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text 2015-11-29 21:20
Sock Poppet's 2015 Read-By-the-Month Reading Challenge ~ November Reads

This month's prompt:


November ~ Thanks a Lot! No, I Mean It!


This month you will read a book:

1 ~ where characters endure something they are not thankful for.

2 ~ where you are thankful you are not the characters.

3 ~ you are thankful you read.

4 ~ where characters are thankful for something.


Ok, so here go my books for November:

1 ~ where characters endure something they are not thankful for.

This describes most of my books:

The Mirror Cracked from Side to Side (Agatha Christie) - I would spoil the book if I described what the characters aren't thankful for but it does motivate the plot.

Trumpet (Jackie Kay) - was a phenomenal book about grief and people coming to terms with loss. One of the main characters is a rather selfish young man who in the course of the book has to examine his life - his anger towards his parents is expressed mostly in ingratitude.

2 ~ where you are thankful you are not the characters.

Again, so many books would fit but I'm going to have to go with

Out of Africa (Isak Dinesen/Karen Blixen) - simply because I cannot stand her.

3 ~ you are thankful you read.

Pretty much all books - again, but this month in particular

Trumpet (Jackie Kay)
Cha-Ching! (Ali Liebegott) - she writes the most humane characters. I love hanging out with them even if they all have their failings.

Public Libraries and other Stories (Ali Smith) - Smith pulled it off again in her latest book. There is one story in particular that threw me - it's where she describes a friend of hers who died of an illness as a valuable painting that has been stolen by art thieves. It is brilliant, moving, and totally out there (again, like most of her work).

(The short story is available for free here, btw: http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/fiction/2015/10/and-so-new-story-ali-smith)

4 ~ where characters are thankful for something.

Public Libraries and other Stories (Ali Smith) - see above, but what better way to pay tribute and be thankful for having known someone than to compare them to a work of art?

Run (Ann Patchett) - In an understated way, all the characters are thankful for who they are and what opportunities they have.

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text 2015-06-28 14:00
Sock Poppet's 2015 Read-By-the-Month Reading Challenge ~ July Prompts

July's Reading Challenge ~ Life's a Beach.

This month you will read a book:
1 ~ that is a good beach read.
2 ~ that takes place near a body of water.
3 ~ that you thought was all wet.
4 ~ where a character(s) drowns or almost drowns or a ship sinks.
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text 2015-05-28 14:00
Sock Poppet's 2015 Read-By-the-Month Reading Challenge ~ May
Altered - Jennifer Rush
Where The Lost Aprils Are - Elisabeth Ogilvie
Freddy the Detective - Walter R. Brooks,Kurt Wiese
Erased - Jennifer Rush
May's Reading Challenge ~ You May, But Should You?
1 ~ book with a character who does something wild
Altered / Jennifer Rush ~ 5/3/15
Anna breaks out of the lab below the farmhouse where she lives with the four genetically-altered boys her father was monitoring and treating. I think it would be fair to say that was doing something wild!
I loved this book and the second in the series (you'll see it in #4). I didn't read the final book, as I read some reviews that led me to believe it would not be as good as the first two. I've had that happen all too often, so I decided to stop reading while I still had a good feeling about the series.
2 ~ book with a character who does something you've always wanted to do, but haven't.

Where the Lost Aprils Are / Elisabeth Ogilvie ~ 5/16/15


Miriam takes a vacation in a small town in Maine to try to find links to her mother. I've always wanted to visit the east coast of the US and someday I plan to do it. I'll skip the drama in this book, though.

3 ~
book with a character who dares to be different

Freddy the Detective / Walter R. Brooks ~ 5/4/15  


A pig who turns detective? I'd say that qualifies as different!


I'd never heard of the Freddy the Pig series until someone mentioned it on an Amazon discussion. It's written for children, but don't let that stop you from enjoying these books. I've read the first two I could find (#3 and 4 in the series) and they are delightful. I've got #5 ready to start soon.

4 ~ book with a character who defies orders


Erased / Jennifer Rush ~ 5/9/15


As we saw in #1, Anna is not a character who spends her time on the straight and narrow. It's an exciting book with great characters.  

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review 2015-04-27 10:45
My Year of Meats
My Year of Meats - Ruth Ozeki

"I am haunted by all the things— big things and little things, Splendid Things and Squalid Things— that threaten to slip through the cracks, untold, out of history."


You know when you start a book and it speaks to your own experiences or thoughts at a particular point in time? If I had to pick a book to transport me back to the 1990s, My Year of Meats would be it.


The main character Jane Takagi-Little is tasked with directing a reality TV show for Japanese television and her brief has basically two features: 


1. The show is supposed to portray the all-American family; and 

2. Because the show is sponsored by the beef industry, it needs to have a central focus on foods - and predominantly, the consumption of quality meat.


So, she and her team set out on a journey across America to find the perfect participants for the show. Soon enough, Jane's disenchantment with the "beef is best" message of the show brings out her creative streak and instead of pleasing the producer's bigoted expectations of what a typical American family is, she sets out to put a dose of reality into "reality tv". 


"Screw the Beef. Lamb was Lovable, and I had just shot the most mouth-watering show of the season. And with that thought, I unbuckled my seat belt and walked to the lavatory at the back of the plane, closed the flimsy folding door behind me, and vomited into the metal toilet."


Jane sees herself as a "documentarian" and her aspiration is, on one hand, to record the times she lives in like the Japanese writer Shōnagon, and on the other to inspire someone by the results of her work.  


"Murasaki may not have liked her much, but I admire Shōnagon, listmaker and leaver of presumptuous scatterings. She inspired me to become a documentarian, to speak men’s Japanese, to be different. She is why I chose to make TV. I wanted to think that some girl would watch my shows in Japan, now or maybe even a thousand years from now, and be inspired and learn something real about America. Like I did."



As the story progresses, Jane manages to turn the show into a work of investigative journalism rather than light entertainment and discovers some aspects of the meat industry that she feels need to be made public - and if this happens in a program paid for by the meat industry even better!


"Fed on a media diet of really bad news, we live in a perpetual state of repressed panic. We are paralyzed by bad knowledge, from which the only escape is playing dumb. Ignorance becomes empowering because it enables people to live. Stupidity becomes proactive, a political statement. Our collective norm." 


I know, this sounds like My Year of Meats might be one of these books written by militant vegetarian out on a crusade, but it is actually a pretty well researched documentary about issues in cattle ranching and the meat industry in general of that particular time.


There is also so much more to the story. The meaty issues are really just a backdrop for Jane's journey of discovery - and self-discovery. And this other aspect presents herself in the form of Akiko. 


“Weird, huh? How someone just drops into your life like that. I mean, there we were, minding our own business. . . . What did we do to deserve her?”


Akiko is the wife of Jane's producer in Japan. The two have never met, but Akiko has been moved by Jane's documentary series, and, like Jane, she embarks on a journey of examining her life.


"But it was not just fear of his anger or even of getting hit. As she watched the sun set on the vast American landscape—“ Beefland!” the logo proclaimed— she realized that her tears had nothing whatsoever to do with John. These were tears of admiration for the strong women so determined to have their family against all odds. And tears of pity for herself, for the trepidation she felt in place of desire and for the pale, wan sentiment that she let pass for love."


I really enjoyed My Year of Meats. When a book sets out to be challenging but still remains a form of intelligent discourse, full of colourful wit and empathy, what's not to like? And when the book does all of this without trying to manipulate an opinion or drawing at your hear strings to evoke a response - yes, looking at you here J.S. Froer -  perfect! 


"I don’t think I can change my future simply by writing a happy ending. That’s too easy and not so interesting. I will certainly do my best to imagine one, but in reality I will just have to wait and see. For now, though, it is January again. Like Shōnagon, I have “set about filling my notebooks with odd facts, stories from the past . . . ,” or at least this past year, and “everything that I have seen and felt is included.” However, unlike Shōnagon, living in the Heian days, for whom modesty, however false, was still a prerequisite, I live at the cusp of the new millennium. Whatever people may think of my book, I will make it public, bring it to light unflinchingly. That is the modern thing to do."

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review 2015-04-12 09:54
Tennis My Way
Tennis My Way - Martina Navratilova,Mary Carillo

"I never used to concentrate on concentrating. The way I had it figured was that whenever I really needed to settle down and focus in for the match, all I had to do was turn it on. It was not long after this cherished belief was shattered that I learned the ugly truth about the Easter Bunny being a phony."


Tennis My Way was published in 1983. A lot of things have changed in the tennis world since then and you might expect that the book and the advice given is dated, but you would be surprised. Martina covers the basics, the fundamentals, the essentials, and reading the book I found I - quite naturally - compared her advice to the instructions I have been given over the years by various coaches and fellow players. (For the record, I only play recreationally, and not very well at that. I just like the sport.) Anyway, the advice pretty much still amounts to the same. So, reading this relatively short volume now, just over thirty years after it was written, was as informative as reading any current book. Of course, I'd rather read this one anyway simply because it was written by someone who has been somewhat of an inspiration.


Aside from explanations of how to train, how to prepare for matches, the psychology of play, and how holding the racket in different ways will impact on your shot (all with pictures), I also loved the personal asides that reveal some of her own story.

As mentioned, I have been a fan for many years. Not just of watching her play but also of her no-nonsense approach to, well, just about anything. 


"Choosing the proper frame is a highly individualistic business, one that requires a bit of experimentation. With so much to choose from these days in terms of racket size, weight, material, and balance, it becomes a question of what you alone find yourself most comfortable with. There seems to be too much emphasis placed on the brand names of rackets, and certainly on the prices. Do not buy a racket solely for status. A three- or four-hundred-dollar racket may not do a thing  for your game, but a forty-dollar racket may bring out your best tennis. If the racket you use gives you a sense of confidence, chances are it is just fine."


I think pricing of rackets may have changed since 1983, but the point remains the same.

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