Tuesday, March 31, 2009

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, Where Are You?

It's still storming here. Winter, we give up, you win. We had no internet connection last night, so I am a little late getting this out today.

I am in a New Smoke Town called Diego as a member of the elite group, Special Circumstances. I am following my old boyfriend with my super surgically- inserted senses and looking for my thoughts to be 'icy.' Specials by Scott Westerfeld

Where is reading taking you today? Leave a comment, write a post, spread the word.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

BOOK: Excursion to Tindari by Andrea Camilleri

Excursion to Tindari by Andrea Camilleri, 286 pages
translated by Stephen Sartarelli

continuing mystery series review questions

Give a brief summary of the book:
A young man is found killed outside his apartment building; an elderly couple, who happen to live in the same building, are missing after taking a sudden trip to a religious shrine in Tindari. Mimi is engaged to be married and is planning to transfer away from Vigata. And in Sicily, the mafia is always around the corner with their finger in everything.

The setting and the food of southern Italy are fantastic; the metaphors Camilleri used for Inspector Salvo to solve his case as he lay under a Saracen olive tree; silly Catarelli, who mangles the language but can use a computer to help Salvo, provides comic relief; the endnotes by Sartarelli added to the story greatly as he explained how he translated some words to keep the meaning that Camilleri meant, including puns or plays on words that really need to be explained to keep the meaning; the mystery.

Inspector Salvo Montalbano is sexist and manipulative of his friends and is not nice to his girlfriend at all - is it an Italian cultural thing or is Montalbano particularly crude? But he inspires great loyalty from his friends and colleagues regardless.

Additional Thoughts:
Camilleri writes a nice little mystery and gives a great sense of place. The books are not completely dependent on each other to read, but some of the characters appear without a lot of their backstory. I always prefer to read in order, but it would still be good.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

CHALLENGE: Herding Cats II: Attack of the Hairballs

Follow the links to renay's place to get more detailed information. She really is herding cats with this one - last year I think there were over 300 600 books on the reading list.

Here are the rules Herding Cats II (April 1st, 2009 - December 31st, 2009):

1. Make a list of five books you love. Directions:

  • Five. I'm as serious as a beached whale.
  • All titles must be books you've read in 2007, 2008 or 2009.
  • Please don't list a series; just the first book. If you really want to list a book in the middle of a series, you can, but it has to be that specific book.
  • Feel free to share why you're putting the book on your list, because I am nosy.

2. Post your list:

  • in your own journal, in the comments here, whatever is fine. Share the list here.
  • Lists should be public (no locked entries, no logging in to view).

3. Browse the new book list. Stay a while. Read a few (eta: if you want; not even reading is required this time around if you don't have time to commit to a new challenge but still want to share your favorites).

4. If you review your books, you can share the reviews. You know, if you want. No pressure. Definitely not.

I did this challenge last year, but we were allowed to list 10 books. I guess with the economy the way it is, everything is cut back. Even the reading requirements are less, as reading is actually optional this year. I know once I see that big fat juicy list of books I won't be able to resist, but I'll save my decision of how many books I want to read until later. Here's a list of books I'd recommend to read as I really enjoyed each one in the past reading year, and each is very different, representing my eclectic reading style.

1. Crow Lake - Mary Lawson
Canadian novel about growing up and perspective and disappointing family and bleak Canadian landscape.

2. The Blinding Absense of Light - Ben Tahar Jalloun
Imagine being in a hole in the ground in Morocco for a couple of years - if it doesn't kill you, you will leave with a heightened spiritual awareness.

3. Life As We Knew It - Susan Beth Pfeffer
When the moon is struck by an asteroid, the Earth's weather patterns are thrown way out of whack, and this young adult book follows one family's strugle to survive in a pretty scary world. You will stock your pantry after reading this one.

4. The Outlander - Gil Adamson
A 'widow by her own hand' is hunted by her ex brothers-in-law in early 1900s western Canada. I thought this one should have won Canada Reads, but then I haven't read the winning book yet so I'm just reacting to my response to this book, which I really enjoyed. Makes you appreciate how far women's rights have come in 100 years.

5. Beat the Reaper - Josh Bazell
Crazy wild ride of a book. May not be for everyone, but imagine Dr House in witness protection, and then trying to save himself. Rude, crude and funny, you may not be interested in getting to a hospital any time soon.

The Ones I've Read Since It Started:
1. The Pull of the Moon by Elizabeth Berg rec'd by Mercy's Maid
2. Skellig by David Almond rec'd by Mariel
3. Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver rec'd by jenny simpson
4. The Houskeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa rec'd by 3M, a book lover
5. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen rec'd by jenny simpson
6. Sacred Cows by Karen Olson rec's by literary feline
7. Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale rec'd by pussreboots
8. The Lizard Cage by Karen Connelly rec'd by freshinkbooks

Books that are on the list (so far) that I may tackle:
The End of the Alphabet by C.S. Richardson
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden rec'd by freshinkbooks
Geek Love by Katharine Dunn
Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli

Thursday, March 26, 2009

CHALLENGE: Non-Fiction Five Challenge

Trish has taken over the challenge hosting from Joy, of the perfect summer challenge for me. Since I am home in the summer, I leave a non-fiction book in the living room and try to read a chapter or section every day. This goes really well with the Dewey Decimal Challenge.

The Rules (unchanged from previous years)

1. Read 5 non-fiction books during the months of May - September, 2009 (please link your reviews on Mister Linky each month; Mister Linky can be found each month on this blog)

2. Read at least one non-fiction book that is different from your other choices (i.e.: 4 memoirs and 1 self-help)

3. If interested, please sign up below with the link to your NFF Challenge post (all choices do not need to be posted and may change at any time)

The list of possibilities:
  • The Elegant Universe - Brian Greene
  • The Seven Daughters of Eve - Bryan Sykes
  • How the Scots Invented the Modern World
  • I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This - Bob Newhart

I really like how this challenge has such a variety of books picked by the different participants.

Books Read:
1. Survivor - Mark Burnett 05/27
2. The Tipping Point - Malcolm Gladwell 05/28
3. Searching for Bobby Orr - Steven Brunt 07/06
4. Miss Leavitt's Stars - George Johnson 07/20
5. E = mc^2 - David Bodanis 07/28

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

BLOGGING EVENT: Midweek Morsels

My most favorite recipes come from The Best of Bridge cookbooks, so the more I participate in Kristina's Midweek Morsels, the more recipes you will see from The Best of the Best and The Rest of the Best. Kristina had an open week for recipes this week, so since she posted a soup recipe, I thought I would too. This is the best soup, and it freezes excellently! so make a double batch, if you feel up to chopping all the carrots, and then you'll have soup to drop at someone's house who needs some help in the meal department. I try to chop quite finely so every mouthful has a bit of everything. Mmm, I haven't made this in a while, I should make a batch.

Hamburger Soup

Don't be deceived by the name - this is a family favorite and a breeze for entertaining. This recipe makes 18 soup ladles and freezes very well.

1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
1 medium onion,finely chopped
1 - 28 oz. can tomatoes
2 cups water 500 mL
3 - 10 oz. cans consomme
1 - 10 oz. can tomato soup
4 carrots, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
3 sticks celery,

finely chopped parsley
pepper to taste
1/2 cup pot barley 125 mL

Brown meat and onions. Drain well. Combine all ingredients in large pot. Simmer covered, at least 2 hours, or all day. Serves 10.

GAME: Bookword Game

We are already in the middle of our fourth game of Bookwords. I hope you are enjoying it as much as I am. I love all the creativity that comes out. Feel free to spread the word about the game because the more that play, the better. If you have any suggestions for books that need names, feel free to leave a comment with either Suey or myself.

This week we are looking for a word for the certain book that continually gets moved to the 'next in the pile', but never gets read. You know, that poor neglected book that you really DO want to read, but for some reason, other books just keep pushing it out of the way! What do you call that book?

I called it Cloud Atlas for about a year, ba-dum-dum. But perhaps a more generic name is called for, one that will work for everyone and their own special book that never gets read. Here are the nominees this week:

Wait-listed by serena
Perennial Bridesmaid Book by suziqoregon
Raincheckbook! by chantele
neglect-a-book by melissa
down-shifter by emily
Bullied-Book by joy
Procrastinatome by coversgirl

Will we have our first two-time winner? Or will a new participant get all the alcolades? Come back next Wednesday for the results. One vote per person please.
Did you think of a perfect name that didn't get on the poll? Leave a suggestion in the comments. The poll will stay open until next Tuesday evening-ish, and then I'll post a new word and take suggestions, then we'll be back at Sueys.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

BOOK: Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen, 371 pages

dewey's books; young adult

1. Sarah Dessen, a very popular young adult writer, has written nine novels including Lock and Key and The Truth About Forever.

2. For a while, the novel was typical teenage angst - popular girl appears to have everything and then gets shunned by her so-called friends. Meets with a quirky, 'uncool' guy who she wouldn't' have associated with before.

3. Music plays a big role in the novel, with Owen into unusual music and he tried to expose Annabel to new bands. Owen had his own local radio program and was never without his iPod.

4. Just Listen has a very similar plot to Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, but they are somewhat tackled differently - one girl won't speak, and the other needs someone to listen. Same effect really and obviously a serious issue for teenage girls to deal with.

5. There is another plot with Annabel's sister who is struggling with an eating disorder. This is part of what makes Annabel go into herself - she doesn't want to bother her parents with any other issues.

6. I really liked Annabel and her sisters and it was the part that really got to me as I was finishing the book - read that to mean I was crying in bed as I finished the book. The three sisters were realistic and well written characters and were a central part of the book.

7. It was nice to see that the parents weren't portrayed as dolts, ignoring their kids. The sisters actually had a good relationship with the parents and they were real people with problems of their own. As a parent of almost teenagers, that becomes an important part of books I read now.

8. Most of Dessen's books are set in the same town in North Carolina so there is all kinds of overlapping landmarks and characters within her books. For example, Remy and Dexter from Truth Squad in This Lullaby, later appear as the band performing 'The Potato Opus' (written in This Lullaby) at Bendo in Just Listen. (taken from wikipedia) Maeve Binchy does that too in Dublin and it is a technique I really like.

9. When I read a young adult book full of 'issues', it reminds me that for most of the students I see every day, school and physics are really not the issues foremost on their minds.

10. I'd read another book by Dessen but I am beginning to feel that I've gone beyond some young adult books. I've learned that people aren't what they seem, that even 'perfect' people have problems, and it's not good to keep things bottled up inside. Yeah, I get it. But for teenagers, a well written book that deals with these topics is still a very good thing.

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, Where Are You?

Where is reading taking you today? I am in high school - my former best friend isn't talking to me after a party in the summer where something happened, my sister has an eating disorder, the weird angry kid at school is somewhat intriguing and there may be more to him than first appears. Typical teenage angsty stuff. Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Where is reading taking you today? Leave a comment, write a post, spread the word.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

BOOK: December Heat by Luiz Alfredo Garcia- Roza

December Heat by Luiz Alfredo Garcia- Roza, 273 pages

Latin American Challenge: Brazil; Orbis Terrarum Challenge

December in Brazil is hot and the area of Rio de Janeiro called Copacabana is the scene of a murder. A retired cop's hooker girlfriend is found tied up and suffocated in her apartment. The cop, unfortunately, was so drunk he has amnesia and can't remember anything about the night. Inspector Espinoza in his second book, is called in as an old friend of the retired cop to solve the crime. Connected to the crime is a lost wallet, found by a street kid, and the chase to find the missing wallet.

I liked Espinoza as a main character and the local of Brazil was great. I felt I was sitting in a restaurant on the street of Rio at midnight watching the scenery. Espinoza is a educated, literary cop reading Lord Jim to clear his mind. Like most literary cops, he has no family but women are drawn to him despite his dark aura. There are chases and guns and violence and sex - everything a good mystery needs. There are several books in this series, unfortunately I started with the second book. I like to read a series in order, but there was no reference to his first case so it didn't matter that much.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

BOOK: Looking for Alaska by John Green

Looking for Alaska by John Green, 221 pages

dewey's books, young adult

Very good book about friendships, and death, and the great beyond, if there is one. Miles goes to boarding school in Alabama and makes his first real friends, falls in love, smokes, drinks, and pulls pranks. This makes is sound like a frat house, and in a way it is but the story is much deeper and tells bigger truths about friendship and guilt.

It always shocked me when I realized that I wasn't the only person in the world who thought and felt such strange and awful things.

If only we could see the endless string of consequences that result from our smallest actions.

It's the kind of book I would have loved, and read and reread as a teenager, with a feel of The Outsiders by SE Hinton. The characters are not the popular kids but they have their own circle and friendships and they are not concerned with doing what is expected or good. Lots of literary references as the characters are smart and read a lot.

Friday, March 20, 2009

CHALLENGE: Once Upon a Time III

It's baaack! Carl is hosting the 'most looked forward to' challenge of the season in the blogosphere. Last year I discovered that this is not my most favorite genre, but I'm sure there are still a few books that will grab my attention in the fantasy, folk, myth, or fairy tale section.

from Carl's site (I had to include the Einstein quote):

“The gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.”
~Albert Einstein

fan⋅ta⋅sy: a genre that uses magic and other supernatural forms as a primary element of plot, theme, and/or setting.(Wiki)

fairy tale: a fictional story that may feature folkloric characters such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, giants, and talking animals, and usually enchantments, often involving a far-fetched sequence of events. (Wiki)

folk⋅lore: the traditional beliefs, legends, customs, etc., of a people; lore of a people; The traditional beliefs, myths, tales, and practices of a people, transmitted orally. (Dictionary dot com)

my⋅thol⋅o⋅gy: a body of myths, as that of a particular people or that relating to a particular person; a set of stories, traditions, or beliefs associated with a particular group or the history of an event, arising naturally or deliberately fostered. (Dictionary dot com)

I am only going to commit to 'the journey' this year, and then if I read more, it will feel like I've gone about and beyond, instead of stressing that I haven't got my list completed. There are more options or quests to be found on Carl's site and a place to sign up. Thanks for hosting Carl!

This is really as simple as the name implies. It means you are participating, but not committing yourself to any specific number of books. All reading is a journey, perhaps none more so than reading fantastical fiction. By signing up for The Journey you are agreeing to at least read one book within one of the four categories during March 21st to June 20th period. Just one book. If you choose to read more, fantastic! If not, then we have still had the pleasure of your company during this three month reading journey and hopefully you have read a great book, met some interesting people, and enjoyed the various activities that occur during the challenge. It has always been of utmost importance to me that the challenges that I host be all about experiencing enjoyable literature and sharing it with others. I want you to participate. Hence, The Journey.

Possible books:
1. Ella Enchanted
by Gail Carson Levine
2. Garden Spells
by Sarah Addison Allen
3. Skellig by David Almond

maybe another year:
4. Enna Burning by Shannon Hale
5. The Book of Lost Things
by John Connolly
6. The Well of Lost Plots
by Jasper Fforde
7. When Twilight Burns
by Colleen Gleason

Thursday, March 19, 2009

BOOK: The People of Sparks by Jeanne Duprau

The People of Sparks by Jeanne Duprau, 338 pages

young adult, It's the End of the World II, book 2 of a trilogy +1

If you haven't read The City of Ember, much of this review won't make any sense, or it may give away major plot points. Go back and read The City of Ember if you like young Young Adult or like dystopian, post-Apocalyptic fiction, especially if you are looking for titles for It's the End of the World Challenge II.

When Lina and Doon emerged from the City of Ember the adventure was just beginning. This book gives a look at what was going on in the world while they were in Ember. The major theme here is war, and how it starts, and how difficult it can be to avoid. the author sets up a situation where neither side is right, or wrong, just different and it makes it hard for the reader to take sides and allows you to see that each side has their justified reasons for thinking the way they do.

I thought this was a great little book for kids - my 11 year old son liked it, and was enjoyable for me too. It's not an adult book but it was nicely done for young teens and preteens. There is lots of fun for modern readers as the roamers scavenge for artifacts in destroyed towns, finding things like an ancient bird statue, painted pink that appears to be standing on one leg.

The next book in the series, The Prophet of Yonwood, is actually a prequel to the first book that sets up the situation. The last book, The Diamond of Darkwood, continues after The People of Sparks.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

BLOGGING EVENT: Midweek Morsels

I've been wanting to participate in Kristina's Midweek Morsels for a while now and finally got my act together. I tried this first last year on St Patrick's Day at my aunt's party, and then made several batches to get through the hot summer evenings. Ymmm!

St. Patrick’s Day Lime Slush

1 12-oz.can frozen lemonade concentrate

1 12-oz. can frozen limeade concentrate

2 cups vodka (or more if you like)

2 cups sugar (I used closer to 1 C on subsequent batches)


Mix concentrates, vodka and sugar with 9 cups water in freezer container. Freeze until slushy. Stir soda into each serving. (I used Lime Rickey for a deeper green color for St Patrick's Day party).

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

BOOK: Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indridason

Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indridason, 344 pages
translated by Bernard Scudder and Victoria Cribb

in the pub '09; Orbis Terrarum: Iceland

continuing mystery series review questions:

Give a brief summary of the book:
A young Thai boy has been found stabbed on the playground. Erlunder, Elinborg and Sigurdur Oli investigate, looking into possible racial motives. Erlunder has another missing person investigation, his personal interest, he is also working on.

The mystery was good. We really are a part of the detectives investigation in this book and only get to know what they know, making this a real police procedural. The story moves along pretty quickly as the police follow one clue after another. There was lots of discussion about immigration in Iceland and the attitudes and prejudices that can happen. I think in some ways I can identify with the Icelanders; living on an island really isolates a place and on PEI we deal with some of the same type of issues in terms of culture and 'the Island way of life.' Also, the extreme weather can shape a people. I'm not saying that our weather is as bad but it helps to define culture and people. The weather is lack of sunlight is a real part of the atmosphere in these stories.

I really like the three main characters and their ongoing stories. I can't say much about that, but Erlundur is slowly, oh so slowly, growing and becoming more socially aware of the people around him. There is more development in the possible mystery surrounding his brother's death when they were children.

Not much to add here. When you get a good mystery series going it's like good times with old friends, so you don't really notice any of their faults.
I dislike that there is only one more book, after Hypothermia which according to Wikipedia, will be published in 2009, left to be translated.

Additional Thoughts:
I noticed the dedication was to Bernard Scudder, the translator who died in 2008, hence the two names for translation. That's really sad, because I would imagine the translator of a series greatly contributes to the atmosphere and tone and overall impression of the books. The fact that Indridason dedicated this newest translation speaks to the respect and appreciation that he must have felt to Scudder for his translations.

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, Where Are You?

It's the March Break from school here in my part of the world. The two older kids and I went downhill skiing today. The eleven year old went with school and has been dying to get back. I skied once, when I was sixteen, which is a long, hilarious story that I can tell, but I don't look very good or coordinated. (It involves taking 2 hours to get down one hill mountain) Today was absolutely beautiful; I took lessons with my daughter and then she was free to ski with my son for the afternoon. I stuck to the bunny hill after one trip up the chair lift and can proudly proclaim I am the slowest skier ever. But I had control and fun. I will be sore tomorrow. Before you think I am very brave, remember I live on Prince Edward Island which is barely above sea level and is characterized by gently rolling hills. There is a bit of a hill in the middle of the province that we can ski on.

I am hoping to read lots on this break, and managed to find a lovely spot in the sun in the lodge after I stopped skiing. (People who don't exercise very often should take it easy when attempting new sports.) I am back in Iceland, investigating the death of a ten year old Thai boy found stabbed in a playground. This should bring back even more memories of Erlunder's dead brother from when he was a youngster. (Arctic Chill by Arnulder Indridason)

And Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Old Gaelic Blessing
May those who love us, love us
And those who don't, may God turn their hearts;
and if He doesn't turn their hearts,
may He turn their ankles
so we'll know them by their limping

Where is reading taking you today? Leave a comment, write a post, spread the word.

Monday, March 16, 2009

BOOK: Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively

Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively, 208 pages

Celebrate the Author; Booker Prize Winner; Orbis Terrarum: Egypt

Penelope Lively was born in Egypt on March 17, 1933 and spent her childhood there before moving to England. She uses some of her experiences for this book, a Man Booker winner from 1987, which covers the life of Claudia Hampton as she remembers her life from her hospital bed.

Claudia was a war reporter stationed in Egypt during the second world war. It's hard to recap her life because Claudia herself tells her story in a nonlinear fashion, as important parts come to her. I liked how Lively did this, and the jumping around in time, and perspective, should be more confusing than it was, but I found it enjoyable. The major theme of the book is that history is all about perspective and point of view. This gets extended to the story and some scenes are told from different characters perspective a very effective technique.

I really liked seeing the scene from different perspectives.
Seeing the scenes from different perspectives gives the reader insights into the characters.

Claudia has a daughter but leaves her with the grandmothers to raise as she hasn't a maternal bone in her body. There are two great loves in Claudia's life and they really shape her future life. I believed this love story like I didn't in Love in the Time of Cholera, even though both are unfulfilled love in some sense. I liked the relationship with her brother, the closeness some siblings must feel. And I shouldn't have liked Claudia, because she is independent, rude, and abrupt, but I loved her rude abrupt behavior at a time when women weren't rewarded for that sort of behavior or expected to be that way.

Writing a book as a character's memoir seems to be a common type of book, allowing an author to have their character look back over a lifetime of history and to comment on how they perceived events, leading to the idea of an unreliable narrator and leaving the reader to judge whether what is being told is true or if it has been misremembered. It doesn't always work for me (Gilead) but I liked seeing Claudia's life, or the parts she let us see.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

BOOK: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 348 pages

Orbis Terrarum: Colombia; What's in a Name: medical condition; 1% well read; Latin American Challenge

Fiction or non-fiction? Genre?
fiction; it's described as a romance at Sparknotes which I'm not sure I agree with but I'll discuss that later

What led you to pick up this book?
It's a book I've heard of in many contexts: it's an Oprah pick from a few years ago, it makes many book lists of important books, Marquez is a Nobel winning author, and it seemed like a definitive book to read for the Latin American Challenge. Marquez's other book, One Hundred Years of Solitude has more polarizing reviews and I've seen a few reviews for this one that made me think it would be a better fit for me.

Summarize the plot, but don't give away the ending!
Florentino Ariza falls in love with Fermina Daza when they are teenagers. She ends up rejecting him and marrying a doctor and Florentino Ariza swears his undying love. Fifty-one years and 622 affairs later, he gets his chance to proclaim his love to Fermina Daza again.

What did you like most about the book?
I liked the setting and the time period - turn of the last century in some unknown Caribbean location. I was interested in seeing how the two main characters would end up together at the end.
At times the writing was lyrical and would lull me along with the story, but at other times I would read a paragraph twice to understand what was being described.
I liked Fermina Daza as a character. She seemed very strong, and opinionated in a time when women were not treated very well. She survived on her own terms for the most part and the men in her life dominated her only in the ways she let them.

What did you like least?
I didn't like that the chapters had no breaks within them. Fifty to seventy pages written with no pause, changing from character to character and from one back story to another.

I didn't like the details for minor characters that would appear for several paragraphs and then not appear again, mostly in describing Florentino Ariza's lovers.

The theme of love as a plague, a sickness didn't resonate with me. I thought Florentino wasn't really in love with Fermina, rather he saw her as some ideal that he had to possess. He never really knew her and by the time he got to know her, she wasn't the same person at all that he originally fell in love with. He could better be described as a stalker, watching her from a far, waiting and setting up situations for them to meet.

The depiction of aging as the Worst Thing Ever. The first character in the book, a friend of the doctor's kills himself rather than get too old; Fermina's daughter at one point proclaims that seventy year olds making love is 'disgusting.' The description of Fermina naked when she was seventy was not at all flattering and was used to show that women do not age gracefully, where as the male was not so graphically described - he just couldn't get it up after seeing her.

Have you read any other books by this author? What did you think of those books?
No, and I think I won't need to.

What did you think of the main character?
Florentino Ariza was a nymphomaniac who justified his use of women as 'being true' to his one true love, Fermina Daza. He treated women as objects and kept a record of his conquests. One of his 'lovers' was fourteen and under his care as her guardian. When Humbert Humbert did that in Lolita he was a pedophile, but Florentino is never judged for it.

Any other particularly interesting characters?
Some of Florentino Ariza's lovers were interesting but they began to run into each other in my mind.
I liked Fermina's cousin, Hildebrande, who had her own love problems and tried to provide opportunities to get Florentina and Fermina together when they were young.

Share a quote from the book:
I seldom notice quotes from a book. Random page opening found this example of the writing:

He had to repress the trembling that was almost as old as he was when he saw the beautiful woman of his dreams on her husband's arm, splendid in her maturity, striding like a queen from another time past the honor guard in parade uniform, under the the shower of paper streamers and flower petals tossed at them from the windows.

Share a favorite scene from the book.
I liked the boat ride near the end of the book for it's discussion about how the environment had been destroyed by the progress of various river enterprises, but this little sermon came out of nowhere and seemed like a big idea to discuss that hadn't been mentioned at all.

What about the ending?
It was okay, but the ending happened at the beginning and then the rest of the book shows how we ended up there. It wasn't my type of love story.

Anything else?
The narration was third person omniscient, but a couple of times there was reference to 'us' or 'our' as a citizen of the country, which really threw me. And at another point, the narrator made mention to his/her being a namesake to a character. But there was never anything else mentioned about that. I kept reading partially to find out what that was about and I checked Sparknotes for some reference, but there was nothing there either. Very weird.

Which of your readers are most likely to enjoy this book? Why?
People who like Oprah recommended books. Readers who enjoy Nobel winning author books. Fans of Latin America writing.

Other reviews around the book blogosphere:
chris at book-a-rama,
susan b evans at well-mannered frivolity,

Friday, March 13, 2009

CHALLENGE: It's The End of the World II

Name: It's The End Of The World II
Host: Me, Becky (of Becky's Book Reviews)
Dates: March 10, 2009 - October 9, 2009
Books Required: at least four

Read at least four books about "the end of the world." This includes both apocalyptic fiction and post-apocalyptic fiction. There is quite a bit of overlap with dystopic fiction as well. The point being something--be it coming from within or without, natural or unnatural--has changed civilization, society, humanity to such a degree that it radically differs from "life as we now know it."

I'm going to try this challenge again because I really like this genre and I know I'll read some of these books anyway. My problem will be reading them during this particular time frame.

What are the books I'm hoping to read?

Specials by Scott Westerfield April 2
The People of Spark by Jeane Duprau Mar18
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins Apr 23
The Children of Men by PD James May 31

The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer

or maybe:
Oryx & Crake by Margaret Atwood (I think I'll just put this on every book list I make and I bet I'll never read it)

Here's my little list of recommended books I've already read that were great:
Never Let Me Go by Kazou Ishiguro
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Uglies, Pretties by Scott Westerfield
We by Yvgeny Zamyatin
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, Where Are You?

The Orbis Terrarum challenge has begun, and I've been travelling around the world already: Cuba, a quick detour to Tennessee, and now Columbia. The Challenge site is a great spot to find books from around the world, based on author's nationality. It's fun to try and fill in a world map with books from other countries. It's like a list!

I am visiting Columbia and learning about the love and life of two very different people, Love in the Time of Cholera. I wish I knew the name already for a book that reminds you of another book because this book reminds me of Les Miserables, and that might not be a compliment, (I never finished Les Mis.) It's the tangents and details of characters that appear for a millisecond that causes me to compare them. Any suggestions? Suey should have a voting post up tomorrow so get your ideas in today.

Where is reading taking you today? Leave a comment, make a post, spread the word.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

BOOK: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, 228 pages

Dewey's Books; Young Adult Challenge

I love math, and I love word puzzles. Colin Singleton, former child prodigy and possibly not a future genius, is adept at both. He tries to come up with a Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability after being dumped by his 19th Katherine-named girlfriend.

After the nineteenth Katherine dumping, his best pal Hassan takes him on a road trip to distract him. Hassan is the kind of friend who points out that using the phrase 'pupilliary sphincter' is not the way to make friends or amuse people in high school, since Colin, child prodigy, is not aware of that fact. Hassan is the funniest side kick, who keeps Colin understanding the way of the world and maintains a very humorous bantering while trying to avoid much of anything himself.

The boys meet some girls, do some introspective thinking, grow a bit, make some jokes. Two quite likable nerds on the verge of growing up and getting beyond themselves. Very cute all around. Here's a quote I've seen before and think will become a well known quote: Books are the ultimate Dumpee: put them down and they'll wait for you forever; pay attention to them and they always love you back.

I love the math in the book, including an appendix to further explain the theorem. More math! This version of the cover is so cool with the math symbols that I had to show it. I also wish I could anagram as well as Colin. I'd rock at Scrabble instead of being so horrific.
I've been hearing a lot about John Green and his books so I was pleased to finally read one and I was not disappointed at all. I like footnotes in a book and they were scattered throughout here. The next one I have here to read is Looking for Alaska.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

BOOK: Dancing to Almendra by Mayra Montero

Dancing to Almendra by Mayra Montero, 263 pages
translated by Edith Grossman

Latin American Challenge; Orbis Terrarum: Cuba

Cuba before the Castro revolution must have been an exciting time: nightclubs and casinos, money and romance are all depicted in this novel by Cuban author Mayra Montero. A young reporter looks into the death of a hippopotamus at the zoo and discovers it was meant to be a message to a mobster who was killed in New York City. As Joaquin Porrata looks into the mob scene, he gets embroiled in the dark life and the novel takes off as a hard boiled mystery, which reminded me of Hammett's The Maltese Falcon or Chandler's The Big Sleep. Dames, mobs, film stars, double crosses, dead animals, corpses, guns, leprosy, and a circus. There's something here for everyone.

There is a second story going on, as Yolanda, Porrata's new love interest, tells her life story and a very interesting one it was. I didn't enjoy her part quite as much, in that it didn't move the story along but was a parallel story leading her up to the point in her life when she met Porrata.

Can't you just hear Sam Spade narrating this line?

Two Chinese girls were singing in the film, high Chinese tones that can't be heard by the human ear, but that night I discovered they could be heard in your bones, your eye sockets, that's where they resonate.

I like reading those film-noir, detective stories, but I always feel like I am missing something. I like the feel and atmosphere and the phrasing, but the characters are always doing what I never expect them to and I don't usually understand even what they have done. Fans of Hammett and Chandler would like this book. I know lots of people who go to Cuba every year for the spring break (Canadians are allowed to go there) and if I ever got to go, I would love to see Havana and imagine how it has changed from these glory days of the 1950s in this book.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

GAME: Bookword Game

So, what do we call a book that you find yourself checking how many more pages, every single page? Well, by the narrowest of margins*, we now call it a CheckBook. Joy at Thoughts of Joy suggested that name and it really fits. Thanks to everyone who voted and made suggestions. The more that play, the more fun the game becomes. Spread the word if you are having fun.

* CheckBook garnered 23% of the vote this week, with Neverending Story a close 20%

Read any CheckBooks lately? or RecommenDuds? Hopefully not on both counts.

Now on to the Third Edition of the Bookword Game:

The next book that needs a word is:
a book that reminds you of another book you have already read, not necessarily in plot but in tone or atmosphere or writing. It might even be a connection that only you can notice.
Any ideas? Let's take suggestions in the comments. Then next week, Suey will have the poll up at her site for voting. If anyone has an idea as well that needs a word, feel free to add that in the comments as well. Suey and I are making a list (ahh, glorious lists!) of ideas.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, Where Are You?

Tomorrow I'll post the results of the latest Bookword Game, so it's your last chance to come by and vote. I'll also throw another situation out there, looking for a new Bookword.

In reading, I am in Cuba, 1957, and there are gangsters, and casinos, and circuses, and it's a crazy, hard-boiled mystery that very much reminds me of Hammett and Chandler. (Dancing to Almendra by Mayra Montero)

Where is reading taking you today? Leave a comment, write a post, spread the word.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

BOOK: Remembering the Bones by Frances Itani

Remembering the Bones by Frances Itani, 283 pages

Dewey's Books; 2nd Canadian Book Challenge; What's in a Name: body part

I've just finished reading this sweet book, about Georgie, 88 year old widow, as she recounts her life lying in a ravine after her car rolled on the way to visit the Queen. Since I read this for Dewey's Book Challenge, I decided to head over to Dewey's to read her review, the one I'm sure I read a year ago that first intrigued me to Remembering the Bones. Oh dear. Dewey's review puts the book in a whole new light. Instead of pulling quotes from the book, I'm pulling quotes from Dewey's review:

Georgie is one of those characters that seem so real, you think of them for a long time after you finish reading, like old friends. Much like Dewey shared her life online and made us all feel like we knew her. I'm still having trouble in some ways defining the relationships with online friends, especially since we read about each other, almost like characters in a book.

My favorite thing about her is that when reminiscing, nearly all her thoughts are of the people in her life. Almost nothing else seems to matter at the end, and that’s how I feel every day, that life is about the people we love.

Georgie comes from a family of strong, long lived women, and the reader gets to know them all very well. Her family is small and close-knit and covers some spectacular times in history, the 20th century. It's the kind of book I like, where the families are ordinary and don't have tragic incidents, other than the everyday tragic events of birth, life, and death. I had the same feeling when I finished A Good House by Bonnie Burnard.

The times that loom large in Georgie’s memory, because they’re painful, or full of happiness, or simply unusual for Georgie, matter to the reader, in the same way that our own common griefs or joys matter to us.

Maybe it's too weird to read about a woman at the end of her life, recommended by Dewey who so recently died. It cheers the heart to know that Dewey enjoyed the book and could see the love from the book as reflected from her experience.