Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Pictured above is the lighthouse in St. Augustine Florida. This is a pretty famous one, known for those black and white stripes. Although the grounds and archaeological collections aren't as expansive as Ponce Inlet, it is better than most. You can climb up this one, and see all the wonderful structures over the bridge that historical St. Augustine has to offer.

For more Wordless Wednesday photos, click here.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday Movie Meme - Soundtracks of our life

This week's Monday Movie Meme from The Bumbles is all about the soundtracks. Sometimes there are none, other times they make an average movie memorable, and then there are those films where the soundtrack is the only thing going on. In thinking about this, I've decided that I can't really list Mamma Mia or Pink Floyd's The Wall, or other musicals, because if you take out the music, there isn't anything left. I will stick to those movies that were made just a bit better (happier, creepier, sadder) with its music:

The Exorcist - no, I wouldn't want to listen to this soundtrack while unwinding at the end of the day, but who can ever forget the haunting notes of Mike Oldfield?

Halloween - if ever there was music, when played, could instantly make me break out in a sweat as a teenager...

The Godfather - possibly one of the most beautiful songs ever made, and a stark contrast to the wicked violence of the mafia

Anything Bond - Hello! James Bond movies are known for their soundtracks...I've even considered downloading all of the movie songs on my iPod.

Shrek - for a kids' movie, the soundtrack rocks guys. I'm playing it for my movie-themed book fair this week, so I'll probably be sick of it in a few days!

Magnolia - Aimee Mann's vocals was the cherry on top of this awesome movie

The Last Temptation of Christ - For those of you that don't know, I am a Peter Gabriel psycho, so when he made the soundtrack for this movie titled Passion (for which he caught some slack), I was all over it.

Twilight - I had to throw this one on here...just watched the movie for the first time this weekend. It was entertaining, and if I were 25 years younger, I'd probably be watching over and over like my daughter is now. But what struck me was the great music. It made the movie, in my humble opinion.

I'm sure throughout the day, I am going to be hitting myself because of the ones I've forgotten, but there's only so much I can do at 5:30 in the morning! So...which ones are your favorites?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell (Week 4)

For the first time since starting this book, I think I am finally where I'm supposed to be, based on Matt's schedule. Whew! I'm in the homestretch. I did alot of eyebrow-raising in this last 300 pages. There were two significant diversions from the movie, and some serious character insight to Scarlett - not all of it pleasant! Here are a few of my musings.

There was nary a mention of the character Will Benteen in the movie. However, he plays a significant role in the book. Will was one of many wounded Confederates that washed up at Tara at the end of the war. Once convalesced, he began helping around the farm. Despite his cracker-ish ways and lack of family status, was often sought after by the entire O' Hara family and staff for solace, advice or just a listening ear. Will is a gentle character that was wise beyond his years, and became a key factor in Tara's survival, especially once Scarlett moves back to Atlanta. I was sorry they didn't deem him important enough to write into the script.

The other omission from the movie was Scarlett's second child, Ella Lorena, who was fathered by Frank Kennedy, Scarlett's second husband. I'm curious as to why neither Ella nor Wade was included as part of the movie plot...

I had always thought that despite Scarlett's foibles, she was God-fearing. Perhaps she is, but only in a way that is self-serving. Here is a snippet that gave me pause:

"Religion had always been a bargaining process with Scarlett. She promised God good behavior in exchange for favors. God had broken the bargain time and again, to her way of thinking, and she felt that she owed Him nothing at all now."

Yikes! If I were her, I'd be watching out for bolts of lightning to strike me down. Scarlett also had an interesting view on the need for kindness:

"Her pleasure in these thoughts of the future was undimmed by any realization that she had no real desire to be unselfish or charitable or kind. All she wanted was the reputation for possessing these qualities. But the meshes of her brain were too wide, too coarse, to filter such small differences. It was enough that some day, when she had money, everyone would approve of her."

We are truly allowed to see what makes Scarlett tick...money. That is it. Scarlett's whole life revolves around money. She becomes irritated when she witnesses neighbors "wasting" money on tombstones, or even on a modest wedding. She is driven solely by the desire for status, nice clothes and Tara. When the carpetbaggers set their sights on Tara, and raise the taxes to an enormous amount so they can buy the property, Scarlett adopts a single-minded focus to save it, even if it means she has to sleep with someone (Rhett), or marry a man she doesn't love (Frank). She defines the term "lady" as someone with money. Without it, becoming a lady is unattainable. She becomes a cold, calculated, masculine business person, almost a tycoon of sorts! I never appreciated the level of success she had achieved from watching the movie. Nor did I appreciate that Scarlett was the pioneer of breaking glass ceilings. No woman at that time worked outside the home (except for prostitutes), or admitted to having a head for numbers. Scarlett could care less what people think. She feels that when she is rich, they will forgive her for her actions and respect her.

This causes me to ask myself this question. Is Scarlett's love for Tara pure, or is it based on the status of land ownership? I've always thought that at this stage of the story, she grew to have an unselfish devotion to the plantation, but now I don't think so.

I now enter into the section of the book we all wait for...when Scarlett gets together with Rhett. I cannot wait to see the fur fly. It is my hope to finish the book this week, Book Fair be darned!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Zombie Chickens - A Slightly Twisted Award

This is the cherry on top of my day! Beth at Beth Fish Reads has so graciously given me this prestigious Zombie Chicken Award, which is described in this way:

"The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken - excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all..."

I do indeed believe in the wrath of the zombie chickens and revere their power, therefore I must pass this award along to those that have that same appreciation. For those I am about to award, you will know why you are the recipient, either for your love of the occult, for your killer wit and sense of humor (or both!), or for sadistically implanting catchy songs in my head:

Caite at A Lovely Shore Breeze
Desert Rose at Desert Rose Booklogue

Proximidade Gifts

Melissa from Shhh I'm Reading... has very kindly presented me with the Proximidade Award - a little ray of sunshine on this gloomy rainy Florida day! Thank you Melissa! If you have never visited Melissa's blog, please do and you will see why I am a daily visitor. She is a voracious reader and is an excellent writer of reviews!

The Proximidade Award is described in this way: "This blog invests and believes in the Proximity - nearness in space, time and relationships. These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement! Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this clever-written text into the body of their award."

The act of passing on an award is so difficult, because I love each and every one of my blogging friends, but the karma must be continued! So here we go:

Beth at Beth Fish Reads
Carrie at Books and Movies
Jackie at Farm Lane Books
Molly and Andy at The Bumbles
OK, so I picked nine! Sue me!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Number the Stars - Lois Lowry (audio)

Yes, I know. We have been on quite a Lois Lowry kick here lately, primarily because my kids can't get enough. The extra bonus for me with this novel is that it qualifies for my WWII Reading Challenge, which has been unintentionally ignored for the last couple of months.

"Number the Stars", a Newberry winner, is a different type of Lois Lowry story than we have been reading. While "Gossamer", "The Giver" and "Messenger" were fantasy-ish, this novel is good, old-fashioned historical fiction. The setting is Nazi-occupied Denmark. Our protagonist, Anne Marie Johansen, is a normal 10 year old who desires to win the running race at her school, is often irritated with her chatty little sister, and shares everything with her best friend Ellen. She is also scared of the soldiers that stand on the street corners and try to intimidate them, and longs for life's luxuries long since gone...butter, meat, sweets. When the Germans turn up the heat and start to "relocate" the Danish Jews, Anne Marie's family and friends join the resistance in order to save Anne Marie's best friend, Ellen and her family. Anne Marie quickly learns what it means to be brave, and to defend the freedom and lives of those you love.

I know I will sound like a broken record, but Lowry's stories are something very special. They have a touch of magic, a touch of whimsy, and a touch of unflinching stone-cold reality. Lowry isn't afraid to unveil a bit of brutality, death or prejudice, which makes us all a little bit afraid of what is going to happen in each chapter of her books. At one point in this story, while we were listening in the car, I heard my 11 year old whisper to my 9 year old, "I'm scared". Her stories are so multi-layered, that if you take the time to slowly digest the words, and allow yourself to sort of nestle down in them, you find things you didn't know were there at first blush. Here is what Lowry's #1 fan has to say!
Ryan's take: This book really showed me the cruelty of the Nazis in WWII, especially from a kid's perspective, and made me feel scared and sad. But I still liked it! Mom says this type of story is called historical fiction, and I like it because you can learn about the past in a more interesting way than reading my Social Studies book. My favorite part of the story is when the members of the resistance fool the Nazis when they try to smuggle the Jews out of Denmark.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Shopping Independent

This past Monday Musings got me thinking about where I shop for my books. Because it's handy, and because I get almost daily coupons via e-mail, I shop at Borders. Yes, it is overstuffed with junk other than books, but I can always find what I want once I dig my way through the candy, fuzzy pencils, calendars and posters. Sometimes I will make an impulsive book purchase at Target now and again as well. But what about the independent bookstore? I was excited about the idea. I know they usually carry a more eclectic selection of things to read, which is right up my alley. They generally provide better customer service. But I've never seen one in all my wanderings around Orlando. So I went on a mission yesterday, and here is what I found:

The name of the store is Urban Think. It is a delightful little place, situated in downtown Orlando, in the hip and happening neighborhood of Thornton Park. (You want to hear the crazy thing? I can walk there from my kids' school!) As you can see below, they have comfy little places to curl up, they have wireless access of course, some nice unplugged music in the background, and under the same roof, a bar called "Infusion Tea" where you can not only get some great hot or cold herbal tea (free with book purchase), you can also have a glass of vino. OK, so why would I want to leave this place?

From browsing their website here, I see they have frequent events, signings, etc. You can shop online as well as in person. They guarantee their online prices are $1 over Amazon, which is fair. If you spend enough each year on buying online, you consider signing up as an Online Urban Thinker for $79, and all your shipping is free. This will also grant you 25% off your in-store purchases. Hmmm...that would be like opening Pandora's box for me!

I vowed that if I purchased anything, it would be something that contributed to my reading challenges. I walked away with Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" for my classics reading challenge, and Elie Wiesel's "Night" for my WWII reading challenge.

So I got out of my comfort zone yesterday, and I'm glad I did it. I intend to do a little more exploring around town, and see what else I can find!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Continuing on with my Lighthouse series, this is the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse. This past summer, we stayed at a friend's condo in New Smyrna Beach for the month of June. Outside our window and across the inlet was this beautiful structure. I would wake up at night and see the beacon twinkling at me. It has a huge campus, with museums and historical displays in each building, a hiking trail, and a graveyard for all of the lighthouse cats that have worked here over the years.

For more Wordless Wednesdays, click here.

Monday Movie Meme - Eye Candy

This week's Monday Movie Meme from The Bumbles is all about Eye Candy! You know...those movies that you keep watching again and again with your mouth hanging open? Perhaps they are good actors, but WE know why they got the role!!! If ever there were a time where it was OK to ogle Viggo, this is it!

1. Viggo in Eastern Promises - it takes some cojones to get your 50 some-year-old bod in front of the camera like this, but I don't mind a bit.

2. Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire - or really just about anything until he got a little older. If you haven't seen Tango in Paris, don't. It totally ruins this beautiful image!

3. Dwayne Johnson in ...whatever he's in. No complaining from me when the kids asked to see The Game Plan, Get Smart or Escape to Witch Mountain. Disney has done the moms a big favor.

4. Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall - you gotta love the hair.

And because I am an equal opportunity gal, I asked my husband to come up with a few for the guys. All I got out of him was Diana Lane from The Cotton Club. I think he needs his coffee...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell (Week 3)

First of all, I am excited to tell you that this is my 100th post! Who would have thought, a year ago, or even six months ago, that I even would have had a blog. I know I am still very much the novice, but I'm proud of it nevertheless.

In my third week of reading Gone With the Wind, I find that I am consistently about 100 pages behind where I should be, according to Matt's schedule. Even though I am making a career out of reading this book, I must say that it has been one of the most enjoyable books I've read in quite a while.

In this installment, I was thoroughly entertained to the point of laugh-out-loud glee with the banter and dynamics between Scarlett and Rhett. Rhett pushes Scarlett's buttons, and Scarlett takes the bait...every time! He really knows how to dish it out. He teases her into thinking that perhaps he loves her, then instead suggests that she become his mistress. He continually tells Scarlett that he isn't the marrying kind, but we know he is hopelessly infatuated with her, and likewise with Scarlett. They just can't seem to get any momentum built up before he offends her or she offends him, and the part ways. Again and again. Talk about star-crossed! I must comment that despite my attraction to Rhett's dashing roguish character, he'd probably annoy the hell out of me too.

With regard to Scarlett, we see her really evolve in this section of the book. Despite the war that is encroaching on Atlanta, she steadfastly stays by the ailing Melanie's side, awaiting the birth of Ashley's baby. Yes, she complains, but will not go back on her word to Ashley to protect Melanie in his absence. Once the Yankees seize Atlanta, Scarlett can only think of Tara and her mother. She begins to understand the lessons of her father, which revolved around the love of Tara, the land and the meaning of home. Against all odds, she acts as midwife to Melanie, and with assistance of Rhett, takes the new baby, Melanie, Prissy and Wade through the war-ravaged countryside, back home. She finds Tara barren and damaged, without food, cotton burned, and only three slaves left. Her mother is dead, her sisters sick with Typhoid, and her father with dementia. Scarlett steps up to the plate, and with a solemn oath, vows to survive, with one of my favorite quotes of the book:

"As God is my witness, as God is my witness, the Yankees aren't going to lick me. I'm going to live through this, and when it's over, I'm never going to be hungry again. No, nor any of my folks. If I have to steal or kill - as God is my witness, I'm never going to be hungry again."

One noticeable difference at this point between the movie and the book is Scarlett's management of the Tara household. In the movie, she showed leadership and resourcefulness in making sure that they all didn't starve, and they pulled together to bring Tara back from the grave. In the book, however, she was just downright nasty. She was physically and verbally abusive to everyone that got near her, including her sisters, her servants and her son. Granted, it was all in the name of survival, but I was really offended with her!

I was also taken aback at Mitchell's description of the devastation that was wreaked on the South at the end of the war. It almost takes your breath away. We read about the pillaging and burning of the beautiful plantation homes, the burning of the crops, stealing the livestock, and even digging up graves to find valuables. Even in today's news, I find it shocking to witness mankind's frailties bubble to the surface when there is war, a fire, a hurricane, or some other catastrophe.

I am facing a busy couple of weeks in front of me...the Spring Book Fair at my kids' school. I find that my life is not my own around this time, but will do my best to fit in a few stolen moments to read. At least enough to excite you all with my weekly musings!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

I've got all my sisters with me!

Desert Rose just honored me with this wonderful award...thank you! I find myself amazed at the camaraderie and support you receive in the blog world, which makes blogging that much more fun!

According to the rules, well, you know the rules! I'm going to nominate some of my best sisters for this award. Here they are:

Kathie @ Kathie Smith (she watches more movies in a week than I do in six months...this is also my real sister)

Carrie @ Books and Movies

Michelle @ Reader's Respite

Wendy @ Musings of a Bookish Kitty

Jackie @ Farm Lane Books

Jennifer @ The Literate Housewife

Caite @ A Lovely Shore Breeze

Iliana @ Bookgirl's Nightstand

Bellezza @ Dolce Bellezza

Melody @ Melody's Reading Corner

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

An Interview with Danette Haworth, author of "Violet Raines Almost Got Struck By Lightning"

I am so pleased to introduce Danette Haworth, author of "Violet Raines Almost Got Struck By Lightning", which I reviewed recently here. Violet was her debut novel for young adults, and was recently picked up by Scholastic Books. They have even featured her book in a trailer on their website! Danette is a central Floridian, a mother and a wife, a blogger at her site Summer Friend, and is quite a cool lady! Emma and I enjoyed her book so much, that we decided it would be fun to ask her a few questions!

Sandy: We know from seeing your book trailer on the Scholastic website that the woods and the Econ River, which is near your house, was your inspiration for the backdrop of Violet Raines. What was your inspiration for the character of Violet and her adventures?

Danette: When my mother was a young girl, she lived up north in farm country and I grew up hearing all her stories, one involved the neighbors, who invited her over every Sunday for a fish fry. I also have a picture of my mother as a little girl sitting on horse. She looks so stubborn! So when I sat down to work on an idea, I thought I was going to write an adult book, a kind of mother/daughter thing with issues. Then Violet walked in one day and took over! She came to me as a complete character, her attitude, her looks, her accent; she even brought her friends with her! I spent the next couple of weeks coming up with a worthy trial that would be genuine to Violet’s character.

Sandy: What part of the book was your favorite to write?

Danette: Some days I struggled and other days I was on a roll, but every single day I looked forward to being in the woods with Violet. The whole book was fun to write. Whatever part I was working on that day was my favorite. And Violet—whoa, Violet!—she made me snicker with the things she said.

Sandy: I’ve read that you like the woods and the mountains. Where is your absolute favorite vacation spot?

Danette: My absolute favorite vacation spot is anywhere in the Great Smoky Mountains. This is going to sound all dramatic and everything, but being deep in the woods gives me joy unfettered. I’ll even wax poetic here: Being on land once trod by Indians and settlers is akin to being taken back in time. And the bigness of it--all those trees and the wind rustling the leaves--the absolute bigness of it all and the smallness of me brings to mind the scripture What is man, that thou art mindful of him?

Sandy: Do you have a special place where you write? Any special routines?

Danette: My husband and I used to share an extra bedroom that we used as an office. After I sold my first book, he kicked himself out. Now I’ve got the room to myself and everything stays just as I left it. My day begins No! NO! Not time to get up! with me trudging downstairs in the dark to make lunches and get everyone ready for school. I drop off my precious cargo, straighten up a little bit, and I am writing by ten. I take no phone calls, make no dates, and try (but fail) to not repeatedly check my email.

Sandy: Can you tell us a little about your upcoming projects?

Danette: "The Hotel of Blueberry Goodness" is scheduled with Walker for Spring 2010. It’s about a girl who lives in a dilapidating, antebellum hotel and meets an eclectic group of friends, including a teenage runaway. "Me and Jack", Walker 2011, centers on Joshua Reed, his unusual dog, and the struggle they face being accepted in their new town.

Sandy: What is the best book you’ve read lately?

Danette: I loved Second Fiddle, a middle-grade novel by Siobhan Parkinson. The main character is wonderful and the internal dialogue—hilarious!

Sandy: This is one I always love to ask, because you get the greatest answers! Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us!

Danette: This is hard! I’m trying to think of something shocking. Would annoying do? I once worked as a telephone solicitor, so yeah, that was me calling about timeshares during your supper.

Sandy: OK, I have to ask this. Before my husband and I had kids, we would take our yellow lab and go hiking every weekend. One weekend, we hiked along the Econ River, and came across a swinging rope bridge that was fairly high. Despite my fear of heights, we crossed it, but about two-thirds of the way over, it got very narrow. We tried to turn around because we didn’t think the dog would be able to navigate it, and when we did, the dog FELL over the side and into the river. We had to coax her to swim back to the side (with the leash still attached to her, and snagging on limbs). The fun was officially over at that point, and I demanded we go home. I still have nightmares about this, and the story has been told countless times to the kids. Could this be the same bridge in your book? It came right into mind when I was reading!

Danette: Sandy,OMG! That is the same bridge! I cannot believe you’ve walked on it—I was afeared! My husband and I were canoeing and we saw the bridge coming up in the treetops. “Come on, come on,” he said. He wanted to pull the canoe over and run across the bridge. I just kept paddling. It looked too high, too scary.

We paddled on and sailed under. About a minute later, the bridge clanked and squeaked and I turned around to see two little blonde girls on the bridge. They pranced across it like wood sprites and disappeared into the other side of the woods, their laughter trailing behind them.

Sandy: Thank you so much Danette! I so appreciate you taking time to share a little of yourself with us!

"Recovery" by Alexandrea Weis - A Sneak Peek!

Not long ago, I reviewed (and loved) "To My Senses" by Alexandrea Weis - see my review here. To my excitement, Alex has been working on the sequel to this novel called "Recovery". She has entered the first 5,000 words, or 25 pages, into the Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Awards contest, and is available for review. In fact, she has made it to the quarterfinals, and every review is important to her progression towards the finals. You can access the download (which is free) at: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B001UG3B54
Please keep in mind that in reading this excerpt, you will ultimately be able to figure out how "To My Senses" ended!

I won't give too much away...just suffice it to say that I did not want to walk away from Nicci in "To My Senses". I had really grown to love her. In "Recovery" we are reunited with her, post-Katrina, with a serious right-hand turn in plot.

Let's all support Alex in her endeavor, and pray she finishes the book quickly. I can't wait!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Continuing on with my lighthouse series of Wordless Wednesdays, here is another one we found, this time on Cape San Blas, in the panhandle. Yes, it is another skeletal one, but I've become quite fond of them! I wish I had been able to get behind it, to show the beautiful coastal view. Half the fun in photographing these lighthouses in the panhandle are finding them...it is like hunting for hidden treasure!

For more Wordless Wednesday photos, click here.

Monday, March 16, 2009

"The Giver" by Lois Lowry (audio) with a guest post by Ryan

First we read "Gossamer" by Lois Lowry, and fell in love. I quickly snapped up "Messenger", which I found out was the third in a series of three Lowry books (and the kids stopped listening to because they didn't like the narrator!). Did it matter that I read it out of order? I'm finding that perhaps it did. The Giver is the first of the series, and is a Newberry winner, and the kids and I excitedly started listening to it in the car. We found ourselves sitting in the driveway listening to it when we got home, not willing to turn it off. This book blew us all away.

Jonas is an 11-year-old who lives in a perfect world. There are rules of course, all designed to maintain "sameness". Everyone is assigned a job at the age of 12, one that is a perfect fit to each individual, emotionally and physically. Emotions, such as love, passion, anger and hate are supressed by taking pills. Designated women bear all the children for the community. The babies are nurtured in a loving, institutional environment, and in time, are assigned to a family. All families can have one female child and one male child. Once someone grows old and cannot work anymore, they are cared for in a loving, institutional environment, and then eventually "released". If someone breaks the rules too many times, they are "released". There is no war. There is no hunger. There is no prejudice. There are also no animals, no sun, no rain, no snow, no colors, no choices. But the good people of the community don't really know what they are missing, because they've never had it to begin with.

At the Ceremony of the 12's, Jonas receives his life's assignment...the Receiver of the Memories. Apparently, this is a very honored role, but nobody really knows exactly what it means or what is required. Jonas begins to meet with The Giver, who is the current Receiver of the Memories, for his required training and ultimately the passing of the baton. The Giver explains to Jonas that with the job brings great burden. He explains that soon, memories from back and back and back will be transfered to him. These memories will give Jonas great wisdom, which will be used to advise the elders in the decision-making for the community. Jonas begins to receive wonderful memories from The Giver...of Christmas, of sledding, of Grandparents...things he has never known. He also receives memories of broken bones, of hunger, parental abuse, war and death. He receives chilling insight to the way things really work in the community. Jonas begins to question everything he has known to be true. Is it better to live in a sterile environment without choices where you are safe, and is this even to be considered living? Who has the right to enforce such a thing? Jonas decides that his humanity is too big a price to pay, and takes his fate into his own hands.

I find it difficult to find words to explain how thought-provoking Lowry's books are. Her books can be interpreted in so many different ways, and provide excellent mental exercise for kids and adults alike. This one, in particular, brings to mind questions of governmental control, communism, and even the importance of one's individuality. The end of the book is very ambiguous, with some open-ended questions. Some that were answered by "Messenger". My son, who blew me off when I was listening to Messenger, ran out and got it from the school library, and read it about a day. He reminded me of a few things that I had forgotten, and we quickly linked the two books. (This is the child that hates to read because he can't sit still, so I can't tell you how proud this makes me.) Here is what Ryan had to say:

This was a very well-written book by one of my new favorite authors. I couldn't stop thinking about the book, and I couldn't wait to get in the car and start listening to it again. Many of the parts were disturbing, especially near the end, but I liked that. It didn't scare me, and it made me think. Even though Jonas' community is perfect, I don't think I would like it at all. I can't wait to read "Gathering Blue", the next book in the series.

Monday Movie Meme - War, What Is It Good For?

This week's Monday Movie Meme from the Bumbles is all about the depiction of war on the silver screen. When I read the topic, I sat here for a few moments with my jaw hanging open. How on earth can I play this meme and still get the kids to school???? This is harder than the documentaries!!! Jeez. The Bumbles have done a wonderful job of not only compiling a great list, but also categorizing them by war. I will not even attempt such organization. Also, their list contains some movies that address the Holocaust (Schindler's List, Life is Beautiful) that I must not touch. That is almost a genre by itself! I will stick to movies that have battle scenes, blood, guns, the whole bit. I also won't touch on the two thousand war documentaries we've watched either! Otherwise I will be here all day...
  • Saving Private Ryan (WWII)
  • Platoon (Vietnam)
  • Gone With the Wind (Civil War)
  • Apocolypse Now (Vietnam)
  • Stalingrad (WWII)

OK, if I must, I will add a note about movies that don't necessarily have fighting in them, but are directly related to a war:

  • The Pianist - phenomenal movie...would make my list of top Holocaust films
  • Life is Beautiful - ditto the above. I cry just thinking about it.
  • Schindler's List - I think would fall into many of my top categories
  • The Deer Hunter - I don't remember battle scenes in this one (but maybe there was). It was a movie that I have only watched once, it disturbed me so much...and I'm not easily disturbed. Can't get the russian roulet thing out of my head.
  • The Counterfeiters - won best foreign film a year or two back
  • Sophie's Choice - my eyes are watering...
  • Downfall - remarkable depiction of Hitler's last days

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell (Week 2)

I am woefully behind Matt's Gone With the Wind reading schedule, which set a goal of 400 pages by this date. I am very close to the 300 page mark...I tried! I can't express the delight I am experiencing in reading this book, and I don't want to rush. So it seems it may take the rest of my natural born life to finish it, but at least I'll enjoy the ride!

If you recall, last week I was feeling empathy for Scarlett - at least more than I did for the character in the movie. I still do, with one exception. I am more than annoyed at her attitude towards her son, Wade, conceived from her two month marriage to the late Charles Hamilton. She seems to have no maternal feelings towards this child, and would prefer to leave him in the care of the Aunt Pitty Pat's staff. In fact, she is often annoyed at his presence, as he reminds her of her widowhood and all the restrictions that come with it. Despite her young age and her narcissism, there is no excuse that works for me! This is an offense to me as a mother.
It is in this section of the book, during Scarlett's time in Atlanta during the war, where we see the full blossoming of her relationship with Rhett, which we were not privy to in the movie. They spend a great deal of time together, starting with the famous scene at the hospital benefit where he bids for her dances. They go for walks, he dines at Aunt Pitty Pat's, he buys Scarlett gifts. He is obviously taken with her moxie and outspoken nature. She is intrigued with his charm and wealth. We get to know a little more about Rhett's character as well. He is an entrepreneur, capitalizing on whatever venture is the most lucrative. He woos the city with is generosity, then shocks them with his capitalistic attitude towards the war. He does as he pleases. It becomes obvious that Scarlett and Rhett have a great deal in common.

I have come to realize some things about Scarlett's character that I did not recognize from the movie. First, she is extremely self-aware. I loved the scene in which she has attended the hospital benefit, and is horrified by the attendees fierce, manic dedication to The Cause. Scarlett is practical, and feels that throwing one's life away for the Confederacy, who will surely be beaten, is ridiculous. She knows she is alone in this attitude, and feels isolated and wants her innocence back.

Also, Scarlett is excellent at compartmentalizing. Typically, this is a trait that is common in men, but it comes as second nature to Scarlett, which is a testament to her strength of will. Yes, she is in love with Ashley, and yes she hates Melanie because she's married to him. But while Ashley is away, she allows a wonderful sisterhood to develop with Melanie that is so much fun to watch. She hates the sights and smells of the hospital, but she works there anyway, to keep herself busy. She worries what her mother would say about her seeing Rhett, or secretly reading Ashley's letters to Melanie, but she does what she feels she needs to do. Which brings me to the quote that says it all about Scarlett:
She had become adept at putting unpleasant thoughts out of her mind these days. She had learned to say "I won't think of this or that bothersome thought now. I'll think about it tomorrow." Generally when tomorrow came, the thought either did not occur at all or it was so attenuated by the delay it was not very troublesome.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Violet Raines Almost Got Struck By Lightning by Danette Haworth (featuring a guest post from Emma)

A debut novel by Danette Haworth and recently picked up by Scholastic, this was a featured book for my kids' school's Spring Book Fair (of which I am in charge). Because Ms. Haworth is a local Floridian, my Scholastic rep, Mary, and I thought it would be great to convince her to pay us a friendly visit for one of our family events. Unfortunately, it didn't work out, as Ms. Haworth will be on spring break with her three kids that week. As a sort of consolation, Mary gave me the book. I gave it to my daughter after choir practice Wednesday, and she finished it before she went to bed. I read it yesterday. (I know, I should have been reading Gone With the Wind, but this seemed like a minor infraction!)

Violet Raines is a Florida cracker, having lived her entire life in a small Floridian town with her best friends Lottie and Eddie. She is a bit of a tomboy, full of spunk, and perched between childhood and womanhood. When a wealthy family from Detroit moves to town, including the beautiful, prissy Melissa, Violet's small world threatens to slide out from under her. Melissa wants Lottie for her own best friend. Suddenly, Lottie is watching soap operas, wearing makeup and bras, and changing her nickname to "Char". It also seems that Melissa has a crush on Eddie, and she doesn't like Violet at all, throwing out barbed insults at each encounter. When lightning strikes Lottie's house with devastating results, Violet learns what it really means to be a friend, and that growing up doesn't mean you can't stay true to yourself.

I think every red-blooded girl has been in Violet's shoes in one form or another in their lives, which I think is why this book seemed so familiar. It also was reminiscent of "Are You There God, It's Me Margaret", the coming-of-age book of my youth that still sits on my shelf, yellowed and dog-eared with the back cover missing. Haworth also injects the unmistakable essence of small-town Florida from the eyes of a pre-teen...stifling heat, alligator-spotting, love bugs, the Sunday church and fish fry routine, and the ever-present threat and God-fearing respect for lightning. Overall, this is a very sweet, coming-of-age tale that has the potential to be passed around to all the girls in 4th through 6th grade, and end up dog-eared on one of THEIR shelves as adults.

Emma's Take - I really liked this book. I enjoyed the conflict between Violet and Melissa - some of their fights made me laugh, and some made me nervous of what would happen next. I also liked the book because I knew how Violet felt about Melissa, because I've had problems like that at school also. The lesson I learned from this book was that you should try to get along with others even though they are different than you, but you shouldn't have to change who you are.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"The School of Essential Ingredients" by Erica Bauermeister (audio)

Have you ever finished a book and noticed that you were glowing? Sort of like you did when you met the person of your dreams, or found a perfect pair of shoes for your Christmas party dress? I've not had this happen often, but it did happen after The School of Essential Ingredients. I was swept away. As some of you know, I have a passion for cooking that is pretty darned close to my passion for reading. For the eat-out-five-nights-a-week person, this is a damned good book. For those that share my passion for cooking, this is a love sonnet written just for you.

Lillian's father left her and her mother to fend for themselves when Lillian was a pre-teen. Lillian's mother disappeared into her books, forgetting that she had a child that needed her. By necessity and prodded by some untapped inner voice, Lillian began cooking. Her goal: to cook her mother out of her funk and back into her life. And she did...she started with mashed potatoes with alot of butter (which would work for me), moved onto coffee doctored with exotic spices, and with patience and love, brought her mother back to life.

As an adult, Lillian has capitalized on her talents to open a restaurant that draws nightly crowds. One Monday night a month, she holds cooking classes for a small group of people, but cooking isn't the only thing going on in there. Lillian is not only a food whisperer, she is a healer of souls. She innately understands what her students need in their lives to reconcile their hearts with their troubles, and she uses food to accomplish this. We are introduced to her latest group of students:

Claire, a young wife and mother who has been swallowed whole by a life that she loves but has caused her to lose herself. Carl and Helen, an older couple that can finish each other's sentences, but are attempting to rebuild their marriage after an affair. Antonia, a beautiful, single girl from Italy who misses her home and its traditions, and struggles to stay true to herself in her interior design job. Chloe, a clumsy teenager with low self-esteem and a domineering boyfriend. Tom, a widower who has recently lost the love of his life to cancer. Isabelle, an elderly divorcee who is in the early stages of dementia. And Ian, a guy looking for love. This group of seemingly mismatched personalities find friendship and peace within each other, and learn the subtle lessons that touching, sensing and creating food can provide.

This is Erica Bauermeister's first novel, and I'll be darned if this girl hasn't found her calling. Sure, she can write. But in experiencing the magic she has created on paper, you understand that she KNOWS food. She knows the sensuality of textures, flavors, the chemistry in combining spices, the quality of a meal when you get into it up to your elbows and make it from scratch. She also obviously gets the human psyche...what it feels like to give birth, to lose a spouse, or want more for yourself. Her warm, delicate prose is nearly hypnotizing. When it's over, you have to shake yourself back to your senses, and want for more.

Wordless Wednesday

This is another lighthouse we found in the panhandle last fall, called Crooked River. It is actually located a handful of miles down the road from Eastpoint FL It is still in the process of being refurbished, along with its surrounding buildings. It did have a huge playground that looked like a pirate ship, which the kids loved.

For more Wordless Wednesday photos, click here.

Monday, March 9, 2009

I'm feeling the love!

Desert Rose has just bestowed upon me the "I love your blog" award! If you haven't checked out her blog yet, you must...she has amazing book reviews of all kinds and participates in weekly memes, and the bonus is that she likes vampire novels! Thanks a million Desert Rose!

Here are the rules to keep the award moving:

1. Add the logo of the award to your blog.
2. Add a link to the person who awarded it to you.
3. Nominate at least seven other blogs.
4. Add the links to those blogs you have nominated.
5. Leave messages to let those blogs know they've been awarded.

It is so hard to choose blogs to award. I read so many of them, and obviously if I follow them, I love them. However, as a new blogger, I take these awards seriously, and I was never able to consider myself truly awarded by the "I award all my fellow bloggers" thing. So I vow to always pass them along to specific names! I've decided to award blogs I've come across very recently, and have become addicted to the daily injection of entertainment in my day:

Caite at A Lovely Shore Breeze

Iliana at A Bookgirl's Nightstand
Bellezza at Dolce Bellezza
Gavin at Page247
Francis at Nonsuch Book
Jennifer at The Literate Housewife
Melody at Melody's Reading Corner

Monday Movie Meme - The Real Reel Deal

Today's Monday Movie Meme from The Bumbles is all about documentaries. Every Monday, my topic is always a surprise, but today's was especially exciting. I love documentaries! They are probably my favorite genre. I have seen all the Michael Moore ones, as well as the Morgan Spurlock ones (ex: Super Size Me) and liked them, but here are some others that are much deserving of a mention.

Taxi to the Dark Side - Seriously sobering facts about the mismanagement of the war in Iraq. I believe this was nominated for the Oscar in 2007.

Please Vote for Me - Eight year olds in China experience a taste of democracy when they campaign for the role as class monitor. Hilarious, adorable.

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster - Compelling peek into the dynamics of a band making a new album, St. Anger. You get to see their genius, but also their dysfunction, addictions and ego.

Capturing the Friedmans - Home movies and interviews from various participants document the downward spiral and collapse of one of the most messed up families you'll ever see. I actually walked away feeling a bit sick. Nominated for Oscar in 2003.

Grizzly Man - A young man becomes disenchanted with society and lives in the Alaskan wilderness to study grizzlies. It all sounds fine until you realize that this guy has some serious issues. He almost sees himself as a grizzly as well, and ends up being eaten by one. I had some dreams about this one for awhile after I watched it.

Man on Wire - Oscar winner for this year. French tight-rope walker decides he is destined to tight rope walk between the Twin Towers. Obviously this is poignant for numerous reasons.

What are some of your favorites?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell (Week 1)

I decided that my progress has been so slow in reading this book, that I had better do weekly updates, just to make myself feel productive. Please don't get the wrong impression. I am thoroughly enjoying this novel. It is extremely well-written, filled to capacity with rich historical detail about the South in the 1860's, and tops it off with the guilty pleasure of Scarlett's histrionics and drama. But the words are teeny tiny, and the book is over 1,000 pages long, and I've been distracted. So here I sit a week later, with only a hundred and fifty pages under my belt.

Just a few observations thus far. First, for all you movie fans (myself included), this will be a delightful treat for you. There are many similarities between the book and the movie, but there are little nuggets of fun in the book you didn't get on the silver screen. You find out that Gerald O'Hara acquired Tara through a card game. You learn about the courtship of Gerald and Ellen, the wild Irishman and the well-bred French woman. You find out that Scarlett had a child by her first husband, Charles Hamilton. But the most rewarding bonus for me was getting real insight into Scarlett. In the movie, I just wanted to smack the girl. On the written page, we have the benefit of knowing her inner thoughts.

Which brings me to my second observation. I have alot more empathy for Scarlett than I did before reading the book. She is a 16 year old, and like most girls this age, she is self-centered and dramatic. I can't fault her for that. I was the same way at that age. She is also feisty, independent, outspoken, and prefers to buck tradition and go her own way. I like that. The expectations of unmarried females during this era would have driven me up the wall too. If you are unmarried, you can't eat in public, you should faint now and again to appear in need of saving, you should never appear too intelligent, and there are strict rules of attire, depending on the time of day. Ugh. I also found quite touching her devotion to her parents. Here is a line that struck me, when the O' Hara family was doing their evening prayers:

"As always since childhood, this was, for Scarlett, a moment for adoration of Ellen, rather than the Virgin".

There are some amazing quotes from this book that have stood the test of time. I have many many favorites that I will repeat in the course of a day, even now. Each week, I will leave you with my favorites that I've read so far. This week's is a classic, but it always gets to me, perhaps because I was raised on a farm, where land is king. This was a lecture that Gerald O'Hara gave Scarlett, who didn't quite get it:

"Land is the only thing in the world that amounts to anything", he shouted, his thick, short arms making wide gestures of indignation, "for 'tis the only thing in this world that lasts, and don't you be forgetting it! 'Tis the only thing worth working for, worth fighting for - worth dying for."

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

"A Partisan's Daughter" by Louis DeBernier (audio)

OK, I know I should start to write these things down. But I recently read a tip from a fellow blogger that the audio to this book was a must-listen. It must have been Beth or Carrie, I'm thinking. Anyway, I had finished my last audio, the second in the Outlander series, and flew to the library with my TBR list in hand to find something quickly, to fill in the time until my next library requests were delivered to my home. This is what I walked out with. I had no idea what to expect.

It is sometime in the 1970's, and we are introduced to one of the book's two narrators, a 40-year-old pharmaceutical salesman, named Chris, who is pondering whether he is the type of guy to pick up a prostitute. He's a bitter, depressed guy, alienated by his wife, his daughter, and everything that is modern and hip. He considers himself "old" and unworthy of anyone's attention. (I will thank him very much, but 40 isn't old!!) He has a marvelous, dry sense of humor that shines through on the audio, however. He calls his wife "the great white loaf". As in a loaf of bread, laying on the couch, watching TV and not moving. He comes up with some killer musings on life such as:

"Middle age makes you dignified, and if it doesn't, then you're a sad case."


"The only thing more pitiful than a middle-aged punk is a white Rastafarian. I met one of those once, and he was lonelier than I was."

He sees a beautiful woman standing streetside, and impulsively stops to solicit her services (despite the fact that he is NOT the type to do such a thing), but finds that while she used to be "Bad Girl", she is one no longer. Humiliated, he still drives her home. He cannot get this girl, Roza, out of his head, so he stops by her dilapidated apartment to see her a few days later.

They begin an interesting and seemingly dysfunctional relationship, in which he regularly stops by to visit her, and she tells him stories of her life. It is a relationship where he lusts after her, to the point where he can't sleep, but is too shy to ask her to sleep with him. He is drawn to her outrageous stories, to balance his life of monotony and boredom. She is lonely, and seems to up the ante with each story, making them more and more insane, just to keep his attention and keep him coming back. For example, she tells how she lost her virginity to her father (at her initiation), had a lesbian relationship with a childhood friend, was kidnapped and held prisoner by a rapist/sadist group of men, and was a hooker to make ends meet. Despite Chris and Roza's hidden agendas, they begin to depend on each other for companionship. The story ends in a contemplative mood, almost a bit sad, with just a little bit of closure.

The story is written as a back-and-forth narrative, between the two characters. Chris tells us about the things Roza says, and his reaction to them. Roza tells us her thoughts on Chris's reactions to her stories. This does not create a problem - the transition is seamless and smooth. The voices of Chris and Roza are clever, witty and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. I have to share with you one of Roza's tirades, which really had me going. She was explaining to Chris why she was living in such a dung heap of an apartment:

"I am here because I made f**k ups. Everything turns to shit. You know, I pick up a potato, and by the time it gets to my mouth, it turns to shit, with horse hair in it. I got used to shit and horse hair in my teeth, no B.S. It's OK now, though. No more shit for Roza."

I could not stop listening to this book. It is relatively short, 5 discs, and I got through it in a couple of days. The stories are highly entertaining; the personalities of the characters are well-defined, colorful and beautifully flawed. I was mostly intrigued with one question throughout the entire story...do I believe anything that Roza says? In all the reviews I've read on this book, I've never really seen this addressed. I personally feel she is an insecure wack-job, even though I liked her wit and spunk. I guess I've known enough people in real life that will lie about anything to get attention, that I was suspicious from the beginning. And if all of her stories were lies, then the relationship was built on a house of cards. Perhaps because I was listening to the story on audio, the subtle hints of misrepresentation were more obvious. If anyone out there has read this book, I would love your insights.

Another Challege...Big Trouble for Moose and Squirrel

I SWORE I wasn't going to sign up for another. But the evil woman Carrie from Books and Movies tempted me, and I gave in. You see, I am not all that well-versed in the classics. I believe I was ripped off throughout my impressionable youth, and was not required to read many of them. So, after falling in love with Pride and Prejudice, I had vowed to educate myself. I went out and bought a two volume set of all of Jane Austen's works. I've set myself up for this challenge, so why not?

The Classics Challenge runs through April 1st through October 31st. You can choose a four book, five book or six book plan. I believe I will aim for four for now. Plus, there is a bonus you can work for, if you read a modern classic (list to be published at the link provided at a later time). We'll see about that...

You aren't required to provide a list carved in stone. I will be reading Gone With the Wind this month, so this will count. Then I will make my way through my Jane Austen collection 'o fun. Please, everyone out there, join along all the rest of us addicts, so we don't feel so bad about ourselves!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

This is one of my favorite lighthouses in St. Marks, Florida. The lighthouse is located in a nature preserve, so in addition to a beautiful setting oceanside, it also is surrounded by birdlife, trees, inland waterways, and other wildlife. Unfortunately, they only open the lighthouse up to the public one day a year (National Lighthouse Day). We may have to make the long haul up there for this event some day!

For more Wordless Wednesdays, click here.

Monday, March 2, 2009

"The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman featuring a guest post with Ryan

Back before The Graveyard Book won the Newberry, a fellow blogger had recommended this book in glowing terms (I think it was Carrie from Books and Movies). She had been reading it to her kids, who were about my kids' ages. I'd stopped reading to mine years ago, when they became proficient at reading themselves, but thought this sounded like a great idea. While my mom was out running errands, I had her pick up the book. When she delivered it to me, she said "Are you sure you want the kids reading this? I read the first chapter and it was really scary!".

Indeed it is. In the first chapter, we find a man named Jack sneaking into a family's home, and brutally murdering the mother, father and sister. He plans to finish off the last member of the family, a toddler, but the child escapes and runs into a graveyard to hide. The ghosts residing in the graveyard are all a-twitter. The newly dead spirits of the child's parents beg the residents of the graveyard to take care of their baby, and protect him from the man Jack. And so they do. They name the child Nobody (Bod for short) and from that point on, he lives in a tomb. They choose Silas as his guardian, as he is something like a vampire, and has the ability to get Bod food and arrange tutoring. Huh? What the...? Very strange. This won the Newberry? OK, fine. The kids love it. The spookier the better, they say.

Bod grows up in the graveyard. He is tutored in the alphabet, ghouls, witches, an ancient three-headed beast called a Sleer, how to Fade and to manipulate people's dreams. He makes a friend with a little girl, as well as all the inhabitants of the graveyard. As a community, they embrace the child, giving him history lessons from events that occurred in their lifetime, as well as practical advice. He goes to a "regular" school for awhile, but he draws too much attention to himself and is pulled back. You see, the man Jack intends to finish what he started, and still seeks to find Bod, years later.

I've not read all the Newberry winners, but this one seems to be on the eclectic end of the spectrum. Gaiman certainly has an imagination with a dark side, which translates into an edgy story that I'm not sure every child would enjoy. Mine did though. It was a refreshing change in our routine, when the kids are normally watching TV or playing video games, they instead come to me and beg for a Graveyard Book reading. This is an activity I will continue, for sure. My one negative comment would be about the writing itself. Because I was reading the story out loud, it was blatantly obvious to me and the kids that Gaiman has an issue with run-on sentences, as well as some awkward wording. Often I had to read sentences two or three times over to get the point. My son had dibs on this book for a guest post, and this is what he thought...

Ryan's take: I really liked this book. At beginning of each chapter, it is pretty scary. But in most of the chapters, it brightens up in ten pages or so. My favorite character is Bod, because he is brave, clever and kind. I also liked the Sleer because of the mystery of what it was and what it looked like. I especially enjoyed the last fifty pages of the story, when Bod gets rid of five bad guys without killing them, and faces off against his family's killer, Jack. I would recommend this book to kids between the ages of 10 and 12 because it might creep out smaller children. I am 9 years old, but I am pretty good at handling creepy things.

Monday Movie Meme - Copy Cat

This week, our Monday Movie Meme is all about adaptations...from book, play, true life story etc. to the movie screen. Molly and Andy at The Bumbles recently saw a play of "To Kill a Mockingbird" and began thinking about the many different movies that originated in another form. I won't even stick my neck out and say that these movies are BETTER than its original medium (I might be pummeled!) but are equally as good. I also won't list movies that I personally haven't seen, which is why I will restrain from listing the many Oscar-nominated movies this season:

Gone With the Wind - I have to list this one, as I am in the middle of doing a month-long read-along and it is top of mind. If ever there was a movie to do justice to a book, this is it.

The Shining - I did love this book (I think I started reading this guy in 8th grade) but that movie is TERRIFYING! Redrum!

Pride & Prejudice (A&E version) - this was a new discovery for me. I fell in love with the book, and was recommended to see this version on film. I did not believe that anything could come close to Jane Austen's genius, but it was amazingly perfect.

Jaws - Peter Benchley's book was entertaining (at least when I read it in middle school), but even now, in the age of amazing effects and graphics, this movie rocks. We've watched it here in our house no less than three dozen times. I shouldn't wonder why nobody in our family will get in the ocean past our knees!

Shawshank Redemption - again, love King's written word, but this movie is magical. It comes on TV all the time, and if I come across it when changing channels, I have to sit and finish it out.

Adaptation - OK, how perfect is this? Regretfully, I've not read "The Orchid Thief" which is what this movie was based on, BUT I was mesmerized by the movie. It was brilliant. There is no doubt in my mind that the movie is at least equal to anything written.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

It's March and that means...a Gone With the Wind Read-along!

It's March Madness! In blogland, that means a Gone With the Wind read-along, hosted by Matt at A Guy's Moleskin Notebook. I've never read this book before, although I've seen the movie dozens of times and is one of my favorites. I know that this means my impressions may be tainted, but if ever there was a movie that did a book justice, this must be the one.

Matt has come up with a reading schedule that I will try to keep up with - about 200 pages a week. Throughout the month, everyone reading along will participate in discussion and comments, posting both on their own blogs and on Matt's. This is an informal bit of fun, so if anyone has ever wanted to read this tome (over 1,000 pages!), or if you want to re-read, please join in!