Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Canon Classics | To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Author: Harper Lee
Original Publication Date: 1960
This Edition: April 2010
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Source & Format: Owned; paperback


Harper Lee's classic novel of a lawyer in the Deep South defending a black man charged with the rape of a white girl.
One of the best-loved stories of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird has earned many distinctions since its original publication in 1960. It won the Pulitzer Prize, has been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than thirty million copies worldwide, and been made into an enormously popular movie. Most recently, librarians across the country gave the book the highest of honors by voting it the best novel of the twentieth century.


I first read To Kill A Mockingbird in high school and have always been entranced by the title. I picked up the book this time with the intention of finally getting to the bottom of the mockingbird imagery. 

It was this line on page of 119 of my edition that sparked my interest:

"...but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."

Harper explains through Miss Maudie:
"Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't end up in people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird" (119). 

Scout, looking back on her childhood as a full-grown adult, realizes that many of her memories were painted in pure black and white before Atticus's famous case. Atticus was right, Dill was her fiancee, and Boo Radley was scary. As Scout grows, the colors begin to blend together into shades of grey, but one motif continues to rise above them all: innocence. 

For Scout, innocence is something she's never had to consider until the case. There was right, wrong, black and white. Innocence itself shifts the book from these two primary colors into something much murkier, causing Scout to finally examine things from all angles, including her own beliefs and the culture around her. The mockingbird, to me, is a symbol of innocence. They don't do anything but "sing their hearts out," which is seen as a innocent and heartwarming pastime (119). Other birds may ruin, disorder, or corrupt, but the mockingbird does none of these things and therefore remains above others. 

As to who the mockingbird directly represents, I couldn't say for certain. One this read, the mockingbird imagery doesn't fit one particular character - it brought out the pure white, the innocent, in a few different characters and occasionally highlighted the darkness in others. 

Sometimes I read these novels again and feel like nothing has changed from my first read in high school/college/whenever. I had forgotten the poignancy of To Kill A Mockingbird. Just in my quick read, I've found a few moments where I have to sit the book down and just think about the magic and profoundness of the book I've just read. That simple feeling is why this book will remain a classic with me always. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Behind The Canon | How I Organize My Blog Notes & Calendar



I love reading posts from other bloggers about how they organize their blog notes and calendars. Honestly. I devour them. Every time I see a how-to post pop up on my Bloglovin' home feed, my heart gets all light and giddy. I know. I'm a nerd. 

My blog notes and calendar organization has evolved over the years, adapting ideas from other bloggers and using my own note-taking system I developed in college. 

I use three notebooks for The Canon:

Blog Notebook {peach polka dots} // I carry this notebook in my bag for the random blog idea (they tend to come to me while I'm working) or when I'm looking at blogs to write down an inspiration and the source. All of my lists are in here too: TBR, challenge lists, feature ideas. 

The Canon Review Planner {chevron pattern} // My review planner keeps me on track and from wandering into my TBR pile. This book has a monthly agenda as well as a weekly one. On the monthly page, I write my ideal plan for the month; the weekly one is the more accurate schedule for the week. 

Rough Draft Notebook {blue Five Star notebook} not shown //This notebook has all of my crazy scribbles. For each book, I make a layout with headers for characters, plot, and writing. I fold the page in half and write all of my reading notes under each category on the first half. In the second half, I edit and refine my thoughts a little. I use the second column as a blueprint for my reviews. I also rough draft my other posts in here, so I have everything in one spot. 

The purple polka dot notebook in the middle is actually my menu planner & grocery notebook. I got a little carried away when taking photos!

I picked up these notebooks from May Designs. Their notebook patterns are so gorgeous and the custom options sold me. (By the way, guys. This isn't an affiliate link or anything like that. It's a product I love and has worked for me. Promise!)

In college, it took a long time for me to develop a good system of note-taking. I figured out by the end of freshman year that I pay attention more if I have colors to play with. So, therefore, my paper blog calendar looks like this: 


This is a page from January 2014 - my current monthly calendar looks like a monkey wrote it. It's terrifying.

Green - Non-review Bookish Posts
Pink - Top Ten Tuesday
Purple - The Canon Classics - Monthly Feature
Orange - Monthly Rewind
Blue - Book Reviews
Red - The Great TBR Pile-Up Posts

In my reviews, I write my reading notes in blue and adjusting wording, tense, whatever, in black. 



The crazy arrows are so I remember certain points. I'm a big fan of crazy arrows. 

On the left page, I write all the book's pertinent info: author info (site, twitter, etc), publication date and publisher, rating (I still haven't found a rating system I like enough to publish on my posts) and genre tags.

Google Calendar became a big part of scheduling my time during my last two years of college, and I still use it for The Canon. It helps me schedule time to work on the blog before I go in to work for the day and having it as a separate calendar within my personal calendar helps me look at reviews at a glance. 

In January, Debby from Snuggly Oranges published a post on how she keeps her blog (and other) spreadsheets. Her post inspired me to keep my own scrapbook and Google Drive's accessibility has made it easy to keep track of all blog-worthy statistics. I want to color code according to genre, but that's a project for another day.

I do most of my blog work in the mornings after my run, so I always have a lot of coffee nearby. I fell in love with Storyville Coffee when we visited Seattle and I think it's an addiction to last a lifetime. Their Prologue coffee is just...ahh. Hold on. I've got to go make some... The bag of Prologue I brought back from Seattle is almost empty...

I hope my (slightly OCD) organization has inspired you in some way! If you have a post like this or your own organization for your reading, let me know! (Seriously. I love these posts.) Thanks for stopping by! 






All of the links and stores mentioned in this post are not affiliates. I was not compensated in any way for this post. I provide these links simply because I love the product & I hope you will give it a try! 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Oh, You're Funny | Top Ten Characters That Make Me Laugh


I stretched today's topic a bit - since the prompt said "characters," I felt it would be okay to add in my favorite characters from TV shows! There were so many characters from TV that make me laugh that I couldn't leave them out!

*This list is in no particular order


1. Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory.


Maybe it's his awkwardness. Maybe it's his determination that he's right. Maybe it's "BAZINGA!" or "drats." Maybe it's his OCD-need to knock three times ("Penny. Penny. Penny.") Whatever it is, Sheldon Cooper is one of my go-to happy characters. We have collected the first six seasons and whenever I have a rough day, these are my pick-me-ups!


2. Peeves from Harry Potter.

Peeves doesn't play a major role in the novels except to cause trouble whenever he appears on the scene. He isn't lighthearteded, like a lot of the other characters on this list are, but he provided a little bit of humor during dark scenes. His ongoing feud with Mr. Filch always made me laugh, but he becomes an unsung hero in the fifth book against Dolores Umbridge.


3. Stephanie Plum from Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series.

Every time I pass a bail bonds office, I can't help but think of Stephanie Plum and laugh. Known for her unique food choices (she rarely has more than peanut butter and beer in her house), her inability to choose between two men, and her knack for getting herself into the craziest situations, Stephanie Plum takes the cake for favorite female comedic character.


4. Jim Halpert from The Office.


Jim's love of pranks, his ongoing feud with Dwight, and his deadpan look into the camera make him a staple on this list. Jim is just...Jim. 


5. Harry Dresden from The Dresden Files.

Harry Dresden is a smart ass. Seriously. He's quick with a pun, sarcastic remark, or quip, making The Dresden Files so much fun for me to read. Everything about Harry's life is slightly ironic: from being Chicago's only professional wizard to owning a multi-colored VW Beetle, there's plenty of room in this character for sarcasm, irony, and the slightest hint of goofiness.


6. Michael Scott from The Office.

Speaking of goofiness, Michael Scott embodies it. From his many different stand-up comic personalities to his cringe-worthy moments (there were times watching this show was actually painful), Michael is cracks me up every time.


7. Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation.


I love this photo.

As crazy as Leslie can be, I think she's actually a fairly good role model. She's passionate about her work, isn't afraid of food (as we can see) and goes for it - whatever it is - full on. I love the character's vibrant personality and her determination to solve whatever problem is on her list makes me happy each time I watch Parks and Recreation.


8. Delia Peabody from J.D. Robb's In Death series.

Delia isn't funny in the traditional way, as some of these other characters are. As Eve's sidekick, she provides a little bit of backup, humor, and support through Eve's cases. Delia's comedic elements really shine in the first few books when she is starting to come out of her shell. 


9. Sherlock from BBC's Sherlock.

The one-liners, the quick repartee, and Sherlock's strange habits make his character one of the best Sherlocks I've seen. 


10. Frasier Crane from Fraiser.


Frasier is a little pompous, a little silly, and very funny. He can be so full of himself and so very, very wrong all at the same time. There are some Michael Scott cringe-worthy moments in this classic sitcom. Want proof? Watch this.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Review | Oracle of Philadelphia by Elizabeth Corrigan

Title: Oracle of Philadelphia
Author: Elizabeth Corrigan
Publication Date: March 2013
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing 
Series: Earthbound Angels {Book 1}
Source & Format: Provided by author; ebook
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Carrie works at a diner in South Philadelphia, dispensing advice to humans and angels wise enough to seek her counsel. But there are some problems that even the best advice can’t solve.

Her latest supplicant, Sebastian, is unique among those who have sought her aid. He sold his soul to a demon in exchange for his sister’s life, but his heart remains pure.

Carrie has lived for millennia with the knowledge that her immortality is due to the suffering of others, and she cannot bear to see another good man damned when it is within her power to prevent it.

In order to renegotiate his contract, Carrie must travel into the depths of hell and parley with the demons that control its pathways. As the cost of her journey rises, Carrie must determine how much she is willing to sacrifice to save one good soul.


I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This is no way influenced my opinion or review. Promise!


THE CHARACTERS

Right off the bat, Carrie is a deep, intriguing character. Her mortality was stolen from her at a young age, forcing her into the neutral ground between Heaven and Hell. Although she's more than six thousand years old, Carrie has this mix of innocence and darkness about her that makes her so intriguing. She has lived to see the worst and best of human nature, Heaven, and Hell, but she still looks for the good in each character.

I loved the supporting characters in Oracle of Philadelphia! Bedlam is the most lovable demon I've come across in all of my bookish years. Seriously. I loved when he appeared on the scene because his character had this jovial joker characteristic that kept me laughing. He was crucial for lightening some of the heavier, more intense scenes in the novel. 

Corrigan didn't stick with the typical stereotypes of angel and demon: there were angels that were annoying, irritating, and some were downright mean. Others had the same kind of gentle kindness I associate with angels. The demons' characters were just as surprising. 

THE PLOT

I loved the underlying motif of redemption and forgiveness that threaded through Oracle. The cost of Carrie's immortality has changed her irrecoverably and throughout the story, she searches for a type of redemption from the weight hanging over her. When Sebastian stumbles into her Philadelphia diner, her subconscious goes into overdrive, searching for a way to help him. Sebastian himself is looking for a type of forgiveness and peace, even though he appears on the surface to be calm and confident.

Sebastian's appearance began Carrie's hero's journey not only into Hell, but into her own guilt. I loved how this part of the plot dealt with not only the outstanding problem she took upon (Sebastian's), but her own emotional ones. 

The main story took a little while to get started for me, but once it did, I sank into Carrie's story and read it in one sitting. What really got me intrigued was Corrigan's perspective on the war between Heaven and Hell - it emerged from a part of the background story to a major part of the plot. 

THE WRITING

To be honest, the style of dialogue threw me a bit at first. I didn't expect these eons-old creatures to speak with the same dialect and slang that I hear in the every day modern world. As the story evolved, the dialogue began to fit the characters more and more, especially the lovable Bedlam. I'm glad the dialogue stayed relative to the current time - it made it easier to stay with the story than trying to discern which time period Carrie was reminiscing in.

THE VERDICT

Oracle was a fabulous story. I enjoyed the strong characters, Carrie's narrative, and most of all, her heroic journey. Corrigan's take on the war between Heaven and Hell and her creative perspective made Oracle a fun read for the fantasy lover.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!



Easter is all about spring, renewal, forgiveness and a new start for me. And, let's not forget, candy! I hope you all have a wonderful day with family, friends, or whatever your plans. I'm so thankful for you all and how far The Canon has come! Have a lovely day! 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Review | War Brides by Helen Bryan

Title: War Brides
Author: Helen Bryan
Publication Date: June 2012
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Source & Format: Borrowed; paperback
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
As war moves ever closer, the sleepy English village of Crowmarsh Priors settles into a new sort of normal: Evacuees from London are billeted in local homes. The nightly German air raids become grimly mundane. Rationing curtails every comfort. Men leave to fight and die. And five women forge a bond of friendship that will change their lives forever in this engrossing novel of loyalty, loss, and love in the shadow of World War II.

With the hardships of war intensifying every day, the women band together to defeat formidable enemies and find remarkable strength within themselves to help one another. It is a war-forged loyalty certain to endure years and distance.

When four of the women return for a celebration fifty years later, their mission is not simply to commemorate or remember. They’ve returned to confront a traitor whose actions cost countless lives — and to avenge one of their own at last.


Lately I've been really intrigued by books that tell the lesser-known perspective. The men who helped build the railroads instead of the corporations that took all of the attention; the families that journeyed to make a new, different life for themselves; and the women of war. When my boss passed over her copy of War Brides to me (we've got a weird little reading group at work), I wasn't sure what to make of it. When I read the author's introductory note in the beginning, I was in.

THE CHARACTERS

When I read the title, I expected something along the lines of Cary Grant's "I Was A Male War-Bride" (fabulous movie if you haven't seen it). The title made me think of military romances. Instead, the novel tells the tale of five different women who come together in Crowmarsh Parish, creating a bond that outlasts the horrors of the war. 

I liked that each character had an extraordinarily different perspective and personality: Alice was the good vicar's daughter, Frances the radical, Evangeline constantly struggled with her love life, Tanni the young mother, and Elsie was the soft-hearted character with a hard shell. These occasionally clashing personalities brought out the best in each character, especially as they struggled through their own problems brought on by the war. 

The various men in their lives faded into the background for me, more or less. Once they returned to the scene, I remembered them, but this isn't their story.

THE PLOT

My only complaint about War Brides is how the book deals with the two separate stories at hand. On one side, the novel tells of VE Day, fifty years later, and the reunion of the women. Although it was interesting to see where they had ended up, I didn't like the mystery that was thrown in at the end - it didn't fit the rest of the novel cohesively. There wasn't a lot of closure about how the women had lived for the past fifty years, only bits and pieces.

On the other side, I loved the story take ranged from 1938 to 1944. I am not a history expert whatsoever, but from a literary side, I enjoyed the narration about the state of the world through these characters' eyes. Although the war played a major role in the novel, other issues shine through, such as women's rights, which I personally loved. The story's twists and turns stayed fairly close to the timeline of historical events, and seeing it all through the characters made it come alive in a new way. 

THE WRITING

War Brides is in a third-person POV, fairly standard to today's novel. The rotating narration kept me interested because it allowed for little glimpses inside the mind of each character. One thing that stood out to me was the inconsistent accents. The Cockney accent (Elsie) and the Southern accents were fairly well featured, but others fell by the wayside. For me, I prefer all or nothing, but that's a minor issue for me.

THE VERDICT

Overall, a good book, especially for the history and chick lit lovers. War Brides tells the story of five strong women overcoming one of the worst events in history. Although there were some missteps in the novel, I enjoyed the main historical story. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review | The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan

Title: The Engagements
Author: J. Courtney Sullivan {website}
Publication Date: June 2013
Publisher: Knopf
Source & Format: Library; hardcover
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Evelyn has been married to her husband for forty years—forty years since he slipped off her first wedding ring and put his own in its place. Delphine has seen both sides of love—the ecstatic, glorious highs of seduction, and the bitter, spiteful fury that descends when it’s over. James, a paramedic who works the night shift, knows his wife’s family thinks she could have done better; while Kate, partnered with Dan for a decade, has seen every kind of wedding—beach weddings, backyard weddings, castle weddings—and has vowed never, ever, to have one of her own. 

As these lives and marriages unfold in surprising ways, we meet Frances Gerety, a young advertising copywriter in 1947. Frances is working on the De Beers campaign and she needs a signature line, so, one night before bed, she scribbles a phrase on a scrap of paper: “A Diamond Is Forever.” And that line changes everything.

A rich, layered, exhilarating novel spanning nearly a hundred years, The Engagements captures four wholly unique marriages, while tracing the story of diamonds in America, and the way—for better or for worse—these glittering stones have come to symbolize our deepest hopes for everlasting love.


Diamonds are forever. I don't remember the first time I heard the slogan, but it's always been a part of our culture. Diamonds and engagements are so connected in my mind that I never thought about the origins or how it's effected us as a society. Sullivan's The Engagements drew me in through the five stories of how people's lives were changed by diamonds, love, and life. 


THE CHARACTERS

There really is no other way to say it: I though the characters were fabulous. With the five different stories, there were so many characters to learn and know. After the first part of the book, the characters were immediately identifiable and familiar. I loved how each character's story was affected by marriage and engagement, love and, to some extent, diamonds. As we learned more and more about the characters, the real magic came from seeing how their lives were interconnected, revealing more depth about them than surface level. It's hard to pick a favorite story, especially since the characters grew dramatically throughout the book. Delphine's story of a woman coming into her own was fabulous, but I think it's Frances's story that really grabs my heart.

THE PLOT

The symbolism of the diamond is huge throughout this book. The five stories discuss the impact of Frances's slogan, a diamond is forever, upon not only future generations, but Frances herself. Sullivan discusses how a diamond engagement ring has evolved from a sweet gesture to a necessity and how love has grown with it. I didn't realize the magic of this plot until I was almost done with the book. What caught my attention was the power of love despite the influences of a diamond is forever

THE WRITING

One of the best elements of this novel is how these five completely different stories were wove together into one strong novel. I loved the multi-story narration and the vibrant characters. The novel was a bit slow at first, but picked up around part two when the characters started to become alive. The slow reveal of plot points kept the tension high and I couldn't wait to see how everyone's story concluded. 

THE VERDICT

I loved The Engagements much more than I expected. The strong characters and their stories made me fall in love with their worlds. Sullivan's work made a huge impression on me, and I can't wait to read more of her work.