04 July 2018

How do you read?

I have a confession to make. I am the person who breaks books. Literally. I buy all of my favorite books in paperback, just so that I can break them to my favorite spots. It's okay, if that makes you a little bit nauseous, because your book habits probably make me a little bit sick too. I mean, what kind of monster marks up their books? Highlighters, and pens? They have no place in the hallowed pages of my favorite novels.

Everyone I know reads differently. I know, I've watched them. Or, even worse, I've asked them. I just can't get over how differently we all process the same basic material. It's all just words on a page isn't it? And yet, there are people who have to have complete silence to focus on what's in front of them. Some people like music, or they don't care because everything's getting tuned out. I had such a hard time reading on my commute that I eventually just gave up and got a DS, because reading was too hard.

Do you reread your favorite books, or are you a one and doner? Me, I'm a repeater. I will read my favorites over and over. That's why I break them to my favorite spots. Because on a bad day, I know that that one page of a Mercedes Lackey book will make everything better. I read new stuff, but I hold on to my favorites like old friends.

How's your library looking? Are you a hoarder, a purger, a collector, or something in-between? Someone I know, who will remain nameless, buys books just because they're pretty. They never get read. They just look good. And I'm still friends with that person. I mean, I cringe whenever I see their bookshelf, but I still consider them a good person despite that.

I'm a big believer in the power of libraries. I don't buy a book until I've read it. Books don't get added to my library unless I've checked it out from the library so much that I've become a nuisance. I consider it a mixture of frugality, and supporting the public good. With all those overdue fees, I'm doing my part to support the cause.

Have you ever thought about your book habits, and the book habits of the people around you? Let me know what you find.

Bookwyrm out.

23 May 2018

The Secret Garden - Book Club Discussion

Well, this is just a field day for loaded parenting discussions isn't it? I think that's a great place to start. Let's dive right in.
  1. What makes Susan Sowerby so appealing to the kids as a mother? I think it's that she lets her children be children. She gives them space to run, work and play. And she relies on her children in return. Martha helps with the income, and by doing chores when she comes home. Dickon helps by bringing food home from his garden But, she's obviously there when things are hard for her kids. She's fully involved in the children's lives, and she refuses to do it from a distance, either emotional or physical. That makes her completely unique among the adults.
  2. The moors are made out to be this mythical place that heals mind and body. Is there a similar landscape in your area that people believe has mythic power? For me, I think it's always just been, "outside". it was never about the landscape for me, but the power of being outdoors. All that fresh air. 
  3. What would Dickon look like today? Which of his aspects would have changed if he's a modern child? I'm not sure that a kid as wild as Dickon would be considered such a good thing anymore. And for sure, any mom who let her kid run as wild as him would be to deal with visits from local authorities. I think the main trait he has is that he's an observer, and a world class listener. He actually cares about everyone and everything. And, because he's been paying attention, he knows what to do in almost every situation.
Happy discussing!

Bookwyrm out.

16 May 2018

The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett

I've read The Secret Garden before, but never as an adult, and I was really surprised by how much I loved it. As a kid, the mystery and the scary adults are what really stuck with me. But, now that I'm a scary adult myself,  I'm enchanted by how peaceful the story really is. Maybe it's that I read it during spring as I'm working on my own first ever garden. Or, maybe it's that I'm around kids as an adult, and the story rings true.

Either way, it's a case of the right book at the right time.

A few things that really stuck with me about this book:
  1. The whole conflict of the book is really that the children are being underestimated by adults. When I read this as a kid, I remember thinking that the kids were so clever to fool the adults. But, as an adult, I'm thinking about how the adults fooled themselves into thinking that the children couldn't handle life.
  2. Wow, I love how honesty becomes the trait that makes people good in this story. It's not niceness, which I think is a pretty big idea for a children's story with so little conflict. Martha says some pretty harsh things about Mary, to her face even. But, because she doesn't coddle her, Mary likes her anyways. And the same can be said for Mister Cranky Pants Ben. He isn't nice, but he is honest, and trustworthy, and that makes him good. 
  3. Can I just say how much I loved that the two spoiled children cancelled each other out? I laughed harder during the temper tantrum scene than I should have. But, it's something that I can see any kid doing. 
Overall, I have to say I enjoyed this go around so much more than I thought I would. Go and give The Secret Garden another look. I may even have to go watch the movie. Does anyone have a favorite version?

Stay tuned next week for our Book Club Discussion.

Bookwyrm out.

09 May 2018

Phantom of the Opera - Book Club Discussion

Welcome to the first Book Club Discussion starter for my rebooted series. I'll give a few questions and my own responses to them to get a discussion rolling.

1. Why did the narrator have the Paris Commune play such a big role in the history of the Opera House? The history of the Communards is a lot like the history of the Phantom himself. They were brutal, and the narrator references that brutality every time the secret passages of the Opera House come up. They were a relatively small group that were driven out of most of France, but finally based themselves in Paris. Erik was also driven out of each place that he lived, and the Opera House proved to be his last stand. And while the Communards weren't very popular, when they were quashed it was still tragic, because of the brutality with which they were put down. It was a total massacre where the government forces brutally killed 20,000 Communards. It's a haunting story, and it serves to make a tragic backdrop for the action of the novel.

2. Would Christine have loved Erik if it wasn't for his looks? I don't think so. The fact that he intentionally deceived her seems to play a large role in her disgust for him. And, his creepy house, and abduction of her definitely didn't help endear him to her. I think his ugliness plays a part in her feelings towards him. But doesn't it always play a part? As much as we try to ignore it, we're attracted to pretty people. But, his response to his own ugliness makes his face irredeemable.

3. Is Erik a total psychopath, or is he a normal guy in bad circumstances? Everything he wants points to him being a pretty normal person on the inside. He wants a wife, a house, to go out and walk in the park. He even wants others to be jealous of him, or to be happy because of him, as evidenced by his treatment of Raoul. He altnernately wants to make sure Raoul knows that Christine wears Erik's ring, and to let him play at his own "engagement" to Christine. To me, this is a story of, "there but for the grace of God, go I". What would you turn to if the most basic human needs were kept from you? Remember, all it took for Erik to let go of everything he'd planned was someone being willing to let him kiss her, and on the forehead at that. I don't think we should forget that he won. Raoul was out of the way, Christine was willing to play wife, and anyone who could stop him was gone. Although maybe that's all he needed too, was to know that he'd won. But, all it took was someone being willing to let him show them affection, and he caved. He didn't even need the affection returned. To me that's a pretty pathetic situation. But, seriously, don't forget that this is a VERY BAD MAN, very bad, and very creepy. All I'm saying is that he wasn't necessarily born morally defective.

4. Why is Raoul a character? I've already said that I don't think this is a love story, and I don't think this is a story with a hero either. I mean, he's really useless for the entire story. Things just happen to him. Maybe you disagree, feel free to talk about that. So what part does he play? I think he's there to show everything that Erik isn't. He's beautiful, spoiled, educated, self-assured, and charming (supposedly). Erik is none of those things, and in the end, Raoul wins.

If you read The Phantom of the Opera, let me know what you thought in the comments.

02 May 2018

The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Leroux

Well, that wasn't at all how I remembered it. I mean, I read it a while ago, so maybe I can be forgiven for forgetting the craziness of it all. But, wow. It really didn't go the way I thought it did. And it probably isn't what you remember either.

I know for me, the plot of the musical bleeds into my memory of the book. And in this case the musical does a respectable job. Not great, not perfect by a long shot, but respectable. Anyways, let's talk about the good, the bad, and the really, really ugly.

What's good here? The storytelling itself is really fun, original, and very interactive. The narrator plays at being the author of an exposé regarding the scandalous events at the Opera House. It's a fun way to hear the story. And he deflates the suspense by giving away key details, but really it only serves to build the suspense for the how's and why's.

The heroine isn't the ninny that she's made out to be. In fact, she's the only brave character in the whole book. She's dealt a really crappy hand, but makes the most of it. And she does it while staying a decent human being. She's not perfect, and in some cases she's pretty stupid. But, she faces things head on, and doesn't take any crap from a certain annoying boyfriend.

The bad. Yeah that would be annoyingness of the supposed love interest. He's worthless. And the one thing that really sets the book apart from how it's popularly viewed, is the fact that it is not, I repeat, NOT a love story. Not on any level. There are two characters who are in love, but that is really, really not the point. The whole "love" thing got blown way out of proportion. The only parts where love is made a part of the story, it's really a hidden horror show. On one level it's too cute to exist, and underneath it's superbly creepy. You just need to sit with the story for a while to let the creepy really sink in. That's because our "factual" narrator doesn't linger on the creepiness of it all. But, when you think about it, yeah, it hits you pretty hard that everything is so very, very wrong with the love story.

I'd say this novel deserves a look. It's a pretty quick read, and exciting enough to be called a page-turner. Stay tuned next week for my book club discussion of The Phantom of the Opera.

Bookwyrm Out.

18 April 2018

The Return of the Bookwyrm

I'm back! And this time it's personal. I've spent some time working on other projects, and now I've decided that it's time for me to get back to my first love, reading.

I've always had trouble picking new books to read. There's so much new stuff to choose from, and I'm always behind on the latest and greatest. Honestly, it's exhausting to even try keeping up with the new, hot novels. So, here's my solution. It's J Reads the Classics. I'll be working my way through my library, both personal and local, and  I'll be choosing nothing younger than twenty years old. Preferably older, but hey, Jurassic Park counts as a classic right? I need to make my time frame fit that one.

One thing will be different from the old system. I won't be recommending all of these books, but it will be my honest take on what I've read. I'll do two posts on each book. First will be a fresh-off-the-read response. Then I'll post a book club discussion starter, with my thoughts in it. If you want to get involved in the comments, I'd love to hear from you. Let's see where this adventure takes us!

Stay tuned next week for my take on Phantom of the Opera, by Gaston Leroux.

25 October 2014



So, I've been really negligent lately, and not posting very much (or at all). But, fear not Mom, I have been reading. Even though I don't necessarily post, I do keep a list of what I've read and what I've enjoyed. So here's a few of the best of 2014 so far (in my ever-so-humble opinion).

  • Hyperbole and a half - by: Allie Brosch - It's hilarious, and heartfelt.
  • The Throne of Glass Series 1-3 - by: Sarah J. Maas - A fantastic young adult series
  • You can date boys when you're 40 - by: Dave Barry - Super immature and awesome
  • Dragon Princess - by: S. Andrew Swann - It's a silly, fun new fantasy book.
  • Popular - by: Maya Van Wagener - Such a great teen nonfiction book!
  • Dear Committee Members -  by: Julie Schumacher - Just read it.
  • What if? - by: Randall Munroe - The subtitle says it all "Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd   Hypothetical Questions", it's glorious.
But, in other news, National Novel Writing Month is coming up again, and I'll be giving it a second try! If anyone wants to join to fun/insanity get yourself over to their website for the details.


28 January 2014

OLDIE BUT GOODIE: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd – By: Agatha Christie (Mystery)

I’m new to the awesomeness that is Agatha Christie, so you’ll have to forgive me if she ends up on here a lot. This one really blew me away though. It doesn’t matter if you’re casually interested, or honestly trying to solve the puzzle, this is a great mystery.

This follows a fairly standard Agatha Christie format. There’s a death in a small town, and wouldn't you just know it, there’s an adorable (if slightly pompous) detective on hand who will figure it all out. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, is a suspect. Everyone has a motive. The clues are all there, but you have to sort them out before Poirot reveals the perfectly obvious solution.

Agatha (yes, we’re on a first name basis now), is fabulous. She uses your expectations against you, yet she gives you everything she gives her protagonist, so it’s all fair play. It's a game, can you catch up to Agatha before she wants you to?
Bookwyrm Rating: Meat and Potatoes

15 January 2014

The Unlikely Pilgramage of Harold Fry – By: Rachel Joyce (Fiction)

It’s impossible to say what little things will change the way you live, or the way you think. For Harold Fry that thing is a letter. It is a small letter, a short letter. Someone seemingly inconsequential from his distant past is dying. Suddenly, everything he does seems insufficient, and so, Harold takes a walk.

I loved this book. The characters and their stories unfold similarly to real life. We know little bits about who they are at the moment, but their stories are revealed in bits and pieces along the way and they build into complex and relatable people.

I have a feeling that this book and I will become great friends. I know I’ll be back to visit it again.

Bookwyrm Rating: Meat & Potatoes

18 November 2013

OLDIE BUT GOODIE: The Count of Monte Cristo – By: Alexandre Dumas

I’ve always suspected that Dumas was a bit of a feminist, because his novels have some of the best women in classic literature. In “The Count of Monte Cristo” we have Mercedes. She’s the only person who sees past Edmund’s little charade, and she forces Mr. Angry Eyes to lay off her son. In 19th century novels, that makes her one badass Mama. Not only that, but in the end she takes care of herself, better than anyone else took care of her.

Besides all that, we have: betrayal, the world’s most thorough revenge, and true love. I do realize that it’s a big book, but this classic is jam-packed with awesomeness. I think it’s time you read it.

Bookwyrm Rating: Meat & Potatoes