The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

In The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, Thursday Next is an agent for SO-27, working in the Literatec division in alternative 1985. Her job is to stop literary thieves from taking original manuscripts. This is a very important job, for people in Thursday’s world are able step in and out of books: if one were to mess with the original manuscript, every copy of the book would be changed forever.

I loved the “Dragnet” tone of the narration, and the outrageous abilities of people in the book (such as going back and forth in time or accidentally falling in a hole in time) make the solving of a crime hilarious. The characters’ names alone are funny (from Jack Schitt, a bad guy, to Paige Turner and Thursday Next). Besides the humorous and fantastic elements, though, I loved the import of literature to the people in Thursday’s world. If only Shakespeare’s plays were the entertainment of choice in our world!Continue Reading

Reading Journal (5 August): Library Loot

I love libraries, and I particularly love my library system. I’ve found that I can get any book, essentially. The one I wanted to read this month that they didn’t have in the huge system (Abraham Lincoln), I requested, free of charge, via Inter-Library Loan. It came within a week.

I’ve found that since I started “reporting” to you what I read each week, I’m being less irresponsible with my library requests. I used to just put a hold request anytime I wanted a book, and then I’d pick it up, change my mind and return it. Now I’m thinking more carefully about what I’ll actually get done before I have to return it to the library. I’m being more responsible. I’m not starting (or even requesting) books that I don’t intend to finish.

I’m checking out fewer books as a result, but I feel good because I know I’ll get to them. I even went to the library today and didn’t get any new books for myself! Of course, I also go through 5-10 picture books for my son every week!

What’s your library loot plan?

Do you just get whatever you want on a whim, do you browse at the library, or do you plan and structure your library pick-ups to only get what you are planning on reading that week?

How many books do you normally have checked out at a time? How many of them do you read? Continue Reading

Twenty Years at Hull-House by Jane Addams

Jane Addams was born shortly before the Civil War to a privileged family in rural Illinois. After graduating from Rockford College, Addams determined to “live with the poor” (page 44). In the coming decades and for the remainder of her life, Addams was an influential leader for Chicago social reform. Beyond her leadership, though, Addams was a friend to thousands of poor immigrants in the Chicago slums.

Twenty Years at Hull-House is Jane Addams’ autobiography until about 1910, a chronicle of the various reforms she brought to life and some of the things that changed the lives of the immigrants (9,000 a year). Hull-House was a non-political, non-religious haven for those that had no other advocate in a busy city. The story is remarkable.

I have never read anything quite like this before, and so this “review” is more of a collection of notes, quotes, and issues that stood out to me as I read it.

Twenty Years of Hull-House is written not in chronological order (except for the first few chapters covering her childhood) but rather in topical order.  In places, the text did become dry when it discussed people, philosophies, and economic issues I was unfamiliar with. But reading a more difficult book was well worth the effort for me. In a sense, it opened my eyes to the plight of the poor. While the issues have changed in the past 100 years, I believe that the underlying isolation that comes with poverty or immigration is still pertinent today. I liked reading this book both for the historical value and for the interesting perspective of hands-on social work.Continue Reading

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel + Giveaway

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel is almost a genre by itself. The traditional Mexican recipes are provided in a novel format as it tells the story of Tita, Tita’s overbearing mother, and Tita’s lover, Pedro, who marries her sister. And yet, it’s not a cook book, and I don’t think it’s not an ordinary novel.

The title comes from the state of water just before it’s ready for hot chocolate: the water is simmering and the bubbles are about to burst on the surface.

Such a near eruption is Tita’s state throughout her life. From her childhood, Tita has been in the kitchen, and she longs to live a life of her own and to feel the passions that she is forbidden. As the third daughter, Tita is forced to care for her aging mother for the rest of her life, rather than to love and experience life. As much as Tita longs to escape, she is constantly trapped preparing the traditional dishes that only she knows how to prepare.  These dishes, and the memories and emotions that stem from them, capture the sorrows of her life.

I loved reading this book. It was part novel. It was part romance. It was part magic. It was part cook book (although I’d never attempt to create the meals, given the long-winded, unclear instructions that start with plucking feathers and so forth). Certainly, Like Water for Chocolate had it faults in that it is short and all people in it were caricatures. And yet, I didn’t care. It was a fun book.

I liked it so much that I’d like to share it with a reader of Rebecca Reads. I’m giving away my lightly used copy.

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