in the sense that it's a painful, visceral read... but it's a powerful book, no doubt. 

We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny HanWhew. I wasn't sure how she was going to pull this trilogy off in a way that sorted out the love triangle in a way that seemed honest to the characters but also satisfying, but SHE DID IT! And those brothers. Sheesh. Way too handsome. 

Bill of Rites for the American Man by K. Cooper Ray. A dear friend of whom I am so fond, K. Cooper Ray uses this slim volume to give etiquette insight to the millennial generation. I am a huge believer in manners with meaning. Cooper modernizes and explains many of the most important manners. It's a great guide that I think is badly needed by some young folks. 

Does this make me sound old? Too bad. It's true! Put down the phones, people. Make eye contact. Learn how to hold a conversation and handle your liquor.

It's the perfect stocking stuffer for the young adult in your life (meaning college and 20s-30s, not in the YA lit sense) . Cooper also designs incredible clothes and had his NYC Fashion Week debut this year. Check out his website here, and Handle Your Liquor. 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. This was a family read-aloud and it was simply fantastic. We all loved it. 

In July I read...
Before I Go To Sleep, by SJ Watson. A woman with no memory after she sleeps each night. Trying to discover who she really is. Every day. INCREDIBLE. This book had me skeeved out for many, many days. A truly modern and chilling suspense. 

Several Agatha Christie novellas and short stories (The Million Dollar Bond Robbery, The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb, The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan, The Kidnapped Prime Minister, The Disappearance of Mister Davenheim, The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman, The Case of the Missing Will, The Veiled Lady, The Lost Mine, The Chocolate Box, The Affair at the Victory Ball, The Adventure of the Clapham Cook,  The Cornish Mystery, The Adventure of Johnny Waverly, The Double Clue, The King of Clubs, and The Plymouth Express). 

I love Agatha, but I really prefer her novels. There's so much more time to develop the storyline. 

Crunch by Leslie Connor. A family of kids home alone when the oil crisis hits. A lovely story that somehow managed to be about a very topical issue without addressing it in a preachy, annoying way. Yes, it was about an American town without oil-- but it was really about kids coping with some of the problems that all kids cope with. Beautifully written, the sibling bonds were honest and true, and I enjoyed it thoroughly!

The Ghost of Blackwood Hall by Carolyn Keene. An old-school Nancy Drew book, which I read while visiting my parents' house for a week this summer. Wow. Those books don't age well. I still love Nancy and her endless 'sleuthing', painful as this was to read. I can't recommend it, though. Bummer, because I truly adored ND as a kid. 

In August I read...
Tate's Hell by Holly Dodson, a beta read by a lovely writer friend who continues to rock out amazing books. I can't wait to see her name in print!

Burnt Amber by Carolyn Abiad another beta read by a talented writer friend. This one had me longing to visit Turkey and to eat some mediterranean food (while hopefully escaping the bad guys and djinn). 

In September I read...
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. WOW is the word. Beautifully written, this felt very much like a modern Catcher in the Rye to me. Sad but uplifting all at once. I loved Charlie and learned a lot from him. 
I also loved the mystery of the format-- who are the letters to? Why (besides what Charlie gives away)? What did the receiver think of the letters? I love when an author doesn't connect every single dot for you in a way that's logical but also works with the theme. 

In October I read...
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. This look at medicine, honor, love,  and life woven through several generations of interconnected families in Ethiopia and America was a gorgeous read. Verghese manages to make liver surgery (and many other surgeries) simple fascinating. I loved reading in the notes that John Irving is his mentor, and I think they are similar in the way they combine political issues on a grand scale with the smallest and largest of family tragedies. Verghese masterfully used the idea of "cutting" as a metaphor for dozens of things throughout the text in a way that worked really well. 

My book club had our monthly meeting at an Ethiopian restaurant in New Haven to celebrate this book and it was a spectacular way to smell, taste, and feel the setting.  

Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice. I'd never read this before, and only vaguely remembered the movie. It was an interesting read--  her descriptions are evocative. Unfortunately for me, I remembered enough of the movie that none of the big reveals were very revelatory. I was also skeeved out by the way the vampire Louis talked about the vampire-girl Claudia. I get that she's supposed to be a 70-year old in a child's body... but it was still really uncomfortable for me. Not to be a downer, but there it is. 

I will combine my donations for all of these books into a cause close to my heart: Mailing items and goods to some of the lovely people I met in Kenya. You can see my post about this endeavor at The Kindness Project Blog. This will allow me to send five care packages to Kenya between now and the end of 2012. 

What have you been reading? Have you read any of these fantastic books? 

What's THE most important manner in your opinion?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

THIRST: Episodes 22-25

Learn more about Project Dystopia Reboot here

Find the Playmobilization Tumblr of the whole story here

Monday, October 22, 2012

My debut post at The Kindness Project: Kenya update

I am thrilled to be a part of the awesomeness that is The Kindness Project.

Tomorrow, October 22nd you'll find my first post on their blog.

This group blog has the goal of spreading kindness not simply as a random act but with intention.

You can find the blog here, the facebook here, and you should definitely join us on twitter.

I have no doubt it will be a great source of inspiration, and I know it's where I'll head whenever I need a good injection of kindness. Wait-- injection of kindness doesn't have the most appealing ring to it. I'll work on that.

Today I am FINALLY following up with information on some of the next steps I'm taking to help out the lovely people I met in Kenya. I'll walk you through the challenges I've run across in my desire to send a little kindness their way.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

THIRST: Episodes 17-21

 Episode 17

Episode 18

Episode 19

Episode 20

Episode 21

And, if you must know, it felt incredibly creepy making these playmobile figures kiss. 
Learn more about Project Dystopia Reboot here

Find the Playmobilization Tumblr of the whole story here

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Intense debate is not letting me debate!

For those who posted at the end of the last post-- thank you for your comments!
I've been very sad to find that Intense Debate won't let me reply or leave my own comments.

I'm not sure what the deal is, but I tried it many different ways and it was not showing me any love.
So, forgive my post-- it's really just a response to those last few comments.

So, here we go!

Nina- I'm glad you liked the post! I so agree. Despite what I may wish ;0) I don't necessarily think the Dutch system would work here (all those European countries are redefining for themselves right now what their social welfare systems can handle. And as I understand it, all will have to undergo some changes). But I guess I wish we were asking the questions. Thanks so much for your comment!

Carolyn-- I hear you. Some of our Dutch friends have asked so many times why we haven't been back to visit. I hope they don't take it personally! The truth is we haven't been on vacation as a family. Ever. We thought we might be able to afford driving to NC this summer, but we couldn't. And working hours-- that's a whole other can of worms. I think we take a lot of pride in showing how LONG we work, but I'm not sure we're actually more productive. So, can we buy cheap Levi's and then sell them somewhere? Pack a suitcase full and earn our money back?
I'd totally give it a whirl.

Carrie- I agree! I heard from a friend recently about planning a wedding based on how many vacation days they had left in the year. That just seems sad to me. I am lucky in that as a teacher I have some flexibility. I don't have summers "off" but I can be really flexible at some times of the year. My hubs works by the hour, so he can take off whenever, with the understanding that he won't get paid if he's not working. In practice, that means he doesn't take a lot of time off. But, he is flexible, too. And healthcare. It is so prohibitively expensive. I think it is unsustainable at these costs.

Yay Mare-- glad you liked the post! No kidding about education! Another unsustainable sector in terms of cost. I really worry for some of my students, who may be burdened by debt for the rest of their lives. It seems wrong. And in terms of a society-- not a wise choice. Not a good way to guarantee that we are supporting and producing the best engineers and lawyers and doctors and what have you.

Thanks for the comments ladies-- and sorry that intense debate has made this so awkward!!