Monday, April 27, 2009

The book that will CHANGE YOUR LIFE

Ok. Maybe I'm being overly dramatic. But this book really has changed my life. I know that you're probably thinking, "A book about punctuation? Really? Wow, I've always thought you were strange Emily, but this really seals the deal," but I promise that if you read this book you will never view the world the same way again (unless, of course, you are exceptionally good at repressing unpleasant things - by which I mean the shock of finding punctuation errors EVERYWHERE). Lynne Truss is a genius, and not because she's a master at using punctuation herself. No, she is a genius because she can explain punctuation in a way that is hilarious and helpful. I'm not one to mix up my it'ses and itses very often, but I've never really thought much about the semi-colon and the colon. I never used to use either one; now I can't go more than a few sentences without trying one out with a gleeful smile on my face. I'm questioning every little mark - and savoring the satisfaction of having learned to use them all properly. Plus, she's British. And did I mention hilarious?

For example:

About a sign reading "CHILDREN DRIVE SLOWLY" she wrote:

"Evidently, this sign - inadvertently descriptive of the disappointing road speeds attainable by infants at the wheel - was eventually altered (but sadly not improved) by the addition of a comma, becoming CHILDREN, DRIVE SLOWLY - a kindly exhortation, perhaps, which might even save lives among those self-same reckless juvenile road-users; but still not quite what the writer really had in mind."

"Too many jobs have been heaped on this tiny mark, and - far from complaining - the apostrophe has seemingly requested "More weight", just like that martyrish old codger in Arthur Miller's The Crucible, when religious bigots in black hats with buckles on are subjecting him to death by crushing. "More weight," the apostrophe has bravely said - if ever more faintly. "More weight," it manages to whisper still."

"I'm sure people did question whether Italian printers were quite the right people to legislate on the meaning of everything; but on the other hand, resistance was obviously useless against a family that could invent italics."

"As we shall shortly see, the comma has so many jobs as a "separator" ... that it tears about on the hillside of language, endlessly organising words into sensible groups and making them stay put: sorting and dividing; circling and herding; and of course darting off with a peremptory "woof" to round up any wayward subordinate clause that makes a futile bolt for semantic freedom."

"In the family of punctuation, where the full stop is daddy and the comma is mummy, and the semicolon quietly practises the piano with crossed hands, the exclamation mark is the big attention-deficit brother who gets over-excited and breaks things and laughs too loudly."

Too many quotes? Ok, one more:

"The good news for punctuation is that the age of printing has been glorious and has held sway for more than half a millennium. The bad news for punctuation, however, is that the age of printing is due to hold its official retirement party next Friday afternoon at half-past five."

I wish everyone would read this book. Lynne's right, what with texting, blogging, twittering, etc... everybody is self-publishing these days, and correct punctuation and grammar are dying a very slow and painful death. We've all become lazy and we're not taking the trouble to remember or learn how to do things correctly.

Yours truly too.

Oh the shame! The embarrassment!

When I first created my blogging account I named our family "The Roundy's". Ever since then, every time I've left a comment "The Roundy's" has been posted right above it. I always felt uncomfortable about that little apostrophe. Was it right? Was it wrong? I was always telling myself to take the time to figure it out. I managed to convince myself that there must be some exception to the rule that you don't use an apostrophe before the "S" to pluralize things. Roundy's is so much more aesthetically pleasing than Roundys. Well, I was wrong. It's like I've been walking around the blogging world with a huge hunk of lettuce stuck in my front teeth!!! Arrrgghhh!!!

Read this book. It will save you from embarrassment. And have you rolling with laughter. And have you agreeing with Lynne when she says:

"Why did the Apostrophe Protection Society not have a militant wing? Could I start one? Where do you get balaclavas?"

Sign me up Lynne!

The Bronze Bow

This book is a gem, and I cannot believe it's taken me so long to read another book by Elizabeth George Speare. She wrote one of my all-time favorites, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and three of her books have earned the right to wear one of those shiny, beautiful Newbery stickers. This one earned the Newbery in 1962, and it made me wish that something as deeply religious as this work could have a chance of earning a Newbery nowadays. This is the kind of literature that the world needs more of. It's beautiful and uplifting. This story of a bitter young man is contemporary with the time of Christ's ministry on earth. This book was a good reminder to me of the things that are most important in my life. I think everyone should read it.

Howl's Moving Castle

You know how sometimes everyone you know will tell you how awesome a certain book/movie/song is and your expectations are built up too high and you end up being majorly disappointed? Well, that's Howl's Moving Castle for me. I don't even know how many times people have told me they're shocked I haven't read this book, that it's a virtual legend in the YA fiction world.


I thought it was boring. A few delightful elements here and there, but overall I thought the plot was muddy and uninteresting. Really, who wants to see the heroine of a book spend her whole time (save the last two pages or so) as a 90 year-old woman? I wasn't sold. Too bad.

39 Clues...Take 3

This series is settling into a nice groove in my life. They come out frequently, I never spend longer than an afternoon on one, and I kind of enjoy them. I love the travel/adventure parts, but there's nothing truly great about them. I did think Peter Lerangis did a good job of carrying the banner, authorically speaking. I think he's writing one of the other books in the series later on, so that's good. I do not, however, think this series has a prayer of filling the post Harry Potter void like Scholastic was hoping it would. Sorry Scholastic! You're going to have to do better than that!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Fablehaven 4

Phew! Talk about action packed! I barely had time to breathe while reading this book. It was awesome; everything and more that I'd hoped it would be. Before I read the first book in this series I thought they might be kitsch, unoriginal and boring. But they easily stand alone in the fantasy genre. They continue to get better too. I was surprised by how much more depth Brandon Mull was able to add onto characters that I thought I already knew pretty well.

Speaking of characters, this book has memorable moments with all of my favorite characters from Fablehaven (which is a magical preserve): Kendra, Seth and their grandparents; those technology-craving satyrs; the centaurs, who are rather terrifying when they're angry; the demon Graulas; and even the fairy queen makes an appearance. Mixed in with all the regulars, there was a wide range of new and equally lovable (yes, I love the bad guys too - even if I would never want to meet them) new characters: Thronis, the giant king; Raxtus, the super cool dragon (to elaborate would be to spoil it for you); Bubda, the Yahtzee playing hermit troll; and none other than Navarog, the demon dragon prince himself (boo!!! ~ hiss!!!). Add to the equation some sweet magical items, a very tight plot, a brilliantly described dragon sanctuary, a MASSIVE betrayal that I sooo was not expecting, and the suspense of being the second to last book in a series, and you have a very difficult to put down read. I'm not sure when the 5th book comes out, but I'm sure that it's far too long from now.

Monday, April 6, 2009

the girl who could fly

Kind of a boring title, huh? Not sure why Victoria Forester couldn't come up with something just a teensy bit more interesting, but whatever. There's been a lot of hype about this book since Stephenie Meyer posted on her website that everyone should read it. I'll admit, that's why I requested it from the library. I like Stephenie Meyer. She's not my favorite author, but I have respect for her and faith in her taste in books. She's recommended other books that I've really loved (The Hunger Games for example). Unfortunately, it wasn't a great read. It was a bizarre X-Men meets the hillbillies mix that just didn't work for me. I thought the writing was good until the climax (which was very choppy and sudden). Not much else to say. At least it was a quick read!

Sunday, April 5, 2009


Yeah, so I bought the movie, and then I had to read the book to compare, and then I couldn't stop until I'd read the whole series! Blast. Click here to read what I've previously written about the first three books. I was glad I read Breaking Dawn again, though. It was much better the second time around (since I already knew what to expect I wasn't nearly as disappointed). It's still a weird book, but it had its high points. Like the entire section written from Jacob's perspective. He had the best chapter titles, featuring such gems as "Why Didn't I Just Walk Away? Oh Right, Because I'm An Idiot.", "Good Thing I've Got A Strong Stomach", "You Know Things Are Bad When You Feel Guilty For Being Rude To Vampires", and "What Do I Look Like? The Wizard Of Oz? You Need A Brain? You Need A Heart? Go Ahead. Take Mine. Take Everything I Have." Fabulous. If you've never read Twilight, just do it. You know you'll be curious for the rest of your life if you don't.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Ex Libris

I'd recommend this hilarious collection of essays about the love of (or obsession with) books to any book lover alive. Maybe I didn't always agree with Fadiman's opinions on things, but she certainly confessed to a level of bibliophilia that I can relate to. On some levels. She casually mentioned zillions of book titles that I've never heard of. She's obviously better read that yours truly, but I still felt like we were kindred spirits. It was very easy to identify with such character traits as her compulsive proof-reading, obsession with second-hand books, love of huge words, and persnickety book organization methods.

I thought her "Marrying Libraries" chapter was brilliant. One of the things I've loved about being married to Jon is the combination of our book collections. He's given me a taste for poetry and philosophy which is definitely new for me. We're constantly adding to our library, and it has not been easy to figure out how to fit everything onto our limited shelving options. In fact, we have boxes of books with no current homes and I can't wait until we have a house so Jon can build me all the shelves I've been longing for. I love books as decorations. As long as they get read too, of course. An unread book is almost as bad as an unused piano. (Nothing bothers me quite as much as when people buy a piano just to make them look rich and fancy.) Anyway, eventually I'd like to organize all my books alphabetically by genre, but for now they're pretty haphazardly organized by topic and desire for frequent access. It's a mess!

I'll admit to reacting in horror to a few things she mentioned in her "Sir, You Must Never Do That to a Book" chapter. She catalogs book lovers into either courtly lovers or carnal lovers, and I must be somewhere in between. Unlike the "carnal" type, I do NOT feel comfortable ripping pages out of books, writing extensive notes in margins, using books as door jambs, or any of the other ghastly things she mentions. Maybe it's just my desire to make my books last as long as possible. My number one book rule is "NO BOOKS ON THE FLOOR!" because I know that's where they're most likely to be eaten by Spencer. I hope he grows out of this phase quickly. Our copy of "Knuffle Bunny" is almost destroyed. I'm not sure why that seems to be the most delicious book in the house. Anyway, I'm also not the other extreme. I want my books to look used and loved. And I have on occasion been known to *gasp* lay my books aside with the pages facing down when I don't have a bookmark handy. I do NOT, however, dog-ear them under any circumstances *shudder*.

One last thing, I do want to brag that in her chapter where she expounds the virtue of a large vocabulary I actually knew one of the words in her impossible to know 20 word vocab test. Diapason - meaning with full voice or tenor. Of course it was a music word. With greek origins. Two of my favorite hobbies. Anyway, if you're a book lover, this little work is delightful.

Just for fun...

This one's been floating around for a while, so I thought I'd give it a go. Hopefully the results aren't too embarrassing!

The BBC believes most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here. How do your reading habits stack up? Look at the list and put an 'x' after those you have read.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen (X)
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien (X)
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte (X)
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling (X)
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee (X)
6 The Bible - (X)
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte (X)
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell (X)
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman (X)
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens (X)
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott (X)
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy (X)
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller ( )
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare ( ) I haven't read all the sonnets.
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier (X)
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien (X)
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk ( )
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger (X)
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger ( )
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot ( ) But I just bought it, so soon.
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell ( ) Same as the above answer.
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald (X)
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens ( ) Arrgh!!! This book has become my bane. I will finish it!
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy ( )
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams ( )
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh ( )
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky ( )
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck (X)
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll (X)
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame (X)
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy ( )
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens (X)
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis (X)
34 Emma - Jane Austen (X)
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen (X)
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis (X)
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini - ( )
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres ( )
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden ( )
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne ( )
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell (X)
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown (X)
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez ( )
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving ( )
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins ( )
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery (X)
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy ()
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood ( )
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding (X)
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan ( )
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel (X)
52 Dune - Frank Herbert ( )
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons ( )
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen (X)
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth ( )
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon ( )
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens (X)
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley ( )
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime-Mark Haddon ( )
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez ( )
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck (X)
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov ( )
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt ( )
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold ( )
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas (X)
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac ( )
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy ( )
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding ( )
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie ( )
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville ( )
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens (X)
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker ( )
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett (X)
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson ( )
75 Ulysses - James Joyce ( )
76 The Inferno - Dante ( )
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome ( )
78 Germinal - Emile Zola ( )
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray ( )
80 Possession - AS Byatt ( )
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens (X)
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell ( )
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker ( )
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro ( )
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert ( )
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry ( )
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White (X)
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom ( )
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ( )
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton ( )
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad ( )
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery (X)
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks ( )
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams ( )
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole ( )
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute ( )
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas (X)
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare (X)
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl (X)
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo (X) I read an abridged version. Maybe that doesn't count.

Looks like I've read 42. Not even half! Oh well. Still not bad. I haven't even heard of some of these books, and others I've had on my to-read list forever.