Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Kite Runner - Audio Book Review

Amir and Hasan are two young boys growing up in an Afghanistan where tradition rules, gardens bloom and boys play with kites.
Amir's childhood is idyllic, and his relationship with Hasan is set up very similarly to the age old story of The Prince and the Pauper.  Hasan's father is a servant in Amir's household which is run by Amir's father, Baba.  Therefore, Hasan and Amir grow up together as brothers, even though they are separated by two distinct classes.

Amir's father Baba is a man's man.  He's a businessman who also helps look after his community; he is wealthy, well respected and people know that they can count on him.  Amir is nothing like his father, prefering books over being outside, playing sports, etc.  Those who knew Amir's mother, who died while giving birth to him, say that Amir is more like her than Baba.
Amir dreams of being a writer.

Amir and Baba clash constantly, and Amir grows jealous of Baba's attention shown toward Hasan. 
This jealousy begins to drive a wedge between Hasan and Amir with Amir acting at times like a spoiled brat and Hasan accepting Amir's treatment as a consequence of his position and the way things are supposed to be. 
One day after school Amir and Hasan meet up with a known crowd of bullies, and Hasan suffers a lifechanging horror while Amir simply watches.  Amir eventually flees the scene and pretends it never happened.
Thus began the downfall of Amir and Hasan's relationship.

Even after the horrific event, Hasan's love for Amir is still as complete as ever.  Amir, however, is still eaten up with jealousy, but now also overcome with grief and guilt.  Yet, Amir still takes his emotions out on Hasan.
All of their lives are interrupted by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and life as they know it ceases to exist.  By the time the Taliban takes control, they must flee their homeland in order to survive. 
Through a clandestine effort of great and sometimes unbelievable difficulty Baba and Amir are able to escape in the middle of the night with nothing but the clothes on their backs to California where they begin to build some semblance of a life, albeit nowhere near the one they had in pre war Afghanistan.

In California Baba and Amir continue to wrestle with their relationship but are finally able to find a comfort zone of sorts with one another while they both adjust to their new lives in America.  They find a home within a community of other Afghan refugees with the knowledge that the land of their birth is gone forever.  Ironically, it is here that Amir is finally able to come to terms with his culture, the traditional roles embraced so by the older generations, including his father, while at the same time forging ahead with his own ideas and goals.

Amir's mature acceptance of his new life, however, also keeps him from true happiness because he cannot forget Hasan and the events surrounding their disintegrated friendship.  Hasan was forced to remain in Afghanistan, and communication between those who escaped and those who remained is non-existent.  Amir begins a quest to find Hasan and right the wrongs of their childhood.   
It is through this frustrating and exhausting quest that Amir learns the secrets of his family including Hasan and his father's connection.

My Thoughts:
It has been difficult for me to review The Kite Runner...I actually finished it over a month ago.  I couldn't write anything about it at first.  I needed to just let it work its way through every pore of my brain (do brains have pores?). ;)

There were many times in the audio that I wanted to just grab Amir by the shoulders and scream at him to GROW UP!!! and think of someone besides himself. The horror that occurs shocked me; I didn't expect it, nor was I prepared emotionally for it...especially Amir's response; he literally and symbolically deserted Hasan.  I had a very difficult time liking Amir after this event.

The descriptions of pre-war Afghanistan surprised me.  I'm embarrassed to admit that.  As an American it is difficult to think of Afghanistan in any other way besides the way the media has portrayed it.  After the events of September 11, Afghanistan became a place of "bad people" and still is for many Americans.  Tragedy has a way of swaying perspective.
I am an intelligent person.  I should know better.  I've spent a great deal of my life encouraging students to keep their eyes open and to always remember there are more sides to the story than just the one you think you see.
The teacher learned a lesson this time.
The descriptions of Soviet controlled Afghanistan and especially Taliban controlled Afghanistan disturbed me as much as scenes I've read describing The Holocaust.  I guess I'm just naive enough to keep hoping that this kind of evil does not exist.
Unfortunately, my adult brain knows that it does.

Another very interesting aspect of reading The Kite Runner is how I will now teach the excerpt in our Comp I reader, simply called Baba and Me.
I'm ashamed to admit that I have been teaching Baba and Me for quite some time without having read the novel. 
As an academic who has been trained to think about these things way too much, I now wonder if we are really doing our students any favors by throwing so many snippets of all of these works of art at them.  Would it not be better to give them a complete picture of fewer selections rather than a cursory read (or not) of as many as we can fit in a semester??
Most of my students hate Baba and Me.
The few who have actually read the novel, however, love it.
Go figure.
I'll no doubt have to blog more about this later, whether or not this is an academic blog ;)
My read of The Kite Runner also took place within an audiobook format.  The author as narrator kept me involved in the story...his language, the dialect, the Afghan words spoken with beauty and flowing from the mouth of someone who is obviously a lover of language, his language, is an experience in itself.  Wow!

The ending of The Kite Runner is perfect...and realistic...the ending is not simple and all is not "happily ever after," but if it had been, the story would have then become unrealistic. In life most of the time there is no way to just say "I'm sorry" and fix all the wrongs of the past. We also are changed by events that occur outside our control.   While we get to go on with our lives, we take the consequences of past choices and events with us forever. Hopefully, we learn from those events and they help us to become who we eventually are. I believe this is what finally happened with Amir.

The Kite Runner will go down in history as being one of those books that changed my perspective and opened my eyes.  If the definition of a literary work includes those texts that permeate every inch of a person and make the reader go through an entire gamut of emotion while reading...and then change that person's life, perspective, existence in the process...then this is one of those books.

P.S. I have not and will not see this movie.  I want to keep the story just as it is in my head :)
I'm sorta silly that way ;)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Blog Hop #4 - Friday, Nov. 5

Here we go hoppin'!!
I look forward to this all week!!

The hop is hosted by Jennifer at Crazy for Books each and every Friday :)
Thanks, Jennifer!!

In the spirit of the Twitter Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word! This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books! It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs to read!

This week's question:

"What are your feelings on losing followers? Have you ever stopped following a blog?"

I ran across an old blog posting tonight where the book blogger's husband was an internet website designer...he was obviously very knowlegeable about what kind of content is effective from a marketing or sales standpoint.  His specifically commented that most book bloggers' sites are too busy and have too many widgets, pictures, etc. etc. on them.  While he was offering his professional advice for free, I couldn't help but think, "Wow, that's great advice...but I'm not going to change's my's who I am...I'm not going to change it bc a webpage designer says I should." 

I'm not into blogging for money...I'm in it for peace of mind.  That said, my followers and those I follow are most definitely people I read and comment on several times a week.  I try to read them all every day...I really do...I'm a reader...what can I say???  But, I comment when I have something honest and thoughtful to say, not just to comment for the heck of commenting.  I'm approaching my 1 year anniversary as a blogger and I can say that I've developed some true online friendships through blogging...but only with those that I actually carry on a conversation's not the number of followers; it's the quality of the dialogue. 

If you're just trying to follow as many people as you can to get as many people as possible to follow you, then I would question as to why a person is blogging in the first place.

Looking forward to the extra challenge of finding one new blog that I really WANT to follow :)
Time to hop and see who's out there this week!!


An Award - Thanks, Carol!!! and A Tag - Thanks, Paula!!

Awwwww!  Carol over at Dizzy C sent me this sweet award!!!!
Thank you, Carol!!

Carol lives in Britain...I love reading her posts...I'm all about bloggers who write with an accent ;)

The conditions of this award are that all recipients must:

1. Thank and link back to the person that gave this award
2. Write 7 things about yourself
3. Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic
4. Contact the bloggers you’ve picked to let them know about the award

Seven Things about Me:

1.  I cannot use a towel twice.  I promise I care deeply about the environment...I just can't do this.  Yes, my laundry pile is ridiculous.

2.  I wear the same jewelry every. single. day.: a pair of diamond earrings my mommy gave me :), a Brighton watch, and my wedding rings.

3.  I will not, will not, will not see a movie of a book until I have read the book. And, sometimes I don't see the movie after I've read the book. 

4.  One of my pet peeves is when a student who has been absent from class asks me, "Did we do anything in class on Monday?"  :(  grrrrrrr  I want so badly to say "Of course not; we just all sat around and played cards since you weren't here."

5.  I love a clean's better than therapy...but I don't like to clean and I have never had help at home that could clean to my specifications...   ***heavy sigh***  I promise I'm not as high maintenence as this tidbit sounds :)

6.  I love my children...but I have never been one of those women who has "baby fever."  I actually don't really even understand the concept.  I think babies are cute...but I don't want to hold everybody's baby and I'm glad they get to go home with their parents.

7.  The best way to get me to do something is to tell me not to...been that way all my life...sorry, Mom.

***If there was a # 8 it would be that I have a tendency to be a control freak...hence the fact that I'm adding a #8 and I did not pick 15 bloggers below, nor are the bloggers I picked "newly discovered."

Maybe I am a little high maintenence ;)

My Blogger Picks

Queen of my Castle - my long lost sister ;) Paula who just moved back to the mainland from Hawaii

Fiddle Dee Dee - a Southern gal like me who really knows decorating and setting a table

Kent Island Red - a nature and animal lover in Maine...a place I really want to go!!

My Five Men - a mom, an artist, an educator, a decorator...Betsy makes me tired...but in a good way.

Notice how I didn't pick's that control thing again...Oy!

Then, my buddy Paula over at Queen of My Castle reached out and...
Tag, You're It!!!

Here are my questions from Paula:

1. If you could go back and start all over at the age of 21, would you? Why or why not?

nope, don't even need to think about this one...I am such a different person now as compared to the young inexperienced person I was then...I was nowhere near as confident and assertive as I am now either :)

2. What would be the perfect pet for you?

Cats are perfect for me because they love in a way that's standoffish...they want attention sometimes but they don't follow you around

3. If you were a car, what kind would you be?

a black Lexxus suv...sassy, sleek and family minded...all at the same time :)

4. What is in the floor of your closet?

shoes...mine and the youngest's

5. If you had the chance to do anything you wanted for a living, what would it be?

teach...I am happiest at work when I am in my classroom with my students.

6. If you had the chance to spend one day with someone who is gone from your life, how would you spend it?

I would spend the day with my Pop...I miss him terribly...We would eat corn flakes for breakfast, cornbread and milk for lunch and supper...and we would sit outside in between and play with the dogs.

7. Describe yourself in 200 words or less.

I am a hardheaded Southern gal all the way from the top of my head to the tip of my toes; I feel very deeply about the things I feel deeply about even though I try to keep an open mind to other folks' ways of thinking. I trust most people until they give me a reason not to trust them...then, I'm done. I have a difficult time forgetting past wrongs and cannot and will not stand for someone to try and run over me or mine. I love my life and am happy and peppy most of the time. I was an only child for 11 years so I don't mind being by myself sometimes, but it doesn't take long for me to start missing my family. I love to travel and see new places and learn about other cultures but I love Home also...growing up I always couldn't wait to "get out of Mississippi" I love it for what it is...a very small sometimes misunderstood state with a myriad of the the most comical people you'll ever meet...but who would tear off their left arm to help their neighbor in a crisis, no matter their differences.

8. What is your favorite holiday? How would you spend it if you could have your way?

another one I don't have to think about...Thanksgiving!! I would have the week of Thanksgiving plus the week before off of work to prepare and then on Thanksgiving Day I would have everybody from both sides of our families over for Thanksgiving Dinner...and everyone would be happy and thankful (that would be the hard part) ;)

This was fun!!!

Thanks, Carol and Paula!!


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday, Nov. 2 - Top Ten Books that Made Me Cry

Top Ten Tuesday is an original meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

****Spoiler Alert for Where the Red Fern Grows, Old Yeller, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

Top Ten Books that Made Me Cry

First of all, I'm not a crier.  If I'm crying, I guarantee you something hurts.  If I cry, my household freaks out...really, I mean it.  I do have a sensitive spot in my heart for animals and children...which I think is definitely evidenced by my selections this week:

1.  The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold - I literally sobbed my way through this book.  Sobbed.  I ain't kiddin'...the pain and suffering experienced by the father in this story is what really set me off...I actually do not think I could re-read this one...and I refuse to see the movie. 

2.  Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls - Old Dan and Little dogs a boy could ever have...When Little Ann dies and Old Dan just lays on her grave till he dies...Heaven help me! 

3.  Old Yeller by Fred Gipson- When Travis takes the gun from his mom's hands and shoots Ole' Yeller, I couldn't even see the words on the page through my tears.

4.  Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford - My dad read me this book the first time.  I squawled when the Siamese cat went down the river on the log.  That scene was the end of the chapter and I was so upset that my dad read an extra chapter just so I would know what happened to the cat. 

5. Color Purple by Alice Walker - more sobbing here...various places but deeply and profoundly when the sisters are reunited and Celie sees her grown children for the first time in years.

6. Steve and Me by Terri Irwin and Payne Stewart: The Authorized Biography by Tracy Stewart - the death of a soulmate, husband and father of their children.  Holy Smokes.  Both of these women are tough as nails in part due to the great and realistic love they shared with their partners who both died tragically.  Somehow they both managed to hold it together through and after the sudden lifechanging events. 

7. and 8.Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling - the death of Sirius Black was a heavy blow, but the death of Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince almost did me in. 

9. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells - a rare example of a movie that lived up to the expectations of the novel.  I cried in both and I'm really particular about movies that portray Southerners...have heard enough fake Southern accents to last a lifetime. 

10.  Down Came the Rain by Brooke Shields - all Tom Cruise craziness aside, if you've ever experienced post-partum depression (I did with my 3rd daughter), this book will make you feel sane.  You will also cry right along with Brooke.  Let Tom give birth; then he can give us his opinion.

I used the word "sobbing" quite a few times in this post...but I guess that's the point, right??

Monday, November 1, 2010

Magazine Monday, Nov. 1 - Martha Stewart Living

Martha Stewart you say? 

I like Martha Stewart for the very reasons a lot of people dislike Martha Stewart.  The woman has the uncanny ability to make a mountain out of a molehill.  :)

No joke.

Instead of going to the store and buying a paper bag, the woman will go into her backyard, chop down a tree, have it processed in her mini paper mill she keeps in her 100 year old shed, and wallah, she has a paper bag that looks just like the one I bought in the store for 25 cents. 

Martha doesn't ever try to tell you this is how you should do it though; Martha is a self admitted control freak and OCD person.
If Martha wants to make a paper bag instead of going to buy one, she does.

You go, Martha.

I've been a Martha fan since I bought this book

Remember this?
Me and Martha, we go way back. :)

The magazine continues some of the tradition started in her original books...along with some newer sections as well.
One of my favorite newer sections of Martha Stewart Living is her photography section.

Of course Martha has her own little studio...filled with several computers for various and asundry purposes...

particular photo editing programs and online services that she likes to well as a big screen HDtv for previewing photos.

Did I already say Oy?

And heavens to Betsy...please don't forget all the top of the line photography equipment...
I was drooling at this point.

After I finished updating my "Dream On, Sister" wishlist, Martha brought me back to reality...

pears decorated using simple but delicious smelling cloves to welcome guests...

Now, I was kidding about Martha bringing me back down to Earth from the stratosphere of camera equipment....
this is the stuff I really like about Martha.

Whenever possible, Martha uses natural ingredients and decorates using traditionally inspired ideas.
I'm giving these pears a try this year...they're just so warm, unpretentious and inviting.
Don't you think??

How 'bout this pomegrante door hanger as the photo introducing her "Good Things" section??
If you know anything at all about Martha, you know there will be some very "good things."


More good things...
this time for the kids...

Martha can get really get elaborate with entertaining, but she seems to try and be realistic about it as well. 
Take this breakfast planned for when a hostess may have a large crew in the house...most people have their own routines, likes and dislikes, etc. 
This kind of breakfast would satisfy most...and doesn't mean the hostess has to spend hours and hours in the kitchen preparing each and every meal

My brother says people who stay at my house are on their own.
He stayed at my house once, and I didn't make him breakfast.
Now, he'll never let me forget it.
Little brothers are just that way ;)

Martha always includes things from her own home as well as ideas and photographs from the homes of other real people...not celebrities.

I love that this table has a bench with it :)
The table my parents had in our dining room while I was growing up had a bench :):)
And, I absolutely adore the pumpkins and long candles as centerpieces.

Oh my!!
Aren't these seasonal desserts fabulous!!!!

And, of course, Martha will talk you through wine selection...frugality is always considered but with the understanding that you should always buy the best wine you can...and by all means, depending on the occasion, you may, in fact, have to splurge.  The choice is up to you.

 Besides entertaining, there's also a section for weeknight cooking...this pasta shells recipe is a family favorite and can even be prepared and frozen on the weekend to be taken out some busy night and still provide a hot nutritious supper for a hungry bunch of kids and husband. 
Martha provides the original recipe as well as some options for fillers depending on an individual's family's personal likes and dislikes.

 Now, this is the kind of mountain out of a molehill that I think Martha does very well. 
While she is certainly ahead of the game with the newest and most sparkly techno gadgets, she also honors timeless traditions such as letter writing, invitations, and thank-you notes. 
There is nothing like a handwritten note...yes, email is quicker and can be shot out in a heartbeat...but a handwritten note sends a message just with the note matter what it says inside...that the writer thought enough of you to go the extra put in a little extra send you a message.

Now, here's where Martha overwhelms me and even makes me feel guilty.  The section on housekeeping kills me. 
She has a housekeeping agenda.
Daily, weekly, monthly, bi-annually and yearly.

My housekeeping agenda is.....
get it done when you can, when you think about it, and/or when somebody runs out of underwear :)

This month's housekeeping includes how to make room in your home for guests...closets, drawers, etc.

A final recipe for each month usually goes along with the season of the magazine issue.
For November, it was a Pumpkin Cream Pie
Gingersnaps for the crust!!!!
I'm makin' this for our Thanksgiving this year!

Even after all that baking, decorating and entertaining, Martha is not done yet because she is also a collector...where in the world she puts all of her stuff, I'll never know.  But, there is always a section on a particular collectible, how to tell authentic from copy, and lots of gorgeous pictures of the various forms, kinds, labels, designs, etc.

With all her organization, cleanliness and attention to detail, it may surprise some to know that Martha is a pet lover.  She actually has numerous cats and dogs living inside her house and quite a few other animals as well living outside. 
In last month's issue Martha showed how her renovated kitchen was organized (she had, of course, planned out every inch) including a "pet station"...each of the animal's food bowl and containers of food were, of course, divided and had their own little individual station...

Uh-Oh asked why he did not have his own pet station.
I told him to quit reading my magazines. :)

On the flip side of this month's issue is an actual section on pets.
Martha has always had Chows and Himalyan cats...another of the reasons I like her...most of her publications include pictures of her animals sitting in chairs, on couches, etc. where they obviously are comfortable being.

I don't read every section of Martha Stewart Living because there are some sections that don't appeal to me at all...the crafting section (this month was knitting)...yes, Martha sews...why are you surprised???
 and the gardening is a little over my head...
but I still look at the fantastic pictures :)
Keep it comin', Martha!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Weekend Cooking - Sunday, Oct. 31

I'm a little late posting today because honestly I'm worn out from the festivities!  It's a good kind of worn out...but worn out just the same. 
I love the times that our family is together...and, it's no secret that any time folks are together, food plays a pretty big part.
Thank goodness ;)

I've always done Thanksgiving at our's my favorite holiday :) but besides a random Christmas party or feeding random children who happen to be at my house, I'm not a big "entertainer."
I did learn just in the last few years that if I relax, keep it simple and remember to enjoy the festivities myself, it makes for a much more memorable occasion :):)

My yougest started off yesterday morning by cleaning out the pumpkin...

She pulled out all this wonderful "ghoulosh" :)

I'd never roasted pumpking seeds before but was determined to give it a try.

After my father-in-law passed away last year less than a week before Halloween, we were invited to a party down the street from my mother-in-law.  The family was so gracious to ours as we tried to numbly carry on for the sake of all the grandchildren.
We were invited again this year to partake and I wanted to be sure to bring something special...they fed all of us last year...and wouldn't allow us to bring a thing.

I had planned for homemade flavored with white icing, chocolate sprinkles, and orange gel for decorations. 
I put my firstborn in charge of the cupcakes.

Of course when it was time for decorating, the youngest wanted in on the action again...with a little cajoling, I was able to convince my firstborn to allow the youngest to help.

I think my firstborn was pleasantly surprised when she realized her little sister wasn't going to mess everything up.

We had sprinkles all over the countertop, on the floor, in the youngest's name it, there was a sprinkle on it...but we did also manage to get some sprinkles on the cupcakes.

Take a look at my firstborn.  She took these cupcakes seriously.

She came up with the idea of writing on the cupcakes with kid-friendly sayings.

Here they are finally working together :)

Some of the finished cupcakes...

the kitty cat was my youngest's favorite

After roasting for 45 minutes with butter and salt, my pumpkin seeds were smelling up the house.

They were pretty good...I think next time I'll roast them for a little shorter time. 
Michelle at Peaceful Reader promised to share some tips...and I'm gonna hold her to that promise!

My middle child was not interested in kitchen prep today...she was in charge of costume prep...Here you can see the fruits of her labor.

And, last but not least...
My Meal Plan for this week:

Sunday - finally made PW's pot it together right after church : )

Monday - PW's Parmesan Chicken

Tuesday - Meatball Muffins - my kids' all time favorite

Wednesday - PW's Chicken Strips - my husband actually asks for these...and that's sayin' somethin' :)

Thursday - Crock-Pot Chicken Tacos - from my friend Paula over at Queen of my Castle

Friday - Slow Cooker Enchiladas - a new recipe

Saturday - Soup (please pray that the weather will cooperate)

Thanks Beth at Beth Fish Reads for hosting Weekend Cooking.  You have forced me to once again try to get it together in the kitchen :)