Wednesday, July 30, 2008

BOOK: The Birth House by Ami McKay

The Birth House by Ami McKay

2nd Canadian Reading Challenge

I liked this as a solid, interesting read. It was a wonderful look at women's lives and their control over their bodies in the early part of this century. Dora Rare begins as a friend of the local midwife, Miss B, and just beginning to feel grown up. Dora has always been a bit different, but being the only girl in a family with six boys could do that to you.

There is lots of folklore here, with the midwifery methods based on herbology and old wives tales (that work). I really liked that part of the book, along with the history of how obstetrics has evolved, and the strength that the women gave each other regardless of the crappy life they had in those day - have babies, cook, clean, be available for the man you married. I found it very empowering how the women stuck together. I also liked the first world war background and the inclusion of the Halifax Explosion of 1917. That would have affected everyone in Nova Scotia, especially a midwife healer like Dora.

It was a bit cliche or predictable at times what with the idiot husbands, the life on the sea, and small town characters, but it was written in a charming way, and Dora was a very sympathetic narrator. The technique of making it like a scrapbook, with newspaper articles, journal entries, and letters was a bit confusing for me at first. Why, if Dora is narrating the story, are her journal entries used to sometimes narrate the action? But that was a little issue and overall was a good, solid novel. I can see why it has been a very popular read.

Some other great reviews: john mutford, chris, joy, kaliana
Leave me a link if you've reviewed this and want to link up.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

ETC: Man Booker Award Lists

The long list has been announced for the Man Booker Prize, and I'm so surprised to see I've already read two of them - A Fraction of the Whole, and A Case of Exploding Mangoes. Other than the Rushdie, I haven't heard of any other ones. The two books I read I would rate about the same: humorous, longish, well written, but didn't make me rave. Both have good parts but I didn't inhale them. I see my libray has a couple others I can look into: The White Tiger, Child 44, and The Enchantress of Florence. It would be great if those made the shortlist, then I would be guaranteed to have read the winner.

Do you read the Booker long/short list books? Do you pay attention, or even care? The Complete Booker is a long term project where readers try to read all the winners, eventually. I've read nine winners so far, so I have quite a ways to go.

Aravind Adiga The White Tiger August 15/08
Gaynor Arnold Girl in a Blue Dress
Sebastian Barry The Secret Scripture
John Berger From A to X
Michelle de Kretser The Lost Dog
Amitav Ghosh Sea of Poppies
Linda Grant The Clothes on Their Backs
Mohammed Hanif A Case of Exploding Mangoes June 23/08
Philip Hensher The Northern Clemency
Joseph O'Neill Netherland
Salman Rushdie The Enchantress of Florence
Tom Rob Smith Child 44 Sept 28/08
Steve Toltz A Fraction of the Whole July 23/08

Have you read any? What do you recommend?

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, Where Are You?

I expect my reading will slow down a bit once the Olympics start. I love watching the Olympics and my little sports nut of a son is looking forward to gluing himself to the television with me. We will get to watch Canadian and American coverage, and they can be quite different perspectives. We have two athletes from little old PEI representing Canada at the summer Olympics so that is quite exciting. I like the sports competitions and the little vignettes about the athletes and the ones that focus on the host country. CBC covers the Olympics very well and I am glad they are the main channel. I should look for a book set in China, like Snow Flower and Secret Fan that I've been meaning to read, to read during the Olympics, to get in the mood.

I have just stepped back in time, to the early 20th century on the south shore of Nova Scotia, where I am becoming an apprentice to a midwife in The Birth House. Every now and then, for a little diversion, I dip into Bailey White's decidedly southern life, living with her Mama, in a book of humorous essays called Mama Makes Up Her Mind.

Where is reading taking you today?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

BOOK: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

African Reading Challenge; Orbis Terrarum: Nigeria; 1% Well Read Challenge; decades challenge: 1950s

I've been wanting to read this book for a long time, so I kept putting it on another challenge list, hoping to finally get around to it. It gets scary when one book is on so many challenges, because what if I don't like it? I finally read it, appropriately enough during a wonderful heat spell, helping me get into the mood for a story set in 1890s Nigeria, in the African jungle. It took a while to get into the style of the writing but once I did I felt rewarded with a wonderful look at life in an African village.

The story follows Okonkwo, a leader and warrior in his local village, and his family. For the first third, the plot is just explaining the family and the lifestyle and sets up the pivotal point in the story. This is also about the influx of the British and the effect of the Christian missionaries on the tribes. Achebe does a great job of using a small family and village to see how the clashes occurred between the two groups which sets up the colonial situation in Africa which still has repercussions today. By the time the ending came with the inevitable showdown, I felt so bad for how the situation had deteriorated. As usual, there were good people on both sides but they were never enough.

Okonkwo was a flawed character to focus the book on. Even within his village, he was aggressive and violent and impatient with people he determined were less than him. I found it hard to like him and yet he was determined and smart and a leader. Even though life in the village of Umuofia was so far removed from my own, it helped to show me how that culture conflicted so much with the British who arrived. There is another novel, No Longer At Ease that I will have to look into that follows one of Okonkwo's descendants. I am going to look for it because this was a very good book and I would like to read another one of Achebe's African novels.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

BOOK: The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale

nonfiction five 2008

Summerscale has written a very interesting book about the history of detectives, real and fictional, as well as investigating a true murder that scandalized Victorian England in 1860. The subtitle is "A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victoria Detective."

The murder was of three year old Saville Kent, killed during the night while he slept. The shocking part was that it had to be a member of the household who killed him. The great Victorian detective was Jack Whicher, one of the first members of London's detective squad. The research in this book was amazing, although I read it straight through and did not refer to the copious notes at the back for the reference source. Because it was a scandalous murder in a time of increasing media, there was certainly a lot of material written about the murder and the characters for Summerscale to use. At the time, England was entranced with the details of the murder and trials in the newspapers. The telgraph made information more immediately available and the public could not get enough of the sordid details. The critics bemoaned the downfall of society and the general decline of morals. Sound familiar to today?

Throughout the book, the author parallels the development of detectives and the detective novel. I am anxious to read something by Wilkie Collins now, as his mystery novels were referenced the whole way through, as well as Charles Dickens, a friend of Whicher's. It's hard to imagine a time when Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot were new literary characters, but until Poe's detective Auguste Dupin in 1841, the detective was not invented. The first real detectives weren't hired in London until 1842, so they were still quite a new commodity at the time of the murder and conflicted with the idea of privacy in Victorian days as well as highlighting the class situations between middle, upper and working classes.

The time of the murder, 1860 is such a fascinating time. It is far enough away that it seems long ago, but recent enough that so much information is still available. One of the sisters of the murdered child lived to be 100, so it wasn't until 1944 that she died. There are some great pictures and relics included in the book.

This would be a great book for people who like reading true crime mysteries, readers of detective novels, Victorian era fans, and well researched nonfiction books. I had originally planned to slowly pick away at the book, a little bit every day, but by page 100 I had to keep reading and find out the ending. Great suspense and pacing in the book to describe each of the characters and what happened to them after the murder.

Thanks to Walker Books for the review copy.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

MEME: Booking Through Thursday: Beginnings

Suggested by: Nithin

Here’s another idea about memorable first lines from books.
What are your favourite first sentences from books? Is there a book that you liked specially because of its first sentence? Or a book, perhaps that you didn’t like but still remember simply because of the first line?

Can't think of any off hand, but this sounds like a good time for a quiz! I googled a bit and found the following. I didn't try all of them, so I can't say you won't get pop-ups at some of them, but here is a start for some time wasters to see how many famous first lines you know:

Famous Opening Lines from MSN

Stephen King Quizzes

BBC News Quiz How Well Read Are You?

Famous First Lines Quiz Help Not a quiz, just a list of famous first lines for trivia nuts to study

UKTV Famous First Lines Quiz

Fiction Writing First Line Quiz

Bibliofemmes Book Quizzes includes a first line quiz, among others.

How well do you know your famouos first lines?

BOOK: Pretties by Scott Westerfeld

Pretties by Scott Westerfeld

End of the World challenge, series

Book two in the dystopian teen series where everyone is beautiful. When people turn sixteen, they finally get the operation to become a 'pretty' and live in the beautiful city and party and just be overall wonderful, because if everyone were beautiful, life would be perfect, right? But Tally Youngblood ran away to the Smoke Town, just before her operation and is now aware that not everyone wants to be pretty and even that there are some side effects. Smoke Town is where some rebels who don't want to be pretty live. The Special Circumstances crew are the people who keep the pretties happy and unquestioning.

This is a great summer read, like getting cotton candy at the exhibition. If you have read a slow, heavy book, maybe some dense 18th century classic or a chunkster and feel like you have fallen behind on your reading lists, pick up a book from this series. You can fly through them and enjoy a little light diversion with some interesting dystopian themes.

The series goes: Uglies, Pretties, Specials, Extras, and they are quite popular with the high school set.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

BOOK: A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz

A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz

Orbis Terrarum Challenge: Australia

I first heard of this big ole book when bookfool mentioned it, then kookiejar loved it. It's big in size (531 pages) and ambition. Toltz covers a lot of material here, and I'll try to summarize a bit.

Jasper Dean is writing his family's colourful history in Australia, focusing on his father Martin and uncle Terry. It's about philosophy, fathers and sons, loneliness, hypocrisy, the media, and criminals, among other things, and it is told in a very funny manner. The one liners are thrown out in rapid succession at times. Martin's part in the story is told in his point of view, and at times I had trouble keeping Jasper and Martin's voices separate, but that is part of the story, how similar the two are, and when does the son become the father?

It is set in Australia, but not in a way that is stereotypical, i.e. no kangaroos or koalas, but modern life, and the outlaw history is commented on with all the criminal activity that Terry undertakes. The story starts in the outback, and scenes in front of the Sydney Opera House and activity of the parliament in Canberra are mentioned too, so we are certainly in Australia. The cynicism of the characters leads to their comedic lines and reminded me of Oscar Wilde's type of commentary, or the absurdity of some of John Irving's novels. Sometimes I had trouble reconciling the humorous lines with the situations and attitudes of the characters, but I kept reading. It was as if I wasn't quite getting the tone of the novel. I also didn't connect with the characters enough to race through the book. However, by two thirds of the way through, some great twists of plot started happening that I did not see coming and the book engaged me in other ways.

This book is getting great reviews at and has some great qualities. I didn't love it enough to gush, but I did enjoy it by parts. (ha, A Fraction of the Whole book!) It was pretty funny by times, but also tragic, and some terrible things happen. The plot plodded along for a while, but then started twisting and twirling around in ways that made me want to keep going. There was a lot of philosophizing going on by Jasper and Martin, which is where a lot of the comedy was, but it went on a bit too much for me at times. So it's a mixed review from me, but I think there are lots of readers who will love it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, where are you?

Are you on a real vacation or is reading your main way to get away? Since I'm not travelling anywhere in real life, I'm using my reading to get away. Right now I am finishing up an Australian vacation after a whole week. Too long! I needed only a Fraction of the Whole. I am also starting a time travel back to 1860s England to investigate a murder with Mr Whicher, who is very Suspicious.

Where is reading taking you today?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

BOOK: Maus I and II by Art Spiegelman

Maus I and II: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman

Graphic Novel Challenge, in their shoes, What an Animal!

Maus I: My Father Bleeds History

Spiegelman tells the story of his father's ordeal during the Holocaust, in graphic novel form. The Jews are mice, the German's are cats, and the Poles are pigs. It's a neat technique, and the story is all too familiar. It is partly Vladek's tale up to his internment in Auschwitz and partly his son's coming to terms with being the son of a survivor. Overall it is very well done and shows the build up during the war of sanctions against the Jews in Poland and the measures people had to take in order to survive.

Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began

The story continues here as Art's parents have been sent to Auschwitz. This part contains a little more present day as Spiegelman gets the story from his father. He includes his own frustrations with his father and the amazing story of both his parents' survival.

Obviously both stories are very moving and at the same time, it was very frustrating to see the level of torture and degradation that occurred in the Death Camps. The comic style makes it very easy to read, other than the content. The art is very well done and any one interested in holocaust stories should definitely read this.

Friday, July 18, 2008

CHALLENGE: Japanese Literature Challenge 2

Dolce Bellezza is hosting the Japanese Literature Challenge 2. I didn't participate last year, but there are a few books on my radar this year that would qualify for this challenge. I can't believe how much my reading has broadened in the last year. This is a perfect example, as now I know three different authors that are Japanese, and I don't think I could say that last year.

Read 3 books of your choice between July 30, 2008 and January 30, 2009.

  1. After Dark by Haruki Murakami I should try one of his

  2. All She Was Worth by Miyuke Miyabe I really liked her Shadow Family

  3. A Pale View of Hills by Kazou Ishiguro I want to read all of Ishiguro's books

Thursday, July 17, 2008

ETC: The Master Plan (evil laugh mwah-ha-ha)

I saw this mentioned weeks ago, but I had no idea what it was, maybe a real movie, so I ignored it. For some reason, probably the fact that I am on the internet all day since it's my summer vacation and my kids have learned to feed themselves, I looked it up. I think I saw some reference on TWoP. Good Timing For Me!

ACT ONE (Wheee!) will go up Tuesday July 15th.

ACT TWO (OMG!) will go up Thursday July 17th.

ACT THREE (Denouement!) will go up Saturday July 19th.

All acts will stay up until midnight Sunday July 20th. Then they will vanish into the night, like a phantom (but not THE Phantom – that’s still playing. Like, everywhere.)

So I watched today, part I and part II. Hi-lar-i-ous. I have a huge crush on NPH. How adorable is he? Notice that Dr Horrible wears white and Captain Hammer wears black. Is that Toby as Mr. Moist? It really sounds like him.

What does everyone else think?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

BOOK: The Planets by Sava Sobel

The Planets by Dava Sobel

nonfiction five 2008

If you think a book about the planets would be dull, boring reading, with lists of facts, then you haven't read anything written by Dava Sobel, or you aren't a science geek like me. Her books Longitude and Galileo's Daughter (my review) were both easy to read, with facts mixed in, but it's more about the story and the writing. I thoroughly enjoyed both her books and her writing style. In addition, the beautiful cover is your first hint that this is not just a book about the facts.

This book was written before Pluto's demotion from planet to minor planet status, but that development was in the works for quite a while and is hinted at here. (The demotion is one of the more interesting developments in science in recent years, in my opinion. I love how it demonstrates the scientific process and that science isn't just a bunch of facts, but a fluid changing discipline.) Each planet, as well as the sun and our moon, get their own chapter, and each chapter has a different focus. The geological and discovery history is here for each planet, but it is hidden in the story of their chapter. Mythology (Mercury), Beauty (Venus), Lunacy (The Moon), Astrology (Jupiter) and Geography(Earth) are some of the titles and give you a hint as to the theme.

All the astronomers are here: Galileo, Kepler, Herschel, Huygens. The different space expeditions that explored the various planets, the mythology behind some of the planets. This book will have a prominent place in my high school physics class and it is short enough to keep the attention of anyone interested in learning a bit more about the planets and our place in the solar system without feeling like a textbook.

BOOK: Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

in their shoes challenge

Many of the quotes on the back of the book describe this as 'hilarious', 'wickedly, ridiculously funny', and 'insanely funny', but I didn't find it funny. Burroughs horrifying life with insane parents and then a foster family was tragic. He retells it with a casual, flippant attitude which is why readers find it funny I guess, and he himself only knew the crazy life so it was normal to him.

At one point Burroughs' guardian, who happened to be his mother's psychiatrist, arranged a fake suicide attempt so he didn't have to go to junior high school any more. There was no body looking out for this poor kid's life. At thirteen, Augusten also carried on a homosexual affair with a thirty-three adopted brother in the guardian family which some family matters thought was inappropriate, but no one did anything to actually stop it. And a warning to some readers, there are some pretty graphic descriptions of their activities.

I didn't hate the book but the insanity of his life was more sad than anything. He had a great attitude in some ways, in that he just learned to deal with it and nothing bothered him too much. Have you read this book? What did you think? Leave a link or comment.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, where are you?

Today, I am in the weirdest house that a person could possibly live in. Apparently it is true, so poor Augusten Burroughs did well to live and survive his poor demented childhood. (Running With Scissors)
In my space travel of the Planets, I am heading to Jupiter next in the chapter called Astrology.

Where is reading taking you today?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

BOOK: Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

2nd Canadian Challenge, What an Animal!

Something in this book just broke my heart. I was sobbing by page 50, and I haven't read a book that has made me cry in a while. I really enjoyed this book and sometimes that makes it even harder to write a little review. I'm going to go to fall back on some review questions to see if that can help me organize my thoughts.

Title and author of book? Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

Fiction or non-fiction? Genre? fiction, contemporary. Maybe Canadian, if Canadian is a genre, but I think there is more in the relationships that anyone can relate to.

What led you to pick up this book? It's Canadian, and I've read many great reviews.

Summarize the plot, but don't give away the ending! The Morrisons- Luke, Matt, Kate and Bo are four siblings living on Crow Lake in Northern Ontario. Tragedy strikes their family, and Kate narrates their life story, and the interactions with the other members of their small community.

What did you like most about the book? I loved the science stuff: Kate is a zoologist, and her brother introduced her to pond life as a youngster. This led to her research and the studying of surfactants and their role in the pond life. "The marking of lab reports is one of the most depressing activities known to man." ha! I loved that line.

I loved the family interactions, and how each person's memories are their own, but not necessarily the truth, just their perception of an event. I loved the characters of the brothers, Luke and Matt.

Have you read any other books by this author? What did you think of those books?No, but I understand there is another book by Lawson, The Other Side of the Bridge, that is somewhat similar.

What did you think of the main character? Kate narrated her version of how things turned out, so there was a bit of a bias, but not in the way you expect. It's her perception of the events that might be off. That's really the crux of the ending though. Kate used a lot of forshadowing, which I appreciated. She got us to the 'big event' with a lot of suspence, and analysis.

Any other particularly interesting characters?

Small town Canada will always be populated with interesting characters. Many of the neighbours were unique and amusing.

I really liked Luke, the oldest brother. Kate didn't have as much of a connection with Luke and I think she missed out a lot. She was more obsessed with Matt and his life choices, when Luke made the same sacrifices.

Aunt Annie who came to stay with the kids was given such a difficult job, and she was a good mix of tough and soft; Daniel, Kate's present day boyfriend was a good counter-balance to her reticence and reserve

Share a quote from the book:

"...on the way back we flew very low over northern Ontario, and that in itself made the trip worthwhile. I was staggered by the vastness of it. The emptiness. We flew over miles and miles of nothing, of rocks and trees and lakes, beautiful and desolate an remote as the moon."

Share a favorite scene from the book.

I liked the scene where Marie confronted Kate, and made her look at how she viewed Matt's choices.

Any scene with the youngest sister, Bo, was usually amusing, and I really loved the way Luke looked after Bo.

What about the ending?
The ending was great. It tied up the past and the present and was a perfect ending. Kate learned about herself, and Matt, and family, and love.

Other people have reviewed this book, including: stephanie , guatami , the book mine set , ramya and joy . They all liked it, and wrote really great reviews.

BOOK: The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

herding cats challenge

I haven't seen the movie, but I've seen the commercials. This is one where I think the movie would be better than the book. The plot itself - Mia Thermopolis, a 14 year old New Yorker discovers one day that her father is actually the prince of Genovia and that makes her a princess- is a good one, the classic Eliza Dolittle, My Fair Lady as her grandmother tries to turn her into a princess.

The diary format, where Mia tells the story including all her geeky girl angst, was a little much for me. It was a cute book, a cute story, but pretty typical 'never been on a date', 'not a popular girl' , 'rebel vegetarian girl' that populate many young adult novels. I read it quickly and it was a great diversion during the four baseball games my son played this weekend, and while I don't think I'll look for the sequels, I'd rent the movie. I imagine Julie Andrews could eat up the scenery as the proper, snooty grandmother.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

UPDATE: Completed Challenges

It's time to update some challenges I've completed recently:

Once upon a Time Challenge Mar 21 - June 21/08

goal: Read 5 books in the fantasy/fairy tale/folklore genre.
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
Zel by Donna Jo Napoli
The Complete Fairy Tales by Oscar Wilde
Beauty, by Robin McKinley
Stardust by Neil Gaiman

I'm learning that this isn't my favorite genre, it can be rather hit or miss.
Hits: The Goose Girl and Zel
Misses: Stardust and Oscar Wilde

But Carl V still rocks and I'll definitely be around for his RIP III in the fall.

In the Pub '08 all year
Goal: read 8 books published in 2008
1. Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella
2. The Quirks and Quarks Guide to Space by Jim Lebans
3. The Bleeding Dusk by Colleen Gleason
4. The Ravine by Paul Quarrington
5. A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif
6. The Outcast by Sadie Jones
7. Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
8. The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

I was quite surprised how easy this one was, but getting advanced copies, winning books, and just being more aware of new releases made this one easy. There are some great books on this list. Favorite: Remember Me?, but they were all good and I would recommend any of them for different readers. A toast to 3M(Michelle) for hosting this and bringing me into the new release section of the bookstore. There is still time to join this challenge, the year is only half over.

Heard it Through the Grapevine May 1 - Nov 30/08
Goal: read 3 books that have been recommended to you

1. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett, recommended by 3M at onemorechapter
2. Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill both recommended by kookiejar at a fraternity of dreamers
3. Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips, recommended by tinylittlelibrarian, and kookiejar

Haven't got to yet, but still plan to:
1. Sacred Cows by Karen E. Olsen, recommended by chris at book-a-rama
2. Broken For You by Stephanie Kallos, recommended by literary feline at musings of...
3. Then We Came to The End by Joshua Ferris, also by kookiejar

You can't go wrong with this challenge, because all the best people with the best taste are suggesting great reads. Thanks to Lynne at her little corner of the world for putting this one together. There is a whole blog for this one that I didn't join mostly so Iwouldn't get even more recommendations, but there is still time to join up; three books in four months? Easy.

Chunkster Challenge 2 til Dec 20th, beating the Christmas rush

Goal: read 4 books, each over 450 pages.

from the original list:
1. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak: 550 pages
3. The Night Watch, Sarah Waters: 503 pages
6. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith: 483 pages
8. Angry Housewives Eating Bonbons, Lorna Landvik, 483 pages

The best of these is The Book Thief, but none felt like a chunkster, which is the best compliment I can give a big book. Thanks to think pink dana for hosting this one. You should see all the Chunksters that have been read already for this one.

BOOK: The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

Chunkster Challenge; Booker shortlist 2006; an Orange July

The Night Watch is post war London, but going back in time, as we follow four main characters. It's an interesting technique in that we know the ending and the past is hinted at, so the story is how they got there. In the first part of the book 1947, we meet Kay, a woman who dresses as a man and can't seem to find the purpose she had during the war as an ambulance driver; Duncan, working in a factory, but who spent the war in prison; Viv, escaping her day job as a match maker to have trysts with her married lover Reggie; and Helen, who works with Viv, and is desperately jealous of her lover, a writer named Julia. The first part sets up the second section, 1944, and all the situations and ways that the charcters overlap to give us 1947. The final section, 1941 is almost not needed, but it does give the first meetings and ultimate set ups.

I raced through 1944, with many oh! moments as things became clear. Ultimately, it was a very sad book as you realize the characters and their choices and how depressing their lives were at the end. I should go back and read the first part again, but I hate to do that. Nobody is very happy and I guess that's the result of war, but also it is the choices they made. The characters spend the war thinking things will change, it will all be better, but it's just their life and things don't change that dramatically. In the same way that overweight people think their life will be better if only they can lose weight, but the things that made them unhappy are still there; or people who win the lottery think their lives will all be better, but it's not money that made them unhappy in the first place.

Wartime London with the blitzes and warnings was described vividly. I was struck with the difference in war scenes from other books I've read recently, like The Cellist of Sarajevo and A Long Way Gone (Sierra Leone.) Both of those were civil wars with rebels taking over. London had a desperate feel, but at least they were all in it together. The government had departments set up to reimburse people who had been bombed. The enemy was clear - the Germans, and they were under attack and all working together, by Jimmy. The civil war states are so less clear, and there is no help for the citizens since it is some of the citizens who are the enemy. Not that London was a good place to be, but it was a clearly defined war as opposed to Bosnia or Sierra Leone where no one was helping anyone, just people living and hoping this was not their life forever.

This book finishes the Chunkster Challenge, and a personal 'check off the list' book that I've been meaning to read for a year now. Plus I've read one for the Orange July.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

WEEKLY GEEKS: the magazines I read (week #10)

Our weekly geeks assignment this week is to talk about the magazines we read. I used to read a lot more magazines, but with three kids and the paperwork (homework, art projects, etc.) they bring into the house, and the complete lack of time to read them, the number of subscriptions is way down as is the time to read them. Plus, I have a hard time throwing them out, and then I have a stack of magazines to walk around, and dust around and ...

1. Name of magazine. Canadian Living
2. Do you subscribe or just buy it now and then? subscribe, I need to order something when the kids come to the door fund raising for their school
3. What’s your favorite regular feature in the magazine? the recipes, for sure. there used to be more articles, but they are just snippets now.
4. What do you think your interest in this magazine says about you? I live in Canada? smirk
5. How long have you been reading this magazine? I've been reading on and off for years, but just recently started the subscription. My mom had this magazine years ago.
6. Is there any unique or quirky aspect to the magazine that keeps you reading?Just great recipes and it's fairly cheap.

1. Name of magazine. Reader's Digest
2. Do you subscribe or just buy it now and then? My in laws buy us a subscription each year
3. What’s your favorite regular feature in the magazine? the jokes, like Campus Comedy
4. What do you think your interest in this magazine says about you? nothing in particular. It says I used to read the magazine when we would visit my in laws house, and they noticed and bought us one for our house so I wouldn't read when we visited.
5. How long have you been reading this magazine? Hasn't everyone read this all their life?

I haven't even been buying magazines off the rack much anymore. I used to read People religiously, but they changed quite a bit and now are too tabloid-like, except for special editions like the one over there.

If I were exercising more and trying to be fit, I like Self magazine a lot. It has great articles, good recipes, a little beauty but mostly articles for regular people.

For a number of years my husband subscribed to Sports Illustrated, and I would read it as well. It had really well written articles, profiles and commentaries. Neither of us was very interested in that bathing suit issue that would arrive once a year. We really liked the magazine for the articles.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, where are you?

It's hard to keep track of the days in these lazy, hazy days of summer, but I do believe that today is Tuesday. It's been a perfect summer here in PEI: warm sunny weather, fresh strawberries are now ripe, kids are playing outdoors. We need to head to the beach soon. Does it get any better than this?

Reading is taking me to post war England, with four young people and some hinted at mysterious backgrounds that I think I am about to find out about. (The Night Watch by Sarah Waters)

Every now and then I travel to a new planet in Dava Sobel's great scientific book Planets. Each planet is a different chapter, and while the science is there, it's hidden in such a way so that the reader just floats along, in space. I'm travelling to Mars next, in a chapter titled "Sci-fi".

Where is reading taking you today?

Monday, July 7, 2008

CHALLENGE: Orange July

So Many Books, So Little Time...

That's the mantra, right? Some people have actual piles of books they have bought because they want to read. I've even heard of people with whole rooms of TBR stacks, although at that point, I think you may as well open a library. (I didn't say your name, Wendy)

So challenges were born, to help the list-makers get organized, and enjoy the thrill of reading good books and crossing a title off the list. Then the compulsive types joined every challenge that came by their blog. A few rational yet compulsive types saw lists of award winners, and said, "Oh, a ready made TBR list of books! I can't seriously make/join a challenge with over 40 books to read. I'll call it a long-term project." And thus the Pulitzer, Booker, Nobel, and Newbery Projects were born.

Everyone reaches a point were they have to say: NO MORE! I can't read any more books! Although I personally think it's not the reading, it's the organizing of the titles. That is where my line gets drawn. I don't worry about not finishing challenges; I read what I can, I get done what I can. I only pick books I want to read, that intrigue me in some way. But I can only keep track of so many challenges at a time and still have fun.

Another long-term project is the Orange Prize Project. And here is where my organizational/Blogger Dashboard says enough. Looking through the titles I could easily make a list of books I'd like to read, even that I will read, but I'm not ready to be organized about it.

The Orange Prize is for female writers and they have two categories: best novel and best first time novel. I've read a bunch already and plan to read more, but not officially at the project. However, Jill at the Magic Lasso is having a personal challenge to read an Orange July. It's just a cool coincidence that she lives in Florida! She's got a great list of books she plans to read. I have had an Orange Prize short listed book I've been planning to read since I bought it a year ago. It got moved to my bedside to be read 'next' but it is also a Chunkster so it keeps being next. I started The Night Watch by Sarah Waters today, to join in on the Orange July with Jill.

I can only say no up to a point.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

LIST: Favorite Literary Couples

In honor of literary feline's 10th wedding anniversary, she is having a little contest to give away some books. How generous is that? She wants to know her reader's favorite literary couple. I think this is worthy of a post of its own. Of course, I am not picking one, as the directions clearly state: name as many as you like--sometimes narrowing down a list can be extremely difficult and painful. Or maybe that's just me. No Wendy, it is not just you.

First reaction: Anne and Gilbert, of course. I am planning to go see the musical about their love story, so I think they will stay at the top of my list, especially when I am refreshed about all the wonderfulness of Gil and Anne.

Then I read the comments at her blog, musings of a bookish kitty, and was reminded about :
Jamie and Claire from the Outlander series, whose love travels all time.
Laura and Almanzo Wilder from the Little House Books. Their story is based on real lives, so they get an added bonus.
Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley are a more recent couple, but they have such a great base in friendship that I think they should definitely make the list.

Of course the Austen fans made their recommendations of Elizabeth and Mr Darcy, but I am more a fan of Henry Tilney and Catherine Moreland from Northanger Abbey. I loved Tilney's humor and twinkle in his eye as he gets to know and adore Catherine. Plus he gives up a lot to be with Catherine, while Elizabeth and Mr Darcy still get to be rich; they only lost a bit of pride.

I am trying to think of what books I've read where I love the couple, or they finally get together after the obstacles are removed and I am left in a puddle of tears. Some contenders:

Kerewin and Joe from The Bone People were two people who were better together than separately. They were horrid on their own, but brought out the best, or at least the good, in each other.
Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester: I was certainly rooting for them to get together.
Tommy and Tuppence : I love their adventures and the respect they have for each other's intelligence.

And my list will end with my favorite: Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy, of course. They are so great together and since it is essentially Pride and Prejudice, I love how they break down each other's guard and compliment each other perfectly after all the misunderstandings are solved. And Mark Darcy!

I know I am missing some great couple, but this is a bit of a list for now.

BOOK: The Snack Thief by Andrea Camilleri

The Snack Thief by Andrea Camilleri (translated by Stephen Sartarelli)

Orbis Terrarum: Italy; in a series

I discovered this Italian mystery series at book number four. I hate reading a series out of order, but I found The Voice of the Violin on the marked down table at Indigo before I went on my Mediterranean cruise in 2006. I loved the cover and the idea of reading an Italian book while in Italy. I loved the character of Inspector Montalbano (Valentino wrote a lovely post on the appeal of Montalbano and Camilleri) and so then started at the beginning. The Snack Thief is the third book, the one just before where I started.

Camilleri is getting into the swing of the series by the third book, and I am beginning to keep all the characters straight. I tend to read names in a book like a picture, that is, I don't say the name, those letters just represent that person. When I read books with foreign names that are not as familiar to me, I have a more difficult time assigning the name to a character, because the letters are distinct enough. I'm not sure I've explained that well, but it's how I read. Anyway, the series and characters are developing nicely and I might have to read the next book, which I've already read, to keep the flow of the series. I am remembering things that happened in The Voice of the Violin that this book set up. It all makes sense now.

As I wrote in my Miss Julia review, the plot of a series doesn't really matter so I'll just say that Montalbano is his usual grumpy self, and the food descriptions make my mouth water and make me dream of spending a year on Sicily, drinking wine and eating pasta and fish. I'll just have to read the next book in the series.

Friday, July 4, 2008

BOOK: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, 331 p

What an Animal! challenge

This book is getting great reviews everywhere and I can see why. I'm not putting it on my best reads ever, or even of the year, but that is because I knew about the raves and this book had a lot to live up to. But it's a great tale, with interesting characters and told in a very engaging style. There is something romantic about the 1930s and hopping the rails and the circus coming to town.

Part of the appeal of the story is the immersion into life in a circus, because everyone loves a circus. A simpler time when the trains carried a circus into small town America, and the reader gets to see what it would be like to live on the edges of society. Gruen tells her story in a way that makes you want to find out, what it is that Jacob doesn't want to remember. Jacob is now ninety or ninety-three and living in a senior's home. The arrival of a circus next door brings back his memories of his years in the circus. The images are very vivid, so much so that I imagine this could as a movie, with the setting and the plot and the characters and the action.

If you've reviewed this book, feel free to leave a link in the comments.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

BOOK: Miss Julia Throws a Wedding by Ann B Ross

Miss Julia Throws a Wedding by Ann B Ross

Southern Reading Challenge, in a series

I hate giving much of a review for a book in a series because if you haven't read the first books, it makes no sense, and if you are in the series, finding out about a book too far ahead and ruin the plot of earlier books. So, for people who haven't read Miss Julia, I would say that the books get better as you go. The other characters around Julia, a southern widow whose life was turned up side down after her husband died, are more developed and their relationships with Julia more interesting. Julia continues to be torn between her Southern deportment and her need to control everyone and everything around her. I am enjoying this series, and look forward to the next one. They are the perfect summer fluff to start my summer vacation.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

UPDATE: June Book News

Aah, June. You knock the stuffing out of me every year. I always think that since school is winding down that I will have more time, but it turns into a real decompressing time and my brain takes a holiday. Soccer starts, so we are at the pitch every night - 3 kids and they all are at different places. Getting ready for graduation is more tiring than I expect. This is the long way to say I didn't read as much as I usually do, but, I had quality books this month. And I bought a bunch more.

Challenges are going well, I have finished a lot, and right now, 5 more books will finish 5 other challenges, so I feel like I have a handle on things, and I have a great list of books for July. The last week of June, the teachers go through the library and get their summer reading. We are so lucky to have a library at work!

75. Hotel du Lac - Anita Brookner
74. Heart-Shaped Box - Joe Hill
American Born Chinese - Gene Luen Yang
73. Mudbound - Hillary Jordan
72. A Case of Exploding Mangoes - Mohammed Hanif
71. A Long Way Gone - Ishmael Beah
The Complete Fairy Tales - Oscar Wilde
70. The Awakening - Kate Chopin
69. The Cellist of Sarajevo - Steven Galloway

Books Acquired (in my defense, it was my birthday this month)
Wine Food Bar
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
A Case of Exploding Mangos by Mohammid Hamid
Planets by Dava Sobel
The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene
The Trouble With Physics by Lee Smolin
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan (won in Southern Reading Haiku contest)
Voices by Arnaldur Indridason
Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton
Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann
Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson

CHALLENGE: July Book Blowout Kickoff Meme

Mrs S says: Hey everyone - July 1 has arrived and we have 58 participants for the July Book Blowout!
I thought it would be nice to kick off with a mini-challenge - to introduce ourselves to each other. If you want to take part just answer these questions:

1. Describe yourself in one sentence
I'm a mom to the three kids, high school physics teacher, wife, and lazy book reader from Prince Edward Island.

2. What book will you start the challenge with?
Miss Julia Throws a Wedding, and Planets by Dava Sobel.

3. Where is your favourite place to read?
anywhere is fine: living room couch, in bed at night, on the swing on the deck, at the beach
4. What is your favourite book of all time?
I can't pick one! Bridget Jones' Diary, Anne of Green Gables, The Stand, A Fine Balance, Einstein's Dreams.

5. Remind us all of your challenge target
I think I said 15.

Either post your answers in the comments - or post them on your blog and link us up in the comments - whichever works best for you.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

BOOK: Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner

Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner

Booker Prize 1984

After I read Brookner's biography at wikipedia, I began to wonder how autobiographical this novel was. Edith Hope, a novelist of a certain age, has come to the Hotel du Lac in Switzerland following an 'unfortunate' incident in London. She has never married and is spending her exile examining her single life and what type of person she is. The other women at the hotel are also in a form of exile, and Edith examines their lives and motives as well. Brookner never married and looked after her parents. I imagine this book was a cathartic examination of her life and place in society as well.

This is a quiet little book full of atmosphere, questioning roles in society, and the relationships between men and women. I enjoyed its slow pace and simple story, but there is a lot of layers to it and you could get a lot more out of it if you are a person who likes to read deeper. I don't often, but the surface story was good as well and I liked the setting of Switzerland and the old hotel and its levels of society. And at 184 pages, it was the perfect length. I don't know that I would read it and think it was a prize winning novel, but I can also see the elements of literature that would place this in Booker contention.

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, where are you?

Canada Day Graphics

It's Canada Day! Have a great day and get ready to start the 2nd Canadian Reading challenge. Is reading taking you to Canada today?

I am getting ready to check out of the Hotel du Lac in Switzerland, and then I am planning a Canadian extravaganza for July, including: Water for Elephants, A Complicated Kindness, Crow Lake, The Stone Angel, Oryx and Crake, Before Green Gables, and The Birth House. Well, that's the plan for now, but you know how other books can get distracting.

Here's pictures from a few years ago at my parent's annual Canada Day party to get you into a celebratory mood: