Monday, March 23, 2009

My thoughts exactly

I just finished listening to the audio book version of Jodi Picoult's Change of Heart. This New York Times review by Janet Maslin echoes my criticisms so well, I won't bother to add anything. Change of Heart was my sixth Picoult book, and I found it to be her least impressive effort so far. And here I must make a confession. None of her books have truly engaged me, yet I keep coming back for more. I can't explain why. It could be a function of Audible's selection (her books tend to be long, so I get more minutes per credit), or maybe they're my version of escapist television (since I have no TV). All I know is that I have three more Picoult novels waiting in my iTunes for the next time I need literary accompaniment to my apartment-cleaning endeavors.

I linked to the NYT review to avoid being critical myself, and since I seem to be veering in that direction, I'll stop now.

Dream come true

Ever daydreamed unicorns and rainbows into existence right before your eyes? Well, now it doesn't have to just be a daydream. Scroll down to the end of the right-hand column and click on the "cornify" button. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Prof Tash declares that the Miao Library is off-limits to cornification. But even his stern glower can't keep them from his book blog.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Louisa May & Mr. Thoreau's Flute by Julie Dunlap and Marybeth Lorbiecki, illustrated by Mary Azarian

Louisa May & Mr. Thoreau's fluteLouisa May & Mr. Thoreau's Flute by Julie Dunlap and Marybeth Lorbiecki, illustrated by Mary Azarian

Papa Miao rescued this charming book from a school library discard pile and gave it to me. It recreates how the young Louisa May Alcott discovered "her own inner music" and wrote her first poem. The free-spirited "Louy" longs to spend her time on Mr. Thoreau's nature walks exploring the Concord woods, not cooped inside with household chores. Mr. Thoreau's flute melodies enthrall her and she struggles to express her own music. The vibrant woodcuts by Mary Azarian add historical detail to the text and mirror Louy's bold spirit.

The friendship between LMA and Thoreau was real, but authors had to furnish the details. Thus, Thoreau may or may not have said of a cobweb: "That's a lace handkerchief dropped by a fairy." Perhaps Madeline Bassett was an admirer of Thoreau?

In honor of springtime, which is finally showing itself in these parts, here's LMA's first poem, "To the First Robin":

Welcome, welcome, little stranger,
Fear no harm, and fear no danger;
We are glad to see you here,
For you sing "Sweet Spring is near."

Now the white snow melts away;
Now the flowers blossom gay:
Come dear bird and build your nest,
For we love our robin best.

Book + Sun + Nap = Happy Kitty

Lotus and his book, originally uploaded by littlemiao.

Another photo from when Lotus was reading THE LONG PATROL last month.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Four Things for Thursday

Tashi, originally uploaded by littlemiao.

1. Tashi is beautiful.

2. It works best when I write my book reflections soon after reading, rather than waiting a few years.

3. Blogger does not like it when I copy and paste text from Microsoft Word. It refuses to let me modify the font.

4. Tashi abhors procrastination. If you intend to catnap, then catnap! If you need to wash your dishes, just get them done! And if the first five items on your to-do list are STUDY, then what are you waiting for?

Alt Ed by Catherine Atkins

Alt edAlt Ed by Catherine Atkins

(Read today!)

An unlikely group of teens are thrown together by their “alternative education” class – a last chance for students facing expulsion. The six students – the preppy overachiever, the popular jock, the mean redneck, the school slut, the fat girl, and the gay kid – become mirrors for each others’ insecurities and strengths. The bullied confront their bullies, the victims realize their power, and everyone comes out with a fuller understanding of themselves. I don’t mean to sound skeptical or dismissive. I can’t fault the book for its neatness (okay, maybe I can), and certainly it’s nice to end with a positive message. Contrived, yes, but perhaps it is a commentary on the contrived nature of high school itself… and beyond that, all of human society. The characters are well-formed, not just cardboard cutouts of their high school type. The protagonist, a lonely overweight girl who is dealing with the death of her mother as well as daily bullying at school, is a refreshing narrator because she isn’t bogged down in self-pity. And she has a kitty. Overall, a nice read, with convincing characters and occasionally thought-provoking dialogue.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Our Little Librarian

Tashi, originally uploaded by littlemiao.

Professor Tashi S. Miao keeps a mental catalog of all the thousands of books in the Miao library, and he always knows just where to find each volume.

Here he can be seen at his library post, guarding the Egyptology collection.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Still Reading The Long Patrol

Lotus Paws Up, originally uploaded by littlemiao.

All those catnaps are getting in the way of finishing the book. Lotus fell asleep dreaming of deeper 'n ever pie.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Reading goals for 2009

We're already two months into 2009, but I don't suppose it's ever too late to make reading goals, just like it's never too early or too late to procrastinate studying, which is exactly what I'm doing now (procrastinating, not studying).
  1. Borrow more from the library, buy less (I'm already doing well on this one)
  2. Read 60+ books this year (including short children's books and picture books, so it's not really such an impressive number. Last year, I managed approx. 50 books even though I hardly read for 3 months).
  3. Read more non-fiction than last year (last year I only read 3 or 4 non-fiction books, not counting parts of books for academic research. This year, I'm aiming for 10-12 - there are just so many things I want to read that I never get around to).
  4. Read more poetry
  5. Finish books I began last year and/or have been meaning to read for a while (most of these I began but got distracted in the middle):
  • The Placebo Effect, ed. Anne Harrington
  • Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco
  • Zhuangzi
  • King Arthur by Norma L. Goodrich
  • The House of Thirty Cats
  • The final Harry Potter book
  • Finish the Dark Is Rising series (2 to go, I think)
  • Dickens' Christmas Carol
  • Genealogies of Religion by Talal Asad
  • The Open - Agamben
  • How to write
  • The Question of Hu