30 March 2011

+JMJ+

Reading Diary: BSC #5: Dawn and the Impossible Three by Ann M. Martin

Kristy and the other members had trained me on handling new clients.

"Never take them on without finding out certain important information first," Kristy had told me.

"How many children do you have?" I asked.

"Three," she replied. "Buddy, my oldest, is seven . . . Suzi is four, and Marnie is the baby. She's a year and a half."

. . . Then I asked a few more questions, and after that [she] said nervously, "I guess you should know that my husband and I have just gotten a divorce. This is a hard time for my children. I've got to find a job and they're used to having their father around, and I'm not a terribly organised person."

Wow. I could sympathise with that.

This is still an early book in the Baby-sitters Club series, but it already has a lot to live up to . . . kind of like Dawn Schafer herself, who takes her first turn narrating. She is the newest member of the club and the newest girl in town, so she has something to prove to both the other members and the readers who have already fallen in love with them and might not be too crazy about an outsider suddenly coming in.

So it doesn't really help that Dawn's book is the first weak link in the series. =S

29 March 2011

+JMJ+

Tutor Tales, Volume 29

The summer holidays have started for Filipino school children, but I wanted to share one last story from the previous school year. It's actually a story within a story, because it includes an alamat.

An alamat is a folk story that falls short of being a proper myth because it doesn't feature any gods or goddesses. It usually explains how a plant or fruit came into being. I've found them wonderful tools for tutoring Grade 4 girls in Hekasi--and now I know from experience why Waldorf teachers insist on starting each new lesson with a story.

Angel Delight and Silver Surprise's last new lesson was the unit on the southernmost island group in the Philippines: Mindanao.

28 March 2011

+JMJ+

The Series Saga Continues



Join the BBB Linky Party
at Baja-Greenawalt's Cozy Book Nook!


The last time I joined Bargain Book Bonanza (See A Series of Bargains), I shared a vlog in which I showed off several series which I started after finding used or marked-down copies of their respective first books. Now I wonder whether featuring them all in one go was such a good idea.

I mean, a savvier blogger would have pulled several vlogs out of that--one for each series. =P

But never mind that now. Let me bring back some books you have already seen because I found another one to add to their number. Two weeks ago, I had only four; today, I have five!

26 March 2011

+JMJ+

Locus Focus: Take Forty-Six



Welcome to Middle-earth Day!

J.R.R. Tolkien's unparalleled sub-creation of Middle-earth is so rich in both geography and history (which means places that change) that I could--were I more of a Tolkien geek--devote an entire year's worth of Locus Focus posts to it. (And having said that, I now feel bad that I am in no wise a Tolkien geek.) Happily limited to a single one this week, I still considered many settings before settling on the one below.

By the way . . . did you notice the great dates of Narnia Day: The Return and this first Middle-earth Day? One is perfect for a country where it was once "always winter and never Christmas" and the other is the closest you can get in 2011 to the date of the most momentous victory in Middle-earth history. I did plan the former, but didn't realise the significance of the latter until I was at Mass yesterday. If I were the type to imagine I had a Guardian Angel with a sense of humour, I'd say he LOL-ed at me. =P

One last thing: I just realised that I haven't announced a Theme Challenge for April. As we're in the middle of Lent, I decided on Places of Prayer. Of course, settings meaningful to people of all faiths are welcome. See you on 2 April.

And note that I won't see you on 23 April. Locus Focus shall be on retreat on Black Saturday.

25 March 2011

+JMJ+

Friday Night Short: Black Button

I don't have the time for a feature film-length live blog, but I really wanted to share this Short today. I found it, as I find all my Horror Shorts, on Hey! Look Behind You! (Thanks, Nicki!)






0:06 Yes, this appears to be a religious film. I don't precisely know what the filmmakers believe . . . but that doesn't seem important because they get everything else right.
0:28 You are here to make a choice, Mr. Roberts. That is all. This point is when I knew something was very wrong.

24 March 2011

+JMJ+

Character Connection 22



Read about Guy Gavriel Kay's Alessan
and other great characters
@ The Introverted Reader


Given all the "ethical animal" books I read (Hat tip to Birdie for the term!), it was only a matter of time before I shone the spotlight on a non-human character. I'm just surprised that it didn't turn out to be an animal!

This post also counts towards my participation in the "YA of the 80s and 90s" Reading Challenge.

22 March 2011

+JMJ+

Life as a Reading Challenge, Chapter 5




Does it take you back or what?

A fellow "Child of the 80s" whom I never met anywhere but on the Internet had the perfect explanation for the greatness of Tears for Fears's Everybody Wants to Rule the World: its effortless ability to invoke the "Deep 80s Feeling."

If I were a musicologist, I could break it down for you further; but since I'm not, I'll just point out again that he is so right.

The 1980s was about more than just distinctive fashions, musical styles and other pop cultural markers. It was rooted in a lot of intangible impulses, beliefs and assumptions that went into those fashions and styles, and gave the best of them that "Deep 80s Feeling" which is as ineffable as it is essential.

The catch is that the things that prove to be popular are not also the things that turn out to be great. Truly great things transcend the times in which they first burst into the world; everything else just stays stuck . . . which is why it's easier to name Everything Else. And why my otherwise encyclopedic knowledge of 80s pop culture has been stumped and is now relying greatly on serendipity to find books to read for the YA of the 80s and 90s Reading Challenge. (Remember that I want it to complement the Victorian Literature Reading Challenge as much as possible.)

21 March 2011

+JMJ+

A Mixed Mailbox!


Watch Kristi's latest vlog and read the other linked up posts
this week at The Story Siren!


Although I've been a lucky entrant in several book giveaways, my prizes usually trickle in one at a time.

But last Friday, when three new books popped in at the same time, the only thing I wanted to do was to join "In My Mailbox" again. Weekly Show-and-Tell for book lovers, it is understandably the book blogosphere's most popular meme. I've always got scads of stuff to show off, but I publish one of these posts only when I have people I really want to thank.

20 March 2011

+JMJ+

Twelve Things about Death Valley

12. In my Twelve Things about Poltergeist, I wondered why we don't have more "Family Horror". There's no reason children can't enjoy a good scary story. (Seriously, have you ever read the earliest versions of supposedly child-friendly fairy tales?) If you don't mind that Death Valley got an R rating when it first came out, you might want to screen it for your own scare-starved child.

11. I'm not kidding about your kids. This relatively gruesome story of a serial killer skates on a certain level of innocence: only appropriate, as its central character is still a small boy.

Young Billy knows that certain things are amiss and that some people he meets are not to be trusted--but he doesn't see the full darkness of human evil.

Some viewers who were young in the 80s
consider this a "childhood film,"
on the level of The Goonies.

19 March 2011

+JMJ+

Locus Focus: Take Forty-Five



New to Locus Focus?
Read this first!

(And remember that next Saturday is Middle Earth Day!)


You might have noticed that this blog isn't a place for commentary on what's going on the world. For one thing, I'm more likely to nurse a fascination over a long period of time than to blog about it immediately. For another, I don't want to take myself so seriously that one selling point for this blog becomes my "unique" analysis of current events. But there are times when something in the Real World (for yes, it is the real world) grabs me so firmly that its marks show up in my leisure reading and blogging.

Watching the news footage of a devastated Japan and reading the daily updates of tragic lows and tearful highs moved me in many ways, the most important of which has little to do with this blog. The most trivial way, on the other hand, has inspired this post.

18 March 2011

+JMJ+

Friday Night Movie: Attack of the 50 Foot Woman

Welcome to the March Friday Night Movie! When I'm done live blogging this, I'll put some links to Midnight Warrior-calibre reviews at the end to extend the viewing fun. =)




0:15 WOMAN Oh, wow . . . I'm impressed and I don't know why.
1:14 What's with the clock? Is this one of those Everything-happens-in-24-hours-or-less movies?
1:23 . . . a strange red fireball coming out of the sky. LOL! . . . LOL!!! . . . LOL!!!!!!!
1:26 If you look closely, you'll see the twinkle in the actor's eye as he recites the character's lines.
1:36 . . . a herd of camels stampeded by a comet like object. Unbelievable. I'm less than two minutes in, but I'm already a lovesick goner for this movie.
2:03 Look! It's the Philippines! =D
2:06 Okay, he got Auckland right, but did he just point to Alaska while saying, "New Zealand"???
2:09 Did you see what he did with that globe? LOL! Why don't we have anchors like this on the news any longer? (Possibly because you can't get debonair with digital maps on blue screen?)
2:11 This is an exposition technique you don't see any longer. In more recent movies, you'd watch everything happening in those far-flung places and have to put two and two together yourself.
2:41 Um . . . it's not that scary yet, lady. Calm down!
3:09 As the quality is really poor, I have to explain that she sees a huge hand trying to grab her (and doing a bad job of it).
3:25 Oh, drats. Adulterers. =| What a buzz kill.
3:50 The community property routine only works for women. A man hasn't got a chance. A telling statement to come out of a decade feminists still love to bash! We are told that this was a time when men had all the power . . . and here is a man saying that it wasn't so.
4:55 His wife might be awful to live with, but his mistress isn't very nice, either. Don't be too quick to leap out of the frying pan and into the fire, sir!
5:07 She's not kissing you, Harry; she's kissing the money.
6:03 It's never fun to be the Cassandra. =(
6:33 Well, if it's all about money to you, too, Harry, then I'm not going to waste my warnings on you again.
7:26 Are they actually playing this straight???
8:38 Oh, I get it. Another instance of what happens when women have too much of the power.
9:32 You know, your husband's girlfriend is trying "to reach for your diamond," too. =P

16 March 2011

+JMJ+

Wednesday Night Trailer: "You've Got to Believe Me! It Was . . . Thirty Feet Tall!"

Remember that "Monsters and Alien" Movie Challenge I set for myself?





I'm about to make good on the promise and start my first movie!

And also as promised, I'm doing it with a live blog! =D Please come back and watch it with me this Friday night. There is so much about this movie to discuss!

15 March 2011

+JMJ+

A Series of Bargains


Join us at Mrs. Baja Greenawalt's Cozy Book Nook
for another week of bargain books bragging rights!


You know that reasoning that bargains don't really save you money if you end up buying something more than you needed in the first place?

Oh, don't I know it well . . . =P

For this week's Bargain Books Bonanza post, I want to show off books which are part of a series. Now, since I have a rule (which, yes, I occasionally break) about reading a series in order, I could theoretically save lots of money by never buying the first books of series at all. And when they are as ridiculously overpriced as new books are these days, that kind of thrift is easy.

It's when the "bargain" books enter the arena that everything gets interesting . . .

14 March 2011

+JMJ+

These Dreams: I Just Got Inceptioned! (Okay, Not Really . . .)

So . . . did you watch the Oscars last month?


I did, after several years of self-righteously boycotting it.
(What was I trying to prove, anyway?)

13 March 2011

+JMJ+

Blogging as a Writing Challenge

Remember those new handbooks I featured in my first Bargain Books Bonanza? I was flipping through Write on Track in between tutorial sessions one day, glancing at the sections on writing different kinds of documents, when I found one on book reviews. Of course I paused to read it more carefully.

And I was delighted at how beautifully it breaks down the dreaded book review form . . .




Book reviews usually answer three questions:

1)
What is the book about?

2)
Why do I like this book?

3)
What main idea did the author share?

These three questions totally explain why I haven't cared for most of the book reviews I've stumbled upon since I started blogging.

12 March 2011

+JMJ+

Locus Focus: Take Forty-Four!



New to Locus Focus?
Read this first!


I have the sneaking suspicion that more than a handful of my regular readers quietly decided to give my blog up for Lent. =P

Well, fine. I'll just go wooing some new blood, then!

If you've never joined Locus Focus before, here are some good reasons why you should:

Reason #1:
It's a great way to write an insightful post about a book (or a movie!) without producing yet another review.

Now, if you found me through the Book Blogging or Horror Blogging communities, you're probably thinking, "But I love writing reviews! It's the whole purpose of my blog!"

And that's cool, too. I'm not in this to tell anyone else how to blog! However, I do think it's worthwhile to note that a "hot" title will get scores of reviews all over the blogosphere. Pretty soon, they'll all start to blend together. There are lots of ways to make your review stand out from the pack--and I'm sure you already use some of those clever tricks--but my own favourite is to let your review play dress-up in Locus Focus clothing. =)

Reason #2:
It will give you a chance to revisit old favourites.

I'm sure that if someone asked you to name a book with a really vivid, memorable setting, you'd pick an old read that has really stuck with you over the years. That has been true for me nearly 80% of the time. While I don't actually reread these familiar favourites, I like finally being able to focus my thoughts on why their settings really work for them. So if all the new, hyped books aren't really your thing and you'd like to write about some older books, please consider creating your own Locus Focus post.

Think of it as another kind of reading challenge! I have Theme Challenges every month, too, which can be a lot of fun. =D

Reason #3:
With all due humility . . . I make a pretty good blog friend. =)

That is to say, I read every linked up Locus Focus post, leave a meaningful comment, and go back for participants' other posts. If you have your own meme, I'll definitely join it in the future, too--although I can't promise to be as regular as I'd like. If you've been wondering where all the chatty bloggers have been and been hoping for more combox conversation, I'm your girl!

Now for the actual post! (Wouldn't it be hilarious if I forgot it, after all that? LOL!)

For today, I found another book to go with the "Battlegrounds" Theme, but I don't know whether I'll be sticking with it for the rest of the month.

11 March 2011

+JMJ+

"Duel" Perspective on Madeleine L'Engle, Part 1

Late last month, Lauren of Little Wonder's Recommended Reads invited me "to duel" with her over Madeleine L'Engle. It was an invitation I was more than happy to accept!

What I didn't realise, until I checked my archives, was that our joint venture also serves an "anniversary special" for Shredded Cheddar. If you were reading this blog one year ago, you must remember my Madeleine L'Engle Novel Smackdown!



vs.

I love it when L'Engle dabbles in science; I cringe when she dabbles in Scripture. The first book sends its characters deep into the cells of a sick little boy, to convince his mitochondria to "deepen" for his sake; the second takes its characters several thousand years back in time, to help Noah build the Ark and to learn that both "many waters" and much time cannot quench true love . . .

Find out which book won this face-off and read the rest of it . . .


Round 1 + Round 2 + Round 3A + Round 3B + Round 4 = Final Winner

First face-offs and now duels! Ah, what is it about L'Engle that makes me so aggressive? =P

It was a pleasure to spend the past few weeks with Lauren debating discussing genre and feminism in L'Engle's novels, with a special focus on An Acceptable Time--which I really love and which she didn't even want to finish.

Below is my take on L'Engle's "Kairos" novels . . .

09 March 2011

+JMJ+

The Name of the Game is Now "Hardball"




W Ampersand P1200378
1

If you read my poem for W&Q 9, then you got to guess which six texts I "borrowed" in order to write my own bit of verse.

Go ahead and have one last crack at them before coming back and using your Secret Decoder Ring to read the answers below . . .

"There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe" by Mother Goose ;-)
A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement Clark Moore
Oh! The Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss
The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll
Dazed and Confused by Led Zeppelin
"The World is So Full of a Number of Things" by Robert Louis Stevenson

Today's poem has no clever tricks embedded in the text . . . or anything else very clever, I'm afraid.

My most creative tutee, Angel Delight, is studying analogies in English class and has written an entire portfolio of poems with the "____ is to ____ as ____ is to ____" structure--and I tried to do a little of the same when I saw her this week.

There's still something of that in the finished text, but not quite . . .

08 March 2011

+JMJ+

Young Detectives: B is for Bellairs



The "open letter" format of this feature is totally working for me. If you read a book with its own young detective and want to participate, feel free to use the badge and write your own letter to the author.

Note that you don't have to read a Young Adult or Middle Grade novel. Just the other day, I saw a Mystery with a teenage detective shelved with the "grown up" books. And I just might write its author in a couple of months.

If you do make your own "Young Detectives" posts, let me know about it so I can link to it the next time I do one of mine. I already have a "C" book lined up.

07 March 2011

+JMJ+

Bargain Book Bonanza
(A new linky party hosted by the lovely ladies of Mrs. Baja Greenawalt's Cozy Book Nook)


BBB is a linky party to showcase all the great books
that we book lovers score on sale.
Each Monday, all book lovers are invited
to carouse, make merry and revel with bargain book abandon!
New and used books welcome!


One thing I love about used books is that they enter your life trailing their own stories. Brand new books are like tabulae rasae: never anyone else's but yours when you buy them. But used books have their own history and destiny that is not totally dependent on you . . . and there's something at once intimidating and charming about that. Because unless the books were woefully mistreated by their last owners, they're going to demand that you live up to their expectations as much as they have to live up to yours.

Here are the "pre-loved" books I introduced myself to last week. I've promised them all a good life and am glad that they trusted me with their keeping.

05 March 2011

+JMJ+

Locus Focus: Take Forty-Three!



Welcome to Battlegrounds Day!

Today we advance from love to war! (Sort of.)

Just when I thought I'd finally get out of Romancelandia . . . It might be a romantic paradise, but inasmuch as it is a copy of our own world, it has its share of war. How else to account for all the dashing officers and battle-scarred solders? Not to mention the spies! =P

Sometimes war is all just part of the "wallpaper" and isn't worth a comment. But I can think of at least one love story which depends not on the romance of war, but on its grim realities. Sometimes courtship is another kind of battlefield.

04 March 2011

+JMJ+

Twelve Things about Nine

12. For some reason, I thought I would really, really hate this movie.

And then . . . I didn't.

11. Now, I should say that I'm not at all familiar with the Broadway musical--which is a bit frustrating. =S I feel I can't critique the actors' performances as deeply as I usually do, because I don't know how the roles were played before this--or even how I'd cast the musical on my own.

Something drummed into me in Shakespeare class was the idea that plays are living texts that are not meant for a single production but which can be reinterpreted as many times, and in as many contexts, as there are producers with imagination.

This is just Rob Marshall's Nine. I feel limited in not knowing about anyone else's Nine--and in not having my own.

02 March 2011

+JMJ+

Words, Questions and Double Digits



Silver Wampersand &letter Q
Bingo Number 1number 0
New to Word & Question?
Read all about it!


Hello again to all my fellow amateur poets--both those who are already friends and those I have yet to meet! In case you missed last month's poems, you can find them all linked up at the Word & Question 9 post hosted by Crosses and Cradles. (Thanks again, Dauvit!)

If you want to join this month's game, send me your prompts by 5 March 2011. (I'm extending the deadline for prompts to Saturday because I didn't get this post up when I should have.) You can find my e-mail address in my profile. Please put "W&Q 10" in the subject line.

I'll e-mail everyone back on 6 March. (Gmail being what it is these days, if you want to know whether I got your prompts after you sent them, just ask me in the combox.) I'll have my poem up on 9 March, which is when you can start linking up yours. All poems must be in on 23 March.

So far, everything is nice and familiar, aye? Now that we're in the double digits, however, I think we should have a new rule. (!!!)

01 March 2011

+JMJ+

Bookcase and Blog "Filler"



This Week's Topic:
Books I Just Had to Buy
But That are Still Sitting on My Shelf


I'm doing this meme today for the symmetry. Or the parallels. Whichever.

Memes have been taking some flack in certain circles of the book blogosphere, where they are perceived as "filler" and not real "content." While I see where the detractors are coming from (after all, every stereotype has a basis in truth), I know I've always tried to make my own submissions to link ups as meaningful and meaty as possible. This post shall be no exception.

The idea of "filler"--stuff for the sake of stuff--is echoed by the concept of the "TBR" pile or shelf: one's collection of books that are still To Be Read. What does it say about book bloggers that the books we have not yet read--whether we've bought them or are still coveting them--make up a substantial segment of what we post about? Are such posts also just filler? Even if they are, can we write them in such a way that they are not?

Let me know in the combox if you think this post counts as "real" content--or conversely, if you think it doesn't.



A Tenner:
Bargain Books That were in Such Great Condition
That I Bought Them without Knowing When I'd Read Them