January 2008 archive

Making *MY* Day…

I have been honored to receive this award AGAIN! Thank you to Julie at Thinking… who nominated this blog for the Make My Day Award. Her very kind and thoughtful words gave me a smile.

Another of my blogs was also nominated for this award: Lists – Books for the Obsessive Reader was recognized by Chris at The Reading Nook.

In a week full of one snowstorm after another, along with fighting a head cold and fever – this recognition truly made MY day!

Thank you faithful readers!

Themed Reading Challenge – Challenge Wrap Up

Links to Challenge Wrap Ups

Since readers seem to be breezing through this challenge, I am posting a Mr. Linky for wrap up posts. Please link directly to your post about the challenge wrap up. Consider telling us:

1. What things did you enjoy the most about this challenge?
2. What were your favorite reads? Least favorite?
3. Would you do this one again if it were offered next year?
4. Anything you’d change about the challenge?

Links below….

Feeling Meme-ish?

I’ve been tagged for two memes this week…

Bonnie at Bonnie’s Books hit me up for Loves Meme, Loves Meme Not – a ying and yang sort of thing. Here are my answers:

I love to eat: pasta with a huge, crusty loaf of bread; grilled vegetables; stuffed potatoes; and anything chocolate.
I hate to eat: Olives – they make my mouth all funny.

I love to go: exploring in new places; shopping in unique stores; browsing in bookstores.
I hate to go: to work everyday – I’d rather play!

I love it when: the sun finally comes out after a week of horrible weather; my dogs greet me at the door when I get home.
I hate it when: the computer crashes or does something odd that I don’t understand.

I love to see: my pets play; my husband’s face at the end of the day.
I hate to see: people being mean to each other.

I hate to hear: the vibration of someone’s car radio turned up too high on some irritating rap station.
I love to hear: the sound of the red tail hawks in the trees; the whisper of wind through the pines; classical music.

**This meme actually comes with these cute little heart shaped candy thingies…but I was too lazy to save and upload them here. Go to Bonnie’s blog if you want to get them! If you’re reading this, consider yourself tagged!

AND Callista at SMS Book Reviews tagged me for the Make My Day Award – thank you, Callista!! I am now supposed to choose ten blogs which “Make My Day” – what a dilemma. Have you seen my blogroll? That’s right, the one that trails down the entire right side of my blog? Well those are the blogs I love and read!  So, I’m going to pick ten, but if yours doesn’t get picked, please know I still love you!

Michelle at 1MoreChapter, – she is the queen of blog design; I love reading her blogs…and she has some great challenges there too!

Laura at Musings – it is not often that one finds a true bookie soulmate – someone whose tastes run nearly perfectly with your own…and, Laura is that person. I never miss reading her reviews because I know that her favorites will soon be mine!

Dana at So Many Books, So Little Time – Dana’s blog is like her…the perfect mix of spirituality, humor and quirkiness! What’s not to love?

Jill at The Magic Lasso – another blogger whose interests parallel my own. Jill’s blog is full of great reviews – and her photo, with that big smile, always makes me smile too!

Amy at The Sleepy Reader – a big time bookie and challenge-aholic, Amy’s blog is just plain fun.

Wendy at Musings of a Bookish Kitty – not only do we share first AND middle names, and reside in the same State…but we always seem to end up in the same groups too. Full of great writing, I always look forward to reading Wendy’s blog.

Jenna at Jenna’s Library – this is a new blog, and Jenna isn’t letting any moss grow under her feet! Beautifully set up, Jenna’s blog is great to visit.

Dewey at The Hidden Side of a Leaf – I love reading her Sunday Book Coveting feature; and she is the star of book giveaways. This is one of the most active bloggers out there!

Tanabata at In The Spring it is the Dawn – this is a feast for the eyes – beautiful photos fill the pages of this blog.

Kim at Daisy Cottage – Going to Kim’s blog is like paging through my favorite home magazines. Beautifully designed, great decorating ideas – it is a fun blog to visit…and who couldn’t love that little doggie?

Book Review Posted At Piker Press

My book review of The Outlander, by Gil Adamson has been published at the Piker Press this week – why not check it out? And while you’re at it, take a look at the other articles there including:

His Grandfather’s Garden, by KK Brown – about a man living in Johannesburg and his elderly grandfather.
The Lowly Bean, by Sand Pilarski – all about Great Northern White Beans with a yummy soup recipe included.
Patterns In Blood  #12, by Lydia Manx – a serialized novel that will keep you up late at night.
Grocery Shopping: Pantslegs or Plastic, by Sand Pilarski – a creative way to be environmentally conscious.
Jon Renaut’s Peek of the Week – it will make you hunger for a glass of red wine.

Sunday Salon – January 27, 2008

January 27, 2008

9:41 AM

Another Sunday of gray weather. We had over two feet of snow on Thursday, then the temperatures warmed and it has been raining since Saturday morning leaving the ground slushy. The up side to this horrid weather is that it keeps me inside with my books.

I managed to slog through and finish Great Expectations on Friday (read my review). The sense of accomplishment is perhaps worth the drudgery. But, in any case, I’m happy to move onto my next book.

Ghostwritten, by David Mitchell is this author’s debut novel. I discovered Mitchell last year – first reading Black Swan Green (read my review), and then Cloud Atlas (read my review). Since Mitchell likes to bring back characters from novel to novel, I would actually recommend readers start with his first novel and work forward from there. But, even if you read them from new to old, you won’t be disappointed.  Mitchell is one of the bright and shining “new” authors on the scene. He writes beautifully, slowly developing his characters and unraveling his literary puzzles. I’ve read through the first two chapters of Ghostwritten so far, and am enthralled. The novel is a series of nine linked stories. Already I’m fascinated at how Mitchell will bring them together – but I have no doubt he will. Ghostwritten has a lot in common with Cloud Atlas in this regard – and if you’ve read that novel, you will like this one.

As the month winds down, I am reflecting on the reading I’ve done. This month I received quite a few early release novels to read and review – and so I did not get to all the books on my reading list. I still have two early releases to read:

1. Theft of the Master, by Edwin Alexander – which was first published in the UK. I received this book from Lisa with on-line publishing. It will be the next book I pick up after I’ve finished Ghostwritten.
2. The Outcast, by Sadie Jones – which I received from the Harper Collins First Look Program. It is due for release in March, and my review of it is due by February 8th.

The books I wanted to read, but didn’t get to in January include:
Of Human Bondage, by Somerset Maugham
Cat’s Eye, by Margaret Atwood
Alentejo Blue, by Monica Ali
The Night Watch, by Sarah Waters
What the Dead Know, by Laura Lippman

Maybe in February….

Eva’s Reading Meme

My friend Jill from The Magic Lasso tagged me for this fun meme…I had to put on my thinking cap for this one!

Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews?

This was easy – The Harry Potter books. Everyone seems to love them, yet I haven’t had any desire to read even one in the series. Maybe some day…

If you could bring 3 characters to life for a social event, who would they be and what would you do?

Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, Selena Peake from So Big, and Liesel from The Book Thief. All of these characters are strong, vibrant females with the gift of communication – and all have a fascinating story to tell. They share a positive and loving philosophy of life. I would have a hearty meal served in front of the wood stove…and I would sit back and soak up the conversation!

(This is borrowed from the Thursday Next series.) You are told you can’t die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for a while, eventually you realize that it’s past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave?

Hands down … Catch-22. I rarely quit on a book, but I think I made it less than 30 pages into this one before I heaved it aside. Classic or no…this one bored me to tears.

Come on, we’ve all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted that you’ve read, when in fact you’ve been nowhere near it?

Silas Marner. This was assigned in my senior year of high school and I hated it. I struggled through a few pages, then scanned it, and finally resorted to listening to the class discussion to ascertain the answers to the test. I’ve never actually read the book cover to cover, but when people ask, I usually say I read it!

Has there been a book that you really thought you had read, only to realize when you read a review or go to “reread” it that you haven’t?

I can’t think of any books like this. Usually it is the other way around – I’m sure I haven’t read it, but once I start, I realize it sounds familiar!

You’re interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who’s not a big reader). What’s the first book you’d recommend and why? (Go ahead and personalize the VIP if it helps.)

The Book Thief – probably the best book I’ve ever read. I blew through the over 500 pages and wept through the last third of it. A tremendously moving book which has some of the most beautiful writing I’ve ever had the joy of reading.

A good fairy comes along and grants you one wish: You will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with?

Russian – I love the sound of this beautiful language, and the Russian novels are some of the best.

A mischievous fairy comes and says you must choose one book you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can reread other books as well). Which book would you pick?

Do I have to pick one? If so, it would be The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak. If I can pick several they would be: Charlotte’s Web, by EB White; The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck; and A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving.

I know that the book blogging community and its various challenges have pushed my reading borders. What’s one bookish thing you discovered from book blogging?

I never used to write book reviews. Book blogging has taught me how to write a review and the importance of doing it so that I can remember the details of what I read. Also, I have expanded my horizons – reading from genres I used to avoid (like science fiction or translated works). 

That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now she’s granting you your dream library. Describe it. Is everything leather-bound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few authors have inscribed some of the books? Go ahead — let your imagination run free!

Oh, it would have floor to ceiling bookshelves with full collections by some of my favorite authors. There would be a comfy couch and big armchair with wide arms to snuggle into next to the stone fireplace. I’d have perfect lighting and a huge picture window that looked out onto a forested view. And of course there would be a butler who would bring me steaming hot cups of herbal tea whenever I requested them!

Anyone who has not yet participated in the meme, please do give it a try!

The Literacy Site for Children

I saw this over on Kimbooktu today and thought “Wow, what a great idea.” Simply follow the link below and you can help bring literacy to children.

The Literacy Site

Great Expectations – Book Review

My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip. -From Great Expectations, page 1-

Pip grows up in a small English village, an orphan who is raised by the abusive hand of his older sister. Pip also lives with Joe – a forger with a kind heart and gentle spirit. Fate introduces Pip to the beautiful Estella (adopted daughter of the strange and damaged Mrs. Havisham) whose comment about Pip being a commoner changes his world view and sets him upon a destructive path. When Pip one day receives a gift of a large sum of money from an unknown benefactor, he follows a course of misguided expectations and dark mysteries.

Great Expectations – Charles Dickens hefty classic – is about the cleansing process of human suffering, redemption, the consequences of living a material life, and the loyalty of family bonds.

Dickens includes some memorable characters in this gothic style novel. Most notably Mrs. Havisham who suffers from a broken heart and lives in mostly darkness among her ruined wedding gown.

So she sat, corpse-like, as we played at cards; the frillings and trimmings on her bridal dress, looking like earthy paper. I knew nothing then of the discoveries that are occasionally made of bodies buried in ancient times, which fall to powder in the moment of being distinctly seen; but, I have often thought since, that she must have looked as if the admission of the natural light of day would have struck her to dust. -From Great Expectations-

I must admit to struggling to get through this book.  Victorian era literature is wordy and includes endless details of everyday life that I found tedious.  The middle third of the book dragged for me, but the novel redeems itself over the last third when the reader begins to uncover the mysteries and Pip sees the error of his ways.

I wanted to love this novel. I have read The Tale of Two Cities, as well as A Christmas Carol – and loved both of these. I know I must have read Great Expectations in high school, but I honestly have no firm recollection of it.  The truth is,  I found it to be a mostly boring story with a good ending. Not something I would recommend to most people. Although if you love Victorian literature, you may find the novel satisfying.

Keeping it Short – Black Ice, by Cate Kennedy

“For everything poisonous there’s something else nearby to cure it, if you just look around.” -From Black Ice-

Cate Kennedy’s short story Black Ice was published on line at the New Yorker in September 2006. It is a quick read and written in accessible language. The story’s narrator, a young boy by the name of Billy,  disturbs the reader with his tale of rabbit trapping (he sells them to a neighbor as dog food). Billy’s father has an edge of violence about him and although we do not have details of the boy’s home life, the reader can assume he is raised with a firm and unforgiving hand. The tension in the story arises when a woman buys a vacant and crumbling home near Billy. She scoffs at the “local color” and wrinkles her nose in disgust at the idea of Billy’s rabbit hunting. And although their interactions are brief, the reader is left with a distinct feeling of unease regarding Billy and the woman’s differences in perspective.

Black Ice is a disturbing look at class conflict, as well as an environmental treatise of sorts. It uses nature as a symbolic and stark backdrop to human dissension. Billy is described in terms that equate him to the furry rabbits he quickly dispatches (“I made myself small as a rabbit and moved through them on my soft scrabbly claws.”) which makes his ultimate behavior something the reader sees as destined to happen.

I am glad I will be discussing this with a group of readers at 21st Fiction Yahoo group because I think there are deeper elements to the story I may be missing.

Rated 3.5/5.

2008 Short Stories Read

This is where I will record all short stories read in 2008. Collections of short stories may also be found under 2008 Books Read. Single stories will only be recorded here.

Short Stories are rated as follows:

5 = Excellent; a must read; highly recommended
4 = Good/Very good; recommended
3 = Okay; Pretty good
2 = Not recommended; boring; didn’t hold my interest
1 = Awful; hated it; probably didn’t even finish the darn thing

1.  Black Ice, by Cate Kennedy

2.  The Overcoat, by Nikolai Gogol

Date Read: March 1, 2008
Rated: 4/5
Read for: The Short Story Reading Challenge, AND Russian Lit Yahoo Group
Read my review.

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