Thursday, March 31, 2011

March Merriment Giveaway

I finished The Maze Runner, so that means I read 1 extra book this month. And so I'm giving away 1 book. There are two options:

1. Tales From the Brothers Grimm and the Sisters Weird, by Vivian Vande Velde
see my review here

2. The Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner
see my review here

I love both of these books, and I'm sure whoever wins them will enjoy them too. If you win, I'd love to hear your thoughts and opinions, and if you want, I'll post them on this blog.

For the giveaway I have a few rules:

  • US only
  • Must comment on this post, including your email address (unless I already know your email address)
  • At least 10 people must enter, so tell your friends!
  • (+1) In your comment, mention your favorite YA Fantasy book (or two. Or three).
  • (+1) Mention why you like it.
  • (+3) Be a follower of my blog.
  • You may enter until midnight on Saturday, April 9.
If you get bonus points (see above), you will be entered extra times when I am picking a random winner.  I will email the winner on Sunday, April 10. You will have 24 hours to respond with which book you would prefer and your address so I can mail it to you. 
Good Luck,

[UPDATE (10:30pm, March 31): I just finished The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick. This means there will be TWO winners. Yay! However, I'll only give away the second book if 15 people enter. So if you spread the word, you will have a higher chance of winning a book. Good luck.]

[UPDATE AGAIN (April 1): I made this into a form instead. Please enter your information there instead of in the comments section. Thanks.]

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Done With March Merriment

Books completed as of 30 March 2011

Yay! I made it! 20 books in 30 days! I still have one day left, and I'm about 50 pages into The Maze Runner. I'm giving myself as much time as I want tonight and tomorrow night to finish it. After that I'm going to stop sprinting through books and go more slowly. ("More slowly" is, of course, relative.) I'm still on break right now, so I'll be able to read more without having tons of homework every night, which is very nice. Tomorrow I'll post about the giveaway and next week I'm going to post a few reviews from these books. Instead of the regular GGR post, I'll do a group review of these books on Monday.
Until tomorrow,

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Teaser Tuesday, 11th Edition

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

I am doing a slightly different version of Teaser Tuesday. Since I go through books so quickly, I'm going to put a quote from any book I've read in the past week.


"Elizabeth hated ballet lessons more than she hated rice pudding. Ballet was a weekly torture to her." - Unexpected Magic, by Diana Wynne Jones

"The ice cream made Frank hungry, so he took Henry to a place called Lenny's, owned by a man named Kyle, and they ate flat cheeseburgers and thick fries. In a town smaller than Henry had first imagined, they managed to dawdle away the afternoon, going from place to place for one reason or another or no reason at all." - 100 Cupboards, by N.D. Wilson

"To Katniss, whose mother "went away" and became an emotional invalid after her father's death, this must have seemed like an either/or situation: you can either grieve for your lost loved ones or you can plow on; you can love and risk being decimated, or you can survive. It's little wonder, then, that in Katniss' mind, romance was something she "never had the time or use for" (Hunger Games) and that when circumstances forced her to start thinking of love, it was always, always tied in her mind to survival." - The Girl Who Was On Fire, ed. Leah Wilson, essay by Jennifer Lynne Barnes

"'What's he paying you to stay here with me? Did he triple your salary to get you to stay here with his freak son, to be my jailer and keep you mouth shut?'" - Beastly, by Alex Flinn

Monday, March 28, 2011

Giant Group Review Part 2

I'm not quite done with part 1 (yes I know, bad me), but I wanted to get part 2 out on time. Both parts will continue to be updated throughout the week. To see part 1, click here.

Also, I don't know why so many of the books I read in elementary school are by authors from the beginning of the alphabet. It's like this until around F. The rest of my bookcase isn't like this. Seriously. 

Click to enlarge
Section: Fiction
Shelf Number: 2
Selection: Br - Cl
Number of Books: 35

Masterpiece, by Elise Broach
Very good, but not spectacular. Reminded me a bit of Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett, but with many major differences. The illustrations were great - they really contributed to the story, and they were a large part of why I liked it as much as I did. Recommended for middle schoolers.

No Flying in the House, by Betty Brock
Recommended for girls in 2-3 grade.

Code Talker, by Joseph Bruchac
I had to read this for summer reading in 7th grade. I did not enjoy it.

Ask Me No Questions, by Marina Budhos
This was another 7th grade summer reading book. It was about a family of illegal immigrants. I think I enjoyed it a bit more than Code Talker, but I don't recommend it.

Bulfinch's Mythology, by Bulfinch
A great source for mythology, but so incredibly long. I never got through it. I might come back to it eventually and just pick up where I left off, since it's a series of short myths rather than a continuous narrative.

Shoeshine Girl, by Clyde Robert Bulla

A Little Princess (abridged), by Frances Hodgson Burnett
I loved both of these Burnett books, and I'm sure I've read both the abridged versions and the full versions many times. I think my favorite of the two was A Little Princess - I even had a doll named Sara - but if I were to reread them now, I'm pretty sure I'd prefer The Secret Garden.

The Secret Garden (abridged), by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Life of Amanda K. Woods, by Ann Cameron

The Stories Huey Tells, by Ann Cameron
Both "stories" books are fun and easy reads full of short stories about two brothers. Recommended for elementary schoolers.

The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron

The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, by Eleanor Cameron

Empire, by Orson Scott Card
never read it. My brother loves Orson Scott Card though, so that counts for something.

Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll (4 copies)
I loved these books for the longest time. I can still recite most of Jabberwocky (from Through the Looking Glass). But I read Through the Looking Glass for English this year, which forced me to look at both books from an entirely different perspective. I preferred when I could enjoy the clever silliness of the books as a kid, but now I'll never be able to look at the books in the same way.

Graceling, by Kristin Cashore
review coming soon

Fire, by Kristin Cashore
review coming soon

Notes From a Liar and Her Dog, by Gennifer Choldenko
I listened to this book on tape with my mom and then decided to read it a year or so later. Choldenko does a great job of creating a realistic narrator and a compelling story easy to connect to. Recommended for middle schoolers.

Al Capone Does My Shirts, by Gennifer Choldenko

Soccer Scoop, by Matt Christopher
Never read it. Once again, it's on my shelf because of my brother.

Henry Huggins, by Beverly Cleary
Everyone loves Henry Huggins. This is one of the wonderful and timeless books that everyone should read during elementary school. I have it both in book form and on tape - a recording that I highly recommend. Definitely recommended.

Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary

Ramona Forever by Beverly Cleary

Ribsy, by Beverly Cleary

Ramona's World, by Beverly Cleary

Socks, by Beverly Cleary

Henry and the Clubhouse, by Beverly Cleary

Ramona the Pest, by Beverly Cleary

Frindle, by Andrew Clements

The School Story, by Andrew Clements

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Conversation Between Two of My Favorite Authors Ever

Who thought I'd be this lucky? I just found this, from way back in 2007. Shannon Hale posted a series of email conversations between herself and Megan Whalen turner. Both are favorite favorite authors of mine, and their conversation is hilarious, informative, and fun to read.

It's in 3 parts: the first is here and there are links at the end of each post going to the next one.


by Eoin Colfer
Start Date: 2 March 2011
End Date: 4 March 2011
412 pages (Paperback)
Published 21 April 2009

I'd say hands down that this is Colfer's best book. His absolute best. I enjoyed it immensely even the second (or maybe it was the third) time reading it. The plot never becomes dull or slows down too much, and it's incredibly hard to put down. From a clever plot to a villain you love to hate, from romance to humor, history to fencing, it has a bit of everything and appeals to a wide range of audiences.

The first line of the book says it all: "Conor Brokeheart was born to fly". He spends his childhood in the palace of the Saltee Islands studying fencing and aeronautics with his tutor Victor Vigny and playing with his best friend, Princess Isabella. However, when he stumbles across a plot to assassinate the king, he is thrown into the prisons of Little Saltee. There is only one way to escape Little Saltee: to fly away.

Throughout the book, even through the darkest parts, Colfer keeps the reader chuckling. There's a quote from when Conor is flying that I particularly liked:
"In theory, if one could successfully locate rising thermals, it was possible to fly forever suspended below a glider like this. Of course, this was a very optimistic theory, which did not allow for wear and tear, bad science, and the simple fact that thermals were only slightly less difficult to locate than unicorns."
Also, there is a scene in the beginning of the book when Victor is teaching Conor to fence that was wonderfully written, but which I won't type out because it would be far too long. The descriptions of Conor fencing all throughout the book were great - they made me want to learn how to do it.

Another thing I noticed was in how the narrative switched points of view throughout the story. Most of the book in from Conor's point of view, but there are scenes from the point of Billtoe, the warden, Bonvilian, the villain (spoiler, highlight to see), and Declan, Conor's father. However, there is nothing from the point of view of Isabella. I think this is strange, since she's very important to the story - at least as much as Declan. Could it be because Colfer wants to keep the reader guessing about Isabella's feelings toward Conor? (another spoiler) Or is it simply because it didn't work for the story? I think it's a bit of both, but I'd be interested to hear other theories.

Overall, I think the story is wonderful and the writing is great. Highly, highly recommended to middle and high school readers.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Goodbye to Diana Wynne Jones

I found out today that one of my favorite authors, Diana Wynne Jones, passed away last night after a several-year-long battle with lung cancer. Her books were wonderful, with something for every reader, and she will be missed and mourned by the entire reading community.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Checking In

I wanted to check in since I haven't really posted this week, so here goes:

March Merriment is going well - 6 days left and 5 books to go, but by the time I go to sleep tonight it'll be 4 books to go, and by tomorrow afternoon it'll be 3 books to go. Right now I'm reading 100 Cupboards and One of Our Thursdays is Missing. I like how they balance each other out, because they're so different. They're both good, but neither is exceptional.

I'm making progress on the Giant Group Review (part 1), but it's taking a lot longer than I expected it to.  When I think I'm going to have to do 20 of these.... never mind, I'm not thinking about it. Still, it's a challenge and it's fun to go through all these books that I haven't read for years. I'm sure you've noticed at this point, I love challenging myself to do more and go further. The Giant Group Reviews are my challenge for when I finish March Merriment.

Speaking of finishing March Merriment, I have some things planned for April:

  • Giant Group Reviews (wow, big surprise)
  • Giveaway of extra books from March Merriment
  • PBM Revisions
  • More Book Reviews, gosh darn it!
Yes, book reviews. I haven't been posting nearly as many as I'd like to. I know I've been saying this for months, but I really do want to write more reviews. This whole blog started as a book review blog, and I want to keep reviews as a large part of the blog. I'm currently working on (procrastinating on) a review for Airman, by Eoin Colfer. I want to get that finished and posted this week. The thing is, with reviews, I feel like they have to be better in some way than regular old posts. They need to be more polished somehow. That's one of the reasons I like group reviews, because I can just write a few comments without the pressure of a full review. Anyway, I will do more reviews in the coming weeks. I am determined. And I will have time for said reviews because...

Spring Break! Yay! More time for sleeping, more time for reading, more time for blogging. I think everyone needs a break right about now. I certainly do. So go ahead, have a break Give yourself a couple minutes. Have some tea. Put your feet up. Perhaps bake some cookies.
Cookies actually sound really good right now. I think I'm going to go bake some cookies.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Teaser Tuesday, 10th Edition

Teaser Tuesday is a little late this week, sorry!

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

I am doing a slightly different version of Teaser Tuesday. Since I go through books so quickly, I'm going to put a quote from any book I've read in the past week.


"He came into the larder and stared up at the rustling. A tin of plums promptly fell heavily on his bare foot." - Unexpected Magic, by Diana Wynne Jones

"IRON is around in great quantities (this often causes distress to magical beings), but it is impossible to get to see iron being mined or smelted. The Management doubtless knows why this should be, but Tourists and AVERAGE FOLK are left to conclude that is is All Very Magical." - The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, by Diana Wynne Jones

"The porter snorted into his mustache and sneered. 'Have you been invited for tea?'" - Secondhand Charm, by Julie Berry

"'... I was just thinking, what if we could hold up things that were bright red, or bright yellow, and he could choose?'
     ...'He might make wrong choices.'" - The Giver, by Lois Lowry

"Checking quickly to be sure no one was in the hallway, I hurried into the next room, crosed over to the wall, and put my ear to it, hoping I would be able to hear something.
     'A glass works better.'" - Theodosia and the Eyes of Horus, by R. L. LaFevers

"I was so close to handing off this suffocating burden and being able to get on with my life. Not to mention all the discoveries that were practically begging me to find them." - Theodiosia and the Last Pharaoh, by R. L. LaFevers

"Once part of her boot sank beneath the surface, an alarming suction pulled it further. Jerking back sharply, she felt the fluid harden around the submerged portion of her boot, as if it were encased in cement." - Beyonders: A World Without Heroes, by Brandon Mull

"'She only said that she hoped you'd come tonight and that she wanted me to meet you.' Adrian hesitated, but something made her add, 'And that I should be careful.'" - Book of Enchantments, by Patricia C. Wrede

"'Barking spiders!' Dylan shook his head and laughed. 'Your parents must spoil your rotten.'" - Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld (If you've read the book, you'll know why that's funny. )

"'You seem in good spirits,' she said. 'Considering.'
      'Considering that my escape was foiled?'" - Behemoth, by Scott Westerfeld

"'It's a good idea to be neighborly,' I said. 'You never know when you might need to borrow a cupful of irony.'" - One of Our Thursdays is Missing, by Jasper Fforde

"Henry did not wonder if he was dreaming. He was too surprised for that." - 100 Cupboards, by N.D. Wilson

Monday, March 21, 2011

10 More Days of March Merriment

Completed Books as of March 21

I will let that picture speak for itself. 5 books to go, 10 more days. I suspect we are going to have some giveaway books coming up.  

Giant Group Review Part 1

I was way too ambitious getting into this, so I'll post what I have now and continue updating throughout the week. I spent most of the weekend reading rather than writing, so although I'm (finally) ahead for March Merriment, I didn't even get close to finishing this post. But oh well, I'll continue working on it throughout the week. Later shelves have thicker books, so I won't run into this problem. Enjoy!

Click to enlarge.
Section: Fiction
Shelf Number: 1
Selection: A - Br
Number of Books: 33

Firegirl, by Tony Abbott
Last Read: before July 2008
I got this a a birthday present a few years ago (6th grade, I think) from a good friend. She had never read it, but bought a copy for herself and one for me. I don't remember getting beyond the first few chapters. I don't think I liked it very much. From what I remember, it's about a girl who comes in to class covered in burns, not only making her somewhat of an outcast within the class. The main character ultimately befriends her despite this. Reading reviews now to remind myself of the story, I'm beginning to think I didn't give it enough of a chance and that I may want to reread it.

Alice Through the Needle's Eye, by Gilbert Adair
Last Read: before July 2008
I got this book when I was walking somewhere - I don't really remember where - with my family and I saw a book sale. Someone (or some group of people) had set out 5 or 6 tables under a canopy-like structure, and every table was filled with used books. Of course I begged my parents to stop so I could look for a book, and this one caught my eye. I had enjoyed Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, and the cover of Through the Needle's Eye said, "A third adventure for Carroll's Alice". I enjoyed it, but found that it wasn't nearly as clever or entertaining as the originals. Oh well, that's what comes of reading sequels by different authors.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
Last Read: never
On my shelf because my brother read it.

Always and Forever Friends, by C.S. Adler
Last Read: before July 2008
I honestly don't remember this book at all. I received it as part of a group of books from an older friend who was clearing out her bookshelves. It is about a young (elementary school?) girl who tries to find a new best friend after her friend moves away. I know I read it, but I don't remember if I liked it. I wonder how long it would take to reread....

Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales (abridged, I assume), by Hans Andersen, translated by Naomi Lewis
Last Read: before July 2008

The Night Crossing, by Karen Ackerman
Last Read: before July 2008
I remember reading this multiple times and enjoying it each time. It's about a young girl who escapes with her family out of Austria during WWII. It's told in a more lighthearted way, that while it addresses this issues of WWII, is accessible and won't scare or be too much for kids to read. Actually, this subject was brought up by The Politick on her last post, and it started a really interesting  discussion:

Little Women (abridged), by Louisa May Alcott
Last Read: before July 2008

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
Last Read: before July 2008
I've started this book more times than I can remember, but I can never seem to get more than halfway. I'm sure it's a great book, it's just so long that I've never been able to finish it.

What a way to start! I promise, it'll get better after this. I guess I just haven't read that many books in the past few years with authors who's names start with A.

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume 1: The Pox Party, by M.T. Anderson
Last Read: June 10, 2009
I don't remember exactly why I bought this book, but I know it was partially to do with that it won the national book award. It was definitely well-written historical fiction, but it wasn't really my kind of book. I liked it well enough to buy the sequel though, so I must be misremembering. Not for younger readers - some not-very-nice things happen. I think if I reread it now, I would enjoy it a lot more, and probably get more out of it. Hesitantly recommended for high schoolers.

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume 2: The Kingdom on the Waves, by M.T. Anderson
Last Read: July 1, 2009
I'm pretty sure I never finished this. I don't remember too much about it except a few scattered scenes and that it got really slow towards the middle.

Lindsey, by Chryssa Atkinson
Last Read: before July 2008
I got this as a holiday present along with the doll of Lindsey, the main character. I don't remember thinking this was wonderful, but I definitely read it multiple times. For elementary school girls.

Mr. Popper's Penguins, by Richard and Florence Atwater
Last Read: before July 2008
Have I really not read this since before 2008? Wow. I loved this book as a kid. It's fun, an easy read, and different and original. It's also a Newberry Honor book. Recommended for elementary schoolers (2-3 grade?), also would be a good read-aloud book.

The Good Dog, by Avi

Bright Shadow, by Avi
This was one of the books I got at the book swap (see this post). I was counting on it to be very good, as many of Avi's books are. However, this one wasn't his best. Perhaps it was simply because I was far older than the intended reading group, but the situations didn't feel real and the characters didn't draw me in. However, it was written in Avi's great style, which kept me interested even when the characters didn't.

The Secret School, by Avi
I had this on my shelf for the longest time before deciding to read it. I'm glad I did, but the book didn't really stick with me except for the one scene toward the beginning when she's driving the car with her little brother operating the petals. That scene kept coming back to me when I was learning how to drive. But other than that, it wasn't a very memorable book.

Crispin, by Avi
Last Read: never

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, by Avi
My favorite of all of of Avi's books. And it has a Newbery, which I forgot. The caption on the cover says: "A spellbinding tale of intrigue and murder on the high seas." For elementary school readers. Not one to miss out on.

S.O.R. Losers, by Avi
I think I read it, but I don't remember it at all, so maybe I didn't...

Miss Hickory, by Carolyn S. Bailey
Last Read: never

The Indian in the Cupboard, by Lynne Reid Banks

The Wide-Awake Princess, by E.D. Baker
A nice story that I think would be great for later elementary school readers. Tells the tale of Sleeping Beauty's younger sister who goes on a quest to find the perfect prince for her sister.

The Danger Box, by Blue Balliett
This one was hard to wrap my head around. I feel like most people would just toss it aside and say they didn't like it, but I thought it was really interesting. It is told from the perspective of a boy who literally sees the world differently. I didn't love it when I was reading it, but after I finished I couldn't stop thinking about it.

Science Fair, by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Barry and Pearson co-wrote the Peter and the Starcatchers series, which I love. I thought I'd try this one out, although I only had medium-high hopes for it. I wouldn't have bought it myself, but I got it from the book swap, so I thought I'd give it a try. Some parts were funny, but most of the humor ended up just seeming stupid and unentertaining. Not recommended.

The Amaranth Enchantment, by Julie Berry

The Penderwicks, by Jeanne Birdsall

The Shakespeare Stealer, by Gary Blackwood

Shakespeare's Scribe, by Gary Blackwood

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, by Judy Blume

Fudge-a-Mania, by Judy Blume

Are You There, God? It's me, Margaret, by Judy Blume

One-of-a-Kind Mallie, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

A Great and Terrible Beauty, by Libba Bray

Shakespeare's Secret, by Elise Broach

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Giant Group Review Introduction

I have a lot of books in my room (but not an Alot of books - see here). Many of my friends say I have too many books. I almost - but not quite - agree. Anyway, I figured that if I kept going on my present strategy of reviewing maybe 1 book for every 3-5 that I read, I'm never going to get to talk about some of the books that I really love because I won't want to write a whole review about them. So I thought,  What if I did a group review for a ton of books at a time? I was hesitant to give in to this idea, since it would obviously be a ton of work, since I have several hundred books.  But yesterday (or maybe it was the day before), a friend jokingly accused me of keeping how-to-read books in my room, and that changed my mind. I am now embarking on a quest to, if not review, write a few comments about every single book in my room. And I will be doing it by shelves. It will be done in 20 parts, one every few days. I'm going to start with part one on Monday.

I'm probably not going to post tomorrow, Friday or this weekend so I can prep and also because it's going to make me even busier than I already am with March Merriness and schoolwork as well as posts for The Bookbird and the WordGirl every other day. By the way, please go read our recent posts on Bookbird-Wordgirl. The story is getting really fun to write and hopefully really fun to read as well. Also, please vote in the PBM poll. I'm getting tired of asking, and I'm sure you're getting tired of reading it. But if you do vote, I'd be so very happy.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Teaser Tuesday, 9th Edition

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

I am doing a slightly different version of Teaser Tuesday. Since I go through books so quickly, I'm going to put a quote from any book I've read in the past week.

Also, I apologize for the crummy quality of the scans. But I'd rather have them with not-so-great quality than not have them at all.

"Eggs shifted on his stool. 'I don't not know,' he said unhappily." - Unexpected Magic, by Diana Wynne Jones

"EATING IMPLEMENTS are minimal. The most usual provided is a SPOON for STEW." - The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, by Diana Wynne Jones

- Flight, by Kazu Kibuishi (this story by Neil Babra)

"Hugo loped away into the woods, moving swiftly... Ice and snow crunched under the golem's massive feet." - Fablehaven: Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary, by Brandon Mull

"She stopped breathing, flug her arm over her nose and mouth, gave a wail of horror.
     Plague!" - Sapphique, by Catherine Fisher

"'You forget... In Lockhaven there is a saying carved into the wall. It matters not what you fight but what you fight for.'"- Mouse Guard: Fall 1152, by David Petersen

"'We don't know if he's still alive...'
     'I know he is.'" - Mouse Guard: Winter 1152, by David Petersen

"'What are you doing?' Seth cried. His elbows were bleeding , and his back ached where a wooden knob had jabbed it." - Fablehaven: Keys to the Demon Prison, by Brandon Mull

As for the count, I'm beginning to catch up - I'm at 8 books now, hoping to make it 9 by tomorrow!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Metamorphosis Equation Project

A few weeks ago I did a project in English on the novella The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka. The assignment was to create a mathematical equation that speaks to the deeper meaning of the novella. I feel like I did a great job on this project, so I decided to share it here.

W = (Sk + E) * A
W = (Sk + 100) * 0 = 0
F = L + Em
F = 0 + 0 = 0
Sc ⊢ (W + F) * S
Sc ⊢ (0 + 0) * S = 0
H = G + ((F – G) * L) + M
H = G – 0 + (-1)
I = Sc/H
I = 0/(G-1)
I = 0
0I → death

W = work
Sk = skill
E = effort
A = accomplishment
F = family
L = love
Em = empathy
Sc = social construction
S = self
H = human contact
G = Grete
M = the maid
I = identity
⊢ = derived from
→ = leads to

     The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka is a discussion of identity. Throughout the novella, Gregor progressively loses his personal identity until, when he can no longer perceive who he is himself, he has no choice but to give up.
     To begin with, at work, Gregor has no individuality, but instead is merely part of a larger mechanism. As such, he can be easily replaced. He is simply a number assigned a value based on how much cloth he can sell. The part of the equation defining work states: work = (skill + effort) * accomplishment. In other words, the value of Gregor’s work must be measured by how skillful he is, how hard he works, and, perhaps most importantly, the product of his tireless labor. Kafka never says exactly how good Gregor is at his job, but one may assume he must be competent since he recently received a promotion and that his skill is a positive variable. In addition, Kafka describes how Gregor puts in 100% effort, getting up every morning and working tirelessly without any days off, so in the equation, his effort may be assigned a value of 100. Gregor realizes how hard he works: “‘My God,’ he thought, ‘what a strenuous profession I’ve chosen… If I didn’t hold myself back because of my parents, I would have quit long ago’” (Kafka 11-12). Ultimately, however, Gregor achieves nothing for himself through his work. He works at this thankless job in order to pay off his family’s debt, which means, at the end of the day, he personally is no better off. Additionally, his work has no larger significance; no one’s life would be affected except his own and his family’s, and even they are affected only in a monetary sense. Even his boss could easily replace him with someone else. Therefore, accomplishment = 0. Anything multiplied by 0 = 0, so when simplified, work = 0. Plugging these numbers into the equation, even though his skill and effort are positive, when these values are multiplied by the lack of any meaningful accomplishment from his work, the value of his work is 0.
     Similarly, Gregor’s family life provides no value to him either. According to the equation, the value of familial relations is the sum of love and empathy. Gregor finds neither in his family. Gregor’s family treats him as a tool, nothing but a source of income. When he becomes a cockroach, his family does not share his confusion and grief. Nor does his family seem to like him, let alone love him. After Gregor’s death, rather than becoming upset, Gregor’s father calls, “‘Oh, come on over. Let bygones be bygones now’” (52) . Not only does Gregor’s family keep from him the love he needs and deserves, once he becomes a cockroach, Gregor’s family shuts him away and casts him out of the family: “Scarcely was he inside his room when the door was hastily closed, barred and locked…she called ‘At last!’ to her parents as she turned the key in the lock” (48-49). Because he receives neither love nor empathy from his family, the value of his family to him is zero.
     The next part of the equation deals with the social construction of Gregor’s identity A social construction is a group understanding and agreement of a concept or quality. In this case the people around Gregor seem to understand and agree that Gregor is worthless. The equation states that social construction is derived from (work + family) * self. That is, the components of Gregor’s life, multiplied by his perception of his self, creates society’s perception of him. Because the value of his work and his family are zero, the social construction will always equal zero regardless of Gregor’s perception of himself. Although Gregor’s self-perception changes along with his transformation into a cockroach, the value of his social perception remains zero.
    Gregor’s identity is also defined by his contact with other humans. However, this contact is only useful in terms of keeping his humanity if the person contacting him does not treat him like a cockroach, but as himself, Gregor. The equation states that human contact = Grete + ((family – Grete) * love) + the maid. Grete stays as a variable because her attitude toward Gregor changes over time. When Gregor first turns into a cockroach, she tries to help him and does her best to make him comfortable. At this point, her human contact value is positive. But as the months pass, she neglects him more and more, finally stating, “We have to try to get rid of it” (47). In this quote, Grete refers to Gregor as “it,” an object rather than a person. This one word shows Gregor that Grete no longer wishes to have human contact with him. The equation isolates Grete as a separate variable because her contact with Gregor is different than the rest of the family, which treats him as an object throughout. Even when his mother cleans out his room, she does so not to make Gregor more comfortable, but because the family has been using his room as a storage space even as he has been living in it. The rest of the family’s human contact is limited and lacks love; as a consequence, it is assigned a value of zero. The maid treats Gregor like a cockroach rather than a human: “She even called him over with words she probably though were friendly, such as ‘come over here, old dung beetle’ or ‘Just look at the old dung beetle!’” (42). The maid causes Gregor to perceive himself as less than human, and her human contact value therefore is negative. Simplified, human contact = Grete – 1.
     Finally, we get to the deepest part of the meaning – Identity. The equation states that identity is a function of social construction divided by human contact. In other words, identity results from and reflects a social group’s perception of an individual. If the individual lacks human contact, however, there is no society to form that opinion. In that case, the person is left to turn inward and form his own opinion of identity. Being a cockroach is a manifestation of Gregor’s loss of identity and a reflection of his opinion of himself. Without a societal validation of his identity—as a worker, family member, or person in another setting involving human contact—Gregor is left to view himself as vermin.
     In my visual representation, I made several artistic choices that relate metaphorically to the novella.
The top portion of the visual representation shows mathematical symbols and variables spread randomly in a clump. This relates to the novella in that Kafka gives you all the pieces, but you as the reader must put them together yourself.
     The bottom portion shows the same symbols and variables, but in an organized fashion that has actual meaning in terms of the story. However, just as in the novella, the pieces of the equation, even when fitted together, are slightly disjointed and each part is separate from the others. The text was written on a typewriter, which parallels Gregor at work as being part of a machine where each piece alone is worthless. In a typewriter, this is true as well. The typewriter only works if all the pieces work together, but each individual piece cannot do anything alone. Additionally, the use of double-stick tape allows one to take the individual pieces of the equations off and rearrange them. This reflects that many ways one can form meaning from this story.
     Through Gregor’s metamorphosis, Kafka causes us to question what we take for granted as the value of our identity. We must doubt whether our relationships with others are actually meaningful. Or perhaps when we strip away the fa├žade we find that they actually aren’t and that others are treating us as instruments to reach some other goal. In that way, Kafka shows that we are all fated to become cockroaches.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

March Merriment Update

I haven't really posted about March Merriment since it started, but I thought I'd take a post to talk about how it's going. It simultaneously is going really well and not very well at all.

This first picture is of everything I've read and/or am currently reading in March.

*Not pictured: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. It's in my backpack.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz (1 of 20 - Unfinished)
I've already made clear what I think of this book, but it is a book that I'm reading in March, so it counts.

Unexpected Magic, by Diana Wynne Jones (2 of 20 - Unfinished)
I technically started this at the very end of February, but I only read a few pages before March, so I'm saying it counts.

Airman, by Eoin Colfer (3 of 20 - Finished)
It's still great the 2nd time around. I'm in the middle of a larger review for this.

The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, by Diana Wynne Jones (4 of 20 - Unfinished)

Copper, by Kazu Kibuishi (5 of 20 - Finished)

Hamlet, by William Shakespeare (6 of 20 - Unfinished)

Flight (Volume Two), by Kazu Kibuishi (7 of 20 - Unfinished)
I am planning on finishing this tonight.

Fablehaven: Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary, by Brandon Mull (8 of 20 - Finished)

Sapphique, by Catherine Fisher (9 of 20 - Unfinished)
I am planning on finishing this by tonight.

So you can see, 9 books in 12 days is not bad. But 3 finished books in 12 days isn't quite as good. Luckily by tonight it will be 5 finished books. And I'm not too worried... yet.

Below are the books I have on my shelf which I have not yet begun. I'm very excited. There are a lot, so I'm not going to list them. You can see most of the titles, and if not, I'll be posting about them soon.

I decided that most likely no one really cares about PBM anymore, so I stopped writing that post. If you do care, leave a comment or just wait for me to post it some day when I have nothing better to write about.

Happy Reading,


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