Wednesday, March 30, 2011

BLOGGING: Just for Fun

 The Land of Painted Caves drinking game

You will need:
1 copy of The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M. Auel
1 (or more) bottles of alcoholic beverage of your choice
Someone to drive you to the hospital / home stomach-pumping kit

Take a drink every time a new advancement is made within the Nine Caves or the general sphere of Ayla’s notice. If Ayla herself invents something (or utilises something in a freshly practical way) you must drink until the next point that Ayla's dress sense is complimented.

Take a drink for every ptarmigan killed with a sling, two if their fluffy feet get a mention. Alternatively, just keep drinking until you can’t remember how Creb liked the birds prepared.

Take a drink if Ayla adopts an animal, two if someone objects, three if it kills someone, and four if she takes out pet insurance with More Than.

Take three drinks every time Ayla and Jondular share Pleasures. Take another if mention is made of how ‘much’ of him she can take, and have some bar snacks and come back in a bit if it looks like he pleasures her first, then she reciprocates, and then they manage to get each other off simultaneously, all without pause. Have another drink if you think Auel ever had sex, ever. That's a bit mean. Have another drink if you think anyone ever had that sex, ever.

Take a drink every time Jondular’s ‘special affection’ for illegal teens is mentioned.

Have a drink every time Ayla saves a life.

Have a drink for every three pages of description unbroken by dialogue or plot-movement.

Have a celebratory drink if a) Ayla hears about Durc (two if she finds him) b) Ayla hears about her Clan or c) discovers her actual origins.

thanks to trishtrash at livejournal's bookmeme community for this very fun drinking game. I am now all set for the sixth and final book to be released.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

BOOK: Dearly Devoted Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

Hosted by Kerri at Mysteries in Paradise
By Friday of each week you have to write a blog post about crime fiction related to the letter of the week.
Your post MUST be related to either the first letter of a book's title, the first letter of an author's first name, or the first letter of the author's surname.
So you see you have lots of choice.
You could write a review, or a bio of an author, so long as it fits the rules somehow. 

This week we are up to the letter L, and L is for Lindsay, Jeff Lindsay. Lindsay is the author of the serial killer series Dexter. Dexter is also a television series on Showtime starring Michael C Hall.  Jeff Lindsay is the pen name of crime novelist Jeffry P. Freundlich (born July 14, 1952) Many of his earlier published works include his wife Hilary Hemingway as a co-author. His wife is the niece of Ernest Hemingway and an author in her own right. Lindsay was born in Miami and graduated from Ransom Everglades high school in 1970, and from Middlebury College, Vermont, in 1975. (info from wikipedia)

Dearly Devoted Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, 368 pages

Global Reading Challenge: US

What to wear? I could think of no guidelines on what we were wearing this season to a party forced on you to celebrate an unwanted engagement that might turn into a violent confrontation with a vengeful maniac. Clearly brown shoes were out, but beyond that nothing really seemed de rigueur. p263

 It's a scary place inside Dexter's head, but quite funny. It's a dark humor obviously, as a psychopath/sociopath like Dexter can only achieve. He's not quite human, but he recognizes that in himself and he can usually spot a fellow psychopath. It helps him, see, because the only people that Dexter will kill are other serial killers. His dead foster father recognized his 'quality' and taught him how to survive and still feed the Dark Passenger, the name Dexter has for his killing persona.

This is the second in the series, and the serial killer is a  sick, sick killer. So much so that if you are queasy at all, I wouldn't recommend this book. It's such a dichotomy, with the humor and the grossness - I don't think this series is for everyone. I've read that the television series is a bit different, so I think I'm going to try and read the books before I investigate the show. I like the books, and I don't want that ruined yet.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

BOOK: Various Miracles by Carol Shields

Various Miracles by Carol Shields, 201 pages (published in 1985)

Canadian Book Challenge 4

The first of the twenty-one short stories sets the tone for the rest of the book. "Various Miracles" is a series of images of people having small miracles occurring in their lives through out one year. To me they seemed more like coincidences, but then why did Shield use the word miracle? The rest of the stories are read through that veil of miracles for small events.

Most of these stories fall into the category of glimpses, or scenes in the life of a person. Character studies, or 'Scenes'  - "too fragmentary to be stories and far too immediate to be memories....they are what a life is made of, one fitting against the next like English paving-stone." p91 Several stories take the theme of one glimpse and then goes from there. 'Mrs Turner Cuts the Grass' shows all the life behind the old lady cutting the grass, very different from what the neighbours and young girls walking by making their judgments might suspect. Or the reverse as it were, of the man who builds a who life around a flitting glimpse of a life, 'Love So Flitting, Love So Fine', imagining the woman from the sign Wendy is Back! and then falling in love with her.

I was thinking as I read that I like a little bite, a little twist to my short stories (think Shirley Jackson or Stephen King) and that these were a little tame. However, in looking back, some do have a little nibble to them. 'Poaching' is about a couple who pick up hitchhikers, looking to get stories from people, stealing the part of them they unwittingly share. Or in 'Invitations' a lonely woman gets an invitation every day for a week, to increasingly better events. Or in 'Words' where oral speech is seen to contribute to the climate destruction of the world, so what if people stopped talking?

All the stories are quiet but real. The prose is easy to read, and the characters are brought to life so easily and quickly. Definitely for fans of short stories and Carol Shields.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

BOOK: A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle

A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle, 342 pages

Irish Reading Challenge

Beginning in 1901 with the birth of Henry Smart in the slums of Dublin, A Star Called Henry follows the beginnings of the Irish Independence struggle through one homeless child. Homeless child makes Henry sound helpless, and he was far from helpless. At the age of fifteen, he was in the Post Office on Easter Monday in 1916 as part of the IRA and much of his adventures had an unreal quality to them. Historical fiction of a real event told through a fictional character's involvement.

Doyle doesn't use quotation marks for dialogue, which always makes reading more of a challenge to me. He also has a stream of conscience style writing, and, added to Henry's unreal type life, made this a bit of a difficult slog. I liked it in parts, but it was always a bit of a struggle. Every now and then I could get into the story, and follow what happened, but then there would be more fighting or training, and I lost interest. Finally, at around page 230, I said enough, and skimmed the rest. Lots of memorable characters including Missus O'Shea, Henry's teacher, or Granny Nash, Henry's crazy, reading maniac grandmother, along with real life names like Michael Collins and deValera, were only seen through how they affected Henry, so didn't really have any role, other than as characters. No development of them except as interactions with Henry.

Doyle has a characteristic style, so if you appreciate it, you might enjoy this book. (Booker Prize winner 1993 Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha, or The Woman Who Walked Into Doors) With the look at the desperate poverty (reminded me of Angela's Ashes) to the view of the Irish Independence fight this book will appeal to some people. I liked the topic, just not the manner in which it was delivered.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

CHALLENGE: Once Upon a Time V

Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings announced recently:

Five years ago I set out to celebrate my own deep affection for this literature by inviting others to set aside the period of the year that in the Western Hemisphere is known as Spring (March 21st to June 20th) to journey together into the magical lands of fantasy, fairy tales, folklore and mythology.

I'm most likely to complete the Journey (one book at a minimum) for this challenge. Check out Carl's blog for more options, including short stories and films. I'll confess to being more a fan of the creepier challenge, the Readers Imbibing Peril Challenge that Carl hosts in the fall. But there are enough of the whimsical, fairytale/ folklore books I want to read that I decided to join this year as well.

Previous Once Upon a Time Challenges I've completed:
Once Upon a Time 1; Once Upon a Time 2; Once Upon a Time 3   I guess I took last year off!

Some of my favorite books that I've read that fit this challenge or May I Recommend?
Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block (fairy tale)
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (fairy tale)
Motorcycles & Sweetgrass by Drew Hayden Taylor (folklore/mythology)
Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo (fairy tale)
American Gods and Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (folklore)
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli (folklore)
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (fantasy)

Pool of Books: or surely I will read one of these?
The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
Tales of Beetle the Bard by JK Rowling
Anasi Boys by Neil Gaiman
The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde
The Little Book by Seldon Edwards
Enya Burning by Shannon Hale
Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran

Books I Read:
1. Waiting for Gertrude by Bill Richardson
2. The Tales of Beedle the Bard - JK Rowling
3. The Sugar Queen - Sarah Addison Allen
4. The Night Wanderer - Drew Hayden Taylor
5. Pomegranate Soup - Marsha Mehran
6. Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief - Rick Riordan
7. The Little Book - Seldon Edwards
8. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

MEME: It's Tuesday, Where Are You?

Good morning! It's March Break here at an adventure in reading, time to rest, read, and recover from all that learning we've been doing in school. Also, time to clean a bit and plan a birthday party for the almost eight year old. Birthday parties are the height of the social season in the grade two world, and the planning cannot be started early enough, in her mind. We've decided on a Club Penguin theme, so now I need to figure out how to make Puffle cupcakes.

When I get a break from party planning, I am reading and I am in Ireland. It's Easter Monday, 1916 and the Irish Republican Army has just staged their uprising. Told from Henry Smart's point of view, it's a sad time in Ireland as he's been living on his own, on the streets, since he was five. (A Star Called Henry, by Roddy Doyle)

Where is reading taking you today? Leave a comment, write a post, have fun.

Monday, March 21, 2011

BOOK: An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor

An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor, 343 pages

Irish Reading Challenge

It took me a while to get the tone of this book. At first, I thought it would be like the Miss Julia series (Miss Julia Throws a Wedding, Miss Julia Hits the Road), but it wasn't farcical enough. Miss Julia has super broad characters, and often the events become outrageous. That's their charm, since Miss Julia comes off as so prim and proper and she ends up in crazy situations. But Irish Country Doctor isn't like that.

Then I thought the young doctor (Barry) would be more antagonistic to the old doctor (Fingal). That they would be battling the old with the new methods. But no again. Barry is quietly respectful of Fingal, even while disagreeing with him, and Barry is smart enough to realize he has lots to learn. Fingal also sees in Barry a protege, and is smart enough to realize he can learn from the young new doctor. So, Irish Country Doctor isn't like that either.

There are local characters in the book, and it reads more like a LM Montgomery novel set outside Belfast, with the small village, and star crossed lovers, and the lovable main character who finds ways to make it all turn out well in the end. Everyone happy, except the 'bad guy', who gets his comeuppance. So that's what An Irish Country Doctor is like, and  no wonder I enjoyed the book - it reminded me of LM Montgomery and her village stories of interconnected people. And like Montgomery, Taylor keeps writing, so there are more in the series: An Irish Country Village, An Irish Country Christmas, An Irish Country Girl, and An Irish Country Courtship. Lots to look forward to.

also reviewed: beachreader, nan at letters from a hill farm,Nancy Horner (bookfool) reviewed for Estella's Revenge, Lynne at Lynne's Little Corner of the World,

Sunday, March 20, 2011

BOOK: Murder on the Ballarat Train by Kerry Greenwood

Hosted by Kerri at Mysteries in Paradise
By Friday of each week you have to write a blog post about crime fiction related to the letter of the week.
Your post MUST be related to either the first letter of a book's title, the first letter of an author's first name, or the first letter of the author's surname.
So you see you have lots of choice.
You could write a review, or a bio of an author, so long as it fits the rules somehow. 

The letter of the week this week is K. K is for Kerry Greenwood.
Kerry writes the delightful historical mystery series starring Phyrne Fisher. Kerry lives in Melbourne Australia and is a solicitor. She has written tons of books, most notably the Phyrne Fisher mysteries. She won the Ned Kelly award for lifetime contribution for crime fiction. She also writes science-fiction and historical mysteries. More K reviews can be found here.

Murder on the Ballarat Train by Kerry Greenwood, 152 pages

Australian Author Challenge; book 3 of 18 in the series.

Short, snappy, flappers in Australia. Phryne Fisher is the coolest detective ever. She's got loads of money, and she does what she wants. Period. Cute young guy? Good for a romp in the hay, on her terms. Orphan girl found wandering on a train with amnesia? Take her home, adopt her, and send her to university, as all smart girls should have an education. Phryne takes in orphans and strays and kittens and lovers. Plus, she dresses well, enjoys a warm soothing bath, and insists on tea and drinks to warm the spirit.

The actual mystery? The first class section of the train has been chloroformed, and one lady is missing. It's like a classic Agatha Christie with the murder on the train. Phyrne saves everyone on the train, and is hired to solve the mystery of the murder. She works with the police (cute Detective Robinson who is quite fond of Phyrne) and helps everyone. These  mysteries are fun, and elegant, and full of 1920s and 30s flappers. Nothing too complicated, but loads of fun. Plus, I love the covers.

Next up in the series: Death at Victoria Dock.

Friday, March 18, 2011

BOOK: In the Woods by Tana French

In the Woods by Tana French, 592 pages

Irish Reading Challenge; Mystery and Suspense Challenge

When Detective Rob Ryan and his partner Cassie Maddox begin their new case, old memories surface for Rob. He was the lone survivor from an incident when he was twelve, and his two friends disappeared in the woods and never found. Now another twelve year old has been murdered and left in the same woods. However, sixteen years have passed and there is very little in common with the murders.

Ryan narrates the story, and in one of the first paragraph, he states that he lies. I think he means in his context as a police officer, because he makes a point of saying his partner never lies. Omits truth perhaps, but not lies. I enjoy a story when it is clear from the start that the narrator may be unreliable. Ryan spends much of the book detailing his and Cassie's partnership, an unique arrangement of very deep friendship. He also begins getting some memories of his time as a child, when his two friends disappeared.

The mystery was excellent and I liked the characters. It was a long book, and could have been a bit shorter - Ryan rambles and takes forever to get anywhere in his current mystery. French tells a great tale though, and I was swept up in the mystery. Also,  I can very seldom determine who the murderer was, so I was quite surprised at how it turned out. I was a bit disappointed in the vagueness of part of the ending, but knowing that there are more books in this series, starring Cassie Maddox I believe, that hopefully, it's a long term mystery. One of the mysteries ends very satisfactorily, however, so I would read another book. I liked spending time in modern day Dublin.

also reviewed: eva at striped armchair; karen e olson;  bybee at naked without books!; rhapsodyinbooks at her  in books weblog;

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

BOOK: Just in Case by Meg Rosoff

Just in Case by Meg Rosoff, 243 pages

Book Awards Challenge V: Carnegie Medal 2007

Justin dried his neck and ruffled his damp hair with a tear-off paper towel. He felt cleaner than he'd felt in his entire life. A pound's worth of soap and hot water was all it took to cleanse the grime from his soul, remove the sludge from his brain and reveal the face behind the mask. p97

David, who later changes his name, saves his toddler brother from an accident, and recognizing his mortality, thinks fate is out to get him. Oh, sixteen year olds and your awakening awareness! Justin begins to be very scared of fate, who does some narrating, a la The Book Thief's death narrator. Rosoff, who wrote the delightful How I Live Now, writes so smart. She doesn't spell everything out, she trusts in the intelligence of her young adult readers. I was charmed, especially in the beginning. The toddler brother was one of my favorite characters, and I particularly loved Rosoff's take of what goes on in a child's mind.

I loved the beginning. It started very strong, and was when I realized Rosoff's strength - her respect for her readers to read between the lines and make their own conclusion. Great set-up to the story.

I got a bit confused in the middle part of the book. It seemed to drag on, as Justin fights his desire to live carefully with his want to live normally. However, I was also very tired that week, and reading in fits and starts. I think this book demanded a bit more of me which I did not have to give. Even within my confusion, I recognize that this is great writing, and an intelligent read. There are layers in this story (is Justin just doing the usual young adult questioning his place in the world and hearing fate, or is he actually hearing voices?), tons of great characters. People make mistakes, they are flawed, and they have different motives than we project on them.

The end was great however, and I was pleased. Rosoff is an author that's a keeper. I like her style.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

BOOK: Blue Shoes and Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith

Blue Shoes and Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith, 256 pages

book 7 of 12 in series; Mystery and Suspense Challenge

Even less of a mystery in this book, just some situations that need dealing with, but Precious deals with them, and has some tea, in her usual style. The pace of life, and the book, is so slow, that it feels meditative. Such a wonderful read! Yes, this will be the year I get caught up in this series.

Mma Ramotswe is beginning to think her traditional build, of which she is so proud, is perhaps becoming too traditional, so she contemplates a diet.  Did Grace Makutsi ruin her marriage chances by admitting she's a feminist? Will Mr Polopetsi overstep his ground by taking initiative? Will the apprentices ever learn?