Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Miner's Daughter and Southern Exposure

The Miner's Daughter, by Gretchen Moran Laskas, is the story of Willa Lowell, a teenager in a coal
mining camp town in West Virginia during the Great Depression. The various conflicts in her life (she loves to read and write, but lives in a world without books or opportunities for further education; she's fighting to keep her family together and financially afloat amidst great hardship; even good fortune is not without its blemishes) play out in a story that's somewhat simple, but still pleasingly told. It pulled me in, and I read it quickly.

Grade: C+

And then there's Southern Exposure, by Barbara P. Thomas-Slayter. Subtitled "International Development and the Global South in the Twenty-First Century," I did read it for a course (Third World Issues), but it's not excessively textbookish. If you want to better understand how the forces of globalization are affecting ordinary people in impoverished countries, it's an excellent overview of development issues.

Grade: A

P.S. Just so ya know, I'm linking book titles to their Good Reads pages from now on so you can go there to read the description/summary if you want. (The links in the side "Latest Book Reviews" box also lead to my reviews on the Good Reads site.) Plot summaries aren't really my thing, haha.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Top twenty

From Miss Erin.

What: Top twenty favourite books in no particular order. Don’t think about it for too long. Take twenty minutes only to compile your list. Bold the ones you’ve read, or reread, since you’ve started blogging.* Include novels, non fiction and plays.

The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale
Blood Red Horse, by K.M. Grant
Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale
Honeymoon in Purdah, by Alison Wearing
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
Persuasion, by Jane Austen
Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, by Anne Fadiman
Dominion, by Matthew Scully
Sabriel, by Garth Nix
The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis
Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert
Habibi, by Naomi Shihab Nye
The Dark is Rising, by Susan Cooper
Never in a Hurry, by Naomi Shihab Nye
Cyrano de Bergerac, by Edmond Rostand
Surprised By Joy, by C.S. Lewis
Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis
The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis
Reading Lolita in Tehran, by Azar Nafisi

Try it yourself, and tell me if you do! Don't let it be hard.

*nota bene: LotR is the only one I haven't read since beginning this blog.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Title? Um...

"An average of 18 [U.S.] war veterans kill themselves each day..." (BBC News)

"At least 10,000 debt-ridden farmers have committed suicide in India each year over the last decade..." (also BBC News)

"If you're not ANGRY, you're not paying attention!"
- Protester's sign

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

"It's called Wednesday."

I finished The Miner's Daughter, by Gretchen Moran Laskas, just a little while ago. Lovely story. Review coming.

Yesterday I went on a field trip with my geology class to a variety of locations, including a peat bog where we got to walk on the peat mat over the water (wicked cool; we jumped simultaneously and felt it undulate a little) and Matthiessen State Park, where I saw Mennonites for the first time in my life and we hiked along a river in this beautiful sandstone canyon:

It was a lot of fun, although our prof hadn't warned us that we would actually be hiking...still, it turned out to be a good thing that I wore flip flops, even if I did have to wade through several inches of mud on various occasions, because I also got to wade in the river. :) Nice day. Oh, and I keep seeing out of the corner of my eye the rock I took from the canyon and thinking it's a biscuit (they had biscuits for breakfast this morning).
If you're using a feed reader, don't miss the poll I just put up. (It's about feed readers, you see. Heh.)
Mon...only a week and a half more of classes, then finals, then I go home.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Quest for a Maid

"When I was nine years old, I hid under a table and heard my sister kill a king."
Meg's sister Inge is a witch, and the spell she uses to kill King Alexander sets in motion a power struggle which threatens to tear Scotland apart. When Meg is chosen for the perilous journey to bring the rightful queen home to rule, she finds herself challenging Inge's power, and discovering more strength in herself than anyone knew she had. (Swiped from the back cover.)

Quest for a Maid, by Frances Mary Hendry, is a wonderful quasi-historical fiction adventure-fantasy story that I highly recommend. With interesting and skillfully drawn characters and complex relationships, the vividly portrayed setting of thirteenth-century Scotland and Norway, and a goodly amount of peril and intrigue, it's a highly original, fast-paced (once it gets going, which granted doesn't happen immediately), absorbing read. An altogether excellent book.

Grade: A+

N.B. Some profanity, but I didn't find it gratuitous. The target audience is probably the younger half of the teen range, but it never felt too young for me.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Nectar in a Sieve

Nectar in a Sieve, by Kamala Markandaya, is the story of Rukmani, an Indian peasant woman living in the former half of the twentieth century. There's very little that is happy about this book. By the time I was a third of the way into it, I felt like the pattern had been established: she was never going to have even a moderately secure and comfortable life, no matter how hard she tried or how much her life might be looking up at times.

So, emotionally, the book can be a difficult read - it's full of loss and struggle and hardship - though Rukmani's refusal to give up hope is somewhat uplifting. Sometimes. The writing itself is simple and graceful, with some downright lyrical passages. Nectar is a well-written novel that I especially recommend to readers who want to learn about poverty, India, peasant life, and the like through fiction.

Grade: B

Friday, April 11, 2008

Here's the second poem I promised

To a Long Loved Love: 7
Because you're not what I would have you be
I blind myself to who, in truth, you are.
Seeking mirage where desert blooms, I mar
Your you. Aaah, I would like to see
Past all delusion to reality:
Then would I see God's image in your face,
His hand in yours, and in your eyes his grace.
Because I'm not what I would have me be,
I idolize Two who are not any place,
Not you, not me, and so we never touch.
Reality would burn. I do not like it much.
And yet in you, in me, I find a trace
Of love which struggles to break through
The hidden lovely truth of me, of you.

- Madeleine L'Engle

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Madeleine L'Engle writes amazing poetry

And I had no idea until my roommate introduced me to it! Such a crying shame, but now I have come into the light and it's all good.

I've added A Walk Through Durham Township, Pennsylvania, a fabulous photoblog I learned of from Heather, to my list of links. I recommend the Best Pictures archive. Also, I finished A Field Guide to High School (click for my GoodReads review) and Quest for a Maid (review coming, hopefully).

"To be loved for what one is, is the greatest exception. The great majority love in others only what they lend him, their own selves, their version of him."

I ran across that quote a few days ago and it reminded me of two beautiful poems of Madeleine L'Engle's. Here is the first, which I was delighted to realize is a sonnet, though not a perfect Shakespearean one. I'll post the second later this week. They really make me think...about how hard it is to love people -- really and well. Just like how they say peace is a hundred times harder than war.

To a Long Loved Love: 6
Neither sadist nor masochist, I still
Must turn to violence: break, be broken.
False image of myself I beg you: kill.
Help me destroy the one of you I've spoken
Within my willful heart. It is no more you
Than I am all that I would wish to be.
I cannot really love you till I hew
All these projections of an unreal me,
An imaged you, to shards. Then death
Will have a chance to free me for creation.
God! All this dying has me out of breath.
How do I understand reincarnation?
But if I burst all bonds of self-protection
Then may I find us both in resurrection.

- Madeleine L'Engle

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The early bird catches the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

(That ^ was on my friend's Facebook profile. Funny in a slightly dreadful way.)

I lied. I guess by the time I could make myself post something announcing my absence, I'd been absent long enough, haha.

In Friday's edition of my college's newspaper, the stories at the top of the front page were the announcement of plans to triple the college's bandwith, and the death of the third alumnus to commit suicide this year. I don't know why, but seeing those stories juxtaposed kind of made me want to bash my head against a piece of furniture or growl profanity into my pillow. Or something.

There was a visiting high school student here a week or so ago from ENGLAND. She was teeny, and hilarious, and had, of course, a fabulous accent. And now I'm her friend on Facebook, huzzah!

Up next: some Madeleine L'Engle poetry, I think.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

A meme? Sure.

Tagged by Bohae


1. Where is your cell phone? bag
2. Your significant other? who?
3. Your hair? straightened
4. Your job? unmaterialized
5. Your strength? weakness
6. Your favorite thing? love
7. Your dream last night? adoption
8. Your favorite drink? soymilk
9. Your dream/goal? translator
10. The room you're in? room
11. Your ex? nonexistent
12. Your fear? close
13. Where do you want to be in 6 years? ack
14. Where were you last night? here
15. What you're not? appearance
16. Muffins? addicting
17. One of your wish list items? happiness
18. Where you grew up? city
19. The last thing you did? French
20. What are you wearing? blanket
21. Your TV? laptop
22. Your pets? california
23. Your computer? (grateful)
24. Your life? shh
25. Your mood? trying
26. Missing someone? perhaps
27 Your car? parents'
28. Something you're not wearing? shoes
29 Favorite store? crossroads
30. Your summer? hope
31. Like someone? nerd
32. Your favorite color? navy
33. When is the last time you laughed? minutes
34. Last time you cried? yesterday
35. Who will/would re-post this? Jess

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Vacation notice

I haven't really felt like posting lately, or had much to say - no, wait, that's a lie! Oh, the tales I could but probably never will tell you - though I'm still reading your blogs. I expect I'll return in a week or two to throwing my words out into cyberspace, though. Please forgive my silences on LRRH, especially those of you who've PMed me...