TSS ~ Blindfold the Groundhog! I’m Protesting Winter!

The Sunday Salon.com
Okay, so I’ve had just about enough of this wispy white and cold crap.  I’m not fond of having my breath stolen from my lungs because it’s so cold it’s painful to breathe in at all.  Maybe if I just hibernate for the rest of the winter?  Gah!  I’d still have to go out to get groceries.  Oh, well… I guess it’s either run away to Florida or just suck it up.  Since I don’t have the money for a road trip, I guess that means I’m in for the sucking part.

So, January was a fairly productive reading month.  I finished off eight books, and am about half way through two others.  Since just having year-long goals only made me quick to start and race to the finish, while dropping off the face of the reading world the other five or so months, I decided to post monthly plans to keep me accountable :-)

I was surprised I hit 8 last month, but I need to get that every month if I’m going to accomplish all the challenges I’ve signed up for.  There were two books I had planned to read in January that I didn’t get to, so they go on the top of the list.  Also I have  a blog tour book, so that goes to the top, too.  And I’m doing the Lord of the Rings Readalong, so The Fellowship of the Rings is a topper, too.  LOL, heck, they’re all top books!

Currently Reading:

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl ~ I’m reading it with Magggie, and we’re on page 30.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore ~ Really, I’d only picked this one up because Fire is on my ARC-alanche pile, but I’m completely wowwed by this YA fantasy book!  I only wish I’d read it sooner!

Planed Reading:

The Mom’s Guide to Growing Your Family Green by Terra Wellington ~ This is one of the two I’d meant to get to in January.  It was won in the March 2009 ER batch, so I’m needing to get it done this month.

Holy Roller by Julie Lyons ~ The second overdue ER book, I think it’s also a March 2009.

Tainted by Brooke Morgan ~ I’m down for February 24th for the TLC Book Blog tour.  I’m looking forward to reading this one, it sounds intriguing.

The Triumph of Deborah by Eva Etzioni-Halevy ~ I have a second book for a giveaway for this one :-)

Strange but True, America by John Hafnor ~ I also have a second book to giveaway on this fun book ;-)

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkein ~ I’ll probably space this out all month so I can both enjoy it to the most, as well as get it done while reading everything else.

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I also intend to keep up on my Google Reader.  I’ve done really well at keeping it under 100, which I was feeling panicky about that much until Jen and Natasha were laughing at me and wanting to get theirs below 1000.  Okay, I’ll stop stressing because there’s 20 still sitting in my reader… lol.  And I’m trying to post something everyday.  I only missed 3 days in January, and if I can get a few rainy day posts in the can, I should be able to have one everyday.  I’ve been thinking about doing some mini-reviews of books I read before blogging. 

So what kinds of post would you like me to do?  Does anyone miss Viral Video Wednesday?  What are you planning to read in February?

January Wrap-Up

Every month I intend to create a bloggie wrap-up.  I swear to myself I’m gonna do it next month.  Then, the first of the month rolls around and I read Fyrefly’s and DevourerofBook’s, among others, and I say, “Ah CRAP! I forgot to do a wrap-up post!  Dang it!  Okay, I’ll do it next month, I swear…”  And you’ll know how many times I’ve actually followed through on that when I say, “Yay! This is my first monthly wrap-up post!”  LOL.

K, I have ADD bad.  I get distracted so very easily.  Sometimes it’s TV or gardening or doing stuff with the kids, and sometimes it’s computer games like SecondLife or World of Warcraft or the latest, face book apps.  SecondLife pulled me away from everything for about 5 months straight, and now I can’t remember the last time I was on.  With WoW, I’d learned a thing or two from SL, and so I didn’t go so long or so deep, but still I was absent for a while, traipsing through Azeroth.  Facebook games are so getting old, and I’m down to a few that have to be tended daily:  Farmville, the café game and the pet games.  I’m mostly still doing those because my mom is actually on facebook, SHOCK! and the kids play, too, so I play with them.

Where was I even going with that?  Oh, ADD… lol, I swear, that wasn’t on purpose!  Okay, I’m lost now… that was funny, and I laughed, and lost my train of thought.  Oh well, must not have been too important.  That’s why I like to outline things, and why I hate stream of conscious storylines.  I get lost enough in my own thinking, I don’t need to do so in a book!

Moving on…

I decided during Bloggiesta, that the best way to do a wrap-up post was to write it all month long, keeping track of commentors and other things that happen, so I started this post about a week after Bloggiesta, because I got distracted and it took a while to get back to it.  Maybe that’s where I was going with that up there. :-D

Maybe ADD is why I hate long paragraphs?  It feels like being trapped in a room with no windows.  I often skim through the middle of them, or just read the first and last lines of it and move on.

Moving on…

During the Month of January I:

Started my first book challenge, The Welsh Reading Challenge, because I wanted to read more books relating to my own heritage, but needed a little prod to do it and keep on track. The fact people joined the challenge was GRAVY :-)

Joined a total of 13 reading challenges, 11 of which are being tracked on my Reading is Challenging! page, as well as two more at LibraryThing:  The 75 Book Challenge, and the Books off the Shelf ChallengeThe Sookie Stackhouse Challenge was in progress, though I don’t know if I can call it progress, since I have YET to pick up the first book. Actually, I picked it up, read 2 paragraphs, then put it back down… don‘t tell BethFish :-D.  This is the most challenges I’ve ever participated in, and I don’t expect to complete them all, realistically, but I’m hoping!

Spent a total of 21 hours working on blog improvements as part of Bloggiesta.  Thanks, Natasha! And after all the work everyone else did and the mini-challenges I wanted to do but didn’t get to, I now have a longer to-do list than when I started!

Created The Welsh Reading Challenge blog.  After reading how other bloggers who host challenges have found a separate blog is a better way to keep it all organized, I started the blog for TWRC during Bloggiesta, and had it open and ready for visitors about a week later.  We’ve also got a couple sponsors, some mini-challenges in the planning stages and some prizes on the way :-) Too cool!

Started a weekly award called The Kool-Aid Flavor of the Week.  I’m still trying to figure out the exact criteria for this, but right now it’s been for people who are doing something to make the world better.  Presenting Lenore received my inaugral award for her International Book Blogger Mentor Program, and She’s Too Fond of Books received the second for her post about Kiva.org and how micro-lending requires so little of us and can make such a difference in the life of someone overseas.

Joined the Tolkein Readalong.  I’ve been wanting to read the Lord of the Rings for a long time, but just needed the push.

Books read and reviewed in January:

Of Bees and Mists by Erick Setiawan ~ A magical and fantastic adult fable about love, self-respect and self-confidence, about doing what’s right and forgiveness.  I gave it 4 stars.  It counted toward my ARC Reading Challenge, New Author Challenge, and POC Reading Challenge.

Fruits Basket, Volume 5 by Natsuki Takaya ~ I love the Furuba series, and volume 5 introduced Kisa, the tiger, and Hanajima’s little brother.  I gave it 5 stars.  It counted as a food title for my What’s In a Name?3 Challenge, Manga Challenge, and POC Reading Challenge.

Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland ~ Atrocious, far-fetched and just plain BAD. 2 stars.  It counted toward my ARC Reading Challenge and New Author Challenge.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl ~ Filled me with warm feelings of childhood and chocolate, and was a pleasure to read cuddled up with Maggie.  I gave it 5 stars.  It counted for The Welsh Reading Challenge.

Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr ~ I read this one with Mags, and since it was a re-read for me, I had Maggie sit down and write her first book review.  I did help her with grammer and spelling, but the words and thoughts expressed are totally Maggie… lol… including her expressing how much she disliked having to sit and write a review on a snow day from school when she could be outside playing.  Mags gave it 4 out of 5 stars.  This counted towards my We Didn’t Start the Fire Challenge

Islands Apart by Ken McAlpine ~ Interesting reflection on life in our modern world and how our advances in technology are contributing to a decline in interpersonal relationships, as well as a disconnect from nature.  I gave it 4 stars.  This counted for my ARC Reading Challenge, New Author Challenge, and We Didn’t Start the Fire Challenge.

The Blue Notebook by James A. Levine ~ Reading this felt like a prolonged hug from creepy Uncle Stan at the family reunion, but was a necessary evil.  Still, I stand by my 2.5 rating, which is based more on the writing itself than the book’s subject material.  I wasn’t wowwed by Levine’s writing, though it had some beautiful moments.  This book counted toward my ARC Reading Challenge, New Author Challenge, and POC Reading Challenge.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein ~ I finished off this month with a comfort read and old friend.  Even though it was a third read through, not to mention the numberous times I watched the 1977 cartoon of it growing up, it still held my attention and kept me in suspense, a sure sign of a classic book.  5 stars for sure.  This was for the Lord of the Rings Readalong and counts toward my 451 Challenge.

People who Commented:

Bluestocking from The Bluestocking Guide
Kathy at Bermudaonion
Wendy, the Literary Feline at Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Anna at Diary of an Eccentric
BethFish at Beth Fish Reads
Kailana at The Written World
Ita
debnance at readerbuzz
Care at Care’s Online Book Club (Hi, blogging buddy!)
Mona Everett
Aarti at B O O K L U S T
Annette
Sally906 at Sally906’s Reading Challenges
Sharon at Ex Libris
Eibhlin
Lynda at Lynda’s Book Blog
Ladybug at Escape in a Book
Aastacia
Amanda at Life and Times of a “New” New Yorker
Serena at Savvy Verse & Wit
Susan Evans at Well-Mannered Frivolity
Melanie at Cynical Optimism
Shannon at Flight into Fantasy
Sheila at One Person’s Journey Through Books
Janet at Fond of Snape
Vasilly at 1330v
Snowbell
Jack at Slightly off-center
Debbie at Debbie’s World of Books
Amber at Mommy Mania
Zee at Notes from the North
Meghan at Medieval Bookworm
Gina at BookDragon’s Lair
Rebecca at The Book Lady’s Blog
Jennie at Biblio File
Amused at Amused by Books
Michelle at Michelle’s Masterful Musings
Rebecca at Lost in Books
Lenore at Presenting Lenore
unfinishedperson at Unfinished Person
Marie at The Boston Bibliophile
Dawn at She is Too Fond of Books
Rhinoa at Rhinoa’s Ramblings
Traci at Traci’s Book Bag
Laza at Gimme More Books!
Grad at The Curious Reader
Sandra at Fresh Ink Books
BookMoot at BookMoot
Jackie at Literary Escapism
Janelle at Brimful Curiosities
Novroz at Novroz’ Life
Jennifer at Rundpinne
DanaB at Windows Wide Open
Nisé at Under The Boardwalk
Alayne at The Crowded Leaf
Violet at Violet Crush
Angie at Annie’s Home
JDaniel4’s Mom at JDaniel4’s Mom
Ann Marie
Joy at Joy’s Blog
Stephanie at Bad Mom
Emerald Yomi at Emerald Yomi
Debbie at Wrighty Reads (go lefties!)
Pippi at Pippi’s Postings
Memory at Stella Matutina
Petunia at Educating Petunia
Sarah at SmallWorld Reads
Lisa at Online Publicist
Myriam Kross
Guatami Tripathy at everything distils into reading
Ariel at Sycorax Pine
Nicole at Linus’s Blanket
Kay at The Infinite Shelf
jo at attalife
Dawn at For the Love of… Eloquence 
Kimberly at A Child of the King!
Mizhelle at Life Can’t Wait
Amateur Reader at Wuthering Expectations
Keely at The Un Mom
Rebecca Reid at Rebecca Reads
Molly at my cozy book nook
uninvoked at uninvoked 
Stacey at Confessions of a Pastor’s Wife
Lisa at Lit and Life
Vicki at Reading At The Beach
Callista at SMS Book Reviews
Farmlanebooks
Meg at write meg!
Marce at Tea Time with Marce
Jenny F at Have a Happy Day
Irene at Irene’s Desk
Wordlily at Word Lily
Beth at Weavings
Laurel-Rain Snow at Laurel-Rain Snow Creations

And that’s a total of 81 commentors so far (1/25)

Other fun facts:

Kitty Litter Cake (and Cat Litter Cake), Gary Larson (and The Far Side) and qoutes for The Book Thief are the most widely used search terms that bring people by, along with Confessions of a Shopaholic and Vampire Kisses bringing in plenty, too. “erotomania” surprisingly, brings in a fair share. Uh oh, do I have a stalker?

Looking Forward to Fellowship in February!

Oh, I’m soooo looking forward to reading The Fellowship of the Rings next month!  I had started reading it in 2008, a first read, and got sidetracked and never picked it back up again.  The last thing I remember is that they were in the Inn of the Prancing Pony and the Nazgul were about the town.  I think.  I might have gotten a bit farther than that, but I never finished, either way. 

So here’s a song and a video in anticipation of the continuing LOTR Readalong:

Aw, crap!  Now I’ll be singing it all day!

LOTR Readalong – The Hobbit

I love the fantasy genre, have read Paolini, and am absolutely in love with Katsa and Po in Graceling.  I’ve read all the books in The Chronicles of Narnia, play World of Warcraft, and I rather enjoyed Goblins! An UnderEarth Adventure.  So when I read about the Tolkein Readalong, I decided to Crash the Unexpected Party.

The Lord of the Rings ReadalongJanuary was the month of The Hobbit with A Striped Armchair.  I got a late start, so I’ve had to hurry a bit to catch up, but I’ve now finished the prequel to The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  It was a re-reread for me, “the third time pays for all”, as Bilbo says, and my last time on the journey There and Back Again was in early 2008, I believe.  It amazes me how this book was still able to keep me in suspense through goblins chasing them, Riddles in the Dark, the sticky troubles in Mirkwood, imprisonment in the wood-elves city, Bilbo’s battle of wits with Smaug the Dragon, and through the final scene of the book, The Battle of Five Armies.  I so love Tolkein, and I seem to forget how much until I read his work.  Next month will be The Fellowship of the Rings with The Literary Omnivore.

So Eva at A Striped Armchair gave us the following questions:

  • Where are you in the story? So far, has the book lived up to your expectations (for first-timers)/memories (for rereaders)? What’s surprising or familiar?
  • Have you been bogged down anywhere in the book?
  • Let’s talk about the songs…are you skipping over them to get back to the prose? Why or why not?
  • What do you think of the narrator’s voice?
  • Does your edition have illustrations or maps? Have you been ignoring them or referring back to them?
  • Now it’s time to play favourites! Who’s your favourite main character? Who’s your favourite minor character (i.e.: villains, random helpers, etc.)? What’s your favourite scene? Do you have a favourite quote to share?
  • Okay, so here we go :-)

    1.  Where are you in the story? So far, has the book lived up to your expectations (for first-timers)/memories (for rereaders)? What’s surprising or familiar?

    I have just finished the book about twenty minutes ago, after tackling it in about 3 days.  I was a bit burned out by the ARCs that I’ve read this month, and desperately need a fun escape in a comfort read and The Hobbit fit that to a T.  I really do hope to take the next books a bit slower, because it gave me a bit of a brain-ache this way.  As always, it lived up to my memories, and I’ve been running over to YouTube to watch the 1977 Cartoon version of it that I watched repeatedly at my parents naseaum as a kid.  What really surprised me was that, even though I know the story, know what all’s going to happen, and know the outcomes, it can still hold me in suspense.  I was biting my nails and flipping pages, even though I knew they were all going to make it through.  Of course, since it was a reread, it was familiar, and maybe it is the cartoon I watched for all those years that makes it a comfort read for me.

    2.  Have you been bogged down anywhere in the book?

    I did have trouble in the beginning of the book getting started.  I kept falling asleep.  However, that may have more to do with the fact that I was in a nice, warm bed at 12 o’clock at night, with the audiobook playing as I read along.  There is a reason we read bedtime stories to kids to make them go to sleep, and I can tell you it works on 36-year-old moms just as well ;-)

    3.  Let’s talk about the songs…are you skipping over them to get back to the prose? Why or why not?

    Well, as I said, I read along with an audiobook, so I didn’t skip the songs this time, but I never skipped them anyway.  I figure Tolkein put them where he did for a reason and read them (sang them, out loud, even if it drew stares) where he plunked them.  It was a bit different hearing them from the audiobook reader, who also sang them, (but with breaks that I didn’t care for) in that his tunes for them was a bit different than the ones I had sung.  Honestly, it would have never occurred to me to skip them.

    4.  What do you think of the narrator’s voice?

    I have always loved the book’s narrator voice, and I’d have to say that I like the audiobook’s narrator’s voice, as well.  I hope he’s doing the next three, as well.

    5.  Does your edition have illustrations or maps? Have you been ignoring them or referring back to them?

    Yes, my book had both the dwarf map of the Lonely Mountain and the moonrunes that Elrond discovered (lol, I can’t read runes, though, so what does that matter?), as well as a broader map that shows the Misty Mountains, Mirkwood, and the Grey Mountains, as well as Smaug on the Lonely Mountain.  They’re labelled “Thror’s Map” and “Wilderland”, and I referenced them often, especially the one of Wilderland to get a good sense of the directions they took and how far they travelled.  Like Bilbo, I too LOVE maps!

    6.  Now it’s time to play favourites! Who’s your favourite main character? Who’s your favourite minor character (i.e.: villains, random helpers, etc.)? What’s your favourite scene? Do you have a favourite quote to share?

    Ooh, favorites…  I knew this question was coming, so I tried to be prepared, but I just was too into the book to remember to pick them.  Let me see….

    Favorite main character:  Well, of course it’s probably Gandalf.  Do people answer anything else?  Why or how could you have any other favorite than the Wandering Wizard?  Well, maybe Bilbo…  since he is the one about whom the story was written.  Certainly, it can’t be the dwarves, they’re a bunch of pansies who push Bilbo out in front like a Hobbit-shield.  Money-grubbing, short, lazy.. grumble grumble.  I know too many people like them in real life to like them much in the book, especially the pompous, self-important Thorin (though, he does redeem himself in the end).

    Favorite minor character:  Ahh, now this one gives us a much broader choice.  My favorite minor character is, by far, Beorn.  I loved Beorn!  He treats his animals with care and love as if they were his own children, and watches over and guards his friends, too.  Beorn could be called “The Guardian of the Wood”, I think.  And I had forgotten about him until reaching his house after the Eagles had dropped them all at the Carrock.  Beorn has this sense that he could be dangerous (well, and his does transform into a bear, after all), but there’s a gentleness about him at the same time.

    Favorite scene:  My favorite scene had always previously been the barrel-escape scene.  However, this time around, my favorite scene is at the end, when Gandalf and Bilbo begin their journey home, parting company with the elvenking, and Beorn stays with them and protects them.  I don’t know why I’d never paid much attention to him before!

    As for my favorite quote…  There were so many great lines and passages in this book, obviously!  But here’s the one that struck me this time around:

    “The the prophecies of the old song have turned out to be true, after a fashion!” said Bilbo.

    “Of course!” said Gandalf.  “And why should not they prove true?  Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself?  You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit?  You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!”

    “Thank goodness!” said Bilbo laughing, and handed him the tobacco-jar.

    -The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein, page 330

     

     I found a deep sense of comfort in this passage this time around, and I’m not exactly sure why.  Perhaps it’s the idea that I myself am “quite a little fellow” (or whatever the term for a girl fellow is) in a wide world, and it’s a comfort to know that it all will turn out okay in the end.  Sometimes it feels like I’m battling the forces of darkness just to raise my kids to be honorable, integral, self-respecting, well-mannered, civilized, law-abiding, good citizens.  And though it would be nice to have a wizard helping me along the way, or a bear-man like Beorn to watch over them when they’re not under my own watchful gaze, it is a comfort to know that there is Someone who does keep them, and all of us, and, though we might not understand the hows and whys, there is a Plan that is being worked out for the good of all.

    This counts toward my 451 Challenge.

    Friday Fill-Ins ~ The LOST Bionic Invisible Blogger!

    fridayfillin.gif

    1. Wouldn’t it be easy _to sneak into the vault at the bank and help myself *sigh* if only I had the power of invisibility_

    2. _Gentlemen, we can rebuild her. We have the technology. We have the capability to make the world’s first bionic blogger. The Kool-Aid Mom will be that blogger.  She will be_ better than ever!

    3. I love the taste of _chicken (don’t EVER EVVVVER Google “I love the taste of” …. EVVVVVER_. you went and did it, didn’t you.  I WARNED you.

    4. _Now that it’s the domain of two teenagers, it looks like a tornado touched down after an industrial accident happened_ in the living room.

    5. The first thing we’re going to do is _get that woman hitting little punk into a sweatlodge and make him sweat out that evil_.

    6. _The cold weather outside makes my nose go_ drip, drip, drip; _could someone tell me where the facet handle is?_

    7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to _read The Hobbit, work on laundry and start a LOST-a-thon with Mags_, tomorrow my plans include _lunch with the kids and a run to the library, fininshing and reviewing The Hobbit, clean house, and more LOST with Mags_ and Sunday, I want to _hide from Maggie’s dad (he told her he’d be here Sunday, that’s why all the house cleaning), act like I really care what he says, then LOST the rest of the day after he leaves_! (Yes, we are gearing up for the LOST season premiere next week!)

    So, whatcha doin’ this weekend?

    more Friday Fill-Ins here!

    BTT ~ Dune Thief’s Daughters

    btt button

    Jackie says, “I love books with complicated plots and unexpected endings. What is your favourite book with a fantastic twist at the end?”

    So, today’s question is in two parts.

    1. Do YOU like books with complicated plots and unexpected endings?

    2. What book with a surprise ending is your favorite? Or your least favorite?

    My answer to the first part, “do I like complicated plots and unexpected endings?” is a resounding YES!  I think it’s one of the things I liked best about Dune.  All the intrigues and plots and subplots made it like taking a long trip down a winding road and checking out all the historical markers, garage sales, and tourist traps along the way.  I hate reading a book where I know what’s going to happen, it really takes a lot of the fun out of it.  Maybe that’s one of the things I didn’t like about The Blue Notebook, none of it was a surprise… except just how far human depravity can go.

    As for what book with a surprise ending is my favorite, I’d say The Book Thief is my favorite book.  I don’t know whether it was a “surprise” because we know Liesel is going to die by page 3, and yet… somehow… her death is still a shock, like when a person with cancer dies in a car crash.  You knew their end was coming, but when it happens it’s a shock.  It wasn’t the fact she died, but the how and what all happened in the book before that.  I actually cried for several minutes, and couldn’t start a new book for a few days because of how much emotions it had wrought in me.  That’s why The Book Thief is my all-time favorite book.  I’ve never had a book reach me so deeply.

    As for my least favorite “surprise ending” book, that’d be BoneMan’s Daughters.  By the time the end came, I was hating the book so bad, there was nothing Dekker could do to bring me back.  I’d lost my willing suspension of disbelief, so the ending was ridiculous to me.

    So how about you?  Do you like complicated and twisty books?  What’s your favorite surprise ending?

    Check out other Twisty Booking Through Thursday answers!

    The Blue Notebook by James A. Levine

    The Blue Notebook by James A. LevineTitle:  The Blue Notebook

    Author:  James A. Levine

    Paperback: 210 pages (ARC)

    Published:  2009

    ISBN:  9780385528719

    Acquired:  won through LibraryThing’s ER March 2009 batch

    Challenges:  The ARC Reading Challenge 2010, New Author Challenge 2010, POC Reading Challenge

    The Blue Notebook by James A. Levine is a fictional novel told from the point of view of Batuk Ramasdeen, a 15-year-old prostitute living in a closet-sized “nest”, as she calls it.  It is written like a journal or diary and gives a graphic glimpse of the life of a child sex slave.  While it’s called “The Blue Notebook”, it is written in three separate collections of pages, the first being contained in the blue notebook for which the book is named, while the other two sections were written on hotel paper then later plain paper.  The reason I mention this is because, in a lot of ways, this book felt like two separate and distinct stories, falling in these different segments.

    The first part, the part written in the blue notebook, was inspired by Levine’s experiences when he traveled to Mumbai as part of a research trip for his work at the Mayo Clinic.  While there, he interviewed several street kids on the infamous Street of Cages, when he noticed a child prostitute writing in a notebook.  He talked with her for a long time and her story and what he saw there stuck with him and led him to writing this book in hopes of shining a light on the tragic events occurring to such young children, stealing their childhoods, their souls, and often their very lives.

    “The Blue Notebook” section is hauntingly real and fairly true to the character of Batuk as a young girl who was sold into prostitution by her own father at the age of 9.  Now 15, Batuk is an adult woman, aware of her sexual allure, one second, then a playful, giggling, daydreaming child the next, writing stories and telling jokes to cheer up her friend.  She tells us from the beginning that she is prone to waxing dramatic, and, at times, her writing has a poetic beauty to it, with metaphors and stunning word pictures.  It does have some amount of stream of conciousness to it, as she may be talking about having sex with the men in one sentence and then write about some event back home before being brought to Mumbai in the next.

    Batuk is unusual for a child of the streets, and even unusual for the men that she services, in that she can read and write.  She tells of having TB and spending 12 weeks in a missionary hospital where she had had the privilege of a tutor three times a week and was even sent away with a goodbye gift of a box full of books for her to keep.  As soon as they’re home, she has her father close his eyes as she reads a story to her father and then waits for his reaction.

    Father did not say a word until I finished.  As I concluded the story, I peeked under his hat; his eyes were shiny and tears were streaming down his face.  He just stared at me.  “Father, there are happier stories, let me…”  “Batuk, that is not why I am crying.  I never imagined that any child of mine would ever learn to read… this is your ticket out of Dreepah-Jil.”  He caught his thoughts and continued to speak excitedly.  “We will have to find you a teacher… One day you will be a… doctor, a lawyer.”  I interrupted, “Or a teacher.”  “Yes, darling, or a great teacher, Batuk.  Come to me.”  I went to my father with another book tucked under my arm, the magical abhang poems of Namdev.  As I read words I barely understood and soaked them within me, my father held me.  That night we both created dreams for me.  Neither he nor I ever aspired to my becoming a prostitute.(embolden added)

    -The Blue Notebook by James A. Levine, page 82 (ARC)

    While “The Blue Notebook” section is stark and unvarnished glimpse into the lives of the street children, most all-too-short lives, at that, the remainder of the book is crap, to be honest.  I could really feel the children who had inspired Levine in the first segment, but in the second half of the book, it all felt sleazy.  It felt like I was reading snuff kiddie porn.  I’m not giving anything away, I don’t think, in telling you Batuk dies.  I knew it within the first 20 pages that it would not end well, and at the end of The Blue Notebook, there is blatant foreshadowing, and you know by then, if you didn’t already, that she was going to die a cruel and violent death.  So did she, sadly, and she was powerless to act on that prescience, because after six years of conditioning, it never occurred to her to run.

    I understand what Levine was trying to do with The Blue Notebook, and I think it commendable, and according to the back of the book, all the profits from the book is being donated to organizations that help missing and exploited children, so the fact that Levine didn’t write this book for the money touches my heart.  This fact also makes me feel bad to give a frank and honest review, but the truth is, the second half of the book feels like a gorean child molesters erotica book.  Batuk is raped repeatedly, and basically answers, “Thank you, Master, for the pleasure.”  She’s kicked and beaten and starved, and all that is horrible and fits into where Levine wanted to go with the story, but the way in which it was written felt like a male fantasy. 

    IDK, I’m not saying he enjoyed writing it, just that it felt creepy, like when you were a kid, the uncle at the family picnic that hugged you a little too long.  He didn’t do anything wrong, per se, he just hugged you, but it leaves you feeling like you’re crawling with cooties and need a scalding hot shower.  Yeah, the second half of this book is like the creepy uncle.

    I’d say that if you’re inspired to buy this book because doing so helps out children, just donate directly to the International and National Centers for Missing and Exploited Children.  Don’t bother with the book, just donate the $10 straight to the cause.

    For all that he wanted to do with this, and for the beautiful sections that the book does contain, I’m going to give The Blue Notebook by James A. Levine 2.5 out of 5 stars.  That represents a balance of what I loved and what I hated, I think.

    Other links of interest

    The Street of Cages:  In Mumbai the Sparrows — children of prostitutes — are being rescued and given an education, thanks to a remarkable project – A Times Online article also by James A. Levine

    Other Reviews:

    Lisa at Books On the Brain

    Petunia at Educating Petunia

    Nicole at Linus’s Blanket

    Natasha at Maw Books

    Jen at Devourer of Books

    Rants and Reads at The Novel World

    Rebecca at The Book Lady Blog

    Swapna at S.Krishna’s Books (is there a book she hasn’t read?)

    Meghan at Medieval Bookworm

    Jennifer at The Literate Housewife

    Jill at Rhapsody in Books

    Laurie at In Laurie’s Mind

    At this point, I’m just gonna stop adding links because, apparently, I’m the only person left in the blogosphere to read and review this book.  If you’d like to add you review to the list, link it in your comment :-)

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