Friday, September 24, 2010

My Life with the Saints, James Martin

This has been on my to be read list for several years. I've even checked it out from the library several times without getting started. Today I read the first two chapters and I can tell already this is going to be a book that gets stuffed with my little post-it flags!


Books to read/reread/look up:
The Story of a Soul, St Therese of Lisieux
Mere Christianity, CS Lewis
The Meaning of Saints, Lawrence Cunningham
Confessions, St. Augustine
The Great War & Modern Memory, Paul Fussell
Goodbye to all That, Robert Graves
Memoirs of George Sherston, Siegfried Sassoon
Lives of the Saints, Richard McBrien
Saint Joan of Arc, Vita Sackville-West
Joan of Arc, Mary Gordon

Edmund Blunden
Rupert Brooke
Wilfred Owen

Joan of Arc, 1879
Jules Bastien-Lepage (French, 1848–1884)
Oil on canvas

I need to add this to my netflix queue:

"We're meant to be ourselves, and meant to allow God to work in and through our own individuality, our own humanity." p.6

"Often what you remember best is what you learned first." p.25

Nevermore, Kelly Creagh

I broke my solemn vow to stop buying books until the new year or until I had read a significant amount of the books I have purchased this year and not read! I had a good reason though or maybe I am just a champion rationalizer.

This week has been brutal at school. I have some extremely difficult kids in my class. Nothing I have tried is making any kind of difference for these kids behavior wise. And it is exhausting.  At the same time my root canal tooth from this summer has become infected and I've been feeling sick all week.

Today I was able to get a substitute (which is a minor miracle!)  and so I have stayed in bed all day. I  finished reading Nevermore, a supernatural YA book I had been hearing about for quite awhile. I bought it earlier this week when I was in need of a prize for dealing with my life. I am definitely hopping back on the no buying books wagon again though. We'll see if I can do it!

I was so ready to love this book after reading the plot summary. I was really excited to see how the author brought Poe into her story. And I did love the first half or maybe even two thirds of the book. Isobel & Varen's relationship was interesting and compelling. Honestly it made me want to stay up late in that Twilighty kind of way. But the last part of the book felt like I was reading a totally different story. It was confusing and long and to me, it felt very disjointed.

Varen disappeared for what felt like forever. I was so mad at the ending of this book (and truly confused, I didn't get this author's mythology at all). I was mainly mad because I thought this was a stand alone novel. I want to know that Varen and Isobel end up together and happy but I don't care enought to wait and buy 2 more books. It took me one late night to read the first half of this book and a long 4 days battle to finish it. I kept putting it down and when I did read I was skimming. The fantasy elements just didn't fit for me. Which is a bummer because I loved the idea of this book.

I totally agree with this amazon reviewer, Neutron Lover:
"While the first two-thirds of the book focused on the characters' relationship with only a hint of the paranormal, the last third became solely about the supernatural. There was little transition for this shift, and I wished the two parts had been merged more seamlessly. Parts of the mythology also became confusing in this portion. Secondary characters like Gwen felt too convenient. The writing also sometimes became cumbersome with drawn-out narrative or action sequences. This made the story feel a little long, not because of actual length, but because it could have been told in fewer words with the same effect. The ending, while left at a definitive point, was a cliffhanger that will require reading the sequel to see what happens next. "

Other Reviews:
Steph Su
Presenting Lenore
Book Smugglers Interview

Monday, September 20, 2010

Meditation for Beginners, Jack Kornfield

I really like Jack Kornfield's writing style. This little book was just what I was looking for- simple, straightforward and easy to read explaining exactly how you can start meditating. My main goal for this school year is stay healthy and a huge part of that for me is reducing stress so I want to give meditation a try.

"Remember that meditation is not an accomplishment, but a lifelong practice. As you work with your breathing, bodily sensations, thoughts, and emotional energies, you will become more adept at remaining calm and curious in the midst of any life situation." p.90

That last part is what really caught  my eye- I want to be able stay calm in spite of whatever craziness is going on around me at school, especially when dealing with difficult parents. I want that elusive inner poise that Bridget Jones was always going on about!

"Try  not to have expectations. Just commit to practicing it as an exercise, and do not get discouraged by whatever happens." p.88

"...the point is not to get anywhere, but to be where you already are." p.82

"The whole art of living depends on our paying attention- and you can learn to pay attention to your experiences even when you are not sitting on your meditation cushion." p.77

"You are sitting there, and the record starts playing, telling the same story over and over again... If it keeps coming back, it is often a signal that something wants to be felt or accepted. So if the thought keeps returning again and again, there is maybe a loss that needs to be acknowledged, or a love that wants to be accepted, or some creativity that wants to be recognized and honored in some way." p.51

And I thought this study was really fascinating about the power of prayer (p.65)

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Liturgical Year: the Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life, Joan Chittister

This book is part of my preventing unnecessary student debt reading plan. I've been reading it in small bits here and there so it stretched over several weeks and gave me time to think about things. I have always been fascinated by the liturgical year and this book was helpful to me because of its simplicity.


"I know now that it is possible to grow physically older by the day but, at the same time, stay spiritually juvenile, if our lives are not directed by a schema far beyond the march our our planet around the sun."  p.6

"For those of us who live in the rhythm of the liturgy week upon week all our lives the question must be, so what? What happened to us as a result? Who have we become? Who are we on all the rest of the weekdays of our lives?" p.179

"It is what we do routinely, not what we do rarely, that delineates the character of a person, it is what we belive in the heart of us that determines what we do daily. It is what we bring to the nourishment of the soul that predicts the kind of soul we nurture. It's what we do ordinarily, day by day, that gives an intimation of what we will do under stress. It is the daily- the way we act ordinarily, nor rarely, that defines us as either kind, or angry, or faithful, or constant." p.183

Liturgical Year @ wikipedia

Liturgical Year @ Vatican

Liturgical Year @ Notre Dame Parish

Russian Orthodox Liturgical Year

Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert

I didn't read this when Nora did,  back before the fervor and the movie's release. I usually feel pretty smug about being a book before movie kind of girl so it is shaming me to be the one who saw the pretty movie and only then went to read the book! I have to say the movie was gorgeous and I loved the soundtrack but the book is so much better. Which isn't much of a shock because it always seems to be that way.

I think I liked Eat Pray Love so much because I related in quite a few ways to Elizabeth Gilbert. Like Elizabeth, I've been depressed before and I am also a huge worrier. So the themes of learning to be happy and overcome negative thinking were really interesting to me even though her life is very different from mine. I am kind of bewildered by all the people online who love to hate this book and/or the author. She came off as very likable to me and it's totally clear in the book that she was never prescribing world travel as a solution for all of her readers' life problems.


"It's kind of a fairyland of language for me here." p.38

This entire paragraph making me want to be in Paris so very much!

"Traveling is the true great love of my life..." p.41
And I suppose I could say arm chair traveling is the great love of my life if it didn't make me so depressed.

"Never forget that once upon a time, in an unguarded moment, you recognized yourself as a friend." p.55

" must be very polite with yourself when you are learning something new." p.56

"it is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else's life with perfection." p.95 from the Bhagavad Gita. The first thing that popped into my mind when I read this was one of my favorite people:
"Always be a first rate version of yourself, instead of a second rate version of somebody else." -Judy Garland
Which made me want to post this:

Crazy Aunt Liz story on pg. 96 This story made me laugh so hard. I think everyone is in danger of becoming that crazy aunt at some point.

"... to learn how to speak a language for no higher purpose than that it pleases your ear to hear it?" p.113

"Our whole business therefore in this life is to restore to health the eye of the heart whereby God may be seen." p.123 Saint Augustine

"...the everyday mundane effort that must be applied to spiritual practice in order to purify the self." p.131

"What worked yesterday doesn't always work today. Prayers can become stale and drone into the boring and familiar if you let your attention stagnate." p.177

" need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select what clothes you're gonna wear every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That's the only thing you should be trying to control. Drop everything else but that. Because if you can't learn to master your thinking, you're in deep trouble forever." p.178

I love that advice. I love the entire two pages that follow it maybe the most of everything in this book.

"Because no matter how creatively I try to look at my habit of interrupting, I can't find another way to see it than this: 'I believe that what I am saying is more important than what you are saying.' And I can't find another way to see that than: 'I believe that I am more important than you.' And that must end." p.193

"Happiness is the consequence of personal effort." p.260

That should be embroidered on cushions! She goes on to say:

"You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it. If you don't, you will leak away your innate contentment. It's easy enough to pray when you're in distress but continuing to pray even when your crisis has passed is like a sealing process, helping your soul hold tight to its good attainments." p.260

And just for the prettiness:

Monday, September 6, 2010

Who Killed Homer? Chapter Two: The Idea of Greekness

"I detest that man, who hides one thing in his heart, and speaks forth another." -Homer, Illiad

Classicists avoid the generalist term "Greek" for 3 reasons: p.21-24
1. they don't want to share admiration for dead Greeks with the naive idolatry of 19th century England
(don't want to be associated with colonialist, racist, sexist, imperialist society, anger at dead white men)
2. rise of social sciences and their dominance of the university curriculum
"the abstract idea of Greekness, and the argument that this unique vision of a relatively small population influenced all of modern culture, directly challenges most recent anthropological dogma" p.23
3. they don't want to labeled as naive or obtuse
"Most destructive of the unified idea of Greekness has been the increasing academic avoidance of anything general, broad, & all-inclusive." p.24

"The Greek way of looking at the world- what we call Greek wisdom- offers a vision of human nature and the place of man in the world unique to the preindustrial Mediterranean and central to all subsequent Western thought." p.25

"For the Victorians, Greek wisdom often provided the society at large the very tools to start the long quest to ameliorate the evils of the West in the great age of reform- open debate, national inquiry, free dissent, suppression of religious interference, moral and ethical questioning, and spiritual exuberance." p.25

"... culture, not race, as the real significance of Greekness." p.26

"Classicists should be proud, not ashamed, of the Victorians. Without their work we would now have no dictionaries, texts, or inscriptions of the Greek language- nor any fundamentally sound interpretations to nuance, adapt, reject, and steal as our own in each ensuing generation." p.26

"Something explains why an American or German who now picks up the Medea or Thucydides' history immediately recognizes something modern, if not resonant with his own culutral experience, in a way not true of Aztec sacrifice, Chinese poetry, the Koran, or hieroglyphics. That something- race not culture- is a very unusual tradition that begins with the Greeks and persists with us today." p.27

"If Greece is cultural fabrication of a privileged elite, then the random detritus uncovered beneath their earth is an uncanny part of the conspiracy." p.27

Word Study: effluvium, nihilism, epigraphy, puerile, encomium, anthropomorphism, chimera


Who Killed Homer? Chapter One

"The study of Greek and Latin languages and literatures was acknowledged t obe the perfect training or nearly every profession, whether one was heading towards business, law, medicine, the voting booth, or a constitutional convention." p.5

"those who study the ancient world have always born the burden of demonstrating to the living the importance nad relevance of the long-ago dead. Until recently the missionaries of Classics in the West, energized by the texts they read, the art they knew, always met- and took a perverse delight in- that challenge." p.6

"Supporters of the Classics countered, vigorously so, with the demonstrations of how "practical," how essential, the study of Greek (and Latin) languages, literatures, and history was to literacy, an aesthetic sense, the building of knowledge, critical thinking, and a moral foundation. Classics soon comprised an essential core of Western learning in language, reasoning, ethics, aesthetics, and philosophy. The mastery of the "canon" ensured a firm moral sense and competence in almost any profession and vocation that one chose to pursue." p.8

"Was education to make students better men and citizens, or to prepare them for the "real" world? (As if the two goals were different!) Jefferson- no elitist- defended the Classics, writing that "as we advance in life... things fall off one by one, and I suspect we are left at last with Homer and Virgil, perhaps with Homer alone." p.12

"Still comfortably entrenched in the university, the study of Latin continued to ensure the knowledge of grammar, economy in expression, attention to detail, and absence of artifice. Expansion of vocabulary and mastery of etmymology were side-dishes to classical thought, which focused on an eternal good and an ever-present bad. As long as literacy, published written and oral expression, familiarity with politics and social systems, and a common set of unchanging ethical presumptions were the chief goals of a liberal-arts education, as long as education itself demanded some memorization and structure from the student, Classics would not vanish." p.16-17

see also long paragraph at the bottom of page xvii

Word Study:
pelf, garrulous, populist, pedant, sycophant, vernacular, agnostic, nomenclature

Heinrich Schliemann
Milman Parry
Michael Ventris
John Dewey- this chapter reminded me that I really want to read this:

Everything Else:



1800-1920- zenith of Classical scholarship

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins

I was completely wowed by The Hunger Games and then liked Catching Fire even more when I read it so I had some pretty high hopes for Mockingjay. I read Mockingjay the afternoon before my first day back at school after being at staff development training all day and I think because of my underlying stress I just wanted to push through. I wish that I had read this a little slower and a lot more thoughtfully. Which I guess is what rereading can be for.

There is so much going on in this book and in the series as a whole that I'm not even going to attempt to go there on my blog. Why? Because I am lazy! Instead I'm going to collect all the reviews and links that I have found interesting as I processed this book. Process seems like such a heavy word but it fits. I liked Mockingjay but it feels weird to say you like a book that is so sad, so violent, and so relentlessly depressing. I think I had been expecting a more kick-butt, viva la revolucion kind of story with Katniss almost like a super hero. And I know that is not so realistic but it explains why I felt so blech at the end of this book. This book is heavy. But I know if it had an everything wrapped up in a bow kind of ending I would have hated it. In fact an anonymous commenter on Read Roger says this better than I can:

"I haven't read the book, but I am getting the sense that some people are disappointed, or even angry (on other sites) because they didn't get the feel good story they wanted. The one where kicking ass actually -solves- problems, and where a girl gets to play the noble savior for a change, where war is ugly but leads ultimately to a sense of triumph and the world is better for it. I myself prefer those types of stories, even though I vehemently disagree with the ideology. My quesstion is, did Collins, engage in a bait and switch? Did readers have reason to believe that they were going to get a girl lead in a John Wayne movie?"

I will say that for my part I would have been happier with some more romantic interaction. Maybe more to the epilogue, I don't know. The romance was such a build up in the first two books (well, it was in my mind at least) and then in Mockingjay everyone is just so destroyed that there are hardly any squee type moments. But then again I want every story to have some romance in it, that's my personal bias. And I know it is silly to think that a book about the horrors of war would stop to give me some romance. Here's what another commenter, Elizabeth, had to say about romance at Read Roger:

"I was grateful for every single word in Mockingjay that touched on any part of the romantic triangle, but I could have used 250 pages more on the subject. But ladies and gentlemen, that is my agenda and not the author’s. I *always* want more about the romance."

I love reading all of the comments in the thread at Read Roger. I also really like the review at Angieville and the review at Bookshelves of Doom. I love the internet for moments like this when I am being horrible at organizing my thoughts about things.

Supernatural Roundup

I read this one in the hopes that I would love it like I love Kelley Armstrong's YA series and while I definitely enjoyed it I came nowhere near my adoration of Chloe & Derek's stories. Part of it is that her books for grownups are a lot scarier (& more graphic) and in the end I am just a wimp about a lot of things.


 The Strange Angels series is one of my favorite quick reading YA supernatural series. I liked Jealousy a lot and loved that more secrets were revealed in this one. Dru is such an awesome heroine. Now I just need this to come out soon!

 Storm Born was a dissapointment to me. I love the Vampire Academy books so I was hoping I would like Richelle Mead's grownup books but it was just too much for me. I'm sticking with the teen stuff yet again.

 It is no secret that I love Patricia Briggs so in the long wait for more Mercy Watson I reread Silver Borne, Bone Crossed, and Iron Kissed. I am leaving my Freudian slip in here because I think it is hilarious that my typing fingers just wanted to spit out Mercy Watson instead of Mercy Thompson. You know I think a lot of people probably mix up this character:

 with this one all the time, right?:

Even though I am not a fan of the Mercy Thompson cover art I did find this article about the artist and model interesting. And I loved rereading some of my favorite Mercy-Adam moments. I am glad that January is relatively around the corner so I can read River Marked soon.

Fire, Kristin Cashore

I loved Graceling and Fire is even better! Fire is one of those books that is entertaining and escapist but also manages to make me think seriously about quite a few issues. This is also one of those books that I did not want to end. Graceling and Fire are both at the top of my to be re-read stack. Kristin Cashore writes beautifully and her characters and plots are so imaginative. I never had any clue where things were going until we got there and then everything would fall into its perfect place. Of course I am looking forward to reading her 3rd book, Bitterblue, when it comes out next year.

Book Smugglers' Review of Fire

Forget You, Jennifer Echols

There’s a lot Zoey would like to forget. Like how her father has knocked up his twenty-four-year old girlfriend. Like Zoey’s fear that the whole town will find out about her mom’s nervous breakdown. Like darkly handsome bad boy Doug taunting her at school. With her life about to become a complete mess, Zoey fights back the only way she knows how, using her famous attention to detail to make sure she’s the perfect daughter, the perfect student, and the perfect girlfriend to ultra-popular football player Brandon.
But then Zoey is in a car crash, and the next day there’s one thing she can’t remember at all—the entire night before. Did she go parking with Brandon, like she planned? And if so, why does it seem like Brandon is avoiding her? And why is Doug—of all people—suddenly acting as if something significant happened between the two of them? Zoey dimly remembers Doug pulling her from the wreck, but he keeps referring to what happened that night as if it was more, and it terrifies Zoey to admit how much is a blank to her. Controlled, meticulous Zoey is quickly losing her grip on the all-important details of her life—a life that seems strangely empty of Brandon, and strangely full of Doug.
I have written many times on this blog of my love for Jennifer Echols. She is one of my go to authors for funny, relaxing, romantic stories. I love all of her Simon Romantic Comedies and Going Too Far is one of my favorite teen books, ever. I have read that book over and over again since last year. Which is why it pains me to say I didn't really love this one. I loved the synopsis, the premise, the cover art, and I was ready to love the story but it just didn't work for me. I think my problem was there were a few too many aspects of the plot (or maybe just Zoey's character) that didn't ring true for me. This review at Angieville sums up my feelings in a much more articulate way.  I am still looking forward to whatever Jennifer Echols writes next.

The Demon's Lexicon & The Demon's Covenant

First of all I adore Sarah Rees Brennan. She has one of the funniest blogs I've ever read and just seems like someone I would want to be friends with. Through her hilarious book recommendation posts I have been introduced to Howl's Moving Castle and The Changeover, two books I definitely would not have picked up  but I am so glad that I did.

I read The Demon's Lexicon last year and loved it. I do have some serious issues with the title and the cover art on the American edition (hence the gorgeous UK covers on this post) but that's just me. By the time the second book came out I couldn't really remember why I had loved the first one (or much of the plot) so I put off reading it for quite awhile. Eventually I decided to reread the first and I quickly remembered why I loved these characters so much.

Alan & Nick's tortured relationship is so tender and raw and real. Rereading while knowing the big spoiler of the first book made things even more heart string tugging for me. I wasn't sure at first about the narrator switch in the second book but it was perfect. I started to worry about the narrator switch coming up in the 3rd book but then I realized that I totally trust Sarah Rees Brennan's writing at this point. These books have been so perfect the entire way. They are an awesome blend of action & adventure with mystery, romance, sadness, and reality. And I care about these characters a little too much, I think!

I also love Sarah's thoughts on how trilogies should go: Book 1. set up Book 2. make out Book 3. defeat evil. Not to mention the fact that shes talking about Kelley Armstrong's books in that post!

I cannot wait to read the book 3!

White Cat

Cassel comes from a family of curse workers -- people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they're all mobsters, or con artists. Except for Cassel. He hasn't got the magic touch, so he's an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail -- he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.
Ever since, Cassel has carefully built up a façade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his façade starts crumbling when he starts sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He's noticing other disturbing things, too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him, caught up in a mysterious plot. As Cassel begins to suspect he's part of a huge con game, he also wonders what really happened to Lila. Could she still be alive? To find that out, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.
I am finally trying to get this blog caught up. I haven't felt like writing much or honestly reading too much either for the past few months. So I read White Cat quite awhile ago when it came out and I really liked it. I adore Holly Black's fairy series and have read them all several times so I was super excited to see such a different type of story from her.

I loved that White Cat was a mystery. I know Holly has said that she was drawing on noir and caper movies as inspiration and I love the effect that created. The word that always comes to mind with me for Holly's books is gritty. I enjoy them and think she is a great storyteller but they definitely aren't books that I would want to loan out to my younger book swapping friends. You know what that means, Nora, mature themes! ;)

My one issue with this book is that the ending is such a cliffhanger! I love and hate endings like that so much. I love them when I am reading a completed series and I can just jump right into the next book but I can't handle having to wait another year to pick up the story. I have zero patience for that. I have had too much waiting for the next book in a series stress lately what with the Kelley Armstrong books and then of course The Hunger Games. I am such a baby about stuff like this!

 I thought this video was interesting:

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