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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Weekly Geeks 1: Discover New Blogs

Heh.
Another challenge/meme/insanity inducing blog project. Why not? I mean, apart from the two reading challenges, the books waiting to be read, the projects to be stitched, the baby to raise, the work to be done .... why not indeed?
Anyway. The first challenge is this:
1. Look through the list of blogs on the Mr Linky below and see if you can find five that are new to you. If you can’t, find as many new blogs as possible and then some you don’t read super regularly.

2. Visit those new blogs. A comment would be nice; people like comments.

3. When you’re ready, at some point by Friday if you want to be included in the blurbs next week, write a post in your blog featuring those new blogs you visited.

4. Don’t forget to come back here and leave a link to your post, so that I can get it into the blurbs!

Easy, right? Although .... what sucks up MORE time than visiting blogs? Heh.
Right. Off we go ...

1) http://tanabata.blogspot.com/
2) http://leafingthroughlife.blogspot.com/
3) http://first-thefood.blogspot.com/
4) http://passionforthepage.blogspot.com/
5) http://tinyreadingroom.blogspot.com/

All great blogs. I don't have time to go into their individual great points, because my dinner will burn and the baby will get a hold of a cat.
Great reads, though. :)

Mort: Review


Mort by Terry Pratchett
Once Upon a Time II challenge.



Mort is the fourth book in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, which I’m compulsively trying to read in the order they were published.
I only started reading the Discworld novels last year, so it’s going to take me a while to get through all of them.
And, I have to say, I love the Discworld. I really do. I’d like to live there. Maybe not in Ankh-Morpork, but in some out-of-the-way corner maybe.
Anyway.
Mort is an awkward, gangly teenager, seemingly oversupplied with knees and elbows. So, of course, he’s the perfect apprentice for Death.
But it’s not very long before things start to go a bit astray. Death takes a job as a cook, and Mort shows a worrying tendency to TALK IN CAPITALS.
It’s a fast, funny ride through the Discworld, and the afterlife as Mort – and Death – sort themselves out after Mort commits the crucial error of saving the life of the person whose soul he was supposed to be collecting.

American Gods: Review

American Gods by Neil Gaiman
I know the year isn’t half over yet, but so far this is my favourite book of the year.
It’s just one of those books that seems to hit on all levels when you’re reading it and I loved it.
Shadow, who is about to be released from prison, finds out that his wife Laura has just died. Directionless and grieving, he takes a job with the mysterious Mr Wednesday.
Soon, Shadow discovers that things are definitely not as they seem, as he finds out that Wednesday is really Odin, the All-Father of Norse mythology, and war is coming.
The old gods – who travelled to America in the minds of settlers over thousands of years _ have been abandoned in the new country of America, and they’re at war with the new – technology, TV and the internet.
On one level, American Gods is a road trip through a very strange country. For Shadow, it’s mostly a welcoming one, although he doesn’t understand large parts of it.
On another level, American Gods is about the tug-of-war going on between the old and the new; as the old gods battle to keep their place in the face of the new gods of technology and consumerism. But mostly American Gods is about Shadow – its his journey that we’re on, from the moment he leaves prison right through to the end.
And a long, strange and wonderful journey it is.


Also reviewed here:
http://readingandmorereading.blogspot.com/2008/02/american-gods-by-neil-gaiman.html

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Meme - What's on Page 123?

I've been tagged by http://paula-greatstories.blogspot.com/



1. Pick up the nearest book.

2. Open to page 123

3. Find the fifth sentence.

4. Post the next three sentences.

5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

Okay, the nearest book is American Gods by Neil Gaiman
On page 123 ....
The fifth sentence is ... "... You got my card?"
And the next three sentences:
"Yes sir.
"You hang on to it," said Andy Haddock.


Tag five people ... h'm ... I have a feeling I came to this a little bit late, so anyone who reads; feel free to pinch it and pass it on. :)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Booking Through Thursday

Well, here where I live, Spring is sprung–weeks early, even. Our lilac bush looks like it will have flowers by this time next week instead of in the middle of May as usual. The dogwood trees, the magnolia trees–all the flowering trees are flowering. The daffodils and crocuses are, if anything, starting to fade. It may only be April 24th but it is very definitely Spring and, allergies notwithstanding, I’m happy to welcome the change of season.

What I want to know, is:
Do your reading habits change in the Spring? Do you read gardening books? Even if you don’t have a garden? More light fiction than during the Winter? Less? Travel books? Light paperbacks you can stick in a knapsack?
Or do you pretty much read the same kinds of things in the Spring as you do the rest of the year?

Hmm ... well, it's heading into winter here, so let me think ... I don't think I do read seasonally. I certainly don't read gardening books, regardless of the season. Possibly during summer I gravitate more towards light reading, as sunny days are conducive to books that don't make you think too deeply. Otherwise, as always, it's whatever catches my fancy at the time. :)

Losing yet more of my mind



So I've lost my mind, and joined two reading challenges. Once Upon A Time II; and this one hosted at http://bottle-of-shine.livejournal.com/273294.html?mode=reply (Plus I love the name of the challenge .. heh)
The explanation of the challenge is very simple, but it's 2am here and it's all in the link :)

My list of favourites:


The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Stand by Stephen King

The Source by James Michener

Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie

The Court of the Midnight King by Freda Warrington

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

Momo by Michael Ende

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell



Books I plan to read (I'm dithering over what too choose, although the plan is to certainly only read three):
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Mort by Terry Pratchett (a handy crossover with the Once Upon a Time II challenge) _ Mort is out of this challenge, because I've read it already!
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Season of the Witch by Natasha Mostert
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer


Wheeeeeeeee ... or the sound of me losing my mind


After some resistance, I've decided to join a reading challenges. Oh. And another reading challenge ...
Because I don't have enough to do already.



One is the Once Upon a Time II challenge hosted here http://www.stainlesssteeldroppings.com/?p=863 and I've dithered for so long, that there's only a couple of months to go. But I can combine it with my June classic, which happens to be The Once and Future King, by T H White.
So here's my list:
The Once and Future King by T H White
Heir to the Shadows by Anne Bishop
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
Mort by Terry Pratchett
Someplace to be Flying by Charles de Lint
I've decided to do Quest the Third, which entails reading five books from any or all of these: fantasy, folklore, fairytales and mythology. I'm fairly well covered, I think.
The quest is supposed to end on June 20 with a reading of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. However, since I live in New Zealand, it won't be midsummer. So I'm going to read The Tempest _ it's in keeping with the theme, and it's about change. Heading into midwinter here; we have faith that things will change and get better. So I think (I hope) The Tempest is a good fit. :)


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Lolita

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
April’s classic novel; although The Old Curiosity Shop is sitting on my bedside table like a neglected middle child. Ah, well, I only feel slightly guilty about that.

Reading Lolita, however …. I’m simultaneously seduced by the language and horrified by the content, if that makes sense. I want to soak in Nabakov’s words at the same time as I feel the urge to scrub myself down in a scalding hot bath with a bristle brush and lye soap.

So as I’m reading it, I’m completely torn.

I’m also noticing, with this year of classics, that my reading slows down. I’m racing through almost everything else on my reading list, but the classics … I’m slowing down and savouring the words more. It’s a bit like taking a deep breath in the middle of a really busy day – you only slow down for a minute, but sometimes, that’s enough.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Booking Through Thursday

Suggested by Nithin:
I’ve always wondered what other people do when they come across a word/phrase that they’ve never heard before. I mean, do they jot it down on paper so they can look it up later, or do they stop reading to look it up on the dictionary/google it or do they just continue reading and forget about the word?


I think the only word I've ever come across that I was unfamiliar with, was this: Suppiluliumas I, King of the Hittites, who ruled about 1358 BC1323 BC. His name pops up in reference to Nefertiti sometimes, as she was rumoured to have sent letters, begging for his help after her husband died.
I have an on-and-off fascination with Ancient Egypt, which is how I ran into Suppiluliumas in the first place. Almost literally, as that word stops me every time I see it; and I can't help trying to pronounce it out loud. I've always been so good with vocabulary, that I can't quite believe there's a word out there that can get the better of me.
But I just cannot get my tongue around Suppiluliumas. No matter how many times I say it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Hey, look!

Some books! Or what I've read lately:

Duma Key by Stephen King

In his other life, as he calls it, Edgar Freemantle was a successful building contractor. However, a serious accident that left him with one arm, a bad hip and a jittery memory for words.
Alone after his wife divorces him, and hurting from more than the accident, Edgar rents a house on Duma Key; a mysterious and overgrown Florida Key.
There, he finds his passion for art again, starts to make new friends and begins to remake his life.
This, however, is Stephen King. So it’s not your standard remake yourself story. Far from it and it’s not long before Edgar and his new friends are caught up in something big, and supernatural.
The good thing about reading King (apart from Insomnia for me, which I couldn’t finish) is the easy way he tells a story; whether he’s describing Edgar’s interaction with the younger of his two daughters, or the supernatural frenzy in which Edgar paints.
All aspects of the story are compelling at the same level as the strands of past and present are brought together, and Edgar and co find themselves confronting an ancient evil.
The story is interspersed with vignettes from the early life of Elizabeth Eastlake, now an ailing octogenarian, and instructions on how to paint. The vignettes are telling, and almost as compelling, as the main story of Duma Key unfolding.


This Charming Man by Marian Keyes

Paddy de Courcy – personable, charming and one of the up and coming faces of Irish politics, has just announced his engagement.
This news affects four different women in four very different ways.
There’s Lola, for one, who thought she was Paddy’s girlfriend _ until he announces his engagement to someone else. Then there are sisters Grace, and Marnie who remember Paddy for different reasons, and Alicia – the soon to be Mrs de Courcy.
Paddy de Courcy is hiding a very dark secret – one that all four women are a party to; and not just them.
Keyes has a storyteller’s knack with her writing; opening up a dark thread throughout what are some light-hearted on the surface tales.
Very readable.


Mister B. Gone by Clive Barker

The Mister B. Gone of the title is the demon Jakobok Botch, dragged up from Hell against his will. He escapes his captors and proceeds _ along with fellow demon Quitoon _ to wreak havoc on 14th century Europe.
What’s unique about Mister B. Gone is that the narration isn’t just in the first person; he talks directly to the reader and keeps exhorting them to “burn this book”.
Barker’s narration is so vivid, I found myself turning around a couple of times to make sure the demon wasn’t behind me.
Short, but chilling.

A Sandwich Short of a Picnic by Felicity Price
Penny Rushmore belongs to the “sandwich generation” – men and women caught between caring for their growing families and their ailing parents.
Penny also works fulltime and has just lost her husband to that most middle-aged of clich├ęs: the younger woman.
However, when Penny finds a lump in her breast, she’s forced to take a step bac.
Sandwich is a fast, funny read, although much of it is on the surface.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Booking Through Thursday

This week's question:
Pick up the nearest book. (I’m sure you must have one nearby.)
Turn to page 123.
What is the first sentence on the page?
The last sentence on the page?
Now . . . connect them together….(And no, you may not transcribe the entire page of the book–that’s cheating!)


The book I have at hand is Mister B. Gone by Clive Barker.
The first sentence on page 123 is:
I will tell you one more tale to earn myself that fire.
The last sentence is (actually last two sentences as it has an aside):
"Is that your idea of a life, Jakobok?" (He only called me Jakobok when he was spoiling for an argument; when feeling fond [on to page 124] he called me Mister B."

I'm not sure, to be honest, what is meant by "connect them together". By explaining their context? The demon, Jakobok Botch (Mister B.) is fighting with his fellow demon/friend Quitoon, about where on Earth _ in the 15th century _ they should go next to cause mayhem. The first sentence relates to Mister B. exhorting the reader to burn the very book they are reading, which he does periodically throughout the book. The last refers to Quitoon's desire to move on, and Jakobok's desire to stay put. So the connecting thread between the first sentence, and the last, would be conflict. :)

Okay. Let's try this one again. That'll teach me to do the BTT posts at midnight!
First line:
I will tell you one more tale to earn myself that fire.
What more do I have to do to convince you? I have told you of the horrors I have inflicted. And yet you keep reading. Do you not care? Are you also some kind of a monster? You must be, to still be reading this book. How many times already have I asked you to burn it and yet you keep reading?
Fine. Then what happens next, is your fault, and not mine.
Don't say I didn't warn you.
Quitoon and I had been together for a long time. And I was content, in our little house in the woods.
"Is that your idea of a life, Jakobok?" (He only called me Jakobok when he was spoiling for an argument; when feeling fond [on to page 124] he called me Mister B."

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Musing, and a meme

Both pinched from http://breathlessmind.blogspot.com/

Jennifer linked to this article in the UK Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2008/04/06/nosplit/sv_classics06.xml

And it got me thinking (dangerous business):

The UK Telegraph has produced a list of what it believes is the 110 books that would make up the “perfect library.”

Like all lists of “bests” this is extremely subjective. And, like all lists of “bests” it has attracted its fair share of “but what about …” comments. And fair enough, a lot of books have been left out. If, that is, you believe there is any such thing as the “perfect” library.

Which, of course, there is not. For one thing, it introduces the idea of stasis: once you have these 110 books, then surely you will need no more. To which any self-respecting reader will reply: “bollocks!”


There are far too many books in the world already _ and too many to come _ to declare any list of books “perfect.” If that were true, all of us bibliophiles would need never pick up another book again. Can you imagine?

And, as many of the comments point out, it’s a very Eurocentric list. I’m sure I’m not the only non-Brit who thought “hey, where’s (insert favourite local /most famous author here)” as I scanned the list, while at the same time absently counting how many of those books I actually had read. Nineteen.



I’m sure all of these books would enhance anyone’s personal library. As for being the ultimate list … there’s no such thing.

On to the meme!

1. A book that made you cry: The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks.

2. A book that scared you: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

3. A book that made you laugh: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

4. A book that disgusted you: The Informers by Bret Easton Ellis

5. A book you loved in elementary school: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgkins Burnett

6. A book you loved in middle school: The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien

7. A book you loved in high school: Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien

8. A book you hated in high school: The Great Gatsby maybe?

9. A book you loved in college: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

10. A book that challenged your identity or your faith: I'm far to egocentric for that to happen.

11. A series that you love: It's a new love to me, but the Discworld novels.

12. Your favourite horror book: The Stand by Stephen King

13. Your favourite science-fiction book: I don't read a lot of sci-fi, but I love Peter F Hamilton, even though I've only read three of his books. So those three.

14. Your favourite fantasy book: Magician by Raymond E Feist

15. Your favourite mystery book: One of Dame Agatha Christie's. Doesn't matter which one.

16. Your favourite biography: Oscar Wilde, by Richard Ellman

17. Your favourite coming-of-age book: Not a big fan of coming-of-age stories really. Uhm ... The Dark is Rising?

18. Your favourite book not on this list: The Wind in the Willows

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Defeated by Dickens

I'm not even halfway through The Old Curiosity Shop, and I'm not sure I'll get it finished at all. Part of me finds it fascinating, part of me wants to throw the book across the room. I had a feeling, that of all 12 of my classic novels for this year, I'd have the hardest time with Dickens _ mostly because I still harbour hard feelings towards Great Expectations. But, I felt I had to try.

I'm not taking it off the reading list, but I'm moving on to Lolita by Nabakov. I figure if I can get through Pale Fire (which I read at university and it made me want to find where Nabakov is buried, dig him up and punch him), then I should be able to manage Lolita.

So, for now, Little Nell and her grandfather will have to stay on the road. I have a feeling it's not going to end well anyway ....

Friday, April 4, 2008

Belladonna: Review

Belladonna by Anne Bishop

Book two of the duology that began with Sebastian. Glorianna Belladonna, the uber-Landscaper, is on the trail of the Eater of the World; an evil released by very bad people.
She’s the only one with the power to stop It, but even Belladonna needs help.
Enter Michael, and his sister Caitlin Marie from a part of the world that dismisses Landscapers as sorcerers. Because Michael and Caitlin are out of tune with the world around them; they’ve never really had things easy.
Then they meet Belladonna and things get very interesting, very fast.
Sebastian, the main character from book one is here as a support player, as are most of the other characters.
This story, however, belongs to Belladonna, Michael, Caitlin and _ to a certain extent _ Lee; Belladonna’s brother and Bridge between her Landscapes.
The world here is complicated, and I’m still not sure I entirely know how the whole thing works, but Bishop’s writing is good enough to carry you over any such concerns.
I think this is a better book than Sebastian; possibly because there’s not quite so much focus on romance, and more on the coming conflict.
It makes a refreshing change, having a fantasy series that’s not 80 books long, but I think there would be enough here for a trilogy, as sometimes things _ especially the world building _ feel a little rushed.
Well worth reading.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Booking Through Thursday

It's that time again ...
When somebody mentions “literature,” what’s the first thing you think of? (Dickens? Tolstoy? Shakespeare?) Um. My Modernist Fiction lecture at university. Seriously. Or poncy, incomprehensible novels that everyone pretends to have read and enjoyed but really hated _ or didn't read at all, because they made their ears bleed.


Do you read “literature” (however you define it) for pleasure? Or is it something that you read only when you must? If we're talking poncy novels, then no. I don't categorise what I read for pleasure by that standard. All a book has to have to hook me, is a good, readable story. Also, I'm a bit of an eclectic reader. Right now, my reading list consists of Duma Key by Stephen King, Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens and Mister B Gone by Clive Barker. So I don't read literature on purpose. Not at all, if I can help it.