Bookish Crafting

Lately I've been in a reading rut. Don't get me wrong-- I'm still reading. I read at work on my breaks, but I gravitate towards a very specific literature while at work: humor. I like a quick laugh during my busy, fast-paced days to take the edge off. Tina Fey's Bossypants introduced me to just the right kind of escapism I needed. I savored her memoir, stretching it out over increments for weeks. When that came to an end, I picked up Chelsea Handler's My Horizontal Life, and though it's a coarser, more sexually-driven memoir, it still gives me a good laugh. Next on my list is David Sedaris' Naked. But like I said, those are my work reads; I've been avoiding reading on my days off. Every now and then I hit these reading dry-spells, usually after reading a series consecutively or after a really dense text. So I'm not gonna force it, and I'm just keeping the books on my Summer Reading List shelved for now.

However, that doesn't mean I've strayed from my bookish ways. After losing a few hours of my life on Pinterest the other night, I was feeling crafty. Tired of being a spectator, I wanted to to participate. My favorite board is my Because I'm a Bookworm board, and after adding a few new pins and drooling over the old ones, I felt inspired. So, I dug into my ridiculously large scrap-booking hoard and got crafting.

Less than an hour later, I had four new bookmarks! I was going for simple, sweet, and personalized. Here's what I ended up with:

I made the shorter two first. They were cute, but I wanted my next two to have some height. Action shot! bahaha.

Another action shot in one of my favorite chapters:

Yes, you read that correctly; it's directions on how to ride an ostrich.  You can peep the directions in Bunty Cutler's 211 Things a Clever Girl Can Do. A hilarious and educational read.

There you have them. My  new bookmarks. I figured it was high time I started using real ones. I always use paper scraps like shopping lists, junk mail, and napkins. I avoided putting too much detail into my new bookmarks as I don't trust myself not to lose them, and I don't want to cry over lost hours of creative genius. I'm also a believer in "less is more" when it comes to bookmarks. My mother used to buy me really beautiful, elaborate ones as gifts, but I would quickly become annoyed by the ribbons or the indents left in the book's interior from ornate embellishments pressing into the pages.

I forgot how fun it is to play with scissors, paper, and glue. I was riding a nice little crafting high afterwards [don't worry, the glue was non-toxic Elmer's, haha], and I couldn't help but beam with pride at my new bookmarks. 'Funny how something small and simple can be so invigorating.

Poetry on a Rainy Sunday

The rain puts me in such a relaxed and mellow mood. The drip-drop sounds hitting the roof and windows soothe me like a lullaby. I even listen to the rain to help me fall asleep. I find I'm most inclined to read poetry when I'm feeling peaceful and serene. I thought I'd share this particular poem not only because of its subject, but because Mary Oliver is definitely one of my top five favorite poets ever.

Last Night the Rain Spoke to Me by Mary Oliver

Last night
the rain
spoke to me
slowly, saying,
what joy
to come falling
out of the brisk cloud,
to be happy again
in a new way
on the earth!
That’s what it said
as it dropped,
smelling of iron,
and vanished
like a dream of the ocean
into the branches
and the grass below.
Then it was over.
The sky cleared.
I was standing
under a tree.
The tree was a tree
with happy leaves,
and I was myself,
and there were stars in the sky
that were also themselves
at the moment
at which moment
my right hand
was holding my left hand
which was holding the tree
which was filled with stars
and the soft rain –
imagine! imagine!
the long and wondrous journeys
still to be ours.

Slightly Starstruck

I don't mean to get too ridiculous with sharing this small bit of twitter glory, but Oprah's Book Club mentioned me in a tweet! I'm a dork, I know. I also know Oprah herself didn't tweet this, but still...

[Click to enlarge]
C'mon you would be excited, too!

Book Journal: Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instruments Series

I just finished the 5th book in the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, and I thought I'd share my experieces with the previous books as well. Don't expect any deep thoughts or revelations; this series is very superficial and derivative, and I read it solely to quench my Young Adult paranormal romance thirst.
  • City of Bones (Book 1) [read 10/3/11] My Rating: 4/5 Stars
    I picked up this series because it received a lot of acclaim on GoodReads, and up until that point I was never steered wrong by my fellow bookworms. This book was my first dalliance with the Fallen Angels type of paranormal romance. I was looking for something full of adventure and sigh-worthy, light-hearted romance. And that’s what I got. The storyline was interesting and something I hadn’t encountered before. The enjoyed the construction of the mythology, and I was charmed by the hero and heroine. I liked the direction things were headed for the most part…
  • City of Ashes (Book 2) [read 10/4/11] My Rating: 3/5 Stars
    I did not enjoy this installment of the series as much as the first book. Things were getting stale and overdone. I was slightly uncomfortable with the whole brother-sister-incest dilemma. But I hung on because I already purchased the 3rd book and had to tough it out.
  • City of Glass (Book 3) [read 10/5/11] My Rating: 5/5 Stars
    I remember really loving this book. I assumed it was the conclusion to what I thought was a trilogy. Everything worked out. All the plot lines and characters were neatly wrapped up with nice little bows on them. There was a lot of action and romance. It was a tough act to follow.
  • City of Fallen Angels (Book 4) [read 10/6/11] My Rating: 2/5 Stars
    My comments after finishing the 4th book, written October 6, 2011: This series was clearly meant to be a trilogy and should have stayed that way. I feel as if Clare ripped open a healed wound by trying to resurrect this already beautifully resolved story and made it ugly again. Not only does this book thinly veil Clare's greed by riding on the success of the previous books in the series, but it was barely interesting and paced too slowly. It ended with a cliff hanger leading up to another future book where Jace and Clary are to be tortured even more than they already have been. Overall, it was disappointing and frustrating, and I think the author should be ashamed of herself for blatantly over-milking the cash cow.
So now, for my latest experience with the Mortal Instruments series…
  • City of Lost Souls (Book 5) [read 6/4/12] My Rating: 3/5 Stars
    I definitely like City of Lost Souls more than City of Fallen Angels, but… this book was mostly boring with some highlights thrown in. There were a lot of sections on characters I simply did not care about. Those superfluous parts only made me care less about my favorite characters because of my growing frustration with all of the stagnant pieces.

    Done Right:

    -Clary’s strength. Clary is uncharacteristically self-reliant in this book. She is able to use her gifts to protect herself and those around her without depending on a hero to swoop in and save her every time. She showed bravery and confidence that made up for her whiny, pathetic-ness in the previous books.

    -Alec and Magnus. The struggles they face for being in an openly gay relationship in a judgmental and old-fashioned world are depicted succinctly and skillfully.  One of the most affecting scenes for me is where Alec describes the ways in which the harsh and cruel opinions of his parents and fellow Shadow Hunters upset him. Unlike another book I read recently where there was a gay couple written about very gratuitously, this storyline illustrates the hardships the lovers face in a sincere and less sermonizing way.

    -Simon as a leading man. He was not the pathetic side-kick in this book. He treated the women in his life with respect and reverence. He wasn’t moping over Clary and crying about his curse. In fact, he owned his powers. He used his curse to help his friends, meet an angel, and ultimately stymie the villain and save the day. His character definitely stole the show.

    Done Wrong:

    -Jace’s sexual jokes/innuendos. Many examples, but here’s the one that had me face-palming:

    "Lust," she said. "Lust is a deadly sin."
    "And spanking."
    "I think that falls under lust."
    "I think it should have its own category," said Jace. "Greed, envy, gluttony, irony, pedantry, lust, and spanking."

    C’mon, really? His charming confidence in the first three books was enjoyable, (I can’t remember much from the 4th because I chose to wipe that travesty of a book from my memory) but in this book, it morphed into deluded cockiness, and I could barely stand him.

    -Maia and Jordan. This resumed relationship sets a horrible example for young women. Maia was terrified of Jordan and full of nothing but hatred and resentment towards him. Her memories of him were of abuse and fear. He changed her life for the worse. He took away her humanity. And because he “changed,” she went back to him, after all of her misgivings. Yes, I know, he is now a good guy in the book. But fictional relationships should mirror real-life ones. Just because the story itself is fantasy doesn’t mean the truths of relationships and the dynamics of oppression and violence are fantasy.  Maia going back to her abusive ex because he is not abusive anymore is not realistic—abusive men do not change in real life, and it is irresponsible for Clare to portray such a relationship.

    -The moving, multidimensional house. I know that this series is very plagiaristic, and it borrows from a ton of other popular books in the fantasy genre…but the house is taken straight out of Diana Wynne Jone’s Howl’s Moving Castle.

    Favorite Quotes: “One must preserve some mystery in one’s relationship… A book that one has not read yet is always more exciting than a book one has memorized” (250).

    "Love isn't moral or immoral," said Clary. "It just is."

    “Basia coquum,” Simon said. “Or whatever their motto is.”
    “It’s Descensus Averno facilis est. The descent into hell is easy,” said Alec. “You just said Kiss the cook.”
    “Dammit,” said Simon. “I knew Jace was screwing with me.”

    He felt her stiffen and then relax. "Simon?"
    "Can you tell me a story?"
    "Okay. I've got a good one." Simon stroked Isabelle's hair, feeling her lashes flutter against his neck as she closed her eyes. "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..."

And there you have it: My errant thoughts on the Mortal Instruments series. I’m not sure how many more books Clare intends to drag out, and though I’m not as put off by the series as I once was after the 4th book, I don’t know if I will keep up with any of the books to follow.

A Book Spree, a new stack, and some musings...

I went to Mr. K's last night to check out the big sale going on there this weekend. I managed to snag some really great books for prices low enough to make me ridiculously giddy. I've always liked to buy my books new, but I have become quite the used books convert during my last few pilgrimages to Mr. K's. I also feel it's my personal responsibility, as well as the community's, to patronize any and all local independent book stores.

Here's a picture of my newest stack:

This may or may not be another symptom of my bibliophilia, but I love to know what motivates people to pick-up/read/buy their books. Is it because a trusted friend told you that you'd like it? Was it a GoodReads suggestion? Are you addicted to that series/author/genre? Even the most trivial reasons interest me. It's my belief that there are no wrong reasons to read a book as long as you take something important away with you from that reading experience. Is your English teacher forcing you to read it? Trying to impress your hipster friends? Convincing your love interest that you have the same tastes? I might giggle at you, but hey, I'm an advocate for reading the written word. If you are reading at all, good for you.

So, why did I pick up these particular books, you ask? Here's the breakdown:
  • Cassandra Clare's City of Lost Souls (The Mortal Instruments Book 5)
    I will probably elaborate further on my experience with this series some other time, but for now I will just say I read the first four, and my curiosity is piqued.
  • Tina Fey's Bossypants
    I don't read biographies/autobiographies on the regular, but I'm a huge Tina Fey fan, and I heard great things about her memoir and wanted to check it out.
  • Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis 1&2
    Always an avid graphic novel reader, I've known about and wanted to read Persepolis for years now. When I found the first 2 books in lovely condition for about $5 a piece, I had to have them.
  • Natalie Babbitt's The Search for Delicious
    So, I've slowly been making my way through the books I should have read in my adolescence, and I figure this book is one of them. Babbitt's Tuck Everlasting was the first book to make me truly think. That book blew my ten-year-old mind. Therefor, this little hardcover gem called out to me.
  • Creech's Bloomability and Hate That Cat
    No idea what either of them are about. Never heard of them. I just know that my undying loyalty to Creech has grown even stronger since reading and loving Heartbeat a few weeks ago. Here's hoping these two books are just as good.

It looks like I will be adding more books to my summer reading list, putting even more pressure on myself to read all of them in the next few months. Oh well, there are worse goals to have, right?

Book Journal: Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth

The Forest of Hands and Teeth
By Carrie Ryan

: Mary, a teenage girl living in an isolated village constantly on the brink of an Unconsecrated (zombie) attack, struggles with her limited choices in life and love. She becomes tangled in a complicated web of love and sacrifice, all while trying to remain alive in a post-apocalyptic world.

Some themes at play within the novel
: Love, Friendship, Duty, Honor, Survival, Marriage, Hope, Death, Sacrifice

Some Thoughts
(Spoiler-ish, fair warning):
While reading this book, all I could keep thinking was that this story is a cross between M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village and Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later. An isolated village protects itself against the horror and death that surrounds its fences, while the occupants have no idea about the true history of the world and what civilization lies outside the forest that surrounds them.

This is a quick, fast-paced read. I honestly don’t have too much to really say about it, since I didn’t find it very original. This is one of those bandwagon Young Adult lit. dystopian/post-apocalyptic books, and it was just a quick fix for me that I could read on my breaks at work.

There is a love triangle/square that is done well. Sacrifice and duty are the big motivating factors behind each character’s decisions, and I think that’s what makes this romance stick out above the other YA lit. romances floating around right now.  I also found the religious aspect interesting; the village survives because of the medieval religious zealousness that rules the masses there.

There are unanswered questions and plot holes that I imagine will be addressed in the following books, but I don’t think this book is enticing enough for me to continue the series. I have so many books on my to-read list as it is.

Favorite Quotes
“And suddenly I wonder what right we have to believe our childhood dreams will come true. My body aches with this realization. With this truth. It is as if I have cut something important away from myself. The loss is almost overwhelming. Almost enough to make me give up” (104).

“I try not to let the idea of the outside world tingle through my veins. But I cannot help it. On the edge of sleep, when my thoughts are no longer my own but controlled of their own volition, the sound of the ocean comes to me: the rustling of leaves of a hundred thousand trees that surround me, pulsing with the wind as the waves crash over my head. Pulling me under. Tossing my body as if it has no need of bones. Every night I drown and every morning I wake up struggling to breath” (146).

“The Sisterhood has it wrong … It’s not about surviving. It should be about love. When you know love, that’s what makes life worth it. When you live with it every day. Wake up with it, hold on to it during the thunder and after a nightmare. When love is your refuge from the death that surrounds us all and when it fills you so tight that you can’t express it” (155).

“All I can think about is how I have wasted my last day with Travis being angry at him. That I should have spent this day memorizing his face. Counting the freckles on his shoulders … Suddenly, all I can think about are the things I don’t know about him. All the things I never had time to learn. I don’t know if his feet are ticklish or how long his toes are. I don’t know what nightmares he had as a child. I don’t know which stars are his favorites, what shapes he sees in the clouds. I don’t know what he is truly afraid of or what memories he holds closest” (274).

My Rating
: 3/5 stars

Information about my copy for my own records:
Publication:  Paperback, Delacorte Press, First Trade Paperback Edition, 2009
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic, Horror, Dystopian, Romance
ISBN: 978-0-385-73682-4
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