Monday, November 28, 2011

CHALLENGE: Orange January

It's time to start thinking about an Orange January! Will it be books from 2011 list, or into the older titles? Check out the Orange Prize Project blog for more ideas and the Facebook group for ideas and possibly prizes!  Every January and July, fans of the Orange Prize read all they can in celebration. The actual requirement is only to read one book.

Orange January Ideas:

Books in my house:
Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel (2006 short list)
Small Island by Andrea Levy (2004 winner)
The Colour by Rose Tremain (2004 longlist)
Larry's Party by Carol Shields (1998 winner)
Love Marriage by VV Ganeshananthen (2009 longlist)
Old Filth by Jane Gardam (2005 shortlist)
Black and Blue by Anna Quinlen (1998 longlist)

Books from the library: 
The Septembers of Shiraz, by Dalia Sofer (2008 longlist)
This is How, by M.J. Hyland (2010 longlist)
Secret Son, by Laila Lalami (2010 longlist)
Black Water Rising by Attica Locke (2010 shortlist)
The Tenderness of Wolves, by Stef Penney (2007 longlist)
House of Orphans by Helen Dunmore (2006 longlist)

And the books I read, with reviews linked:
1. The Giant, O'Brien by Hilary Mantel (1999 longlist)
2. Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen (1998 longlist)
3. The Tenderness of the Wolves by Stef Penney (2007 longlist)
4. House of Orphans by Helen Dunmore (2006 longlist)
5. Old Filth by Jane Gardam, (2005 shortlist)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

BOOK: The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett

The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett, 140 pages

Life is busy in the 21st century. Much of it is our own making, but that's how we live. We need information now; can't wait 10 seconds for the page to load; too long, didn't read; kids going in different directions. I just seem to go, go, go. Go, dog, go! Reading is a way to slow things down, but I often read mysteries, or thrillers. Books that engage me and have me frantically turning pages so I don't fall asleep, because if I stop, I might fall asleep. However,  as I read The Country of the Pointed Firs, this small, charming book, I could feel my body slow down and my brain slow down as I adjusted to life as told in small tales from a 19th century fishing village on the shores of Maine.

There isn't much to this story, not really a plot, just collected stories from the unnamed narrator as she spends a summer in Dunnett Landing, meeting friends and family of her landlady.  There is herb gathering, family reunions, and boat trips for the day - depending on the wind direction. There are stories from sea-faring days, and even laments of how life is changing by the end of the 1800s. But overall, there is a peacefulness, and calm that comes with Mrs Todd and the stories related in this quiet book. I'm so delighted to have discovered this gem.

on entertaining:
Tact is after all a kind of mindreading, and my hostess held the golden gift. p59

on old friends:
There, it does seem so pleasant to talk with an old acquaintance that know what you know. Conversation's got to have some root in the past, or else you've got to explain every remark you make, an' it wears a person out. p73

on life near an ocean:
[The view] gave a sudden sense of space, for nothing stopped the eye or hedged one in, - that sense of liberty in space and time which great prospects always give. p58 

also reviewed: Eva at a striped armchair; JoAnn at lakeside musings wrote about the author;

Sunday, November 20, 2011

CHALLENGE: Venice in February

Bellezza of Dolce Bellezza and Ally of Snow Feathers are hosting a Venice in February reading challenge. Bellezza has the most amazing list of books set in Venice. It goes on and on and it has, I think, every book I have ever read set in Venice.

Such as:
Death in la Fenice by Donna Leon
In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant
Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare

Plus a few I am interested in:

A Taste of Venice by Roberto Pianaro
(not in my library)

Don't Look Now by Daphne DuMaurier (short story)

The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan
(Booker Prize short list 2001)

The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

And after checking my library:
The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato
No vulgar hotel : the desire and pursuit of Venice by Judith Martin
Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
Miss Garnet's Angel by Sally Vickers
Vaporetto 13 : a novel by Robert Girardi
Pippa Passes by Rumer Golden

and another from the Donna Leon series, Inspector Brunetti, Death and Judgment

Books I Read:
1. The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich
2. Miss Garnet's Angel by Sally Vickers
3. The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan
4. Death and Judgment by Donna Leon
5. The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
6. No Vulgar Hotel by Judith Martin
7. Don't Look Now (short story) by Daphne DuMaurier
My sister and I in Venice
Hopefully in February I'll manage to read one of these, and reminisce about my stopover in Venice five years ago.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

MEME: One Book, Two Book, Three Book again

It's time to rejoice with the revival of the One Book, Two Book, Three Book meme originated  by Simon at Stuck in a Book.

1. The books I’m currently reading: The Man Who Went Up in Smoke by Maj Sjowell and Per Wahoo. This is second in the Martin Beck series, written in the 1960s by the Swedish couple. This terrific police procedural was the first of the Swedish crime novels, long before that Girl Who ... became famous.

2. The last book I finished: The Uncoupling by Meg Wolwizer. Somewhere, months ago, someone on the blogs raved about this. I requested it at the library and it took for-ev-eeer to arrive. But I got it read, and it was good.
ETA: found it. Aths at Reading on a Rainy Day reviewed The Uncoupling. She wrote a great review; pretty much my opinion as well.
Also, Softdrink at Fizzy Thoughts reviewed it here and Carrie at Nomadreader reviewed it here.
So, three reviews within a couple of weeks in June made it catch my attention, and then it took 4 months to get it from the library.

3. The next book I want to read: Tide Road by Valerie Compton (a PEI book!) or Small Ceremonies by Carol Shields.

4. The last book I bought: There was a little "hall book sale" at school for library week, so I bought Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen from a student who had a whole table of books she 'read over the summer'; and The Fire Dwellers by Margaret Laurence and Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro and The Morningside World of Stuart McLean from the library as they weeded out some older books. I'm a good little Canadian!

5. The last book I was given: A dear friend, who retired last year so I don't see her so often, dropped off The Way We Were by Marcia Willet and Beautiful People by Wendy Holden. The note she left with them said to 'enjoy, and pass on.'

It's also time for the sign-ups for the Advent Tour! I've already got my date assigned - go sign up here. It is a great way to share holiday traditions, have some fun, and meet a ton a new people. Marg and Kailana are the wonderful hosts.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

BOOK: Moonlight Sketches by Gerard Collins

Moonlight Sketches by Gerard Collins, 190 pages

5th Canadian Book Challenge

This summer I made my first trip to Newfoundland. While I spent most of my time in basketball gymnasiums and supervising twelve fourteen year old boys, I did manage to sneak off one afternoon to downtown St John's for some shopping. I poked in every little craft shop, ate fish and chips at Duke's, and had a drink on George Street. It was wonderful. I was looking for souvenirs - got some screech coffee, moose socks, a jellybean row picture, and I wanted to buy a Newfoundland book. Something that would feel like a find, an unknown quantity. I managed that, with Moonlight Sketches by Gerard Collins.

Moonlight Sketches is a collection of short stories that are part of a bigger story. Beginning before the Ocean Ranger sank, and progressing (not always linearly) to the present, the town of Darwin (population 2500) is the setting for most of the stories. Life changes as the cod fishery ends, oil comes in and small villages disintegrate. The stories are more about the individual people that live in Newfoundland, but from a distance, by the end, you see how Darwin has changed.

I was hoping for more overlapping characters, and eventually a few stood out. Tough guy Benny and his cousin Dave make appearances in several stories (it feels like there could be a novel beginning) as does Jack of Jack's Place, the bar in Darwin. Jack's Place figures prominently in "Two Lesbians Walk Into a Bar", which also shows the dark underbelly of life in a small town where everyone knows everybody. "The Darkness and Darcy Knight" might put you to mind of Deliverance, if I know what Deliverance is actually about. Overall, there is a dark feel to these stories; life on the Rock isn't easy. But I enjoyed reading this collection, and will probably reread a few now that I know some of the characters better.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

CHALLENGE: What's in a Name 5

It's my fifth year, so I can't not participate in this one. Just picking the titles is half the fun. Finding a reason to read some books I've already wanted to read is bonus. Are you joining in this one? It runs all year, and only six books. Check out bethfishreads for more details or to sign up.
Here's the categories for next year:

  1. A book with a topographical feature in the title -- e.g. Black Hills, Purgatory Ridge, Emily of Deep Valley
  2. A book with something you'd see in the sky in the title -- e.g. Moon Called, Seeing Stars, Cloud Atlas
  3. A book with a creepy crawly in the title -- e.g. Little Bee, Spider Bones, The Witches of Worm
  4. A book with a type of house in the title -- e.g. The Glass Castle, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Ape House
  5. A book with something you'd carry in your pocket, purse, or backpack in the title -- e.g. Sarah's Key, The Scarlet Letter, The Devlin Diary
  6. A book with something you'd find on a calendar in the title -- e.g. Day of the Jackal, Elegy for April, Freaky Friday, The Year of Magical Thinking

So, the possibilities!
topographical feature
The Secret River, Kate Grenville
Small Island, Andrea Levy

something you'd see in the sky
Swann by Carol Shields
The Devil's Star by Jo Nesbo
The Girl Who Chased the Moon, Sarah Addison Allen

creepy crawly
Lark and Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips
The House of the Scorpion, Nancy Farmer

type of house
The Last Resort by Carmen Posadas
Urn Burial, Kerry Greenwood
The Saturday Big Tent Wedding, Alexander McCall Smith

something you'd carry in your pocket, purse, or backpack
Duma Key, Stephen King
13 Little Blue Envelopes, Maureen Johnson

something you'd find on a calendar
The Septembers of Shiraz, by Dalia Sofer
October by Richard B Wright
The Wednesday Sisters, Meg Waite Clayton

What I Read:
Topographical feature:
6. Island of Wings - Karin Altenberg
10. Shutter Island - Dennis Lehane

Something you'd see in the sky:
4. The Girl Who Chased the Moon - Sarah Addison Allen
7. Swann - Carol Shields

Creepy crawly:
8. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest - Stieg Larsson
12. The House of the Scorpion - Nancy Farmer

Type of house:
1. House of Orphans - Helen Dunmore
11. Red House Mystery - AA Milne

Something you'd carry in your purse or backpack:
3. 13 Little Blue Envelopes - Maureen Johnson
5. The Sealed Letter - Emma Donaghue

Something you'd find on a calendar:
2. Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party - Alexander McCall Smith
9. October - Richard B Wright

Friday, November 11, 2011

BOOK: Twelve Drummers Drumming by C.C. Benison

Twelve Drummers Drumming by C.C. Benison

5th Canadian Book Challenge; review copy from Randomhouse

Reverend Tom Christmas (not surprisingly, he doesn't like Father Christmas) is trying to get a new start to his life. After his wife was murdered, he moved with his young daughter to a small village, Thornford Regis, to be nearer his sister-in-law. A delightful English village, full of characters, until Sybella, a nineteen year old troubled girl, is found murdered during the May Fayre. Tom becomes a bit of a detective, as he seems to confuse his role as confidante to his parish with the nosiness needed to solve the crime.

Cozy little mystery, with the delightful village setting, Benison is touted as a choice for fans of Alan Bradley, Louise Penny, and Alexander McCall Smith. As a fan of all of those authors, I would say Benison has a place on the shelf with them. He has set up a village with some great characters, and some ongoing mysteries that aren't completely solved with this first book. The second book will obviously be Eleven Pipers Piping. His writing isn't quite as tight as Penny's, nor quite as relaxing as McCall's but I did like a lot of the supporting characters, and while Tom himself is not a perfect character, he is trying hard to be a good father. He is still grieving his wife, but starting to be interested in women. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next in Thornford Regis.

Monday, November 7, 2011

CHALLENGE: Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge

The True Book Addict is hosting a Christmas Spirit Challenge at the dedicated blog. Head on over to get some more information and to sign up.
From the blog:
  • challenge will run from Monday, November 21, 2011 through Friday, January 6, 2011 (Twelfth Night or Epiphany).
  • These must be Christmas novels, books about Christmas lore, a book of Christmas short stories or poems, books about Christmas crafts, and for the first time...a childrens Christmas books level!
  • visit this POST for a list of new Christmas books for 2011.  
  • Levels:--Candy Cane:  read 1 book            
  • --Mistletoe:  read 2-4 books           
  • --Christmas Tree:  read 5 or 6 books (this is the fanatic level...LOL!)
          Additional levels:
            --Fa La La La Films:  watch a bunch or a few Christmas's up to you!
            --Visions of Sugar Plums:  read books with your children this season and share what you read

I want to read:
An Island Christmas Reader by David Weale
A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas (reread)
"Dave Cooks the Turkey" by Stuart McLean (a tradition)
An Irish Country Christmas by Patrick Taylor

What I Read:
1. Christmas With Anne and Other Holiday Stories by LM Montgomery
2.  A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas
3. Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie
4. An Island Christmas Reader by David Weale
5. "Dave Cooks the Turkey" by Stuart McLean
6. The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding by Agatha Christie

Books for Next Year: (thanks for all the reviews, folks)
1. Miracle and Other Stories by Connie Willis
2. The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore
3. An Idiot Girl's Christmas by Laurie Notaro
4. Wishin’ and Hopin’: A Christmas Story by Wally Lamb
5. Anne Perry's Christmas series
6. Immovable Feast: A Paris Christmas

In other Christmas news, I signed up for the Book Blogger Holiday Swap. The sign-up is here, and you have until this Friday, November 11th, to get registered. There are several options to pick from (money level, mailing locations). I've enjoyed this every year I've participated.

Now all I need to see is the Advent Calendar Tour and my Christmas plans are complete.