Thursday, March 29, 2007

BOOK: The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

How have I never read this book? It was very good, very funny, a little confusing, but I just held on for the ride and enjoyed Arthur Dent and his terrible, horrible, very strange day. I am very intrigued by the Restaurant at the end of the Universe that he appears headed toward, and I don't know if I'd let Zephron and Ford lead me around space, but I imagine their adventures will be interesting.
It is so weird how you notice things once you learn about them? Deja-new. The day after I started reading this book, I heard an interview on CBC with Peter Gzowski (and how lovely his voice sounded; he is missed from the radio) and Douglas Adams from around 1986, discussing his books. Weird.
This book is from my top books to read from the 50_book challenge list.

MEME: Booking Through Thursday

Location, Location, Location, Part 2

Booking Through Thursday
Where do you do most of your reading? Your favorite spot? (Show a picture, if you want to!)
(And yes, I understand that these might not be the same thing--your favorite spot could be the beach, but you do most of your reading at home . . . in which case, tell me about both!)

I mostly read in bed, at night. This past year as I've begun challenging my reading more, with 50_book challenges, and Classic Challenges and such, I've had to try to read more. So I read in the living room in the evening, on the computer with and I've begun bringing books with me if I expect to be sitting in a line. I'm trying to read more, everywhere.

My favorite spot to read was on the Grand Princess cruiseship, last summer, on the Mediterranean Sea, lying on a deck chair, with Angelo bringing me a drink.

Here was my view:

BOOK: Elizabeth Costello by J.M. Coetzee

I saw Coetzee's name on a list of 1001 books every person should read. There were a lot of books by him, some I've heard of a it: Disgrace, Waiting for the Barbarians, Life and TImes of Michael K. So I ordered this book, ELizabeth Costello. Now, I'm not a stupid person, I know that. But I could not understand anything in this book.
It's about the life of Elizabeth, a writer, and the book consisted of different philosophical arguments she had written or made at the end of her life. Realism, animals, evil, humanities, Africa, mythology, all were discussed and I understood none of it. It was all really global thinking, very abstract, and the ending, where Elizabeth is pleading her case of belief at the Gate, I couldn't understand what the arguments were that she was making. This article implies that the authour had Costello poorly arguing, misusing facts and being a poor debater on purpose. An indictment of authors asked to discuss issues. That would make some sense in the book.

I recognize that Coetzee is a good writer in that the sentences were lovely; the words for me just didn't become coherent.
I liked a few lines such as;
"It is not a good idea to intereupt the narrative too often, since storytelling works by lulling the reader or listener into a dreamlike state in which the time and space of the real world fade away, superseded by the time and space of the fiction."

The last Nobel Prize winning author I read was Toni Morrison, and I don't get her books either. I tried a few, and I read the words but they don't mean anything. Just like this book.
I finished it because I hoped at the end I'd get it, but I don't. I'm going to look up the book on the web to find out what it might have meant, but I shouldn't have to do that in a book.
Some articles I am finding, a review here and here , take a long time to analyze the book. There are a lot of parallels to Coetzee's life, and a background in his life would appear to help understand the book. But even with all that analysis, the book has mixed reviews in Coetzee's purpose and execution. An unsatisfying read all in all.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

BOOK: Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates

Certainly not a book for everyone, maybe not even a book for me. Quite disturbing novel from the point of view of a sexual predator and serial killer, with graphic descriptions of his cruelty/insanity. I'm not even sure why I picked this book from the library: I've heard of Oates vaguely, and wanted a book that started with Z. Weird, I know. Oh these reading challenges and the books I have discovered recently. Interestingly, my night book, Elizabeth Costello by JM Coetzee, deals with evil and the idea that an author who choses to write about such evil will be forever changed, and not for the better. That was part of what made me finish the book; both books tackling the same type of issue. (More on Elizabeth Costello tomorrow, which I actually didn't prefer)
The style of the book was easy to read, in the narrator's choppy, stream of conscienceness rambling, including sketches and maps of his world. It was a fascinating look into the mind of a psycho, if you want to see that. It was particularly scary how easily Q_ P_ (that is how he described himself) could fool all the people around him - parents, sister, grandmother, lawyers, probation officers, everyone he came in contact with. How easily he let himself follow his crazy mind, and that he had always been like that. Flashbacks sort of filled in some early situations in his life, and how blind people were to his evil, because they couldn't believe he would be capable of such depravity. It just supports my belief that you can never really know anyone; people let you know only what they want to about themselves. And people will believe what they want to believe.
To summarize: well written, I'd read another Oates I think; very graphic and disturbing topic and descriptions, not for many people; fascinating look into the mind of evil. It shows how serial killers can get away with what they do for as long as they do. And the ending was abrupt, as nothing was resolved in any way. Just like life, I guess.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

MEME: randomness

Stephanie had this nice meme for a Sunday night

randomness...feed your mind and your blog

Week of March 25: A Few of My Favorite Things
what's your favorite.....
1. food : seafood in general, scallops to be specific. I live on the ocean!
2. movie : How to pick one! Dead Poet's Society is right up there, along with Braveheart and The Breakfast Club
3. song : Paradise by the Dashboard Light by Meatloaf (and recently the Rent soundtrack)
4. color : blue
5. outdoor activity : jogging; although I have taken a bit of a hiatus lately
6. season : summer, laying in the sun like a cat
7. book : Anne of Green Gables and all the rest of the series
8. store : there was a leather store in Florence, I could have stayed all day
9. car : no particular favorite, as long as it gets me from here to there
10. animal : owls

till next time....

BOOK: The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

I liked this. I liked this a lot. He writes in such a style. I dreamed it. I wish I had a narrator in my head, talking like Philip Marlowe, with Raymond Chandler's words.
This book was very short, but I definately want to read more of this style of book. The Lady in the Lake. The Maltese Falcon. The thirties detective. The cliche. And things become cliche because they are good. I could hear Bogart in my head, he is so tied to this character. I have crush on Marlowe/Bogart. Hard-boiled detective stories. The Big Sleep. Awesome.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

BOOK: Reef by Gumesh Gunesekera

The tumultuous history of Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, is the backdrop to the story of Triton, a young houseboy. The novel begins in the present day England, where Triton meets a new refugee from Sri Lanka, and as he tells the clerk that he has been in England for twenty years, the story shifts back to him as an eleven year old, arriving to work as a houseboy, to Mr Salgado, a privelged member of society. Salgado is a marine biologist studying the reefs off the coast, and the symbol of the reef, possibly destroyed with the slightest change in the environment, parallels the change due to unrest in the country.

The novel, short listed for the Booker, is also about cooking and food, as Triton is eventually the cook and chief bottlewasher in the household. Meals are wonderfully described, and I want a new cookbook to try some of the dishes, seafood and curries and limes. The prose is easy to read, and there is probably some wonderful imagery and mood, that I absorb but couldn't exactly put into words, I just know that I liked it. I would like to read Gunesekera's first collection of short stories about Sri Lanka, Monkfish Moon. And wasn't that the point of the Reading Across Borders Challenge? To discover new authors and perspectives.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

BOOK: The Pigman by Paul Zindel

Another read for the Banned Book Challenge, (I'm trying to get mostly done by the end of the March Break) this was a young adult novel, very nicely done. Two teenagers on the fringe of society, with difficult homelives, make friends with an elderly neighbour. John and Lorraine takes turns telling their story about the life and death of the Pigman, Mr Pignati. Poignant story, very good read.

LIST: ten books you can't live without

Favorite books, or books you can't live without, or books that made an impact: each has a different meaning, but one of those reasons is what made me pick the following books for my top ten list. Bloggers are compliling their top ten books here based on a World Book Day (who knew about that?) site from here, I think. I made of list of my favorite books once before, on different criteria; most made the list to here as well, but not all.

1 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery This whole series is my favourite of all time; Anne and Gilbert are my favorite love story; Matthew is my favorite character; Marilla grows so much, I could go on for a long time.

2 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry I didn't know as I was reading it how much I would like it, but for months, passages came back to me, and it really affected me.

3 The Stand - Stephen King Classic good versus evil, with a killer flu and I read this in about one sitting. Best scary book ever.

4 Stones from the River - Ursula Helgi Wow, this was the best of Oprah's picks, a great story of people in Germany during WW2, and how Germans and Jews tried to live their life amidst the Holocaust. Powerful.

5 The Pillars of the Earth -Ken Follett Great epic story in 1100s Britain about the building of a cathedral, but so much more

6 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding This is my Pride and Prejudice, with all the humor that I love, but quicker to read. I reread this all the time.

7 Evening Class - Maeve Binchy I love the stories of ordinary people that Binchy writes, and this is my favourite of hers, with the narrative changing between many, many characters but all tied up at the end.

8 To Kill a Mocking Bird - Harper Lee I never read this in school, but picked it up as a substitute teacher. Great story, great cry.

9 Little House on the Prairies series - Laura Ingalls Wilder This fits in the caregory of books that made an impact on your life. I read all of these, over and over as a child, and my childhood would not have been the same without these wonderful stories.

10 I don't think I can pick another book. I just can't leave so many off the list, it would be like picking which child you love best. There are so many fabulous books, that I've loved, but I can't pick one.

MEME: Booking Through Thursday

Booking Through Thursday

Short Stories? Or full-length novels? I like both! I tend to read novels mostly, but I've read some great collections, usually by authors I know and love - Maeve Binchy, LM Montgomery, Stephen King. I recently read a great Agatha Christie book Partners in Crime, a collection of short stories about the same characters, Tommy and Tuppence.
I grew up in school with 'the reader', not novel studies like they do now. I think this directly caused me to enjoy short stories, because that is what we read and studied in school.

And, what's your favorite source for short stories? (You know, if you read them.) I guess my source is authors I already like. If I'm browsing at the library, I can find collections of short stories, usually on a theme, like Christmas.

BOOK: The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar

Another book for the Banned Book Challenge. This one I almost didn't read, because it is certainly geared toward junior high school kids. However, Sachar wrote Holes, which I adored last summer, so I gave it a try. It was very short - I read it in one night, while watching TV, but it does a good job of identifying the horrible problems of fitting it,and what to do when your so-called friends turn on you. Why are children so mean? David's friend, Scott, has decided he wants to be cool, so Scott starts hanging around with two of the popular guys. It was different to read this from a boys point of view, usually it's girls who get this treatment, in books at least. Anyway, they pull a prank on an old lady, who curses David, who was long for the prank as he was still trying to fit in with the jerks. He spends the rest of the book trying to break the curse, stand up to the bullies, make some new firends, and talk to a girl.
One thing I never understand with kids is the 'mean' thing. It was one thing to drop him as a friend, but then they have to actively pick on him and make his life miserable. They couldn't just ignore him, let him be miserable on his own. I'll remember this book to bring out for my son if the dreaded junior high years turn miserable.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

BOOK: Ordinary People by Judith Guest

I really enjoyed this book. I knew the basic plot outline, as the Oscars in 1980 would have been one of the first I remember much about; I knew that Robert Redford directed, and that Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore, Judd Hirsch and Timothy Hutton were in the award-winning movie. And I knew it was a tearjerker type of movie. Alas, I've never seen the movie, probably somewhat due to my (somewhat) strict, unwritten, internal rule to always read the book before seeing the movie. I know, it's been twenty seven years. I finally read the book.

The story is told from the son's, Conrad, point of view and alternates with the father's, Cal. Quite intentionally, the mother's point of view is never shown, and it is her that never really grows. She remains removed, separate from the events of the story. And yet it revolves around her. Both father and son try to get through the healing process of several tragedies that have happened to their family. The novel does a wonderful job of slowly, through flashbacks, telling the story of the death of the older brother, and how each of the remaining family members tries to deal with their guilt and memories. An excellent book, and one that I would read again.

I chose this from a list of banned or challenged books. There was some language, a few sex scenes, but not explicit at all, just referred to. This book is studied in high school, and doesn't seem inappropriate to the experiences many of them would deal with - family expectations, suicide, identity, guilt, and relationships.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

BOOK: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis

I must be the only person in the world who never read this book as a child. My nine year old recently read it, even he read it before me. It was good, but I'm not rushing out to get the next books in the Chronicles of Narnia; however I will read them eventually. I had a lovely edition, hardcover, large size and illustrated by Pauline Baynes from the library.

It is the grandparent to Harry Potter and JK Rowling certainly got her inspiration from this story. I read this for the Banned Book Challenge, and I'm not sure why this would be a banned book. The Christian religious overtones? Giants and centaurs? Seemed pretty harmless to me. The analogy to Jesus and his crucifiction were certainly obvious, but for a children's book, I liked that. I was able to talk to my son about the parallels and hopefully he could begin to see the kinds of things that great books can do. Great kids book; OK for me.

BOOK: The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino

"I too have lived many years for ideals which I would never be able to explain to myself; but I do something entirely good. I live on trees."

This was an interesting book. I borrowed it from the library, looking for an Italian book, and even though I'd already read The Shape of Water, I find it really difficult to not read a library book, especially with a due date looming. It's the story of a Baron in late 1700s Italy who decides to live in the trees, never touching the ground again. It was a cute story, easy to read, and just follows the life of the Baron from age 12 when he goes up until he dies, some fifty years later.

The point of view is from the younger brother, and this caused some problems for me. Because he is just observing, we never get a feel for the Baron's feelings, or rationale for living as he does. There must have been a reason, and I know that the 'age of reason' and Voltaire had something to do with it. ( The Baron read a lot of philosophy and corresponded with great minds of the late 18th century) I just never felt, for example, that the great romance between the Baron and Viola was fully developed, because it was just observed. As well, the brother has to put his judgement on situations and I never felt like I understood the Baron at all.

"Rambunctous and impetuous youth led Cosimo into the trees (he was only twelve when he took to the branches), but his ideals, once established, kept him there the rest of his life. All of us make descions in our youth that we either follow through with or abandon. Cosimo never abandoned his decision, for good or ill."

The purpose of the Reading Across Borders was to expand perspective and read different books, which for me means not North American novels or British mysteries. I certainly feel that I am accomplishing this, and the fact that I liked this book, even thoughit smacks of real literature and I still enjoyed it, means my horizons are being broadened. But I'm not ready to climb up some trees.

Monday, March 19, 2007

QUIZ: What kind of reader are you?

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Literate Good Citizen
Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

CHALLENGE: Spring Reading Thing

There is a spring thing. A challenge. With the cutest button ever. That I really want to put on my blog here. So, I debated. Because I really can't read more books. And how much can things overlap? I mean, really. I'd feel like I was cheating if I cross referenced a book to three challenges. So I got out my list, and looked. There are a few other books I hope to read in the very near future - spring if you will. Such as:

That looks doable, a list of books I am pretty sure I will read in the next 3 months, between March 21st through June 21st, 2007.

CHALLENGE: A - Z Reading 2007

Here's a way to help me pick books - no books will overlap the author or title list. there are a few letters that look tricky - drat you Q and X, but otherwise this seems fun. The books I've listed are just an idea of books I hope to read. If a book comes along that I read that fits a category, it will magically replace the one I've listed here. Sort of a To-Be-Read list, alphabetically. Bolded books have been read.

Authors A - Z
A - Adams, Douglas - Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
B - Banks, Lynn Reid - The Indian in the Cupboard

C - Chandler, Raymond - The Big Sleep
D - DiCamilla, Kate - The Tale of Despereaux

E - Evanovich, Janet - One for the Money
F - Feynman, Richard - Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman

G - Gregory, Philippa - The Other Boleyn Girl
H - Hammett, Dashiel - The Maltese Falcon
I - Ishiguro, Kazou - Never Let Me Go
J - Jakober, Marie - The Halifax Connection
K -Keyes, Daniel - Flowers for Algernon
L - Laurie, Hugh - The Gun Seller
M - Montgomery, LM - Among the Shadows
N - Nelson, Sara - So Many Books, So Little Time

O - Oates, Joyce Carol - Zombie
P - Pullman, Philip - His Dark Materials Trilogy

Q - Quinn, Daniel - Ishmael
R - Rulfo, Juan - Pedro Paramo
S - Sobel, Dave - Galileo's Daughter
T - Toole, John Kennedy - A Confederacy of Dunces
U -
V - van den Brink - On the Water
W - Wiesel, Elie - Night
X - Xingjian - Buying a Fishing Rod for My Grandfather

Y -
Z - Zindel, Paul - The Pigman

Books A - Z

A - Assasination Vacation - Sarah Vowell
B - The Baron in the Trees - Italo Calvino
C - Coraline - Neil Gaiman
D - Dispatches From the Edge - Anderson Cooper
E - Elizabeth Costello - JM Coetzee
F - Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
G - The Giver - Lois Lowry
H - History of theWorld in 10 1/2 Chapters - Julian Barnes

I - In Cold Blood - Truman Capote
J - Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
K - Killer Swell - Jeff Shelby
L - The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis
M - My Sister's Keeper - Jodi Picoult
N - Northanger Abby - Jane Austen

O - Ordinary People - Judith Guest
P - The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky
Q - Quite a Year for Plums - Bailey White
R - Reef - Rumesh Gunesehera
S - The Swallows of Kabul - Yasmina Khadra

T - The Translator - Leila Aboulela
U - Uglies - Scott Westerfeld
V - Virgin Suicides - Jeffrey Eugenides
W - We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver
X -
Y - The Year of Secret Assignments - Jaclyn Moriarty
Z - Zlata's Diary - Zlata Filipoviz

Sunday, March 18, 2007

BOOK: The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie

I picked this book because, well, Hugh Laurie has been hilarious any time I've seen him on an awards show, in that wonderful way British people can be (I'm thinking of Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, John Cleese, etc) So I requested The Gun Seller from the library. And, cool, it was autographed by Hugh Laurie! I confess I contemplated taking the page out; not really. I imagine it was donated to the library before 'House' was on TV.
The story is an action, military, espionage type story; hence, I couldn't keep track of anyone and who was screwing who. I would never be able to follow the movie. You know, the type of movie where you spend the whole time asking, "Who is that? Are they with him? Or against him? Did he double cross them? What just happened?"
Even though I was somewhat confused, I never let that stop my enjoyment of a funny book. Because Laurie is wry and self-deprecating and very humorous. And I think I figured out what had happened on the last page.
So, all in all, a great read. I was distracted by Laurie, in that his character in 'House' is so in my head, I could only picture Laurie as the main character. It doesn't take anything away from the novel though, but he will have to play Tom Lang in the movie.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

BOOK: The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson

I read this book for the Banned Book Challenge, and it was a great read. The summary says " An eleven year old foster child tries to cope with her longings and fears as she schemes against everyone who tries to be friendly." The book plays out exactly as you would expect, and that seems somewhat cliche, but it is a children's book, and it is only cliche if you have read many books like this. It was well written, and I ached for poor Gilly. As a teacher, I wonder sometimes why some kids will sabotage themselves, and this gives an insight into the mind of a child who is just wanting acceptance, but has learned the hard way that if she puts herself in a position to care, she will be hurt.
I assume this has been challenged due to Gilly's prejudices against African-Americans, but she grows and becomes accepting of her teacher and her neighbour.

Friday, March 16, 2007

BOOK: The Stranger by Albert Camus

The Stranger, published in the 1940s, was my entry for the 15 books/15 decades challenge. And it is also a French book for the Reading Across Borders Challenge, as it is translated from the French by Stuart Gilbert. I requested this book from the library since it was in storage. And it was really cool, because it was a really old, hardcover book, with a hint of mustiness odor. And the card in the back was first stamped March 24, 1959, almost exactly 48 years ago.

For the first time, I looked up the Sparks notes as I read a book. I'm glad I did, because the themes that are explored, and the symbolism, were much easier to understand. Camus wrote the book with the "absurdist idea that the universe is indifferent to human affairs and that life lacks rational order and meaning." I found the book enjoyable, reading it along with the analysis, because I usually just enjoy plot and characters, and this book had much more. The absurdist philosophy and the irony of the story were explained in a way I would never see myself.

The story is simple; the narrator, Meursault, has just discovered his mother has died. This sets the premise of his indifference to people, as he barely reacts, and his interactions and lack of feeling with other characters. He continues to live, gets a girlfriend, and yet he has friends, even with his lack of empathy. Eventually, a crisis happens that I don't want to give away and the rest is Meursault's observations of life around him.

I liked the story, and liked reading it, with the analysis. The narrative was very detached, since Meursault didn't make judgments on people or situations, just observations. Classic story, and set in Algiers, a colony of France. Kills two birds (challenges) with one read.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

MEME: Booking Through Thursday

Writing in Books, Part 3

Booking Through Thursday

  1. Speaking of writing in books, what about writing the entire thing? Do you write? Aspire to write? Dream about writing? No, nada, non, never crossed my mind. I feel very ambitious writing in this blog, one little paragraph by one little paragraph
  2. If you do write, do you do it for yourself, or because you hope to be published? (Or because you ARE published?) see above

Sunday, March 11, 2007

CHALLENGE: Non-Fiction Five Challenge

I have nonfiction books I want to read, the problem will be waiting until May to read them. If I break down and read one of these books I am listing here before then, I'll replace it with another book. There are always more books to read!

This challenge is sponsored by Joy at Thoughts of Joy... and these challenges are a great way to meet new people and read more books. My list, as of March, includes:

  1. Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel. I've been wanting to read this ever since I saw the Galileo museum in Florence. Galileo's daughter was his only child to carry on his scientific legacy and this book is some of their correspondence. I also read Sobel's book Longitude this year and really like it too.
  2. Assasination Vacation by Sarah Vowell. I've seen Vowell on The Daily Show and she's very funny.
  3. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. After watching the Capote movie, I've been interested in reading this book. It's also on the Banned Book List.
  4. Zlato's Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajavo I found this book on the library catalogue as I was looking for translated books for the Reading Across Borders Challenge. It looked interesting, so it's still on my to-be-read list.
  5. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson This book came along and I couldn't pass up the chance to read it. I planned to read one book per month, but I guess I got ahead. Excellent and fascinating.
  6. Wild Swans: 3 Daughters of China This fits my Reading Across Borders Challenge, and it is on the Banned Book List. Edit (April 25): This book is making me nervous. I don't know if I can do it. Everytime I look at it in the library, I don't like the look of it. And it's big. And it's on the list of books most not finished that I saw on a British site somewhere. So, I think I will remove it and put on either Running With Scissors by Austen Burroughs or Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut. I'll check and see what the deal is on changing books, and when the list must be finalized.

That's the list for now. I have some other nonfiction books that I'd eventually like to read as well, but these five will be a good start.

Possible Alternate Books: added as I find other good books

The Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson or any of his other books

Reading Lolita in Tehran - Nafisi

The Bookseller of Kabul - Seierstad

Teacher Man - Frank McCourt

Running with Scissors - Augusten Burroughs

BOOK: The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri

The First Inspector Montalbano Mystery
a novel of food, wine and homicide in small-town Sicily

I picked up another book by Camilleri (The Voice of the Violin) on the $5 table at Indigos and took it with me on my trip to Italy last summer. It was a great read - cranky Inspector Montalbano, twisty mystery and of course the setting. I love to find a good mystery series that has several other books already written; it makes going to the library easier. This book will be for the Reading Across Borders Challenge as well, but I'll probably get another of these, so I'm not really expanding my reading by settling into a series. However, I greatly enjoy the setting of Sicily and the politics of Italian bureaucracy as well as the mystery.
Montalbano is a flawed main character; he goes outside the law if he feels he needs to, he has little patience for many of his colleagues, his love life is complicated and he is quite selfish. But, he is also very loyal to his friends, reads people well, and is very smart at solving mysteries.
My view of Italy as a place where there are many layers of government and trying to get things done without red tape is difficult has not been altered by these books. Montalbano has to go through many people while solving a case and it is difficult to keep track, as we wouldn't have the corresponding bureaucracy. But that is part of the fun as Montalbano has to go around certain people to accomplish things.
Great read; bring on more Salvo Montalbano.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

CHALLENGE: top 50_books read

These challenges online are such an accountable way to set personal goals. I have always set some little goals for myself, but it never occured to me to write it down like this. So, I have a little challenge that I have set for myself. I don't have a deadline, but when I pick books, these list are in the back of my head.
Over at 50_books challenge on livejournal, the mod recently had a survey of the best books you've read. Now, this was filled out by a lot of readers, so you have to think that these are some kick-ass books. I certainly had read some of them, but I would like to read more, if not all of them. Then, my Challenge: read as many of the books on the top 20 reads from the 50_book challenge readers:

Top 20 Best Books According to the Readers of 50bookchallenge:

1. Harry Potter Series - J.K. Rowling 197
2. Pride & Prejudice - Jane Austen 133 read in 2006
3. Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien 125
4. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee 95 read in 1990s
5. The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger 77 read in 2006
6. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte 76
7. The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky 64
8. Lolita - Vladimir Nabakov 58
9. 1984 - George Orwell 52 read in 1990s
10. The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde 50
11. Wuthering Heights - Emile Bronte 47 read in grade 12
12. Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card 46
13. His Dark Materials Trilogy - Philip Pullman 45
14. Good Omens - Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett 42
15. A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving 41
16. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald 41 read in 2006
17. My Sister's Keeper - Jodi Picoult 38
18. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 37
19. American Gods - Neil Gaiman 36
20. The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupery 34

Before this year, I had read 6 of these books. How many can I read in 2007? I have already read The Great Gatsby (as a Classic Challenge book) and now just finished American Gods ( for the Chunkster Challenge) . I plan to read His Dark Materials Trilogy, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, and Jane Eyre (15books/15decades Challenge) before the year is out. That will make the list half read. If other challenges come along that some of these books fit into, then I'll probably try to read them. I think I had My Sister's Keeper as an alternate to the Chunkster Challenge. See? I just pick books for other challenges from this list. I'm such a multi-tasker.

The rest of the list, up to 100, can be found at this link, if you scroll down a bit.

BOOK: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

This is a book I read for several reasons: it was on the top 20 reads list from the 50_book challenge at livejournal, I picked it for the Chunkster Challenge, and then it was a 2000s book for the 15books/15decades challenge. And, it was a pretty interesting read.
It reminded me of a Stephen King book in that Gaiman sets up a world that has supernatural elements, but does it in such a believable way that it all makes sense. I really liked the main character Shadow; just an ordinary man, but open to ideas, and also thinking for himself in the face of unbelievable situations. I really rooted for him. I also liked the premise about the gods we worship today and from long ago and how those long ago gods survive today. Easy to read and lots to think about, a well written book with fascinating characters and situations. What more can you ask for in a novel.

Friday, March 9, 2007

BOOK: On the Water by H.M. van den Brink

Quiet little story, set in Holland at the end of the World War II about a young boy, Anton, and his maturing and learning about himself. He is remembering a summer from five years previous, a summer where he and another boy, David, were rowing on the river and forming a friendship. Anton is from a lower class family, afraid to dream, to be happy, to dare to be. His partner is a more affluent, assured Jewish David has everything, and of course in 1939 Holland, will lose everything. But the story is very quiet, very descriptive and, with history that the reader knows as the backdrop, only focuses on that summer as they work together and become a great team of rowers.
It wasn't the easiest story to get into, and I found it hard to start. However, by the end, and it was only 130 pages, I was engrossed in the final race for the championship, as Anton is waiting for the liberation in 1945. His naivite and unawareness of much beyond his own house makes it easy to see how some things could have happened in Europe during the war.
The point of this challenge was to expose myself to different cultures and stories. I'm glad I read this, although it was a little arty, and it is hard to know how much the translation affects the mood and story.

CHALLENGE: Banned Book Challenge

I made this! using this . Cool

Thursday, March 8, 2007

MEME: Booking Through Thursday

Booking Through Thursday

Do you lend your books to other people? If so, any restrictions? I don't buy a lot of books, but I do lend the ones I have. Not many restrictions; I mostly share with my sister, so I know where she lives. But I'd lend all but my most favorite books out. Don't lend unless you never want it back. And books can be replaced easily.

Do you borrow books from other people? (Friends or family—I'm not talking about the public library) Well, yes I do borrow. I try to borrow from people I see a lot, like at work and then read it right away and not hang on to it. And of course my sister. She had a friend that was an airline attendent, so she always had tons of airport books. We passed those around. (I should note, my sister is in another province, so we only see each other every few months and then exchange a bag of books)

And, most importantly—do the books you lend/borrow get returned to their rightful owners?? I try, but I have a book I borrowed, The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency that I haven't returned - from 3 years ago. It's in the front closet, and I know the owner, but we don't see each other socially, just at our kids school functions, and I never have the book with me. I do plan to give it back to her, but I've been avoiding it. And yet, it is haunting my soul! I know I have sent books out into the world that I haven't got back, (Who has my Poisonwood Bible? Is it you? No judgement, just return please) but by now, I forget (mostly) which books they were.
Eh, if my books are being enjoyed, pass them around. They should be enjoyed.
Hee, I was in a 'book club' of girls from high school who would get together every other month for a dinner. We didn't talk about books, at all, but we would trade books across the linguine and scallops. It was more of a 'book exchange club'.

Don't forget to leave a link to your actual response in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

Monday, March 5, 2007

BOOK: Ignorance by Milan Kundera

I read this book for my Reading Across Borders Challenge. Ignorance is set in France and Czech and written by Milan Kundera, who also wrote The Unbearable Lightness of Being. This was my first book of his and I quite enjoyed it.

Following the story of Odyssey, Ignorance follows the return of two people to their Czech homeland after the fall of Communism. I thought it could have been called Memory or Nostalgia because he delves into those themes and I liked that aspect of the story better.

From the cover: We always believe that our memories coincide with those of the person we loved, that we experienced the same thing. But this is just an illusion. [Memory] records only "an insignificant , miniscule particle" of the past "and no one knows why it's this bit and not any other bit." I've been thinking about this lately, how in a family we all have different memories, but we think everyone remembers the same incident or event the same. But we each bring our own perspective to our memory.

I really enjoyed the book, the snippets of life he showed that I identified with, and the larger themes of memory, ignorance, and family he tackled. The story was told in third person, but the third person interupted now and then to comment, or add an aside (a mystery: how is it that women not listening to one another can laugh at what the others are saying?). I would certainly be interested in reading other books by Kundera

Sunday, March 4, 2007

CHALLENGE: Reading Across Borders Challenge

I started this challenge a month or so ago. The Challenge is to read books from outside your geographical comfort zone, or books that have been translated. I'm cheating a bit, because I read a few last year that would count, so unless otherwise noted, all books are read in 2007.

Afghanistan: The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini (2005)
The Swallows of Kabul - Yasmina Khadra

Southern Italy: The Shape of Water - Andrea Camilleri (translated by Stephen Sartarelli)

Nothern Italy: The Baron in the Trees - Italo Calvino ( translated by Archibald Colquhoun)

Turkey: Istanbul: Memories and the City - Orhan Pamuk
Other Colors - Orhan Pamuk

Spain: The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon (2006)

Germany: Night - Elie Weisel

Mexico: Pedro Paramo - Juan Rulfo

Czech : Ignorance - Milan Kundera

Holland : On the Water - HM van den Brink

France: The Stranger - Albert Camus

Sri Lanka: Reef - Romesh Gunesekera

Nigeria: Half of a Yellow Sun - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Sudan: The Translator - Leila Aboulela

Australia: I Am the Messenger - Markus Zukas

Bosnia-Hercegovinia: Zlata's Diary

England: Arthur & George - Julian Barnes

India: The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy

New Zealand: The Bone People - Keri Hulme

Portugal: Alentejo Blue - Monica Ali

Sweden: The Princess of Burundi - Kjell Eriksson

I have a big list picked out at the library to request. ( I just searched 'translated' ) This will be an ongoing challenge, with no preset number of books. Just as I read them, I'm adding them to the list. I didn't officially join; this is just for me.

EDIT: I am expanding this challenge, to be "Around the World in 80 Countries". I think I can find 80 countries toread about. I'll keep my running total and future plans at raidergirl3 blog on my dashboard.

CHALLENGE: 15 Books/15 Decades Challenge

"Call me Ishamel", I mean call me crazy. I found another challenge. It is fun to use these challenges to pick books and realize you are stretching your reading brain. And lots of books overlap, so I will dive in.
3M, over at 15Books15Decades , also known as the queen of challenges, has put together this one. Combining with the Banned Book Challenge, makes this look not too bad.
Here's my list, easily changed as options arise:

That's what I have for now. As I find some books to fill in the decades, I'll add. Something from the 1940s can get me 9 books in 9 decades. That looks like my goal for now.

Other readers are posting their reviews of books here Check out some other great books.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

BOOK: Partners in Crime by Agatha Christie

After reading The Secret Adversary on, someone from 50_books at livejournal recommended this. Yay for recommendations. The SecretAdversary was the first book with Tommy and Tuppence, the young adventurers and amateur sleuths. I really enjoyed the snappy dialogue and characters. Partners in Crime is very good as well, following Tommy and Tuppence several years after their marriage. Tuppence is craving some of that old adventure and they get set up with a detective agency to help capture a Russian spy or something. It's a great set-up, because they model themselves after famous literary detectives for a series of cases. They adopt the mannerisms and emulate Sherlock Holmes, Roger Sheringham, and Edgar Wallace for different situations. (I confess, I did not recognize many of these characters. But I found this article about the stories. ) But they also said to use their "little grey cells, mon ami". Yes, Christie even has them use Poirot. Perfect! Anyway, I loved the book. I loved how Tuppence is treated as an equal or beyond. There is no mention of her not partaking in any adventure, nor leaving her behind. She is equal to Tommy and solves her share of the mysteries. Feminism in the 1920s is awesome.
If you haven't read any Christie, you should see why she is the master mystery writer. If it's been awhile, her books are great to reread. I'm feeling some Poirot in my future. Unfortunately, while perusing my library catalogue, I noticed all the Christie books are in storage. I can still get them, but why have they been removed from the shelves? I'll have to request some, like the ABC Mystery, or The Labors of Hercules. I haven't read them in 20 years or so.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

MEME: Booking Through Thursday

Booking Through Thursday

  1. How many books would you say you read in an average month? It used to be 2 to 3, but last year I started the 50 book challenge at livejournal, and picked up my pace. I also found, and I've read several books there since last year ( classic novels in your email - something fun to read there everyday! for free) I'd say in the last six months, my monthly total has become 7 - 8.
  2. In a year? Until the 50 book challenge, my yearly average was 27 - 33. I've kept track of the books I've read for the past 7 years.
  3. Over the last five years? So, 5 times 30 per year, means 150 books. I teach math too! Reading and 'Rithmatic

  • The last 10? I've always read everynight before bed for as long as I can remember. Except in university when I couldn't let myself read - I'd read all night. With my consistent reading habits, I'd say I have read over 300 books in the past 10 years. Yeah books!