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I am a warrior. I carry an Elven Greatsword, poisoned with Drain Magicka. I am equipped in full Steelplate Armor. Four brown dragons have attacked me in various towns–I have taken them all down with my trusty bow and arrow. I am also somewhat versed in magic and alchemy and am considering training at the Bard’s College. Or becoming a thief. I hate trolls and the undead, while I enjoy a good hunt. There is nothing better than clearing out a bandit’s den and grabbing all the loot.

Actually, this is Skyrim Me. Or, rather, Kajagoogoo from Skyrim, as that’s my character’s name.

I am loving Skyrim. Almost more than reading one of the two books that I am reading.

Skyrim

For those who don’t know, Skyrim is a role-playing game (RPG) that I play on my PS3. After I create a character, I go on quests where I fight other humans, monsters, and the paranormal, using weaponry, magic, and, occasionally, wits. I love these kinds of games, and have had a long history with them.

I started out playing PC games in the late ’80s with King’s Quest, and then when I got sick with pneumonia in 8th grade, my dad brought home Final Fantasy IV. I truly fell in love with RPGs then. I would be home sick, playing for hours, gaining levels, moving on through the story, and then I’d get stuck with a boss monster that I couldn’t beat, and my dad would take over through the night. I’d wake up early in the morning to find that he had moved our game on a bit. We never did beat that game (I still think there’s a glitch at the end!), but it began a long love affair with Final Fantasy games.

final fantasy Iv

I fell out with gaming in my teen and college years. Other things were more important, like hanging out with my friends. Yet, when I moved back to San Diego in 2004, my sister and I found a way to hang out together across the 500+miles of separation–online gaming. And, no we didn’t WOW it up–we stuck to our roots and played Final Fantasy XI together. It was awesome to sign on and find her in one of the towns and then go on quests together–me, always the warrior, and she, the trusty mage. She really enjoyed instigating tiffs with the players who chose dwarfish characters as their avatars. She was a troublemaker and a lot of fun!

Dorky Me at Comic-Con in front of a poster for Final Fantasy XIII

For some reason or another, we fell out of love with Final Fantasy XI, and then last year, I finally gave in and signed up for World of Warcraft. I leveled very quickly and then got bored again.

Now, I have Skyrim, which is not an online game, but is so amazing in its limitless possibilities. I am loving it!

I’m thinking my Skyrim addiction is pointing me towards reading one of two books on my TBR list.

the hobbit

RPGs are heavily influenced by Dungeons and Dragons. Dungeons and Dragons is heavily influenced by The Lord of the Rings. Therefore, my love of Skyrim and RPGs is telling me that I either need to read Tolkien’s The Hobbit or The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss.

The Wise Man's Fear

With The Hobbit, I’ll get thieves, wizards, warriors, elves, dwarves, and the most awesome of all dragons (Smaug still beats out Dany’s dragons in the Song of Ice and Fire series). With The Wise Man’s Fear, I’ll get a bard who is attending magic school, romance, and battle. All of these things are my favorite parts of Skyrim and RPGs in general.

I’m guessing that I’ll probably go with The Wise Man’s Fear, as it’s part of a series that I’m dying to pick up again and I want to read The Hobbit around the release date of the upcoming movie (that means that I should read it in the Fall/early Winter).

So, that’s how my mood reading typically works–I pay attention to what I’m up to in life, what my interests are, or what I’m trying to escape from (stress and the weight of the world on my shoulders usually equates to a light read). And now you know a little bit more about what a huge dork I am. : )

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Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire TomalinClassic Authors: They’re Just Like Us! (if we’re best-selling novelists, that is)

or What I Learned about Charles Dickens, the Novelist

from My Reading of Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin

Part Two:

As I discussed yesterday, I am not writing a review on Claire Tomalin’s biography Charles Dickens: A Life for various reasons. If you want to know why, read yesterday’s post. Instead, I am reflecting here on what I learned about Charles Dickens the novelist from Tomalin’s book. This is part two of the post.

Charles Dickens essentially invented the model of the modern day New York Times best-seller novelist. He created and fit the mold in several ways:

1. He was extremely popular and well-known in his time.

2. He knew the power of public readings.

3. He went on book tours.

4. He tried to change the world around him.

5. He was one of the first Young Adult/Children’s authors.

6. He actively pursued and advocated copyright law.

7. He wrote serials.

8. He wrote for the masses.

9. He was sensitive to criticism.

10. His novels were adapted for the stage shortly after publication.

Napster and Shawn Fanning6. Pirates of the Atlantic: The Curse of the Continents

Before Lars Ulrich and Metallica’s fight with Napster, before torrent sites, and before SOPA, there was Charles Dickens, blazing the trail of copyright laws. Just as his novels were incredibly popular in his native England, they were HUGE in America, and Dickens was barely receiving any compensation for them! In 1842, Dickens sailed to America, and one of his major purposes was to bring about international copyright laws. “Across the Atlantic there was no legislation of any kind covering the rights of foreign authors, and publishers simply took what they wanted and did what they liked with it,” (104).

Upon arrival in America, Dickens was hosted at many gatherings where he would introduce his proposal that something had to be done about copyright in America. His requests were, at first “politely ignored,” then, American newspapers took the view that “he should be pleased with his popularity and grateful for it too, and that it was mercenary to fuss about pirated copies,” (131). As his tour went on, and he continued in his pleas for international authors’ rights, the press remained hostile. Surprisingly, American authors didn’t really take up his cause either. “He complained that he got little encouragement from American writers, although he did persuade twenty-five of them, headed by Washington Irving, to sign a petition for him to take to Congress,” (132).

Eventually, Dickens began to get his rights and compensation as an author on the other continent, as “Tauchnitz, the Leipzig publisher who had been publishing English books on the Continent, had begun to deal fairly and was offering money for Dickens’ work: his edition of the Carol was sanctioned by the author,”(150). However, America did not come around in Dickens’ lifetime, as the International Copyright Act of 1891 was enacted 21 years after Dickens’ death.

7. Waiting on Wednesday: What Bloggers Would Have Been Eagerly Anticipating Every Month

As mentioned previously, Dickens was one of the original YA authors, and like many YA authors, he preferred the series format for his novels. Beginning with The Pickwick Papers, Dickens wrote his novels in serial form, appearing in monthly installments, and would often write two at a time, such as Oliver Twist‘s overlapping publication with Pickwick.

The two serial stories would be running simultaneously for ten months, and Dickens would have to work like a juggler to keep both spinning. He said later that he was warned against serial publications–‘My friends told me it was a low, cheap form of publication, by which I should ruin all my rising hopes’- but whoever these friends were he triumphantly proved them wrong[.] (74)

As Tomalin points out, Dickens accomplished a major and unprecedented feat with the simultaneous publication of his works. Writers of serial novels (and also televisions serials like Lost) are unique in that they have to have much of everything already planned in their head. While Pickwick began as “a series of loosely rambling episodes,” Dickens began to introduce plot and had to take much more care in the set-up:

There was no going back to change or adjust once a number was printed; everything had to be right first time. How different this is from the way most great novelists work, allowing themselves to reconsider, to change their minds, to go back, to cancel and rewrite. Each number of Pickwick and Oliver consisted of about 7,500 words, and in theory he simply divided every month, allotting a fortnight to each new section of each book. (74)

One great advantage of series-writing, as I’m sure any modern-day author and television writer can attest, is the ability to hook an audience. Dickens utilized cliff-hangers at the end of his chapters to leave his audience begging for more. He also paid close attention to his audience, and introduced certain types of characters to increase the novel’s popularity. For example, he introduced Sam Weller, Pickwick’s cockney servant, in June 1836, and “sales of the monthly numbers in their pale green wrappers rose steadily and soon spectacularly, and the critics vied with one another to praise it. The appearance of a fresh number of Pickwick soon became news, an event, something much more than literature,” (67).

Nicholas Cage Ghost Rider

Nicholas Cage IS CHARLES DICKENS

8. Dickens: A Man for the Common Man

Dickens wrote for everyone. He was not, in the least, elitist when it came to his writing. If he were a modern-day actor, he would be Nicholas Cage, pumping out action flick after action flick. Well, if Nicholas Cage made movies that spoke to one’s soul.

He wrote for and about the common man, and “the ordinary people saw that he was on their side, and they loved him for it,” (68). He knew his audience and delivered what the masses wanted. They found truth and cameraderie in his writings, much as the groundlings did with Shakespeare.

Upon publication of The Pickwick Papers, Dickens found his first major success with the masses:

It was as though he was able to feed his story directly into the bloodstream of the nation, giving injections of laughter, pathos and melodrama, and making his readers feel he was a personal friend to each of them. Dickens knew he had triumphed, and this sense of a personal link between himself and his public became the most essential element in his development as a writer.

One remarkable effort that Dickens made to connect with his public was his publication demands for A Christmas Carol. A Christmas Carol is perhaps the most well-known and beloved Dickens tale, annually read at the holidays by people around the world. This was precisely Dickens’ goal when he wrote it, and he made sure that the public would easily get its hands upon a beautiful copy:

Dickens asked Chapman & Hall to publish his little book on commission, as a separate venture, and he insisted on fine, coloured binding and endpapers, and gold letterings on the front and spine; and that it should cost only a few shillings. (149)

The public did indeed buy up his beautiful little Christmas tale, but unfortunately he made very little money from the sales, as “almost all of the profits were absorbed in the expenses of binding, special paper, coloured plates and advertising,” (150). It still was very noble indeed, and A Christmas Carol is still proving to be very popular with the masses.

9. Pay No Mind to the Reviews

Dickens was very popular, and he loved his popularity. But, not everyone is going to love one’s work, even Dickens’ work, and when Dickens received bad reviews, he felt it deeply.

Bleak House received bad reviews both from critics and from his closest friend John Forster:

[W]here it was noticed, although many critics allowed that Dickens was popular and possessed of genius, they also expressed disappointment that he had abandoned humour for the grotesque and contemptible, and that it was ill-constructed. (245)

Even his friend Forster said that Bleak House was “too real to be pleasant,” and that “while Dickens pretended to be indifferent to criticism, he was hurt by it, and ‘believed himself to be entitled to higher tribute than he was always in the habit of receiving,'” (245).

In 1857, Dickens broke his rule about not reading his negative reviews, and was again hurt by an attack on Little Dorritt:

[I]n Blackwoods [a magazine] was an unfavourable view of Dorritt which upset him, appearing just before he began on the last section of the book. He was accused of bad construction, of making an unsuccessful attempt to write on social questions, and of giving ‘twaddle’ to William Dorritt to speak.[…][Dickens] told Forster he was ‘sufficiently put out by it to be angry with myself being such a fool.’ (281).

Not much has changed. There will always be bad reviews, and, as in the case of Bleak House, there will always be bad reviews when you diverge from the simple and easy, and try something different than what is already popular.

10. The Book Was Better!

Before the BBC got a hold of Dickens’ tales, players were acting out scripts of his novels only months after publication. Beginning with Nicholas Nickleby, dramatizations of his works were played in theatres all over England. Dickens loved the theatre, but according to Tomalin, his own dramatized works “caused him some groans” (99). Sometimes Dickens got into the spirit himself, and put on his own theatricals (though not of his own stories). While I’m sure the audience enjoyed the dramatizations of Dickens’ work, as many of his novels are written perfectly for theatrics, I’m sure there was an audience member or two who walked out the theatre muttering, “Meh. The book was better.”

If you’re interested in more about Dickens, check out Claire Tomalin’s Charles Dickens: A Life and/or read my post on Thursday where I will consider Dickens’ views on philanthropy.


Sunday SalonSo, it’s Sunday, the last day of my workless reverie before I start lesson planning this week and return to full-time teaching next week. Boo! Actually, I love the teaching aspect of my profession, I love the kids, but sometimes, collaborating with other teachers (adults) kind of bites the big one. So, I have one more day to pretend that I am blissfully unemployed and can do whatever I want. This is all I’ve been doing for the last two weeks, and I don’t regret it a bit!

So, despite the fact that all I’ve been doing lately is exactly what I want (reading, playing Skyrim, and reading some more), there has been a bit of excitement going on in my life! Here’s what I’ve been up to, and what’s on my mind lately:

Boxing and Muay Thai:

When I went home for Christmas, my sister and I engaged in one of our favorite past times: abusing each other with punches and kicks. We’ve always rough-housed, and our husbands usually look at us like we’re nuts, like we’re the 8-year-old boys that they’ve already outgrown. After one of our little play-fighting stints, I pointed out that we really should use this aggression in a way that would provide us with some much needed exercise. Namely, we should join a kickboxing class.

So, Erika did some research and found a boxing gym near us where we could take a trial class and then decide from there. So, nervously, we showed up to the gym, called Undisputed, with butterflies in our stomach, and signed up for a trial class of Muay Thai. Muay Thai is the formal name for kickboxing. The instructor was intimidating with his tattoos, blue mohawk, and black-painted toe nails. He was also rather gruff in voice. Yet, he immediately took us aside to some punching bags and showed us the correct way to punch, kick, and block. It turned out that he was very friendly and was eager to teach us the proper form and techniques in self defense. By the end of the class, we felt that we had some potential and that this was an instructor who could nurture us to success. We were also very sweaty and bruised!

So, we signed up for the gym, and since then, we have taken a boxing class and have both received a free personal training session with our boxing instructor. I must admit that I am very insecure about how out of shape I am, and am very self conscious when I see my red puffy face in the mirror. But, then I remember that everyone is a beginner at one time, and if I commit myself, I soon will be keeping up and slimming down (more like bulking up). I’m already feeling muscles that I haven’t noticed in a while! Plus, sparring with my sister is pretty fun–we even get to kick each other in the ribs. I know we’re strange, but that’s our kind of fun! I’ve never been the yoga type!

Authors as Trolls?

Yesterday, I was surfing around on Goodreads, and came across a really scathing review of a YA novel, which led to my discovery of a growing issue on the bookish social media site, as well as on Twitter. Apparently, in the last week, there has been quite a bit of tension between a few novelists (some very well-known) and Goodreads reviewers.

In short, there have been a couple of instances where a reviewer has written a negative review of a novel, and then is angrily addressed by the author of the book via a blog post, or by other authors (and literary agents) coming to their defense on Goodreads and even on Twitter.

For a recap of the various instances, see here at Cuddlebuggery.

For a reaction to these instances from bloggers, see Bibliophilic Monologues and today’s post from Chrisbookarama.

For a reaction to these instances from a few authors, see here: Veronica Roth, Phoebe North, and Hannah Moskowitz.

I find this all concerning as a reviewer of books, as I think it is my duty to write honest reviews–both the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m not worried about hurting anyone’s feelings. However, if I don’t like a book, I usually don’t finish it, so I rarely will write a scathing review. However, that could change in the future. Yet, I always will behave as a professional (even though I’m performing this service pro bona, as a hobby), and I would expect the same behavior from the authors being reviewed, who are not performing their services pro bona.

What these authors need to remember is that readers are smart and selective. I find it highly insulting that they would think that one bad review can kill their career, that readers are so easily led that they wouldn’t read between the lines of a review, wouldn’t look at other reviews, wouldn’t read reviews with a critical eye, and would simply not read a book because someone else hated it. Why the hell do I provide links to Goodreads reviews on my own reviews, or more importantly, why do I include links to scathing reviews on my glowing reviews? Because I know that readers are intelligent, that they deserve the opportunity to read my reviews with a critical eye, because they deserve the opportunity to make a choice. Give your readers some credit!

Anyways, that’s something I’ve been thinking about for the last 24 hours…

Downton Abbey Season 2Tonight: Downton Abbey Season 2 Premiere!

Hooray! Downton Abbey returns tonight on Masterpiece Classic for PBS! I am so excited about this, and will probably re-watch the entire season 1 today in preparation for tonight’s episode! If you haven’t checked this series out, I highly recommend it! It is currently streaming on Netflix as well as on the Masterpiece Classic website. Pull a marathon today and watch all four episodes of Season 1 today, and then check your local listings for tonight’s Season 2 premiere! Woo-hoo!

More Books and Future Giveaways

Yesterday, I received more books as I had my last Christmas exchange with my in-laws. I received the following books:

I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution by Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum

The Iliad by Homer

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

Endgame by Samuel Beckett

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

I also got another literary candle by Paddywax, this time it was the Oscar Wilde scent!

Because a few of these books were repeats of books I already own, and because my shelves are being overrun by books that I’ve read (or won’t read) that I probably won’t ever read again, I have decided that it’s time for me to start giving them away! In the past, I have always sold them to used book stores, but I’d rather give them to people that I know will appreciate them. Namely, all of you! So, look for updates this week on what books I’ll be giving away. Maybe, I’ll do a book a week? Or a few books per month? I will let you know.

In the meantime, here are a few books that will be up for grabs in the future:

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

A Visit from the Goon Squad

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

Olive Kitteridge

Wicked and Son of a Witch

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

And Then There Were None

And that’s what’s going on with me! What’s going on with you?


My Wedding Day

The blushing bride after getting hitched!

It’s December 31st, the last day of 2011, and looking back, I realize this has been a really big year for me! I have had a lot more ups than downs in my life this year, and I think it might be hard to top in 2012. Here are some 2011 highlights for me…should I start with the bad or the good? Or should I just create a timeline? I’ll create a timeline like one finds at the beginning of classics books. Then, I’ll follow with all of my 2012 reading stats!

A CHRONOLOGY OF MANDY IN 2011

Life

Historical and Cultural Background

Jan.

  • Attend the ALA Midwinter Conference in San Diego; learn that books can sometimes be free with the introduction to ARCs. I thought I was stealing at first!
  • Beginning of 8 month silence with sister Erika.
  • Gabrielle Giffords shot on Jan. 8.
  • Charlie Sheen is “winning”.

Feb.

  • Arab Spring protests begin.

Mar.

  • Japan Earthquake on Mar. 11.

Apr.

  • Spring Break begins.
  • Read constantly to complete Spring Seasonal Reading Challenge; end up reading 28 books in April.
  • Get married to long-time boyfriend Jesse during a spur-of-the-moment day trip to Reno. Both the groom and bride were lovely in their T-shirts, jeans, and hiking boots.
  • Get pink-slipped for the third time in four years of teaching.
  • Deadly tornadoes sweep the US, 207 touch down on Apr. 27, killing 346.
  • Royal wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton (I didn’t watch, in case you’re wondering).

May

  • Death of Osama bin Laden.

June

  • Go to Wisconsin for a fishing weekend with Jesse’s family. Fire my first (and only) gun once, and find out that I have a propensity for fishing (caught a trout, a bass, and a blue-gill).
  • Dad visits, temporarily reunite with sister, begin 6 month silence with Dad.

July

  • School year ends on 1st day of Comic-Con; although I arrive at Comic-Con from work in record-breaking time, I FAIL to get into the Game of Thrones panel. Boo.
  • Comic-Con is not as epic as years past: it’s far too crowded and hard to get into panels. But, I do buy a bunch of Twilight Zone toys.

Aug.

  • Buy a desk and create an office in spare room devoted to writing.
  • Begin pursuing writing fiction seriously via exercises in Bell’s Plot & Structure and The Artist’s Way program.
  • Start writing three pages daily in journal.
  • Break the silence with my sister.
  • Read Hussey’s Create Your Own Blog, study and analyze popular book blogs, and set up my own blog Adventures in Borkdom.
  • Published my first post on Aug. 24.
  • When regaining my teaching job appears unlikely, Jesse and I consider moving out of state. North Carolina, Virginia, and Illinois are our top choices.

Sept.

  • Rehired at school, one day before the first day of school.
  • Learn how to balance blogging with a full-time job.
  • Occupy Wall Street protests begin in NYC.

Oct.

  • Participate in RIP challenge.
  • Complete my first 24 hour read-a-thon.
  • Death of Steve Jobs.
  • Death of Moammar Gadhafi.

Nov.

  • Death of Andy Rooney.

Dec.

  • Break silence with Dad at Christmas.
  • Hit my 100th post.
  • Biggest month for blog hits; doubled last month’s number.
  • Read my 100th book in 2011, the most books that I’ve ever read in a year!
  • Death of Kim Jong Il
  • Last US troops withdraw from Iraq.

Reading Stats

Note: Of books read in 2011, 7 % were Young Adult books.

2011 in Numbers

– I successfully met my reading goal of 100 books read in 2011!

– Total Number of Pages Read in 2011: 35, 359

– Number of Books over 1000 pages: 4

– Number of Books over 750 pages: 7

– Number of Books over 500 pages: 15

2011 Reading Challenges

– Spring Seasonal Reading Challenge–Almost completed

Summer Seasonal Reading ChallengeNot even close

RIP Reading Challenge: Complete!

2011 Reading Events

Dewey’s Read-a-Thon: Read for the full 24 hours!

So, that was my 2011 year! Currently, I am reading my 101st book for 2011, and then I’ll be all amped up tomorrow (if I’m not hungover) to declare my 2012 goals!


sacramento
Image Credit: Shook Photos

As some of you might remember, I am at my mom’s house in Sacramento right now. I’ve been up here since Tuesday night. As it is Saturday, the day which I reserve for random, disconnectedness here on the blog, I will share the highlights of my visit thus far.

On My Sister: Erika has really high standards for pretty much everything. It turns out that she doesn’t like The Walking Dead (The characters are unbelievable and cliche. How did Rick find his family so fast?). From this and other critiques, I have determined that Erika is struggling with suspension of disbelief. She has “the Age of Not Believing” syndrome (first diagnosis made by Angela Lansbury in Bedknobs and Broomsticks). That must suck.

She also read The Perks of Being a Wallflower on this trip and had troubles with the plot of that one as well. She had a favorite(to poke fun at) line from that book, something to the effect of “at that moment, we were infinite.” Now, everything to Erika and I is “infinite”. As in, our Christmas decorations this year are infinite. We’re having a good time here!

On Our Itinerary: Along with our down, lazy time, Erika and I have squeezed in some infinite events on this trip. I successfully got her and my mom hooked on Mad Men by showing them the first four episodes. Erika, despite her high standards, really liked it, and is also partial to the dual-natured Pete. I’m hoping she continues to like it and finds the plot plausible.

Erika and I also squeezed in a trip to our former homes in Vacaville. We ended up driving to our first residence there (the house we lived at when I was 11) and getting out of the car to walk to the park where we used to play. We checked out the bushes where, for one day, we hid our secret club. We also peeked at the creek which formed my visual for the Barrens in Stephen King’s IT (which I read in 1990 when I lived there) and Erika identified the picnic table that was connected to my first fight. Erika, at 9, instigated an arm wrestling match between me and some random boy, and we sat at that picnic table where I ended up beating him. Then, he felt his young masculinity was threatened and wanted to fight me. Reluctantly, I engaged, and ended up fighting him off. No real damage was done as far as I can remember.

On Gift-Giving and Altered Christmas Traditions: Apparently, we have altered our family Christmas traditions. I am happy to say that my aunt and uncle are now joining us on Christmas Eve for our Danish Christmas dinner traditions. We will have a full house tonight at our dinner table with 7 (as opposed to the measly 3 we had for the five years after my parents got divorced). Unfortunately, this caused a complication in our Christmas eve gift-giving tradition–we don’t want our aunt and uncle to have to watch us open our Christmas presents after dinner.

Dodo Ipad Case

Image Credit: FashionHippo.com

So, we decided to open our Christmas presents last night! I am happy to say that I think everyone was excited about the bookish presents I gave them this year! I did good! I got a bunch of really good bookish presents as well! I received: a Dodocase for my iPad from Erika and her husband, which I really wanted as it makes my iPad look like a beautiful hardcover book; the complete Harry Potter movie collection, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, and an Amazon gift card from my mom, which were all on my very bookish wish list; and from my wonderful husband who pays attention, I received a beautiful copy of Jane Eyre from Penguin Classics, a Jane Austen candle, a Song of Ice and Fire 2012 calendar, a Jane-a-Day 5 year journal, and in the mail, a cookbook he heard about on NPR. I am so lucky!


A Visit From the Goon SquadOn Reading:Surprisingly, with all of the happenings that go with a visit home for the holidays, I have finished two books already! Upon arrival at my mom’s house, I was halfway done with Divergent by Veronica Roth, and finished and reviewed that on Thursday. Then, yesterday, I began and finished Bartleby, the Scrivener by Herman Melville. It was only 100 pages, but that’s still pretty good considering all of the distractions and tasks I engaged in yesterday. The review probably won’t come until 2012, so I’ll just tell you now that I thoroughly enjoyed it! I’m now reading book 99 of 2011; I’m two books away from 100 books! I am now reading A Visit from the Goon Squad, and I’m not sure yet what book 100 will be.

Overall: This has been a very good trip! I’m getting in some much needed quality time with my mom and sister and have reconnected with my dad. Now the husbands are here, so they get to partake in our family zaniness too! Today begins Christmas with our Christmas dinner and many libations and then Christmas with Dad tomorrow, which will involve a ridiculous amount of gifts. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday full of good family time and merriment! It’s been infinite here!


Sunday SalonSo, Christmas is truly here now. As I posted yesterday, I am officially on vacation from work for the next month, and so this week is when I really get into Christmas gear. I’m baking cookies, wrapping presents, buying last minute presents…And, as I do every year, I will drive up to Northern California to spend a week with my family.

5 Freeway North

Image Credit: Pop Life Unlimited

On Tuesday, my sister and I will pack up her car and jump on the 5 freeway, heading north to Sacramento. It’s a 500+ mile trip and takes 7-8 hours to drive (depending, of course, upon LA traffic. Everything depends upon LA traffic!). Then, on Thursday night, my husband and her husband will jump into our car and drive the 7-8 hours in the middle of the night, and will spend the weekend with us at my mom’s house.

Here’s some details of how the week will likely play out:

Tuesday: Erika and I will drive the 5, singing at the top of our lungs the whole way, with a bit of sisterly talk thrown in (anticipations of the week, married life, teaching life, etc.). We (hopefully) will sing some of our oldest hits (I’m especially hopeful for some of our silly Disney renditions where we sing our chosen (ages ago!) parts, and maybe even “Hunger Strike” by Temple of the Dog where I get to be Chris Cornell and she gets to be Eddie Vedder. That’s an oldie but a goodie from our many high school family road trips. Maybe we’ll get in some hijinks along the way on our trip, as usually something dramatic happens.

Wednesday: We’ll lounge around the house, maybe sneak in any last minute Christmas shopping. Hopefully, I can get Erika to drive us to Vacaville, sort of our home town. Trip down memory lane! Mom will get home from work and we’ll eat dinner and hang out with her and catch up, maybe watch a movie.

Thursday: Apparently, we have a date with my dad at some point on this day. We’ll see how that goes… Hubbies will get in around 2 or 3 in the morning.

Friday: Hang out with the husbands at home, again lounging as the boys will probably be exhausted from their drive and will need some good old R&R. Hang out with Mom in the evening.

Saturday: Christmas Eve day! Check out this post to see our Christmas traditions on Christmas Eve. Check out this post to see what the bookish gifts are that I’m giving to my family!

Sunday: Christmas Day–Ever since my parents’ divorce, our new Christmas tradition is that we go to our Dad’s house in the East Bay. We spend the afternoon watching a movie or playing a game, go to dinner at our favorite Japanese restaurant, and then come back to his house and open the ungodly amount of presents he has purchased for us. Then we drive an hour back to Sacramento, very tired, and unload all of our Christmas presents into the house (One year we didn’t do this, and our car was broken into and all of our presents were stolen! We won’t make that dumb choice again!). Then we go to bed.

Monday: Load the cars back up and drive home to San Diego.

So, there’s my week in advance! During that time, there WILL still be regular posts here on the blog. I am spending today drafting and scheduling all of this week’s posts. I will also write at least two posts from my mom’s house and will still be active on the blogosphere and Twitter. Here are this week’s planned posts:

Monday: Review of 11/22/63 by Stephen King

Tuesday: Top Ten Books I hope Santa Brings

Wednesday: This Week’s Reading (WWW)

Thursday: Review of Divergent by Veronica Roth (ideally)

Friday: Book Beginnings

Saturday: Check-In From Sacramento

Sunday: 2011 in Review

Monday: Top Non-Fiction/Memoirs Read This Year

It should also be noted that I’m hoping to be reading at least before bedtime every day on my trip, if I can’t sneak in any other reading time.

Well, I hope you all have a wonderful holiday week! I’ll be checking in with you all on Twitter, here on my blog, and commenting on your blogs! Have a safe and happy holiday!


My sister’s storage unit was broken into last night. Obviously, for anyone who has ever had their car broken into or something stolen, the sense of violation is always the worst part. However, in my sister’s case, she didn’t lose anything of monetary value. In fact, her husband’s surfboard and my husband’s bicycle were left untouched. Something much worse was stolen from my sister. Two years of her life were swiped.

Erika has been journaling for a very long time–I think she is nearing twenty years. I have always been in awe of her massive number of journals; she has been writing pages nearly every night since the early to mid 1990s. She has a written record of almost every thought and concern of hers since she was 11 or 12! How amazing! What commitment.

Yet, last night, some turd disregarded the surfboard and grabbed Erika’s journals! She found the box with her journals had been moved and opened and now she’s missing 8th and 9th grade. Who would do such a thing?!

I am hopeful that she’ll find those journals in some alley by her house. How do you replace something like that? You can’t. From here on, I hope she goes back to storing her journals in the house. Coulda, woulda, shoulda. Such a shame. My heart hurts for her because I remember the time she put into those, burrowing away in her bedroom, listening to Green Day or Bush, writing away.

Such a shame.