Archive for November, 2010
In My Opinion…
A Book Review of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith
Its back cover proclaims, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies transforms a masterpiece of world literature into something you’d actually want to read.” I have to disagree with this description. See, I adore Jane Austen, especially Pride and Prejudice. I have read it dozens of times; my old paperback is dog-eared, well-read and well-loved. And I really liked Grahame-Smith’s zombie take on the novel. In my opinion, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is much better suited for Austen fans than for someone who might be bored with the original text.
This zombie-inundated remake of Pride and Prejudice has been the subject of much controversy. Is it a disgrace to capitalize on the popularity of Austen’s classic book? Is the zombie stuff just a cheesy gimmick? Is the story even funny or merely gross with a childish, cartoony style of humor? Personally, while absolutely revolted by the paperback’s cover illustration (I actually taped a sheet of paper over the illustration to hide it from my kids), I really enjoyed Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The humor is ridiculous, but it doesn’t make it any less funny to me. I laughed out loud many times while reading the book. To those literary purists who would snub their noses at this book, I would like to say one thing: get over it! I enjoyed the book’s jabs at Austen’s style, plot, and culture even more than the laughable zombie battle sequences. Yes, I love Austen, but you’ve got to have a sense of humor! Life is short; laugh while you can!
I reiterate, this book would be much more humorous to someone who has read (and re-read, and partially memorized) Austen’s original. After all, who hasn’t burned with disgust for the odious Mr. Collins and wished he would truly get his comeuppance? Grahame-Smith makes sure he does. And as for the incredibly annoying Lady Catherine, well, I’ll just say that Lizzie finally takes her down a few notches.
If you’ve read and loved Pride and Prejudice, and if you have a somewhat twisted sense of humor, I think you should give Pride and Prejudice and Zombies a whirl. I am glad I did.
I just read George Orwell’s classic novel Animal Farm for the first time. How did I manage to get through high school and college, even major in English literature, without ever reading this book? It somehow slipped through the cracks of my educational experience, but finally, ten years after finishing college, I’ve read the book, and now I feel like I’ve had a well-deserved spanking. For my negligent attitude toward Orwell, and for my admitted boredom and disinterest in American politics, I plead guilty.
If you’ve never read Animal Farm, do what I did: get a copy and read it. If you read it in school and haven’t picked it up since, you should give it another go. Some things simply get better with time, and Animal Farm is one of those things. Sometimes as we mature, we are better able to process concepts and morals. I feel that an eighth grader would benefit from reading the book, but an adult (perhaps a politically jaded, inactive voter like myself) would benefit the most.
George Orwell’s novel, subtitled “A Fairy Story,” achieves success on so many levels. You can read the novel and come away with so many different lessons and interpretations, but in each one would be the same bottom line moral: Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and to blindly accept leadership is to accept one’s own demise. The story is deceptively simple, which makes the novel easy and quick to read; my paperback copy is only 97 pages long. The animals on Mr. Jones’s farm rebel and manage to overthrow the humans. The story follows the establishment of their government, spearheaded by the pigs, and the gradual elevation of those animal leaders. Seen in the context of the animal characters, the story has a certain air of humor and frivolity, but that layer of the story is very thin. When you scratch it away, the novel becomes very grim indeed.
I have read a lot of books, but nothing has chilled and sickened me like the ending passage of Animal Farm. The pigs, having gained complete control of the farm, even learning to walk on two legs, wear clothing, and residing in the farmhouse, have invited some humans from neighboring farms to a dinner party. As the pigs and humans play cards together, somewhat inebriated, an argument breaks out. Orwell says it like only he can: “Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question now; what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
Read this book. Think about American politics as you read it. As Orwell probably intended, it would be nearly impossible to avoid thinking about this “fairy story” in human terms.
While Christmas movies for kids and adults abound, Thanksgiving movies and TV shows can be a little tricky to find. Here are some of my family’s personal favorites:
- “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” This one is a no-brainer. Now widely available on DVD, the simple story of the Peanut Gang’s Thanksgiving is a modern classic. Who can forget Charlie Brown’s feast of popcorn, jelly beans and toast? Snoopy’s antics setting up a ping-pong table and lawn chairs always has my kids rolling. And interestingly, my five year old daughter says her favorite part of the show is the end sequence during the credits, in which Snoopy and Woodstock enjoy a real Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, all the trimmings, and a giant pumpkin pie. Plus, the DVD contains “The Mayflower Voyage,” a retelling of the first Thanksgiving story starring Snoopy and all the Peanuts. There’s so much historical information in this 24-minute feature that I actually considered counting it as a school-related activity for my homeschooled children. Seriously.
- “Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving” This 70-minute DVD follows Winnie the Pooh and friends through Thanksgiving and Christmas. Rabbit’s quest for the perfect Thanksgiving feast leads to funny misadventures and a lesson about the real meaning of being thankful. Our favorite sequences involves Pooh and Piglet trying to catch a turkey in a large sack and Gopher using explosives to make a pumpkin pie. The Christmas part of the DVD is also enjoyable. How can you go wrong with Winnie the Pooh? This is another family favorite during the winter holidays.
- “Mouse on the Mayflower” It may be difficult to find a copy of this older animated program. I have fond memories of watching it on TV as a child. The story is sweet and helps introduce basic elements of Thanksgiving history to young children. William, a churchmouse who boards the Mayflower, tells the story from a mouse’s point of view.
- “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” This one is definitely for adults and older children. This 1987 film starring John Candy and Steve Martin is all about two men trying to get home in time for Thanksgiving. Watching this movie on Thanksgiving was a tradition for my husband and me before we had children, but unfortunately, there is excessive profanity in the film, so we don’t watch it while the children are around. The movie is a treasure, evoking a wonderful 80’s nostalgia and managing to be funny and heart-warming at the same time. My favorite line: “Those aren’t pillows!!!!” You’ve got to see it to appreciate it.
Halfway into my first year of homeschooling my child, I find myself thinking quite often about the process of reading. My daughter is five, and most of our homeschooling day centers around learning to read. How, exactly, does one learn to read? Most of us probably don’t remember much about our own experiences learning to read; it just seems like something that comes naturally after so many years of practice. I have some faint memories of looking at books with frustration at age five or six, trying furiously to crack what I believed was a secret code. Then I remember suddenly “getting it,” like a light bulb went off over my head, it suddenly made sense to me. I figured out how the words were assembled from letters which made different sounds depending on their arrangement, and from then on, reading was smooth sailing.
In the past year, I have read quite a few texts about teaching a child to read. Honestly, I don’t think I know much more now than I did when I started. Everyone seems to have different opinions about reading, from what age a child should begin, to whether a phonetic method is the best approach, whether reading is a natural process that will occur when you provide a child with books and read to him or her, whether reading should be child-led or parent-led, etc… There is a lot of information out there, and I find myself wading through it as I pick and choose my personal approach to teaching. I like phonics, and my daughter is flourishing with the particular phonics program we’re using. I also provide books for her, some that we read aloud together, some that I read to her, some with pictures, some without, some for her to study and play with independently. I am not a die-hard phonics adherent. If we come across a word that doesn’t follows phonetic rules (which lately seems to be just about every word we encounter), I read the word for her and allow her to “memorize” the word without worrying about its phonetic sounds. I don’t believe it is possible to “sound out” every word in the English language, although it sure would be convenient if you could! I was an English major in college, and I adore our language, written and spoken. Now, teaching a young child to read and write it, I am astounded at its complexity! How do I explain to my child why we use a “c” to make the first sound in “cat” and “cup” but a “k” to make the same sound in “kite” and “kid”? And just wait until “c” suddenly changes to an “s” sound, as in “cinder.” It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but it’s my job to present it to her, rational or not.
I am trying to approach reading as an adventure, and my daughter is, so far, buying into it. She is delighted to discover that she can read words she encounters on signs, restaurant menus, toys and books. We are gaining ground steadily, first learning the alphabet and its sounds, then grouping letters into simple three-sound words (i.e. “dog”), and now moving on to four-sound words with adjacent consonants (as in “frog”). She can write her own simple sentences, and her reading is speeding right along when we use simple readers. I am learning, to my surprise, that this process is also an adventure for me. Being a teacher is an adventure, as you never know what will happen next! It is amazing how much you learn when you teach.
Stay tuned for more details about my homeschooling adventure and the amazing process of learning to read…
Top 10 Reasons to Sell Used Books to BookJingle
10. Help save trees. Selling used books is the best way to recycle them. Reducing the number of books printed is a great way to go green.
9. It’s fast. Just enter the book’s ISBN number (located under the book’s barcode) and find out instantly if BookJingle is buying and how much the book is worth.
8. Free shipping. BookJingle pays for you to ship your books.
7. More space. Clear out your old books and free up space in your home.
6. Get the best money for your books. BookJingle does the research to offer the best prices out there. You know you’re getting top dollar when you sell to BookJingle.
5. It’s easy. Selling books to BookJingle takes less effort than selling them on E-bay.
4. Check the status of your order at anytime. Log into your account to check when your books are received and when payment is issued.
3. BookJingle accepts a wide variety of books, including textbooks, fiction, history, self-help, and much more. Check out the homepage for detailed guidelines.
2. It’s dependable. BookJingle is family-owned and treats each transaction with care. You can trust BookJingle to pay for your books via Paypal or check within 48 hours of receiving your shipment.
1. Get cash! Use your money to buy new books, or whatever you need.
In My Opinion…
A Book Review of One Second After by William R. Forstchen
The novel One Second After was discussed on the floor of the U.S. Congress. According to the book’s dustjacket, the book was called “a book all Americans should read.” Although it is a fictional story, its basis lies very much in fact, and I have to say that I agree: this book is worth reading.
One Second After is a compelling read, well-written and very engaging. The characters, protagonist John Matherson and his family, are believable and likeable. In the book, the United States is attacked by an unknown enemy with an EMP, short for “electromagnetic pulse weapon.” The book defines an EMP as an atomic bomb detonated above the earth’s atmosphere that generates a pulse wave and short-circuits every electronic device it reaches. In the novel, the entire United States is affected by the EMP, leaving the nation without cars, electricity, computers, telephones, or a way to obtain and transport food, medicine, and other necessities. The story focuses on the small North Carolina community where Matherson, a professor of military history, lives. It quickly becomes a story of the struggle to survive in a world turned upside-down. The sudden absence of technology and the shockingly savage response of mankind challenges the intelligent, resourceful Matherson and pushes him the limits of human strength.
The story is a page-turner, hard to put down, but the most striking aspect of the book is not the fictional story. It is the claims made in the Foreword and Afterword of the novel by Captain William Sanders, USN, and former Speaker Newt Gingrich. Captain Sanders, a leading expert on EMP, provided the technical information Forstchen needed to make the novel as realistic as possible. Gingrich refers to the book as a “terrifying future history that might come true.” Sanders reiterates this assertion, claiming that the effects of an EMP have been proven and are known by the U.S. government. If the United States were to be attacked by such a weapon, Sanders claims, the devastation could be as total as illustrated in the fictional pages of One Second After.
While I thoroughly enjoyed the story, becoming quite wrapped up in the characters and their plight, I have to say that this is nothing like reading your average novel. I found it impossible to silence a nagging voice in my head reminding me that this really could happen. I couldn’t stop picturing my own family, my own community, my own reality succumbing to the events of the story, and a feeling of dread encompassed me as I read. In short, I was both moved and disturbed by One Second After, in a way that I have never experienced before with a “fictional” book. I can’t stop thinking about it. Whether EMP is a looming threat to the U.S. or not, I have to agree with the conclusion on the dustjacket: every American should read this book and decide for him or herself.
I love books. I love to read, of course. Fiction is a fantastic get-away from the sometimes less than satisfying reality of life, and reading it stimulates the imagination so much more than any other form of entertainment. History has much to teach and is sometimes more fun to read and even harder to believe than the best fictional tale. I even like to read biographies, cookbooks, how-to manuals, medical texts, Bible study books, gardening books, parenting advice books. Yes, reading is a treasure. But in today’s high-tech society, there are many ways to read. Buy an e-reader and download all the books you want to your device. Download texts to your computer and read them on the screen, or print them out to keep. Use your smartphone to download e-books and carry them with you everywhere you go. There are a lot of options for reading these days, but I choose books. Real books.
I like to hold books. I like to study their covers, the typeset, the type of paper used, the illustration (or lack thereof). I wonder about each of these choices. Have you ever stroked the paper of a really nice edition of a book? Different papers have different textures, and different smells, and different weights as you turn the pages. I like the smell of books and the weight of a book in my hand. I like to place a bookmark between the pages, thinking longingly of the moment I will reopen the covers and rediscover my place on those pages. There’s nothing like a brand-new book with its unblemished pages, smooth spine, clean smell. But I like old books, too, even with their water-spots, warped pages, stains, musty smells and creases. I like imagining other people who have read a book before me, wondering how they might have reacted to the words I am now experiencing. Books are like a frozen moment in time; as we all approach a new book, we are on even ground, we are all newcomers. As I read an edition that someone else first opened ten, thirty, even fifty years ago, I am sharing an experience with those people. We have all fallen into the narrative together, and time bears no significance.
I see the ads for e-readers, and I am awed at the idea of thousands of texts floating out there on the internet, just waiting for me to download them. Technology makes them so accessible, so easy, so quick, so affordable. I love to read, and no matter how busy I am, I am never too busy to read. Would I buy an e-reader? Probably not. I love to read, but alas, I love books. Real books.
This is the second part of our series on how we can help your non-profit, school, church,or library make extra money. So, you have completed the book drive, entered all of the books on the BookJingle website and have sent in the ones that we are currently purchasing. Now, you have all of these extra books, so it is time to organize a used book sale.
First, you will need to decide where to host the sale. The best place is a large room where several conference tables will fit to hold all of the books. Of course, there will need to be space between the tables for the buyers to walk.
Secondly, decide on a date and time for your sale. Most groups have found it beneficial to offer a preview sale either the day or night before or even a few hours before the regular sale and charge a small admission fee. A lot of people will pay a little bit of money to get to see the books first.
Next, advertise your sale! Post in your business newsletter and on your Facebook and Twitter pages. Place an ad in your local paper. Posters can be placed on bulletin boards at grocery stores, libraries, schools, colleges, and other places with much public traffic. Ask your employer if you can put up a poster. Advertise on www.booksalefinder.com. Put a banner or road sides on the side of the road near where the sale will be held.
Next, set up the book sale. This is best done at least 1 day before the sale or the Preview sale if you are going to have one. Sort books by genre to make it easier for customers to discover a book they’ll enjoy. Group fiction books into categories like recent fiction, children’s books, science fiction, romance, etc. Organize non –fiction titles into biographies, history, self-help, medical, computer, religion, science, travel, etc. Also, in order to maximize volunteer time, you can offer blanket pricing. For example, all hardbacks are one price and all paperbacks are another. Marking each book individually takes significantly more volunteer time. General price guidelines are $.50-$2. You may even want to consider having a “bag sale” during the last hour or two of the sale where all the books that will fit in a grocery bag will be sold for a blanket price, such as $5. This helps get rid of a lot of the books.
Finally, its the day of the sale. Be sure you have plenty of volunteers on hand to assist with the set-up, to work the sale, and do clean-up. Hopefully, all of your hard work will pay off and you will make some good money for your organization.
Undoubtedly, even after all of this, you will have some books left over. Contact your local library, Goodwill, Salvation Army or other thrift store to take the books that do not sell. Or if you have storage space, you can save the books and have another sale!