Archive for February, 2013

5 Posts that You Should Read

Since I started blogging last summer, I’ve gotten into the habit of reading other people’s blogs. Before, there were a few blogs that I checked up on every once in a while, but when the WordPress Reader came along offering me all the latest posts just one click away from where I worked on my own blog, I really started to get into it. One by one, I built up the list of blogs I follow, and now I’m up to 14. Some of them post more often than others, and some hardly post at all, but almost every day I take the time to look through my Reader and click on any posts that catch my eye. Add to this anything neat I find on Freshly Pressed and the way I check out the blogs of people who follow me or like my posts and all of a sudden, I’ve read quite a lot of posts.

Now, while I do a lot of reading, it’s relatively rare that I “like” or comment on those posts. I only comment when I feel like I have something interesting to say or something new to add, and I only “like” when… well, when I genuinely like something. And as you may be able to tell from my reluctance to give out 5 star reviews, I reserve my likes for the really good ones.

So I was thinking, wouldn’t it be cool if I took a look at that list of posts I’ve liked and created my own post recommending some of them? I see it as a way to show my appreciation to all those people I follow (fairly quietly) as well as a way to share some great posts. Turns out I have enough for two or three posts, but for today I’ll stick to five.

The First Five

1. Never Give Up on Your Dreams

This one comes from a self-published author who gives out a lot of great tips about writing. This post from last month doesn’t disappoint. Even better, it also tells the personal story of how he became a writer. Plus the little cartoon at the top is really cute. What’s not to like?

2. If you insist on being a supermom you better take a lot of pictures

This next post is one that’s good for a laugh from another blog that I’ve been following for a while. This post specifically tells a story about the blogger, her ten year old daughter, and cake. And, well, just read the post. I liked it.

3. 2012 – October Prologue #15

I’ll admit that the title may not seem like the best, but it is a fun post. This one comes from the Nanotoons blog, which posts cartoons related to NaNoWriMo, the official month for writing a 50,000 word novel from start to finish. Even if you don’t participate in NaNoWriMo, it does have a fascinating little sub-culture. Plus, this post has the first part of a NaNoWriMo musical! What more could you want?

4. Jesus died, but now he lives. In Detroit. Sort of.

This post tells a really great true story about a singer, framed by smaller personal stories about the blogger’s father and his family and the effect this singer has had on their lives. And the lives of everyone in South Africa. It’s a long post (like many of this blogger’s), but I think it’s worth every word.

5. How to Know If You’re a Book Snob

The title of this one is self-explanatory. It tells you how to know if you’re a book snob. With examples. It comes from the blog of a man who’s reading the Time 100 list of books (plus Ulysses), and it’s a fun, reading-related post. Take a look!


February 28, 2013 at 8:29 pm Leave a comment

I Finally Uploaded a Gravatar!

So, I’ve been blogging for several months now. Writing articles, finding a number of blogs worth following, liking and commenting on articles… And all this time, I’ve been using the little anynomous image that they give you as a default. All those wonderful little galleries of pictures from people who have liked a given post, and I would generally pop up as just a little geometric design. Honestly, I felt like I could do better.

So yesterday, I finally took a picture I can use for my profile. Ok, so it’s not the best picture in the world, but I took it myself using the self-timer feature while placing the camera on top of a pile of textbooks and a storage bin for lack of a tripod. Why didn’t I just ask someone else to take the photo for me? Well… I don’t know. I guess I’m just weird like that.


But, hey, any picture is better than no picture, right? And now if any of you ever run into me in real life, you can say, “Oh, hi! I didn’t recognize you without your head stuck in a book.” I’ll take it as a compliment.

February 27, 2013 at 11:30 am 5 comments

Reading A Star Called Henry

Yes, I’m still reading Borstal Boy, but I’m also reading this one for Irish Lit. Granted, it’s not on the 1001 list, but I’m very impressed with the writing so far.

Almost 100 pages in, it’s the story of a poor boy growing up in Dublin in the early 1900’s, including the stories of his parents as well, going back to the day they met. That sounds fine enough, but it is very depressing. The family is poor, several of the couple’s children die as babies before our main character is born, and very serious problems begin to develop. Parts are very dark indeed.

But the writing is very good. And it’s also historical fiction, so if you want a realistic picture of Dublin in the early 1900’s, especially the worse neighborhoods, this is the book to read. The author definitely doesn’t skim over or sugar coat anything. It’s another of those books that gives you the hard truth.

According to the cover flap, in chapters to come the main character will get involved in some historical events, so I’ll have to wait and see how the rest turns out.

February 15, 2013 at 4:31 pm Leave a comment

I’m Going on An Irish Lit Kick!

So usually at about this time of year, I’m taking a lit class that includes one or more novels from the 1001 list. This makes my reading selection really easy, as I have to do the reading anyway. I think since coming to college every single lit class I’ve taken has included at least one novel from the list, but not this semester. This semester, I’m taking Irish Literature, and while we’re reading a mix of short stories, plays, and poetry, we’re only reading one novel.

Now, I’m really interested in Irish Literature, and I’m really enjoying the class so far. To top it off, I’m actually going on a week long trip to Ireland next month as an optional part of the class, so I’ll actually get to see some of the things I’m reading about and bring back all these awesome pictures to accompany my reviews for once.

So I’ve scoured the 1001 list for any and all books written by Irish authors, especially ones that take place in Ireland and depict the culture or the history. I’m going to make a game of seeing how many I can squeeze in before (and maybe during, it’ll be a long plane ride) my trip to Ireland!

First up is Borstal Boy, a memoir by Brendan Behan about his three years spent as a prisoner in a reform school for transporting explosives for the IRA. (That’s Irish Republican Army, a military group that was against English control of Ireland.) I don’t know much of the history yet, but I’m hoping to learn more as I read.

Also on the list are The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen, Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth, That They May Face the Rising Sun by John McGahern, and The Heather Blazing by Colm Toibin. I don’t know if I’ll get to them all, but I’ll certainly read as many as I can! They all look really good.

February 7, 2013 at 12:39 pm Leave a comment

Heart of Darkness

What 1001 Books had to say about it

“Eloquent, audacious, experimental, recessive, satiric, yet deeply humane, since its serialization in 1899 [Heart of Darkness] has continued to provoke controversy and reward analysis. … Written when imperialism was ‘politically correct,’ this brilliantly anti-imperialist and largely anti-racist work shows Conrad at the peak of his powers as a challenging innovator of ideas and techniques.”

My take

I actually found it helpful to read what my copy of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die had to say about this one. It was basically as though after reading the editors’ take of it opened up my eyes to elements of the story that I hadn’t noticed before. I think it definitely aided my understanding of the book, and I find that understanding a book always helps one to appreciate it better.

I definitely agree that the anti-imperialist message is strongly present, and I also think that’s one of the most interesting and valuable things about it. It’s even more interesting knowing that the author lived during a time when imperialism was widely accepted in England and that he’d actually gone to Africa himself and seen firsthand some of the things he writes about.

In a way, this book reminded me of The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. Totally different books written almost a century apart by authors in two different countries, and yet I feel a deep connection between them. Tim O’Brien writes about a platoon of American soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War after having fought in that war himself. Joseph Conrad writes about an Englishman’s journey into the heart of Africa in the late 1800’s, but this was also based on the author’s previous experiences. I think in both cases, these experiences shine through the writing in a very particular way. It’s as if there is a deeper truth in them, in spite of, or perhaps even because of, the fact that they are fictionalized. There’s definitely a something that you can feel when you read these two books.

Beyond That

Beyond that, I thought that the text itself was good. I’ve heard people complain that the language is too dense, but I actually found it to be nice. I will admit that it takes a lot of focus on a sentence-by-sentence level, but, once you add that extra bit of concentration, it’s really worth it. As the sentences unfold, you can almost hear the voice of the man telling the story and almost see the wilderness, the people, the action, playing out inside your head.

“Trees, trees, millions of trees, massive, immense, running up high; and at their foot, hugging the bank against the stream, crept the little begrimed steamboat, like a sluggish beetle crawling on the floor of a lofty portico.”

Sentences like the one above struck me as being very beautiful, and there are many like it in the book. In fact, there are so many that I found that I couldn’t read too much at once. After reading for too long, my mind began to get filled up and I would find myself wanting to just skim through. That was when I knew that I needed to stop and take a break. When I picked it back up again an hour or two later, I would be in a mood to appreciate each sentence once again. It’s a bit like poetry in that way.

Certainly, I did a lot of highlighting in this one. Although I don’t like to highlight or write in normal books, I have no qualms about doing so in an e-book, which was the format I read this one in. There were many interesting passages, but I’ll leave you with this one that both shows an interesting point of view relating to race and also ties in to that feeling I was trying to explain earlier, at least for me.

“It was unearthly, and the men were–No, they were not inhuman,” it begins. I believe any other writer of the time would have had no difficulty calling the Africans inhuman, but Conrad’s character Marlowe says that they were not and goes into further detail: “Well, you know, that was the worst of it–this suspicion of their not being inhuman. It would com slowly to one. They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was just the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar. Ugly. Yes, it was ugly enough; but if you were man enough you would admit to yourself that there was in you just the faintest trace of a response to the terrible frankness of that noise, a dim suspicion of there being a meaning in it which you–you so remote from the night of first ages–could comprehend.”

Given the context, isn’t that fascinating?

Three Stars

February 3, 2013 at 3:18 pm Leave a comment

February 2013
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