Monday, February 28, 2011

Where's Hermione When You Need Her?

I feel a bit overwhelmed.  I think I might need a schedule, one akin to the studying schedules that Hermione makes for Harry and Ron in the Harry Potter books.

Here's what I've got going.  I've challenged myself to read 35 books this year (I read 30 last year), but this goal is totally doable.  It's how I do it that's the problem.  I've also challenged myself to the "Off The Shelf" Challenge, where I will read 15 books that have been on my bookshelf for a while but I haven't read yet.  I've already read 3 books for this challenge.  But here's where the problems start.  I have book club books to read as well (only one a month, so not too big of a problem), and I have other books that I bought a few weeks ago that I also want to read.  Then I relieved one of my friends of about 9 books that she was getting rid of - also books that I want to read, but since they just joined my overflowing book shelf, they won't count towards the "Off The Shelf" challenge.  Then, yesterday, I went to a closing sale at the Borders near me that is closing and came back with 6 more books, and most of these are of the "oh-man-I-must-read-them-now" caliber.  Yes, all of these books can count towards my year goal of 35 books.  But the question is, how do I read them and still read the books for my "Off The Shelf" challenge?  I mean, those books have been sitting there for a while, and yes, I want to read them, but these new books are so nice and shiny and are calling to me...

And that's just the problem with the books.  I also was hoping to participate in NaNoEdMo in March, where I challenge myself to complete 50 hours of edits on my recent NaNoWriMo novel.  I really want to edit that novel, and I feel like the deadline given in NaNoEdMo will help to make that a reality.  I will edit it, but I'm afraid if I don't participate in NaNoEdMo I'll just keep putting it off.  Then there's Script Frenzy in April, and I'm not sure I'm up for another 100-page script in 30 days, but I really enjoyed it last year.  Then one of my friends has deigned me worthy of being a beta reader for one of her novels.  This is one thing that I will definitely do, no matter what my schedule's like.  I'm so excited to do it, and nothing can stop me!

And then there's this other thing that I'm going to be completely vague about and make it frustrating for all of my readers.  ;)  I'll just say that it's a new project, a new blog project that I'm really excited about and it's just now at the starting gates.  The first post won't go up for a while, but it is somewhat time-consuming because a lot of work goes into each post.

And I have all of this to do while also taking care of my 1 1/2-year-old son.  He's a lot of work. But I do get to read and do other things while he naps and after his bed time.

So here's what I think.  My husband suggested that I make sure I read one "Off The Shelf" book every month, and that I can't read any other books (besides book club books) until I've read that specific book.  Right now I'm reading the March book club pick, and I should be done within a couple of days.  So I think after that I'll start my ritual of reading the "Off The Shelf" book first, and the others after.  Then, of course, when I receive my friend's novel, I'll be reading that ASAP.  And I'll be working at least a few hours a week on my new blog project.  But I feel like I may have to forgo NaNoEdMo and Script Frenzy this year.  But if I don't do NaNoEdMo, I feel like I still need to pencil in some editing time.

So, readers, what do you think?  Any tips?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Book 3/15, "Off the Shelf" Challenge

I went through a phase, as I've said before, where I didn't do a lot of reading.  This meant that many of the books that most people read in high school went untouched or unfinished on my shelf.  One such book was the third book I chose to read for the "Off the Shelf" Challenge:  To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.  

When I started this reading challenge, I knew there were several books that I simply could not ignore on my shelf any longer.  This was one of them.  I was supposed to read it in high school or junior high, but I never finished it.  So when I sat down to read it recently I had a few ideas about it in my head.  I knew the main plot of the story.  I remembered a few of the characters' names.  And I knew that it was one of those books that you're "supposed" to love.  And if not love, at least like a lot.  It's a classic.

But I wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy it.  And for the first 15 or so pages, I was sure that I had stopped reading it as a teenager for a reason.  But I stuck with it, and lo and behold, I ended up really liking it.  I am a strong supporter for equal rights for all humans, no matter their race, religion, sexual orientation, or nationality.  So this book was right up my alley.

But regardless of the moral of the story, there were other things that simply appealed to me.  I loved the court-room scenes.  One of my favorite movies is 12 Angry Men, with Henry Fonda.  If you love mysteries, whodunits, court-room dramas, etc., check out this movie.  It, too, is a classic.  So when Atticus Finch was in the court, questioning witnesses, it made me excited to figure out what actually happened between Tom Robinson and Mayella Ewell.

Then the ending happened.  Or snuck up on me with a vengeance, is more like it.  Now, I know most people out there have read this book but for those who haven't, I won't talk about it.  I don't want to spoil it.  But let me just say, I didn't see that coming.  And then, in the final pages of the novel, I have to say that there was closure.  And with all the series that I've been reading lately, it's refreshing to read a stand-alone book with nice closure.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Book 2/15, "Off the Shelf" Challenge

For the second book in my "Off the Shelf" Challenge, I read the second book in the Hitchhiker's Guide series:  The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, by Douglas Adams.

At first I was thinking that I wouldn't like this story as much as the first in the series, but as the book went on I began to enjoy it more and more.  The first book was just so clever, and this one also proved to highlight the incredible creative mind of Douglas Adams.

I'd rather not include any spoilers, so my review will be brief.  I'll make a list, shall I?

  • I loved the bit about the existential elevators who "became terribly frustrated with the mindless business of going up and down, up and down, experimented briefly with the notion of going sideways, as a sort of existential protest, demanded participation in the decision-making process and finally took to squatting in basements sulking."  
  • The part about the ship which was delayed from departing for nine hundred years seemed Twilight Zone-esque (which is a good thing in my opinion).
  • The part about the man who ruled the Universe kind of made my head hurt, simply because of the way it was written, and the way he spoke to himself.
  • The place where Arthur and Ford end up is quite a nice twist and an interesting take on history.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book, at least as much as the first.  It was laugh-out-loud funny and continued to highlight the wonderful creativity of Douglas Adams.  I'm excited to read the next book in the series.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Soapbox Rant - Morality

So have you all heard about the judge who posted the Ten Commandments on his wall, along with his own thoughts on morality?  If not, here's the link to the article I read:|aim|dl4|sec3_lnk3|41080.  

I've seen some comments on it online, and mostly they speak about the separation of church and state, and how it is not in the U.S. Constitution (which is true).  This judge posted the Ten Commandments and his own notes on morality in the courtroom, and it was ruled unconstitutional.  I think it's one thing to put them in his own office, where he can look at them and be constantly reminded of his values and morals so that he will do the best he can to uphold the law.  But when he hung them where all who come into his courtroom can see, it basically is like saying, "If you're not Christian, you're amoral and you're wrong and I'm going to be biased against you."

Anyway, that whole thing isn't really what bothers me the most.  The thing that really got me is a part of one of his notes that he hung up along with the Commandments.  He stated, "Because morality is based on faith, there is no such thing as religious neutrality in law or morality."  Now this is what pushes my buttons.  Yes, I realize that, for many people, their own morality is based on faith.  But not all morality is based on faith.  

I believe in God.  I was raised Lutheran, but I'm more Agnostic.  A lot of things about organized religion don't make sense to me.  But I really can't believe that all we do when we die is simply turn to dust.  Therefore, I believe in a higher power and some type of afterlife.  However, I do not make choices because of those beliefs.  I choose to do the things that I do, to believe in the things that I believe in, simply because I think they are the right things to do.  I am kind to all people.  I am kind to animals.  I believe in things like equality and peace and selflessness simply because I think that it is the right thing to do.  I don't make the choices I make, or do the things that I do, because of an idea of an afterlife.  I don't do things because a book told me that some man thousands of years ago said that I should do it.

Look, I'm not trying to dog on religion, or anyone who bases their morality on their faith.  To each his own.  I'm not trying to make anyone mad or think that I think I'm better than someone else.  I don't think that way at all, and I'm not trying to upset anyone or offend anyone.  All I'm saying is that morality is not always based on religion.  Not for everyone.  And to say that all people who don't have faith, or don't believe in the Ten Commandments, are amoral is wrong.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Book 1/15, "Off the Shelf" Challenge

The first book I read for my "Off the Shelf" Challenge was The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams.

I remember, in high school, one of my friends held up a book and said, "You need to read this."  I wasn't a huge reader in high school.  I read tons and tons and tons in elementary school, but when I moved at the age of 11, all I cared about was being cool, being popular.  And apparently, reading was not cool.  (Of course, now I think it's one of the coolest things in life!)  So a lot of books that my friends read in high school, I read in my late twenties, or I haven't read them yet at all.  I'm trying to make up for this, and this reading challenge will help a lot.

So in high school, my friend held that book up and told me I needed to read it.  I automatically wasn't really interested, because although at that point I was quite beyond being popular, I still wasn't back in the reading saddle.  But I glanced at the book, and most likely nodded and made some type of committment to read it.  But the only word I really caught from the title was "Hitchhiker's."  My 17-year-old brain thought, "Ugh, is this a story about bearded old men and their travels along the U.S. highways?"  I was not interested.

Fast forward about ten years, and somehow I saw the film adaptation.  I don't remember when I saw it, or with whom, but I saw it, and I loved it!  This was what my friend had told me about all those years ago.  She hadn't been crazy!  She had actually known me really well!  Ever since then I knew I had to read the books.  I bought them last year, but they've been sitting on my shelf while I read books for book club and other books.  But they've been sitting there, kind of taunting me, saying, "Don't Panic.  We'll be here when you're ready."  And then I decided to take the "Off the Shelf" challenge and they were the first on my list of must-reads!

All I have to say is, Kelli, I wish I had listened to you back then.  Oh the things I have missed! I have only read the first story, but I plan on reading the others for this challenge as well.  As far as the story goes, I laughed out loud through so much of this book, and I think anyone who says that this is not an amazing idea is crazy.  I mean, people who manufacture planets?  Come on!  What writer out there wouldn't kill for an idea like that?

So, 1 book down for my "Off the Shelf" Challenge, 14 to go!