Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Strange Case

I don't know about the rest of you, but I enjoyed our little break from the norm this month; and getting into the Halloween spirit.

Since this is such a classic story, I, as I'm sure you did, knew that Jekyll and Hyde were the same person, but it was interesting to read how it came about and how it was discovered by others. And I loved reading it the way it was written. There is something about the formal, classic, way that Stephenson writes that trumps all the versions of the story that I have heard and seen.

I also read Frankenstein with my kids this month (well the Children's Illustrated Classic version, anyway,) and in reading two "classic horror stories" I came to the conclusion that I didn't find them "horrific" as much as sad.

In the case of Jekyll and Hyde, I found it sad that selfishness can get people into so much trouble. Sad that the story had to end the way it did. Sad that man can be so prideful, that they have no one to turn to when they desperately need help. Sad that the one and only person Jekyll did confide in, didn't help, but instead chose to be appalled and reject him. Sad that people can fall so far through temptations.

When I first read Jekyll's letter to the Utterson, I couldn't believe the way that he described why he chose to continue to become Hyde. Such selfishness upset me. But after thinking about it for a little while, I realized how tempting that could be. I think, to a point, we do have two people inside of us. Who of us hasn't, at one time or another, felt a little rebellious, or angry, towards someone else? Most of us don't act on those urges because of the consequences that follow. But if you did have a disquise that would be impossible to track down, I think a lot of people would take advantage of the opportunity to release some anger, resentment, or revenge. How dangerous life would be if that was the case.

I liked the nature of the book, and the lessons I could take away from it. But in the end, I was especially glad it was fiction.

So what did you think?

(Poll for December's book is in the side bar. I decided to go with less "classic" and more "present" since this will be one of the last polls for the 1600-present time frame.)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Man's Meaning

Well the poll is closed and the winner for November's book selection is... Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Franko.

I must say I'm a little excited. I didn't vote for this one, but it's the only one of the options that I haven't read yet, so it will be interesting to compare it to the others.

Happy Reading everyone! Next discussion starts on Nov. 5th (on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Eyes You Buy With

I loved this question that was recently posted on Booking Through Thursday. (My apologies to Amy, who I'm sure has already answered this.)

Book Gluttony! Are your eyes bigger than your book belly? Do you have a habit of buying up books far quicker than you could possibly read them? Have you had to curb your book buying habits until you can catch up with yourself? Or are you a controlled buyer, only purchasing books when you have run out of things to read?

My eyes are definitely bigger than my book belly. I currently own at least 20 books that I haven't read yet. But when I find a good deal on a book that I know I want, I can't leave it on the shelf. (Or, often in my case, bid-less on ebay)
Plus, I'm lucky enough that my family knows how much I love to read, so they buy me books as gifts. I LOVE when they do, but they are rarely books that were already on my list, but most of them get added to my list of "I want to read"s too. But at least I know I shouldn't run out of good things to read. Especially not for a LONG time.

So how about you? What are your book buying habits?

Friday, October 16, 2009

What a Treasure

So, I am the worst club manager ever. Family has been sick and computers have crashed and I am really late getting a discussion started on Treasure Island.

I did however, really enjoy reading the book. It was an easy to read while taking care of a million other things, kind of story. I found it fast paced and attention grabbing, even though I sometimes struggle with Stephenson's language.

It definitely makes you think twice about "treasure hunting". I think it's a great statement about how money doesn't bring happiness. I think that by the end of the story everyone one the voyage would agree that it wasn't worth what they went through to get it. A lesson that I think too many people don't believe.

While reading the story I also did some reading on Stephenson's background and upbringing. Because of that, I found his attitudes regarding religion interesting in the book. What I read said that he was an unbeliever (something that tore up his family) yet I felt he did a very good job at portraying the feelings and actions of those that did believe in the book, as well as the feelings of those that did not, like Silver.

I also couldn't help but think about Jim's part in the whole story. He isn't much older than my son and I couldn't imagine my son dealing with betrayal, work, and danger, of those magnitudes. I realize that we don't give our children as much responsibility, as early, as people did back then- but I still can't imagine sending my young teenager off on a ship of men, of which I only knew one, to search for a treasure that belonged to a deplorable man. It actually made me sad that he had to lose his innocence as early, and in the way that he did. Especially when he was forced to take a life to save his own.

So how did you enjoy the story?

(I also hope you are enjoying Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. And don't forget to vote for Nov. book in the side bar.)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Good Ole Robert Louis

I really hope that you are all enjoying Treasure Island, or at least the way the Robert Louis Stephensen writes, because he won the choice for Oct.'s book too. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde won the vote for next months book. Hopefully it will help get you all in the Halloween mood. "OOOooohhhhhhh."

Monday, September 7, 2009

It's a Sin to Kill a Mocking Bird

I had always wondered where they came up with the title to this book. Now, I'm glad that I know.

I learned so much from reading To Kill a Mocking Bird, this month. I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed it in the, "it made me mad" sense. (Sort of like Uncle Tom's Cabin.) I was appalled at the things that I considered wrong, but I loved how the story was told and the people and things that were good.

I also "enjoyed" seeing the evils of the world through the eyes of a child. It once again reminded me that our children are ALWAYS listening and watching us. They understand so much more than we give them credit for, but they also need our guidance and example for the parts that they don't understand yet.

Of course there were lots of parts that weren't easy to read. Parts that made me angry, parts that confused me and made me wonder what I'd have said in that situation. (like when they find out about Tom's death in the Missionary lunch). But there was a lot of good I found in the book as well.

With the narrator being a child, I found this book a very easy to read, story, yet every once in a while they would throw in a comment by a character that was so profound and eloquent. Like when Atticus gave his closing statements in court and brought up Thomas Jefferson and that "All men are created equal" can be taken so many different ways, but that the one place that it is absolutely true is in a court room.
Or the way that Mr. Raymond confessed to putting on an act of being a drunk to make it easier for the town not to like him, because he knew that they wouldn't accept his life style.
I adored Atticus' sense of character. How he always thought of what his children would think of him before he did any actions. And how he could make sure that they heard what he wanted them to hear, even when they thought they shouldn't be listening.
I really enjoyed the lesson learned from Mrs. Dubose. And I love the quote about walking in other people's skin before you pass judgments on them.
I also enjoyed Miss Maudie's way of peacefully and lovingly telling the truth, especially to the children.
Most of all I thought that the book was very nicely summed up in the closing statements when Scout and Atticus said:

"...Atticus, he was real nice..."
"Most people are Scout, when you finally see them."

I don't know if I've ever read a book before that when I was finished I had both an upsetting pit in the bottom of my stomach and a longing to read more of the good.

(Leave your comments here, I can't wait to read what you thought too.)

Grapes ...

I wish I had a cleaver title for this post, but to be honest, I didn't get both the books read like I had wanted too. However, I know that this book is supposed to take place around the same time as the Great Depression, and I would love to hear what similarities and differences were found to our times.
If you chose the Grapes of Wrath, please leave your comments to this post.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Let's Find a Treasure

The Poll has ended and Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stephenson came out on top. Looks like Sept. should be full of adventure.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What Inspires You?

This months in between question was originally posted on Booking Through Thursday in Jan. So you have my apologies if you've already answered it.

What books inspire you?

Personally, I like books that I can learn something from. I think that's why I enjoy the classics so much. Even if the theme of the book isn't historical, it happened so long ago that you learn something about the lifestyles of those times.

I especially like when there is a religious undertone to the book. I am a very religious person and I love when spirituality is worked into a story even if it isn't what the story is about. Like in Jane Eyre for example.

I know that a book is really good when you finish it and wished that there was just one more chapter.

How about you?

Monday, August 17, 2009


So, once again you have my sincerest apologies. The end of summer this year has been a very busy one. My mother had surgery, my kids got sun poisoning, we have a foreign exchange student, we've had scout camp and family reunions and that's just in the last week and a half.

So I'm ready to read your thoughts on White Fang.

I don't have all my notes with me, but I know that in the beginning I was very disappointed with how "man eating" and violent it portrayed the wolves to be. My husband is a big fan of wolves and has studied them a lot. There are NO reports of wolves ever attacking humans unless they had rabies except in stories. I know that they were starving, but I don't think they'd have really acted as the book explained.

When I got to section 2 I liked the story a lot better. I loved the puppy point of view. But I disagreed with the statement that he would know nothing of God. I think animals now God a lot better than some of us humans.

I'll post more later when I have my notes and see some of your thoughts as well. Hope you've enjoyed your summer readings. Remember you have two books to choose from this month and next months poll is up now.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Let's Try Two

We really seem to like ties around here. Every month I've tried to come up with a new way to break the ties that we end up with on reading selections, and this month I've decided to do something new yet again........ I'm not breaking the tie.
We will have two books for the month of Aug.

To Kill a Mocking Bird AND The Grapes of Wrath

So here's how it will work: Everyone will pick one of the two books and read it in Aug. I will TRY to get both of them read and we will have a discussion for BOTH books on Sept. 5. You can participate in the discussion for the book(s) that you read.

This way we should have more happy readers.... we'll see how it goes anyway.

Happy Reading.

(I'll see you all back here on Aug 6th for the discussion on White Fang.)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Cover Judges

Yet another questions stolen from the archives of Booking Through Thursdays. (see side bar for link)

They say, "Don't judge a book by it's cover." But how much does the design of a book affect your reading enjoyment? Hardcover vs. softcover? Font? Illustrations? Etc.?

When it comes to reading or enjoying a story, I really don't care what's on the cover. However, when I am looking to buy a book, I almost always choose hard cover. They last longer and they look better on the shelf. And I do admit that when walking past the book isle in the grocery store, a unique picture has been known to catch my eye and lure me over to read what the book is about. Very rarely does it get me to buy the book though. So over all, I'd say I don't judge a story by it's cover, but I do judge a book by one.

Do you judge books by their covers?

Monday, July 6, 2009

So What is Courage?

I must admit that I had a love/hate relationship with this book.

First of all it moved very quickly, I actually read it casually, in about 3 days.
Secondly I loved the pictures that were painted and how you could really "see" what was happening in the battles. I thought there were some beautiful analogies.
As far as the story itself, I had very mixed feelings. I loved how honest the book was. For example I thought it was so true to life, how "the youth" had dreamed of battles all his life, had fought with his mother for months about enlisting, gone on to enlist without her blessing and then when the battle actually came, he had never wanted this, he was forced to join and he was disgusted by his stupid commanders.
I also found it true how he had so many flash backs of his previous life in the heat of different circumstances.
I appreciated his self doubt about whether he could be brave in battle or not, or if he would run. I saw so much of how I would be in his trying to get others to admit to something, without he himself admitting he was scared. But I thought that he would get to the battle and adrenaline would take over and he would perform just fine. His running did surprise me. Although, I was first inclined to do some justifying myself. He had followed others, he thought that everyone would run. He wasn't the first to take off. But the way he handled things afterwards very much upset me. I was especially appalled by the way that he left the injured man, how he hated him, just because he wanted to know where his wound was. A dying man was trying to care more about the youth than himself and in return he was left to die a lone. I was disgusted. And later when he returned to his regiment and they assumed that he had fought, been separated and shot and he actually had the audacity to think of ways to make fun of the "loud soldier" because he hadn't died; well, I wanted to reach into the book and smack him!

When he did finally meet his battles and went to another place in his mind and fought very hard, and at times valiantly, I was glad and rejoiced that he had over come his weaknesses.
As a very patriotic person, I was almost moved to tears when he took it upon himself to carry the flag. When he realized how much that it meant to him and never again gave it up.

And I was happy with the ending; how he was able to look back at all he had done honestly. How he was able to admit his mistake and feel guilt without trying to make excuses and justifications, yet he was able to push it aside by seeing the good he had ultimately done as well, so that he was able to move on and go back to a "normal" post military life.

I also believe that there are great life lessons in personal character that can be learned from this book. I think that it might be a little much for my 11 year old, but it is definitely on my list of "my son must read this." (Just a couple years of maturity down the road.)

I'm also glad that we ended up extending the reading time for last months book. Because I tried hard to finish it before starting this one, I ended up reading/finishing it during Independence day weekend and I couldn't help but liken what the battles of the Civil War had to have had in common with those of the Revolutionary War. It made me appreciate again, and all the more, what so many others have sacrificed for me in all the wars that have been fought for my country.

I hope that you enjoyed this quick read as well and I can't wait to read your thoughts on the book.
I hope you had a WONDERFUL holiday.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Jack London Wins It

Well the poll is now closed, and by an overwhelming margin, White Fang, but Jack London was chosen as July's book.

I'll see you here in a few more days (July 5th) to discuss June's book, The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I’m wondering what other people do when they come across a word/phrase that they’ve never heard before. Do you jot it down on paper so you can look it up later, or do you stop reading to look it up on the dictionary/google it, or do you just continue reading and forget about the word?

Overall I'm a jot it down and look it up at the end of the chapter, kinda gal. When I was younger I would just skip over it. But I like to look it up now. I rarely stop reading to look it up though, I write the page number it was on when I take the note down to look it up later. I must admit though, that while reading Jane Eyre, I learned to read it next to my computer so that every time her student said something (in french, which I never took in school) I could immediately look it up on the google translator and know what the heck they were talking about.

So how about you? How do you handle a word that stumps you?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Did Anybody Finish?

May and June turned out to be much busier months than I thought. And I have to be honest, I haven't finished the book.  So this is turning into more of an announcement post for me.

If you did finish, let everyone know what you thought.  It is my goal to finish Anna K. and The Red Badge of Courage this month.

On a happier note, "CONGRATULATIONS!" are in order.  Mrs. and Mr. Mordecai welcomed their newest family member .  They had their 1st girl (2nd child) on June 9th.  Visit her personal blog at: to see the cute pics and get all the details.
Congratulations again!  I am so happy for you and your family.

Also the poll is going up today for July's book so don't forget to cast your vote.

I can't wait to read your thoughts.  Sorry, again, that I don't have many yet.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Power of a Gift

This months in between question was taken from Booking Through Thursday. (Who's link I've added at the bottom of the side bar.)

What, if any, memorable or special book have you ever gotten as a present?
What made it so notable? The person who gave it? The book itself? The “gift aura?”

I don't know if it qualifies as a "gift", but my mother "gave" me my great grandmothers books that she had handed down to her. Two are primary school books with stories like Pandora's Box in them, and one is her VERY OLD copy of Gone With the Wind. Their bindings are totally falling apart. I rarely read them, because I am afraid they will disintegrate faster. But they mean the world to me and that copy of Gone With the Wind is what started my love and fascination with the classics.

So do you have a favorite "gift" book? Why does it mean so much?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Some Extra Time

After reading the comments about how far everyone is on Anna K...  and seeing what book was chosen for June, I've decided to push our discussion back two weeks. 

The Red Badge of Courage will be our next selection and it's not very long so I think that most of us can easily read it in a few weeks.  So our next book selection discussion will happen on Friday, June 19th instead of the 5th. Hopefully this will help everyone to finish it without any stress. (We will still discuss ..Red Badge... on July 5th.)

Happy Reading!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Will We Be Able To Finish?

Hi all,
I was emailed today by a member of the club who, due to personal circumstances, isn't sure they will be able to finish May's book in May.  They have read the book before, so they don't want everyone to change their plans just for them, however, I am currently on chapter 7.  So I thought I'd put my feelers out there and see how everyone else is doing.

Are you plugging right along?  Will you be ready for a discussion on June 5th?
Are you struggling with a book that's every bit as large as Moby Dick?  Do we need to give ourselves an extra month, or even two weeks to finish the book?

My opinion is that I can handle it either way. (Whatta cop out I know.)  

I have already decided to continue our current theme through part of 2010, so adding one more month to the books I have planned isn't going to be a big deal.  

I also know, that one or two quiet Sunday's after church will get me caught up on my reading, so I can still start a discussion on time if that's what everyone wants to do.

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.
(And don't forget to leave your thoughts on Around the World in 80 Days, and vote for June's book.)

Friday, May 8, 2009

All Around the World

You all have my sincerest apologies for the late post this month. Our computer went down on Monday and I didn't get it back until today. Thank you so much to those of you who emailed me. I very much appreciate that you cared about my well being. We are fine, we just weren't able to use the computer. So now that you've waited long enough... here is my short thoughts on Around the World in 80 Days.

Whoa, did Disney take liberties! This book was much different than the movie I've seen, which was my only experience with this story yet.

I did think that it was a fun, fast moving story though. I was a little worried before I started the book, because I've read Journey to the Center of the Earth; and while my son and I found it to be a fun story, it was very long, and full of very big words, and parts of it really dragged on. This one was much easier to read.

I was very intrigued by Phineas Fogg's personality. I admired Fogg's calm and forgiveness throughout the trip. I really admired and was thankful for his bravery and humanity, in reference to Aouda and Passpartout, when they needed rescuing.
It made me incredibly upset at how Disney made him such a scatter brained proffesor/scientist. They took all of the chivilry and good character lessons out of the story.

I loved that Aouda was able to see past his sometimes cold-ish properness, and that they were able to get their "happily ever after"- ending up together.

I found the story easy to read. I found it to pace at the same speed as the story. It moved very quickly, just like their whirl-wind trip. The only time I felt the story dragged was for a short time when they were on the train, in America. And even then, that is the part in their trip that seemed slow to them.

I was surprised, and impressed, when Ogden, was mentioned and given credit as being huge for the railroad. (For those of you who don't know I live quite near Ogden, in Utah.) As well, when I saw there would be a chapter on Mormons, I was curious and nervous; both of which turned out to be warranted. I was pleasantly surprised in the parts that were right. (History of the LDS church migration etc.) and a little bummed out, but not at all surprised by the mistakes. (The words the missionary preached etc.)

I also liked/appreciated how it was all real modes of transportation during that time period. (Unlike some movies I've seen, and one of Jules Verne's other novels, Journey to the Center of the Earth, which is a bit far fetched for me.) I came out of it thinking that his trip really was possible. Which even with todays faster modes of transportation seems like quote a feat.

Poor Mr. Fix. I never did like him though. I realize that he thought he was doing his job, and even apologized at the end of the story. But because I knew that Fogg was innocent, I never could like him. Especially when he pulled a couple of things on Passepartout. (Like the getting him drunk and drugging him escapade.)

I hope that you all enjoyed this lighter classic as well, this last month. And I can't wait to read your interpretations.

*hugs to you all*

Friday, April 17, 2009

Books VS. Movies

Another in between questioned borrowed from Booking Through Thursday.
Books and films both tell stories, but what we want from a book can be different from what we want from a movie. Is this true for you? If so, what’s the difference between a book and a movie?

I don't know that I want different things from a book and a movie. I want a good story. However, I have noticed about myself, that I'm much more forgiving of the movie if I saw it first. Here are some examples:

I read the Chronicles of Narnia, before seeing the Disney version movies. When I saw the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, I had this lingering erk that the White Witch was supposed to have black hair! And don't get me started on my issues with Prince Caspian.

However, I grew up watching "The Sound of Music", I loved it, it's still one of my favorites. I read Maria, around my senior year of high school. I was upset about some of the things that they changed, but I understood why they did. The movie wouldn't have flowed and had as many highs and lows if they'd totally stuck to true time frames and personalities etc.

It was the same with The Counte of Monte Cristo. I saw the movie first and really liked it. When I read the book I thought, "That's not even the same story!" I liked most of the book better, but I totally understood the movie changes, even liked one of them.

I've read Janette Oake's "Love Series". When they made Love Comes Softly into a Hallmark movie, I was so excited. I couldn't wait to see it. When I did see it and the sweet and loving two year old in the book was a snotty, rotten 7 year old in the movie, I was furious. For years I thought, "They ruined the book!" In truth, they told a very cute story, it's just not the same story.

Most recently was Journey to the Center of the Earth (by Jules Vern) My son and I finished reading it a couple of weeks ago, so last night we rented the old 1959 version, because I knew that the newest version was really different-just from the commercials.  I got onto netflix and looked up all the different versions. Read about the plots of the movies and chose the one that sounded most like the book. When we watched it last night, even my son kept looking at me saying, "That's totally different that in the book!" or "He wasn't even a character in the book." "Where did the girl come from, they don't have a lady with them in the book."

We also rented Moby Dick after we finished that and that movie had big differences as well, although, after reading the novel, I totally understand why.

I haven't figured out why I can forgive the movie makers if I see their versions first, but I do know that if you want me to go watch Twilight with you, you better ask before I get around to reading the books.

Well, now it's your turn. Which do you prefer Movies or Books? What do you expect out of them?

Monday, April 13, 2009

And the Winner Is...

Well, we did get a couple more votes and the book selection for May will be....

Anna Karenina by Tolstoy.  

The Three Musketeers came in a very close 2nd place and will be added to my list of previously voted on books to be chosen from again early next year.

I hope that you are all enjoying this months read, Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne.
Happy Reading.

Friday, April 10, 2009

We Like Ties Around Here Don't We?

Once again it looks as if this months voting is going to end in a tie.  If you have not voted yet PLEASE do so. If the result is still a tie when the poll ends tomorrow, I will remove my vote to break the tie.  (The only reason I didn't vote for the other favorite is because I've already read it, but I can read books twice *wink*)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

About The Author

Harriet Beecher Stowe was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, on June 14, 1811. She was the seventh child in her family.  Her father was a Calvanist Minister of the Congregational Church.  Two of her brothers ( Henry Ward and Edward) followed in their father's footsteps. (Henry Ward Beecher also became a famed abolitionist.)

She experienced slavery for the first time when her family moved to Cincinnati.  She met run away slaves, abolitionists and heard their stories, she also saw race riots and began to aid fugitive slaves from the South.  She was very "stirred up" to hear of the "heartless hypocrocy" of forcing children from parents, husbands from wifes and the fact that even though slaves were expected to be Christians, sometimes even married in churches, their marriages were not legal and when spouses were separated they were expected to marry someone else where they went.  The quote that upset her the most, she heard among slave owners, traders, and catchers, was "they don't have the same feelings that we do." (She even puts it in the book.  Mrs. Marie St. Clare says it.)

In 1836 she married Calvin Stowe and in 1850 the moved to Maine (where he worked at Bowdoin College). They had seven children. The first two were twins, one of which was named Eliza. Their fourth child Samuel died a year after he was born from Cholera.  It was there, after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, that Harriet wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin.

It was first published as a series in an abolitionist paper.  When it was published into a book, by a Boston publisher, it sold 10,000 copies in the first week and 300,000 copies in it's first year.  But the book later became almost out of print in the middle of the twentieth century because of the harsh feelings left over from both sides of Emmancipation.  It wasn't until the 1960's (during yet another civil rights movement) that it regained popularity.

Of, Uncle Tom's Cabin, she said that she felt it was "forced upon her by the horror of slavery".  She was not worried about creating a work of literature as much as she was to persuade people through reading literature.  The book made her an instant celebrity and she traveled much to promote the book and to urge those that read it to stand up against slavery.

Uncle Tom's character was symbolic of Christ.  She said that the death scene of his character came to her as if in a vision, that "I only put down what I saw.  God wrote it."

Stowe won the respect of famous people like, Tolstoy and Abraham Lincoln.  In fact when she met Abraham Lincoln, he greeted her as, "the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war."

She also met and corresponded with people like, George Elliot, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Lady Byron.

When asked if Uncle Tom's Cabin was a true story Harriet wrote a Concluding Remarks chapter to ad to the book in the second paragraph it reads: 
"The separate incidents that compose the narrative are, to a very great extent, authentic, occurring, many of them, either her own observation, or that of her personal friends.  She or her friends have observed characters the counterpart of almost all that were introduced; and many of the sayings are word for word as heard herself, or reported to her."

Her work has since been made into a play and is considered today to be a classic.
Harriet went on to write almost another book a year as well as poems, biographical sketches, childrens books and travel books, but was always in financial hardship.  Before she died she had written over 30 novels. She is only remember, though, for her first.
Harriet died on July 1, 1896

Monday, April 6, 2009

Apparently I'm Not Very Good At This Job

You all have my apologies.  I don't usually do blog posts on Sundays and totally spaced off that yesterday was the 5th.  And as of the moment I don't have my review typed up yet.  

Please feel free to start leaving your comments on Uncle Tom's Cabin and I will ad my thoughts to yours in the comments.

(And don't forget to vote for May's book in the side bar.)

Thursday, March 19, 2009


A few weeks ago, Booking Through Thursday, asked the following question:

Have you ever been put off by an author’s books after reading a biography of them? Or the reverse - a biography has made you love an author more?

And it lead me to think that I had a question of my own. Do you often read the author's biography?

I know that I try to read the author's bio if there is one in my book, however, I never do until the end of the story. So, if I liked the book, a bio has never made me change my mind and dislike it. However, they sometimes make me understand the story more, like in the case of Charles Dickens writings. And when I found out that Herman Melville had spent time as a whaler, it gave a new insight to the story of Moby Dick. So,personally, I really like to find out more about the author, but I prefer to find out that info, after I've started the book rather than before.

So for this months in between question, answer any of the above questions, however I'd also like to pose the question, would you like an Author Post every month? - A post about the author of the current months book's author? I don't mind relaying the information that I find about the authors every month, however, if no one else will want to read them then I won't bore you.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Very Close Race and Some Questions

Apparently I chose three very interesting books to decided between for April's book. By one vote the winner is:

Around the World in 80 Days, by Jules Verne.

However, all three books received more than one vote, which has lead me to ask some questions that have been on my mind lately:

About 2 weeks ago, I started looking into the book choices for next years time frame, and to be honest I'm having a hard time coming up with enough classic novels, and I've been wondering how to remedy the situation.

Here are my ideas for fixes so far and I would appreciate your inputs.

1. We can have an assigned book, instead of voting. (for example we could say Jan. book IS the Odyssey, by Homer- no voting)

2. We can have both books and authors to vote on. (for example in Jan we can read the Illiad by Homer, however in Feb. the topic will be Plato and you comment on which ever of his works you found and read that month during discussion time. This is a much more you have to do some work alternative.)

3. We can combine the Ancient-400 time frame with the 400-1600 time frame. (getting through all of these books in one year instead of two.)

4. We can spend the first 3-6 months of 2010 continuing this years era and read some of the books that have narrowly escaped the votes, like: Great Expectations, Les Miserables, Bleakhouse, The House of Seven Gables, and others that I'm sure will come close later this year, etc. before moving on to the ancients the second half of the year.

I realize that you have all been very kind in letting me run the show since I took over for Mrs. Brooke, however, I really do want you to feel like this is YOUR book club too. So please let me know your feelings about how we should keep the group going next year.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Whale of a Tale

Forgive me for posting a little late today. I had lots of notes to go through.

I realize that this was a long and and tedious book, and that it didn't have a happily ever after sort of ending. But for very personal reasons I took a lot away from this book. You see, my hubby is retired from the Coast Guard. I am married to a sailor and almost immediately I was drawn to the similarities between the sailors of old and the sailors of today. So I hope that you won't mind that a lot of my thoughts are what I took away and learned about my own sailor.

It started in the 1st paragraph of the book when he spoke of wanting to knock peoples hat's into the street, and following funerals, etc. I'm sure that it was meant to make us laugh and get the point across that he got bored on land. My husband very easily gets cabin fever though. And it made me giggle to know that it is a common trait in his profession. And while he is content to move on with his life and is glad that he has more time to spend with his family, I know that he very much misses parts of his military life, especially the ocean.

When he spoke of all roads leading to the sea and other such comparisons to water. I thought it was a little strange and then he says, " Why upon first voyage as passenger did you yourself feel such a Mystical vibration..." And I was immediately taken back to my first time on the open ocean. My husbands ship did a day pleasure cruise for the crews family and it was "mystical". I saw a humpback whale. I felt the roll of the waves and how endless the water felt. I got to go on deck and seethe areas of the ship, all the instruments and steer the boat. It's a memory that I will never forget and I have an understanding of how some could find it addicting. The same statement also made me think of Robinson Crusoe and how addicted he was to the sea even after all the times the deity had stepped in to intervene for him, he couldn't stop himself from going back.

I giggled out loud when she said he always went to sea as a sailor, not a passenger and never as an officer. My husband used to have a saying, "Don't call me sir, I work for a living." He too, was enlisted his whole carrier, never an officer. And when in the book he says, "Why pay to doing something that I can get paid to do?" I wondered if the cruise that my hubby and I always talk about going on would really bring him any fun or happiness.
I think that T (my husband) would also very much agree when he said that "The commodore on the quarter deck gets his atmosphere at second hand from the sailors on the forecastle." I knew very quickly that the real work is done by those lower on the totem pole and that those in charge were only as good as their crew.

My favorite quote of the whole book was on page 15 in my copy. "The urbane activity with which a man receives money is really marvellous, considering that we so earnestly believe money to be the root of all earthly ills and that on no account can a monied man enter heaven. Ah, how cheerfully we consign ourselves to perdition!" So true.

The next likeness that I saw to T was when he spoke of what made him think to try whaling this time around. He speaks of the danger and the unknown. "With other men perhaps such things would not have been inducements; but as for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts. Not ignoring what is good, I am quick to perceive a horror and could still be social with it- would they let me- since it is well to be on friendly terms with the inmates of the place one lodges in." My T wanted to travel so much more in his military career than we did. He wanted to go over seas. See new places and cultures. meet with new people and experiences. I was the one that was a scaredy cat about it and begged him to stay in the states. He isn't afraid to take on new challenges and he handles bad times with coolness and calm. 20/20 hindsight, I know that we'd have been fine anywhere.

I was immediately drawn into the story of Queequeg. And took many favorite quotes from that aspect of the story too.
"What's all this fuss I have been making about... the man's a human being just as I am... Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian."

I learned to think of closure differently when it spoke of those left behind when loved ones died at sea. "Oh ye, whose dead be buried beneath the green grass... You know not the desolation that broods in bosoms like these." I realize that seeing a casket put in the ground or having a grave to go to, does bring peace to some and that peace is taken away if there is no body to bury and to know that it isn't even resting peacefully, it's being devoured. I feel for those that aren't able to find the peace that they need to overcome such a heartache.

I also like how he could subtly mention his religious beliefs. I don't think that he was the type of person to say he belonged to a certain religion, but the way he felt about Queequeg and other things he said proved that he did hold faith in a higher power.
"In fact take my body, who will, take it... me thinks my body is but less of my better being..."
(when speaking of the preachers sermon:) "Who to him whom this world charms from Gospel duty!...Woe to him whose good name is more to him than goodness."
"You cannot hide the soul."
"...for I cherish the greatest respect towards every bodies religious obligations, never mind how comical, and could not find it in my heart to under value even a congregation of ants worshipping a toadstool..." I wish that the world as a whole could be more like this. If we could all learn to love each other as creatures of earth instead of different religions there would be much more peace.

"The world is a ship on it's passage out and not a passage complete, and the pulpit is it's prow." It reminded me a little of, "All the world's a stage..." but with an more religious undertone.

I LOVE that he and Queequeg became friends over a book! I was also struck with how Ishmael admired how Queequeg was so okay by himself, yet after one good visit and a smoke he embraced him and swore allegiance even to death for their friendship. I think it proves that everyone is happier when not alone. Even those who seem content by themselves, appreciate true, unjudgemental, friendship.

It also brought to my mind that there is something to be said about friends that you live with. T often called his shipmates his brothers. They became as dear as family and they trusted each other with their lives and that is a special friendship indeed.

When speaking of warmth: "for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast." It reminded me of the saying that without sadness there can be no happiness. And I appreciated him trying to teach and express that.

From Queequeg's story, I re-learned that there is evil in all parts of the world. Queequeg was surprised by how the "Christian" sailors spent their time and money. And that made me sad, that, this had to be his first example of Christianity. -What kind of example am I to those around me? There is always some one watching. And as Ishmael said:
"...Heaven have mercy on us all- Presbyterians and Pagans alike- for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending."

On a totally different note. I can not imagine having to pack for a 3 year trip! The thought of all that would entail, made my head hurt.

I also really like the 'Honor of Whaling' chapter. While I definitely don't agree with the practise, I realized how many jobs are looked down upon. It made me glad that shows like Dirty Jobs are out there trying to bring them some praise.

The 'Cetology' chapter also made me laugh and spoke of the true character of some people. He lists all the reasons that science gives for classifying whales as mammals instead of fish and then says that he still thinks they're fish! Some people are so stubborn and nothing can be said to change their thinking or their ways.

On the same note however, I am one who is fascinated by sea life, especially the marine mammals, so I loved how he argued the name killer "For we are all killers, on land and on sea; Bonapartes and sharks included." I make my kids call them orcas.

It was at about this point in the book that I discovered that I think this book was as much Melville's forum for voicing his views on politics and life, as it was to tell a story.

The following quote jumped out at me. "For not only do fabulous rumors naturally grow out of the very body of all surprising terrible events... but in maritime life... wild rumors abound." We know where "fish stories" came from, by his own admission and I couldn't help thinking if that wasn't also his way of admitting that even this story is exaggerated?

In the second half of the Moby Dick chapter when he speaks of Ahab, his revenge is so well described and so obvious that it had taken over not just his life but his soul. I knew then and there that this was a dangerous man to be with.

In the Whiteness of the Whale chapter, I had never likened so many symbols to a single color. I was awed by all the examples of white that he had. Yes he rambles a bit but it was interesting to me.

His advice, "... be economical with your lamps and candles.! Not a gallon you burn, but at least one drop of man's blood was spilled for it." stuck with me as well. Certain fisheries are still one of the most dangerous industries, but it made me think about how many other things do we take for granted as conveniences that weren't convenient to get?

With the first whale sighting and him describing what the different heads did to get their men to row, I loved what he said about Ahab, "These were words best omitted here..." They were fit only for the sharks. This is why I love the classics. He very clearly painted the picture that Ahab 'cursed like a sailor' without having to pollute our minds with that filth. I was a little disappointed later in the book when their were a couple of words I'd have preferred not to read, but over all I was very thankful for him sparing me the worst of them. Something that today's books and movies don't feel they need to do.

I also had a smile brought to my face in the Monstrous Pictures of Whales chapter. To hear of all the terrible artwork he had seen of "whales" I can see how it must have been so frustrating to someone who had seem them up close and personal to see others so poorly educated about them and it made me appreciate that I live in a time of cameras and videos that allow me to see the truth of more creatures and their lifestyles.

At this point in the book, I must admit that even I was acknowledging that Yes, Moby Dick is full of un-needed chapters. However in the Line chapter, it reminded me that it is only through these bits of over explanatory parts that history is recorded. In reading classics such as these we have a picture painted of how life really worked. Of exactly how things were set up and done. So that we can now see how a couple of small boats with six men in them could really catch and kill and tow a whale without killing each other. It does seem mundane to you and I, I found myself thinking 'get on with the story already' but it's because of details like this that we know so much about the past.

His view of how they could do such a dangerous job struck me. "All men live enveloped in whale lines. All are born with halters round their necks; but it is only when caught in the swift, sudden turn of death, that mortals realize the silent, subtle, ever present perils of life. And if you be a philosopher, though seated in the whale boat, you would not at heart feel one more whit of terror, than though seated before your evening fire with a poker, and not a harpoon, by your side." I think many do feel that way. Life is dangerous no matter what, and you can either be scared of it, or live it.

In Stubb's Chapter. I can't imagine how hard and tiring it must have been to tow in that whale. The fatigue must have been unbearable. Especially since you would have already been so tired from getting to it and killing it in the first place. What strong, strong men! And then to have sharks eat so much of that hard work! It must have seemed heartbreaking.
I also earned a strong dislike for Stubb though. With the way he gloated and how he treated the "old black man"... I wanted to smack him. And I think we learned later that he was a total follower without much of a backbone, compared to Starbuck.

Another totally random quote that will only mean something to me is when he asked? "Do you believe in Ghosts." I have it on very good authority that Sailors are the most superstitious beings on earth! And that there are many a haunted lighthouses along the coasts.

It sounds cheesy, but I almost cried when Queequeg jumped in to save Tashtego from drowning in the whale. Melville really won me over and I loved Queequeg. My heart is sad for all the ill that came to him. Life is certainly not fair.

The "Old Whale" chapter very much upset me. They already had two whales the Jungfrau (other ship) had none. They capsized the other ships boat and leave them there, and then they kill an old whale that had been abused it's whole life and it sinks! What a waste. Such a sad reminder that there is pride and greediness everywhere. I was just sick for that poor old whale. Couldn't even die peacefully in his old age. AND the trick on the other French ship was horrible. Yes they may have been the means for killing some of those whales, but there were rules and that is part of the job and they were underhanded and dirty about it. I guess that's what they mean by a 'dog eat dog world'.

I've heard that even now, fishermen do their own dental work while out at sea, but the Carpenter chapter made my stomach churn a little. He must have been a very talented and busy man though. I had much respect for him.

Queequeg stole my heart again when he said, "..if a man made up his mind to live, mere sickness could not kill him..." I've know people like that and their strength and determination astound me. I hope that I can learn to be more like that.
On a separate note. After learning what they used as dental and doctoring skills and knowing that true bathing isn't really an option. I think it's a miracle that the whole crew didn't come down with the fever.

My heart also felt so sorry for little Pip. It's amazing what our own minds can do to us after a traumatic event. It's probably also a wonder that they didn't all lose their minds too. (which also made me think back to the man that followed them around at the beginning of the story. I know he was meant to be their omen, but I wouldn't have believed the crazy loon either. I'd have just thought, he'd had one to many voyages of his own.)

The Blacksmith's story was also very sad. Oh, the vile alcohol, it is indeed a robber. I thought that was a beautiful analogy. It does strip so many of all they hold dear. And it made me wonder, how many men joined crews because they thought they wouldn't make it back home? Is that really the kind of mate you want sleeping next to you knowing that your lives could depend on each other? Scary indeed.
When the Blacksmith answers Ahab, "Because I am scorched all over... thou can not scorch a scar." I don't think he was just talking literally. I think that he was referring as much to his soul as to his skin.

When Ahab gives him his razor blades and says," Take them man, I have no need for them for I now neither shave, sup nor pray..." I knew that he had been completely taken over and this was not going to end well. By his own admission, Starbuck was right and "Ahab must beware of Ahab."

A quote that really struck me was the following: "Let faith oust fact; let fancy oust memory; I look deep down and do believe. I'd like all of your thoughts on this one. I think it can be taken in so many ways.

Ahabs speech/prayer/threat in the typhoon gave me the willies much more than any of Queequegs Idol worship. No wonder Starbuck thought that God was trying to tell them something. Especially when he thought that the winds could be used in their favor to get back home.

So shortly later when Starbuck was faced with the thought of murder I understood it. It seemed he was the only one listening to Providence. He knew that by letting Ahab live, it would be their death, but as a good Christian man, he could not commit murder. I would have felt the same way and did not envy his position. What would you do?

Disgust is the only word I can find for describing how I felt when they( Ahab) would not stop for one day to help the ship Rachel. But I must say also that I wanted to know, what the heck a 12 year old was doing on a whaling ship!?

When I learned that Ahab had been 40 years a whaler and only three of those years had been spent on land, my first thought was, no wonder the guy went crazy when he lost his leg. Some people just don't have their priorities in order.
But shortly later when he said, "Omen? Omen?.... If God thinks to speak outright to man, they will honorably speak outright....." Then I realize the fact was that his real problem was that he never learned how to recognize the voice of God, or he'd let his revenge take over and forgotten.

Starbucks tears as he begged Ahab not to lower his boat the final time, touched me. To this point the only character I had really learned to care for was Queequeg, but as Ahab had himself lowered anyway and I saw that Starbuck truly cared for this man he knew to be a monster and did not wish him harm. I knew that he was indeed a good man and I felt for the heartbreak he must be feeling.

I personally felt that the story ended quite abruptly, especially after so many of the other parts seemed to go on forever. I hurt when it was Queequegs coffin that saved Ishmael and I realized that he really had been inspired both to have it made and to have it turned into a buoy. It made me sad all over again that his sweet life and Starbucks were taken because of the acts of a terrible man. And it was ironic indeed that it was the Rachel that came to his rescue.

While it didn't in any way, I think, have a happy ending. I do see why it's such a classic. There are so many life lessons that can be learned through this story. Lessons in history, religion, love of your fellow man and pride and revenge. And while it was a hard on to get through, especially in one months time, I think that I am better off for reading it.

Well, I think I've rambled long enough, now the discussion turns to you. What did you think/learn of Moby Dick?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Got Time?

So, I think this is the longest book we've read so far and I know that most were having a hard time getting through it. Will we all be ready by Thurs. or do you want to postpone the discussion until the 10th-15th?

(Normal schedule will still apply, for March's book.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


For those of you who may not have read recent comments added to our Scarlet Letter discussion. We have a new book club member, Magali. And I wanted to say WELCOME. We are always so excited to ad another mind to the thoughts that we have on the book selections.

Magali is originally from Brazil, and english is her second language. As one who studied Spanish for two years and can only remember about 3 sentences, I am amazed with the eloquency in which she is able to give us her imput and I can't wait to have another voice in our thoughts on Moby Dick on March 5.

Good luck with your reading, I think everyone is struggling to finish this one on time, but I am very excited to talk about it.

Again, welcome, Magali and thank you all for being a part of the group.

Friday, February 20, 2009


For this months "in between" post, I'm posing the question:

Why did you choose to read the classics?

For me, it started about 2 years ago. I had always wanted a big library full of classics in my home, so that we would always have something good around to read. But when the time came that I could actually start to build that library. I started to see how many of the classics I hadn't read. In fact, if we are counting what are considered "Children's Novels" then I've read quite a few (like, The Black Stallion, Anne of Green Gables, Peter and Wendy, A Little Princess, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Chronicles of Narnia, Robin Hood, etc.) But the real classics, the adult ones, I had read very few. And quite frankly, I felt stupid.

I'd heard people talk about Last of the Mohicans a thousand times, but I'd never read it. I'd seen the movie the Count of Monte Cristo, but never read the book (I have now read it, and it's NOTHING like the movies) So as I started collecting, I started reading.

About 9 months into my library building, some things happened and my hubby and I made the decision to home school our children. As I looked through curriculums, and read about the best ways to home school. One thing stuck out as universal in all the theories: Read the classics! "When your kids need to read- have them read a classic". "When you read to your children-read them classics." " Let your children catch you reading the classics". "If all you have around is classics, that's what your children will read." "Classics will help teach, proper grammar, vocabulary, history, moral lessons, political ideals, etc."

So that convinced me. Classics had to be a big part of our house. And I must admit that since I've started, I've never regretted it. Most modern books don't even sound interesting to me anymore.

So how about you? Why are you a part of the book club?

Friday, February 13, 2009

There Wasn't a Tie!

By 4 votes to 1 the book for March is: Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Hope you are enjoying Moby Dick.  Happy Reading.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A life in the Scarlet Letter

For the first time since I joined this book club, this was not the first time that I had read this book.  It was actually my third time.  But luckily I've always liked it.

Here are some of the points that struck me as I read this time around.

I was very struck with the lifestyle of the Puritans.  "Law and religion were one in the same.", it said, and in theory that sounds like a good idea.  How much less crime and sin would there be if when caught we had to pay our due to society and wear it like a badge for everyone to see.  I know that would make me think twice about decisions.  However, they took it so far and forgiveness never seemed to be realized and that made me sad.  

I was also struck with how serious they felt they had to be.  The children weren't allowed to have fun without being thought to be possessed by spirits.

And it hit me that "law and religion" were one in the same, yet those that had to deal with the law, (Governor etc.) were what provided Hester with a living.  The way she could so greatly decorate with a needle would have been considered a sin to wear in everyday life.  It would have been showing pride, however those high in society weren't held up to that standard and they utilized Hesters talents so much, her child never went hungry.  It seems that government officials thinking they are above the law isn't such a new concept after all.

I am a believer that no man should be punished for another mans mistakes and the way that Pearl was considered a tyrant because of the circumstances surrounding her birth (at times even by her own mother) made me incredibly sad and there was more than once I wanted to jump in the book and slap some people upside the head.

I didn't find Pearl to be the little elf that everyone else did.  I saw her as a normal, slightly undisciplined, little girl.  As a baby, when I read about the first thing she noticed was the scarlet letter, it made sense, we know now that babies are attracted to contrasting colors, like red and gold.  Every child wants to ask questions, play make-believe and tease their parents every once in a while.

I loved when Hester would remember that she was a blessing though.  She was her "Pearl of Great Price" bought at a major price, yet a true blessing which helped, or at least should have, to prove that the Lord did want her to have some happiness in life.  His forgiveness is immediate, unlike the rest of us.

I also laughed every time the women called themselves gossips.  It was so incredibly true, yet they didn't realize that gossip and judging others are evils as well. 

The surprise about the Reverend Dimmesdale as the father wasn't there this time, however, I noticed this time through how much I saw his inner torment through out the whole story and not just the end of the book.

Believe it or not, I had somehow forgotten that Roger Chillingsworth, (the husband) had stayed in the town and become a big part of the story.  I watched his every move very closely this time.  It seems like the first time I thought him to be a forgiving, yet didn't want to be a part of it, nice guy.  This time I saw him as much more calculating, and revengeful.  True, he took care of Hester and Pearl in their times of illness, which is to his credit. (I do think that stemmed from the love he once had for her and that he did have enough self-esteem issues -which he spoke of in the prison- so that he really did put part of her blame on himself.) But he was not the forgiving sort and I think he was really out for blood while looking for the other man.  In the end I feel that we learned how much revenge will consume your life and at times even noticeable to others.  Hester noticed at times how much he looked more disfigured than he had before.  And while half the town thought he was a God-send to the Reverend while the other half thought he looked evil and feared for his safety.  We as readers saw how evil his intentions really were.

I am always reminded of the lesson in forgiveness.  Not just that we need to forgive others, ( I still read in awe, how the others in the community treated not just Hester, but her poor Pearl who had nothing to do with her mothers sins.) but most in forgiving ones self.  It became quite obvious that even though Hester had to deal with complete humiliation, she didn't have to suffer half as much as what Reverend Dimmesdale put himself through.
Hester was able to find peace, to learn to love her fellow men and do good for others.  While even in his service to God, Dimmesdale found misery.  Each speech from the pulpit wasn't really meant for the people that he did help, it was meant to torment himself.
Sin, or really the guilt there from, really can take over your life, it can affect your health, your personality, every aspect of your life, if you let it consume you.

What did you think or learn from the book this month?

Friday, January 16, 2009

These Are a Few Of My Favorite Things

Like a lot of you may be, if I were asked what is your favorite book? Or what book would you take with you to a deserted island? I would say Scriptures, or the Bible etc. But what if you could take more than one?

What is your favorite book?

I would say the non-scriptural book that has influenced me the most, and that I could read, over and over, is:
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

If I were stranded on a desert island I would want it, or Swiss Family Robinson( by Johann David Wyss), or Robinson Crusoe(By Daniel Defoe) because I love those stories as well, and I could probably learn something from them in that situation. And as you know, Jane Eyre now makes the list. I like lots of books, but these are the ones I love.

I know there are seemingly numberless amounts to choose from, but what is your favorite book? And if that's really too hard a question, What was your favorite book of 2008?

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Tie Has Been Decided

I wrote the two books on pieces of paper and had one of my kids draw it out of a hat. The winner was... Moby Dick.
Sorry for the delay. (For those of you who don't know, my oldest put his hand in a snow blower and severely broke his finger. He goes in for surgery to reconstruct it on Wed. So please forgive my randomness lately. I'll be back to normal in a week or two. On the plus side I should be able to get lots of reading done in the waiting room.)

Thanks to everyone who voted and Happy Reading!