Travelin' Thursday

I've been inspired by many other bloggers who do things like Wahoo Wednesday (Bookfool) and Wordless Wednesday (book-a-rama) and have decided to start "Travelin' Thursday". It will be my opportunity to share pictures from my many travels throughout the year. I was happy to be able to post some from Jakarta earlier this week and kept thinking of the many other beautiful pictures I have of interesting places that I would like to post. So here it is!

Our honeymoon in the Caribbean: St. Maarten, Dec. 2006.

It's all gray and nasty looking outside, it makes me happiest to think of the Caribbean right now.

Isolde, Queen of the Western Isle

Isolde, Queen of the Western Isle by: Rosalind Miles

Published: 2002

# of pages: 340

This is the first book in the Tristan & Isolde trilogy by Rosalind Miles. She also wrote the Guenevere novels, which I haven't read. Honestly, this book really wasn't that great and I don't recommend it. I don't want to spend too much time on this post for those reasons but I didn't enjoy it because it really wasn't well-written. I know I could have done a better job and I don't write novels for a living! The author doesn't leave anything subtle, she says every single thing, she doesn't let you get to know a character's feelings, etc. because she tells you exactly what to think. Also, she makes the bad guys too bad and the good guys too good, which I personally feel isn't the best way to write. It doesn't really encompass human nature, it's not realistic.

The novel takes place when the Christians were coming in as missionaries and trying to convert the "pagans" in Britain and Ireland. So I understand that they are the antagonists in that case, since the main characters follow the old ways. But some of the "facts" Miles includes are not sound. She puts one character in there who claims that Christian communion was stolen from the pagan religion of the Lady giving wine and bread to the hungry. Which I don't think is the case, communion is an adaptation of a Jewish holiday and is a symbolic remembrance of Christ's sacrifice. It doesn't really have to do with giving food and drink to hungry people. I'm not an expert in that field, but it just seems like Miles was trying really hard to make the Christians look "bad" for personal reasons. However, if this topic sounds interesting to you, read Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier. It's very similar in content and is SO much better.

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Shantaram by: Gregory David Roberts

Challenges: TBR Challenge, Chunkster Challenge

Published: 2003

# of pages: 933

Quote: "So much, too much, of the good that I felt in those years of exile was locked in the prison cell of my heart: those tall walls of fear; that small, barred window of hope; that hard bed of shame. I do speak out now. I know now that when the loving, honest moment comes it should be seized, and spoken, because it may never come again." -Lin p. 881

Shantaram is a well written novel based on the author's own life. I was amazed when I read the first page where the main character, Lin, recaps his life and then the back cover "about the author", where the description about Roberts matched Lin's. It's just amazing that Roberts actually experienced what seems to be a wild tale that couldn't really happen to anyone. The story is fictionalized, and throughout the book I kept wondering if certain things that Lin experienced happened to Roberts as well. At the end of the book I still felt like Lin's time in Afghanistan could have been changed to fit better into the story of Bombay and to shorten the book, but it did end up tying well into the rest of the story, so I can't complain about that.

Lin is an escaped convict from Australia who runs to Bombay to begin a new, hidden life. He searches for love and acceptance and finds it in unexpected places and people throughout the city. He makes a living conducting illegal deals for tourists and makes enough money to live in a shack in the slums of the overcrowded city where he opens a free clinic for the slum dwellers. Eventually, events lead to him joining a Bombay mafia and the novel changes along with his life. He encounters beautiful people and ugly people. He experiences and tells about the most beautiful things in life like love, friendship, and selflessness as well as the ugliest things in life like death, drugs, murder, and pain. The reader has to experience all of this as well. There were times when I felt overwhelmed with the amount of bad language. Sometimes I didn't mind, like when a word was used in ignorance or innocence or to be funny, but there were other times I wondered if it was necessary. But it is an honest tale, I suppose that is how the mafia dons and criminals in Bombay speak. I didn't expect Roberts to gloss over his descriptions of homelessness, poverty, and crime, so I shouldn't expect him to do the same with the everyday way of life among the people Lin was surrounded by.

I'm overall glad I read this book because it was a learning experience. The descriptions of Bombay and the Indian way of life strongly reminded me of my own experiences in Mexico City and Jakarta. It brought back good memories and reminded me that the American way of life is an exception to the way most of the world lives. Each time I travel to a city in a third world country I'm so grateful to experience something besides American ways of enforcing laws, driving, buying and selling, speaking, greeting others, eating, etc. It is also good to be reminded of how much I have to be thankful for and this book brought all of that back to me. I recommend others read it just to be able to "live" in another culture for a time, especially if you have not traveled to a third world country before. I don't recommend this book if you are easily offended by other ways of life (religion, criminals, certain philosophies) or are bothered by bad language. Also, it is so long that you can't read it if you are pressed for time!

Here's a few pictures from my trip to Jakarta, Indonesia this past summer. The descriptions of Bombay in Shantaram reminded me so much of Jakarta.

It's taking me forever!

I'm reading Shantaram, which is close to 950 pages long!! There's a cat on my lap, otherwise I would go into the other room and check to see exactly how many pages there are. Heaven forbid I move Serenity from her comfortable position (funny how her comfortable position is usually my uncomfortable position). Anyway, the reading was going really well until around page 650 or so, when the story changes drastically. The main character, Lin, goes to Afghanistan to fight in the war against the Russians. He leaves Bombay, where most of the book takes place. It's such a large change and I'm not really sure how necessary it is for the plot. It threw me off and I've been bogged down ever since then. I'm on page 785 now and I'll admit, I'm kind of ready for the end. I just hope it all ties together in the end instead of remaining disjointed like I feel it is now.

Some interesting things I found out about Shantaram: This is Gregory David Robert's website. He is an amazing man. I haven't been through the whole site, but the book is based off of his own life. After reading the main webpage, it seems like he is a busy man who is doing a lot with his life.

They are also making a movie that Johnny Depp with be playing in!

When I finish the book I will review it, but who knows when that will be! I'm going to be hanging out with my family tomorrow, so maybe on Monday.

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Great Expectations

Great Expectations by: Charles Dickens (Signet Classic)

Challenges: My Year of Reading Dangerously, Chunkster Challenge

Published: 1860 (Signet Classic: 1961)

# of pages: 490

Quote: "'Now, I come to the cruel part of the story-merely breaking off, my dear Handel, to remark that a dinner-napkin will not go into a tumbler.'
Why I was trying to pack mine into my tumbler, I am wholly unable to say. I only know that I found myself, with a perseverance worthy of a much better cause, making the most strenuous exertions to compress it within those limits." -Herbert to Pip p. 178-79

Now I can add Great Expectations to the small list of Dickens' books I've read along with Oliver Twist and A Tale of Two Cities. I enjoyed this novel just as much! Dickens, of course, uses beautiful language and a sense of sarcasm and wit in every description. This story strongly reminded me of the tale of the prodigal son in the Bible. Pip longs for more than his simple living arrangements with his sister and brother-in-law, Joe, and when he has the opportunity of "great expectations", immediately leaves for London to live a gentleman's life. The entire story is full of mystery. I guessed a few, but there were a lot of surprises, especially in the last fourth of the book. That kept me hooked, because just as I started getting a little tired and felt like it was about time for something to happen, all of a sudden new plot twists appear and more mysteries crop up and begin to be solved.

I loved several of the characters. I really empathized with Joe and Provis. I couldn't help but like them and wish I could be in the story to talk some sense into Pip in regards to how he treats them! Thankfully, everything works out well in the end, even though differently than I hoped. Herbert is another loveable character and I really enjoyed Mr. Wemmick and Mr. Jaggers. Mr. Wemmick's wedding scene was so funny, maybe someday I'll type it all out on here so you don't have to read the whole book to enjoy it.

There were a lot of classic morals in here. Money doesn't buy happines, outward appearances aren't everything, be careful what you wish for, etc. My copy of the book by Signet Classic has both of the endings Dickens wrote for this novel. Apparently he had written an ending and then changed it just before the initial publication. I liked the second ending better, which is the traditional, typical ending. But it was interesting to read his original ending as well. Overall, I recommend this story for its plot, beautiful wording, and humor, especially if you enjoy other tales by Dickens.

Ahab's Wife

Ahab's Wife: Or, The Star Gazer by: Sena Jeter Naslund

Challenges: Chunkster Challenge

Published: 1999

# of pages: 666

Quote: "But I did not fail to note: the sky does not fall if you choose to let down your hair." -Una p. 122

This is a story of a young woman, Una, who tells her story from the time she was 12 years old until she is a grown woman who has experienced more than most people can imagine. She is an open-minded person who disregards stereotypes, religion, and common thought patterns. It is quite amazing that almost all of the people she meets are similar in mindset. All the women in the novel are independent and the men accept them as equals. She reveals her secrets and hidden past and because of the knowledge that she has an unorthodox past, she is able to encourage others to confide in her. I liked this about the book because everyone has secrets that strangers would never guess and Una acknowledges others' secrets and accepts them for who they are, just as she longs to be accepted. The only thing I didn't like was although she proclaims to be open-minded, she is very opposed to Christianity. As soon as she discovers someone is a Christian, she automatically dislikes them (of course, most of them are portrayed badly so no wonder she doesn't like them). She meets one kindred spirit who becomes her best friend and when she finds out the other woman is a Christian, she reels with shock. She ignores the fact for a short time and then after leaving the woman's presense, twists her friend's beliefs so that they match up with her own, completely disregarding the woman's own claims. However, part of me wonders if Naslund meant to do this. The book is written in the first person, which means from the POV of an unreliable narrator. Una claims to be accepting and open-minded, but can't accept or try to understand Christianity as it is.

This novel is based off of Melville's novel, Moby Dick. I recommend reading MD before this novel. I didn't read it and still enjoyed Ahab's Wife, but I'm planning to in the future. Naslund refers to several historical figures that should also be known to the reader such as Margaret Fuller, Hawthorne, Emerson, Frederick Douglass, and Byron. You should read Wordsworth's poems "I wandered lonely as a cloud" and "Tintern Abbey" and Shelley's poem "Mont Blanc". Voltaire is also mentioned, including his Candide, and Goethe's Faust and The Sorrows of Young Werther. I am familiar with all of these thanks to my Romantic Era Lit class I took last Spring and I think it gave me a better appreciation for Ahab's Wife. Overall, I really enjoyed the book and recommend it to others. It isn't one of my favorites just because it was unnecessarily long and had a lot of philosophical ramblings that could have been left out and not affected the tone of the novel, but I enjoyed the story as a whole.

Adventures while reading Ahab's Wife

I woke up this morning and instead of working out like I normally do, I decided to have a relaxing start to the day by eating cereal and reading Ahab's Wife on the couch. However, I quickly discovered there were to be consequences for my laziness. I had my book and cereal on a TV tray when my cat Firefly jumped up and stood over my book. I saw that she was preparing to jump over to the small, glass topped table in front of the window, so I didn't shove her off the tray like I typically do when she comes into close contact with my milk soaked cereal. I waited patiently for her to jump, she had to do a lot of wiggling and shuffling to prepare. Finally, she took off and soared towards the table a few feet away as the book was shoved by her back feet and crashed into my cereal bowl which, in turn, soared towards my lap. All I could do was sit and gasp in shock as I was drenched in cold milk and cereal, along with the library's copy of Ahab's Wife, my couch cushion, the floor, and various objects on the floor such as a magazine, the cats' toy mouse, and my very cool Japanese woman in kimono bookmark my mom gave me for Christmas. After gasping and moaning for several seconds I quickly jumped into action after peeling off my pajama pants that were completely soaked. I'm proud to say that the first thing I did was rescue the book, which escaped major drenching and will survive with some wrinkles on a couple of the pages. I also salvaged the bookmark and hopefully saved my couch and carpet from permanent stains. The magazine and toy mouse were thrown away and all of my clothes tossed in the laundry. So much for my relaxing morning, tomorrow I will be more motivated to exercise!

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Chunkster Challenge 2008

Chunkster Challenge 2008

I signed up for another challenge because I really won't have to read any more books than I'm already reading for the My Year of Reading Dangerously Challenge and the 2008 TBR Challenge. Although I added Ahab's Wife because I'm reading that right now. If I read according the the schedule I arranged for the TBR Challenge, then I should be done with this challenge by March even though it lasts until December. I know that I will at least finish the first 2 by January though. Here they are:

Ahab's Wife or, The Star Gazer by: Sena Jeter Naslund

Great Expectations by: Charles Dickens

Shantaram by: Gregory David Roberts

The Idiot by: Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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Growing Up Firstborn

Growing Up Firstborn: The Pressure and Privilege of Being Number One by: Dr. Kevin Leman

Published: 1989

Non-fiction, Psychology, Family relationships, Self-actualization

Quote: "I have counceled many firstborns who felt guilty about doing anything nice for themselves. They felt that they always had to be doing, accomplishing, moving forward - and if they weren't, then they were being lazy and nonproductive." -- Dr. Kevin Leman in Growing Up Firstborn

Growing Up Firstborn discusses typical personality traits that the majority of firstborns share such as perfectionism, leadership skills, organization, being a list maker (yeah can you tell I'm a firstborn?), being scholarly, etc. It also devotes sections to "You and Your Firstborn", family relationships, and a firstborn's relationships with other people and spouses. Firstborns have many strengths and weaknesses and these are clearly discussed in the book.

This is one of the few non-fiction books I have read outside of school and it is the only psychology book I've read. I was looking on the internet for Christian marriage books and stumbled across Leman's book, The Birth Order Book. After reserving that at the library, I also picked up Growing Up Firstborn. It is amazing how acurate both of these books described me and my family. I recommend that all firstborns and parents read Growing Up Firstborn and that anyone who is in a relationship with another person read The Birth Order Book. Both of these also discuss only children, who have similar characteristics to firstborns. Have you ever read anything about birth order or if you are a firstborn have you read anything about your position in the family? What do you think about these concepts? Did you find it helpful?

2008 Challenges

My first book challenges:

My Year of Reading Dangerously Challenge
I chose to read the official list which I have under my Challenges section to the right. I haven't read any of them and am looking forward to it!

2008 TBR Challenge
January: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
February: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
March: The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (I've had this one since May)
April: Dracula by Bram Stoker (I looked for this in the school library one time and I couldn't find it!)
May: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
June: The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
July: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
August: My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
September: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
October: The Truth Teller's Tale by Sharon Shinn
November: Marked: A House of Night Novel by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast
December: Dragon's Lair by Sharon Kay Penman (This one has been on my bookshelf for was on sale so I bought it and have never gotten around to reading it!)

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Favorite Books of 2007

Water for Elephants by: Sara Gruen
The Farseers (trilogy), The Liveship Traders (trilogy), and The Tawny Man (trilogy) by: Robin Hobb (fantasy)
A Thousand Splendid Suns by: Khaled Hosseini
The Thirteenth Tale by: Diane Setterfield
Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse by: Stephenie Meyer (YA fantasy)
The Time Traveler's Wife by: Audrey Niffenegger
The Handmaid's Tale by: Margaret Atwood
Notes from the Underground by: Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Bud, Not Buddy by: Christopher Paul Curtis (children's novel)
Sunshine by: Robin McKinley (fantasy)
Poison Study by: Maria V. Snyder (fantasy)
The Harry Potter series by: J.K. Rowling

What do you think about my choices? I was a little surprised at how many book club books and best sellers I've read and really enjoyed. I always kind of think that I'm not entrenched in modern society, especially when it comes to my literary tastes, but I am more than I thought. I never look at bestseller lists, I'm not part of a book club. So I was just surprised there were so many of those on here! But they are bestsellers and book club books for a reason, because they're good! If you are interested in any of these and want to know more I would be glad to tell you if you ask! Maybe someday I will get around to reviewing them or posting more information about each.

# of books read during 2007: 81

Least Favorite:
Madame Bovary by: Flaubert (I didn't even finish it!)

Repeated Authors:
Robin Hobb (9)
J.K. Rowling (7)
Ted Dekker (4)
Stephenie Meyer (3)
Jack Cavanaugh (3)
Juliet Marillier (3)
Maria V. Snyder (2)
Cecelia Dart-Thornton (2)
Eva Ibbotson (2)

Let me introduce myself

I'm Andrea. I'm 22, I live in North Carolina with my husband, Matt, and our 2 kittens, Firefly & Serenity. I graduated in May 2007 and I'm still in the process of 1) deciding what I want to do with my life exactly (I guess I should have figured that out before college, huh?), 2) finding a job (preferably part-time), and 3) learning to be content with not accomplishing 1 & 2. My New Year's resolution is to be happy. It was Matt's suggestion & so far I have stuck to it. I have a degree in Geography with a minor in English. I love looking at maps and making maps (ArcGIS). Halfway through my university career I discovered that I do not love sitting in an office 40 hours a week (thanks to an internship). I decided to minor in English at that point hoping to go into editing or writing. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough time to double major, but I took almost as many English courses as Geography courses. I love reading and writing. I had always enjoyed both, but even after being forced to write more essays than I can begin to count for classes, I still love it. If it was possible I would still be in school writing essays!

This is my first blog! My mom introduced me to the book blog world. Somehow she found someone's blog which led her to another and another. She kept telling me about how fun it was and how many recommendations she discovered by reading people's blogs but I didn't really believe her until today when I went looking for myself. I'm hooked, and now I want to try to keep up with everyone else on here! Be patient because I'm still learning how things work. I'm always open to advice, so feel free to give it to me.

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Wife, mother, bookworm.
This is a place where you can read book reviews, discover links, and learn about the reading challenges in which I'm taking part.


my read shelf:
Andrea's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

Annual Goal

2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Andrea has read 0 books toward her goal of 60 books.

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