Friday, August 31, 2007

MEME: Booking Through Thursday

There was a widely bruited-about statistic reported last week, stating that 1 in 4 Americans did not read a single book last year. Clearly, we don’t fall into that category, but . . . how many of our friends do? Do you have friends/family who read as much as you do? Or are you the only person you know who has a serious reading habit?
In my family, my parents both read; Dad carries a book any where he might be going around the house and Mom has always read mysteries and other types of books. My sister reads, not nearly as much as I do, but I think she reads a bit before bed every night. We trade books.
My husband reads a bit at night, but very slowly. I'm his dealer and I keep him supplied in books so he never picks his own books. He only reads what I give him. My son has to have a book to read before bed, but again, I'm his supplier for the most part. ie, he won't go to the library, he wants me to pick out books for him.
At work, there are a lot of readers and some read as much as me I imagine. There is often a pile of books for the taking in the staffroom, and I've mentioned before, our high school librarian orders books for teachers as well. I wasn't the only one getting a stack to read for the summer in June. I guess I am well surrounded by readers in my life. Aren't I lucky?

BOOK: Fighting Ruben Wolfe by Markus Zusak

Fighting Ruben Wolfe by Markus Zusak
young adult novel

I did my first book just4theehelluvit, as suggested by Think Pink Dana, who was tired of only reading books for challenges. So she came up with the anti-challenge, where you can't make a list or plan or anything. Every now and then, you have to veer off the plan, be easily diverted by the shiny objects, and Markus Zusak is my newest shiny object.
I already read I Am the Messenger and have The Book Thief lined up for a book themed challenge, so I found his first novel at our school library yesterday, when I went to school to get ready for the first day. Don't ask how I got distracted by the libary; I shouldn't have been there.
This book isn't as powerful as I Am the Messenger, but it has the same feel. It's a coming of age story, narrated by Cameron Wolfe about his brother and their family and getting through hard times. Are you fighting the outside world? Or are you fighting yourself and how you fit in? This was a very quick and touching read and was a good young adult book. It's about brothers and identity and self esteem.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

BOOK: O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

I was expecting Little House on the Prairie with this book but got a big ole soap opera. Well, as soap opera-y as you can get written in 1913. But there was a lot more character action than I expected.
Set in Nebraska, it wasn't an easy life, mostly because it seemed like immigrants landed there and expected to be able to be farmers with no expereince. Hello? Alexandra was the oldest in her family, and her Swedish father recognized that she was the smartest and on his death bed, had her brothers agree to listen to her. She was smart, and strong, but not all that good at her own emotional stuff. She built up the farm but never married. Lots of American dreams being realized here, including getting successful enough that the youngest can go to school and not have to be a farmer. When will parents realize that telling their kids they can't do something (farm) isn't any different from making them do it. No choice.
It seemed a little rushed, and the characters and actions could have been a lot more drawn out, but maybe shorter was better. I could see this being studied in American high schools, because a lot of emotions and motives could be studied: politics, family relations, role of women, jealousy, violence, gun control, the family farm.
The Nebraska wheat fields are beautifully described and the characters love of land comes through. The multicultural background of America - Swedes, Bohemians, French, is nicely described, and could explain the modern day 'midwestern' character, when you see the people and customs that built it.
Another one for the decades challenge (1910s) and the summer classic challenge.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

BOOK: Cloud of Bone by Bernice Morgan

Cloud of Bone is Bernice Morgan's recent novel, telling the tragic tale of Shanawdithit, believed to be the last surviving member of the Beothuk native tribe of Newfoundland. My heart is still aching after reading this terrible tragedy wherein the settlers to Newfoundland, the Dogmen, eliminated the Beothuk's hunting grounds, and forced them inland, attacking them, and by 1829, all the Beothuk were dead.

Morgan combines three different stories: Kyle Holloway, a young ruffian from St John's, member of the Royal Navy during World War II.(Newfoundland did not join Canada until 1949) Holloway faces his own betrayal and tragedy. Then, Shanawdithit's story of her people and their struggle to survive and fight the Europeans. Finally, Judith Muir in the present, an anthropologist, dealing with her own grief after an incident at a genocide site in Rwanda. Morgan manages to connect the three stories to "make both an intriguing mystery and a meditation on lost innocence, brutality and the power of memory."[from the inside cover]

I wrote in a previous post that I thought Morgan's first novel, Random Passage and its sequel, Waiting for Time were the definitive Canadian novel. I am certainly a fan of Bernice Morgan and this book did not disappoint. I jumped at the chance to get it from, for their reviewing program. There are several issues addressed in this book, with the Beothuk history obviously making the biggest impact. The shame and anger I felt at how the Europeans dealt with the native people of this land gives me great pause. To be able to read this history from the Beothuk's perspective, knowing the Europeans view from our history books, is quite an eye opener. Morgan has done a wonderful job of describing the day to day life of Shawadithit's meotick, putting the reader into the tribe, amidst all the usual human emotions: hope, jealousy, anger, love, contentment, and the traditions and cultures that developed over years.

Then, how Morgan connects this to modern day events such as the Rwandan genocide (pushing Romeo d'Allaire's nonfiction book Shake Hands with the Devil, his account of UN Peacekeeping in Rwanda, up my reading list) makes this a powerful book. How do we reconcile leaving bodies to rest in peace with the knowledge that can be gained from the anthropological study? How long can you leave bodies before their historic significance outweighs the respect for their resting place? Why do humans feel a need to eliminate a whole tribe of people? Who speaks for the dead?

Very powerful book.

Monday, August 27, 2007

CHALLENGE: Long Term Projects

Wouldn't it be fun to be able to say "I've read all the Pulitzer prize winning books" or "I've read all the Bookers"? Well there are a bunch of ambitious readers around who think it would be fun. We are not completely crazy so this is a long term project, as in eventually, I'll be able to say I've read all these great books. I think it will be interesting to see which books I tend to prefer, because I imagine there is a definite feel that each list takes on. In the same way I think I tend to like the Giller prize winning books, but maybe it's because I'm Canadian.

Pulitzer: For distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life

books already read:
1961 To Kill a Mockingbird read in the 1990s
1981 A Confederacy of Dunces reviewed here
1983 The Color Purple read in the 1990s
1988 Beloved (I'm 90% sure I read this; also 90% sure I didn't get it. At all) read in the 1990s
1994 The Shipping News read in the 1990s
2003 Middlesex read in 2005

So, obviously I have quite a way to go, only 75 more. Unfortunately, there are several that I had no intention of reading; I'll save them for the end.
Here's the ones that I say, I want to read that, every time I see them. I expect to read them within the next year, she hopefully types.

2007 The Road
1999 The Hours
1995 The Stone Diaries
1958 A Death in the Family
1932 The Good Earth

Man Booker: is a literary prize awarded each year for the best original full-length novel, written in the English language, by a citizen of either the Commonwealth of Nations or the Republic of Ireland.

So far, I've read:
2002 The Life of Pi read in 2004 and loved it.
2000 The Blind Assassin reviewed here
1997 The God of Small Things reviewed here
1993 Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha read in the 1990s
1985 The Bone People reviewed here

I found a big old list of Bookers I'd like to read and the ones that top the list are:
1983 Life and Times of Michael K
1989 The Remains of the Day
1998 Amsterdam

The Man Booker long list has been released and I'm hunting down any that I can find easily, ie, my library. Here's what I found at wikipedia, so I assume the links go to that site.

Darkmans by Nicola Barker
Self Help by Edward Docx
The Gift Of Rain by Tan Twan Eng
The Gathering' by Anne Enright
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies
Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones
Gifted by Nikita Lalwani
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn
Consolation by Michael Redhill
Animal's People by Indra Sinha
Winnie & Wolf by A.N. Wilson

So far, I've read The Reluctant Fundamentalist, reviewed below, and I am in a patient line for On Chesil Beach, and will be able to get Consolation at the library as well. Others may take a while.

I think I liked this book, after some reflection. As I read it, I wasn't sure, but since it was short, under 200 pages, I knew I'd keep going. This is the story of a young man from Pakistan, who came to America to go to Princeton and live the American dream. His life in New York City, with a high status job as a valuator, changes after September 11, 2001. The narrative voice is a little strange, and I'm not sure it was the best way to tell the tale. He tells his story to an unknown American he meets at a cafe in Pakistan, after the fact. We never find out who this stranger is, and a lot is left unsaid at the end. There is also a love story of sorts as the narrator recounts his love of an American girl during his time in America.

I'm not sure what an American reader would feel about this book. There is a definite outsider looking in quality, and the terrorist topic is a sensitive subject, quite rightly. The narrator is not a terrorist, but provides an interesting perspective to these times. There are political statements about America's involvement in Pakistan-Indian affairs, and the term fundamentalist has several connotations that are played with during the story. The ending is quite ambiguous and could be interpreted several ways. I think it has been longlisted for its somewhat daring topic, the narrator perspective, and the ambiguous ending, all of which make it easy to discuss and argue and analyze.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

BOOK: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Newbery Winner 1990

Booklogged picked this as one of her selections for the Something About Me challenge. She said: I really like Lois Lowry, both as a person and an author. The other reason I chose this book is because my ancestor are from Denmark, which is the setting for this story.

I liked this book too. It was a very easy read, and sometimes it is nice to read a children's book and get a message in a different method. I'm definitely going to put this one on my kids' pile of books. I also enjoyed the setting of Denmark, and would like to read more books set there, even if it just involves rereading some old Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales. But this book is set during the Nazi occupation of Denmark so it is not a fairy tale at all. Lowry uses an example from the Danish resistance to define the word bravery for children in a concrete, wow, imagine if my life were like that kind of way. I've read two of Lowry's books this year (Number the Stars and The Giver), and each were excellent in very different ways. Thanks for the suggestion booklogged.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

BOOK:Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

I knew this book would be good because it was on the list of top books as recommended by the 50_book challenge, and they haven't steered me wrong yet. I'm not a huge science fiction fan, but not matter what the genre, there are good examples of books to read that you think you wouldn't like, because the story and characters and writing are too good. I present exhibit A.

Ender's Game has won the Hugo Award and is a Nebula Winner. I found this to be very interesting to read as a study of war and the how and whys of war and battle. Andrew 'Ender' Wiggin has been identified at the very young age of 6 as the hope of military genius needed to protect the Earth from the buggers. The Buggers are expected to attack the Earth again, and although Earth survived the last attack, this next one is going to be big. Ender is thus trained, rather brutally, the lead the next attack. Much of the book follows his training and isolation and mind manipulation.

Some quotes I liked from the book:
Because as long as the people are afraid of the buggers, the IF can stay in power and as long as the IF is in power, certain countries can keep their hegemony.

So the whole war is because we can't talk to each other.
If the other fellow can't tell you his story, you can never be sure he isn't trying to kill you.

Very interesting quotes in today's world. Card also used the net to show how information could come from an anonymous person, and spread throughout the world. The book was written in 1977 long before blogs and the internet were common and I thought it was very interesting how this was predicted.

My copy from the library was missing the last page, I think, as a sentence wasn't finished, but it was wrapped up pretty much so I don't think I missed anything. This is the first book in a series of books, and I'll get to them eventually, but I don't feel the need to rush out and grab it. I know some people really love this series, and Becky and Karlene both recommended it at the Something About Me challenge for different reasons. Here's a link to a post Becky wrote about Ender and why she loves him and the book.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

BOOK: Never Let Me Go by Kazou Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go by Kazou Ishiguro

read for the Dystopian Challenge

I'm not going to say much about this book, as I enjoyed it without any background. I knew very little about this before I read it, other than it was for the Dystopian Challenge - I found it on a list at wikipedia, and that it was at the top of the list of 1001 books to read before you die. The first book, it was driving me crazy, I wanted to read it so I could cross it off. I've had it since April to read and I don't know why I took so long to read it, because it only took a day once I picked it up.

I've never read a book by Ishiguro, but his writing was phenomenal. It felt like every word was perfect, and there were no extras. I was pulled into this story, and couldn't put it down. Written as a memoir, Kathy narrates the story reminiscing about her time at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school in England and her life after. Ishiguro gradually reveals the story amidst his moving prose. This was easily my favorite of the dystopian books so far.

Some quotes from the back of the book:

Suspenceful, moving, beautifully atmospheric, Never Let Me Go is another classic by the author of The Remains of the Day.

A Gothic tour de force ... A tight, deftly controlled story... (The New York Times)

The work of a writer at the top of his game, a graceful, chilling and moving yarn to set alongside Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. (National Post)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

BOOK: Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

translated from the German by Anthea Bell
soon to be a major motion picture

This is a book I've been meaning to read for quite a while, and when I saw it on the reading list of Becky in the Something About Me Challenge, I was ready. I borrowed it for the summer from my school library and was just waiting for August so I could read it. I am also going to give it to my son to read; I think he'll like it.

Genre: fantasy/fairy tale, young adult
Basic Plot: Meggie and her father are both book lovers; her father is a book binder. They are suddenly on the run as a sketchy character comes looking for a book they own. The character was actually a character in the book that Meggie's father 'read out' of the story. See, Meggie's father has a talent for this and he has accidentally unleashed some unsavory characters into our world, from the book Inkheart.

Quote from the book: The world was a terrible place, cruel, pitiless, dark as a bad dream. Not a good place to live. Only in books could you find pity, comfort, happiness - and love. Books loved anyone who opened them, they gave you security and friendship adn didn't ask anything in return; they never went away, never, not even when you treated them badly.

Favorite part: I liked the quotes at the beginning of each chapter, taken from some rollicking adventure books like Treasure Island, Peter Pan, The Princess Bride, and Lord of the Rings.

Favorite character: I liked Dustfinger, a lost character, and fire-eater. He was selfish, but he tried to do the right thing. I also liked Elinor, Meggie's grand aunt, a book lover and collector who gets caught up in the adventure, and finds reserves of strength she didn't know she had.

Anything Else? I found the time element on the book confusing. It takes place in modern day Europe, but it felt more like that 'unknown time and location' that can happen in some books. Like the wizard world in Harry Potter, but it was supposed to be now, with cell phones and banks. I was often unsure, and kept reminding myself that it was now this was happening. But overall a great adventure read; I read the over 500 page book in a few days.

Monday, August 20, 2007

BOOK: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

1997 Booker Winner

What lovely prose and a compelling story. Roy's debut novel tells the tale of twins Rahel and Estha, during the 1960s and in the present. The spiralling story deftly carries you along, gradually introducing characters and more and more information about an event that happened one day and affected both twins. I found the suspense building and building as more layers of details are revealed.

We are shown a slice of life in one family in Kerala, India but also the political climate of the day, the caste system of course and how both contributed to the event in question. The story is well written and the language is beautiful, as Roy plays with words and with the idea that twins have a special connection.

CHALLENGE: 2007 RIP II ((Readers Imbibing Peril)

Then the shadows began to gather; first little furtive ones under the table, and then bolder ones in the dark panelled corners…~H.P. Lovecraft (The Strange High House in the Mist)

Carl says: Time for gothic tales and things that go bump in the night.
I've been looking forward to this challenge, and have been planning some books to read. There are several perils you can take for this one. This is part of what makes Carl's challenges so much fun; it's an adventure just deciding which peril to take.

A man [Ed. note: or woman] who limits his interests, limits his life.~Vincent Price (editorial addition by Carl V. Anderson)

I'm chosing Peril the First, read four stories of your choice. I had planned to read:

I also thought I'd read Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman, which turns out to be An Additional Peril. It is being released as a paperback in Canada on September 19. Perfect. Aaand, I am considering reading that giant tome, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke for an online reading group, which almost becomes Peril the Third, a scary sandwich peril. I don't want to commit to that, as I may be committed trying to read that giant book. But I might. The option of a book list, with choices, is there too. I am in favor of this, because once the reviews start, I will see books I really want to read, and I want to be able to change my mind.

The book list of choices right now will include:

  • Twilight by Stephanie Myers
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazou Ishiguro
  • The Talented Mr Ripley
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • Lisey's Story by Stephen King
  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
  • Everything's Eventual by Stephen King

So, four books it is, plus Fragile Things. Let the spooky fun begin!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

MEME: Questions for Bloggers

I found this meme of questions in the Tiny Little Reading Room and it looked like fun so I gakked it. Thanks

What are you reading right now? Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

Do you have any idea what you’ll read when you’re done with that?
could be The Reluctant Fundmentalist, or Special Topics in Calamity Physics, or Cloud of Bones, or Silas Marner, or maybe Pretties

What magazines do you have in your bathroom right now? No magazine, but I have a book of short anecdotes, Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman by Richard Feynman, an amusing physicist (not an oxymoran)

What’s the worst thing you were ever forced to read? Lord of the Flies would be right up their - grade ten English

What’s the one book you always recommend to just about everyone? Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding

Admit it, the librarians at your library know you on a first name basis, don’t they?
Not my local library, but the librarian at the high school whereI teach sure does. And she's awesome; she orders books for teachers to read as well as students.

Is there a book you absolutely love, but for some reason, people never think it sounds interesting, or maybe they read it and don’t like it at all? I really liked A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, but I don't think I've convinced anyone to read it yet.

Do you read books while you eat? While you bathe? While you watch movies or TV? While you listen to music? While you’re on the computer? While you’re driving?
I read the paper during breakfast; I usually shower, so no; I will read while watching TV; I'll read when I'm waiting for something on the computer; not while I'm driving

When you were little, did other children tease you about your reading habits?
I never noticed, but my nose was in a book anyway

What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn’t put it down? It's not always because it is that good, if I'm within 100 pages, I usually want to finish a book. The last book I stayed up too late reading was A Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

BOOK: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

It is hard to read a most beloved book that has earned so much praise. There is such an expectation while you are reading, that the poor book doesn't stand a chance. However, Jane Eyre was a great book and I really enjoyed it. I think if I had read it earlier in my life, I would absolutely love it, because I certainly developed a huge crush on Mr Rochester, but I didn't devour it, my usual judge of books that go on my best list.

I'm not sure what I thought this book was about; I knew there was some crazy person in it, but I didn't realize how wonderful Mr Rochester was and how tremendous of a heroine Jane was. Her confidence in herself, and strength to do the right thing for her impressed me. What a survivor! And Mr Rochester, I loved how she called him that right to the end. The atmosphere was creepy and gothic, wonderfully moorish. There was a little too much of St John at the end of the book, I just wanted Jane! But that is the reflection of the religious themes in the book; I preferred the mystery and love story aspect.

So, I liked the book and the characters. It's not going to be one of my favorite books, but I can see why it is for many people. I'm glad I read it, and wish I'd read it years ago.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

BOOK: We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

This book is the first to be read for the Books in Translation yahoo group, sponsored by the amazing 3M, and I'm not completely sure what to say about it yet. I certainly would never have picked it on my own, because I had never heard of it before. I did see someone review it on the Dystopian Challenge blog, but I skimmed over it I confess. I am anxious to discuss it with the group.

In a nutshell, this novel was written around 1920 by a Russian, Yevgeny Zamyatin but it wasn't published in Russia. I need to brush up on my Russian history - revolutions and the communists timeline, to make sense of when this was written and what was going on at the time. Zamyatin has written a prophetic account of the communist Soviet Union, where the group, We is more important than the individual, I. People are numbers, and interestingly, the women are are vowels, ie, I-330 and O-90, while the men are consonants. There is a great wall surrounding the civilization, (the Berlin Wall?) and logic and reason rule. The one Great Benefactor rules all. Our hero, D-503, is a wonderful citizen, loves his mathematics and logic. He is the Builder of the Integral, and is a believer in his world.
As with most dystopian novels, D-503 begins to question the society he is in and the rules. He only partly questions though, and his biggest issue is his crush on I-330, who appears to be a rebel, working for the revolution.

I really liked all the math references, and the general novel. Many times I felt like I missed key plot points within the prose. It wouldn't be until the next entry (chapter) that I would realize something. Even though, I still enjoyed it. I think this is a book best analysed with others, because there is a lot to talk about. I'll understand this better in September when the discussion begins.

OTHER: what I'm reading

How in the world am I ever going to get back into the real world of work in September?
It takes me all morning to get through my 'reading' before I even pick up a book.

First, I roll out of bed, hopefully by nine o'clock. Seriously, I am so lazy these days and since my children have figured out how to pour a bowl of cereal themselves, I don't have to be up.
I read the local paper, focusing on the letters to the editor and the obituaries. (I live in a small community, and funerals and wakes are a big deal here.) Then I turn on the computer, my downfall. Check gmails. It seems the readers of the yahoo novel group stay up late chatting about their challenges, because every morning I need to take while to get caught up. There are new challenges afoot I believe, *rubs hands with glee*

I first started blogging on Livejournal, and I read my friends page there. With an assortment of communities, including recipes, teaching, and reading challenges - my first, the 50 book challenge is a great place to read reviews and get ideas, plus the coolest site: bento lunches. I get hungry there every day, and yet, still only manage to toss some grilled cheese in the pan for my own kids. C'est la vie of the lazy woman.

Next, I feed my TV fix with the snark that is Television Without Pity. They do hilarious recaps of shows, such as Hell's Kitchen and Big Brother,my summer TV fare. The forums are an abyss I try to avoid getting sucked into, because I could read for hours the analysis and speculations that go on there. This fall, the Lost stuff will really pick up, but there is almost too much to wade through.

For some reason, I have a compulsion to do the daily jobs at Webkinz everyday. Now, these are really my kids toys and games, but for a computer gamer like myself, it is quite addictive. Most parents I know reluctantly admit they play more on the site than their kids.
Luckily this summer I found out about blogreader on my gmail, which helps me not spend all day checking on my reader pal's blogs. It has helped me a lot.

In real reading news, I am 30 pages from finishing We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin and 80 pages from finishing Jane Eyre. These books have taken me forever, or 3 weeks to read. I think it's because I have to think a little more and cannot scan-read like I usually do. It's slowing me down, this real reading I'm doing. I can feel my brain growing though, three times its usual size.(2 points for the first person who gets that allusion)

Books I am hoping to get to before the end of August include:
Inkheart somthing about me challenge
The God of Small Things book awards challenge
Ender's Game something about me challenge
Cloud of Bones random house book
Special Topics in Calamity Physics nyt notable books challenge
and poor Never Let Me Go, dystopian challenge,which has been on every month's reading list since April. Maybe this month!

I think we are going to go here this weekend, with my sister and her family and my parents. Looks like a lot of fun. I'm definitely ordering a meal to be cooked at the table. mmm

Friday, August 10, 2007

LIST: Top twenty books I've never read, and don't plan to.

John, at The Book Mine Set, made a list after he read Bybee's list, and I've love lists! So I have to make one too. And it's easy, because there are a lot of famous books I've never read. I'm going to focus here on twenty allegedly great books I have little to no intention of reading, because I've done a great job this year of reading many famous/classic books that for some reason never made it onto my reading list. I stuck pretty tight to mysteries and Stephen King for the last forty number of years, so my eyes are wide open this year. However, they will not likely ever open to the following:

  1. The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis
  2. The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien
  3. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  4. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  5. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
  6. Ulysses by James Joyce
  7. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
  8. Heart Of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
  9. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  10. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  11. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
  12. Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
  13. A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
  14. Watership Down - Richard Adams
  15. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
  16. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  17. Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
  18. Les Misérables - Victor Hugo
  19. Kim - Rudyard Kipling
  20. The Old Man And The Sea - Ernest Hemingway

They are either too long, or just don't interest me. I'm sure I'll eat my words some day and end up loving one or two of these. But I doubt it.

There are, of course, many other great books I have not read, but I would like to get to some of them. That's a list for another day. Yeah, more lists! So, what's your confession? (go see John, he's giving out penance I believe)

UPDATE: Summer Challenges Completed

I seem to by cycling with the reading challenges this year. I try a few, then get carried away and suddenly I'm stressing, and I know, they should be just fun, but, I really like to finish a list, and cross it off. And I'm picking books I want to read, so I'm not torturing myself here. I found June got a little crazy, with the Spring Reading Thing, Once Upon a Time and the Chunkster all finishing around the same time. So, to reward myself, I signed up for a bunch of summer ones, but a little more carefully. Here's what I have recently finished:

The Summer Reading Challenge, Round 2
1. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

2. Good Intentions by Joy Fielding

3. The Translator by Leila Aboulela

4. Arthur & George by Julian Barnes

All good reads, but the best was, Arthur & George.

Aah, mysteries. I couldn't pass up this challenge: read 6 new to you mystery authors. I could have done this one with already-read authors, because this just adds to my never ending list of books to read.
1. Murder on a Girl's Night Out by Anne George
2. The Princess of Burundi by Kjell Eriksson
3. One for the Money by Janet Evanovich
4. Restless by William Boyd (not a series)
5. Shakespeare's Landlord by Charlaine Harris
6. Killer Swell by Jeff Shelby

All perfect little mysteries. I'll read more in each series, but I particularly liked Shakespeare's Landlord.

Then, was Joy's Nonfiction Challenge. I need this challenge more often, because I don't read as much nonfiction as I could, and I always enjoy when I do. Bring on more, Joy.
Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel
Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Zlato's Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajevo
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

I liked all of these in different ways, and would recommend any of them.

This was my favorite challenge, because it really exposed me to some authors and novels I would never have read. I didn't even realize it could be called a genre, or style. Maggie did a lot of prep work before this one started, and she got me intrigued. I still resisted, but finally succumbed, reading:

1. Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind: Ann B. Ross
2. Murder on a Girl's Night Out: Anne George
3. A Confederacy of Dunces: John Kennedy Toule
and for extra credit, because it got really hot here:
4. Quite a Year for Plums: Bailey White
5. Shakespeare's Landlord: Charlaine Harris
What perfect books for the lazy, hazy days of summer.

These challenges are so much fun. I'm reading good books I might never have found, meeting interesting people who also love books, and just having a lot of fun. What are you waiting for? Go try one. This group has a list of all challenges ongoing, and lets readers talk about the challenges they are doing, and completing. Or, this blog lists most ongoing challenges and links to them. Wendy (caribousmom) has been great to keep us all organized. I think she likes lists even more than me!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

BOOK: I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

I've been reading lots of reviews of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and many readers are adding it to their list of favorite books of all time. Having just finished this book and loving it, I can't imagine how good The Book Thief must be.

Ed Kennedy is a twenty year old cab driver in Australia, with not much hope in his life. He plays cards with his equally hopeless mates, is in unrequited love his best friend Audrey, is on the outs with his family and lives with his very smelly dog. One day he witnesses a bank robbery, inadvertently gets involved, and then his life is never the same. He is given a playing card, with a very vague message on it. Ed takes up this challenge and has to help some people.

I loved Ed's acceptance of his role, his faith in people and especially himself, to know the right thing to do, without knowing why he was doing it. I found this a very uplifting story, seeing how small, seemingly insignificant events can be so important. Ed's bravery to confront people, especially his friends, is quite a message.
How many people get this chance?
And of those few, how many actually take it?
This is a book that will stay with me for a while. Thanks to jill(mrsteme) for recommending it as a part of the Something About Me Challenge.

MEME: Booking Through Thursday

Do you have multiple copies of any of your books?If so, why? Absent-mindedness? You love them that much? First Editions for the shelf, but paperbacks to read? If not, why not? Not enough space? Not enough money? Too sensible to do something so foolish?

I don't have doubles of any books because I'm too sensible/cheap to do something so foolish.

I don't actually buy many books. I grew up in a house that read a lot, but we read library books. I can barely remember my parents buying any books. We had some books as kids, but mainly lots of trips to the library. So it is a very new thing for me to buy books, but thanks to and second hand book stores and the terrible influence of a whole bunch of internet people - I'm looking at you!- I've been buying more books. I probably have 20 books I've bought but haven't read yet. When I read that people have hundreds of books they bought but haven't read, it blows my mind. I'd probably use pbs, but they don't deal with Canada yet.

The closest I have to two books is two versions of Dr Seuss's ABC book - the regular and a smaller board book version for the car.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

BOOK: The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

Booker Prize Winner 2000

I've read a few Margaret Atwood books now, Cat's Eye, The Handmaid's Tale, and Alias Grace, and I am still not sure if I like her books. There are elements of each that I like, but overall, I'm not a complete fan. I read them, but I never get immersed in the novel. The characters in this book have their flaws and I could never sympathize, empathize, or care enough about them to truly enjoy the novel.

There are several layers to this story. Iris Chase Griffen is the narrator of her life story both past and present, and at the same time, The Blind Assassin novel written by her late sister Laura, is told. This novel in the novel is the story of two clandestine lovers and the science fiction story they are telling each other. This sounds more confusing than it is, and that is where Atwood is a great author because it doesn't take long to understand. Iris' story is told from her writing and memories, and as well, newspaper clippings and letters.

There is a grand tale here, and I really enjoyed the setting of Ontario during the thirties. The Chase's were a rich industrialist family, facing hard times during the depression. The depressed economy and the beginning of unions and the communist threat are touched on, but because it is Iris' narrative and she was a naive, sheltered daughter, this aspect is just touched on in terms of how it related to her protected life. An instigator, Alex Thomas comes to town and becomes involved with the two sisters. Iris tells the story of Laura as well, but it is from Iris's perspective. I felt Iris was protective of Laura, but never really understood her.

Iris gets married off to her father's main competitor, Richard and his sister Winnifred. Still, Iris is just going through the motions, not really much of a participant in her own life and still tries to narrate the story. Viewing Toronto from the elite perspective was also interesting, since there was a depression on, yet these people were still living the high life. There is supposed to be some mystery here I think, but it seemed pretty obvious, so the suspense never really built for me. Any of the other so-so reviews I've read so far seem to have the same complaint; with no mystery to have revealed at the end, the story just falls a little flat. If you don't like the characters, then the plot has to carry the story and if the plot isn't there, then the characters have to be what you cheer for. I didn't feel like The Blind Assassin did it for me.

The whole science fiction story and how it paralleled the other story was the main part I didn't like. Sometimes I think I shouldn't read real literature because it takes too much thinking for me, how does this symbolize what Iris was? or where does Laura fit into this part of the story? Once I read some analysis, it made more sense, but some days I don't want to have to think so much. I can see why this story was written how it was, and it is very ambitious and well done, but overall, it didn't resonate with me. I felt too detatched from the characters since Iris herself wasn't very aware for much of her life.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

UPDATE: July Books

Here's a big advantage of being a teacher: able to read all day, while I watch my kids play at the park, or the beach, or the back yard. So, I've been doing a lot of reading. I don't usually read several books at a time, but I've got books stashed in several places for reading while I'm there: in my purse, in bed, in the living room. I read 15 books in July! I finished off 4 challenges: the nonfiction, summer reading, summer mystery, and the southern Reading challenge which was probably my favorite of the year. I'm going to do a wrap up post for those challenges soon. Happy reading to you all.

Total books read: 15, 14 fiction and 1 nonfiction

Books Read for Nonfiction Challenge: 1 and DONE!
Books Read for Southern Challenge: 2 and DONE!
Books Read for Classics: 1
Books Read for Summer Reading Round 2: 1 and DONE!
Books Read for Dystopian Challenge: 1
Books Read for NYT Notable Books: 2
Summer Mystery Reading Challenge: 5 and DONE!
Books Read for Book Awards Challenge: 2

Best Finish to a Series: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows
Best New Series: Uglies, Lily Bard mysteries
Best Book: The Bone People, Arthur & George, Harry Potter

the list:
82. The Halifax Connection - Marie Jakober
81. Galileo's Daughter - Dava Sobel
80. Murder on a Girls' Night Out - Anne George
79. The Year of Secret Assignments - Jaclyn Moriarty
78. The Princess of Burundi - Kjell Eriksson
77. HP and the Deathly Hallows - JK Rowling
76. Killer Swell - Jelff Shelby
75. Arthur & George - Julian Barnes
74. Shakespeare's Landlord - Charlaine Harris
73. Restless - William Boyd
72. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
71. The Hound of the Baskervilles - AC Doyle
70. The Bone People - Kerri Hulme
69. Uglies - Scott Westerfeld
68. Alentejo Blue - Monica Ali