Why I Can’t Get Anything Done

I am interrupting a frantic reading marathon to stop in and blog about the culprit.  It’s the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer (individual books are Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn).  And don’t worry, you won’t read any spoilers here.

You’ve probably heard of the series (it’s being called "the next Harry Potter", with which I disagree–I’ll get to that in a minute), and it seems that everyone is reading them.   They’re about–and let’s just get this out of the way–vampires

I know.  I was skeptical too.  I do not like scary books or movies, and I was hesitant to give these a try. To my surprise, the whole thing works.  They’re nice vampires.  Sort of.  In a yes-we’re-blood-suckers-but-we’d-prefer-to-be-productive-members-of-society kind of way. 

They’re young adult fiction, though they’ve found a widespread audience among adults (especially, I’m guessing, adults of the female persuasion).  Though they are chock-full of teenage angst, the incredibly romantic love story at the plot’s center appeals to a wide variety of ages.  I thought a book with this much hype was worth checking out, just to see what all the fuss is over.  (That is my Serious Academic Reason.  Also?  I am a sucker for a love story that has teenage girls all over the world swooning.)

Here’s my take (and keep in mind, I’m still only in the middle of the second book.  If you Twilight veterans see that I’m way off base, don’t laugh at me.)

The story is engrossing and compelling.  I read the first book in only a couple of days; partly because I was so interested, and partly because it is a very fast read.  It isn’t bad writing, though it isn’t especially excellent writing, either.  It’s a little like reading a screenplay–almost entirely dialogue, little poetic language, and the whole thing just flies by. This is why I can’t say that they rise to the level of a Harry Potter series, which had the riveting plot and superb writing.

But the plot is undeniably page-turning and imaginative.  And it is really, really romantic, full to the brim of that most intense and powerful emotion:  first love.  The kind of love that makes you all tingly and breathless.  (Which is not, by the way, the same thing as seasoned love, which is breathless and tingly AND gets up with the baby at 3 am and remembers to take out the trash on Thursdays, but that is a different post altogether.)

In fact, as I kept getting caught up in the first volume, I knew the whole thing vaguely reminded me of something, though it took me until the end to put my finger on it:  goofy, clumsy, capable, delightful heroine falls in love with a brooding, complicated, good, unattainable hero. 

Aha!  It’s Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy!  Pride and Prejudice!  Except, you know, with really sharp teeth.  I guess you could say it’s a romantic narrative with a impressive track record of resonating with readers.  (Although, Mr. Darcy?  He totally takes out the trash on Thursdays.  I’m sure of it.)

The movie version comes out in November, and I want to finish the series before then.  That shouldn’t be hard, at the rate I’ve been eating these up (an unfortunate choice of words for vampire novels, perhaps).  What do you think?  Have you read them?  Like them?

Wild About Harry

Harrypotter I have been on a Harry Potter reading marathon since early summer.  After I read the third book, years ago, I decided I would wait to read the rest until the whole series was out, and I could read them straight through. 

So back in June I re-read book three, and then I began reading the new stuff.

And you know, if you are a Harry Potter junkie like I am, that the thrilling stories and lovable characters will get so much into your head that you start identifying with them just a leetle too much, sometimes.  I have dreamed about them two of the last three nights.

This was evidenced to me the other night, when I collapsed on the couch after a long day, and I realized that the remote control was across the room.  And I AM NOT KIDDING EVEN ONE BIT when I tell you that my initial thought was to shout, "Accio remote!"

I should probably get out a little more. 

Last night I finally finished the last book in the series, a feat I accomplished with the help of a great deal of caffeine and a very large box of Kleenex.

If you have never read the series, please do not read any further.  I’m serious.  Big time spoilers ahead, because I HAVE TO DISCUSS THIS. 

*scrolling down now*

*still scrolling*

Seriously, you’ve been warned.

*humming and tapping my foot*

Nice weather we’re having, isn’t it?

*still scrolling*

Last warning.

You still here?  Okay.  Let’s talk.

I know I’m arriving a little late at this party.  Much of the Potter-loving world has already hashed and re-hashed this book.  But you know what?  I HAVE to talk about this book, because OH MY WORD.  That last one absolutely wore me out. 

Just as Rowling promised, all the ends were tied up so neatly (in my opinion), and all the major questions were answered.  There were still a few things I wondered about, though (and this will be totally stream-of-consciousness, because my mind and heart are still racing).

Even though we caught another glimpse of Petunia Dursley in the Pensieve, I couldn’t help but find myself wanting to know how and where the Dursleys wound up.  All along, I suspected the series would end with Petunia somehow re-entering the magic world and giving her life for Harry.  I guess something in me needs the bad guys to become good guys.  I wonder what happened to Dudley?

I’m totally not bragging here (actually, yes I am), but I saw the Snape thing coming.  At the start of this last book, I even went on record with Hubs (who read it before me), saying, "I KNOW Snape is still a good guy."  That was very satisfying, and when we learned that Harry’s middle son had the middle name of Severus…well, a big sob got caught in my throat.

Speaking of sobs, the scene where Harry finally got to talk to his parents in the woods, just before he thought he was dying…was that the most heart-wrenching thing you’ve ever read?  I positively howled, and books almost never make me cry. 

And, I think I may have missed this–who ended up raising Teddy Lupin?  Was it Bill and Fleur? 

And then–oh, then–there was The Kiss.  When Hermione planted that big one on Ron I nearly came right out of my skin.  And I also nearly woke up Hubs and planted a big one on him in celebration, but since it was 1 am, I restrained myself.

Do you think there’s any chance for another series?  Maybe Harry as an adult?  Or little Albus and his friends?  I know, probably not.  A girl can hope.

I know I’m leaving out a dozen observations that were coursing through my brain last night.  I was so eager to find out what happened that I probably read it too fast.  I’m actually thinking about re-reading more slowly, so I can pick up on everything I missed last time.

Go ahead–fire away in the comments section and share your favorite and best thoughts about that wonderful world of Harry.  I don’t know when I’ve been so sad to see a book–and series–end.

How Cute Are These?

I was flipping through Good Housekeeping this week, and I saw that they highlighted this little series of books by Dover Publications.  These classic books are all paperback, they all have these chic vintage covers, and (be still my heart!) they’re all only $3 each.  I want them all!

Dpageofinnocence_2

Dpbeowulf_2

Dpemma

Dpmysteriousstranger_2

MUST. STOP. WITH. THE. PICTURES.  But don’t you just love Elizabeth Barrett Browning?

Dpebb

Dphardysselectedpoems

Love this next one–Tennyson is my favorite poet.  I wanted to name one of our sons Tennyson, until Hubs pointed out he’d be called "Tennis" for short:

Dptennyson

Really.  This is the last one.

Dpgungadin

If You Only Buy One Book This Year, Make It This One

Honestly, I’ve never found a children’s Bible-story book that I really loved.  The stories all seemed a little dry, and they’re typically presented in a preschool-ish way that doesn’t interest older kids.  Spiritual applications are often watered down, if they’re present at all. 

Bible So, with a hefty dose of skepticism, I followed my friend Megan‘s recommendation recently, and I ordered my kids the Jesus Storybook Bible.

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I’m pretty frugal, and it’s rare that I will tell you something is a must-have.  You also know that I generally don’t do book reviews.  But this time I’m making an exception, because this book is a must-have.  I’ve never seen a children’s Bible story book like it.  I’ve never seen any children’s book like it.  Case in point, there’s this from the opening paragraph:

God wrote, "I love you" — he wrote it in the sky, and on the earth, and under the sea.  He wrote his message everywhere!  Because God created everything in his world to reflect him like a mirror — to show us what he is like, to help us know him, to make our hearts sing.

— p. 12 

The Bible stories are presented with one goal in mind, and it’s explained in the book’s subheader:  Every Story Whispers His Name.  Beautifully and seamlessly, the story of Jesus is woven through every Old Testament story, explaining why we needed a Savior in the first place.  The stories are the same ones parents have been reading their children for ages, but there is some hefty theology mixed in–seriously, there is some meaty stuff there.  And while that might make it sound difficult for a child to follow, I can assure you that the opposite is true.  These stories challenge the kids, but the gorgeous, lyrical language pull the kids right along.  Here’s an example from the story of Noah, in which the meaning of the rainbow (compared earlier to a warrior’s "war bow") is explained:

God’s strong anger against hate and sadness and eath would come down once more — but not on his people, or his world.  No, God’s war bow was not pointing down at his people.

It was pointing up, into the heart of Heaven.

p. 47

We’ve been reading two or three stories a week, and my three boys are absolutely riveted.  They don’t move a muscle.  The rich content of these stories has generated some of the deepest spiritual conversations we’ve ever had with our kids, and I’m convinced it’s because they’re seeing Scripture presented in such a fresh and authentic way.  (Amazon advertises a target age of 4-8, but I disagree.  My oldest son, who is almost ten, has been eating it up.  I’ve actually learned from it.)

One more example, because this is so good I have to include it.  This is from the story of Christ’s crucifixion:

"Papa?" Jesus cried, frantically searching the sky.  "Papa?  Where are you?  Don’t leave me!"

And for the first time — and the last — when he spoke, nothing happened.  Just a horrible, endless silence.  God didn’t answer.  He turned away from his Boy.

Tears rolled down Jesus’ face.  The face of the One who would wipe away every tear from every eye.

— p. 304

Even the illustrations and fresh and powerful.  The drawing of what it might have looked like when Adam and Eve left the garden brought tears to my eyes.

If I sound ridiculously excited about this book, it’s because I am.  I can’t think of a book I’d recommend more highly to any family, in fact.  It’s available at Amazon for about $10.  It will be worth every single penny.   

Bookishness

I can’t resist a good book, and I can’t resist a good book meme, either.  I found this one over at Just Peachy.  If you want to play along, leave your link in my comment section below!  (Oh, and by the way, while we’re on the subject of books, don’t miss the Spring Reading Thing over at Callapidder Days.  It begins March 21.)

Hardback or trade paperback or mass market paperback?  Hardback, whenever possible.

Amazon or brick and mortar? I prefer Amazon, because browsing is so easy, and they have everything (not to mention all the access to used books).  Brick-and-mortar bookstores usually tempt me to spend way too much money.

Barnes & Noble or Borders?  Borders. There’s one about three minutes from my house.

Bookmark or dogear?   Dogear.  I know, it’s an awful habit. 

Alphabetize by author or alphabetize by title or random?   You mean, there are actually people that alphabetize their personal book collections?  It boggles the mind.  I’m doing well if all the books just make it to a shelf.

Keep, throw away, or sell?   I usually plan pretty carefully what I want to read, so I don’t stumble across many "bad" books in my reading.  There all keep-able.  Which means I need a bigger house, at some point.

Keep dustjacket or toss it?  Toss it.  Immediately.  Does anyone think it’s ironic that dust jackets seem to attract so much, um, dust?

Read with dustjacket or remove it?  See above.

Short story or novel?   Novel, though I enjoy a short story collection every now and then. 

Collection (short stories by same author) or anthology (short stories by different authors)?  Both, though I generally prefer a collection.  Here’s a good one.

Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket? I’m wild about Harry.  Go Gryffindor!  My 9 year old is wild about Lemony Snicket right now, though, so that probably means I’ll be reading it soon.

Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks?  Chapter breaks.

“It was a dark and stormy night” or “Once upon a time”?  Both.  It totally depends on my mood.  I’ve been in a dark-and-stormy phase lately. 

Buy or Borrow?  Buy, or borrow from the library.  I don’t like borrowing from others, because I shudder at the thought of losing someone else’s book. 

New or used?  Used, whenever possible.  Does anyone know how those booksellers on Amazon.com make any money by selling used books for a penny each?  Actually, I don’t care, as long as they keep doing it.

Buying choice: book reviews, recommendation or browse? I really don’t like book reviews–reading them or writing them.  I’d prefer a recommendation from a friend who knows my taste in books.

Tidy ending or cliffhanger?  Tidy ending, unless it’s part of a series–then I don’t mind a little unresolvedness.  I read the western classic Lonesome Dove last year, and the random ending nearly made me put my head through a wall.

Morning reading, afternoon reading or nighttime reading? Nighttime.  If I read in the morning I’ll fall asleep in my Raisin Bran, seriously.

Stand-alone or series? I enjoy a good series every now and then, but generally I prefer stand-alone books.

Favorite series? Anne of Green Gables

Favorite children’s book?  Time For Bed by Mem Fox, and anything by Audrey Wood.

Favorite book of which nobody else has heard?  Thundering Sneakers, by Prudence Mackintosh.  Her writing has really inspired my own.

Favorite books read last year?  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen was my very favorite, and Jewel by Brett Lott was a keeper too.   

Favorite books of all time? The Anne of Green Gables series is second only to the Bible in terms of books that have profoundly affected me.  The Hiding Place was another life-changer.  I also love Til We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis (it’s generally considered his greatest masterpiece, which should tell you something, since everything he wrote is spectacular).  I love historical fiction; two of my favorites in that genre have been London by Edward Rutherford and The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George.  Ooooo, and Jane Eyre–now there’s a book I wish I could read again for the first time.

Least favorite book you finished last year?  I had heard good things about The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley, but it wasn’t as good as I hoped. 

What are you reading right now?  The Chili Queen by Sandra Dallas.  I’m only a couple of chapters into it, but it is excellent so far.  Anything by her is excellent.

What are you reading next?  Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss