Poetry for thought - The Mistletoe Bride

The Mistletoe Bride

by Carol Ann Duffy

The December bride who, bored with dancing, skipped from the castle hall to play hide-and-seek, a white bird flickering into the dark...

The groom, who searched each room, calling her name; then the bridal guests, flame-lit, checking the grounds...

The fifty Christmases till a carpenter jemmied an old oak chest; the skeleton with its unstrung pearls, loose emeralds, its rings of diamond, sapphire, gold...

The running feet, the shouting for others to see what he’d seen; mistletoe in the loose bones of a hand...

like love, patiently green.

image: flickr - laura dye


Best 'Morose' Reads of 2012

This picture has nothing to do with anything...just makes me laugh (image: flickr - Bede Jackson)

Selected from the books I read and reviewed in the year 2012. 

Worthy of Mention: The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man
by James Weldon Johnson
Chosen for explaining the emotional torment of a man living a lie in order to survive. Its sad yet honest reflection on the question of race sheds light on a dark issue that is rarely acknowledged. 

3. Man Gone Down 
by Michael Thomas
Chosen for its gloomy depiction of a broken man in a broken family, trying to make the American Dream. The utter hopelessness in the stream-of-conscious narrative is raw, poetic and intellectual. 

2. Drowning Ruth 
by Christina Schwarz
Chosen for its somber portrayal of a family stripped down by shame, secrets and mental illness. The subtle mystery lining the flashbacks reveal imperfect characters that are perfect to read about and relate to. 

1. Coal Black Horse 
by Robert Olmstead
Chosen for its powerful language, and vivid and organic imagery of death. A seemingly impossible journey during a time of war instills unforgettable lessons upon anyone who reads them. 


Review - The Hobbit

The Hobbit
by J.R.R. Tolkien
300 pages

Description via Goodreads
Surely, you don't disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don't really suppose, do you that all your adventures and escapes were managed by pure luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all! (303)
I read The Hobbit as a read-along hosted at Unputdownables. Although the read-along is scheduled for another two weeks, I went ahead and finished the last 75 pages, so I can see the movie. Honestly, I don't want to over-analyze or even really analyze this book--why? because it's been done before, and I didn't feel too strongly about anything to offer up any commentary. But that doesn't mean I didn't like the story. I quite enjoyed it. Tolkien created a solid story of adventure, good over evil and self-discovery. (Of course he did, he's J.R.R Tolkien)

Many people have already read the book, or will see it in theaters, so I guess it might make sense to bring up what was discussed in the read-along...because there were a few things that others brought up that I couldn't understand...for example, I was met with slight  resistance when I suggested that Gandalf was an all-knowing figure and obviously powerful. Others said no (which is fine, I don't have to be right) but how they could deny his 'all-knowingness' was odd to me. They say he's 'wise'. I say yes, most definitely, but he knows way more about the direction of the journey than he lets on. They say he can influence the sequence of events, but can't predict the outcome...and in my head, if someone can influence the chain of events so that it almost always leads to a favorable ending, that's pretty damn powerful to me. But anyways, that was one thing. 

Maybe, I won't go into the other odd things from the discussions (it's related to ponies and handkerchiefs)...after all I did enjoy the book  Here are couple of passages that I really liked:
They walked in single file. The entrance to the path as like a sort of arch leading into a gloomy tunnel made by two great trees that leant together, too old and strangled with ivy and hung with lichen to bear more than a few blackened leaves. The path itself was narrow and wound in and out among the trunks. Soon the light at the gate was like a little bright hole far behind, and the quiet was so deep that their feet seemed to thump along while all the trees leaned over them and listened (139)
Paths had vanished, and many a rider and wanderer too, if they tried to find the lost ways across. The elf-road through the wood which the dwarves had followed on the advice of Beorn now came to a doubtful and little used end at the eastern edge of the forest; only the river offered any longer a safe way from the skirts of Mirkwood in the North to the mountain-shadowed plains beyond, and the river was guarded by the Wood-elves' king. So you see Bilbo had come in the end by the only road that was any good (189)
So, yeah. That's all I got...now to see the movie.

The Hobbit
Four stars.


Book Beginnings - Icy Sparks

Book Beginnings is a meme hosted by Rose City Reader. Share the first sentence (or so) of a book you are currently reading, along with your initial thoughts and impressions about the sentence or book. Remember to include the title of the book and the author AND link up at the Rose City Reader

Matanni, my grandmother, said it began deep inside my mama's womb, when she was pregnant with me. Mama ate those little green crab apples that grew beside the toolshed. She ate oodles of them, popped them into her mouth like rock candy, crunched, and swallowed one right after another until not one was left to ripen on the tree. "Green apples ain't no baby's nourishment,"she said, "but in the beginning they was all your mama could hold down." 
Wow, it's been a while since I've done a book beginning...because I haven't opened a new book in a really long time. I'm trying to finish out my reading year casually and without pressure in the holiday season. But this year is almost over, and next year will be an even better reading year. So I'm starting my first book for 2013 next week: Icy Sparks. It's my 'January' read for the Monthly Keyword Challenge

I love this beginning from the prologue. Everyone knows you're not supposed to eat crab apples--at least that's what I was told as a kid. They make you sick, right? I've actually never eaten one because I was told they're bitter and full of worms. But they were tempting as a child...those little cute green apples growing everywhere. So I think it's such an interesting angle that they were the only thing this pregnant woman could eat. 


Poetry for thought - On the Terrace

On the Terrace
by Landis Everson

The lonely breakfast table starts the day,
an adjustment is made to understand
why the other chair is empty. The morning
beautiful and still to be, should woo me. Yet
the appetite is not shared, lost somewhere in memory.

How lucky the horizon is blue and needs
no handwriting on its emptiness. I am
written on thoroughly, a lost novel
found again. I remember the predictable plot too late,
realize the silly, sad urgency of moss.

Image: Flickr- Nat Pikozh


The Walking Dead - S3 Ep. 8

Episode 8: Made to Suffer

Who are these new people?
The group from the opening scenes, the ones carrying around shovels and machetes...I'm wondering about their background and how they survived. If they've always been that small of a group or if they've had casualties. I'm wondering how they'll fit in with Rick and the crew. I don't think Rick will want them to join. Too many outsiders. First the prisoners, then Michonne...and Daryl is gone. I don't know. Maybe he'll allow them to join because his own numbers are dwindling...hard to say. Meanwhile, Carl is stepping up. Kudos to the corniest character on the show. Oh yeah, and they need to cull the woman that got bit. 

Glenn + Maggie = most hardcore couple ever.
Glenn detaches a walker's arm (with his bare hands!) and gives the ulna (I have no idea if that's the right bone) to Maggie as a weapon. Maggie then proceeds to stab the sharpened bone into the jugular of one of the captors. Badass. 

Michonne versus the Governor
I was a little worried about the end result of their scuffle, but I should have known better--Michonne can hold her own. Nothing like glass in the eye socket...and then Andrea walks in completely unaware and misinformed--annoying as usual.

Daryl versus Meryl
Thanks to the lying and conniving of the Governor, it seems there will be a face-off between brothers. I'm team Daryl all the way. He's the better brother, obviously. He's also another one of my favorite characters. He can't die...well he can, but it would upset me, gravely. Who's going to kill walkers with a crossbow and infinite amount of arrows?! No one, but Daryl. 

Mid season finale
This episode was it. What the hell am I supposed to do on Sundays at 9pm now? And then we have to wait until February for more episodes. FEBRUARY!


Poetry for thought - If the Owl Calls Again

If the Owl Calls Again
by John Haines

at dusk from the island in the river, and it's not too cold, I'll wait for the moon to rise, then take wing and glide to meet him. We will not speak, but hooded against the frost soar above the alder flats, searching with tawny eyes. And then we'll sit in the shadowy spruce and pick the bones of careless mice, while the long moon drifts toward Asia and the river mutters in its icy bed. And when the morning climbs the limbs we'll part without a sound, fulfilled, floating homeward as the cold world awakens.

Image: Flickr-DarrelBirkett


Smooth Criminals Reading Challenge 2012 - Complete

Smooth Criminals, Reading Challenge for 2012

Another challenge complete!

My Reading Selection:

A Demon In My View - With psychopath protagonist
The Feast of the Goat - "Why the hell am I doing this to myself" book
The Maltese Falcon - Hardboiled classic
The Monk - Gothic
Monster - Prison book
The Moonstone - With plot that revolves around a crime
The Picture of Dorian Gray - By author who did time
The Postman Always Rings Twice - Noir classic

A Demon in My View
The Postman Always Rings Twice
The Maltese Falcon
The Feast of the Goat

The Moonstone

The Maltese Falcon
The Moonstone
The Postman Always Rings Twice
The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Monk

This challenge introduced me to Ruth Rendell, Dashiell Hammett and James M. Cain, three authors whose work I intend to further explore, therefore it was a great experience. 

I noticed that not all the characters in the books I read committed crimes because they were marginalized (i.e, Dorian Gray, Arthur Johnson, Godfrey Ablewhite) No, they weren't 'marginalized' but they were still susceptible to social illness...and they did bad things because of those addictions, insecurities, impulses, etc.

I'm not sure if we're supposed to draw a certain conclusion on Dennis Lehane's statement (mentioned briefly on Ben's sign up post) about the social novel turning into crime fiction. Honestly, I don't know the entire context of that claim....but based on my reads for this challenge, I think it's safe to go with the idea that not all social novels are now crime fiction, but almost all crime fiction are social novels.

I don't know, it's tough. It's all connected I guess...and I would need to do more reading to support the idea I whipped together above. Either way, it's something to think about and it's something I'll keep in mind when reading other social novels and crime fiction. 

Monthly Keyword 2013 Selections (1 of 3)

I wanted to post selections for this challenge last month, but I couldn't decide on which books to read. 
I eventually settled on choosing books for the first third of the year (January - April) 
I'll include selections for months May through August in a later post. You can find out more about the challenge here.

Okay, so here are the selections thus far:




***Minor update: February's read has switched to The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCuller***


Review - The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray 
by Oscar Wilde
200+ pages

Description via Goodreads
It is a sad thing to think of, but there is no doubt that Genius lasts longer then Beauty. That accounts for the fact that we all take such pains to over-educate ourselves. In the wild struggle for existence, we want to have something that endures, and so we fill our minds with rubbish and facts, in the silly hope of keeping our place (14)
Basil Hallward paints a remarkable portrait of his friend and muse, Dorian Gray. It's his best work, something to be admired. Yet the piece of art becomes an object of hate and fear. Basil has given eternal life and beauty to the Dorian in the portrait, whereas, the actual Dorian will eventually be marked with imperfection, age and ugliness. To Dorian it's unfair and unbecoming, and somehow he inadvertently sells his soul for eternal youth.

Dorian undergoes an intellectual and moral transformation. The change of his psyche is contrasted with the stagnation of his physical being. He doesn't age. He becomes a fickle person, seeking sin, pleasure or any experience that can satisfy his search for what he considers beauty or novelty of the moment. He commits a heinous crime, develops shady habits and ruins his reputation. He goes from loved by all to detested by most. He has the face of youth, innocence and good, but not the soul to match.

I have such mixed feelings about this book. The beginning was rough for me because I kept running across passages like this: 
He was bareheaded, and the leaves had tossed his rebellious curls and tangled all their gilded threads. There was a look of fear in his eyes, such as people have when they are suddenly awakened. His finely chiseled nostril quivered, and some hidden nerve shook the scarlet of his lips and left them trembling (23)
 ...and this:
As he thought of it, a sharp pang of pain struck through him like a knife, and made each delicate fiber of his nature quiver. His eyes deepened into amethyst, and across them came a mist of tears. He felt as if a hand of ice had been laid upon his heart (27)
Aren't they too--I don't know--mushy?

I suppose they're meant to be romantic and artistic, but I find the descriptions, in particular the use of the word quiver very irksome.

Maybe it's just me.

Anyways, once I got over that, I was annoyed with Harry/Lord Henry. His musings, while very quotable, are silly. However, he's such an important character in the book. It's clear that his haughty attitude and naturalist view of society influence Dorian Gray substantially. In fact, Dorian becomes Harry's social experiment. Harry poisons, pokes and prods hims; drops crumbs, which eventually lead Dorian to corruption. 

I didn't start liking the book until Dorian's final meeting with Basil...and his trips to the underworld of opium dens. And even then...not so much. All this talk of innocence and beauty and souls made me think of this song:

Listening to it repeatedly, while reading the last few chapters helped me get through it. 

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Three stars. 

Smooth Criminals, Reading Challenge for 2012


The Walking Dead - S3 Ep. 7

Episode 7: When the Dead Come Knocking

Glenn = Badass
No explanation necessary. He continues to be one of my favorite characters.

Woodbury Research

We're given another glimpse into the research they do on walkers at Woodbury--an attempt to determine if walkers can access memories prior to transformation, or if they remain in their 'unconscious' state of mind...aka flesh eating mania. Still unsure of where that's going. And I'm with Andrea on this one, just stab them in the head.

The Governor is a megalomaniac
Not that I didn't know that already, but his little scene with Maggie truly disgusted me. Pig. 

How is the rescue mission going to go down?
I don't see how Rick, Michonne, Daryl and the new guy can successfully infiltrate Woodbury, find Maggie and Glenn, and then somehow stumble upon Andrea and make it back to the prison, without someone or multiple someones getting killed. I just hope it's not Glenn. Maybe Meryl will bite the bullet. I don't know. 

We'll find out in the next episode...which is a mid-season finale I think (I hate those) 


Reading Challenge: TBR Pile 2013

And another one-- The 2013 TBR Pile Challenge hosted at Roof Beam Reader.

This is commitment numero dos. I really need to do this one. No 'ands, ifs or buts' about it...when you see my list you're probably going to think: "What--She hasn't read that yet? why?" And all I can say is I know, I'm a literary slacker, blah blah blah.

Anyways, twelve books for this challenge. There are simple specifications on which books to choose from and how to go about updating challenge progress (something about a master list)...go here for more details.

The list (to be read in no particular order):

1. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
2. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
3. The Things They Carried by Tim O' Brien
4. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
6. Love in a Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
7. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
8. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
9. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
10. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
11. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
12. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

...so many 'classics'. How did that happen?

The Hobbit - Movie Trailer

I'm halfway through the book and I'm enjoying it. It's a very easy read and the chapters fly by. I think I'd be done or almost done reading, if it wasn't for this read-along schedule. However, without the read-along I might not have read it before the movie (part 1) comes out...funny how that works.

Anyways, I'm not super excited about the movie yet, but that could change.


Poetry for thought - Thanks

by W. S. Merwin

with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
smiling by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is

Image: Flickr - SLR Jester

Reading Challenge: Monthly Key Word 2013

I'm about 95% done with my current challenges (two books left, two challenges left, one book each challenge) Even though I have yet to complete all of the reading challenges I've committed to for 2012, I'm looking ahead and planning for the future. And I think it's alright to at least get somewhat organized for the upcoming months. 

I've decided to sign up for the 2013 Monthly Key Word Challenge hosted by Kim at Bookmark to Blog. It's an interesting concept, without too much restriction. And I believe this challenge will force me to read a variety of fiction next year. 

Essentially, readers must read one book per month with a title containing a key word from the list for each month. You can find out more information here. You should join!

My 'to-read' pile has grown substantially...it's usually a fluid list of ten books or so. Now it's triple that. Hopefully this challenge will help me whittle it down to a reasonable number. 

I'll put up my book selections for the first quarter of the Monthly Key Word Challenge in a post later. 


The Walking Dead - S3 Ep. 6

Episode 6: Hounded

It's all in your head...
Okay, so the phone call was still part of Rick's temporary insanity  unavailability. I knew something was wrong when the woman on the other end said they were perfectly safe with no walkers...I'm thinking nowhere is safe from walkers except for in death--and Woodbury perhaps. And I'm not sure how long they're going to have Rick grieve like this. Too long and it becomes awkward and viewers stop caring...good thing it seems like this was the last episode of a detached Rick. 

Why did Andrea hook up with the Governor?
Not that I didn't see that one coming...I'm sure everyone did. She hooked up with Shane and now the Governor. She just likes to be close to leaders I guess. It's her way of gaining some sense of control--I don't know. I don't want to over analyze because she could just be a skank, right? I predict she will regret this decision...and it could very well be the end for her. 

How is it Michonne can stand next to walkers?
Seriously? I know Rick and Glen used the same zombie-guts camouflage in season one to get out of the city but it seems like such an unlikely way to avoid detection. How is it walkers can distinguish between the living from walkers? Smell? Very curious...Michonne is literally right next to them, wounded and bleeding and they didn't even notice her. 

The next episode looks like it will be good. With Michonne's help I think the Rick and crew will be making a trip to Woodbury to rescue Maggie and Glenn and possibly Andrea.


The Walking Dead - S3 Ep. 5

Episode 5: Say the Word

Woodbury: Walker Technology and Entertainment Capital

I'm still not sure of the 'research' they're doing at Woodbury. They've got a few held captive within Woodbury (hidden of course) and a well off site, where it seems the Governor's cronies go fishing for them...but why? Michonne said something very interesting to Andrea in an argument this episode. Something to the effect of: you don't leave until they make you. So I'm thinking until they make you--as in turn you into a walker. All subversives and defectors within Woodbury are turned into Biters? Could be a stretch, but the Governor is capable of many things (except controlling Michonne) and full of many secrets. I can't believe so many people in Woodbury were excited about that party. How bizarre! Michonne is right--time to get the hell out. 

Rick is temporarily unavailable

Okay, he's lost it. He's decided to go on a solo trip and cleanse the entire prison of any remaining walkers. Just him, his axe and his pistol...great. He won't acknowledge anyone, not even his newborn child. I mean c'mon Rick. The group needs you. You're the leader...meanwhile Daryl steps up, but I still don't think this baby is going to make it.

Ring, Ring? 

Apparently, someone is alive and of all the places in the world to call, they've decided to phone the prison. Rick has a moment of clarity and answers it, but we won't know anything else until the next episode--which is fine with me. Some of my friends said this episode was 'weird' but I thought it was appropriate because it still moved the story along. I think everyone was so on edge from last week's episode, they didn't know what to expect, or were expecting more carnage. But we needed a transition episode and a glimpse into the future (which came in the form of a phone call)


Poetry for thought - Sawdust

by Sharon Bryan

Why not lindendust,
   hackberry, hemlock,
live oak, maple, why
   name the remains
after the blade, not
   what it cut—

 only now do I see
   that the air is full
of small sharp stars
   pinwheeling through
every living thing
   that gets in their way.

Image: Flickr- Horia Varlan


Book Beginnings - The Hobbit

Book Beginnings is a meme hosted by Rose City Reader. Share the first sentence (or so) of a book you are currently reading, along with your initial thoughts and impressions about the sentence or book. Remember to include the title of the book and the author AND link up at the Rose City Reader

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a dirty, nasty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort. 
I've decided to join a Read-along of The Hobbit hosted at Unputdownables. I've always wanted to read this book, and since the movie is coming out soon, I want to have it read or mostly read before then.

I like the beginning...I knew what this comfortable hobbit-hole looked like before I read the beginning. (because I've seen The Fellowship of the Ring)


The Walking Dead - S3 Ep. 4

Episode 4: Killer Within

Holy sh*t, I didn't expect that

I honestly have no idea how I went almost an entire week before posting anything resembling a reaction to this episode.

It was one the best things I've ever seen.

The entire episode I was yelling out some variation of: "Oh Nooooooo!" or "Oh my gosh!!!"

Seriously. It was that awesome.

...and in the end, I even teared up a bit because I felt bad for Rick (very good acting there)  He is no doubt a broken man now.  I still don't understand why Lori had to have a c-section. Why couldn't she have the baby the old-fashioned way? Part of me thinks she wanted to die...which was okay by me. But now without a mom, this baby doesn't have a great chance of surviving either. Also Carl is all hardened and soulless after shooting his mother blah blah blah. And then T-dog--I was bummed he died too. However, he did last longer than I (and probably everyone else) thought he would. Luckily it seems the group will have another resident black man very soon.

I can't believe that prisoner set those gates open. I don't know how he survived because I thought he was surrounded by walkers and bitten in a previous episode...curious.

There were some scenes with Merle, Andrea and Michonne in Woodbury, but I didn't care so much about that. 

I wonder who will die next. That's what I love about this show; no one is too important to die. Everyone's light will be put out.

The next episode looks like a good one too. Rick seems to have lost his mind. 


Review - Monster

by Walter Dean Myers
250+ pages

Description via Goodreads
The best time to cry is at night, when the lights are out and someone is being beaten up and screaming for help (1)
Monster is about the fate of a young man named Steve Harmon. There is a good chance Harmon will get 25 years to life in prison, if found guilty of felony murder. In Monster, the emotional turmoil Harmon experiences in prison and during his trial is documented into a screenplay. He does this to help him process the extreme turn his life has taken. In between scenes, Harmon has diary entries that speak more to the cruel circumstance of prison life. 
Miss O'Brien says that Petrocelli is using Bolden's testimony as part of a trail that will lead to me and James King. I think she is wrong. I think they are bringing out all of these people and letting them look terrible on the stand and sound terrible and then reminding the jury that they don't look any different from me and King (59) 
The author focuses on what it means to be guilty, or rather, what it means to not be innocent. He includes little details about Harmon's life, upbringing and neighborhood to suggest how men like Harmon are predisposed to guilt. This same guilt consumes almost every person in prison (innocent or not). Guilt manifests and infiltrates everyone. It's not a jacket you take off whenever you please; it's the pain in your gut, the bag over your head, tattooed on your forehead, multiplying in the melanin of your skin. 
I hear myself thinking like all the other prisoners here, trying to convince myself that everything will be alright, that the jury can't find me guilty because of this reason. We lie to ourselves here. Maybe we are here because we lie to ourselves (202)
At first I was unsure of how the structure of a screenplay would affect the reading experience. Would it distract me? Can I visualize these scenes correctly? Would I understand what Harmon is trying to emphasize? Yes, some phrasing is a little awkward, but the dialogue is clear. In the end I decided  what mattered more was the idea of the screenplay; the fact that the reality of Harmon's situation--the gravity of it--the bleakness of his future is so unbelievable that only a movie could capture the sensation.

Another thing I noted when reading was the overall indifference I felt to all the characters...I'm not sure if this is a good or bad thing. I didn't hate the prosecutor, I didn't empathize with Harmon, all the witness accounts and cross examinations seemed solid, the prisoner advice was casually reflective. I didn't spend any brainpower on forming my own judgement on whether Harmon was not guilty--I was just indifferent. I'm sure this due to the form of the narrative, as the reader is just there to observe. I feel weird suggesting that there's no reader engagement because I did find the novel interesting enough...
I wish Jerry were here. Not in jail, but somehow with me. What would I say to him? Think about all the tomorrows of your life. Yes, that's what I would say. Thank about all the tomorrows of your life (205) 


Three Stars

Smooth Criminals, Reading Challenge for 2012


Top Ten Tuesday - Non-fiction Reads On My Radar

This week's topic: Top Ten Non-fiction Reads On My Radar

Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted at The Broke and The Bookish. Basically, you create a list tailored to the week's topic and share it with other readers by linking up at The Broke and The Bookish. You can find out more information here.

Generally speaking, I don't read a lot of nonfiction. However, I always try to read at least one nonfiction piece every once in a while. The last nonfiction I read was The Devil in the White City (review here). Before that--I can't remember--so it's time to get some lined up for the future.

Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries by Jon Ronson
A friend wants me to read this with him. I said okay before I even knew what it was about, but after doing a quick search, it actually sounds very interesting.

Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Wall Street While Rescuing Wall Street by Neil Barofsky 
Yes, I know. There are a thousand and one books, documentaries, arguments, etc. on the economic bailout. But I saw this guy on some mid-morning television show giving an interview on his book and he persuaded me to jot down the title to look up later. Will I still watch the movie on Netflix about the bailout?--absolutely.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
 I am an introvert. I talk when necessary. Small talk annoys me, 9 out of 10 times. I don't need the spotlight on me at all times. This book tells me I have power--I'm going to read it.

Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness?: What it Means to Be Black Now by Toure
I personally don't believe that post-blackness will ever exist. Just like I don't believe we live in a post-racial society...However, I do think the term 'black' or 'blackness' is very fluid and diverse because Black people are a very diverse people. I'm more interested in Toure's opinion of what it means to be Black now. Most people (including Black people) have this set in stone idea of blackness, when in reality many Black Americans are living considerably different experiences that what's considered Black--you know the stereotypes.

Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Hirsi Ali is such an intriguing person and so charismatic. I have to know her story. How anyone can pass on her testimonial is beyond me.

So that's it. Only five. I knew I didn't have ten because like I said, I rarely read nonfiction.
Have you read any of these yet?


Poetry for thought - Problems with Hurricanes

Problems with Hurricanes
by Victor Hernandez Cruz

A campesino looked at the air
And told me:
With hurricanes it's not the wind
or the noise or the water.
I'll tell you he said:
it's the mangoes, avocados
Green plantains and bananas
flying into town like projectiles.

How would your family
feel if they had to tell
The generations that you
got killed by a flying

Death by drowning has honor
If the wind picked you up
and slammed you
Against a mountain boulder
This would not carry shame
to suffer a mango smashing
Your skull or a plantain hitting your
Temple at 70 miles per hour
is the ultimate disgrace.
The campesino takes off his hat— 
As a sign of respect
toward the fury of the wind
And says:
Don't worry about the noise
Don't worry about the water 
Don't worry about the wind—
If you are going out
beware of mangoes
And all such beautiful
sweet things.

Photo: flickr - Will Ellis


Review - The Feast of the Goat

The Feast of the Goat
by Mario Vargas Llosa
400+ pages

Description via Goodreads
Animated chaos, the profound need in what was once your people, Urania, to stupefy themselves into not thinking and, perhaps, not even feeling (6)
The Feast of the Goat takes place during the end of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. It contains the narrative of the infamous Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molinas--el Jefe--as well as the narratives of the daughter of one of his top officials and the many subversives and anti trujillistas, that take part in his assassination. 

The book begins with the narrative of Urania Cabral, daughter of one of the most distinguished Trujillo loyalists. She visits the DR for the first time in 35 years after having lived in the United States, to see her father who has degenerated into a vegetable. Despite his condition, Urania is bitter and borderline hateful towards him. Little by little her narrative sheds light on how Trujillo caused this woman to stupefy herself, to hate her father and become estranged from her people. Her story and the flashbacks within it, frame the other narratives. 
And then it occurred to him: "A cure equal to the disease." The face of a beautiful woman, exploding with pleasure in his arms, thanking him for the joy he had given her. Wouldn't that erase the frightened little face of that idiot? Yes: he'd go tonight to San Cristobal, to Mahogany House and wipe away the affront in the same bed with the same weapons (128)
The one ever-present element in this book is the intertwine of sex, politics and machismo, especially in Urania's and Trujillo's narratives. It seems when Trujillo isn't ordering people around, he's thinking about taking a trip to the Mahogany House (the local upscale brothel) What's interesting about this is Vargas Llosa parallels failings of the Trujillo regime with the failings of Trujillo's body; old age, impotence and incontinence.  

Whereas Urania is repelled by anything suggestive, or of a sexual nature, due to certain events in her adolescence which can be directly linked to Trujillo. In fact, I would go as far to say that Trujillo and Urania are complementary characters in almost every level of analysis. Trujillo holds a very low opinion of intellectuals, artists and writers, people whose work influence the evolution of thought, challenge his sovereignty. Urania falls into that category, not only professionally, but personally. And not just on an intellectual level, a physical one. 
It must be nice. Your cup of coffee or glass of rum must taste better, the smoke of your cigar, a swim in the ocean on a hot day, the movie you see on Saturday, the merengue on the radio, everything must leave a more pleasurable sensation in your body and spirit when you had what Trujillo had taken away from Dominicans thirty-one years ago: free will (144)
I could go on and on about gender, sex and politics in this book. It's a really good book to analyze for that type of reading. But generally speaking, I think this book is great because it shows how fear, shame and paranoia can spread like a disease in all parties. They spread through the oppressed and the oppressors--and not just in those individuals in the moment, but through generations over time.

The Feast of the Goat

Four stars.

Smooth Criminals, Reading Challenge for 2012


The Walking Dead - S3 Ep. 3

Episode 3: Walk With Me

Welcome to Woodbury!

We spend this episode with Andrea and Michonne (formerly known as the lady with dreads) as they stumble upon Woodbury, a perfectly safe town, mostly free of walkers...bizarre, right? At first Andrea and Michonne are in a state of disbelief.  They meet a lot of new faces like the Governor, and one old one--Merle. Their disbelief switches to suspicion near the end, as the "Governor" is so obviously full of secrets...are we surprised? Well, no. Anyone who goes by Governor and is not an elected public official is suspect in my book. And Merle is a cyborg now...well not really, but he's using some sort of modified homemade bayonet for the forearm that he sawed off in Season 1. Merle is aiding the Governor with his twisted efforts...you can tell he misses his brother Daryl.  

I think I understand why the Governor did what he did with the military. Was it the right thing to do? No. Not by any means, when you're protecting almost 100 people in a town. But considering the fact that he's a power-hungry maniac, it makes sense. I'm also wondering how many other times he's done this--picking off small cells of people who threaten his position...What I don't understand is the purpose of his awkward scientist buddy. Is he going to try and use the walkers in the way that Michonne did...how much more does he know? 

Also even though Andrea's cautious, I think she wants to stay. Whereas Michonne just wants to get the hell out. I think Andrea wants to stay because she too seems a little power hungry and eager at times. I don't know, that could be reaching...but I also think that the Governor won't let them leave alive, so they might as well stay. 

The next episode looks great! We're back with Rick and the crew in the prison, and someone is playing mind games with them...I think it's whoever was watching Carol from the trees at the end of the last episode. I thought it was the Governor but now I don't know.


The Walking Dead - S3 Ep. 2

Episode 2: Sick

Am I the only person that wanted Lori to get bit?

False alarm--Herschel isn't dead...yet. I really believed it was the end for him. And consequently, I hoped it would be the end of Lori. Her character is so damn self-righteous and annoying, and I wouldn't mind if she somehow didn't make it out of the prison. I know, I know--that's terrible considering her condition and all...but I sort of don't care.

I still don't think it makes logical sense for Herschel to survive or not turn, but I'm not a staunch undead purist, so it doesn't really ruin the rest of the story or anything for me.

Why did it take Rick so long to kill that crazy convict?

Okay, so when I saw the prisoners in the last episode I wasn't thrilled. Additions to group are bad because 1) This whole thing is about survival--more people equals less resources to go around and 2) Those prisoners are criminals; potential thieves, rapists and murderers. The only good news to take from them being there is the fact that they lasted in the prison for a really long time, almost a year...so it's secure and there's food somewhere. How much? I don't know.

But now Rick and the crew have to explain what's been going to the prisoners, give them a hands-on lesson on how to protect themselves, split the leftover food supply and clear out an additional cell block. Who has time for that? ugh. They need quick learning curves...

Yeah, so the one prisoner who was trying to tell Rick and crew what to do? The crazy one--the one that bashed his co-prisoner's head to pieces. Rick should have put him down when he started delegating who would be where and who got what. But no, Rick waits until he's almost been killed (on accident by the crazy guy) to get rid of him....dumb.

I can't wait to see episode 3. Apparently, there's a whole village of people still living with food and guns and a helicopter? Where the hell have they been?


The Walking Dead - S3 Ep.1

The Walking Dead is one of my favorite shows--ever. I jump around like a six-year old when it's on television. I'm so impressed by the story and characters and makeup and effects...It's not scary, but gruesome (which I like) And what it does best is create tension; that constant underlying simmer between characters, the high stress of seeing loved ones devoured by the undead and the stark truth about every one's fate that no one wants to talk about but accepts.

It really is a great televisions series. I'm not going to recap seasons 1 and 2--I think everyone should just watch them. They're on Netflix and most likely on whatever 'on-demand' function your cable provider offers and there's always the Internet. What I do want to do is post my reaction and questions for each episode of the third season from now on, simply because I can...spoilers likely. Yes, I know this isn't exactly book-related. But it is a graphic novel (which I haven't read)

So briefly...

Episode 1: Seed

Would you rather be exposed to herds of the undead but have the freedom to move about OR be fortified within a confined space that offers security but will eventually run out of resources?

Listen, I personally wouldn't want to be confined anywhere with limited resources, but considering the circumstances of the group (ahem--Lori) they need the shelter. There has to be so many undead in the prison...but Rick has his mind made up, so whatever.

Whose bright idea was it to bring the old guy (who also happens to be the only trained medical person in the group) on a recon. outing?

Common sense, Rick! I blame everything bad that happens on Rick, but that's another discussion. I still don't understand why Herschel came with them...Why were they wandering dark hallways? Oh yeah, for food, medicine and ammo that may or may not be there. I just think Rick is doing too much right now. They have the courtyards, and one cell block--what more do you want?

Anyways, at this point I'm pretty sure Herschel is going to die. When your ACL is torn out by a zombie and then your lower leg is hacked off...you're going to bleed out and die. And those prisoners they stumbled upon? Bad news, Rick. Bad news.

Who is the lady with the dreads? And where did she get a Kitana?

I think it's a kitana...I could be wrong. She's taking care of Andrea. Not sure why. She seems to have everything under control with her undead pets.