That time I did a Follow Friday on a Saturday: Japan!

Yesterday, I did not go to work. I woke up at 9:00 in the morning bathed in warmth and the sun’s rays. It felt like a magnificent Saturday morning. Alas! It was only Friday. This is a much better scenario than thinking the day is Friday, but in reality it’s only Thursday (or worse, Wednesday). I did forget about participating in Follow Friday, but this week’s question was too fun for me to pass up.

Spring Break: Where would be your favorite destination spot if you could join the Spring Break festivities?

First, this would require me to still have a Spring Break. Adulthood is such a drag! But, if I could choose any place to visit for a Spring Break, I would go to Japan.

Hanami by Eric Monfort

Hanami by Eric Montfort

1. I would have a Hanami (花見)– Hanami means “flower viewing”, and they take place when the cherry blossoms are flowering. I’ve read that many people get together and have picnics in parks, but even to walk amongst the trees and their delicate flowers would be a delight.

Okunion Cemetery on Mount Koya from Jordy Meow

Okunion Cemetery on Mount Koya from Jordy Meow

2. Take a hike on Mount Koya– After spending a day hiking mountain trails, you can experience a temple lodging by staying at one of the Buddhist temples.

Old Town in Takayama

Old Town in Takayama

3. Travel back in time in Old Town in Takayama– The houses that line these streets are preserved from the Edo Period (1600-1868). Take tours of sake breweries, enjoy a cup of coffee at a coffee house, or even take a tour of houses to see how people lived during the Edo Period.

Kenrokuen from trako_aus

Kenrokuen from trako_aus

4. Visit Kenrokuen– Kenrokuen in Kanzawa is considered to be on of Japan’s most beautiful landscape gardens. While you’re there, you can also visit a tea house and watch a tea ceremony.

Nagoya Castle from Yevgen Pogoryelov

Nagoya Castle from Yevgen Pogoryelov

5. Daydream in Nagoya Castle– because how could you say no to a quintessential touristy thing like touring a castle?!

Japan is on my bucket list, so really I’d be happy to visit even in the dead of winter. Where is your dream Spring Break destination?

Follow Friday is a meme hosted by Parajunkee’s Views and Alison Can Read

Follow Friday: What Books Did Santa Bring?


Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! What books did Santa stuff your stocking with this holiday season? Do a holiday book haul for us! If you don’t celebrate just show off your books that you got this week. Pictures!!!

One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson

In the summer of 1927, Charles Lindbergh became the first man to cross the Atlantic by plane nonstop. Babe Ruth was beginning his assault on the home run record. A Queens housewife named Ruth Snyder and her corset-salesman lover garroted her husband, leading to a murder trial that became a huge tabloid sensation. Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly sat atop a flagpole in Newark, New Jersey, for twelve days—a new record. The American South was clobbered by unprecedented rain and by flooding of the Mississippi basin, a great human disaster, the relief efforts for which were guided by the uncannily able and insufferably pompous Herbert Hoover. Calvin Coolidge interrupted an already leisurely presidency for an even more relaxing three-month vacation in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The gangster Al Capone tightened his grip on the illegal booze business through a gaudy and murderous reign of terror and municipal corruption. The first true “talking picture,” Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer, was filmed and forever changed the motion picture industry. The four most powerful central bankers on earth met in secret session on a Long Island estate and made a fateful decision that virtually guaranteed a future crash and depression.

All this and much, much more transpired in that epochal summer of 1927, and Bill Bryson captures its outsized personalities, exciting events, and occasional just plain weirdness with his trademark vividness, eye for telling detail, and delicious humor. In that year America stepped out onto the world stage as the main event, and One Summer transforms it all into narrative nonfiction of the highest order.

By now my mother has caught on that I’m a huge Bill Bryson fan, but I was still surprised to find myself holding this book on Christmas morning. I knew I’d read this book eventually, but I never dreamed that I’d own it a few months after it was released. My frugal nature makes owning new releases a rarity. I’m really hesitant to start reading this book though. It has the word “Summer” in the title, and it’s the dead of winter. Embracing American nostalgia seems more appropriate on a warm, summer day with an ice-cold glass of Coca-Cola or a mouthful of watermelon flavored Hubba Bubba. Someone tell me I’m nuts and get to reading because Bill Bryson books are great in any season.

Whiskerlists: The Kitty Classifieds by Angie Bailey

When the humans are away, the cats will play . . . online

Do you ever wonder what your cat does when you’re not home? Is your keyboard covered with mysterious paw prints? Well, your feline friend might be hiding a secret Internet addiction: whiskerslist. The kitty community is more connected than ever with this online hub that brings together cats looking to sell lousy pet toys, rant about their humans, search for a soul mate (or quick hookup), and much more.
With more than 160 hilarious classified ads written for cats, by cats, whiskerslist reveals the inner lives of our furry companions like never before.

The only thing I love more than Bill Bryson books are cats. Have you seen my #crazycatlady hashtags on Twitter? So, my mom scored another win when she gifted me with a book about the feline version of Craigslist. After Fargo and I have a session of chase-the-laser-point, we settle down and read a few Whiskerlist ads.

Dr. Seuss: The Cat Behind the Hat by Caroline Smith (Collector’s Edition)

Illustrator by day, surrealist by night, Ted Geisel created a body of previously little-known work during his leisure hours that he called his “Midnight Paintings,” and which is now known as “The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss.” This irrepressible and soulful collection redefines Ted Geisel as an iconic American artist. For sixty years, his “Secret Art” allowed Geisel to expand his artistic boundaries without the confines and pressures of commercial deadlines and influences. These paintings afforded the peaceful distraction that he craved, and through this work, the tenets of surrealism—surprise and juxtaposition—energized his sensibilities.

This volume exuberantly juxtaposes Geisel’s “Midnight Paintings” with his best-loved children’s books because this was how Dr. Seuss constructed his creative life—his days devoted to literature for children, his nights to letting his mind and palette wander to even stranger shores. Inevitably, Geisel created images in his private artworks that would find their way into his literary projects. Though he fiercely protected his “Secret Art” from criticism during his lifetime, his intention all along was for these works to be seen when he was gone.

 The collectors edition come with this 320 page “coffee table book” about Dr. Seuss and his artwork, a poster sized colored print, and three smaller black and white prints.

Of all the gifts I received this Christmas, The Cat Behind the Hat was probably my favorite. The gift-givers thought the artwork was kind of neat, but they were uncertain if I would like it. I meant to tell them this gift was perfect, but words failed me.

Barnes and Noble Gift Card. I like to think of this as potential books. Maybe it’s Scarlet by Marissa Meyer. Maybe it’s Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. Or maybe I’ll make a tradition out of buying science books. Last year I purchased A Brief History of Time and The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking. Maybe this year I’ll try Death by Blackholes: And Other Cosmic Quandaries by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Sky’s the Limit! (Actually, it’s $25).

Follow Friday is a meme hosted by Rachel at Parajunkee’s View!

Where is you warm weather reading nook?

Hopefully warm weather for most of us is here soon… so tell us about your favorite outdoor reading spot. Or take a picture!

I wish I could take a picture of my favorite outdoor reading spot, but it’s looking shoddy right now since it’s overcast and half-melted piles of snow lay everywhere. I’ll show it off this summer so you all can get the full effect of its awesomeness.

I live on a lake. Okay okay, I live on a canal that links two lakes together. But, if I peer two houses down to the left, I can see the lake, so it’s kind of like living on the lake, right? Once the weather gets warm and sunny, I drag a plastic lawn chair down to the edge of the canal, plop down, and read. Usually my boyfriend follows with his fishing pole and tackle box, and he’ll spend his afternoon catching small bass and catfish and bluegill. He’s good company when he fishes because he usually doesn’t interrupt my reading unless he wants to show off his catch or he needs help pulling a hook that a catfish swallowed. Every once in a while, some kids in canoes will come down the canal or a family will float by on their pontoon boat, and they’ll wave “hi” and ask if the boyfriend has made any good catches. It’s pleasant.

Usually I have to call it quits when the sun starts to set because the mosquitoes come out in droves, and I am a delicacy to mosquitoes. Once, my boyfriend and I took turns reading aloud poems from a Charles Bukowski book while sitting outside at night. He had not a single bite on his body, but I got loads. And! I was wearing long socks, jeans, and a hoodie because I just knew I would get bite. They ended up biting me through my jeans, and I had to douse myself with Calamine lotion. It was awful. Instead of heading outside at night, I   usually prop the back door open so I can listen to the bullfrogs and the Sandhill cranes and the cicadas while I read.

Follow Friday is a meme hosted by Rachel at Parajunkee’s View!

Follow Friday: What Supernatural Creature Do You Wish Existed?


If you could choose one supernatural being/creature to really exists what would it be and why?

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for elves. These creatures have taken on many different roles throughout folklore and literature, so it’s kind of hard for me to decide which type of elf I wish were real.

The elves and the shoemaker

In Grimm brothers’ story of The Elves and the Shoemaker, elves are helpful creatures who are very handy cobblers. Shoes are inexpensive these days, so it’s easy to purchase replacements. However, isn’t it dreadful when you have to retire your absolute favorite pair of shoes because you’ve worn the sole down? If these types of elves existed, all you would have to do is entice them with some warm clothes to mend a worn sole.

LegolasTolkien’s version of elves are supposed to be beautiful and wise and total bad asses. Maybe my reasoning for wishing these types of elves existed is superficial, but I’d be a very happy lady if elves bore a striking resemblance to Orlando Bloom. He totally inspired me to write awful fanfic, and I may or may not have had this picture printed out and tacked to my corkboard in high school.

Then there is your standard Christmas elf. I mean, they make presents. And they smile. And any friend of Santa is a friend of mine. At some point in elf lore, they gained a bad wrap. It was believed they afflicted humans and especially livestock. But, does Buddy the elf seem like he wants to smite cows? No. He just wants to spread Christmas cheer through song! Also, true story: for my Accounting final, I wrote an essay about how Santa should switch from a periodic inventory system to a perpetual inventory system. I made the argument that it would be less time-consuming, so his elves could dedicate their time to other things they’re passion about…like dentistry.

Follow Friday is a meme hosted by Rachel at Parajunkee’s View!

Book I Wish I Could Unread

If you could “unread” a book, which one would it be? Is it because you want to start over and experience it again for the first time? Or because it was THAT bad?

The Good – These are the books that I wish I could unread because I loved them so much. I wish I could experience them for the first time again.

  • Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, duh! Although, to be honest with each time I read the book I always discover something new, so in a way it’s kind of like I’m reading it for the first time.
  • The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Bad – This describes my high school required reading experience. I don’t want to unread these books because they were horrible necessarily. I want to unread them so that I can read them with a fresher perspective. Required reading was such a chore. Nothing about the experience was inspiring. The books were mostly dull from my 15-year-old perspective. The discussions were dull because only two or three people read enough of the book to even have a discussion. And then the teachers ruined it all by giving us daily quizzes to see what of the story we retained. That’s no way to inspire an analytical reader. These are some of the books I read in high school that I wish I could unread:

  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • Brave New World bu Aldous Huxley
  • Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksander I. Solzhenitsyn

The Ugly – These books may or may not have caused me to throw a literal temper tantrum while alone in my room. I wish I could unread them for good.

  • Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  • Grendel by John Gardner
  • the last two books in the Twilight Series. I’ve officially been halfway through book 4 for a year as of two weeks ago.
  • The Republic by Plato (Who makes 14-year-olds read this stuff?)

FF: How Many Books Do You Read At a Time?

Do you read one book at a time, or do you switch back and forth between two or more?

I am guilty of reading multiple books at once. I usually switch between three different books at any given time. The idea behind this is I have a specific book to read at a  specific place or time. For example, when I’m at home and about to crawl into bed, I usually read something on my Nook. When I’m at work I usually read one of my books that has a “neutral” cover. As opposed to when I’m at home and sitting by the lake while my boyfriend is fishing, I’ll read a book that has a super girly cover/kissy-face cover (you know the sort, I’m sure).

It may seem like I have book ADD, but despite all the book-switching I actually retain everything that I read. Then again, I’ve been a notorious book flip-flopper for years, so I’ve had a lot of practice. The worst thing about being a book flip-flopper is it takes me a while to finish up a book.

Right now I am reading:

Twilight: Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer – This is my “down by the lake” book.
The Demon King (Seven Realms series) by Cinda Williams Chima – This is my “lunch time at work” book
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson – This is a book that I apparently can only read on plane rides where I have zero distraction, which explains why it’s taking me so long to finish the book.
As for my bedtime book, I haven’t settled on what I want to read yet. I keep starting books, get through the first three pages, and decide I’m just not in the mood for that genre of book.

To make matters worse, I have Cinder by Marissa Meyer sitting on my bedside table. I so badly want to read it, but I’m trying to read responsibly. I don’t want to read too many books at once because then things will really get out of hand!

Follow Friday is a meme hosted by Rachel at Parajunkee’s View!

FF: Lengthy Reads

What is the longest book you’ve read? What are your favorite 600+ page reads

The longest book I’ve ever read is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix at 896 pages, and it also happens be one of my favorite books of all times.

In second place comes Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at 759 pages.
In third place comes Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at 734 pages.
In fourth place comes Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince at 652 pages.

Are you noticing a pattern here? Even though these books were some of my longest reads, I blew through these books like they were just novellas time and time again. It’s so easy to get lost in the world of witchcraft and wizardry!

I’ve also read Eclipse from the Twilight series (629 pages), but it seemed so much longer than that. And, I’m still in the process of reading Breaking Dawn, which has 768 pages. It’s taken me nearly a year to get through this book…

 

I would really love to add books to my 600+ pages list, but as a slow reader I sometimes find these books to be a bit daunting. Especially as a blogger! Still, I’ve had my eye on the Inheritance series by Christopher Paolini for a while now (books 2-4 have over 800 pages each). Other than the Inheritance series, I can’t really think of any super long YA books. Do you have any recommendations for YA books that are 600+ pages?

Follow Friday is a meme hosted by Rachel at Parajunkee’s View!

FF: Quality over Quantity

What would you prefer: reading your favorite books over and over again until you get sick of it or reading hundreds of mediocre books? And why?

This is an easy answer! I’d rather read my favorite books over and over again until I get sick of them instead of reading hundreds of mediocre books. There is so much in life that is already mediocre, like

  • first jobs
  • “fat-free” and “diet” anything (additionally, sugar-free candy on Halloween)
  • generic brand Lucky Charms
  • weak coffee in the break room
  • Those weeks between the last snow melt of winter and the first blooms of spring when you notice all the garbage along the side of the road, and you realize just how much people litter
  • studying really hard for an exam and only earning a C+
  • jeans that don’t fit quite right
  • school lunches
  • magnets that fall off the fridge every time the fridge door shuts

Why settle for the mediocre when I can enjoy my favorites, like

  • roaring fires in the fireplace during Autumn and Winter (alternately, long drives in the countryside during Spring and Summer)
  • thunderstorms
  • cats (preferably orange ones)
  • AFI (that’s a really good band, folks)
  • loose leaf tea (or whole bean coffee, freshly roasted by Jackson Coffee Co.)
  • the following books: Harry Potter 1-7 by J.K. Rowling, Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel, and Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Follow Friday is a meme hosted by Rachel at Parajunkee’s View!

FF: What Book Genres Do You Avoid Reading?

Which book genre(s) do you avoid at all costs and why?

The Classics: I feel like I’m obligated to like these because of my AP English courses in high school and because I did major in English at college. Many of my friends from high school loved the Classics too, so I tried to read a few just so I could take part in their conversations. But, for the life of me, I’ve never been able to appreciate them. The only Classic I’ve read from start to finish is The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and I did like it (both times I was required to read it). But every other Classic I was assigned I read the Cliffs Notes for! I’m not entirely sure why I can’t get into the Classics. Maybe it’s the sophisticated/old-fashioned language because usually the storyline seems interesting enough. Maybe the Classics were introduced to me at the wrong time too. I’ve often thought about trying to read a few Classics now I’m older. Maybe I’ll be able to appreciate them now as a twenty-something year old rather than as a 15-year-old. I’ve stored a few on my Nook with the intention of tackling at least one, but I usually put them aside for another book I KNOW I will like.
P.S. I know “The Classics” is not a genre.

Romance: This includes anything from those Harlequin romance novels my mother used to read religiously to Chick Lit to most YA books that revolve about romance. Love and romance in real life is pretty neat, but they’re not topics I care to read about. Give me teen wizards battling an oppressive villain, not Scarlet, who is swooning over her hunky and debaucherous Greek/Italian/French boss. I know both are fantasies in their own way, but the wizards seem way more believable to me! As for romance in YA…I try to avoid it, but it’s pretty difficult since love is certainly a unique teenage experience and therefore has a place amongst books written for teens. But, I find YA romance books to just be…wrong. Most of it seems to be instant love– a 16-year-old girl asks her mysterious/brooding/handsome locker neighbor to help her open her locker, and in that moment she realizes she’s just found her soul mate. Sorry, it just doesn’t happen that way, and I can’t hop on board. And don’t even get me started on the books that portray unhealthy relationships between two teens. The possessive nature of certain love interests is disturbing, not swoon-worthy.

Westerns: I’m actually very interested in the American wild west, so in theory I should like Westerns. But, alas I’ve always avoided the genre! I blame it on television’s Spaghetti Westerns. Westerns just seem hokey to me.

Follow Friday is a meme hosted by Rachel at Parajunkee’s View!

Now until the break of day/ Through this house each fairy stray

The most recent Follow Friday up at Parajunkee’s View posed this question:

In light of the Summer Solstice. Also known as Midsummer…let’s talk about fairies. What is your favorite fairy tale or story that revolves around the fae?

The first story that comes to mind is William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  This probably wouldn’t have been on my list if I hadn’t taken a Studies in Shakespeare class my senior year of high school.  And it probably wouldn’t have been on my list if my class hadn’t been asked to perform the play.  We were supposed to perform the play in 15 minutes.  Ha!  Yea right.  It ended up being a 2 hours performance.

Reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream was fine, but performing it really helped me to understand all the strange things that happened– I was Helena, by the way.  There wouldn’t have been much of a story without Oberon and Titania.  Oh, and of course Puck, who made me feel both frustrated and amused because of all the trouble he caused!

Puck also made an appearance in another book I recently read– The Sister’s Grimm!  Maybe it’s too soon to determine, but it seems like I may have found a new favorite series.  Expect a review shortly!  But, back to Puck!  He’s still around causing mischief in the town of Fairyport landing, but there seems to be a Peter Pan characteristic that wasn’t there in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Plus, while he still likes causing mischief, Puck does use his powers for some good in The Sisters Grimm.

Favorite stories aside, there is one that I have never read or watched that has fairies in it…I think…well, according to Kingdom Hearts there are fairies in this story.  I am talking about Sleeping Beauty!  Never in my 22 years of existence, at least that I can recall, have I ever heard the story of Sleeping Beauty.  It’s been on my to-read and my to-watch list for years, but I still haven’t gotten around to it.

Image Credit: hellobaby @ deviantart.com