31 July 2010


Locus Focus: Take Twelve!

Note that next Saturday is a Theme Challenge Day:
Write about a Subterranean Setting and link it up!

Well, I don't know about you, but I've just about had my fill of Family Homes! =P I started with Ramsey House, a home that matches its residents so well that is practically another character in their series. Then I looked at a home for children who had run away from home, noting how tellingly like a conventional, prosaic household their Home under the Ground turns out to be. Last week, I wrote my wordiest Locus Focus post ever on the most unromantic love nest in literature: the Wynand House, a home designed never to have room for children (and therefore, to foreshadow the end of the marriage). And now here I am with one last Family Home until the next time I care to think about houses again . . .

30 July 2010


Fairy Tales Facing Off on a Friday
(Inspired by a meme at This Miss Loves to Read)

Every Friday, you can choose a fairytale you love,
or simply find interesting or haunting,
and review it or simply say why you like it so much,
or why it has captured your attention.

There are at least three other blogs for whom Friday means (or has meant) fairytales rather than followers, but this is the first one with a meme that sings to me. So it's the first one I'm doing!

And because I'm kind of in smackdown mode at the moment, this post can't help the form it is taking . . .

28 July 2010


"Weird Al" Yankovic Song Smackdown Round 2
(Revisit Round 1--because it's where all the music is)

Well, it almost made our smackdown . . .

Let's have a mini face-off right now:
All about the Pentiums or White and Nerdy?

Be heard in the combox!

Here are the results of last week's very democratic Round 1 . . .

My Bologna vs. Spam ---> Winner: My Bologna

Eat It vs. I'm Fat ---> Winner: Eat It

Jurassic Park vs. The Saga Begins ---> Winner: The Saga Begins

Another One Rides the Bus vs. White and Nerdy ---> Winner: Another One Rides the Bus

Achy Breaky Song vs. Smells Like Nirvana ---> Winner: Smells Like Nirvana

Amish Paradise vs. Pretty Fly for a Rabbi ---> Winner: Amish Paradise

Don't Download This Song vs. E-bay ---> Winner: E-bay

The Carnival of the Animals -- Part Two vs. Harvey the Wonder Hamster & Weasel Stomping Day ---> Winner: The Carnival of the Animals -- Part Two

So. . . ready for our next round? (Of course you are!!!) =)

Round 2
The "Eat It" Eight

27 July 2010


Just One Teaser This Tuesday, Thanks
(Inspired by a meme at Should Be Reading)

Tempt yourself with this week's set of teasers . . .

I'm really starting to like this meme. It's a kind of exercise, really, to find two consecutive lines in a text that can perfectly (and honestly) tease the reader with the rest of the book. (Yes, the teasers are supposed to promote future reviews, but since I hardly ever do book reviews, my teasers are more likely to promote the books alone.)

The last time I did a Teaser Tuesday, I drew a parallel between these two lines and a person's two legs. It must have been subconsciously inspired by the two legs on the cover of that week's read.

And now, when I see two (prominent) legs on a cover, I want to find two (perfect) legs in the text . . .

26 July 2010


Catholic and Gooey Thought of the Week!
(Because being "Punk" all the time is exhausting)

If I had remembered earlier today that it is the Memorial of Sts. Anne and Joachim, then I would have delayed my post on Jaws: The Revenge and put this one up instead. But one personal peculiarity of mine is that I start my novena to St. Anne on her memorial rather than in anticipation of her memorial, and so the day itself sneaks up on me every year.

Besides, Shredded Cheddar is a place where the cheesy and the Catholic can co-exist.

The other night, I remembered a song from my childhood with a line about keeping a prayer in your pocket. (Sound familiar? Guess the title!) And I thought about the traditions of Catholic prayer making room for prayers of all sorts of sizes.

There is the Mass, of course, which is an hour-long prayer all Catholics are obligated to make every Sunday--no exceptions, thanks.

Then there is the Divine Office, which is big enough to wrap an entire day in; and therefore, big enough for all the days of the year; and ultimately big enough for all the days and years remaining before us until the end of the world.

Some big prayers are constructed out of little prayers, like the Rosary . . . and the Chaplet of St. Anne!

Perhaps the littlest prayers are the two-line aspirations which can be as simple as a saint's name and an Ora pro nobis.

Here are three of my favourite small-ish prayers, shared with you in celebration of this day . . .

3 Little Prayers
for Your Spiritual Pockets

Twelve Things about Jaws: The Revenge

12. The very mention of it will make one's stock go up in Horror and B-movie blogging circles. How could I not review it?

11. "It came for him. It waited all this time and then came for him." A shark that commits premeditated murder? Hey, why not? But a shark that somehow knows it has to stalk its prey from Amity Island all the way to the Bahamas? Prey that travels by land and by air? Even I have my B-movie credulity limits, thanks.

10. And well, okay, I'm a little upset about the tropical setting. For the first few minutes, I thought I was going to get a cozy Christmas-set creature feature. Christmas on Amity Island, people!!! The caroling children drowning out the screams of the first kill were priceless.

Yes, it's still set during Christmastide . . . but the main setting makes one wonder why they bothered at all.

9. And now for something that makes me glad I sat through the whole thing .. .

25 July 2010


Announcement: The "I Love My Friends" Giveaway!

The objective of this contest is to thank everyone who reads my posts, leaves comments, links up to my meme, and joins the games . . . which is kind of funny because only one person out of all of you will actually get anything at the end of it all, and that's only after I've made him work for it . . . but never mind. =P

Now, I'm not going to stop new readers from joining in, but as you will see when you scroll down and look over the ways you can gain extra entries, this is an interactive thing for the people who already show up. (Besides, think about it, mate: Crashing the party is one thing, but you still have an obligation to make nice after you get in.)

But before we look at the details, let's look at the prizes! My imagination and my funds being what they are, I'm offering different prizes but the winner will have to choose only one.

Cue cheesy 80s game show announcer voice . . .

24 July 2010


Locus Focus: Take Eleven!

In case you haven't noticed on the sidebar, the August theme of "Nature Settings" has been changed to "Subterranean Settings".

That was me throwing a spanner into all your carefully made plans.

But as I told someone whom the change flummoxed into the kind of squeaking audible only (perhaps) to dogs, I only do that when I don't think that anyone has made plans--much less carefully made plans.

I'd change it back except that I think it would be worse to do so. But we could have another themed week in the middle of August, for all your Nature Setting posts, if you like. Tell me off in the combox. It's only right that I know how I've messed up your blogging.

As for now, here is another runner up which didn't get to be my featured Family Home for our first Themed Challenge--a setting which, truth be told, never had a chance. If it came to mind at all, that was because it was the perfect anti-Family Home.

The following post is full of spoilers, by the way . . .

23 July 2010


Character Connection 11

Read about Jasper Fforde's Miss Havisham
(who is not exactly Charles Dickens' Miss Havisham)
and other charcters people have connected to this week!

A few days ago, I signed up for the Northanger Abbey Readalong at Reading with Tequila. The rules give participants a month to finish the novel; but as soon as I started, I couldn't stop and I polished off the story in three days. (My way of making up for being so late to the party, I guess?)

Next week or so, I'll give the book its own Reading Diary entry; in the meantime, it merits a Character Connection post.

22 July 2010


Meanwhile . . . in the Third Real World

Last month, I won a really great giveaway that, unfortunately for both the blogger who sponsored it and myself, just "wasn't meant to be." About a week after she mailed off the parcel, she got a call from her post office, asking her to pick it up again because it had been damaged and they didn't want to ship it abroad in that condition.

She was very apologetic when she told me of the news and of her decision not to risk sending the package again. Instead, she offered me an Amazon gift cheque worth the same amount of money as the prize pack (books and swag). And because I know that the sender is often more frustrated and disappointed than the receiver, when these things don't push through, I thanked her for letting me win anything in the first place and I accepted the second offer.

I have not linked to the blogger here or even mentioned her name because she might feel a little bad again if the whole story got back to her--which I want to avoid as much as possible. She was very kind and nothing that happened was her fault . . . and really, nobody is entitled to a giveaway, anyway, even if he wins it. But I am about to reveal something awfully Third Worldish about the place where I live, and I want to spare her a rueful, "Oh, if I had only known!"

21 July 2010


"Weird Al" Yankovic Song Smackdown!!! =D

And you thought I wouldn't be able to top the Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie Smackdown. (Admit it!) Oh, you readers of little faith . . .

It took me a while to figure out that the only respectable route to take after sixteen Schwarzenegger movies was that which leads to seventeen "Weird Al" Yankovic songs. (Yes, seventeen! Read on!)

The most redeeming aspect of Shredded Cheddar is that many of the features are interactive (which means that I'm not just talking to myself . . . although it sometimes seems that way); so I'm going to bring more of that into my brackets by allowing my readers to vote in not just the final round, but also the first!

Round 1 -- No randomisation: I pick the songs and pair them up, and you get to be the boss of me and dictate which of the "Spam Sixteen" make it into the "Eat It Eight"!

(You have until next Tuesday, 27 July to vote--but you'd better make your choice by Monday, because unless you're my reader in South Korea or an old classmate from New Zealand, I see the sunrise hours and hours and hours ahead of you! And since I need all the votes in order to write the post for the next round, if I have to leave your last-minute ballot out, I will do so, no matter how much it hurts me!)

Round 2 -- Since I still love randomisation (and it's a tradition), I'll do my infuriating solo thing again and you can complain all you like in the combox. (Music to my ears, your griping!)

Round 3 -- I'll keep my top secret but very exciting plans for the "I'm Fat Four" to myself for now. (Translation: I have no idea what to do, but I'm sure it will be awesome!)

Round 4 -- The Finals!!! Your power to vote comes back. I'm a benevolent dictator here.

So let's do this thing! =D

Round 1
The Spam Sixteen

20 July 2010


Reading Diary: Encyclopedia Brown series by Donald J. Sobol

EncyclopediaBrown BoyDetective5 Sobol EncyclopediaBrown SecretPitch Sobol EncyclopediaBrown FindsClues Sobol

During the summer, Encyclopedia ran a detective agency for children of the neighbourhood. He opened his office every morning after his father left for work.

Encyclopedia always waited till his father drove off. He had no choice. His office was in the garage.

The series has a simple premise: a fifth-grade boy is the best amateur sleuth in town and he will solve any case for a fee of twenty-five cents (plus expenses)--except those he solves for his father, the Chief of Police, for free. Each chapter (ten per book) is a "five minute mystery" that challenges the reader to try solving the case as well. The solutions are at the back of every book.

Promising, right? Indeed, I had really hoped my brothers would take to these stories. After all, Encyclopedia is about their age and is both exceptionally smart and completely generic. So even if they don't identify with him (at best), at least they won't hate him (at worst). Right? =P

Well, it took them some time to get the hang of picking up clues and solving cases--and they were initially resistant. But now that we're almost done with the first three books, I think that they are both happy they got to read them and happy that we can now move on.

19 July 2010


Twelve Things about Scream 2

12. "I hate scary movies." (LOL!) The opening sequence almost tops that of the first movie!

Our witty, self-aware sequel begins with an unsettling nod to movie adaptations. The characters are watching Stab, based on another character's book about the murders in the first movie--which is real life to them, of course. The audience is going crazy, cheering whenever somebody gets killed on screen. And the question posed to us is whether our love of murder sprees in our own entertainment makes us any better than they.

11. For an added Morality Play element: the audience within the movie finds itself culpable for one brutal kill. Let the examination of conscience begin!

10. Sed contra: "That is so moral majority. You can't blame real-life violence on entertainment . . . Movies are not responsible for our actions."

And yet, as a horrified Sidney points out, "Three hundred people watched [somebody get killed] and nobody did anything. They thought it was a publicity stunt." Are movies, at least, responsible for any of our inaction?

18 July 2010


Punk Catholic Thought of the Week XIV

There is no such thing as a distraction during Mass . . . as long as the celebrant keeps going.

Remember what my old Religion teacher said: "The Mass is not a movie!" I saw yet another aspect of that recently, and that was what inspired this post.

I think we shot ourselves in the foot the second we started worrying about certain fashions or customs being too "distracting" for Mass. It's all very polite of us to consider these things--polite to both God and man. But since the same arguments against immodest and sloppy clothes are being used against gorgeous liturgical vestments ("We're not focussing on the Mass, if we're distracted by the beauty of the church!"), I thought I'd put my punk foot down . . .

17 July 2010


Locus Focus: Take Ten!

Let me begin by thanking everyone who made our first Themed Challenge so much fun. In case you haven't read their loci foci yet (LOL!), you can find the links at last week's page.

(Next Theme Challenge: Subterranean Settings! If you can think of a good one, schedule a post for 7 August 2010.)

I must say that I was especially delighted by Iolanthe's post on Jelaza Kazone of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's Liaden Universe books and Paul Stilwell's spotlight on the most special part of Ithaca in Homer's Odyssey. Each of these family homes has a really great tree to boast of, as does one of my runner-up homes, considered for last week's Theme Day. There is just something about homes and trees together . . .

16 July 2010


Twelve Things about 17 Again

12. Just when I think I should have a serious "Movie Diary" feature, I watch a movie like this and realise that would be like starting a food column about a candy stand. And so I let my draft sit a little while I read a worthwhile book . . . and then see that the silly movie fits my serious "All children, except one, grow up" theme.

11. And more seriousness: any movie that opens in the 1980s (and then plays some Kenny Loggins) can't be all bad--though Zac Efron doesn't make a believable 80s heartthrob by any length.

10. You know that this isn't a Chick Flick because there is no shopping montage before the transformation from dork into hottie.

9. On the other hand, you know that this isn't a Guy Movie either because the most action we get is a light sabre battle. (Which is, I hasten to add, not necessarily a bad thing!)

15 July 2010


Character Connection 10

Read about Despereaux Tilling and other great characters
(not necessarily all mice!)
in this week's Character Connection collection!

Let's try another classic now, because those are always good. Maybe I'll do an animal next week, too . . . ;-)

Seriously, animals make fantastic characters, whether or not they are the kind who can talk!

14 July 2010


The First Basket of Leftovers

Never mind nice, drawn-out introductions to essays. All you need to know is that I had cause to revisit my old blog recently and was stunned at the quality of writing I found there. It was actually quite good. Beautiful, even. And believe it or not, I sounded intelligent and worth reading.

But you'd never know it from the way I write these days, would you? Why, a few nights ago, I got into an argument with a friend about whether blogging counts as "real" writing. I used to think so; I no longer do.

13 July 2010


All a Matter of Form
(Linked up to the meme at Lost in Books)

This week's question:
What are your favourite genres?

Well, this will actually be easy. The reason I don't do as many list memes as I'd like to do--being a natural list lover--is that I can never do them on time. So although I love to read those of others, like Top Ten Tuesday and Top Ten Picks, and of course, The Book List . . . I can't always come up with entries on time. My own Top 5 Lists take me weeks of pondering.

But it just so happens that I think about genre a lot. And I have a beautifully arranged collection of books in my bedroom that lets me know, at a glance, which genres are the ones I spend the most money on.

3 Genres
I Pay Good Money to Read

11 July 2010


Punk Catholic Thought of the Week XIII

Yes, I take prayer requests!

I play songs like this on the guitar, too . . .


10 July 2010


Tutor Tales, Volume 17

This year appears to be even worse than last year, in the sense that insult is now being added to injury.

Last year, although the school year began in June, as it always does, I didn't get any tutorial jobs until August, because parents hoped to save some money by helping their children with schoolwork themselves. This year, they seem to have admitted that juggling full-time careers and after-school tutoring is no joke . . . but they still hope to save some money.


Welcome to our first Themed Challenge! If you have anything to say about a Family Home, today is the day to link up or forever hold your peace.

(I've noticed lately how many readers I have who love to hold their peace. Odd, that . . .)

Next month's theme is Nature Settings. In other words: no walls, no roofs, no air of civilisation. How does 7 August 2010 sound to everyone? (Want it sooner? Later? Themes every other week instead of every month? No themes at all? Don't hold your peace on this one, folks.)

09 July 2010


Twelve Things about The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

12. I was supposed to read the book before watching the movie, but the friend who said she would lend me her copy dragged me off to the cinema instead. Which is to say that this isn't really a review of Eclipse as an adaptation.

11. Some say the world will end in fire,/ Some say in ice./ From what I've tasted of desire/ I hold with those who favor fire . . . Bella Swan and her quoting . . . How does she do it? A few seconds in her voice, and rustic, reasonable Robert Frost suddenly sounds vapid.

I hope she never discovers G.K. Chesterton. She'd probably quote from The Ballad of the White Horse to describe the feud between the vampires and the (were)wolves.

10. The choice isn't really between fire and ice, but between sun and . . . whatever the state of "too much cloud" is. "Emo" weather, perhaps? (LOL! I'll bet the Quileutes have a real word for it, though.)

08 July 2010


YA + Romance = Revenue - Respect

It has come to my attention that Young Adult books are getting a bad reputation. The books are seen as formulaic, escapist, shallow, silly, trashy . . . basically the kind of stuff people read only because they're not mature enough or intelligent enough for "proper" books.

The charges sounded awfully familiar to me--and indeed, I used to hear them on a regular basis when I was still reading a great deal of Romance. And it makes sense that even a genre with YA's combination of classic and nostalgic appeal and reputation for literary excellence would be brought low by an influx of Romance plots and conventions. Romance never gets any respect. (Sometimes not even from Romance readers.)

My first plan was to come up with a Top 5 YA-Romance Hybrids list . . . but I could think of exactly one title I thought belonged on it. In all my years of YA reading, Romances have either been that rare or just the sort of book I tend to avoid. (Odd, aye?)

I suppose the old school authors competing for literary awards knew that sliding too close to straight Romance would hurt their chances. Today, the competition is for market share, TV or movie crossovers, and everything else that comes with a successful franchise; and so authors (well, publishers, really) are going with what has worked. A few years ago, it was Harry Potter and the non-YA-but-what-the-heck Lord of the Rings. At this dark hour, it is Twilight.

So this Top 5 list will go in a whole other direction as I celebrate more traditional boy-girl pairings in the genre that opened my mind to the greatness of literature.

My Top 5 Brother-Sister Teams in YA

1. Peter, Susan, Edumund and Lucy Pevensie (The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis)

It takes leadership to be the sole ruler of a kingdom, but it takes teamwork to be one of four kings and queens running the same kingdom at the same time. Known to their subjects (and to Narnian posterity) as King Peter the Magnificent, Queen Susan the Gentle, King Edmund the Just, and Queen Lucy the Valiant, they each take charge of a different corner of royal administration and play together very well.

Yes, play together, not work together: they're really all just playing until the final book shows us how serious everything has actually been. And for most of their reign, Narnia is as much a rainy-day play setting as the Professor's roomy old home. Kind of like World of Warcraft, only more real. (You know?)

It would have been nice for Lewis to have written more stories about their glorious and happy reign--but as his good friend J.R.R. Tolkien pointed out, pleasant memories are never as good to recount as harrowing, dreadful ones. We get a little peek into their royal lives in The Horse and His Boy, when they are making a diplomatic visit to a neighbouring realm. (I can imagine the young David and Douglas Gresham making that particular request. Can't you?) But this "flashback" novel is not really their story.

(Oh, by the way, my #1 Pick is not always my personal #1 Pick: it's just the most obvious one that I need to get out of the way. The real one comes after the "Keep Reading!" mark.)

07 July 2010


Pencils Up!
(Or should that be "Pencils Down"?)

letter W ampersand & letter Q
floor number 2

Yes, I know this is late. Even my own muse is never on time, I'm afraid. =(

But thanks to the wonders of technology, we can backdate posts so that those which were written on a Thursday will show up under Wednesday's date, anyway. It's so blatantly Orwellian that I should shun it . . . but of course I don't! =P

06 July 2010


Teasers for Tuesday
(Inspired by a weekly blog hop hosted by Should Be Reading)

See the rest of this Tuesday's teasers . . .

I think I've done a complete 180 degree turn on this meme, which I used to think was the laziest way to get involved in a blog hop. Then I actually tried it . . . and changed my mind!

No, I'm not doing the random quoting, but I do support the idea that two consecutive sentences can be two good legs for a book to stand on. If two legs are good enough for us readers, then they're good enough for our books!

Here are two legs my current read can walk about on . . .

05 July 2010


Reading Diary: Crash by Jerry Spinelli

I grinned to myself. "Okay, I said, "one really, really last chance. A race." I pointed. "Up to the mailbox and back to"--I ran my sneaker toe along the edge of the driveway--"here."

We crouched, toes on the crack. I called: "Ready! . . . Set! . . . Go!"

I was six years old and had never lost a race in my life. That's why I was so surprised when I reached out to push off the cool blue metal of the mailbox to see his hand there, too. On the way back, I kicked in the afterburners and zipped across the finish line. His footsteps were loud behind me . . .

You've heard of picky eaters, right? Well, my brothers are picky readers. They don't know what they might want to read, but they certainly know what they hate to read. Choosing books for them is a major challenge.

Since Cue-card Boy liked Maniac Magee so much, I thought our next book should be by the same author, and since I already had Crash, it was a logical choice.

But I think I enjoyed rereading it for the umpteenth time more than they enjoyed reading it for the first time.

03 July 2010


Locus Focus: Take Eight!

Now that my contest/giveaway June project has run its crazy course, I thought I'd have some fun with my first baby, Locus Focus.

Although I love the freedom of getting to pick any setting that strikes my fancy--or bubbles up in my memory--I also like the challenge of theme memes. (Depending on the way you pronounce "meme," the idea even rhymes!) These won't be for every week, of course, but I think one every month will be all right.

Let's start next week, when the theme will be . . . FAMILY HOMES!!!

"Awww, Enbrethiliel, we've been doing homes and other houses since you started this thing and you just didn't catch up until Bat pointed them out!"

Well, in that case, you have all the practice you need and are way ahead of me, aren't you? ;-) Isn't the chance to show me up fun??? (But really, if you have other thoughts about that, let me know in the combox!)

As for today, we have a setting that is definitely not a family home . . .

02 July 2010


Punk Catholic Thought of the Week XII

When it comes to mixed marriages, do we bet everything on the "unbelieving husband is sanctified by his wife" verse or on the "divided house cannot stand" verse? (This is the real Vatican roulette, people!)

01 July 2010


Character Connection 9

Learn about Lisbeth Salander and other cool characters
in this week's Character Connection link up!

My first contest/giveaway might have closed yesterday, but I won't be announcing the winner until Sunday, which means that everyone can have a few more days to drool over books they might never have--at least, not for free. (I'm such a horrible person, I know. But since my beloved blog's first birthday has been marked by internet failure in my area, forcing me to write this post in an internet cafe, I'm not even going to try to be nice.)

So here is a profile of one of the characters in the last novel I am offering to the winner . . .