Sunday, March 30, 2008

BOOK: Beauty by Robin McKinley

Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty & the Beast by Robin McKinley

Once Upon a Time II, Young Adult Challenge

I've seen the Disney movie, I've seen the stage musical, and now I've read the story: Beauty and the Beast. Is the song in your head now? McKinley wrote this version in 1978, and has even redone this story herself again, in Rose Daughter. I thought I might read that as well, but I think I would wait a while. There can't be that many ways to tell this story.

This version is similar to the Disney movie, but the back story changes quite a bit, as Beauty is the youngest of three daughters, and she is not a beauty either, more of a tomboy and scholar. Her family loses their fortune and moves to the country. Her father gets lost in the enchanted woods behind their home when he comes home with a fantastic tale of a terrible promise made to the Beast who saved his life, Beauty volunteers to go live with the Beast. Knowing the story, the real enjoyment was just in seeing how McKinley gets the reader to the inevitable end.

There were some nice touches. I liked the enchanted library with all books written, even ones yet to be written, and the Beast even read one of my favorite poems, Browning's "Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister." There was no Gaston coming to 'save' Beauty; I liked that Beauty comes to her own understanding about love and wasn't treated as property by men. The roses still played a big part, and the country respect of magic, to explain things that can't be easily understood was plausible. It was a good read, not great, but a nice little fairy tale nonetheless.

Friday, March 28, 2008

BOOK: Miss Julia Takes Over by Ann B Ross

Miss Julia Takes Over by Ann B Ross

eponymous challenge, series challenge

Miss Maggie and her Southern Reading Challenge introduced me to the delightful Miss Julia series last summer. This second book feels like it has hit its stride a bit more, and I enjoyed it more than the first one. Little Lloyd and his mother, Hazel Marie are living with Miss Julia and Lilian, but when Hazel Marie doesn't come home one night, Miss Julia decides she must find her. Foul play is suspected and Miss Julia, with her proper manners, and her ability to decide when disobeying the law is allowed heads off with a private detective to find Little Lloyd's momma. You'll have to read Miss Julia's adventures to see how she ends up driving around a NASCAR track in North Carolina, but I like her spunk and her increased confidence and her growth in this book. I'm more interested now in picking up the next book, Miss Julia Throws a Wedding, to see who gets married, because there was quite a bit of romance happening, and there are several possibilities.

This series challenge has been good, reminding me of books that I'd like to keep reading. I discovered several new authors and characters last year and this is keeping me going with them. After I made a whole list of books in series, it made it easy to pick out another book at the library. I tend to read series books from the library. Only another 5 or 6 in this series to go.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

BOOK: Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

Newbery Winner 1991, young adult challenge

I borrowed this from the library for my son, but he wasn't interested. I decided to read it since it was a Newbery winner and it was really good. When it got to one of the chapters behind the legend of Maniac Magee, I read it aloud since it was describing a baseball game, and my son is now into baseball mode, tossing the ball all the time, in the living room. I read a few paragraphs, and he was on baited breath, listening. I stopped after a few paragraphs, but he wanted more. I read the whole chapter, and I passed it on to him as I finished the book. Whew, sometimes it takes quite a bit of work to interest a child in a good book.

This book is part folklore, of the legend of Maniac Magee, part modern, as Maniac lives on the street, with no home, and part awareness, as race relations are one of the by products of Maniac's adventures. I loved the fable aspect of the story; the legend of Maniac will obviously have some exaggerations as all fables do, but the truth is in there, is you look. Maniac lives on the fringes of the town, and yet he touches many of the residents.

I laughed, I cried, I really liked this little book.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, where are you?

Today will be a tough day, as our March Break ran into the Easter Break, so it has been awhile since I've been at work. But I enjoyed the break and got lots of reading and visiting done, not much correcting or exercising though. I've been all over the place reading. I just left the north of Canada and the cold, to go to North Carolina and visit with that southern lady, Miss Julia. Quite a change in climate. I'll bet lots of people are in unsual worlds and fantasical places, as the Once Upon a Time challenge gets going.

Where is reading taking you today?

Monday, March 24, 2008

BOOK:Yellowknife by Steve Zipp

Yellowknife by Steve Zipp

Canadian Book Challenge: Northwest Territories , What's in a Name? place book

Fiction or non-fiction? Genre?
fiction; Canadian?

What led you to pick up this book?
This is cool. I am in the Canadian book challenge, and Steve offered to send his book to anyone in the challenge who wanted it. I'm sure I would never have found this book otherwise. Additionally, it is a book for the place entry of the What's in a Name challenge

Summarize the plot, but don't give away the ending!
I'm not exactly sure! The book is more a collection of anecdotes following an eclectic group of people who live in Yellowknife. There is a cruise missile and diamond mining and fishing that seem to be unifying elements, but no linear plot I could explain.

What did you like most about the book?
- I really liked the characters, and the obtuse view of them and their peripheral connections to each other.
- I liked the writing as well, and found it easy to follow even when the traditional plot idea wasn't there. There were unifying elements and connections between characters to discover.
- I also liked the setting, and this book was mostly about the north, vast and strange.
- I liked the humorous situations and found myself smirking at numerous lines throughout the book

Have you read any other books by this author? What did you think of those books? nope, first time.

What did you think of the main character?
I think the main character was Yellowknife, but Danny and Freddy, and Nora and Hugo were my other favorite characters.

Any other particularly interesting characters?
Too many to mention. It felt like a book that could have been written as a collection of short stories, each more defined and traditional. But every character was a character. I think I'd be afraid to head to Yellowknife. Even if this was just an exaggerated sampling, the place and people sound a little different.

Share a quote from the book:
Nothing about the guy made any sense. In fact, now that Danny thought about it, the same could be said for just about everyone else he'd met since entering the Territory.

This from a guy that hitch hiked into the Territory with no plan or supplies and lives in a dump, and subsists on stolen dog food and then decides to be a detective? Ha

Share a favorite scene from the book.
I liked the scene with Danny house sitting, and investigating the Pitbull in the spare room, hoping it wasn't dead.

What about the ending?
I liked the ending with Pfang and the Y2K bit, connecting the beginning of Nunavut and the end of the 20th century.
The final scenes with the dogs and the animals of the north was a little weird. But I suppose the animals were there first, and will hopefully be there in the end.

Any final thoughts?
I really liked the first third, got a little lost in the middle third, and then it picked up again for the ending. There were so many characters it was hard to know what the main story was, or who the main characters were. Once I realized there weren't any, then I just let go and enjoyed whatever part of the story was being told and many of my questions were answered by the end, like how the cruise missile ended up in the north.

Thanks to Steve for sending me the book and showing me a part of Canada I have never seen.

other reviews of this book: guatami, geraniumcat

Sunday, March 23, 2008

BOOK: Zel by Donna Jo Napoli

Zel by Donna Jo Napoli

Once Upon a Time II, Young Adult Challenge, Eponymous Challenge

Napoli uses beautiful writing to retell the fairy tale of Rapunzel. This was set in Switzerland during the 1500s, and I forgot how much of the story I knew, but as I kept reading, another element made me remember. I liked how the prince was a count, and the love story was perfect. It was really the story about love, different kinds of love, and the things that love can drive you to do. I'd read another fairy tale by Napoli.

A great start to the Once Upon a Time Challenge II.

Also reviewed by : mawbooks

Friday, March 21, 2008

BOOK: The Bleeding Dusk by Colleen Gleason

The Bleeding Dusk by Colleen Gleason

pub in '08, series challenge

I'm up to date in this series, but now I can't wait for the next one. This third book in the series continues after the big battle in the last book. Victoria, Max and Sebastian are all around and fighting vampires, but more importantly, their attractions to each other. I don't want to say too much, because I could be giving things away from the second book, but they are still in Rome, and the story is continuing fighting vampire leaders Lilith and Beauregard. This is a fun book, lots of vampire lore, and heaving bosoms. The plot races along, actually only covering a few days, but fast and furious. Victoria has the same stubborn streak she accuses Max and Sebastian of having, but she seems to be recognizing her attractions to each of them and realizing her power and intelligence.

A very cool part of this book was the acknowledgements including booklogged, bookfool and carl. How cool was that? I thought the books were a trilogy, but they most certainly are continuing, because this book ended at a point that I really want to know what is going to happen next. These books are a nice diversion, nothing too heavy but lots of escapism, romance and adventure.

And finally, my question is: are you a Max or Sebastian fan?

BOOK: Vegan Virgin Valentine by Carolyn Mackler

Vegan Virgin Valentine by Carolyn Mackler
young adult challenge

I couldn't resist borrowing this title from the library. Mara is a straight-A student, A type personality, whose life is turned upside down when her free spirited niece gets dumped at her house for the rest of her senior year. Mara has always done what her parents want and this change in her life correlates with beginning to question what decisions she has made for herself. And naturally, a cute boy causes upheaval in Mara's well planned life.

This was another great book by Mackler, tackling issues of parental expectations, questioning motivations, and the changes that happen at the end of high school. I particularly liked the cell phone issue, as Mara's parents call her all the time, and her them, until it begins to intrude on Mara's space as she realizes the phone is like an umbilical cord between them. Personally, I feel that one of the biggest problems with cell phones at high school are the parents calling their kids. Everything is an emergency. I sound like a Luddite, but I survived growing up without being in constant contact with my parents, and there is a big shift happening in society today.

I'll leave this with a very funny part of the book, because it is completely true. During the week of final exams, the students are not concerned with marks anymore because everything has been decided, and the "only five subjects that seniors were concentrating on:

1. The prom, in the broad sense, like who's going with whom and where people bought their dresses.
2. the prom, in the narrow sense, like who's going with whom but is really hoping to hook up with a different whom.
3. Partying before the prom.
4. Partying after the prom.
5. Graduation parties and other reasons to drink this summer."

It's funny because it's true.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

BOOK CLUB: Heidi by Johanna Spyri

Book: Heidi by Johanna Spyri, and a version adapted by Lucy Collins

Participants: My mother (Nana), who read Heidi for the first time, my daughter (Rachel, 8) who read the abridged version, and me, who read the original at least 20 times as a young girl, plus the sequel Heidi Grows Up

Snacks: Gruyere cheese in the little foil triangles, Swiss cheese bread sticks, fresh strawberries, Toblerone bar, tea/hot chocolate in the fancy tea cups

Discussion: We discussed our favorite parts, why everyone liked Heidi, why Peter pushed the wheelchair, Alm Uncle and how people were afraid of him, how the names of the goats were different in the original vs the abridged, which led to seeing what was different between the books, how to get the damp, musty smell out of books that have been in a basement for twenty years (put in the freezer, which led to a discussion of 'freezer books', tm Joey from Friends), how the Toblerone bar is shaped like the Alps and has the letters imprinted in the chunks

Conclusion: We had a great time; Rachel was very grown up and had a good comprehension of the book, and seemed to think seriously before answering any questions. We agreed to have another book club meeting, to discuss A Tale of Despereaux, once Rachel and I finished reading and we give it to Nana.

I hope everyone has read Heidi, because it is a sweet book, that is a classic for a reason.


You’ve just reached the end of a book . . . what do you do now? Savor and muse over the book? Dive right into the next one? Go take the dog for a walk, the kids to the park, before even thinking about the next book you’re going to read? What?
(Obviously, there can be more than one answer, here–a book with a cliff-hanger is going to engender different reactions than a serene, stand-alone, but you get the idea!)

When I used to do most of my reading in bed, I would fall asleep after finishing a book. Now that I am reading more places, and writing book reviews for your enjoyment and mine, I don't like finishing a book in bed because:

1. I'm too keyed up after finishing a book. When I read and fall asleep, it's relaxing. When I'm just about finished a book, I'm awake, and racing to the end. That was always a problem. I've discovered I prefer finishing a book in the daylight because...

2. I go right to the computer to write my review as soon as I finish the book so I can...

3. Start another book right away. The excitement of deciding what my next adventure will be, where I will go next, is a great feeling.

4. I very seldom read the next book in a series immediately after a book. Even a book I really enjoy, I need a break from, to build up the anticipation of the next in the series.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

CHALLENGE: Once Upon a Time 2008

It's finally here, and here are the options:

Quest the First
Read at least 5 books that fit somewhere within the Once Upon a Time II criteria. They might all be fantasy, or folklore, or fairy tales, or mythology…or your five books might be a combination from the four genres.

Quest the Second
Read at least one book from each of the four categories. In this quest you will be reading 4 books total: one fantasy, one folklore, one fairy tale, and one mythology. This proved to be one of the more difficult quests last year merely because of the need to classify each read and determine which books fit into which category. I am not a stickler, fear not, but I was fascinated watching how folks worked to find books for each category.

Quest the Third
Fulfill the requirements for Quest the First or Quest the Second AND top it off with a June reading of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Love the story, love the films, love the idea of that magical night of the year and so this is my chance to promote the reading of this farcical love story.

Three is a magical number, a number of portent in fantastical tales, and so three quests seems about right.

Last year, this genre was very new to me. Oh, I had read Harry Potter, but in general, fantasy/ folklore was new. I've been seeing other books since then, and I've been making a mental list. I'm lucky because I get to read the tip of the iceberg, the best of the genre. I'm going to try Quest First with an emphasis on Fairy Tales, with an option to change it to Quest Three if I feel so inspired. Here's my list of potential reads:

Go check out Carl's intro post, and get inspired by his writing and the lists by other great readers.

BOOK: Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde

Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde

series challenge: book #2 in Thursday Next series

I won't say too much about this, because it is hard to review books in a series if other people haven't read the first book. Too many spoilers, which is why I haven't read any Pretties or Specials reviews lately. Suffice to say, Fforde is at his imaginative best self. Not only are there literary detectives, but within the fictional world characters look after the integrity of the books, and the boundaries between what can and can't happen are blurred. Fforde explains everything within the rules of his world so that not just anything can happen, although it appears so at times.

After reading these books, my TBR pile grows as different novels become important and my understanding of the allusions would be better if I had previously read Great Expectations and Sense and Sensibilities. Did you know there is a missing Austen book Confusion and Conviviality? If that amuses you, you might enjoy these books. I read this one because I bought the next one in the series, The Well of Lost Plots, (the basement where books and characters not published live) for only $2, and I'd like to get to it before this series challenge ends in May. This series is cute, and amusing and easy going. I'm glad I found this series.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, where are you?

Since it is the March Break here in PEI, I am literally spending much of my time at home, on the computer, while teaching my children to be more independent - fold this laundry, pour your own milk, who wants to learn how to scramble eggs? It could be seen as incredible laziness on my part, but, no, I am instilling independence. Yeah, that's what I'm doing. It's my vacation too.

Reading wise, I am in 1985 England, but it is Tuesday Next's England, so everything is topsy turvy, and we are trying to find her husband. I may decide to read two books at one time - a living room book and a bed book. In which case, I may pick up The Bleeding Dusk and see how vampire fighting in Regency England is going. I think there is a cute vampire around looking for Victoria. Oh, Sebastian, yoo hoo.

Where is reading taking you today?

Monday, March 17, 2008

CHALLENGE: Nonfiction Five 2008

Hey! We've been at these reading challenges for a while now, since challenges are coming back again. I did this one last year, hosted by the fabulous Joy, and read some great books:

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

Now, the big decision, what to read for the Nonfiction Challenge 2008. The easy way would be to use a lot of the biographies I'm reading for the In Their Shoes Challenge, but Joy is already warning us to read a variety of books. I don't think this will be a problem, here's a little list of potential books:

and I might include a biography or two. The biggest thing that will determine my books is what I haven't read by May 1st. Once I make my list, the books begin to look really interesting and it becomes harder to resist.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

BOOK: Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
Young Adult Challenge, cardathon challenge

I've been wanting to read a Shannon Hale book as I've read such glowing reviews. I picked this up at the Book Fair at my kids' parent teacher interviews (they did very well, thanks for asking) And with the Once Upon a Time challenge coming up, I'll think of this as a preview to the fairy tales I want to read. If this book is any indication, I'm in for some good reading.

This has the requisite fairy tale elements: a prince looking for a wife, bandits, evil teachers, and lots of folklore, and lots of princesses. Mira is a fourteen year, small for her age, looking after her father and sister. She isn't big enough to work in the quarry like nearly everyone else in her village. The linder rock is valuable and everyone on the mountain works to release the rock. When the advisers to the king in their land announce that the prince will marry a girl from their mountain, the king's men set up an academy to prepare the girls to be presented to the prince. The girls struggle to learn how to be princesses, learn to live away from their families, and think about their life would change if they were chosen. If they even want to be chosen.

It was a great tale, with strong female leads, who learn how strong they really are. Mira learns to think, deal with the advisers, and reconcile the girls with their fate. It was well written, the plot moves along nicely, interesting characters, well developed folklore for Mount Eskel, with a few twists at the end, and of course, ends as all good fairy tales should.

Never hesitate if you know it's right.

BOOK: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Young Adult Challenge, Cardathon, another Something About Me

Melinda had just started high school, but she is an outcast. A party over the summer has drastically changed her life, and caused her to lose her friends. She tries to fit in, tries to survive, but she is finding it hard to find the works to express herself. This book follows her first year of high school.

This was touching, and heart breaking, and a very good book. Anderson puts into words the agony of high school, and dealing with teachers who are only concerned with school and forget that there can be a whole world of issues that the students are dealing with and algebra isn't even on their radar. I appreciated that reminder every now and then, and it will help when I can't understand why they are not as fascinated by projectiles as I am.

This is an excellent young adult book, covering big issues, but in a very humanizing way. At less than 230 pages, it is a quick read that I recommend. I can see why it is so popular.

Friday, March 14, 2008

CHALLENGE: Once Upon a Time II

Look what I found on Carl's Stainless Steel Droppings:

The time for the second annual Once Upon a Time Challenge is fast approaching. I like to have this coincide with spring (and my wife’s birthday), and so this year Once Upon a Time II will begin on Friday, March 21st and will go through Friday, June 20th, the last day of spring and Midsummer Night’s Eve.
This is going to be big. There will be multiple quest options, great contests and giveaways, and all the wonderful reading a person can handle. More details including banners and official sign up will be available sometime next week. Get your to-be read piles dusted off and ready to go!

Last year I hesitated, and wavered, and eventually joined since I was reading His Dark Materials Trilogy anyway. It wasn't hard to try a few more, as this whole genre was rather new to me and not my most comfortable. I enjoyed reading my choices and was glad I joined. And to top it off, I won a prize at the end! My own little poppet I named Christie, and some bookmarks and posters. So of course I am keen to join Carl's next challenge. And don't forget how much fun the RIP II was in the fall.

I wish I had gotten on board earlier in the challenge last spring, because part of the fun would have been chosing books in the different categories: Folklore, Fantasy, Fairy Tale and Mythology. I think that this year I'm going to try all Fairy Tales and I've been collecting a little list, waiting for this challenge to start. It's just about spring!

Carl is all about the equinoxes.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

CHALLENGE: Orbis Terrarum Challenge

The Orbis Terrarum Challenge is being hosted by B&b exlibris who say:

Here is the deali-o!

- The Orbis Terrarum Challenge begins April 1 2008 (you are welcome to join later) Through December 20th 2008.
- For the challenge each reader is to choose 9 books (for the 9 months).
-Each book must be by an author from a different nation in our world.
- You can change your list of books at any time, just as long as you have read nine in the end.

The bottom line: choose 9 different books, written by 9 different authors, from 9 different countries

I'll make a bit of a list to begin, reserving the right to change at any whim!

  1. The Plague - Albert Camus (Algeria)
  2. A Case of Exploding Mangoes - Mohammad Hanif (Pakistan)
  3. Literary Murder: A Critical Case - Batya Gur (Israel)
  4. This Blinding Absense of Light - Ben Jelloun, Tahar (Morocco)
  5. In the Country of Men - Hisham Matar (Libya)
  6. The Cruel Stars of the Night - Kjell Eriksson (Sweden)
  7. A Fraction of the Whole - Steve Toltz (Australia)
  8. Shadow Family - Miyuki Miyabe (Japan)
  9. The Snack Thief - Andrea Camilleri (Italy)
  10. Mister Pip - Lloyd Jones (New Zealand)
  11. Things Fall Apart - Chiua Achebe (Nigeria)
  12. Out Stealing Horses - Per Petterson (Norway)


Suggested by John :

How about a chance to play editor-in-chief? Fill in the blanks:
__________ would have been a much better book if ______________________.

I am trying to think of a book I haven't liked, or that could have been better. This question sort of goes with dewey's meme, that I am thinking about answers for. It's hard, because I can usually recognize why I don't like a book, and maybe the changes I would suggest would change the book too much. The author made their creative decision for a reason, and other people may have liked the book for exactly that reason.

I've thought of one:
On the Road would have been a much better book if Jack Kerouac hadn't been completely stoned when he wrote it. At least I assume he was stoned, it's the only thing that can explain the ramblings.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

BOOK: Shopaholic and Baby by Sophie Kinsella

Shopaholic and Baby by Sophie Kinsella
series challenge

I've put two series to rest now! Yay for me and thanks to the series challenge for making me put a real effort into finishing some series that have been so close.

Each time I start a new Shopaholic book I think that I won't finish it: Becky is so silly, so shopping obsessed, that I don't think I can take her any more. She never really grows, but she does have a heart of gold and would do anything for her friends and family. Gradually, Kinsella pulls me in, and I'm chuckling at Becky and the scrapes she gets into, and out of. It's almost predictable but then it becomes enjoyably predictable and worth the read. I usually finish these books quite quickly as well.

Becky has found her man, gotten married, found a sister, and now she is pregnant. Luke is still high powered and smitten by Becky. Becky is thrilled because she has a whole new area for shopping: baby stuff. While her friend tries to get her to buy some baby essentials, Becky is finding the most adorable cowboy boots, or five prams that she must have. Car seats and diapers are too boring to buy. When Becky discovers the hot new obstetrician to the stars, she must go to Valentia Carter. But oops! Valentia is Luke's old college girlfriend. Will Becky's insecurities drive Luke into Valentia's arms? Will Luke's company expand with his new client so that Becky can buy an Caribbean Island? Will Becky go behind Luke's back and determine the sex of their baby? Nothing earth shattering happens here, but I stayed up way too late last night trying to finish this, and I enjoyed my time with the silly Shopaholic. Congrats to Becky and Luke for entertaining me with their Shopaholic series. And Sophie Kinsella.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, where are you?

I'm lost today. I just left Sicily and I don't know where to head next. My ticket might leave for a few places, including Regency England and Italy to see how Victoria is dealing with those vampires, or New York to see how Becky is getting along with her baby, or dive into The Ravine, or where ever Oryx and Crake live. Or after my trip to the library, I may see what Tuesday Next is up to.

I get this excited feeling as I finish one book and get ready to read the next: will the next book be as good as the one I just finished? might this one be my new favorite book? If I've wanted to read it for a long time, I'll feel accomplished at starting a long awaited read. How fast can I read this book? Will the book I pick accomplish more than one challenge? How can I pick from this lovely pile of books? Arggggg.

Where are you reading today?

Monday, March 10, 2008

BOOK: The Terra-Cotta Dog by Andrea Camilleri

The Terra-Cotta Dog by Andrea Camilleri
translated by Stephen Sartarelli

in a series challenge; what's in a name: animal in title category

Inspector Salvo Montalbano's second mystery finds him discovering two bodies in a cave, set up as a tableau guarded by a terra cotta dog since the second world war. He wants to discover who the couple were and why they were killed. Along the way he will eat very well, be rude to his fellow policemen, be an ass to his girlfriend, eat some more, string along a couple other girls, give a terrible press conference, and be rude to a few more people. He's not a nice man, but he is smart, and will do anything to solve his crime.

Camilleri writes this series partly as a police procedural, and he doesn't let the reader in on everything as Salvo is figuring out. I like the setting, southern Italy in the little town of Viageta on Sicily, the descriptions of the food, and even cranky, rude Salvo. The language might be a little crude for some readers; it doesn't bother me but be forewarned.

Here's the series standing for me: (I read the 4th book first, yuck for reading out of order)

1. The Shape of Water 2002 (La forma dell’acqua - 1994)
2. Terra Cotta Dog 2002 (Il cane di terracotta - 1996) Mar 10/08
3. The Snack Thief 2003 (Il ladro di merendine - 1996)
4. The Voice of the Violin 2003 (La voce del violino - 1997)
5. Excursion to Tindari - 2005 (La gita a Tindari - 2000)
6. The Scent of the Night - 2005 (L’odore della notte - 2001)
7. Rounding the Mark - 2006 (Il giro di boa - 2003)
8. The Patience of the Spider - 2007 (La pazienza del ragno - 2004)
9. The Paper Moon - 2008 (La Luna di Carta - 2005)
10. La Vampa d'Agosto - 2006
11. Le Ali della Sfinge - 2006
12. La pista di Sabbia - 2007

Saturday, March 8, 2008

BOOK: Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn adn David Levithan

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Young Adult Challenge, Eponymous Challenge

A little raunchy, lots of bad language, just like the teenagers I see everyday. Nick and Norah alternate narrating the chapters of the night they meet. Nick sees his ex- girlfriend in a bar and asks Norah to be his girlfriend for five minutes. They kiss and the sparks fly. Thus begins a New York night of punk-rock bar hopping, mosh pits, misunderstandings, and romance. Music plays a big part of the book - Nick writes songs and plays in a queercore band, although he is not gay, and Norah's dad is a music producer.

This was a very cute book. I liked how Nick and Norah were both straight edge (no drinking or smoking), how they felt a spark immediately, but did the back and forth dance, afraid to show how deeply they felt for fear of rejection. Both are coming off relationships and the exes are around all night but they are healing and growing. I'm not up on my punk music so that was unfamiliar to me, but the relationship stuff, all the emo thoughts, rang true and I really rooted for Nick and Norah.

BOOK: Life and Times of Michael K by JM Coetzee

Life and Times of Michael K by JM Coetzee

Booker Winner 1983; Book Awards Challenge; Eponymous Challenge

Oh dear. I tried Coetzee's Elizabeth Costello last year and I didn't get it at all. I had to look up reviews to get any understanding of the novel, and most of the reviews implied it was confusing, hard to understand, and too abstract, even for Coetzee. So I felt I should give Coetzee one more try and while this wasn't as bad as Elizabeth Costello, I still didn't get it. I haven't looked anything up yet because I don't think books should be that hard. I am looking forward to the discussion at the yahoo book awards group to figure out the meaning of this book. I'll save some of my complaints for that discussion as well. The only thing it had going for it was that it was under 200 pages. I may not have finished it otherwise.

The book is broken into three sections - the first tells of Michael's life and those 126 pages had no breaks, not even an extra space anywhere. Michael was born with a hare lip, put in an institution, released, became a gardener, quit to look after his mother, escaped Cape Town without his papers during a civil war, his mother died, he is captured and spends some time on a work gang, escapes, finds a deserted farm to live on, grows some vegetables, is captured again. Part two is narrated by a doctor in the work camp and was the part I enjoyed the most as it seemed to make the most sense. Part three is Michael's escape and life back in Cape Town.

If this book is about 'the need for an interior spiritual life; for some connections to the world in which we live; and for purity of vision' as the front inside cover states, I didn't really get that. I think A Prayer for Owen Meany might have covered the same basic theme, but I enjoyed that process much better.

To be fair, I'm not into difficult books, and many people find him a wonderful writer, worth the effort to read. He's won many awards, including the Nobel prize, and this is a Man Booker winner, but I need more story in my books. To read reviews of people who liked the book, I've linked to some more eloquent writers who also appreciate Coetzee more than I do.

3m's review

caribousmom's review

Friday, March 7, 2008


You should have seen this one coming … Who is your favorite Male lead character? And why?

I did see that coming! So I was already thinking . . .

Ed Kennedy from I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak, for his faith, and belief in himself and in doing the right thing no matter how difficult.

Jamie Fraser from Outlander for being a strong, hunk of man who treats Claire right and travels through history with style and humor.

Henry Tilman from Northanger Abbey, for his humor and twinkling eyes, and for standing up for love and breaking the pattern of asshatery of his father.

Mark Darcy from Bridget Jones for loving Bridget's enthusiasm and recognizing eventually, that he needs Bridget, and for wearing the reindeer jumper from his mother.

I can't decide between Gilbert Blythe and Matthew Cuthbert, because they both love Anne and were my first literary crushes.

Favorite player from Harry Potter would be Dumbledore. I loved his belief in Harry and Snape and goodness, and for letting Harry figure most things out himself.

I'm a day late since I was at Parent Teacher interviews for all hours yesterday, and by the time I got home last night, all I could do was eat a Peanut Buster Parfait and watch Survivor and Lost.

BOOK: The End of East by Jen Sookfong Lee

The End of East by Jen Sookfong Lee

Canadian Book Challenge, BC book

Vancouver's Chinatown is the setting of this family history chronicling Sammy Chan's ancestors. The novel starts with Sammy's return to her mother's house, but the family's story begins with the immigration of Seid Quan from China. I don't think Canada has much to be proud about for its treatment of Chinese immigrants in the beginning of this century. Shew Lin becomes his wife, but stays in China with their children. Seid Quan works and works at a job he hates to send money to his family in China. He eventually saves enough to bring his son, Pon Man, and very eventually, his wife. Pon Man gets a wife from China, Siu Sang, and they have five girls, one of whom is Sammy.

The struggle of immigrants to build a new life, but still wanting their old life results in this family being very unhappy. Shew Lin and Siu Sang in particular, seemed very, very unhappy. Or at least, only happy when they were making others miserable around them. The family dynamics were complex, but no one is fulfilled or content, everyone worried what the others think. The novel follows the story of this family, but not told chronologically. It's a quiet novel, a character study, that was interesting, full of life, death, and all the interactions in between. It let me see a culture and experience that I am not at all familiar with. The Chinese culture is not very large in PEI, present, but not hugely.

I liked how the book was structured, each character leading a narrative, but we never really get into any particular character's emotions and thoughts, at least not for long. I didn't have a character I rooted for, except maybe Pon Man, who was caught in the classic conflict between his wife and mother, but he was detached from his father and there was much disappointment between them as well. This was a book about relationships and families, and while told from the experience in Chinatown, has parallels everywhere.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

CHALLENGE: The Eponymous Challenge

Over at Between the Covers, coversgirl is hosting her first challenge. And there is a choice of buttons. Never underestimate the appeal of a good Challenge button. I've been sucked in several times. Plus, I love that word. Eponymous. So cool. Here's the deal:

The Eponymous Challenge
"Here’s how it works:
The challenge will run from 1 March to 31 May, 2008.

During that time your mission should you choose to accept it is to read 4 books whose titles are the name of one or more of the characters (e.g. Evelina, Oscar and Lucinda); or a description of one or more of the characters (e.g. The Merchant of Venice, Sylvia’s Lovers).
Non-fiction books and overlaps with other challenges are welcome, as are books named after four-legged characters."

I'm making a list and hoping to read 4 from this list

  1. The Life and Times of Michael K - JM Coetzee
  2. One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich
  3. Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist - Rachel Cohn [hmm, this looks like a possessive use of name, not the eponymous-ness required of the challenge. I'll find another book to use instead]
  4. Maniac Magee - Jerry Spinelli
  5. Miss Julia Takes Over - Ann B Ross
  6. Ender's Shadow
  7. Zel - Donna Jo Napoli
  8. King Leary - Paul Quarrington

Wrap up post is here

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, where are you?

There are some interesting reading challenges around the blogosphere that take you places: Bonnie is hosting Book Around the 50 States, and Book Around the World, both of which are open ended. I am calling my version of the challenge Around the World in 80 books and Reading the 50 States. And the Canadians are getting in on it too, with the Canadian Book Reading Challenge, and we only have 13 provinces and territories, so it would be very quick to do that one. If you missed that one, john mutford is planning to do it again, starting this Canada Day. Librarything has its own world book group and I'm sure there are even more challenges like that. Reading can take you so many places.

Personally, I just left the Land of Lakes where some angry housewives supported each other and read great books along with eating bonbons. Now I am in Chinatown, in Vancouver BC, seeing what immigrant life was like a Chinese family in the early part of the 20th century and I think we will progress to the late 20th century with his descendents in the End of the East.

Where is reading taking you today?

Monday, March 3, 2008

MEME: Which Beatles Song are You?

I wish I'd found this when I read the Coupland book.

Which Beatles song are you?
Your Result: Eleanor Rigby

You live life through your interactions with others, and you often find yourself analyzing these relationships. You appreciate beauty, so you should be careful of prioritizing aesthetics over real substance.

All You Need is Love
Here Comes the Sun
Hey Jude
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite
The Space Between
Yellow Submarine
Twist and Shout
Which Beatles song are you?
Quizzes for MySpace

BOOK: Angry Housewives Eating Bonbons by Lorna Landvik

Angry Housewives Eating Bonbons by Lorna Landvik

another something about me book, chunkster challenge 2
Minnesota book in the Booking Around the 50 States challenge

another something about me challenge book, chunkster challenge 2

I didn't even realize that this would qualify as a chunkster, but it had over 480 pages, so it just makes it in. The back cover sums up this book quite well - 'a guilty pleasure' and a 'light snappy read.' It reminds me of the type of books I read in the 1980s by Judith Krantz, the beginnings of the chick lit genre. It is a sweeping book, covering forty years of five friends, set in Minnesota. The friends, all quite different, form a book club to get through the sixties and seventies when women needed more intellectual stimulation than they could get as stay at home moms, or housewives as they were known. Each has a very different personality but they support each other through life changes, husbands and kids, plus secrets they are keeping. There is nothing too sinister or terrible happening here, but life in general. Imagine Wisteria Lane lite.

It took me a little while to keep all the characters straight, but they are quite different and physically described enough to make an impression. My biggest complaint was the point of view and the time line. The book is divided into many sections, according to their book of the month, and each section gets a different narrator, sometimes in the first person, sometimes third, and sometimes it seemed to change part way through the section. It allowed each woman to get her story told but it felt a little jumpy. And the years would jump dramatically within sections at times.

But all in all, what I would call a beach book - easy to pick up and set down, easy to follow with different story lines and well defined characters and interesting plots, if somewhat predictable. You can't complain too much about a book like this, because it is what it is - a guilty pleasure, an easy read. This could have qualified for my themed reading challenge, because books play an important part of the story line.

Tinylittlelibrarian picked it for her book in the Something About Me challenge because I belong to a book club of great women, like the ladies in this book. And this was one of the few books that all of our members really enjoyed. Also, it's set in Minnesota, which is where my husband's from and I love visiting there every summer. Since two of her picks were two of my all time favorite books - Anne and Bridget, I really wanted to read one of her picks and I am so glad I did. I was able to think about her while I was reading, and wonder which angry housewife she is!