Sunday, September 28, 2008
I was cross-eyed tired last night, so instead of The Vintner's Luck I turned to an old favourite, Agatha Christie, to see me off to dreamland. I anticipate I'll finish that this week, too.
Then what, I hear the masses cry out, biting their nails at the thought of being left in suspense. I'm not entirely sure. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte is October's classic novel, so I will hopefully start that this week.
I've re-sorted my library and book review books, and some have been put on the backburner for the time being. Also, some were due back at the library that I hadn't already started reading, so they went back on Friday.
Hmmm ... I have a couple of Star Trek: Voyager novels that I got out of the library last time, and they may be calling, after A Moveable Feast and The Vintner's Luck back-to-back. Something light, like my Christies, but something I haven't already read 100 times. I think that's what the book doctor ordered.
Have a great week everyone, full of rainbows and puppies, if that's your thing. Or you know, barbed wire and large rats, if that's what fries your onions. :)
Saturday, September 27, 2008
This week, your WG theme is to list your top books published in 2008.
1. Compile your list of favorites. Please be sure that books you choose actually were published in 2008, or at the very earliest in the winter holiday season of 2007. Sometimes books that come out then are left out.
2. Come back and sign Mr Linky with the url to your top books of 2008 post.
Hmmm. I've gone through my read-this-year list, and I've only read seven books so far, that were published in 2008. So here they all are, ranked from 1-7. Number one being my favourite so far :)
1): Un Lun Dun _ hands down, one of my favourite reads.
2): Duma Key _ classic King; very creepy.
3): Certain Girls _ very, very good sequel to Jennifer Weiner's novel, Good in Bed
4): Odd Hours _ fourth book in the Odd Thomas series. Not the strongest entry in the series, but I do love Odd Thomas. :)
5): The Beach House _ light, readable fluff from Jane Green.
6): This Charming Man _ Marian Keyes' latest novel. Not my absolute favourite of hers, but still very readable.
7): Sail _ pretty standard James Patterson. Fast-moving and fun to read. :)
So I'm going to bed with an old favourite: Evil Under the Sun, by Agatha Christie, which won't be quite so taxing on my poor brain and nerve cells. Not that The Vintner's Luck is taxing as such, it's just very ... wrought.
Also daylight saving starts? ends? the springing forward one tonight and I hate daylight saving with the passion of a thousand fiery suns. All the clocks have been put forward, now all that remains is a week or so of my "I hate daylight savings!!!" outbursts. Then I'll forget all about it.
I did update my non-book blog. By which I mean, I made a token post. I'd like to post over there more, but my head is still up my ... uh, nevermind. I'd like to be in a happier frame of mind. But practice makes blog posts, so I will make an effort.
I'll do a reading week post tomorrow or Monday; I'll see how I'm feeling.
Sunshine, lollipops and fluffy kittens. :)
Thursday, September 25, 2008
What was the most unusual (for you) book you ever read? Either because the book itself was completely from out in left field somewhere, or was a genre you never read, or was the only book available on a long flight… whatever? What (not counting school textbooks, though literature read for classes counts) was furthest outside your usual comfort zone/familiar territory?
And, did you like it? Did it stretch your boundaries? Did you shut it with a shudder the instant you were done? Did it make you think? Have nightmares? Kick off a new obsession?
The most unusual book I have ever read (and I believe I've mentioned it here before) is Pale Fire, by Nabokov. It was part of my Modernist Fiction course in my last year at university and I remember almost none of it. Except that it was painful to read. It's a novel, told in poetry, that's a whodunit. The narrator is untrustworthy at best and, according to our lecturer there was a big payoff at the end. The only payoff I got was from finishing the damn thing!
So. Um. It's Pale Fire. :)
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
The Vintner's Luck is about a 19th-century French winemaker, Sobran, who meets an angel Xas one night. Man and angel agree to meet once a year and eventually fall in love (so says the synopsis _ I haven't made it to that part yet.) So far so good.
One of the reasons I haven't had much reading time is the books cupboard at work. I work at a newspaper, as you know, and we regularly get review copies in. The guy who was taking care of them is leaving (one of the ones cast out in the redundancy round, but he's ready to retire anyway, and is happy about going) so one of my workmates and I volunteered ourselves to take care of the books (heh).
So I've had a couple of extra-late nights this week as we sort through the cupboard, weeding out those books that are too old to review, too obscure to be interesting and generally having a bit of a spring clean. But ... I get to play with books! (Heh).
I promised myself as part of the Weekly Geeks that I'd update my other blog too. So I'm going to do that now. :)
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Anyway. That's off the subject.
A Moveable Feast was written by Hemingway in the late 1950s, near the end of his life. He was reflecting on his time in Paris from 1921-1926, when there was a large ex-pat community of American writers and artist living there.
He talks about the people he meets, and describes Paris in the spring and the winter, and the writing is so vivid, it feels as though he's sitting next to you, describing all of these things. He's reminiscing, and it's just wonderful.
He talks about people like Gertrude Stein, and Ezra Pound, and F Scott Fitzgerald _ people he became friends with during his time there. Hemingway talks about most of them with great affection, and puzzlement sometimes; especially in the case of Stein with whom he apparently had a falling out. He had a lot of affection for Pound and determined to do all he can for Fitzgerald after he read The Great Gatsby _ and worked out that Zelda Fitzgerald was insane.
It's not just the people Hemingway describes so vividly _ there's also Paris of the 1920s, and the food, and his writing and ... A Moveable Feast isn't a long book, at about 160 pages, but there is a lot of detail which, in my mind, is a testament to Hemingway's writing skills (although, so far, this is the only book of his I've read).
Read it. But you can't have my copy. :)
Sunday, September 21, 2008
By tomorrow (Monday) I should have finished A Moveable Feast and hopefully I'll post a review about it tomorrow night.
But I'm loving it. LOVING it!!!! I want to carry it with me everywhere, and stick it under people's noses and say "have you read this? you should read this".
After that _ I'm going to read The Vintner's Luck, I think. I talked about it last week, then completely forgot. Plus, it's due back at the library soon. Then I think I'll read Book 1 of The Knife of Never Letting Go.
Let's hope this reading week is better than last week's!
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Also, blogging. I've let that slip too, apart from posting my quotes for the last Weekly Geek.
So, for this week, I'm going to catch up on my reading. I'll finish A Moveable Feast, and post a review at the end of the week, and start ... something else.
The possibilities are:
The Knife of Never Letting Go Book 1 by Patrick Ness
Up Till Now by William Shatner
Maybe Inkeart by Cornelia Funke, which I've had for ages and not read.
And ... lots of others.
As for blogging _ I need to try and keep up here, and post at my non-book blog, http://zooblife.blogspot.com/ which is where (accidentally) I seem to be recording Patrick's milestones. Better than not doing it, but I do get behind.
Reading. Blogging. Oh, and maybe a review or two. That's my catch-up week. :)
Friday, September 19, 2008
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Artists in Crime was just so slow! The middle part seemed to really drag and there were a couple of continuity issues that really bugged me:
In one part, Inspector Alleyn asks what the time is, and is told it's after midnight; about 12.20am. Then, a few short paragraphs later, someone mentions that it's after 11.
In another scene, one of the minor policeman characters was there, then he'd gone to do a job, then someone asked him a question (not mentioning whether he'd come back) then Alleyn said they'd better see how he was getting on.
It really brought my enjoyment level down, which wasn't particularly high to begin with. It probably didn't help that I seemed to have less reading time last week _ I worked two 12pm-8pm shifts, which really isn't conducive for doing anything and I read very little those two nights. But I made a concerted effort yesterday and finished it. The book did get better towards the end _ it picked up as they came closer to finding out whodunit, and apparently it's of interest because it's in this book that Inspector Alleyn meets his wife.
I'd like to read more of Ngaio Marsh's books, but I think next time, I'll pick up one of the later ones.
Now, the reading for this week is (finally) A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, my classic for September. I started it today, and so far I'm loving it. It's so descriptive, and evocative. And it makes me want to time-travel to Paris in the 1920s.
I'm also hoping to start ... maybe The Vintner's Luck, by Elizabeth Knox. We'll see. :)
"The smallest feline is a masterpiece."- Leonardo da Vinci
To illustrate: Merlin the tabby as a kitten:
He must have been about eight weeks old in this photo _ so it's not long afer we got him.
He's about three years old now, and he's the cat in my avatar thingy. :)
Friday, September 12, 2008
I've decided to keep things (relatively) simple and go with cat-related quotes. And there will be cat pix all week, so ... enjoy!
Twas Galahad at Blandings, by P G Wodehouse that tipped my numbers. I had a gallstone attack last Saturday so was reading for a bit to try and distract myself from the pain (oh ... the pain!!!!). Then I counted, and the magic number came up.
It'd be nice to think I could hit the big 1-00, but I don't think that's going to happen. For one thing, I've slowed down a bit, for another _ it's September already!
Here's the list to date: (In order of remembering, rather than order of reading)
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Antony and Cleopatra by Colleen McCullough
The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett
The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz
Beowulf by Caitlin Kiernan
The Reading Group by Elizabeth Noble
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Storm Front: Book 1 of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist Wife by Irene Spencer
Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
Nefertiti by Michelle Moran
Blood is the New Black
Star Trek: Resistance
Star Trek: Q & A
CSI: Sin City
Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop
Belladonna by Anne Bishop
This Charming Man by Marian Keyes
Duma Key by Stephen King
Mister B. Gone by Clive Barker
A Sandwich Short of a Picnic by Felicity Price
Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Mort by Terry Pratchett
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Heir to the Shadows by Anne Bishop
Queen of the Darkness by Anne Bishop
Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie
1984 by George Orwell
Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner
Momo by Michael Ende
Once Upon a Time in the North by Philip Pullman
Un Lun Dun by China Mieville
Odd Hours by Dean Koontz
On, Off by Colleen McCullough
The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Melusine by Sarah Monette
Red Dwarf by Grant Naylor
Sourcery by Terry Pratchett
Sparkling Cyanide by Agatha Christie
Sail by James Patterson and Howard Roughan
Six Pack Two Various
Six Pack Three Various
Beach House by Jane Green
Space by James Michener
Galahad at Blandings by P G Wodehouse
Monday, September 8, 2008
My partner was Joanne at http://bookzombie.blogspot.com/
I interviewed her about The Gargoyle, by Andrew Davidson, and she interviewed me about Space by James Michener.
I had seen some information about this book on the Random House/DoubleDay website and was really interested so when I had the chance to grab an ARC took it.
For me this book was impossible to put down, but at the same time, I took my time reading in order to draw out my enjoyment. While reading it was nice to set it aside every once in awhile just to contemplate where the entwining stories were taking you and how they could possibly relate.
Initially I picked it up for the love story aspect. Amazon describes it as "An extraordinary debut novel of love that survives the fires of hell and transcends the boundaries of time." That quote really got my attention as I love a good love story, but have grown tired of the massive amounts of predictable chick-lit available. I wanted more than just "boy meets girl" romance, I wanted a love story that made you feel something and The Gargoyle was perfect.
The editorial description on Amazon makes The Gargoyle sound like a fantastic, Gothic love story. Would this be accurate?
Was The Gargoyle fantastic? In my opinion, yes, it was probably my top read this year. The true definition of a Gothic love story is a story that combines romance and horror, so The Gargoyle fits this to a tee. But it is so much more than this, it explores almost every facet of what makes us human – honour, redemption, personal beliefs, salvation, self-image, the mystery of the soul and the human desire to live and love.
How is the love story between the main characters handled? Is it convincing? Is there a strong sense of emotional truth?
First off, I just need to clarify that I am a total cynic when it comes to love stories. More often than not, I am harrumphing through a romance saying to myself "oh please, like that would ever happen", I despise sappy chick-flicks and a lot of romantic chick-lit turns my stomach. For a love story to work for me it needs to be real, it needs to show the true emotional pain involved with being loved and loving. I want to truly feel that two people live and would die for one another and that they have a connection in soul, not just body. With that said, The Gargoyle was a completely convincing love story for me. The characters knew their love for one another was about more than just getting married, having sex and growing old together. Their emotions were always very believable even when they hated one another.
Although the stories in the novel are fascinating, the characters are what truly bring this book to life. The narrator – unnamed throughout the entire novel – is at first not so likeable. He is a drug-addicted pornographic filmmaker, who crashed his car while drinking and driving. When first introduced he is in a burn unit recovering from extreme burns to his entire body, which of course, makes him not very friendly, happy, courteous or vaguely appealing. Marianne is the leading lady who brings out the best side of the narrator. Marianne herself is an intensely attractive character from the beginning when she saunters into the burn unit like the crazy lady she is (or at least she may be crazy). It is her involvement with the narrator that begins a very complex labyrinth of character development for them both. By the end of the novel, I felt as though I would do anything to see them find happiness, love or peace.
The Gargoyle is structured in such a way that all of the secondary players are actually characters from stories that Marianne is telling the narrator while he is recuperating. The main story is Marianne's which takes place in a convent in the 1300's. The other four tales she tells all involve certain characters experiences with love; a Japanese glass blowers, an Italian ironworker, an English farmer and a Viking boat woodworker/painter. Astoundingly, these characters are very well developed and original. They appear as strong and pertinent to the story as Marianne and the narrator.
I've only read The English Patient, and the only comparison that I feel relevant is that they both concern burn victims and their recuperations. I found the book my thoughts stray to most while reading The Gargoyle was Dante's Inferno by Dante Dante Alighieri. The narrator is on a journey where he must travel his own personal hell, while facing many demons along the way. I think many of the ideas the narrator of The Gargoyle explores are similar to ones seen in Dante's Inferno.
I usually don't pay much attention to comparisons between novels or authors. It's like saying that an apple is comparable to an orange. Yes, they are both fruits, round, and have peels...but the differences far outweigh the similarities in my mind. Every author interprets ideas and writes stories differently so all books have their own original flavour (or at least I like to think so).
When I closed the book at the end, I knew immediately that this would be a favourite of mine. I was completely drawn into the story and at times felt emotions as the characters experienced them. It definitely stayed with me for awhile and I was looking for a follow-up read that was light and easy because my thoughts were drifting back to The Gargoyle.
The Gargoyle was one of the best debut novels I have read and I eagerly await more writing from this author, although I do feel that it will be hard to outdo this novel.
It is extremely atmospheric, but not in a haunted house scary way or in a way that can be escaped by reading with all the lights on. The Gargoyle explores the darker side of humanity and how to seek salvation in a way that will not leave your soul empty, so this can invoke thoughts that can be creepy even if you're reading it on a tropical beach while drinking a martini.
I will say that personally the descriptions of treatments that the narrator goes through while in the burn unit terrified me and made my skin crawl. They are graphic in description and quite accurate medically, but it is the way in which the narrator reacts physically and emotionally that is disturbing. This is human suffering that I would not wish upon my worst enemy.
The Gargoyle definitely held my attention, and with the entwined stories, you get much more than just one good tale. I would highly recommend this book.
I have a personal challenge this year _ to read one classic novel a month. Space was supposed to be Hawaii by Michener, but I couldn't find it. It was also supposed to be the book for July, but I got a bit behind; so I cut out August's book _ The Picture of Dorian Grey _ and read Space instead. I'm back on track now, I think. :)
According to this books description, it is the fictionalised history of the United States space program, from 1944 – 1984. How accurate do you believe this story was? Did Michener stay true to the historic happenings or alter the happenings to fit his plot?
I think it was pretty accurate. I don't know a heck of a lot about the space programme but this seemed well-researched and the characterisations gave the massive space programme a very human face.
There was actually quite a good balance between both plot development and character development, as the book is very character-driven.
This book is centered around the US space program and space exploration, along with many historical events – would this book be readable for anyone? Or would a knowledge of NASA and/or American History help the reader to understand certain parts better?
I don't know a heck of a lot about NASA, or American History, but I found Space to be a fascinating read, and it made me want to learn more. I think Space has very broad appeal.
Was there any particular character you were connected to, or enjoyed more than others? Was there a character you found yourself really hating? Why?
I really liked the character of Penny Pope, a driven, hard-working woman who seemed to have the balance of her life right. I couldn't stand Stabismus _ a conman basically, using whatever was popular to fleece vulnerable people _ and doing it legally.
In the late 80's CBS aired Space - A Mini-Series, based on Michener's novel, which won three Emmy awards. Have you seen this, and if so how does it compare to the novel? If you haven't watched it, do you think you would be interested in seeing how the novel works as a mini-series?
Oooh, there's a mini-series? No, I haven't seen it. I'd love to, though.
Have you read any other books by James Michener? Did you enjoy them and what would you recommend? If this is your first Michener read, do you think you will search out this others by this author? Why or why not?
I've read The Source by Michener, which I love. It's on my list of all-time favourite books. I will read others by Michener, but not for a while _ he writes looong books!
At nearly 1000 pages, this is a very weighty read, how did you find yourself feeling while reading? Was it a page-turner or did you find it dragging in places.
Mostly it was a page-turner, with so much going on and so many characters, it could be hard to put down. It did drag on occasion, just by virtue of being so long, I think. So I'd go and read something else for a bit before returning to the fray.
Once you turned the last page and closed this novel, what were your initial thoughts? Were you satisfied with your reading? Was everything concluded in a way that left you content? Or did you think it needed something more?
At first, relief, because it was so long! And it gave me some food for thought (or musing) about space, and the space programme. It's kind of an ongoing tale, but it felt like the book finished in the right place.
Did you learn anything new from reading this book? If so, what would you say is the most important knowledge you gained?
Um ... I guess, if anything, I learned how difficult the space race can be, looking from the inside out. And how difficult a space mission truly is.
Would you recommend this novel or not? Explain your reasons and convince readers why/why not using 3 sentences or less.
I would definitely recommend it. Michener is an excellent storyteller and seems to have a real gift for telling very human stories against some massive backgrounds. Literally, in this case, with space being the biggest of all.
Last question – list 5 words to describe this novel or your feelings about it?
Massive, fascinating, long, sad, human.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
I also got Smoke & Mirrors by Neil Gaiman in the mail yesterday and I keep drifting towards it and sneaking glimpses at the introduction. Pretty soon, I think, I'm going to have to bow to the inevitable and just read it (oh, the hardship!).
We also went to the library yesterday, which is always an exercise with a 15-month-old. There is a toy section in the adult library, but I'm overprotective. I'll let Patrick play in it if there aren't any other kids _ it's not particularly big, and he'd be overwhelmed in seconds. Also, it's right next to the library exit, so I won't leave him alone in there (although parents do ... don't get me started on that). So it's either whiz around and find a couple of books so I can read while he plays, or meander around and dig Jeremy out of the computer or science fiction sections when it's time to go.
I take Patrick with me in the library because he prefers to be moving and I'm a mobile browser whereas hubby is a static one. He'll find one section, then be there for ages.
Um. Anyway ... that wasn't my point.
My point was, I added three books to the *mumble* books I already had out. I got House, by Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti (I haven't read Peretti before but I really enjoyed Dekker's Circle Trilogy), A Princess of Roumania by Paul Park and Hide & Seek by Ian Rankin _ a Rebus novel.
I read the first one some time ago and thought ''eh'' but a friend told me I should read them, so I'm giving it another go.
These are, of course, added to the library books I already have out.
Er ... I tripped.
So! This week I'll be reading Artists in Crime, by Ngaio Marsh, A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway and ... Something Else, by Someone Else.
Friday, September 5, 2008
The classic for September is A Moveable Feast, by Hemingway, and I found a copy last weekend on Trade Me. So now I'm just waiting for it to show up in the post.
I read Sail, by James Patterson and Howard Roughan and Beach House by Jane Green.
I liked Sail; it's a pretty good supense novel, with enough tension to keep you reading. It's not a great ohmygosh I can't believe it!!! suspense novel, but certainly good enough for a few nights' reading.
Beach House is very light. It's a great summer book, I think and Green's characters are very well-drawn. It's a smiley sort of a book, if that makes sense!
So. September is New Zealand Book Month. To celebrate, I'm reading a couple of mysteries by Ngaio Marsh, beginning with Artists in Crime, which I started today.
I'm also planning to re-read Dreamhunter, by Elizabeth Knox, and then read the sequel, Dreamquake.
That may be all I get through, but I'm hoping for more, as always.
If you feel like hugging your Kiwi authors, try Janet Frame, or Lloyd Jones. Or any of Maurice Gee's books _ I can particularly recommend Under the Mountain and The Halfmen of O trilogy _ all YA fiction, and all on my September list.
Or Witi Ihimaera, who writes prose like its poetry _ he's one of my personal favourites.
Or ... I could go on. Visit www.nzbookmonth.co.nz and hug a Kiwi today. :)