October 2008


This month I selected Wicked by Gregory Maguire for the online book club because I’ve wanted to read it for years and I thought it fit well in the month of Halloween. My only disappointment with this book is that I never read it sooner! I had put off reading the book because I was a little irked that Maguire took someone else’s story (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum) and repurposed it for his own novel. I’ve always been one of those people who thinks it’s unimaginative to take someone else’s work and rewrite it, but that has all changed with Wicked.

Maguire weaves a wonderful tale of Elphaba Thropp, the woman many of us know as The Wicked Witch of the West, and the land of Oz from the time before the infamous Wizard arrives to Elphaba’s untimely death at the hands of the unforgettable Dorothy. As Elphaba grows up we see her transforming into somewhat of a political activist. Upon entering college she is immediately drawn to helping Animals who have just been subjected to new laws limiting their rights and taking away their ability to be gainfully employed in anything besides manual labor. For her actions to aid the Animals she is considered a threat to the Wizard. Not to mention the fact that her sister, the ruler of Munchkinland, has seceded from the greater country of Oz, showing growing discontent of the Wizard’s rule among the people of Oz.

And there is so much more. There’s magic and talking Animals (animals don’t talk, Animals do) as one would expect. Many of the mysteries of Oz are fleshed out and made very real. And we see another side to the story of the Wizard of Oz. The book was definitely a grown-up’s fairy tale, but I thought it was wonderfully well written.

I also read Son of a Witch and A Lion Among Men after finishing Wicked because I just had to know what happened (seriously, it’s like Harry Potter for adults). However, I didn’t like Son of a Witch quite as well as Wicked because it moved a bit too slow until it got to the end. I did enjoy it though and the ending made my heart smile in a big way. A Lion Among Men was even slower than Son of a Witch and left me wanting more. Liir (the son of Elphaba) was completely left out of the story with no accounting of him or his family, which I suppose was done in order to leave space for another book in the series, but I was still disappointed by it. In regard to A Lion Among Men, I almost felt like Maguire had a deadline and so decided to throw something together. And I was hugely disappointed that the Lion turned out to be such an opportunistic creep – and after Elphaba saved him as a cub! Have any of you read these sequels? What did you think? Am I being too harsh here?

Also, I want to know what you all thought of Wicked! I tried to keep my review short because I really want to know what you all though. Who were your favorite characters? What did you think of Elphaba? How about her sister? Did you think the author left any unanswered questions at the end?

Wicked was also reviewed by:
Beastmomma

Oh, and before I forget: I selected the winner for my copy of Janeology by Karen Harrington! I selected the winner using the list randomizer on random.org and got: REBEKAH E. Rebekah if you can send your mailing address to bexadler at yahoo dot com, I’ll send the book out to you. Thanks to everyone who entered and check back in a few days because I’ll be holding another giveaway then.

First, I want to post a reminder that I’m giving away a copy of Janeology later this week, enter here by Oct. 30 for your chance to win.

Second, Trish gave a rave review of The Likeness on her blog and she’s giving away a copy so don’t forget to enter. I don’t know when the deadline is though so you better do it soon just to be safe!

Lastly, blackcover.net is hosting a contest for free Picadilly notebooks. Each winner gets three little black notebooks (similar to the more expensive Moleskine notebooks you’ve probably seen around). Check out the site if this is something that interests you.

When I was a kid I was absolutely enamoured with elephants. I don’t know why, they were just always my favorite animals. This could possibly explain why for the last couple of weeks I’ve been obsessing about volunteering at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand with International Student Volunteers (the same program I went with for the sea turtle conservation project). The trip cost has gone up since I went two years ago, from $2,495 to $3,195 PLUS airfare (which is about $1,500 for Thailand) making it absolutely unaffordable for me. But I still kept trying to work out ways I could con my way into a trip and I finally had a moment of brilliance yesterday afternoon.

See, what happened was I remembered a little something from when Sofia and I went to Costa Rica: When we got to our volunteer site we found out that there were tons of random people volunteering there, not just people from the ISV program we were with. These people had just been trekking around Costa Rica when they stumbled upon the sea turtle project and decided to stay for a couple of weeks. And do you know what they paid for their volunteer time there? $75 to sign up with the project and $15 a day for food and lodging. For the two weeks we spent there (costing us approximately $1,250), they spent $285! Yeah, we got mega-screwed out of some dollars. So yesterday I began thinking: What if it’s the same case for this Thailand volunteer project? Can just anyone walk into the elephant sanctuary and sign up?

Oh, you betcha! I googled “Thailand elephant conservation” and found an awesome sanctuary where I can volunteer for up to 4 weeks at only $345.87 per week ($1,383.48 for a whole month). This price includes lodging and three meals a day. Then I went to the ISV site just to see which elephant project they had scheduled and it’s the same one. Woohoo!

Erm, so I’m going to Thailand this summer instead of my previously scheduled hike of the northern portion of the Pacific Crest Trail. My plan is to volunteer for two weeks and then spend a week or two traveling around the country. I can only get a 30-day visa otherwise I would have liked to stay longer. A month will probably be just enough to make me homesick though. Anyway, I just wanted to share the news because I’m so totally stoked about it. Yay!

My run yesterday went really well! I did three miles with my new friend Suzanne. I had to stop and walk a couple of times, so I probably really only ran about 2/2.5 miles of it and my pace ended up being only 13.24, but still it was great to get out there and get my sweat on. It felt great too because the weather was perfect. It wasn’t hot out, but it wasn’t cold either. There was a slight breeze that cooled us off but the sun was still hot enough to keep us warm. My legs are super sore today, but I still packed up my running stuff for tomorrow. Hopefully I won’t overthink it and I’ll still get out there and run. I’m so excited to be running again! It’s the best feeling in the world. And hopefully within a few weeks I won’t have to make Suzanne walk anymore… Yay!

Tonight bestselling author Sara Gruen is doing a live online chat to discuss Water for Elephants on Gather.com. I thought some of you might be interested in joining in on that since it was one of our book club selections earlier this year. It might be fun for those of you who have been wanting to read the book, but haven’t. Here’s the information if you want to check it out:


WHEN: Wednesday, October 22, 8:00pm – 9:00pm ET
WHERE: The Gather Books Essential
COST: Free!

Also, you can check out my review of Water for Elephants here.

Why the Wind Blows was the first book I received as a review copy when I started this blog and I have to apologize here for taking so long to get to it. This book is really interesting, although it reads more like a textbook than I had expected. I think, in fact, it may have been designed for use in a physical geography class – a purpose for which I think it would be well suited.

Levy gives a lot of explanation about how weather patterns are formed, as well as the history behind weather tracking. From Magellan to the Titanic, he covers a great deal of history and offers many stories to break up the scientific explanations for weather, which I found to be refreshing. He also describes how hurricanes and tornadoes are formed and gives in-depth graphics to help explain both. I think the best thing about this book is that there are so many graphics to help explain what the author is talking about. I’m not very science minded so the illustrations really helped me out.

The one thing I didn’t like about this book was the sub-title “A history of weather and Global Warming.” The “Global Warming” on the cover is large enough that I had focused on that thinking it would be the basis of the book, but really Global Warming isn’t even addressed until the 9th chapter and then it’s not really talked about in-depth until we get to Chapter 14. Somehow, when I signed on to read this I had thought it would be more of a journalistic book about global warming and its causes, but it turned out to be more scientific (but not in a bad way!). Just different than what I had expected, which is probably why it took me so long to finally sit down and read it.

Having taken a couple of physical geography and life science classes, I already knew a lot of the things covered in this book, but, as I said, this book would be ideal for a life science or physical geography class because of its easy-to-understand explanations, charts and illustrations.

I’m really excited because I may have a new running partner. Most of my grad school classes have all of the same people in them and I’ve managed to make a few friends. One woman either swims or runs before our last class because we have a 90-minute break between it and the class before it. We’ve been talking a lot about training and what-not, and then yesterday she asked me if I’d like to run with her on school days! Woohoo! I’m hoping I’m not too slow for her since she’s been training for awhile. I think I’ll do OK though and I’m so excited because this will give me more motivation to start running again (I haven’t been getting out there much lately). Tuesday will be our first run together and I’m super stoked!

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