Books I Read This Month - December 2011

Incendiary – Chris Cleave
Whoa. Intensely emotional and depressing, this is the story of a woman recovering after her husband and four year old son are killed in a terrorist attack. Made me cry. Only recommended for those with strong, erm, not stomachs so much as minds. I know mine had some trouble handling it.

Life of Pi – Yann Martel
This was the book club book this month! Here is my post about it.

The Pale King – David Foster Wallace

This is David Foster Wallace’s last novel, which he did not have the chance to finish before his death. However, it reads like a complete novel, and is quite good. It is about some IRS agents and is semi-autobiographical. I liked it quite a lot.

Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides

This novel takes place over the course of three generations of a family, from Greece to Detroit, from the early 20th century to present day. The narrator is a hermaphrodite. This is a lovely book and I enjoyed it immensely.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
The earth is destroyed to make room for a super space highway, and a man is picked up by a passing spaceship just in time. With his alien friend, he hitchhikes across the galaxy. Great fun. Hilarious. And a classic.

1Q84 – Haruki Murakami

I’m not usually a fan of fantasy, but this was a great book. It was a sneaky fantasy, starting off like a literary novel, but slowly becoming weirder and weirder as it went. The two main characters are massage therapist slash murderer Aomame, which means “green peas” in Japanese, and writer and math professor Tengo. They are somehow transferred into an alternate universe that has two moons in the sky and is riddled with magical little people that hide inside other people and come out to build air chrysalises upon their death. The more I read of Murakami, the more I realizes he must be genius.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Pi Patel, born Piscine Molitor Patel in India to a Hindi family, adopted Christianity and Islam as his second and third practiced religions at the age of sixteen. His family owned a zoo, and his father warned him constantly about the dangers of all the animals, but he assured him that the most dangerous animal in the zoo was the human being. When the family decided to relocate their zoo to Canada, they had to load their dozens of animals onto a Japanese cargo ship and travel across the Pacific Ocean. Part way there, the ship sank, killing every living thing on board except for Pi and a Bengal Tiger. Together they survived on a lifeboat for seven months at sea.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel is definitely my favorite book. I have read it at least three times, as well as Yann Martel’s two other books once. The impact of the themes is the strongest aspect of the novel. At the beginning of the book, Pi Patel is struggling to be accepted by his family and his peers. He practices Hindu, Christianity, and Islam, which confuses his parents and makes his older brother and classmates tease him. But his faith in God keeps him strong. Throughout his journey at sea, Pi transforms from a loving, young, strict vegetarian boy to a desperate, frustrated castaway and finally to a strong young man full of faith and hope.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone of any age who is searching for spirituality and a reason for hope in life. I don’t mean to sound too sentimental here, since this book has plenty of hilarious moments and clever lines, but Life of Pi is truly an amazing book of enlightenment that everyone should read.

If you have read Life of Pi by Yann Martel, what did you think of it?

Peace, Aimee

And the Winner of the Shakespearean Sonnet Contest Is...

Tyrean Martinson!

Congratulations Tyrean! Email the 2500 word excerpt of your manuscript (or whatever you would like me to critique) to whenever you’re ready.

Here is Tyrean’s winning sonnet.

Leaves flicker in winds, flames against blue sky
Reds, golds, oranges, all bright and living still
for a short time they dwell on branches high.
As the cold seeps in, bringing winter chill,
hard rains, darkening clouds like seasons’ night,
they fall in drifts of crackling wonderful
sound for our passing, joyful delight
until trampled muddy and disgraceful
when we rake them together for compost,
laid near by roots of trees and over garden beds.
Nutrients for next year’s colorful boast
sink down to rise up again overhead.
Each leaf a living miracle of life
showing promise in spite of fallen strife.

The Giving Spirit

During Christmastime, people tend to become more generous. While I believe that one should not have to be in the Christmas spirit in order to do something nice for someone, I think it’s wonderful anyway that people can connect to one another through the love of Christmas (despite religion; many people are not religious but still celebrate the holiday as a tradition). There are many charitable events going to in this month of December, all over the country and around the world. Here, I will list a few (some have incentives) for you, and I hope that you may feel uplifted by the spirit of the holidays and inspired by the kindness of others. I am definitely going to participate to the best of my ability, and I hope you do too!

Amnesty International, one of the most prominent non-governmental organizations, is hosting the Write for Rights campaign December 3-11, in which people write letters to government representatives and individuals concerning the civil rights of people trapped in unfortunate and unjust situations. Here is the link for more information.

Comedians Russell Brand and Sarah Silverman are offering a free stand-up event on December 11 called the Love Exchange. If you like their comedy, you can see them preform at no monetary cost to you! The way to snag a ticket is to donate two hours of your time to any of the participating charities. Here is the link for more information.

A group of bloggers are hosting a blog event called The Bah Humbug Blahgfest, in which they are giving away various prizes, including Amazon gift cards. Just sign up with a comment on their post and there will be a random drawing for the winners. How generous! Here is the link for more information.

You don’t have to be in the Holiday Spirit to be in the Giving Spirit!

Peace, Aimee

The Road Less Written

November 2011’s theme was Shakespeare, but I didn’t get around to writing my own sonnet until the end of the month. In the contest (tomorrow is the last day to submit, by the way) you may write a Shakespearean sonnet. I tried to do this but I had a difficult time with finding words to rhyme, but that retain the meaning I had intended for the poem. The result was blank verse. Now, I would like to share one with you. It’s about when I was in middle school, and our gym class walked down the street to the ice rink. Doesn’t sound like sonnet material, but I think it works.

But first, for those of you who are interested in poetry, I have to recommend to you a wonderful book on the craft. The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry is a fantastic guide for meter, rhyme, form, and diction for the poet who is tired of reading poetry craft books that read like manuals or school textbooks. I highly recommend it! Humorous, insightful, and delightful.

He took my hand and led me cross the way
Over the fields and down the hill to ice.
We latched our skates and huddled in our coats,
Our noses pink and touched by frozen air.
We slided, glided, slid, and slipped about,
Forgetting time and struggles with our books.
The classroom seemed ten miles down the road,
And soon a slippery hour had passed us by.
We trudged back through the snow and into warmth,
Our pink ears numb and fingers clad in wool.
We drew the dreaded pencils from our bags
And sat ourselves behind our desks to thaw.
We skated through the days and then the weeks,
Free figure eights trapped yearning in our boots.

December 2011

This month, there is no theme, and there is also not going to be a contest. The Shakespeare sonnet contest is still going on, though, and I hope more people will participate! The last day to submit is Sunday 4 December 2011. Here are the details.

However, I am still having a Blog Book Club this month. The book is Life of Pi by Yann Martel. It is by far my favorite book ever, and since I haven't reread it in a long time, I've decided to reread it this month and discuss it here on my blog on Thursday 29 December 2011. Please join me in reading this lovely book and post about it on your own blog, or just join in on the conversation in the comments section that day!

I also have some other blog posts for this month, so look forward to that. :)

Peace, Aimee

Books I Read This Month - November 2011

I made it to my 100-books-in-a-year goal one month early! Here are the books I read this month.

All the Rage – F. Paul Wilson
Next book in the Repairman Jack series. Um. Yeah.

Sputnik Sweetheart – Haruki Murakami
An asexual female bookworm falls in love with an older married woman. Told from the perspective of the girl’s male best friend (who happens to be in love with her), this is a great book. I could really relate to the narrator character, and I found the other characters to be very well developed. Another good book by the great Haruki Murakami.

Making History – Stephen Fry
Here is Stephen Fry, English genius, being quite English and quite genius. This science fiction novel is about a history scholar who discovers a clever way to make sure Hitler was never born. It’s funny in parts, moving in others, and well-written throughout. I’d recommend this book to people who enjoy science and history (of course) and to people who are passionate about, or at least interested in, human rights (religion, sexual orientation). This is an intriguing read, and an interesting and creative topic.

The Princess Bride – William Goldman
I’ve seen the movie numerous times and loved it, of course. I only just this year discovered that it was a book first. And what a wonderful book it is! If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend you do. And/or see the movie. It truly has something for everyone: fantasy, adventure, comedy, and romance, all rolled into one.

Mr. Peanut – Adam Ross
Interesting and disturbing picture of marriage. I thought it was really good, but sometimes the characters did not seem very realistic. I’d recommend it if you like dark humor. Or just dark.

Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts

This is my 100th book of the year! And it was a good one too. Over 900 pages long, this semi-autobiographical novel, I believe, qualifies as an epic. The author was born and raised in Australia, but became a drug addict and armed robber in his young adult life, ending up in prison. He escaped prison and traveled the world, settling down in Bombay, India. There and then is where and when this book takes place, from the moment he stepped off the plane in Bombay, to… well, for about two or three, maybe four years. Sometime after that, which is after this book ends, he was arrested in Bombay and served out the rest of his sentence. Afterwards, he returned to Bombay, opening up a free medical clinic for the slums, and is now a full time writer. There were so many parts of his life that he could have written about (being a drug addict and thief, being in prison, living in Bombay after his release from prison) but he chose to write about his time in Bombay while a fugitive. There are very few flashbacks; he remains mostly in the present (well, past, since it already happened to him) and, told in first person, we are in his head, looking at Bombay through his eyes, the entire time. And I loved it! His descriptions are beautiful! His word choice is perfect. And he’s got all the emotions right there on the page. I cried at least twice. You read it, and you’ll know where. He wrote this book while he was serving his full sentence after he was caught, and you can just sense the blood, sweat, and tears that literally went into every page. I highly recommend this book. Even though it is long, it is worth the read! The message is beautiful and perfect.

Moab is my Washpot – Stephen Fry
This is Stephen Fry’s memoir of his youth. A rowdy kid, a genius, and a pathological liar, this is a great coming-of-age gay story that pretty much any would enjoy. It’s funny is places and sad in others, but it’s a great read throughout.

Dance, Dance, Dance – Haruki Murakami
Quite weird. A writer’s girlfriend of sorts goes missing, and he ends up babysitting sort of for this psychic thirteen year old girl. There are prostitutes involved. It’s an interesting book, but weird. Haruki Murakami is pretty weird, I guess.

Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami
Also weird, but pretty good. It’s about a college-age boy discovering women. I suppose that’s the best way to put it. Most of Haruki Maurakami’s books involve people of this age, in situations much like the one in this book. But each one his books is unique in its own way. He’s a great writer. But weird.

Othello – William Shakespeare
This was the blog book club book for the month of November. Here is my post about it.

The Marriage Plot – Jeffery Eugenides
What a great book. A realistic and intricate picture of bipolar disorder, as well as what it’s like to be in love at that turning point in life, early twenty-something, just out of college. Beautiful writing.

Othello by Shakespeare

This month, November 2011, the theme of my blog has been Shakespeare. While I did not post nearly enough about him and his works to reveal this about myself, I am quite interested in Shakespeare. He was one of the most influential writers ever. I’m not a great fan of reading plays, since they were written to be portrayed on a stage, but Shakespeare is one of the few playwrights whose work is enjoyable when read as much as it is when watched. I have never seen Shakespeare on the stage, though I have seen The Tempest film (2010), which was beautiful, and, uh, I think that’s the only one I’ve seen, actually. I have read many, many of his plays, both at school and in my own time. I have read Romeo and Juliet, of course, King Lear, MacBeth, Richard III, and now Othello. I am planning on reading others in the future, and it’s on my Bucket List to see a Shakespeare play performed live by actors on a stage.

There is some controversy about Shakespeare and his works. There is evidence that he was not the writer of all the plays that have been attributed to his name. A movie entitled Anonymous was recently released, but I was unable to see it because it was not showing in my area. I don’t think who wrote the plays matters so much as the content and message of the plays. Who the author is does not detract from the cultural and literary significance of the plays.

Shakespeare lived in the 1500s in England. I don’t know much else about him really, but I am going to be taking an entire course on Shakespeare at my college in the spring. So look forward to more posts about him and his works in the future. Perhaps I should have waited on the Shakespeare theme until the spring when I knew more about him and had read more of his plays, but I was just way too excited for the Shakespeare sonnet contest I had planned to wait. REMINDER: the deadline for submissions to this awesome contest is Sunday 4 December 2011. Here is the link for more details. Please participate! I’m super psyched to read your sonnets! Seriously I am! If I get enough submissions, there is a chance for a second and maybe even third prize as well, so I, and other submitting writers, would be ecstatic if you would participate!

Alright. Othello. Taking place in Venice, the play begins with Iago and Roderigo discussing how much they hate Othello. Othello promoted someone over Iago in the military. He tells Roderdigo that he is going to plot against Othello by making it seem like his wife Desdemona is having an affair. Iago also dislikes Othello because of his race, which by the description we can assume he is African. Throughout the play, Iago is two-faced, convincing Othello to trust him while he plots his downfall behind his back. Iago is the main driving force behind the plot.

While Iago portrays Othello as a corrupt man, when Othello enters the stage, he is entirely the opposite of what the audience is expecting. Shakespeare even compares him to Jesus Christ. This juxtaposition really accentuates Iago’s racism.

A major theme, besides racism, is the conflict of love and war. Othello is a military hero, and he finds it difficult to keep him marriage to Desdemona intact. In fact, when he believes she had an affair, he murders her. Finally, after Othello learns that Iago tricked him, Othello kills himself, unable to deal with his evil deed.

I’d say this is not particularly one of my favorites of Shakespeare’s plays, but it was still pretty good. I won’t go into much more detail about the plot and characters and themes, for fear of sounding unintelligent, uninformed, or preachy, because the language of Shakespeare is difficult for me to understand, and the themes were what I read out of this play the most. Besides, I want to hear what you guys have to say!

If you have read it, what did you think of Shakespeare’s Othello?

Peace, Aimee

Hamlet's Speech

Hamlet’s speech from Shakespeare’s Hamlet is probably the most famous soliloquy out there. It’s been analyzed and torn to bits all over the place. Having read Hamlet, I have to agree that this is one spectacular piece of writing. It portrays a young man’s contemplation of suicide as he is faced with a disintegrating family and a bleak future; however, he is plagued with worry that suicide will land him in hell. It’s well-written and full of emotion.

My favorite line in the speech is my favorite line in the whole play and, dare I say it, is perhaps my favorite line in anything I’ve ever read ever. It’s this: “conscience does make cowards of us all.” Ah, how better can you phrase such a brilliant, controversial, and philosophical idea?

What is your favorite line in Shakespeare?

And why do you think Hamlet’s speech is so famous?

“To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die, to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to: 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there's the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause – there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment,
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action. Soft you now,
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remembered.”

Peace, Aimee

P.S. Remember the Shakespeare sonnet writing contest! Ends 4 December 2011, and the winner receives a 2500 word critique of their manuscript! Details here.

And the Winner of the Dinosaur Writing Contest Is...

Michael Ermitage!

Congratulations Michael! You can email me your 2000 word excerpt to be critiqued as your prize. Email me at whenever you’re ready.

And here is Michael’s winning dinosaur tale:

Nine years. Thirty seven days. Fourteen hours. Eleven minutes. That’s how long I’ve been waiting for this moment. My 150,000-volt stun rifle rests on my shoulder with my finger wrapped around the trigger. The cross hair target is centered on the beast’s torso. Its small head swivels on its long neck as if it senses I’m near but I keep the rifle aimed directly at its ostrich-like midsection. She wears a smirk and I can’t help but smile. She’s most definitely a modern-day Ingenia, but I’ve spent so much time researching her that I just call her Jean. Fossil records date her lineage back 70 million years. Most paleontologists, especially Dr. Zhang of the Evanston Paleontology Society, will tell you that Jean is extinct. They’ll tell you this specimen sitting not 10 yards from me is just an exceptionally odd bird and not a dinosaur. In fact, Dr. Zhang would precisely say, “Only a fool would spend even a dime to travel to southeast China to track down a silly bird.” If Dr. Zhang where here though, sitting next to me, nervously adjusting his oversized glasses every twenty seconds or so like he always does, he’d surely agree that the animal’s strong, wiry hands were more dinosaur than bird. He’d have a hard time differentiating this animal’s long, toothless beak from the one sitting on the counter next to Dr. Zhang’s unwashed coffee cup.

I wish my daughter was sitting next to me. A believer from day one, she’d let her jaw fall agape in wonderment in its presence. Truth be told, the money earned from such a discovery could pay for her college tuition three times over.

At nine years old, dressed in a striped long-sleeved top and blue jeans, my daughter pointed at a picture of a bird on my coworker’s office wall and said, “What kind of dino is that?” I had heard that question hundreds of times from between the thin lips she inherited from her mother but this was the first time I did not have an answer. I made up an answer. “Oviraptor,” I said. She nodded.

When my co-worker returned to the museum’s office, I asked him, “What the hell is that thing anyway?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “I snapped it when I was in China on the Zhang dig.”

I asked him if I could borrow it and I took it back to my office. For weeks, I promised I would spend some time researching the bird just to satisfy my curiosity. Time, though, was fleeting and elusive, and slipped between my fingertips with every phone call and email. Finally, on one New Year’s Day, as I nursed my bleeding hangover with water and a bottle of Aspirin, I came upon the picture of an Ingenia. Uncommon in the North American fossil record, I had spent little time researching them. Seeing the image sparked an epiphany; one so powerful that when I stood to grab the picture from my desk drawer, my legs wobbled and my horizon filled with tiny, moving stars. I blinked. I scoured the web for more images and with each one I found, I discovered more similarities. Similar bone structure. Identical beak. Exact same splayed toes.
Watching Jean now, those first computer images come rushing back. Jean yawns and nestles. Her dirty white feathers brush the ground. As long as a car, she manages to curl herself up in a neat ball. I imagine her caged, the verifiable DNA evidence tucked behind a glass display.

I brought my initial findings to Dr. Zhang. He invited me into his office and I carefully laid out my case. I’ll never forget his furrowed brow. It crinkled in increments, like a pop can under a stack of heavy books. I was waiting for it to implode. Dr. Zhang picked his head up from my research, cleared his throat, and narrowed his eyes.

“Son,” he said, “you have a vivid imagination. Spunk, even. But this is not the work of a serious professional. I’ll pretend I never saw it.”’

I adjust the rifle and reaffirm my grip, preparing to fire. Jean stares straight ahead. I allow myself a moment to picture Zhang’s jealous eyes, myself on the Tonight Show, and receiving the Nobel Prize in Science. These images flash before me like a slide show from heaven.

Jean picks herself up from the ground and stretches her long legs. She takes a step and I steady my finger on the trigger. Then I hear a noise, a baritone squawk. It reverberates through the forest. My eyes follow the noise to Jean’s feet and there stand two young Ingenia. They prance around her bumping into each other. Jean lowers her head and nudges them back into her makeshift nest.

The bane of paleontology is that you never work with live animals. Nothing moves. Nothing breathes.

I watch Jean pick up one of the babies and drop it back into the nest. The baby gives out a feeble squeak of protest.

I center the cross hairs on Jean’s midsection. I inhale. My finger rubs the trigger. I do not shoot. I let the rifle fall to my side and I watch Jean and her family. I don’t even snap a picture.

Shakespeare Writing Contest

I am really, really excited for this contest!

For this contest, write a Shakespearean sonnet. For those who need a refresher, here are the parameters:

1. Shakespearean sonnets are 14 lines long.

2. Shakespearean sonnets follow the a,b,a,b, c,d,c,d, e,f,e,f, g,g rhyme scheme.

3. Shakespearean sonnets are in iambic pentameter, meaning there are ten syllables per line.

I know that a lot of people (me included) are participating in NaNoWriMo this month, and since Shakespearean sonnets are a bit tricky to write, I am going to give you guys a little more time. Please send your sonnet to by Sunday 4 December 2011.

I will announce the winner on Wednesday 7 December 2011. The winner will receive a 2500 word critique of their manuscript (or whatever they want critiqued) by me! That’s about ten pages!

I would love it if you word spread the word about this fun contest on your blog or on twitter. Thank you so much! Good luck, and I seriously can’t wait to read your sonnets!

Peace, Aimee

P.S. If I get enough submissions, there may be a chance at a second and/or third prize of a 1000 word critique! So please participate! It'll be fun and totally worth it! :)

Blog Book Club November 2011

Over the course of November, read Othello by William Shakespeare, then on Tuesday 29 November 2011, post about it on your blog or join in on the discussion in the comments of my post!

Peace, Aimee

Theme of November 2011: Shakespeare!

According to Wikipedia, “William Shakespeare (baptised 26 April 1564; died 23 April 1616)[nb 1] was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist.[1] He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon".[2][nb 2] His surviving works, including some collaborations, consist of about 38 plays,[nb 3] 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.”

The theme of November 2011 is Shakespeare! I hope you’re excited for what I have in store! I know I am!

Peace, Aimee

Books I Read This Month - October 2011

I read a ton of books this month, knowing I would not have much time to read in November because of NaNoWriMo.

Also, today is the last day to submit to the Dinosaur Writing Contest! I would love to receive some more submissions!

Here are the books I read this month!

Peace, Aimee

The Duel – Anton Chekov
When Levsky’s lover’s husband dies, he is afraid that he may have to marry her, but he doesn’t want to because he has too many gambling debts. The girl is a bit of a tart though (obviously, since she was cheating on her husband) and kind of ends up with this other guy, who is just about the opposite of Levsky. There are some well-rounded characters here. The Literary Lab has a great post about this book here.

Vida – Patricia Engel
This is the story of the life of a young Columbian woman growing up in the US. Great emotion and great characters, this is a pretty good book that I would recommend. It says a lot about young girls living in the American culture.

The Pearl – John Steinbeck
Super depressing, but that’s John Steinbeck for you. A poor man finds a pearl while fishing and the greed of the town results in very bad, sad things…

Mercier and Camier – Samuel Beckett
I didn’t really understand this book… I may have to reread it eventually. It’s about these two guys who kind of wander around town and talk about strange things. There were funny bits, and I wish I’d read it deeper, because I feel like the theme was Samuel Beckett’s main aim in this book. He’s really great with dialogue, and his use of props in this book was clever.

The Wild Things – Dave Eggers
This is based on the children’s book Where the Wild Things Are. Dave Eggers also helped write the screen play for the children’s movie. This book is a more adult version (as it’s a novel and there is some strong language in parts) but it is told (in third person) from the kid’s perspective. I really liked this book. The writing was great, and the pacing was brilliant. The character of Max was extremely well developed, and I really enjoyed the theme and how Dave Eggers revealed it. I would definitely recommend this book to just about everyone.

House of Meetings – Martin Amis
This novel is about two brothers and girl named Zoya in a love triangle in Soviet Russia during the time of Stalin’s labor camps. It was interesting, but it was a bit contrived. The more I read of Martin Amis, the less I’m impressed. I loved Time’s Arrow, but maybe the rest of his stuff isn’t as great as I thought it would be.

When We Danced On Water – Evan Fallenberg
One of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I posted about it here.

Twenty-Seventh City – Jonathan Franzen
This is Jonathan Franzen's first novel. I've read Freedom and The Corrections, and I liked both of those. This book, however, was a bit different. It focuses more on politics and the city (and country) as a whole, rather than the American family and society. I don't particularly agree with a lot of Jonathan Franzen's opinions and views on American culture, but he is very good writer.

Light Fell – Evan Fallenberg
See When We Danced On Water

What Is the What – Dave Eggers
A beautiful portrait of a young man escaping Sudan to find a better life. I’ve been on the brick all month of deciding whether or not to bold this one, to put it on my ‘love’ list… But I didn’t love it enough to want to reread it eventually in my life, so I guess I won’t. However, my indecision led me to redo the books tab and put in italics all the books I really liked. Didn’t absolutely adore, but I liked them a lot. So there.

Bag of Bones – Stephen King
Novelist widower goes to visit his vacation home and falls in love with a young woman who has a daughter, but there are ghosts and stuff. Classic Stephen King. Pretty good book.

The Disappeared – Kim Echlin
It’s obvious that a lot of research had to go into this book, and the writing, in particular the descriptions, is fantastic. However, this book is a bit pretentious. There are some unnecessary descriptions that don’t add anything to the emotion or the plot of the story. But it was a good book for getting the vibe of the Pol Pot era in Cambodia. The narrator, a Canadian girl who falls in love with a Cambodian man, was not fully developed, in my opinion. Every action she did and every word she said was devoted to expressing her love for the man, and she seemed like she was not very sure of herself, as if she needed a man in order to be a person. I didn’t feel like I knew her at all, and I did not see what the guy saw in her at all… So, the plot of this book wasn’t fantastic, but the history was rich, intriguing, and very well done. I have mixed feelings about this book, but it was up for a few prizes, so I guess some people loved it.

Jurassic Park – Michael Crichton
This was the Blog Book Club book for this month. Here is my post about it!

Hummingbirds – Joshua Gaylord
Man this was a good month of books for me. I really enjoyed this one. It takes place in an all-girl’s school in New York. There are two male teachers who kind of dislike each other for some pretty good reasons, but they have a very cool dynamic that makes a lot of sense. The girls in the school are teetering on the brink of adulthood, which, ahem, shows in their interactions with their male teachers. The characters in this book were fantastically developed. I almost bolded this one as well.

The City of Falling Angels – John Berendt
John Berendt’s semi-non-fiction book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is one of my absolute favorite books of all time, and I love the movie too (John Cusack, Kevin Spacey, and Jude Law? Brilliant, top notch actors). But anyway, I had to get The City of Falling Angels too. It’s more non-fiction than his other book, as he uses the peoples’ real names and such. It’s about Venice. Berendt draws such an amazing portrait of Venice that I can picture it in my mind, every street corner, every person there, and how daily life plays out in Venice. But I’ve never been there, so my mind could totally just be making it all up. However, since this is a true story, the plot is not extremely catching. There are parts that seem too factual. Although I may have had overly high expectations because of my high opinion of his first book. But I sure do love the titles of his books!

The Rachel Papers – Martin Amis
Like I said earlier, Time’s Arrow is one of my all-time favorite books, but some of Martin Amis’ novels are a little too raunchy and creepy for my tastes. This is his first book, not creepy but definitely raunchy. It’s about this guy celebrating his twentieth birthday. He’s sort of a Holden Caulfield type of character, only he’s obsessed with literature and seducing women. This story describes him falling in and out of love with this girl named Rachel. It’s sort of as coming-of-age story, as well, though he doesn’t seem to grow up much in the end, in my opinion.

Revenge (Tennis Stars’ Balls Revenge) – Stephen Fry
My obsession with Englishmen goes further than just the young, attractive, heterosexual ones. In fact, I’m obsessed with British culture in general. So who better to read than the English cultural icon Stephen Fry? This book is loosely based on The Count of Monte Cristo. It’s about a man who is unjustly incarcerated and goes insane. When he realizes what happened to him, he enacts revenge. The language is fantastic, and the characters are well-developed. I really enjoyed this book.

After Dark – Haruki Murakami
Focusing on the lives of two sisters, this story takes place over the course of one night, from midnight to seven in the morning. Great character development and an interesting theme.

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

This month’s blog book club book is Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. It’s one of those crazy bestsellers than everyone read and loved, and they went to see the movie make of it too. I saw the movie long, long ago and don’t remember much except the brilliant scene where they’re sitting in the jeep and you can see the water vibrating with the T-rex’s footsteps before you can hear it. Ooh, I loved that bit. But anyway, this is about the book…

Jurassic Park is a sci-fi thriller about scientist who clone dinosaur DNA to open an amusement park for people to come see extinct dinosaurs. Like a living museum, essentially. When a few of the scientists’ family members go there for a sneak preview, there is a mad thunder storm. The electricity goes out, causing the dinosaurs (in particular the massive Tyranosaurus Rex) to escape from their cages. What a great plot!

Michael Crichton (1942-2008), was a bestselling author, screenwriter, producer, and director. He created the extremely popular television series ER. Jurassic Park became a series, as well as a series of pop-culturally iconic films, with Stephen Spielberg, of course. I’ve only had the pleasure of reading on other book he wrote, Congo, which I pretty much adored.

Stylistically, Jurassic Park is quite the case study. As a science fiction thriller, it is fast-paced and contains short, crisp sentences that keep the action and adventure flowing. I pretty much devoured this book in one sitting because the pacing kept me on the edge of my seat. I absolutely loved the what-happens-next vibe. However, the characters to me did not seem to be completely drawn out. This happens a lot in thriller novels, since the thrill and the plot are most coveted by the author and by readers. Characters are not so much ignored or forgotten as they are not entirely necessary. In Jurassic Park, we do not know much about the characters, but we do care, of course, and root for them when they face a carnivorous giant T-rex. Well, it may be because two of the main characters are children, and no one likes to see a little kid get hurt. There are two characters, though, the opposing forces, protagonist Alan Grant and antagonist John Hammond. These two, though we don’t get much of their background, have well-developed values and are therefore important thematically.

There is a lot going on in this novel thematically. There is too much to say about it in one blog post, so instead I’ve decided to give you a simple list:

1. Nature – let it be, dinosaurs must have gone extinct for a reason…
2. Human curiosity, paired with power and money, will probably end up going too far
3. People go through some incredible dangers just for entertainment
4. “Fail-safes” usually fail

So there you go. If you read Jurassic Park this month (or ever, really) what did you think of it?

Peace, Aimee

P.S. Monday 31 October is the last day to submit for the Dinosaur Writing Contest! If I do not receive a sufficient number of entries (I’d say at least five) then I may have to close the contest. So, please submit! It should be fun, and the prize is awesome!

Important Update!

Going to school and working at the same time is very time-consuming. With only the weekends to do homework and have a social life (haha), I'm finding it extremely difficult to make the time to write. As you can tell by my blog, I've had to cut down on some fun things in order to make room to do the things that are the most important to me. I will not be shutting down this blog, but I will not be posting regularly. I will continue to post the Books I Read This Month, at least until the end of the year (since I have a 100 books in a year goal), and I will still have the Blog Book Club and the themed writing contests for November and December. In 2012, however, I have not officially decided what I'm going to do with this blog. Until then, please participate in the Blog Book Club and the writing contests. If I do not get enough participants, I may have to put this blog into hibernation for a while until my schedule calms down.

Because I have not received enough submissions for the Dinosaur contests, I am extending the contest another week. The last to submit will be Monday 31 October 2011, Halloween. This means I will announce the winner on Friday 4 November 2011, after I announce the next blog book club and writing contest. If you haven't noticed, I have changed the prize from a 1000 word critique to a 2000 word critique to encourage more submissions. Click here for the contest guidelines. I would love it if you would join in on the fun!

Thanks for bearing with me.

Peace, Aimee

My New Favorite Author: Evan Fallenberg

I discovered a new author a couple of weeks ago. Evan Fallenberg. He has written two books and has translated a few from Hebrew to English. I read his two novels, and I adore them.

Light Fell, his first novel, is about a fifty year old man hosting a family reunion with his five sons, having not been at a gathering with all of them together since he left his wife for a man twenty years before. Set in Israel, this book focuses on the tension between sexuality and religion and reveals the truth of love and forgiveness.

When We Danced on Water, his second novel, is also set in Israel. There is a long, tense flashback to World War II in Berlin and Poland. The two main characters, 40-something waitress Vivi and ballet dance choreographer Teo, both have difficult pasts drenched in war and obsession. The ending to this book, the last two chapters, I didn’t quite understand, but it did not ruin the story for me in the least.

Evan Fallenberg is an amazingly talented writer. His language is the most beautiful I have ever read. His diction and voice are brilliant. I think I started crying on the second page, that’s how beautiful the writing is. I started reading When We Danced on Water because it was one of the last books I bought from Borders before it closed, when there were about 100 books left in the store and were 90% off, not thinking much of it when reading the blurb on the back. I was swept off my feet in surprise at this book, and I realize that I would not have even given it a second look if it hadn’t been two bucks in the closing sale. After reading this book, I couldn’t stop thinking about it for three days and had to go online and order Light Fell just to see what else this guy had to say, and I am glad to say that I love Light Fell just as much When We Danced on Water, maybe even more.

This author is very brave. Homosexuality, Judaism, rape, and war are just a few of the things he explores in his two novels. After reading his books, I have learned a lot about the risks writers take and the passion that is necessary to write a novel. The minute this guy publishes his third book, I’m buying it.

Peace, Aimee

Dinosaur Writing Contest!

With our dinosaur theme for this month, the writing challenge should be dino-mite!

In 1000 words or less (there’s no minimum length) write something (flash fiction, a poem, anything!) about a person (any age) lost in the woods who stumbles upon something rather dinosaur-ish (egg, fossil, actual dinosaur, whatever!). This is fairly open-ended, encouraging your creativity!

Please send your submissions to by Sunday 23 October 2011. I will announce the winner(s) on Wednesday 26 October 2011 and will post my own dinosaur story the next day.

The winner(s) will have their story/poem/whatever posted on my blog on the 26th, and they will also receive a 2000 word critique of their manuscript (or whatever they want critiqued) by me! I’m totally qualified, don’t worry. :)

Good luck, and I can’t wait to read your submissions!

Peace, Aimee

Blog Book Club October 2011

Over the course of October, read Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, then on Friday 28 October 2011, post about it on your blog or join in on the discussion in the comments of my post!

Peace, Aimee

Theme of October 2011: Dinosaurs!

According to Wikipedia, “Dinosaurs (from Greek: δεινός terrible or potent, and σαύρα lizard) are a diverse group of animals that were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates for over 160 million years, from the late Triassic period (about 230 million years ago) until the end of the Cretaceous (about 65 million years ago), when the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event led to the extinction of most dinosaur species at the close of the Mesozoic era. The fossil record indicates that birds evolved within theropod dinosaurs during the Jurassic period. Some of them survived the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, including the ancestors of all modern birds.”

My blog theme for October 2011 is Dinosaurs. I hope you enjoy the things I have in store!

Peace, Aimee

Book I Read This Month - September 2011

Survivor - Chuck Palahniuk
On my shelf, all I can see is an enormous PALAHNIUK, so I kept forgetting the title of the book; it's practically invisible on the cover. Anywho, it's a great book. Very Palahniuk-ish. Ah, isn't it great when an author has such a distinct voice that you can say something like that and everyone totally knows what you mean? And this book is weird. It's written backward. Even the page numbers are backward, counting down to the suicide of a celebrity religious leader as he dictates his life story to the black box of an airplane. It was a hilarious book, and I enjoyed it.

Frankenstein - Mary Shelley
I was shocked at myself for not having read this book yet, so I decided to give it a go. It is a classic and all. Also, my high school English teacher is related to Mary Shelley. But anyway, I thought the book was great. The first half was very well written and emotional, the interlude in which the monster relays his story to Frankenstein was a bit distracting but interesting, and the concluding third was suspenseful and quite telling about human nature.

42 - M. Thomas Cooper
This is an interesting mystery about a man whose wife runs away with her daughter, leaving no clues behind. As the story progresses, more things go missing and the main character becomes the main suspect. An intriguing story and a quick read, I would recommend this book to people who want to have a little fun and just go along for the ride. The number 42 does crop up a lot and gives you the chills a bit near the end, so I wouldn’t suggest reading it alone in the dark on a stormy night where something or someone could hop out and kill you…

Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
Some people claim that this is the best book ever written. And I have to say, that I really enjoyed reading it! Books published in its time period (and the ones translated from a different language, not less!) are usually difficult to read, but I found Anna Karenina surprisingly easy to read. The characters are very well developed, and the plot is twisty and exciting. And am I the only one who found it humorous? I wouldn't say it's the best novel ever written, but I have to agree that it is one of the best.

Publish This Book - Stephen Markley
Frustrated with the publishing industry, having written and pitched many stories to no avail, college student and writer Stephen Markley decided to write a memoir about trying to publish a book; the peculiar idea, however, was that the very memoir he was writing would be the book he was trying to publish. While Markley essentially wrote the book about writing the book, the events in his life quickly and cleverly became the main plot as he revealed the naivety and determination of youth that border on hubris. This is just about the funniest book I have ever read.

Conspiracies – F. Paul Wilson
Repairman Jack is back searching for a missing conspiracy theorist and uncovering some alien conspiracies on the way. I’m not sure why I’ve continued to read this series except for that I don’t like to stop reading something I’ve already started. The character Jack doesn’t seem all that interesting to me. In fact, the author goes out of his way to explain that Jack is normal in every sense of the word, except of course for the whole bad ass thing. But everyone seems to like the books, so I’ll keep reading and maybe the ending of the series will be awesome.

The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula K. le Guin
Blog Book Club book for this month!

Herzog – Saul Bellow
As I was reading this I kept feeling as though I’d read it before. Maybe I have. It’s a semi-autobiographical novel about a writer having his midlife crisis. Interesting and entertaining.

Blog Book Club: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

Ethnologist Genly Ai travels to the planet of Gethen to try to convince the planet to join the Ekumen ally system. This planet is always freezing cold, but the thing Genly finds the hardest to get accustomed to is the inhabitants’ gender identities. Everyone there is androgynous, except during their mating cycle, the only time they can reproduce. They can become either male or female during this time, and can even be the opposite during a different cycle, depending on their mate. After living on the planet for a few years, Genly begins to fall into some sort of love with a Gethenian named Estraven, which he, a perpetual male, finds a bit disconcerting.

The main theme of this novel, I believe, is duality. Being cold all year round and holding androgynous inhabitants, Gethen seems to Genly to be, well, a bit one sided. However, as he learns new things along his journey there, he realizes that on his planet, where they have changing seasons and stagnant genders, there is more violence and confusion, Gethen being essentially more dual than his home planet. As a man in love with an androgen, Genly is apprehensive, but during Estraven’s mating cycle, he finally realizes that “he was a woman as well as a man,” the most dual anyone can be, really.

As for the title, “The Left Hand of Darkness” refers to a Gethenian poem written in the novel, in which light is the left hand of darkness and darkness is the right hand of light. More duality. Woohoo.

Ursula K. Le Guin is considered a feminist science fiction writer, and I suppose this book, while the narrator is a man, is a feminist work. “Estraven” isn’t far off from “estrogen” after all. Le Guin also wrote The Dispossessed, a novel about anarchy, and The Lathe of Heaven, in which a man’s dreams come true, literally. I’m totally not a fan of science fiction, but I rather enjoyed The Lathe of Heaven and dare I say the other two as well. I think you may too.

So, for those of you who have read The Left Hand of Darkness, what did you think of it?

Peace, Aimee

Peace and Change

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Peace Blogfest this week! I hope everyone had a wonderful Peace Day. I have to share with everyone this amazing post from Wednesday, written by Sam de la Pena. If you have the time, it’s definitely worth the read.

Now, if you remember, I said I would be making some changes to my blog starting in October. This is due to my changing schedule and my non-changing personality. I want to make my blog more interactive because I love hearing what you amazing people have to say instead of me writing blog posts and putting them up. I usually can't think of much to write in them anyway, but I just can't shut this blog down; it's become a part of my daily life.

This doesn't mean I'm going to stop posting regular posts. If I've written something that I feel I really need to share, of course I will share it with you, but it will be more informal and less scheduled. Less pressure on me that way.

I will be hosting several events every month. Here are the few that I have planned so far, and as I develop my other ideas, I will be sure to share them with you:

Theme of the Month
– Each month will have a theme (announced on the first day of the month) around which all discussions and events will be centered. Unless something important comes up anyway.

Blog Book Club
– On the second day of the month, I will announce a book that I will be reading and posting about at the end of the month. You can read the book and post about it yourself on the same day (much like a blogfest) or just join in on the discussion in the comments section. The book will, of course, have something to do with the theme of the month.

Monthly Writing Contest
- I will be hosting a writing contest every single month! I've held two contests before, and I really enjoyed it. I will give you a writing prompt, and you can email me your submission before the deadline. The winner will have their submission posted on my blog, I will link to their blog, and they will receive a terrific prize! The contest, also, will correspond with the month’s theme, and it will be announced on the third day of the month.

Books I Read This Month - This is not really an interactive thing, but at the end of the month, I will posting a list and description of the books I read over the course of the month. You can tell me what you thought of the books if you've read them before, or you can use the list as a suggestion for books to read in the future! You can also share in the comments section the books you read this month.

Discussions – These are pretty much regular blog posts that I will put up if I, uh, write them. They will pertain to the theme, and this will hopefully get me thinking on the topic and get me actually writing a thought-provoking blog post. These will be sporadic…

So there you go! I hope you're as excited as I am for the changes!

Peace, Aimee

Peace Through Connection

An understanding that despite all differences, we're really all the same, is the most important thing to have to achieve peace. If only one person or a small group of people know about Peace Day or even think peace is plausible, then the chances of us reaching a peaceful state are practically nil.

To connect with other people and to spread the word about peace, this is why I hosted the Peace Blogfest. If we connect with other people, no matter their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, likes or dislikes, or anything that makes them different, and if we focus on the things that make us similar, make us human — our ability to think, to feel emotion — then we are one step closer to creating a peaceful world.

Peace, Aimee

Peace Through Tolerance and Non-Violence

I live in a fairly racially-uniform town, so I grew up without much diversity around me. However, at around the age ten, when I started understanding the things said on the news, I was a bit cultured shocked at the violence that goes on throughout the world. While I'd never seen in person an altercation between people of different races or religions, it was strange for me to realize that these things actually happened. And I didn't understand.

I went to Catholic church as a child while most of my friends were Protestant or Lutheran, or any of the other variety of Christian there is in the world. No one especially cared much about this, at least not until middle school, when puberty hits and tweens begin rebelling against their parents, analyzing other kids to see who they should hang out with and what they should become. I'd like to say I didn't do this, and compared to many people, I hardly did, but there were some aspects of my childhood that I wanted to shy away from. When I told people I was Catholic, they winced a little, then they laughed a little, then they started to poke a little fun. But why? Maybe there's a stigma there, and maybe we break the bread a little differently, but essentially we're the same. We live by the same rules: don't kill, don't lie, respect your parents. Soon, this began to get in my head a bit. Like most kids at that sensitive age, I questioned my upbringing, and soon, at around the age of fourteen, I decided that I was no longer a Christian. I acknowledge my childhood in church, but to this day, I still don't feel like Christianity is what I believe. And guess what, even if I don't believe what the Christian doctrine believes, I still don't kill people, I don't lie, and I (try to) respect my parents. Instead of prayer and church and bread and wine, I do yoga, I'm a vegetarian, and I write.

Looking back, I can see my desire to belong, the same desire that children and teenagers, and adults as well (since I'm entering that realm now), all harbor. I understand, and even laugh at a little, that my story has nowhere near the level of intolerance that people experience on a day to day basis in this world. I've lived a lucky life so far, all things considering. However, from the religious disputes in the UK (Protestants and Catholics) to the Anti-Islamic issues we deal with in the US (they've got enough problems with violence in the Middle East without us judging them for their beliefs), from discrimination against blacks and Hispanics to the lack of effort in helping those in need (starvation in Africa, the homeless, the mentally ill), there is an obvious problem with violence and intolerance in this world.

This problem, the biggest problem and the one that most immediately needs resolving, does not consist of groups pinned against each other. This is a personal problem. Wars are waged in the hearts of man, not in a religious system or in the biology of one's skin. If we resolve our personal issues and prejudices, we can then work to resolving the issues around us. World peace must begin with inner peace. :)

Peace, Aimee

Peace Through Art

Here is a picture I drew (in my childish hand) that shows the connection between humans, revealing how peace is not just possible but it's also necessary.

And here is a poem I wrote entitled "Infant Dreams." It sounds a bit dystopian, but it how I see the world (in particular America) in it's present condition. It reveals how a culture can shape a mind into thinking a certain way, in this case, shaping an innocent child with so much potential into a soldier, who fights for his country even if he does not honestly believe in what he's fighting for. If we focus on peace, however, I think we can change this and make the world a better place for the children of the future. Note: I'm not trying to be politically controversial here, so don't mention that, please... :)

Infant Dreams

What child is this who cries in such a sing-song way,

as if the knowledge of life's true intention is perched upon its lips,

as if Jack Kerouac's ghost sits on its shoulder whispering "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."

But staying in a place once delicate but now a hardened soul appeals to no one,

the world kidnapping and brainwashing its fragile infant mind.

What soldier is this who huddles in the darkness,

snuggles close to his fellow sqaudron brother as the rockets fire in the distance;

the cursed concept that dragged them from their mothers' arms

nags and snaps and bites at their hearts and their wallets.

Something sinister slithers and sneaks its way into a child's brains,

driving out the precious infant dreams

and replacing them with American nightmares.

Preparing for Peace

Peace Blogfest starts Monday!

Here's the link if you need a reminder participants and those of who would like to sign up (you still can)!

Peace, Aimee

P.S. Here is a picture of all the books I bought from Borders in the past few weeks. Sad to see it go. :(

P.P.S. (or P.S.S. whatever it is) Sorry I'm posting on a Sunday instead of Friday like I was supposed to! I had a busy week: job interview (got it!), laptop died (bought a new one!), car died (still working on that...), lots of school stuff, and, well, that's enough excuses... Have a nice weekend, er, day. See you tomorrow for Peace Blogfest Day One: Peace Through Art.

Writing About Reading About Writing About Reading

And you get to read about it!

Here is the first paragraph of my Introduction to Literature textbook:

“Many people read literature for pleasure. Many others read literary works mainly to satisfy academic requirements. Duty and pleasure, however, are not mutually exclusive. And so, even though you may be reading the literature in this book to fulfill course assignments, you may find yourself enjoying at least some of the work you read here. One of the purposes of this chapter is to introduce you to some of the pleasures literature offers.”

Oh the irony.

They might as well just say 'This book is going to suck all the fun out of literature. You may never read a book again.'

The best part about reading this textbook, though, is that while I am reading about what is fun about reading, I am having fun making fun of it.


Peace, Aimee

DiYanni, Robert. Literature: Approaches to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. 2nd ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2008.

List of Peace Blogfest September 2011 Participants

Here is the list of people who have signed up for the Peace Blogfest so far. You can still sign up until 18 September 2011, so please, go here and sign up!

You can use this list to follow the participants or to read their posts when the 19th-21st arrives!

Emily Henard at Owls In Trees
Hektor Karl at After Troy
Caitlin Nicoll at Logically
J.C. Martin at Fighter Writer
L.G. Smith at Bards and Prophets
Jennifer Hoffine at YA Audiobook Addict
Trisha at WORD+STUFF
S.B. Stewart-Laing at Writing the Other
Sam de la Pena at Sam de la Pena
msmouse7 at Ms. Mouse Cleans House
Lorna at Lorna's Voice

And me, of course!

Peace, Aimee

That Old Experiment?

If you may recall from the middle of August, I took a week long vacation and called it an experiment. But it's been a while since then, so I guess it's about time I elaborate on what I meant by 'experiment.'

I tried for a week not to look at my blog, not to even click on the page, because I was getting a bit overwhelmed by everything going on in my life, and my blog was one of the first things I thought I could handle cutting out to remove stress. But I couldn't help myself. Blogging, reading other peoples' blogs, and stuff like that has become part of my life. Like I said, constant output, since I'm doing this just for fun and there's really nothing in it for me, is kind of difficult. It's pressure placed upon me by myself, but it's pressure nonetheless. But I don't think I could shut down this blog, so I've decided to make some changes to it.

September is just about the busiest month for me, in my real life, my digital life, and my writing life. I have something planned for almost every day on this blog for this month, including the Peace Blogfest, which I'm super excited for! However, October is practically empty, which worried me at first until I officially decided to change things up around here.

Instead of a regular blog, posting article-type things three days a week like normal bloggers do, I've decided to make my blog more interactive. I've started up that Blog Book Club, which I hope more people will join, and I've done a couple contests. There are more things in store for followers to participate in, and October will be the trial month in which I see if my idea will actually work.

That's all for now, but I will be keeping you updated on the changes as I organize everything!

Have a nice weekend!

Peace, Aimee

P.S. I will be posting the list of the Peace Blogfest participants on Monday, so sign up this weekend to get your blog on the list! Thanks so much to those who are participating! You have no idea how much it means to me that people out there are supporting and spreading the word about world peace! Thank you!

First Campaigner Challenge

It's time for the first Campaigner Challenge of the Third Writers' Platform-Building Campaign! Here is a description of the challenge...

Write a short story/flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, including a poem. Begin the story with the words, “The door swung open” These four words will be included in the word count.

If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional), use the same beginning words and end with the words: "the door swung shut." (also included in the word count)

For those who want an even greater challenge, make your story 200 words EXACTLY!

And here is a link to the challenge page...

I managed to get my story to exactly 200 words! Here it is. I hope you like it!

Peace, Aimee

The door swung open.
“Get up.”
My weak legs wouldn’t let me.
“Get up,” he repeated.
“I can’t.” The sound came out a raspy squeak.
He gripped my arm with his huge hand and yanked me to my feet. A yelp of pain escaped my cracked lips. The cement was like spikes on my blistering soles.
He didn’t say another word, but I didn’t care where he took me. Nowhere could be worse than here.
Down the hallway he dragged me, passing dozens of doors identical to the one I had been staring at for months. At the end was another door, which he ripped open, revealing the sizzling heat and the blaring sun.
He shoved me out. I stumbled and fell, scorching my naked body in the desert sand.
“Go,” he said. “We don’t need you anymore.”
It took all my strength to roll onto my back and look up at the man who had been torturing me for all those weeks. And the others too.
“That’s all?” I managed to say.
He stared at me like I was an animal, looking into me with those dark eyes, and I looked back into the oblivion.
The door swung shut.

Blog Book Club September 2011

The first Book Club was fun, and I thought it was great hearing what people had to say, so I'm going to do it again this month!

Over the course of September, read The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. le Guin and post about it or join the discussion in the comments section on Wednesday 28 September 2011.

Peace, Aimee

Books I Read This Month - August 2011 (Plus Peace Stuff)

In my Peace Blogfest post I said that you should sign up before 31 August 2011, which is today. However, I think the deadline is kind of lame. I'm letting people continue to sign up until the blogfest starts. Hopefully more people will join! Please join if you can, and spread the word anyway if you can't! Thanks so much to all the supporters!

I am going to post a list of everyone who signed up, plus the link to their blog, on Monday 12 September 2011. I will add to the list if more people sign up after the 12th. You can follow the participants or just use the list as a reference to read the Peace Blogfest posts when the time comes.

Here are the books I read this month. (Bold means I loved it!)

S. - John Updike
In interesting book written in the form of letters to and from the main character, a 40-something woman who leaves her husband and moves into a ashram. I thought it was good, and I felt smart reading it and knowing all the terms since I do yoga. :)

The End - Salvatore Scibona
Beautifully written! The characters are well drawn out, but the plot of the story was a little confusing to me and sort of slow. Very literary.

Oblivion - David Foster Wallace
A few short stories and novellas by the one and only David Foster Wallace. My favorite was the one entitled "The Soul is Not a Smithy," in which a teacher goes crazy at the front of the classroom.

V for Vendetta - Alan Moore (art by David Lloyd)
I'd already seen the movie a while back, but I had to read the comic because the movie was so good... I started reading it at 11 pm one night and couldn't put it down. I didn't get much sleep that night, but it was totally worth it. If you haven't heard of this, read it. If you've seen the movie but haven't read the comic, read it. If you've read the comic but haven't seen the movie, watch the movie. Yeah.

Already Dead - Denis Johnson
I really enjoyed this book. It's dark humor, with lots of drugs and sex and murder and ghosts and stuff. It may be morbid, but I really love books like that. It's not mindless, of course; the drugs and sex and violence all have a purpose in the story. It's the kind of thing I would like to write, but whenever I try to write that kind of stuff, I get all embarrassed.

Hamlet - Shakespeare
I'm really not sure why I decided to read this at this time. But Shakespeare, why not? I don't have anything to say about it that hasn't already been said before, though, so I won't say anything else. My favorite line? "Get thee to a nunnery!" Made me laugh out loud, even though in context it isn't funny. "Conscious does make cowards of us all" is another amazing line. Also, here is a clip of the brilliant David Tennant as Hamlet because I love him.

All the Pretty Horses - Cormac McCarthy
This was the book club book for the month! Here is my post about it.

The Lacuna - Barbara Kingsolver
A Mexican-American communist writer during the Red Scare? I think yes! Plus Diego Rivera and Leon Trotsky as characters. Beautiful language too and a great message about art and freedom.

Legacies - F. Paul Wilson
Next book in the Repairman Jack series. Donated Christmas presents stolen from AIDS orphans? How mean! Jack's got to save the day again. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading this book, and not just because it's a fast-paced thriller. The hero of the series, Jack, had to take on oil company terrorists. Sounds like a prejudice, stereotyping meanie thing on the surface (and Wilson calls one guy 'The Arab' which bothered me quite a bit; people should not be defined by their race) but it's not. There was definitely potential for it to go sour, but thankfully the author did not commit any terrible acts of racism, for which I was relieved.

Great Apes - Will Self
One of the weirdest books I've read in a while. This painter wakes up one morning and everyone are apes and thinks he's crazy for believing he is a human. Very odd and very Will Self-ish (more drugs, sex, and rock and roll; I know, right, with apes?) but funny.

Blog Book Club: All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy is well-known for his writing style. He does not use quotation marks or commas very often, and most of his sentences are short and to the point. However, the writing is brilliant, especially description. The very first sentence of this novel — "The candleflame and the image of the candleflame caught in the pierglass twisted and righted when he entered the hall and again when he shut the door." — draws a specific picture that creates a distinct atmosphere. The next few sentences of the first paragraph describe the main character's attire and stance in a way that is appealing, not just listing his clothing or what he looks like. McCarthy has a unique way of setting the scene, and he continues this crafty language all throughout the novel.

When it comes to the characters in this novel, John Grady Cole, Rawlins, and Blevins are all teenagers, yet they travel alone in Mexico with weapons and such. The setting, time and place, allow for this without confusion or surprise, and McCarthy really pulls it off. I think, though, that this story is more about the situation than the characters. John Grady, the main character, is the best wrought, but the novel to me did not seem to be very character driven.

I have to be honest and say I couldn't really get into this book. Westerns really aren't my thing, so don't blame me if I'm not so keen on the plot of this novel. It is the first in a trilogy, and I will definitely be reading the other two books, but they aren't really at the top of my list.

Theme-wise, I didn't get much from this book, but I think I was focused on other things. If I re-read this book, I might like it a bit more and might be more interested in the characters and such, so I may have to do that eventually.

I wish my first Book Club blog post were better and more thorough, but I sort of wrote this a bit last minute. I hope you who have read this book enjoyed it, and I hope my blog readers participate in the next Blog Book Club here, which will take place in September. Stay tuned!

For those of you who have read All the Pretty Horses, what did you think of it? I would love to hear your opinions!

Peace, Aimee

Third Writers' Platform-Building Campaign

I know I'm supposed to be on a blogging vacation, but I just had to post today to announce that I will be participating in the Third Writers' Platform-Building Campaign! Here is the link explaining what it is. You should join in too!

Peace, Aimee

An Experiment

I've been thinking a lot lately about blogging. Having a schedule here, posting Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, has done a lot of good for me, since I don't a have a job and my college schedule is super sporadic. A schedule is something I need in my life; that's just the way my personality is. Without one I'd go crazy not having someone tell me what to do. Big open spaces are daunting to me.

But as you can tell by the content of my blog (blogger burnout in June, forgetting to post on Wednesday this week [sorry about that :)]) constant output is something that is very difficult for me, at least at this point in my life. If I were getting paid to blog, though, that would be a different story. But I'm not, so...

This is why I put up contests and started that Book Club thing. To have something to keep me here. It's not the words I write and the ideas I write about that keep me writing, it's the people that read the words and ideas and respond to them.

I know I've taken a lot of mini vacations from blogging recently. But I need to do a little experiment here. I will be taking another mini vacation from blogging in the next week. I will be back on Monday 29 August 2011 with the Book Club post about All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy. And I promise that I won't be taking any time off in September. After that, though, I can't promise anything. We'll have to see when we get there. I must say this, though: I will not be shutting down my blog. There just may be some changes later on in October.

See you in a week!

Peace, Aimee

No Borders

I'm one of those annoying people who hates change. I order the same meals whenever I go out to eat. I've had the same haircut for about four years. I can walk into my house and immediately spot if something is different. I'm so stubborn and OCD, I'd probably drive you mad.

I've really been trying lately not to live by a schedule, to just go with the flow, but I'm epically failing at it. But there have been so many changes in my life in the past few weeks, and there will be more in the weeks to come.

To embrace or not to embrace. That is the question.

I'm at that transition age in which I am supposed to get a job, move out of the house, all that good stuff, but in addition to the sociological stress that this period of my life places upon me, I have to deal with other people changing as well, and other things around me moving and shifting and appearing and disappearing.

My favorite store, Borders, is closing. First of all, for me, this means that there is only one book store in my town, and it has an awful selection. I can always buy books online, but I'm impatient when it comes to shipping. And secondly, I am terrified of what these means for the future of books.

The argument over paper books versus ebooks, it seems, has begun to come to a close. I am struggling with this immensely. I've always felt that holding a book in my hands is one of the biggest parts of appreciating the art of writing. Reading from a screen takes some of the artistic value of language out of it for me.

Plus it gives me headaches.

A technological society is something we must think about now (not like we haven't been thinking about it for at least the past century). We are on the eve of a new era. After watching all this Doctor Who lately, I am wary of what may happen to us, as individuals, as a culture, and as human beings.

To embrace or not to embrace. The force of this change has convinced me to embrace (though I won't be buying a Kindle any time soon). However, we must be cautious as we embrace the future. Do not lose sight of what humanity is all about. Do not let technology dehumanize people. In all those science fiction books and movies (and TV shows) dehumanization and corruption of power (as well as environmental issues, oh there are so many moving parts!) are evident. Let's not let our excitement get out of hand...

Without Borders, there are no borders! Anything can happen in the future, let's just make sure they are good things. :)

Peace, Aimee

Blog Book Club August 2011

I got an idea the other day, and I think it might be a good idea.

A blog book club!

I will try it out this month and see how it goes, and if it works out, maybe it'll become a monthly thing.

This month, the book is All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy. I haven't read it yet, and I'm looking forward to it. On Monday 29 August 2011, the book club discussion will take place. On that day, post about this book! It will be sort of like a blogfest. Your post can be in the form of a review, your impressions of the book, analysis of the theme, discussion of the characters or something that stuck out to you, or anything of the sort!

I hope you join in with me in reading All the Pretty Horses this month and discussing it on Monday 29 August 2011!

Peace, Aimee

P.S. Note the tabs I added at the top of the page! I hope it makes navigation easier, not like there's much to navigate through...

My Beginning Story: When Harry Lost His Mind

Here is the story I wrote based on my own beginning paragraph writing prompt...

When Harry Lost His Mind

Harry had nothing better to do than to sit and watch television. His wife had left him three months ago, and she took with her their sixteen year old son and twelve year old daughter. Harry hadn't published anything in the past two years and his royalty checks would soon be coming to an end. And last but certainly not least, he was beginning to think that he was losing his mind.

He came to the conclusion that he had gone insane on a gloomy Sunday afternoon. He had just hung up from speaking to his daughter on the telephone. She had gotten on the honor roll and her mother had bought her a pet rabbit, but she had not made it on the eighth grade basketball team. Harry did not speak to his son. He was not home but at his friend's house, practicing in his garage band.

After Harry hung up the phone, he grabbed a beer, turned on the television, and sat down in his lazy-boy chair. This had become his ritual on a Sunday afternoon. But this time was different. This time he spontaneously went insane.

He was watching a football game. A player threw the ball, but instead of another player catching it, Harry caught it. The ball flew out of the screen and landed right in Harry's lap. He was shocked. He was appalled. He was utterly confused.

He sat there frozen for what seemed like hours but for what was actually only about fifteen seconds. He stared out into space, looking at nothing, seeing nothing. When he snapped out of it, realizing that there was a football in his hands for which there was no plausible reason how it got there, his eyes flicked back to the TV screen. Instead of a football game, the television displayed an unusual image of a purple creature dancing around, though there was no music playing.

Harry narrowed his eyes, trying to make sense of the thing he was seeing. He'd never seen this creature before in his life. That was the first thought that come to his mind. The second, which took a few moments before it arrived, was a thought of terror. He had not touched the remote, yet the TV had changed. And this was definitely not a commercial.

After another dozen or so seconds, his focus finally returned to the football in his hands. He moved his gaze to it, but as he removed his eyes from the TV screen, the world around him became distorted. Everything was swirls of color. It reminded him of the LSD trip he had taken in the seventies.

He stood up, but he thought he was going to vomit, so he sat back down. He looked into the kitchen at the telephone. If he could walk over to it, he would phone emergency. He needed a doctor as soon as possible. But his legs felt like rubber. He couldn't stand. The colors twisted and twirled around him. He lost feeling in his hands; he could no longer feel the football he held. The purple creature continued to dance.

Then the phone rang.

It all stopped.

The creature disappeared and the football game returned to the screen, the ball included. Everything returned to normal. It was as if nothing happened.

The telephone rang again. Harry jerked up out of his lazy-boy and scrambled to the kitchen. He answered it. It was his estranged wife. She said that his son was home now and wanted to speak to him. He told her to put him on. She did, and he could tell by the sound of his son's voice that his mother had left the room. He was quiet and calm and relaxed.

"Hello Dad."

"Hello son."

"Um, I have a question."


"Do you believe in God?"

"Wow, this is out of nowhere."

"I know, but I was thinking, Mom said that you don't believe in God. She said that's part of why you guys split up."

Harry tried to think for a moment, but no thoughts came to his mind. Then he tried to think of a reason why he couldn't think, but still there was nothing.

"I don't know why she would say that," he said. "I do believe in God."

"Oh, okay. That's all I wanted to know. Bye, Dad."

"Bye son."

Harry hung up the phone and returned to his lazy-boy. He flicked off the television, closed his eyes, and enjoyed the silence. There was nothing there in his brain, but the funny thing was that he liked it. He had finally lost his mind.

And the Winner of the Beginning Contest Is...

Jaye Viner!

Congratulations Jaye! You can email me your 1000 word excerpt for a critique to whenever you'd like.

Here is Jaye's story.

Inspiration is a Wasp

Harry had nothing better to do than to sit and watch television. His wife had left him three months ago, and she took with her their sixteen year old son and twelve year old daughter. Harry hadn't published anything in the past two years and his royalty checks would soon be coming to an end. And last but certainly not least, he was beginning to think that he was losing his mind.

In the final moment of clarity he would see concerning the marriage, he said to the television, “The kids should have been in charge. They were so sensible compared to what he taught them about their intended modus operandi, filled with lessons on pop culture, the prosperity gospel, and the innate class of the practiced spendthrift. His son had a penchant for second hand stores and frequent libraries. He said it was better for the environment. Harry had wanted to say, “Your generation is why my last book didn’t get its second run.”

He has lunch with both children in the Old Towne and jokes about his nasty new status as single man with a growing beer gut friendly only with the screen on the living room wall. Neither of them find it funny. “Why are you worried?” asks his daughter. “You can’t force art,” says his son. Somewhere in the middle of the meal the topic had shifted to writing. Harry hadn’t noticed. He wanted to fight back at them, tempted to assert his fatherly authority by listing various modern works of art written by formulae and standard outline. “Inspiration is as fleeting as a wasp.”

This draws a chuckle from his son but she looks eager to understand the mysterious analogy. “What does it mean?” She’s trying to trap me in my own words, thinks Harry. He had watched ten days straight of General Hospital and his world had been transformed by the reality that words made every good looking man guilty of something. No doubt her teachers told her to think for herself and not believe her parents. Imminent divorce shoots a hole the size of a prize club medallion in a father’s credibility.

As a sane man, Harry would be able to attach meaning to even the most unlikely pithy saying, as the one above. But today he was incapable of making the last step into logical conclusion. Even his thoughts were rebelling. It should have been, a hole the size of a cannon shot, but prize club medallion sounded better, just as wasp sounded better than whatever else might have gone there.

After lunch Harry continues over the words he has that continuously organizes themselves into less than adequate sayings of a learned author. Inspiration always has meaning—no. Absolutes do not exist. Inspiration exists as a sentient being, always present. For all practical purposes, it was this being that turned Harry from a sane, once married writer into an insane, imminently-divorced, failed writer. Driving home he starts seeing signs like a dyslexic. Letters are confused rather than words misplaced.



What was that store? He turns to look back and bumps into the curb scaring the lice off a scurvy Mormon drinking Mountain Dew. They stare at each other as men in this country do, as men since the beginning of time have done—size each other up, decide if the offense is worth the fight, take up arms, or go quietly on his way. The odds were not good. “Lone Mormon battles Toyota Camry in ancient blood feud.” Harry tries on the words not trusting himself. He tries them on with a Middle English accent and sees the broad sword lying next to him in the passenger seat. It’s not wearing a seat belt. No, thinks Harry, it should be modern, relevant to these dark ages.

The wasp stings. It had cut itself on the sword and its dying act avenges its life on Harry’s neck with the first of many moments of clarity for his writing. “The Lone Mormon, A Crisis of Faith.” He drives home and writes for the rest of the day well into the night with the dead wasp unnoticed stuck to his neck.

Books I Read This Month - July 2011


I had a bit of time this month to read, and I made sure to read a lot to catch up on my 100 books in a year goal. I'm going to have lots of reading time in August too! I'm glad...

Notes from Underground Anthology - The Literary Lab
The Notes from Underground Anthology is a compilation of short stories, poems, and pictures by twenty-five wonderful writer winners of a contest hosted by The Literary Lab last year. There is amazing variety in this collection, and all of it is well-written, inspiring, and fun.

Misery - Stephen King
Ah, Stephen King. Whenever I read his books, I just feel like writing, especially when I read a book of his involving a writer character. This was a great book about a writer who is kidnapped and held captive by his number one fan, who forces him to write a book especially for her. Quite disturbing, but very fun.

Anthem - Ayn Rand
This is a sort of science fiction story about a man living in a communist society. I wrote a bit about Ayn Rand recently, here.

Post Office - Charles Bukowski
Semi-autobiographical and witty, I liked this book. It was a quick read. It's about the life of a post office worker... I can see how it would not be for everyone, but the author is well known and a great writer, so maybe you'd like it...

The Storm - Frederick Buechner
This is an odd book, based loosely on The Tempest. It is about a man, whose young lover died while giving birth to their child. I wasn't quite in the reading mindset when I read this, so I may have to go to the library and check it out again... Eventually...

Yellow Dog - Martin Amis
Another Martin Amis, one of my favorite authors, and this book did not disappoint. A man gets hit on the head and becomes violent and stuff (I'm so eloquent), and there is a scandal involving a British princess involved. It was interesting and entertaining. But also a bit disturbing, of course, considering that is a Martin Amis novel.

The Plague - Albert Camus
A fictional account of bubonic plague in the 1940s in Algeria, taking place of the course of many months. Exsistentialist/absurdist, this novel was intriguing, with great character development as the doctor and the community suffer through the plague and its effects. Pretty cool, well written, Albert Camus. Yeah.

God Bless You Mr. Rosewater - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
A lawyer tries to prove insane the drunken firefighter philanthropist, Eliot Rosewater, so his relative can gain control of his company. Kurt Vonnegut has this gift of making things that sound boring turn into exciting adventures. In other books of his, he can make wired things that don't make any sense exciting adventures. I'm not sure exactly what this book, or any of his others really besides Slaughterhouse-Five, is actually about, but it was witty, so, go ahead and read it if you want.

The Touch - F. Paul Wilson
I suppose this series is growing on me. As I said before when I read the first and second books in this series, I was wary to begin because I don't really trust my mother's taste in books, but my dad liked it too, so I decided to give it a try. It is a series of more than fifteen books, and I've officially decided now to read all of them, but obviously not consecutively. This book, The Touch, is about a doctor who discovers one day that he can heal people by touching them, like a faith healer. The writing, as it is in Wilson's other books, is simple but suspenseful. I don't love it, but I'll admit that I like it.

The Island at the End of the World - Sam Taylor
A sort of post-apocalyptic novel about a father and his three children trapped on an island after the great flood. Kind of pretentious, but it was still good.

How the Dead Live - Will Self
Sex, drugs, rock and roll, and dying of cancer. My kind of book! This is a good book by a good author, sort of a story about death, but mostly a story about life. I recommend you read it if you are looking for a laugh, but prepare yourself for some disconcerting scenes as well.

The Almost Moon - Alice Sebold
I seem to have read mostly emotional, disturbing novels this month... This book is about a woman who kills her mother. It takes place over the course of one day. I read The Lovely Bones, by the same author, last year, and I thought it was amazing. This was just as good.

The Object of Objectivism

I just finished reading Anthem by Ayn Rand. I've read her before: The Fountainhead, and her book on the craft of writing. She has an intriguing philosophy that people have discussed and argued and studied to death. Well guess what? I'm going to discuss it more.

There are some things I agree with and some I do not in Objectivism, Ayn Rand's philosophy. Here are her basic major points:

1. Reality - The world is as it is. We cannot change physics; we can only perceive.
2. Reason - Man is a rational being. There is no 'God' or fate.
3. Self-interest - The 'meaning of life' so to speak is to be the best you can be for yourself.
4. Capitalism - We as individuals must work for our keep.

As I read her books, I noticed that her characters were ambitious and, to an extent, emotionless. With these two characteristics (obviously they had more than just these two) they fit right into Rand's philosophy. They worked hard day and night to make money and do science and stuff (how elegantly worded, Aimee), fending for themselves and rising to the top. They were happy with their success, and happiness is great. People should be happy.

However, the lack of empathy left the characters' lives (especially their love lives) a little dry and kind of sad, though they were rolling in dough and had high esteem from their colleagues and friends. The characters were driven by logic and reason, but they completely ignored their (and others') emotions. Their 'happiness' was more of a contentedness with their success in life and less of a love for their situation and result of their actions. You know, the way that normal, emotionally adjusted people are happy.

I agree with Ayn Rand about a few things: physics is unchangeable by human hands, man's decisions (rational or not) control the direction of his life, and the individual being is powerful, unique, and significant.

I do not, however, agree with her opinions regarding economy and society.

Yes, individuals should work for their own keep instead of being lazy and having everything done for them. But Ayn Rand's philosophy, in my opinion, supports and promotes selfishness. Our actions do affect the outcome of our life, but they affect other people as well. While we all only have this one life to live and should live it to its fullest, we should not disregard people less fortunate then ourselves. Capitalism is nice and all, because people can get super rich if they work hard enough, but there are people who physically or mentally cannot work, or they have different opinions of society, and they suffer for it.

Rand praises the individual and demotes altruism, leaving behind a world of self-absorbed nihilists. I agree that each and every unique person is worthy, but I disagree people should take advantage of others in order to obtain wealth and esteem. No one is better than anyone else, but we are all wonderful. We shouldn't let those who are selfish and ambitious rise above and hurt others emotionally on their way to the top. We should channel our determination and self-interest not toward a world where the strong and emotionally hard stomp all over the weak and vulnerable, but toward a world where everyone has a chance to be happy and receive what they deserve.

Let's help others instead of solely helping ourselves!

Peace, Aimee