Category Archives: About the Blog

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Verne

Jules Verne 1870

(Note: 1 league = 3.45 miles)

If you wanted to write a book about all the cool places in the ocean, and if you were a scientist who had studied the classifications of many hundreds of species, you would write this book. What better frame: a professor, curious about everything, who gets invited on a fantastic-al submarine voyage, where he studies both the enigma of Nemo and the enigma of the seas. With creative yet impressive or too-convenient inventions, the furtive Captain Nemo takes Prof. Aronnax from wonder to wonder circling the globe–and then some.

Prepare yourself for awe. Verne wrote this I feel to talk about the splendid places below the waves that he could share his visions with the people of the 1850s. But I said to prepare yourself because the moments of awe are sometimes tucked in long paragraphs of descriptions of fish and fauna. Jules Verne loves himself a fish. He also loves a startling vista, which he offers many even fathoms under the ocean, and he loves a scene of human interest. Continue reading

They’re not real books?

Want to see some authors being goofy and the banter that surrounds their creation of fake titles & covers for the little Hypothetical Library managed by Chuck Orr?  And don’t miss Chuck’s post about an engineering joke that will intrigue some extraterrestrials when they look through our debris on the moon.

eReading: eSharing?

Further implications of digital media & books emerge.  Great networks of people reading the same thing and leaving their marks on it for others?

book pages: a distinctive wallpaper

Recently I saw Toni’s post for a Harry Potter Themed Room (also see TLC’s discussion board on the topic, quite a many good ideas) and it led me to Jennifer’s SewHooked craft: cover a wall with decopaged pages from an old book.

This reminds me of similar projects involving old maps or clock faces.  Now I just need to find two books in different tones that I don’t mind ripping apart!  And I will have to content myself with simply taping them up instead of adding the varnish.  Wouldn’t want any irate parents and/or college staff persons.

Book jackets: an endangered art

In the debate about the switch to digital media and its implications for newspapers, books, etc., one realizes the little details that we will miss by transitioning to laptops and Kindles.  For those that think fondly on their colorful novels, this article by Bob Greene will especially resonate.  He mourns a loss of the book jacket and a concept of books:

“almost a piece of art independent of the words, when the jacket is evocative and illuminating. …

The existence of a gorgeous jacket amplifies the truth that a book is not, or at least should not be, disposable. It is a part of your life that is there for the long run.”

Judging a book by its cover is useful in the information that it gives, as Greene cites Motoko Rich, people notice a cover when others are reading in public and are inspired to learn more about the book or to start a conversation with the reader.  Scott Bowen joins the conversation on True/ Losing the book jacket, losing ourselves.  Think of all the effort that goes into making cover art, the artists employed, numerous versions based on book release, the friendly rivalry among book enthusiasts.  I would agree that for me covers are a beautiful addition to the reading experience and become associated with my memories of the lovely words I find inside.  I hope book jackets remain a part of the industry no matter what direction it takes.

Le premier jardin

Anne Hébert

Entrez dans le monde de l’actrice Flora Fontagne quand elle retourne à son pays natal, la place à laquelle elle a juré de jamais retourné.  Elle explore la ville de Québec où elle lutte avec son passé caché et essaie de trouver sa fille.  Pour remplir le vide de son propre histoire et identité, elle crée et joue des rôles du passé du Québec.  Grace à ces imaginations, on apprend beaucoup concernant l’histoire de la ville mais surtout concernant Flora Fontagnes elle-même.

En tout c’est un roman interéssant, avec beaucoup de symbolisme.  Hébert examine l’epreuve de s’occuper d’un passé tragique/difficile et le travail dur qu’on fait pour être “actrice.”  Je pense aussi qu’elle aime beaucoup la France.

Literary Livewire – it’s electric!

Welcome to Literary Livewire!  I use this blog to write short blurbs about the books I read so that I have an easily accessible list and also to start conversations with fellow readers about shared books.

Use it as an idea list, scroll through the posts to browse or use the categories on the right to find books you’re interested in.  They are sorted by genre and my approximate rating.  happy reading!

Author J.D. Salinger passed away yesterday

J.D. Salinger, author of Catcher in the Rye, died yesterday at age 91.  The Wall Street Journal has a very good article about the author, including this info about other books you can read by Salinger:

Mr. Salinger’s other books don’t equal the influence or sales of “Catcher,” but they are still read, again and again, with great affection and intensity. Critics, at least briefly, rated Mr. Salinger as a more accomplished and daring short story writer than John Cheever.

The collection “Nine Stories” features the classic “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” the deadpan account of a suicidal Army veteran and the little girl he hopes, in vain, will save him. The novel “Franny and Zooey,” like “Catcher,” is a youthful, obsessively articulated quest for redemption, featuring a memorable argument between Zooey and his mother as he attempts to read in the bathtub.

Mr. Salinger also wrote the novellas “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters” and “Seymour—An Introduction,” both featuring the neurotic, fictional Glass family that appeared in much of his work.

His last published story, “Hapworth 16, 1928,” ran in The New Yorker in 1965. By then he was increasingly viewed like a precocious child whose manner had soured from cute to insufferable. “Salinger was the greatest mind ever to stay in prep school,” Norman Mailer once commented.

In 1999, New Hampshire neighbor Jerry Burt said the author had told him years earlier that he had written at least 15 unpublished books kept locked in a safe at his home.”   Does that mean that we will be seeing more works by Salinger, published posthumously?

Reviewer, Writer A.S. Byatt

A famous reviewer has interesting things to say about fairy tales:

One of the pleasures of the tales is the brilliant mosaic they offer of isolated things and materials. Loaves of bread, magic swords, frying pans, spindles, necklaces, shoes. And these things have brilliant colours – the Swiss scholar Max Lüthi has remarked that they also have a restricted range – red, black, white, gold and silver. Materials shine – a glass mountain, golden coins spouting from the good daughter’s lips. Materials contaminate – a bad daughter has slimy toads springing from her lips. Pitch defiles. Blood wells up and betrays crimes. Birds glitter and shimmer and sing significant songs. The animal world is a close extension of the human world – bears help (or devour), foxes and deer are helpers or punishers, fish speak from lakes and birds help in the sorting of seeds or peck out the eyes of the wicked. It is a mosaic world capable of endless retelling in varied ways.”

The Guardian, Monday 12 October 2009

I hope to read more of her work, maybe one of her books.

Le Silence de la Mer

par Vercors (Jean Bruller), 1942

Published covertly in Nazi-occupied France, this was a publication for the French people, a sort of “guide for la Resistance” to this country still dazed and reeling from the invasion.  There were underground publications of newspapers going on, but Vercors approached a publisher to do this larger project.  It is a short story, only 50 pages, but still very good and with psychological depth in its intricacies of symbolism and character interactions, as well as an inspiring greater message.

The story enfolds as two lower soldiers examine the narrator’s house.  Several comings and goings later a soldier tells the man and his niece that there will be an officer staying in their house.  When they meet him he is actually fluent in French and very polite.  Still, neither the niece nor the narrator utter a word or even acknowledge him.  This was the start of an unspoken agreement that they would continue their lives as usual as if he had never came. Continue reading

Winners of the ‘First Ever Giveaway!’

The giveaway is now closed.  I tallied up all the extra entries and split the entrants into the specific books they requested and used to pick the following winners…


Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead — Wrighty, Erica, and Kay D.
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale — Kate
Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson — Kelsey

An email will be whizzing your way!  Thank you so much to everyone who entered the contest (61 comments, whoo hoo!), and a million thanks to the bloggers and tweeters who helped make my first contest so big!  you guys rock!  :D  check back for another giveaway soon.

Catching Fire Contest

This is a treat: an ARC copy of Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, brought to you by Alyssa over at (love the name btw!) This is extra special b/c normally the book doesn’t come out until September 1, and if you read The Hunger Games a while back like I did, that’s gonna be a long wait. :)

It ends today but make sure to check out her site for loads of great content and more contests!

Queen of Babble

by Meg Cabot

From Booklist: “Lizzie Nichols, a fashion-history major, wants nothing more than to graduate college and then fly off to London to be with her boyfriend, Andy. But at her graduation party, Lizzie finds out that she can’t graduate until she writes a senior thesis. And when she lands in London, Andy turns out to be a liar, gambler, and a fashion disaster. Lizzie, stuck in London with an unchangeable ticket home, escapes Andy via the Chunnel in hopes that her friend Shari, who is catering weddings for the summer at a French château, can help. On the train, Lizzie meets a stranger, Jean-Luc, and spills everything that has happened, only to find out that he is the son of the château’s owner. At the château, Lizzie continues to babble when she shouldn’t, ticking off Jean-Luc, shocking his mother, and upsetting a bride. Will she ever learn to keep her mouth shut?”

Warning, this book lives up to its name.  At times Lizzie’s internal babbling was so distracting I would lose the real conversation.  But I’m sure this was intended, just like in real life when we talk to ourselves and get lost in our own thoughts sometimes we look up and the scenery has changed.  One place though that irked me was when she was illusioning that Luke was a kidnapper/murder preying on innocent travelers.  It’s like, come on, even YOU should be able to see that you will end up together! Continue reading

The King’s Daughter

by Suzanne Martel

Wow, exceeded my expectations.  I hated the cover picture but couldn’t pass up a book about Québec for $1, and I was pleased to find that it as a lovely classic look underneath.  My mother also read and enjoyed this novel, which I would recommend to others interested in the frontier of Quebec from a historical fiction perspective.  I think this book also helped me appreciate Le Premier Jardin more.

{From the publisher:  A historical novel that realistically depicts life in 17th-century Quebec from the point of view of a French teenager.  In 1672, eighteen-year-old Jeanne Chatel has just been chosen as a “king’s daughter”, one of the hundreds of young women sent to the wilderness of North America by the French government to become the brides of farmers, soldiers, and trappers.

Jeanne has been raised in a convent. But with her independent spirit, she doesn’t hesitate when she’s given the chance to go to New France. Her vivid imagination conjures up a brilliant new life full of romance and adventure.

Upon arrival, however, Jeanne discovers that she must put aside her romantic dreams.  Her husband is not a dashing young military officer, but a proud, silent trapper who lives with his two small children in a remote cabin.  Jeanne must draw on all her courage and imagination to adjust to this backwoods life and respond to the dangers that surround her.  She learns to paddle a canoe and fire a musket, masquerades as a man to save her husband’s fur-trading permit, and fights off marauding Indians.  By the end of a year, she has won the love of her husband and his family — and at last feels truly at home in her new land.

The King’s Daughter is a classic story of adventure and discovery, a tale for every young reader looking for a plucky heroine or intrigued by our continent’s colonial past.} has great commentary and biographical information on Suzanne Martel.

Report on Baby Names

Image from

Image from

Social Security just released the list of most popular baby names in 2008.  In the online article “Top Baby Names in the US” Yahoo reports that in the search for a popular yet unique name,

“Many [parents] turn to the Bible; others turn to TV.

Emma debuted in the top 10 in 2002, the same year that Jennifer Aniston’s character on “Friends” gave the name to her TV show baby. In the latest lineup, Emma was followed by Isabella, Emily, Madison and Ava.

“They might want to emulate the stars, but if they do, the name can’t be too far out,” said Jennifer Moss, author of “The One-in-a-Million Baby Name Book” and founder of”

(Click on the picture to read the full story.)

What if parents also turn to books for a name source, i.e. Twilight?  When I read the series I thought to myself, “Why, what a nice name Isabella is, and isn’t Bella the most darling nickname?  I’d love to name my daughter that.”  Maybe the same was true with other expecting couples and the Twilight series was one of the driving factors catapulting Isabella to the number 2 girl baby name in America.

Also interesting to mention, Jacob remains the top boy name while Edward has consistently fallen since the year 2000.  Does this hint at a werewolf favoritism?  Just kidding!

Yay for literacy!

New York Times: 100 Notable Books of 2008

Oh how I love book lists!  Here’s one from the New York Times that can definitely come in handy for Christmas shopping.  The book titles link to the Times‘ review of that book.  (I’d tell you the books I’m getting my family but they might just see it. ;)

     A few examples: 

THE OTHER. By David Guterson. (Knopf, $24.95.) In this novel from the author of “Snow Falling on Cedars,” a schoolteacher nourishes a friendship with a privileged recluse.

SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT: A New Verse Translation. By Simon Armitage. (Norton, $25.95.) One of the eerie, exuberant joys of Middle English poetry, in an alliterative rendering that captures the original’s drive, dialect and landscape.

THE BIG SORT: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart. By Bill Bishop with Robert G. Cushing. (Houghton Mifflin, $25.) A journalist and a statistician see political dangers in the country’s increasing tendency to separate into solipsistic blocs.

THE DRUNKARD’S WALK: How Randomness Rules Our Lives. By Leonard Mlodinow. (Pantheon, $24.95.) This breezy crash course intersperses probabilistic mind-benders with profiles of theorists.

THE POST-AMERICAN WORLD. By Fareed Zakaria. (Norton, $25.95.) This relentlessly intelligent examination of power focuses less on American decline than on the rise of China, trailed by India.

THE WILD PLACES. By Robert Macfarlane. (Penguin, paper, $15.) Macfarlane’s unorthodox British landscapes are furrowed with human histories and haunted by literary prophets.


Dec 10 – Just found another list, this time from the Washington Post.  I found it on

Twilight in Theaters

     The Twilight movie will be in theaters on the 21st, next Friday, and I’m thinking of going to the midnight showing.  One might wonder, why would I not see it?  Well, I’ve told everyone since the prospect of a Twilight film was ever mentioned that I would not under any circumstance see it.  I hate the idea of the movie characters overriding my mental images of the characters and otherwise forever altering my memories of a beloved book.  In the same way I make an effort to read the book before seeing the movie.
       Some examples of this are the Harry Potter movies, Eragon, and the Golden Compass.  The making of Harry Potter was a special case where the film company was held accountable by millions of ardent fans and the author J.K. Rowling worked closely with writers, directors and actors throughout production.  Those movies were so very magical and the characters precise that it synced perfectly with what my imagination had come up with.
       On the other hand, I heard from friends how unlike the book and poor quality the movie Eragon was.  I’d rather not sully my impressions with a half-rate film, so I don’t plan on ever seeing it, and I don’t think I’ll be scarred for life.  The movie The Golden Compass was also very different from the book.  I saw that movie last New Years Eve, and I had read the book about four years before that.  I was able to separate the two into completely separate stories in my mind and could then enjoy the rich graphics and vibrant characters.
       So, the question in my mind remains, can I keep the movie and the book as two individual experiences?  This is all probably bordering on fanatical book loyalty, do other book fans feel the same way?  Feel free to weigh in on the discussion.

Continue reading

Release: Brisingr, Sept 20

So, the third book in the Inheritance series came out this weekend.  I don’t know if there was a book event or not, sadly I was busy working. :(  But here’s an excerpt on for your reading pleasure:

Excerpt: Fantasy novel ‘Brisingr’

Cover of Brisingr

Cover of Brisingr

The Birth of ‘Literary Livewire’

Welcome to the world, ‘Literary Livewire’!!  At 7:20 pm on September 16, 2008 this page was conjured from ether (a.k.a. cyberspace).  It will be the new home of posts currently residing in the misnomer

NEA’s Big Read: Top 100

This was originally posted by Ginny over at She has a really cool blog, you should check it out.

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has an initiative you may have heard of called the Big Read. According to the Web site, its purpose is to “restore reading to the center of American culture.” They estimate that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they’ve printed.  For fun, let’s see how many of the top 100 books we’ve actually read. My list is below. How well did you do? Have you read more than 6?

Here’s what you do:

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you own but haven’t yet read.
3) Put a star by those you intend to read someday but don’t own.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens*
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott*
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien (now why is this one separate from the other Tolkien series?)
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck*
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame*
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy*
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden*
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown*
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood worst. book. ever.
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon*
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck*
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas*
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White*
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom*
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle*
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery en francais bien sur
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Book release party: Breaking Dawn

It’s here! The fourth book in the series by Stephenie Meyer, completing the story of Bella and Edward.

I went to the Borders Release Party last night, it was very fun. Borders is always a rockin’ place, but packed with 100 Twilight fans? Heck ya! There was a book discussion forum, a style show, and they showed previews of the upcoming Twilight movie. The costumes weren’t nearly as showy as the Harry Potter crowd, but some of the t-shirts were top notch and one group dressed up as the Volturi (nice one).

It started at 9:30. At midnight came the actual book release. Everyone that pre-ordered got a wristband with a number, and people stood in line in groups of 50s. The Borders staff really handled it well and shockingly had the first 200 copies out in about 20 minutes!

So if you’ve never been to a release party before, grab some friends and go! They are a blast.

SAT Book List

SAT Book List

I’m a college-bound almost-senior, so my next and final SAT on October 4th is weighing heavily on my mind. For all you other 2400 hopefuls out there, here is a list of good books to read in preparation. Of course as I read them they will appear on this blog with a review and a yay/nay for enjoyment/helpfulness. In the meantime, enjoy.

A Brief History of Time — Stephen Hawking
QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter — Richard P. Feynman
The Mismeasure of Man — Stephen Jay Gould
The Lives of a Cell — Lewis Thomas
The Republic — Plato
Democracy in America — Alexis DeTocqueville
Civilization and Its Discontents — Sigmond Freud
The Language Instinct — Steven Pinker
How the Mind Works — Steven Pinker
(Seen in a review from “If How the Mind Works were a rock show, tickets would be scalped for $100.”)
A People’s History of the US — Howard Zinn
Freakonomics — Stephen Levitt & Steven Dubner

Crime and Punishment — Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Metamorphosis & Other Stories — Franz Kafka
Narratives of the Life of Frederick Douglas
Life of Pi — Yann Martel
The Color Purple — Alice Walker
Atlas Shrugged — Ayn Rand
Frankenstein — Mary Shelley
Pride and Prejudice — Jane Austen
Baby, It’s Cold Inside — S. J. Perelman
Best American Short Stories of the Century — John Updike
Growing Up — Russell Baker
The Wall — John Hersey
Candide — Voltaire
Macbeth — William Shakespeare
The Painted Bird — Jerzy Kosinski
One Hundred Years of Solitude — Gabriel García Márquez

The Chomsky Reader — Chomsky
The World is Flat — Friedman
Drift and Mastery — Lippmann
The Best American Essays — Atwan
Walden — Thoreau
Lanterns & Lances — Thurber
> plus other media:
The Op-Ed pages of the New York Times
The Nation
Scientific American
Essays in Harper’s, Atlantic Monthly, and the New Yorker
Sunday Magazine

More ways to prepare:
Talk to smart adults and friends with good vocabularies
Read college-level books
Watch documentaries
Listen to National Public Radio
~ try out new words on your own
~ get a dictionary with pronunciation and etymology

And lastly, don’t forget to practice writing essays. You only have 25 minutes to ‘present and support a point of view on a specific issue’ as well as you can.

Go to the College Board site for even more info:

Recommended Summer Book List

Recommended Summer Book List
by Mrs. in den Bosch and Mr. Kip Hepfinger

Here are the books recommended for students enterring AP English/British Literature next year. The starred ones are the ones I want to read.

The Namesake — Jhumpa Lahiri
Angela’s Ashes — Frank McCourt
Disgrace — J.M. Coetzee
* Girl with a Pearl Earring — Tracy Chevalier
The Good Earth — Pearl S. Buck
* Atonement — Ian McEwan
* Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close — Jonathan Safron Foer
* Namako: Sea Cucumber — Linda Watanabe McFerrin
* Dreaming in Cuban — Cristina Garcia
* Snow Falling on Cedars — David Guterson
* Peace Like a River — Leif Enger
The Jungle — Upton Sinclair
* All the Pretty Horses — Cormac McCarthy
Night — Elie Weisel
Been Trees — Barbara Kingsolver
Animal Dreams — Barbara Kingsolver
* In the Lake of the Woods — Tim O’Brien
* Bel Canto — Ann Patchett
My Sister’s Keeper — Jodi Picoult
The Lovely Bones — Alice Sebold
The Kite Runner — Khaled Hosseini
The Curious Incident of the Dog in Nighttime — Mark Haddon
Nectar in a Sieve — Kamala Markandaya
* The Tortilla Curtain — T. Coraghessan Boyle

Catcher in the Rye

J.D. Salinger, 1951

Banned by multiple groups, controversial, and different, this is a book that has emerged into our pool of literary classics and is increasingly taught in high schools around the US.  I read it in 11th grade with mixed emotions, first apprehension from how other high-schoolers described it, next confusion but at the same time an empathetic understanding, and finally sadness that came from the truths that were revealed at the end.

{This novel follows the protagonist Holden Caulfield through his oppulent yet empty and confused life in New York City for the period of one week after he is expelled from prep school.  The reader shares his fancies, his fears, his memories and his struggle with the death of his brother Allie, and in that way also learns about his mental illness and alienation.  It is not stated openly, but in this book Holden sees the world through something akin to OCD or depression.  His anchor in life is his little sister Phoebe, a wise and intuitive force.

His most trusted mentor, a past teacher, urges Holden to change his mind and not run away, that it is the stronger man who lives humbly, rather than dies nobly, for a cause.  Holden had the idea of becoming a “catcher in the rye,” a godlike figure who symbolically saves children from “falling off a crazy cliff” and being exposed to all things “phony,” the evils of adulthood, and losing their kindness, spontaneity, innocence, and generosity.}

The hardest part of reading this story is deciding whose side you are on, the side of reason or the side of the antihero, Holden?  Will he be happier in reality after he goes to a mental hospital?

Knowing the historical and literary context of this novel would add to understanding and appreciation.  I would caution anyone who starts to read this book to keep their head about them, and I would specifically caution adults to not base any perceptions of teenagers on the teenager portrayed in this novel.  In June 2009, Finlo Rohrer from the BBC wrote that, 58 years since publication, the book is still regarded “as the defining work on what it is like to be a teenager. Holden is at various times disaffected, disgruntled, alienated, isolated, directionless, and sarcastic.”   But I would disagree.  Yes most humans probably go through a period of feeling isolated and directionless, not necessarily as teenagers, but what Holden is feeling and how he is acting is not the norm for all adolescents.  One must also remember that his mental state is shaky, which indubitably colors his experiences.

Boy Proof

Boy Proof
by Cecil Castellucci

Very interesting. Il a beaucoup des idées interessantes.

Some of the concepts mentioned by Max and Victoria are amazingly poignant.

I loved how it was set in Hollywood.  That would be a whole different world, all those things going on, all those different people.  I loved how her hero Zach/Uno was good at Trig.  I can’t believe some of those people though, her guidance counselor asking her mom for an autograph?  Eugh.  I was really glad for her mom though when she got back into acting and had all those great positions and stuff.
That would have been really horrible to have everyone ignore you like that, and I can’t believe they carried it out as long as they did.  Like two months I think!  But, on the other hand, she was just that horrible to them, and it might have taken something that drastic to knock some sense into her.
Another person that needed some sense knocked into them was Egg’s dad.  What a jerk!  One should be able to contain one’s anger once in a while.  Oh, I’m going to explode at you because you talked to me.  So there!  I hate how Egg thinks it’s perfectly okay.  I understand personal space, and not disturbing people, but that is way extreme.
And I can’t believe she let the Valedictorian slip away from her like that.  I guess it’s a good thing, she was an over-achiever and needed to realize that there is more to life.
I don’t know that ‘Boy Proof’ is a good title.  It is not a novel solely about how Victoria is boy proof, it is more of a story about how she doesn’t need anyone else.  I would have called it ‘Hailing from Planet Egg’ or something like that that ties in the science fiction aspect.