Posts filed under ‘Reading’

Knowledge is Danger


January 5, 2008 at 7:24 pm 1 comment

Books are good for you.

Another great Threadless shirt (alas, sold out, or I’d definitely buy it!).

November 22, 2007 at 5:15 pm 1 comment

Great Shirt, Insubstantial Post

Anyone want a seriously hott library-themed shirt? Try this one (on sale for $10 through Dec. 16!):


November 20, 2007 at 3:52 pm Leave a comment

(No) Time to Read

I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned this on this blog, but my life is in a whirlwind lately. I’m going to school super-full time, and I’m student teaching, and I’m working part-time. It’s pretty rough; I won’t pretend otherwise. What little time I have for reading is taken up by trying to keep up on class readings. All of my “fun” reading has been sidelined, and I’ve forced myself to put a buffer between myself and any recreational reading so that I don’t get off-task.

It stinks.

Despite this, I’ve had the chance to read bits and pieces of some good stuff. I read most of Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, the summer reading assignment for the accelerated sophomore classes with which I’m working. They did a few days’ work with All I Ever Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, and it was fun to re-read some of my favorite sections of that book. I’m carrying around a permabound copy of Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha (ought to read that – they’re about to start working with it, I think) and next week I’ll be reacquainting myself with Antigone.

I’m also reading some interesting nonfiction in my field. Today I picked up a book that deals with a subject I’m pretty interested in: using Web 2.0 in the classroom. Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms by Will Richardson is a practical guide to implementing this new, dynamic technology in the modern classroom. Not only is it interesting, but it’s good for at least one assignment due this semester.

In guilty moments, I’m reading (about a paragraph at a time) a water-damaged copy of Gail Collins’ America’s Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines.  So far it is both fascinating and depressing. I’m in the Puritan part of the book, and I’ve never much liked that time period. What a horrible time to be alive. My husband is taking a class on Colonial America (blech) so it’s fun to compare notes on life as a woman during that time.

Anyway, I guess that’s a quick reading update. I’m trying to scratch together some time to make at least passing posts, but most of the time I’m having to focus on keeping my student teaching blog. I hope that you won’t forget about me this semester!

October 6, 2007 at 7:36 pm Leave a comment

I want to read this book. :)

hot_mama.jpgDear Civilians,

It has come to my attention there is an ongoing debate about the greatest superhero of all time. Batman. Spider-Man. Wonder Woman, Wolverine. All of them have their fans and detractors, their champions and critics.

Well, I’m here to put an end to this silly confusion once and for all. Because I’m fun, I’m fabulous, and I am the greatest superhero alive. Period.

My name? Fiera. Protector of the innocent. Superhero du jour. And all-around fabulous individual.

My powers, you ask? Superstrength, for one. And I’ve got a temper to match my fire-wielding abilities. I punch and flambe my way through the ubervillains and other evil doers who want to take over the city of Bigtime, New York.

By night, I’m also a member of the Fearless Five, the greatest superhero team ever to roam the streets of Bigtime. Right now, we’re hot on the trail of Siren and Intelligal, who villains bent on taking over the city. Not on my watch, they won’t. Also making a pest of himself is Johnny Angel, who wants revenge on the ubervillains for killing his predecessor. Angel’s not a bad guy, but he should know better than to get in my way. No matter how sexy he is.

In real life, I’m Fiona Fine, one of Bigtime’s premier fashion designers. I’m known for my bold choice of colors, fabrics, and patterns. My couture clothes, of course, are to die for.

You can read more about my adventures and general fabulousness in the latest Bigtime book from Jennifer Estep, appropriately titled Hot Mama (Berkley Trade; Nov. 6, 2007; $14; ISBN-10: 0425217345; ISBN-13: 978-0425217344).

Sweet girl, Jennifer. Although she could so use a fashion makeover. The girl is way too fond of cutesy T-shirts, and she doesn’t even own a pair of stilettos. Poor thing. She’s so misguided … 


Fiera aka Fiona Fine

Member of the Fearless Five

Protector of the innocent

Superhero du jour

As dictated to Jennifer Estep (who will never, ever wear a pair of stilettos)

September 13, 2007 at 3:52 pm 5 comments

My Swiftly Tilting Planet


There are some books we read when we are young – transcendent books, books that resonate and reverberate, that hit us as we fly through the outer space of intellectual and emotional growth and forever alter our orbits. Among these books, for millions of people, were Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and The Wind in the Door. (The others in the storyline were tremendous as well, but for me, it was these two that struck and shifted me.) I think maybe everyone has read Wrinkle, with its pantheon of fantastic characters: the madames Whatsit, Who, and Which; telepathic children; bodiless sadistic brains; tentacled caregivers; Happy Mediums; flying centaurs; and the incomparably brave and human Meg. Wind was less widely-read, but to me even more poignant with its “drive of dragons” (the cherubim), mitochondriae, and Echthroi, and the fight to save Meg’s extraordinary little brother.

lengleL’Engle’s books were brilliant, and she utterly refused to treat her readers like little children who required easy ideas and easy words. She is known for having argued that children’s books are literature far too complicated to be understood by adults – and, especially in her case, she was right. Her books are packed with philosophy and science – we’re talking quantum physics and microbiology here, not sixth grade earth science – theology, existential exploration, good, evil, death, and the kind of characters and relationships that we feel lucky to encounter in adult lit.

A Wrinkle in Time starts with “It was a dark and stormy night,” and upon reading it we feel that it is the quintessential dark and stormy night, the one that started it all, the one that started everything. In Wrinkle, it isn’t cliche – it’s reassuring, and breath-taking, and signals you right from the beginning that now things are going to happen.

I don’t think I could possibly explain how these books impacted me. If you read them when you were a child, then probably you understand without my saying. If you didn’t, I doubt I could ever make it clear.

Madeleine L’Engle, who modeled Meg after herself, passed away this past Thursday at the age of 88.

She started writing at five, won an award in fifth grade and was accused of plaigarism. She conceived of her best work on camping trips. She loved her books, her family, her pets, and her characters. Much of her life was not like mine has been, but these things are so like me that I can’t help but feel a kindred, a connection. It is another layer of my admiration for a woman whose words built and shook worlds.

I pull the following quote – L’Engle’s – from the close of the NY Times eulogy:

“Why does anybody tell a story?” Ms. L’Engle once asked, even though she knew the answer.

“It does indeed have something to do with faith,” she said, “faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose or say or do matters, matters cosmically.”

Thank you, Madeleine, for these gifts.

September 8, 2007 at 6:05 pm 2 comments

Breath Deeply

Thanks to Kapachino for posting this extremely telling and true quotation by Mr. C.S. Lewis (emphasis mine):

Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realise the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors. We realise it best when we talk with an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated. The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less a self, is in prison. My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through those of others. Reality, even seen through the eyes of many, is not enough. I will see what others have invented….

[I]n reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.

August 13, 2007 at 2:46 pm 3 comments

Review: Tales of a Female Nomad

nom1.jpgI’ve always identified with the more romanticized versions of nomads and vagabonds: gypsies, pirates, river rats, camel caravaners. Wanderlust is as much a part of my genes as my hair color; in me it has been dilluted a bit from the previous generation, but it is still there, still very much a driving force in my personality. To help satisfy my wanderlust on a limited time- and money-budget, I often read books that transport me around the world. Stories of women striking it out on their own especially intrigue me – probably the result of long hours spent daydreaming about where Agatha Christie spent those ten days.

A year or so back, I fell in love with a collection of personal essays by women who had traveled the globe. It was called A Woman Alone, and my only complaint with it was that I couldn’t follow each of these women beyond their brief chapters.

From that book, I came to Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World, a book that let me do just that. It is the story, thus far, of Rita Golden Gelman, a children’s book author who divorced herself from a “normal” life and became a citizen of the world. Her journey starts in Mexico, where she lives among rural villagers and learns how to assimilate into the culture. From there she goes to Guatemala, and then to Nicaragua. She spends six weeks in Israel, where she learns things she never suspected about her heritage, then heads to the other side of the world to the Galapagos Islands.

From there, Gelman travels to Indonesia, ends up in Bali, and there finds a place where her restless heels feel at home. When she first arrives, she has no idea that she will spend the next four years there, and that she will return there again for years to come. In Bali, Gelman finds her spiritual center as well as her center as a storyteller. Her Bali chapters completely transport the reader to the island, and when she leaves you feel as though you, too, have spent the most important part of your life there. Next she moves to Seattle, then New Zealand, and finally to Thailand, where her descriptions of the food are so delectable that you can practically taste it.

Her adult children don’t understand. Her friends think that her money might be better spent on therapy. Meanwhile, she is becoming the sort of human that we are meant to be but which is repressed under a heavy cloak of the American “dream”. Traveling like this gives her true freedom:

I’ve discovered a new way to live. My life is endlessly fascinating, filled with learning, adventure, interesting people, new and enlightening experiences. I laugh, sing, and dance more than I ever ahve. I am becoming the person inside me…. I’m existing on less than $10,000 a year, including airfares. I’m embracing life….

Tales of a Female Nomad is one of those rare travel books that keeps you engaged and enthralled from beginning to end. Written in the first person present, it has a feeling of motion and immediacy that seduces the imagination and truly gives the sense of being there oneself. Gelman is a real woman, not a superheroine – she offers up all of her fears, fitness issues, and critics in an honest depiction of what it is like to give up everything you have known in exchange for an entirely new way to live.

Gelman’s journey begins when she is 48 years old, and has not yet ended. The closest thing she has to a permanent residence is her website, which is updated blog-style. As of her most recent post, she is in Seattle, working on a cookbook. Last October she spent time in Tanzania, Kenya, and Nairobi. What an extraordinary life… and an exceptional book.

August 10, 2007 at 3:56 pm 6 comments

Enter a New World

Oh dear. 🙂 


From The Perry Bible Fellowship by Nicholas Gurewitch.

(Edited to fix broken thumbnail)

August 10, 2007 at 7:32 am Leave a comment

Review: Happy Hour at Casa Dracula

happy-hour.jpgOkay, how’s this for a cover blurb? “Vampires. Margaritas. Mayhem. What’s a girl to do when she’s hidden away at the home of sophisticated vampires and her ex-boyfriend wants to drive a stake through her heart?”

Yeah. Pretty bad, huh. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you can’t trust a book by its cover blurb. (Dear gourd, but cover blurbs are awful. Do these people even pretend the read the books?) So when I came across Marta Acosta’s Happy Hour at Casa Dracula, with its stylishly designed cover art and attractive $3.99 bargain bin pricetag, I gave it the benefit of a one-chapter doubt. By page 23 I’d come to the conclusion that it was at least good enough to fill some of the time before All Together Dead comes out in paperback.

And, as it turns out, Happy Hour wasn’t half bad. The heroine, Milagro de Los Santos (literally “Miracle of the Saints”) is a sassy, smart Hispanic woman trying to make it as a writer, caught between the conflicting personalities of a fake leopard-clad sexpot and a young woman grieving over her one and only sexual encounter, back in college. The fact that she, and the book’s villain, attended “F.U.” contributes to the charm and silliness of this little beach read.

Milagro’s adventures begin with a lusty encounter with a mysterious stranger who turns out to suffer from a genetic disorder – leaving her infected with the selfsame disorder. The disorder causes photosensitivity, altered vision, fertility problems, great (if pale) skin, long life, and pica. Some members of his family embrace the fact that this makes them sound suspiciously like vampires; others – including Milagro’s new friend – reject it and try to live like more-or-less normal people. Unfortunately for them, there are bad guys afoot who want to do something vague and evil to them, and due to an inconvenient love triangle, Milagro is their lever.

Cue mistaken identity, secrets revealed, Mexican meals so scrumptious you can practically smell them off the page, sex, confused small-town goths, obvious but not awkward allusions to racism as experienced by Latinos and vampires, suspicious outsiders, blood-sipping, ridiculous circumstances that lead the heroine into unnecessary danger, even more ridiculous coincidences, love triangles that conjoin into love octagons, quasi-redemptions, and lots of references to Milagro’s exceptional tatas.

In the end, the book is (to repeat a word overused in this review) a tad ridiculous. But it’s a good sort of ridiculous, and the unusual combination of romance, vampirism, and Latina culture is a lot of fun. My only real criticism – and I’m not feeling too passionate about this – is Milagro’s character development. I kept wondering if she was bipolar, or maybe two different people, or maybe just slightly sloppily written. She is a respectable young woman trying to make it out on her own, an aspiring political-horror writer working as a literary consultant and gardener, trying to resolve her cold relationship with her mother, looking for that certain something that will pull her life together. And then, you suddenly realize that she is now something entirely different, in impractical loud shoes and clothes, highly-sexed, impetuous, and shallow. I think the aim was to illustrate the dichotomous nature of a young woman while highlighting the changes the infection wrought on her personality, but the end result is a trifle inconsistent.

Still – a fun book, and if Amazon is to believed, the first of more to come.

August 9, 2007 at 10:16 pm Leave a comment

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