Wednesday, April 30, 2008

CHALLENGE: Young Adult Challenge Completed

The goal: read 12 young adult books in the year 2008

completed as of April 30, 2008

The books:

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Beauty by Robin McKinley
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O"Dell (Newbery 1962)
So Long, Jackie Robinson by Nancy Russell
The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn
Vegan Virgin Valentine by Carolyn Mackler
Zel by Donna Jo Napoli
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli (Newbery 1991)
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

the host: joy at thoughts of joy...

best book: there were a lot of good books, and I don't think I can pick one. When I look at the list, I can't pick my favorite. I refuse to be tied down to a favorite book!

best part: I think my favorite part was that my 10 year read two of the books with me, Maniac Magee and So Long, Jackie Robinson

If you are interested in this challenge, there is still lots of time to join.

BOOK: The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

Young Adult Challenge, Cardathon, decades challenge 1970s

Quite a disturbing book, but it gets its message across: the abuse of power and the power of bullies. And unfortunately, the ending is probably too much like real life.

Jerry is a freshman at a boys' school in New England, trying to fit in. The secret school group, The Vigils, hands out assignments that nobody dares to challenge, even though everyone seems to hate it, even most of the ones involved. There are teachers who tacitly approve of the group and even find ways to use the group to their advantage. Jerry is told to refuse to sell chocolates at the school fundraiser, and then decides to continue to not to sell them. This blatant refusal to conform gets others in a snit, and Jerry in a heap of trouble.

There is way too much testosterone in this book. All the characters are male and the only females barely mentioned are the objects of the teenage boys ogling, referred very crudely as 'rape by eyeball', a line which extremely disturbed me. The cruelty of the teacher Brother Leon, who sets an example of tyranny and abuse of power that the Vigils emulate, was not fun to read about. There was violence and psychological cruelty and we don't get to understand any of the motives or enough of the thoughts of the characters. We are sort of rooting for Jerry and his friend Goober, but we aren't allowed inside their characters enough. I wasn't pleased that the ultimate message was to conform, but in real life, you have to do what you can to survive.

Still, the book was good because it was able to evoke all these uncomfortable feelings in me. A teenager struggling in a similar situation could at least identify with the struggles of the boys, although nobody really gets their comeuppance in the story. In that way it is far too similar to real life. We see lots of bullies get away with treating people horribly, just within the lines of the law with no repercussions. I believe those people do eventually get consequences, in the form of karma. They eventually push the wrong person and discover what they have done to others. Like the former student of mine who was a bully and mean to people, and years later, I read in the paper he was involved in a road rage incident and was shot in the groin region. I'm not happy he got shot and don't condone violence, but it did seem like the universe was settling a score.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

CHALLENGE: African Reading Challenge

African Reading Challenge
Participants commit to read - in the course of 2008 - six books that either were written by African writers, take place in Africa, or deal significantly with Africans and African issues. (Read more if you like!)

You can read whatever you want, but of the six books, I recommend a mixture of genres. For example, you might select books from each of the following:

Fiction (novels, short stories, poetry, drama)
Memoir / autobiography
History and current events

Already read in 2008:
This Blinding Absence of Light by BenJalloun (Morocco)
Life and Times of Michael K by JM Coetzee (South Africa)

1. 28 Stories of AIDS in Africa by Stephanie Nolen
2. The Plague by Albert Camus (Algeria)
3. In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar (Libya)
4. The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith (Botswana)
5. A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah (Sierra Leone)
6. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (Nigeria)
7. The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton (Kenya)

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, where are you?

Are you reading many new books this year? This is a new phenomenon for me as I've usually been much too cheap to buy a new release book, and I preferred to wait for the paperback version of books, even ones for authors I am huge fans of. The exposure to publisher's copies and Advanced Reading Copies or Editions has opened up a whole new world of reading to me. has an Early Reader's Program where they draw for a chance to receive and review new release books. How awesome! I won one last month and am waiting patiently for it to arrive, whatever the book was, I think I forget by now. 3M has created a site for reviews of some newly released novels, Novels Now 2008. If you are cheap like me, it's a place to read reviews from blogger types and get an idea if it's a book you might like, before you buy it.

I'm still looking at that Tree in Brooklyn and it's STILL growing. It's a slow tree. It's a book so far I'm preferring to read in between other books, so I started The Chocolate War last night, the last of my Young Adult Challenge reads. I'm in a New England high school; so, not far from my real life, a Maritimes high school. Where is reading taking you today?

Monday, April 28, 2008

WEEKLY GEEKS: Discover New Blogs (Week #1)

The goal of Weekly Geeks this week is to visit 5 new blogs. I decided to do a blog here, a blog there. Here's where I visited:

tanabata: Not completely new, as I've seen her here and there, but I haven't read her blog reliably. She recently did a post about funny signs, mostly funny because of some wonky English/Japanese translations.

mariel : She's slogging through The Clan of the Cave Bear, and facing that dilemma of how long to read a book that you aren't loving. She works at sea which is very interesting.

book chronicle or adventures in reading: I looked at this blog since we practically have the same name for our blogs, and found the cutest little bookworm on her page. Looks like a great site for information and articles on short stories, and I'll watch for book chronicle at the short story challenge. Nice art pictures of women reading.

florinda at 3R's: fun place! lots of quizzes, and memes, and she seems quite computer literate, I might learn a few things if I hang out over there. I really like her about me statement: I'm probably too old for this blogging thing but here I am anyway! I work with numbers but I love words. That could describe me as well.

janicu: a book blogger at lj. There were so many book reviews there, and I none were familiar to me at all! There are so many books, and genres in the world, I am continually surprised.

That is just the tip of the iceberg. This weekly geeks thing is off to a flying start with so many people getting excited. Isn't Dewey great to organize us?

CHALLENGE: 342,745 Ways to Herd Cats or tl;dr

Host: Renay (aka bottle_of_shine)

Time Frame: May 1 - November 30

Here's how to play:
1. Make a list of ten books you love (or at least like).
2. Share the list.
3. Browse the lists created by other members -- Reading lists sorted by bloggers or Master Reading List sorted alphabetically.
4. Read at least three (3) books recommended by others between May 1 - November 30, 2008.
5. Write reviews of the books you read.
6. Share the links to your reviews with Renay and all the other members of the challenge.

*** For the complete How To's go to Renay's blog where she explains it all much better.

My list of books that I love, of course there are more, this is the top ten, today:

1. I Am the Messenger - Markus Zusak

2. Never Let Me Go - Kazou Ishiguro

3. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

4. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery

5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky

6. The Eyre Affair - Jasper Fforde

7. Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman

8. The Gun Seller - Hugh Laurie

9. Black Swan Green - David Mitchell

10. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever - Barbara Robinson

I haven't picked my three reads yet, but the list is phenomenally long and good.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

BOOK: The Outcast by Sadie Jones

The Outcast by Sadie Jones

in the pub '08,

The novel opens in 1957 with Lewis' return home after a stay in prison. We quickly flashback to when he was ten and his father was returning from the war, 1945 , to the small village outside London and follow poor Lewis's life up until his incarceration. The last third of the book rejoins the story after his release after prison. Interestingly, his years in prison seemed the most peaceful and safe.

Lewis and his mother would be described as a little odd, happy with themselves. They lived together while Gilbert was off in the war. His return is quite an upheaval, as returns from war can be. At ten, Lewis and his mother go for a picnic in the woods, but his mother doesn't return alive. This pivotal event changes Lewis, as in my opinion, no person cared for him or showed any affection. This loss of affection was particularly painful after the closeness to his mother. Gilbert quickly remarries a younger woman, Alice, and the neighbourly Carmichael's, including daughters Tamsin and Kit are entwined with Lewis and Gilbert, as well as the violent Dickie Carmichael, who is also Gilbert's boss. Drinking, abuse, and self-mutilation are all pushed under the rug, stiff upper lip, and then the requisite sending 'difficult' children away to boarding school.

So much happens here, an intrusive peek into the lives of upper middle class people in England, but also everyone as everyone has secrets and how well we hide them or deal with them can determine how functional our life appears. Lewis is a particularly sad case of a child shown no compassion. I was so frustrated at the way everyone dealt with him as if he were just a bother, or worse. Granted, he makes some bad decisions, but if ever there were a character who was given every bad break, it was him. I got very caught up in the emotions of the book and Lewis, and my heart just ached for him. A scene late in the book, with the village doctor who talks about Lewis' mother and then simply adds, 'I always liked you' was such a touching moment, one of the few people in the village to acknowledge him in any way. I read this very late into the night, because I had to finish it and see how it could end.

There is some buzz about this book; it's shortlisted for an Orange Prize, and I found it to be an engrossing read. There are some disturbing aspects to the novel, the secrets that are kept, but the overall neglect of Lewis and his emotional growth is what will stay with me.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

ETC: Newsy news

What's going on in bookland these days?

Exciting news for Anne lovers here in the land of Anne. It's the 100th anniversary of the publication of Anne of Green Gables and I am very pleased to see that there are events beginning to commemorate this. Things like the publication of a prequel, written by Budge Wilson. I was a little leery of any tinkering with Anne Shirley, but I've seen some favorable reviews and I think I'm willing to read it. Also, Kate S is planning a group read of Anne of Green Gables beginning in June. I've seen a number of bloggers discover the joy of Anne for the first time, and enter into the series proper. This would be a great way to share our love of Anne together, and speaking from experience, the book is just as enjoyable on subsequent reads.

Dewey is always finding fun ways for bloggers to meet and connect. I met several new bloggers last year with her blog roll game, and she organized a very successful 24 hour readathon last year with ways to play no matter how involved you are able to be. Now she's planning Weekly Geeks, a thematic blogging challenge. I'm not entirely sure what's involved, but it sounds like fun and a way to play and meet other bloggers. There is also a chocolate internet monkey involved, and that makes it several degrees of awesome right there. Go check her out.

Challenge Update: I am close to finishing off a few challenges, and one book for each will move the Book Awards challenge, the Young Adult Challenge and the Man Booker to the completed list. It will make me feel a little better and accomplished and maybe able to sign up for another one or two. Speaking of new challenges: Maggie's planning to host the Southern Reading Challenge again, and it was one that I enjoyed the most last summer. She puts so much effort into planning and promoting that I got sucked in when I wasn't planning at all to join. I discovered new authors and the whole genre of southern writing. And I liked it.

I'm reading a few good books right now:

28 Stories of AIDS in Africa by Stephanie Nolan is opening my eyes to a continent I'm not that familiar with and an epidemic that I knew about but on a far-away surface level. Reading the personal experiences of individual people puts in a a completely different level. To protect myself a bit, I'm only reading one or two stories a day.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a chunkster I've been wanting to read for a while, and it'll probably take a while as I haven't gotten into it properly yet. I'm reading a chunk, then another book, then a chunk, then another book.... and so on. It may take a while. I started it and The Gathering together for a bit, but there was too much Irish similarities to read at the same time.

I just started The Outcast, and it's sucking me right in very quickly. Post war England, (why is that such a common setting? Atonement, Remains of the Day) with themes of redemption and containing those awful, cold, upper class fathers who refuse to show emotions to their children. It's a nominee for an Orange book prize and so far I can see why there is buzz.

Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, April 25, 2008

LISTS: Authors from A - Z

Who are my favorite and newly favorite authors?

Lizzy Siddal made a list, and I thought it was a great idea. It's a combination of old standbys and authors I've recently discovered, and loved, so much so that I'm trying to find all their books and squeeze them into my reading list. But if you ask me tomorrow, half of these would change, lol. I've seen versions of this where you have to list your favorite book by the author, but lizzysiddal did it this way, and I'm not prepared to make that big of a decision tonight.

A - Jean Auel - I love the Earth Children series, but I've read them all
B - Maeve Binchy - I think I have read all her books now, except of few short stories
C - Douglas Coupland - I haven't read nearly enough of his books yet
D - Sarah Dunant - I've only read Birth of Venus, but I loved it
E - Jeffrey Eugenides - I'm not sure about him;notice I didn't bold his name. I loved Middlesex and didn't like The Virgin Suicides at all. I need another one to test him out.

F - Jasper Fforde - loving the Thursday Next books
G - Phillipa Gregory - the first historical novel was fabulous and I'm looking for another
H - Charlaine Harris - I devoured her Shapespeare mysteries, and will start her other mysteries soon

I - Kazou Ishiguro - loved the first two I've read. His quiet style is sneakily wonderful
J -
K -Stephen King/Sophie Kinsella - they seldom let me down
L - Lois Lowry - a new author, but The Giver is so wonderful, that she can make the list
M - David Mitchell - I think he could become a favorite author, I'll try another book to make sure

N -
O -
P - Orhan Pamuk - His two nonfiction books have been fab, I'm anxious to try his fiction
Q - Paul Quarrington - I'll be honest, I haven't read a lot of Q authors, so he is winning by default
R - Mordecai Richler - He's got a big list of books I haven't read yet, but I liked Duddy Kravitz a lot, and don't forget about Jacob Two-Two

S - Jerry Spinelli - another new author, and people rave about Stargirl
T -
U -
V - Sarah Vowell - I found her first book Assassination Vacation rather funny and I'd like to try another of hers. If I had read more Vonnegut, he might make the list
W -
X -
Y -
Z - Markus Zusak - He hasn't written enough books yet. Hurry up!

Do we have a lot of the same authors listed? Do I love an author you hate? Do you have any suggestions for my empty letters?

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Well, here where I live, Spring is sprung–weeks early, even. Our lilac bush looks like it will have flowers by this time next week instead of in the middle of May as usual. The dogwood trees, the magnolia trees–all the flowering trees are flowering. The daffodils and crocuses are, if anything, starting to fade. It may only be April 24th but it is very definitely Spring and, allergies notwithstanding, I’m happy to welcome the change of season. What I want to know, is:

Do your reading habits change in the Spring? Do you read gardening books? Even if you don’t have a garden? More light fiction than during the Winter? Less? Travel books? Light paperbacks you can stick in a knapsack?
Or do you pretty much read the same kinds of things in the Spring as you do the rest of the year?

Don't talk to me about spring today! We had snow today. Big wet sloppy snow that has covered the ground and the cars and the little bit of grass that was trying to turn green. Two nights ago we were all outside, enjoying the light and a bit of warmth. My daughter asked if she could bring a deck chair to the front yard to 'watch the street'. She tried to entice me by stating that I could bring my book and sit with her.

Spring is the hardest time to get reading done, as school winds down, and soccer most nights, and just enjoying the glorious warm evenings. June and final exams get even worse. And we teachers save most of our socializing of the year for June, so most nights are busy. I don't change the books I read, but this is the second year to do the Nonfiction Challenge starting in May and the Once Upon a Time Challenge runs til Summer Solstice, so my reading does change a little bit, due to challenges. Hey, these challenges are becoming annual traditions now.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

BOOK: The Gathering by Anne Enright

The Gathering by Anne Enright

Man Booker Challenge (winner 2007), notable books challenge

I liked this book. I've read reviews that found this depressing and miserable, but it wasn't that bad. Perhaps it's a cultural thing. My paternal descendants are all Irish, way back, but in the Maritimes, we still claim that heritage regardless of how many hundreds of years ago those poor starving ancestors left Ireland. Part of the reason is that the Irish struck together over here, like the French and the Scottish, so that my father's generation was the first to marry non-Irish. He's from a relatively large family as well, so I am familiar with the large family saga, where you are related to people and know them, while you may not actually know them at all, but having met once, you have that connection, that shared heritage.

The other reason I liked this book was the connection I felt to the narrator. She's a woman about my age (she's 39) and her life is fine, no reason to be unhappy, but she's beginning to question her life and her family. Middle age angsty stuff. Veronica recognizes that she has no reason to be unhappy, but she is spiraling downward after the suicide of her closest brother. She tries to look into her past and her brother's to see where things went wrong with Liam and herself. Her memories are all tossed together with her siblings and they were more realistic described than the minutely detailed memories that occur in some memoirs. For example, she remembers the time she was eight and staying at her grandmother's and she ate a plastic flower. The flower came out it the diaper, but she was eight, so it must have been her little sister who did that, but she thought the story was about her. Lots of real touches like that.

So in conclusion, without going into any more detail, I didn't mind the depressing stuff because I recognize it. Irish stories are often depressing (You've read Angela's Ashes? My dad recognized his childhood, to a lesser degree) and I get it. I liked the writing as well, and can see why this was the winner for the Man Booker last year. There are still some things I found a little vague, so I am looking forward to the discussion with my book group about this book. I think there is a lot to discuss after reading this book.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, where are you?

I've thought of an idea for a reading challenge: see how many challenges you can sign up for. I think I could do really well at one like that. The problem is that I make a list of books I'd like to read, not that it is feasible or remotely possible. As I check my list of books to read, I 'hmm, nodding, I want to read it' or 'yes, I can't wait to get to that one' and when I try to make a list of books that are priority, there's 6 or 7. So I am continuing to sign up for challenges, and dream that I'll read all those books, and in reality, I'll read what I want and what seems to be next and I'll finish a few challenges along the way. The point is to have fun and enjoy myself. No stress. Are you getting stressed by reading challenges or keeping it all in perspective?

Reading wise, I am in Ireland gathering the family and the memories for the funeral of a brother. Now and then, I pop into Brooklyn to see how that tree is growing. And I've started a new book today, 28 Stories of AIDS in Africa that I plan to read slowly, maybe a story a day, so as not to be overwhelmed. This could be a tough read.
Where is reading taking you today?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

BOOK: Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

Orbis Terrarum (New Zealand), Man Booker Challenge (shortlist 2007)

This is my second book this year with many references to Dickens' Great Expectations ( Lost in a Good Book had Mrs Havisham as a major character) and I am feeling like I've read the book with out having to have actually read the book. I am not sure what I expected from this book, but the devastation during war, and the lost of innocence portrayed was a little surprising. My naivete also rose up, as life on the Pacific island of Bourgainville in 1992, was shockingly primitive and the war that raged there was unknown to me.

Matilda narrates her tale during this wartime, her battles with her mother, and her introduction to Great Expectations by Mr Watts, the only white man in their village who acts as a teacher. There are some abrupt changes in mood, necessitated by Matilda's view as an adult looking back at the events as a way to understand them. The rebels and the red faced guerrillas both wreck havoc on the village and the people living there.

This is one of those books where I sense there are big ideas being discussed at a different level, but I am missing them. I still enjoyed the book and the view of a much different life and the connections to Great Expectations. Some classic books seem so important that they lend themselves to other books written around them. That's pretty impressive for Mr Dickens. So far I'd say this was the strongest of the short list contenders for last year's Man Booker, ahead of On Chesil Beach and The Reluctant Fundamentalist, both of which were good, but underwhelming. Next will be the winner - The Gathering, so I'm getting a good taste of the nominated books.

also reviewed by: katrina here and marg here

Friday, April 18, 2008

CHALLENGE: The Eponymous Challenge


I finished this one a while ago and it was surprisingly easy to do. I must be drawn to those title of books, or there are a lot of them. The goal was to read 4 books between March 1 and May 31st.

The Life and Times of Michael K - JM Coetzee
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]
Maniac Magee - Jerry Spinelli
Miss Julia Takes Over - Ann B Ross
Zel - Donna Jo Napoli

Best book: Maniac Magee, and Zel , both young adult books
bleh: The Life and Times of Michael K

Thanks coversgirl for hosting with a great idea! I love that word, eponymous.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Suggested by Nithin:
I’ve always wondered what other people do when they come across a word/phrase that they’ve never heard before. I mean, do they jot it down on paper so they can look it up later, or do they stop reading to look it up on the dictionary/google it or do they just continue reading and forget about the word?

I just keep going. Very seldom would a word I didn't know stop me in my tracks. I usually have a sense of what the word means, and it usually makes sense in the sentence. The author whose vocabulary stumps me most is Elizabeth George and the Inspector Lynley detective series. I notice words I don't recognize in those books, many in each book.

The only word I've looked up recently was in The Tale of Despereaux, as the author said the reader needed to look up the word 'perfidy', so I did.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

CHALLENGE: I Heard it Through the Grapevine

Oh no. I've succumbed to another button. That shouldn't be a reason to join a challenge, but sometimes you never know what will catch your eye. In addition, there are books that have been recommended by some of my favorite bloggers that I'd really like to read, so this might be the chance to get them read. Lynne over at Lynnes' Little Corner of the World is the brainchild behind this challenge.

The goal of this challenge is to read 3 new-to-you books between June 1 May 1 and November 30 that have been recommended to you. Feel free to read more if you want! Any type of book is OK. It can even be a book by an author you've read before. Cross-overs with other challenges are fine, and you can change books at any time. And there will be a prize at the end of the challenge. You will need to sign up before June 1.

the books my pals raved about last year:

1. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett, recommended by 3M at onemorechapter
2. Sacred Cows by Karen E. Olsen, recommended by chris at book-a-rama

3. Broken For You by Stephanie Kallos, recommended by literary feline at musings of...

4. Then We Came to The End by Joshua Ferris
or Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill both recommended by kookiejar at a fraternity of dreamers

5. Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips, recommended by tinylittlelibrarian, and kookiejar

And while I really don't see when I'll get to these books, everytime I see the names of the books, I know I want to read them.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

BOOK: The Chatham School Affair by Thomas H Cook

The Chatham School Affair by Thomas H Cook

Book Awards Challenge, 1997 Edgar Winner

What does Edgar mean to you? When I hear Edgar Allen Poe, I think of creepy, suspenseful writing, really spooky stuff, and this prize is given by The Mystery Writers of America to the best in mystery fiction. I think I've got a new list to check out, as I love a good suspenseful, not gory, book. One of the first winners of the Edgar was The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler in 1955 and I loved that one last year.

1927, Massachusetts. We begin in the old age of our narrator as he recollects the events of the Chatham School Affair, as it was known. Henry was a teenager at the time, and knew all the participants from his father's school. I won't give away any more of the story, but I was very impressed with the plot as it appeared to be foreshadowing, and it was, but Cook tantalizingly gave details bit by bit, so that as more of the story came out, my head was spinning. Just so well done. And even though I thought I knew what had happened, it still twisted at the end very believably.

The atmosphere of the time and New England was terrific, but I am often drawn to that Dead Poets' Society type of story. The teen narrator, who sees life one way, is idealistic and dismissive of his father. He tells the story from his younger point of view, but with an adult perspective of the choices he made. I am trying to review this without giving anything away, so I am sounding very vague. It is a good story, and you don't need to know anything about it before hand to enjoy it.

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, where are you?

Hey there! How is your Tuesday? If it's anything like mine, it's busy, busy, busy. I've got a clown working on a routine for a variety show, a Brownie selling cookies, and a chatterbox who provides colour commentary on the day. Luckily, I am able to escape to my books. I am getting close to the end of a mystery that happened at the Chatham School in Massachusetts in 1927. Great atmosphere and setting. I'm about ready to move to Brooklyn and investigate a tree.

Where have you been escaping to in your books today?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

BOOK: This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun

This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun
translated from the French by Linda Coverdale

novella challenge (190 pages), Orbis Terrarum Challenge, IMPAC Dublin award winner

Although written as a novel, and listed in fiction, this account of life underground in a concentration camp in Morocco is based on interviews Ben Jelloun did with a survivor. This is a harrowing yet beautifully written book. In 1971, an attempted coup was planned against the king of Morocco. The coup failed, and the participants were sentenced to jail, which became for some, a small underground cell, where survival was not possible except for a very few, who lasted twenty years. In 1991 they were released due to international pressure.

The narrator takes us through the thought processes that enabled him to survive. How he erased the images of his family from his mind, how he prayed and was transported away, how he completely separated his body from his mind. He held no thoughts of revenge or hatred and really became a completely pure person, understanding only what is required to survive. And while this is disturbing, watching most of the prisoners die, ultimately it is uplifting, as this one man survives amidst the most horrible conditions. That a person is capable of being that strong and that religious, was quite beautiful.

Friday, April 11, 2008


A Culinary Reading Challenge hosted by Ex Libris

This challenge will run from April 1, 2008 to March 31, 2009. All you have to do is select six cookbooks to read* and make at least one of the recipes. These can be any cookbooks of your choice - brand new ones, old stand-bys that you can't live (or cook) without, or even heirlooms. You do not have to decide on the cookbooks ahead of time (unless you want to, of course). Then post your reviews either here or on your own blog. If you want, you can even post pictures of your creations along with your reviews!

Oh, this challenge was made for me. And it will make me look in my cook books, and there are lots of books to look in, and try some new recipes. I'm not so good with the everyday, drudgery cooking, I am much better with the 'try something new', or 'make a meal for company' type of cooking. Although a list isn't necessary, I imagine I'll be starting in the following books:

The Rest of the Best by the Best of Bridge ladies. I got this for Christmas and I need to read through it some more. The Best of the Best is my most favorite and most used cookbook, and I want to find all the good stuff in this one too.

Light and Tasty Annual 2003

I actually had a recipe published in this edition of the cookbook, so they sent me a copy, but I haven't made much from it. On page 86 of that book, the Asparagus Tomato Stir Fry is my recipe. Well, sort of, as my mother sent it in without my knowing, under my name. I didn't like tomatoes or asparagus or mushrooms at the time, but I can attest now that it is a good recipe.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver I've been wanting to read this book anyway, and I just found out that there are some recipes in it too.

Wine Bar Food: Mediterranean Flavors to Crave with Wines to Match

I am always attracted to Mediterranean cookbooks, and I bought a few while I was on my cruise a few years ago. While in Rome, and all that stuff...

I've got lots to pick from. I think I'll pull a pile of cookbooks and put them by my tv chair. If you want to find a whole bunch of recipes and bloggers who are participating in this challenge, head on over to the Soup's On Blog.

Recipe Books Reviewed:

1. Wine Bar Food August 11/08

2. The Rest of the Best December 26/08

3. Rachael Ray's Big Orange Book February 20/09

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Pick up the nearest book. (I’m sure you must have one nearby.)
Turn to page 123.
What is the first sentence on the page?
The last sentence on the page?
Now . . . connect them together….(And no, you may not transcribe the entire page of the book–that’s cheating!)
I just got a new book in the mail today: The Sister by Poppy Adams. Thanks Trish! So while I haven't read it yet, here's what I found on page 123:
God, I think I might have to go and live in Spain. I can't take this cold weather any more. The snow has been falling and falling and while I love skiing downhill to work every morning, the walk up the mountain at the end of the day is terrible. There are advantages, of course, to a mountain, and the fresh air, and wholesome food grown here make it feel healthy. The climate change has caused the weather to extend the winters, however, and the flooding in the spring can be dangerous. Wait! What was that rumbling? We haven't had an avalanche yet this winter. All at once the house, and everything in it, felt extremely precarious.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

FUN STUFF: guessing games

A few months ago, somebody linked to this site where you guess the countries in Asia, or the 50 states. My husband and I had fun comparing results and trying again. Recently, a science teacher at school sent me a link to the same site, but this time it was filling in the elements of the periodic table. Too much fun!! Seriously, I like that kind of stuff.

There is quite a competitive streak in our family, so we spent all weekend playing these games, but there have been so many new ones added: NHL teams, MLB teams and NFL teams for the sports fans; Europe, Africa, North America countries for the geography buffs; entertainment stuff like Tom Hanks and Johnny Depp movies.

And now, for your reading pleasure: tonight I found Books!
Name all Stephen King books, Jane Austen books, Charles Dickens books.

Sorry, I'll understand if I don't hear from you in a while.

BOOK: Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Once Upon a Time II, novella challenge
I'm sure I'll be going against the grain here when I say this book was just OK. I realize that Gaiman has some terrific devotees, but so far for me, he's been good, but I'm not inspired to raving. I haven't seen the movie of this one, and I imagine it was good, as the story has some great elements and I can visualize the special effects that might have happened. Maybe I'm not a huge fairy tale / fantasy reader. I've liked some books but they aren't making me run to the library for another one.
That was my feeling through most of the book. I will say Gaiman pulled together a very good ending, very good, and my opinion of the book rose, but it was a struggle to get through and at times I thought about not finishing because I didn't care what happened to Tristan and Yvaine or the Witch Queen. I liked the seven brothers who were fighting over the title of Lord of Stromhold. I wish there had been a lot more with them and their battles. And I think that is my biggest complaint - so much of the details were just glossed over. It made the story shorter, which was good, but I never got really into the story and the Faerie world.
My apologies to Gaiman and his fans, but for me, I think it's a genre thing.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, where are you?

I am in the land of Faerie where Tristan Thorn is trying to capture of falling star. Neil Gaiman can imagine the most amazing worlds. I also just landed in a Morocco prison cell, which is in fact maybe just a hole in the ground. This Blinding Absence of Light may be a very difficult read. While not a true story, this is based on true accounts and will give a harrowing account of prisoner's of war.
So, two extremes for me. Are you visiting Once Upon a Time land, those magical made up worlds, where anything can and will happen? Or are you real life, seeing the best and worst that mankind has? Fiction or nonfiction? Where is reading taking you today?

Monday, April 7, 2008

BOOK: The Ravine by Paul Quarrington

The Ravine by Paul Quarrington

in the Pub '08

Paul Quarrington has been in the news lately (in Canada) as the author of the winning Canada Reads book, King Leary. I haven't read it yet, but when I got the opportunity to read his latest book, released March 11, 2008, I jumped.

And then I laughed my way through this book. Phil McQuigge is a fifty year old alcoholic, who has recently lost his wife and his job. Things aren't looking so great for Phil. Interestingly, Quarrington describes the book as semi-autobiographical. Phil decides that much of his crappy life relates back to an incident in 'the ravine' when he and a friend and his brother met up with some mean teenagers one day. Phil decides to write a novel based on the incident, if only he could remember exactly what happened.

I'm sure this doesn't sound like a funny book from my description, but Quarrington is very humorous, with irony and black comedy and straight-out funny lines. Phil's brother Jay, who also made a mess of his life, is around if somewhat estranged, and continually refutes the details of Phil's memories. I found this a rather timely discussion of memory, as there have been some recent news events with misplaced memories, and it is an area I find very interesting. Phil was also a teevee writer, and his famous television show (famous in Canada for 156 episode, it only played two episode in the States) is based on a movie he saw as a child (memories again.) Then you begin to question the narrator because if he doesn't remember, how reliable is anything he tells us?

So, the book is a novel being written by the main character about his life, which is semi-autobiographical. If I thought about it I got confused, so instead I just sat back and enjoyed the self-deprecating humour. The ending was a little weird and I'm not exactly sure what to make of it, but it was worth the read to get to the end. I must look for King Leary now.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

BOOK: Latitudes of Melt by Joan Clark

Latitudes of Melt by Joan Clark

Canadian Book Challenge: Newfoundland and Labrador

Do you like the movie Titanic? Does the shipwreck fascinate you? This will be a good book for you. A baby in a basket is found floating on an ice pan off the shore of Newfoundland. While the family tries to find who she belongs to , she is never claimed, so she grows up in the outports of Newfoundland. Aurora, as she is named, marries, has children, and this book follows their lives.

Aurora's story is told in the first person, and the rest of the book in in third, which I found a little abrupt at times. Aurora could have a paragraph in the middle of the rest of the narrative, and her story of her is eventually told from her conception onward, which was also a little weird. Maybe due to her start in life floating in the North Atlantic, Aurora just takes what life gives her, and is not ambitious in any way. She floats along and does her own thing. Her children are more academic and study and travel the world, but home is always Newfoundland.

I think as I was reading I thought there would be more story, more to the investigation of who Aurora was before the sinking, and who her family had been, but the story just floats like Aurora did. That didn't make it a bad story, but just a character study of a family, where nothing too major happened. The timeline of the story worked very well, starting with Aurora being found and her life growing, and then her children's stories. The story switched then to the events leading up to the sinking of the Titanic and her parents, and finally ending up in the present, at the end of Aurora's life.

Clark does a wonderful job of creating interesting characters and evoking the feel of Newfoundland and telling one possible story of a family on the Titanic.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

CHALLENGE: Novella Challenge

Trish is hosting her first challenge. Boy, she jumped into this blogging/reading challenges with both feet. Since books under 250 are ones that appeal to me because I can read them in one or two sittings, I want to sign up.

The Rules:
Read six novellas between April 2008 and September 2008. You do not need to post your choices in advance.
The novella needs to be between 100 and 250 pages
The rest of the information can be found at the blogsite.

Here's my potential list:
  1. Stardust by Neil Gaiman 238 p
  2. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett 124 p
  3. This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun 190 p
  4. The Awakening by Kate Chopin 190 p
  5. Shadow Family by Miyuki Miyabe 188 p
  6. The Call of the Wild by Jack London 172 p

Did I mention I won a book at Trish's blog? I was very excited, but in a subdued way, since Trish didn't finish the book and didn't like it at all! She is hoping to pass it on to someone who might like it, so hopefully I will like The Sister by Poppy Adams.
Thanks, Trish. There are so many book give aways going on right now, I don't even know where to begin. Start looking and you'll find a giveaway.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

UPDATE: March Books and Challenges

My top 5 books of the year, so far, would be:

The Eyre Affair
The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz
Black Swan Green
The Book Thief
Persepolis I & II

Books Read in March
44. Beauty - Robin McKinley
43. Miss Julia Takes Over - Ann B Ross
42. Maniac Magee - Jerry Spinelli
41. Yellowknife - Steve Zipp
40. Zel - Donna Jo Napoli
39. The Bleeding Dusk - Colleen Gleason
38. Vegan Virgin Valentine - Carolyn Mackler
37. Lost in a Good Book - Jasper Fforde
36. Princess Academy - Shannon Hale
35. Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson
34. Shopaholic and Baby - Sophie Kinsella
33. The Terra-Cotta Dog - Andrea Camilleri
32. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist - Rachel Cohn
31. Life and Times of Michael K - JM Coetzee
30. The End of East - Jen Sookfong Lee
29. Angry Housewives Eating Bonbons - Lorna Landvik

Books Bought/Received:
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
Beach Music by Pat Conroy
Mama Makes Up Her Mind and Other Dangers of Southern Living by Bailey White
The Ravine by Paul Quarrington
Microserfs by Douglas Coupland
So Big by Edna Ferber
Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner
The Prince of The Pond by Donna Jo Napoli
The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin

Challenge updates:

Book Award Challenge July 1 2007 - June 30, 2008
read 17/12, but I have 2 more that I want to read before I consider this done
Canadian Book Challenge - Oct '07 - July 1 '08
read 10; still Nfld, Alta, Yukon to go.
Series Challenge Dec 1 - May 31, 2008
read 8 books; finished the Lily Bard mysteries and Shopaholic series and Gardella Vampire Chronicles.
A - Zed Author and Titles Challenge all year 2008
read 26/52

decades challenge - all year 2008
only 1, haven't begun thinking of this one yet
in their shoes - all year 2008
Cardathon Challenge - all year 2008
What's in a Name? all year 2008
4/6; first name, color, animal, place
YAC books all year 2008
Man Booker Challenge all year 2008
3/6 although I might make this all short listed books since I own six, which means 1/6
notable books 2007 - all year 2008
In the Pub - all year 2008
mini-challenges 2008
chunkster challenge 2
eponymous challenge up to May 31, completed!
once upon a time challenge II til June 21
888 challenge
2/8 categories completed

Themed Reading Challenge finished, read 8/8 First category in the 888 completed
Hometown Challenge read 2/1 completed

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, where are you?

It's no April Fools today:

I've just washed up on the shore of Newfoundland after the dreadful sinking of the Titantic. There seems to be some mystery about Aurora, but as usual, the setting of Newfoudland is dominant. There have been no sightings of Leonardo diCaprio, but I'll keep reading Latitudes of Melt by Joan Clark.

Where is reading taking you today?