Sunday, December 26, 2010
Monday seems to come around faster and faster, doesn't it?
Your meme is hosted here: http://bookjourney.wordpress.com/
I hope everyone had a happy Christmas, and that there was much reading done :-)
For myself, I finished Guardian of the West by David Eddings, and Hercule Poirot's Christmas, by Agatha Christie. Both re-reads, but both very enjoyable.
On the slate this week we have Fierce September, by Fleur Beale. It's the sequel to Juno of Taris and I'm reading it now because it's due back at the library on January 1. Good stuff so far.
Also King of the Murgos, book 2 of the Mallorean; The Mists of Avalon, which is my half-assed online book club's read for December/January; Quillblade by Ben Chandler; The Two Towers (I'm getting bloody-minded about finishing LOTR again - lol) and The Fall, by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, which is my break time at work read. :-)
Obviously this will take longer than a week, but that's what my night stand looks like. How's yours this week?
Saturday, December 25, 2010
.... er. But at least one of them is mine? That counts, right?
Anyway. First up is the Haruki Murakami challenge, hosted here: http://www.inspringitisthedawn.com/2010/12/haruki-murakami-reading-challenge-2011.html
I've never read Murakami, and I've opted for the easiest level: one book. I think I'm co-reading The Wind-up Bird Chronicle with Care from http://bkclubcare.wordpress.com/ - in June, I believe. :-)
My own challenge is a Kiwi YA challenge, which I'm hosting over here: http://kiwiyachallenge.blogspot.com/ Sign-ups are open throughout 2011, and the challenge runs all year. So, you know ... *gently nudges readers to the challenge*. It's going to be a good one, I hope.
I'm also still hosting the NZ Book mini-challenge in March, which will look exactly like this again: http://justaddbooks.blogspot.com/2009/09/business-time.html so if you can't commit to a year; you could read a Kiwi novel in March, right? :DDDDDDDD
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Edited and corrected!
My holiday swap person was the lovely Heather from http://www.capriciousreader.com For some reason, I missed the card she sent. AND the lovely, lovely "bookworms" made out of yarn that Heather made for me.
I'm so sorry, Heather - I can't believe I missed that. I LOVE the parcel! <3
I got a collection of bookmarks (I love getting bookmarks, because I lose them so easily!) and two books - Mistress of the Art of Death, which I've been wanting to read for a while, and Mr Rosenblaum Dreams in English, which was one of Heather's favourite reads of the year, so I'm excited for both of them!
Thank you Heather at http://www.capriciousreader.com/ - I love everything!
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Rashly, forgetting that I have no organisational skills whatsoever, I said I'd send out jaffas (chocolate orange goodness) to participants. And then ... I didn't. And I still haven't, and I feel bad about it.
Anyways. Fast forward a bit, and Care from http://bkclubcare.wordpress.com/ said she'd send me some altoids. I love them, but you can't get them here. And ... I failed to send jaffas. Consistently. For a year.
And because Care is Awesome, and a better person than me, she sent me the altoids anyway. And some kind of teeny tiny wafers that I've never even SEEN before, and a couple of other lovely goodies. Thank you, Care - you really are awesome. :D :D :D
Behold, also, her superior wrapping skills:
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Your meme is hosted here: http://bookjourney.wordpress.com/
I had a reasonably productive week. Well, weekend. Tanabata of http://www.inspringitisthedawn.com/ and I had a bit of an informal mini readathon on twitter, where we spent yesterday reading as much as possible within a 12-hour period. I finished The Wench is Dead by Colin Dexter, and Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie.
Before that, on Saturday, I finished By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham. Two days, three books. Pretty good, for me.
On the pile this week, I still have The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope, which I haven't picked up in a while, but I'm determined to finish; In Cold Blood by Truman Capote; Guardians of the West by David Eddings (#teamsilk); uh ... The Two Towers (still, yes, I know) and Quillblade by Ben Chandler. Oh! And The Fall by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan.
That's way more than I can read in a week, but that's what my nightstand looks like ;)
Sunday, December 12, 2010
So I still have The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope and In Cold Blood by Truman Capote on the pile, but I've been getting a little bogged down with them both lately, and I had to pull out of the Trollope Classics Circuit tour, which I felt badly about, but couldn't finish it in time.
I am enjoying both books, but I need a small break. So over the weekend I picked up Juno of Taris by Fleur Beale, and enjoyed it enough to stay up until 3am reading, and finished it. :-)
Also on the pile is The Two Towers (yes, still - hush), and Quillblade by Ben Chandler.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
It's probably my first Christmas memory, and it's so vivid because I remember playing with the phone - that had a real ringtone! - at an insanely early hour of the day.
It got me thinking - as I frantically turned topics for this post over in my head - what Patrick's first Christmas memory will be. Mine was of playing with what was to become a much-loved toy (I thought that phone was the best thing ever - because it rang like a real phone) that had been delivered to me by the jolly old man from the North Pole.
Christmas - for me - is a jumble of impressions mostly: going with my Dad to choose presents for my mother and my sister; decorating the tree with the same ornaments year after year; going to midnight mass and having milo and cheese sandwiches afterwards; arguing over board games or card games with my brothers and sisters; turkey dinners in the middle of the afternoon and paper hats askew as the day wore on.
So I do treasure that first, clear memory, of playing with that toy in the middle of the night that was pretty much guaranteed to wake up my sisters, but it was just so magical and new, I couldn't help myself. And now that Patrick's three, I'm hoping that I (and Santa of course) can impart a little bit of that magic to him.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
I'm still slowly but surely working my way through the Discworld novels, and before this one, I hadn't encountered Miss Aching before, but I will certainly be looking up the rest of the novels featuring the redoubtable young witch.
I Shall Wear Midnight is set on the Chalk, and Tiffany is the resident witch for the area. She deals with common ailments, illnesses - and the Wee Free Men - the Nac Mac Feegle - as best as she can. Because she's the witch.
After the death of the old Baron - which Tiffany finds herself accused of causing - she travels to Ankh-Morpork to bring back the new Baron - an old childhood friend.
Things for Tiffany are relatively straightforward on the Chalk - she's the witch, which means she has a certain position to maintain.
However, something is coming for the witches ...
Mr Sir Terry Pratchett has a very deft touch, and he weaves together elements like the sheer absurdity of the Nac Mac Feegle and the darker elements so well that there's nothing jarring in it at all. Tiffany is a wonderfully realised character, and now I need to seek out the rest of her books.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Meme here: http://bookjourney.wordpress.com/
Well, my holiday is nearly over, and as always, I haven't read half as much as I would like to have. However, I have been in the presence of a superhero, an astronaut, a frog and a robot, so I think that's a fair trade. :)
Anyway. I'm about halfway through In Cold Blood, but ... you know that feeling, when you're reading a book and you suddenly feel like you're slogging through it rather than reading? Yeah. I kind of hit that wall.
I'm not sure why, because the book itself is interesting, and very descriptive, but something just suddenly clanged for me on Saturday, so I've shelved it for now, and started The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope, which will be reviewed here on uh ... *checks email for date* December 14 for http://classics.rebeccareid.com/
I'm only 50 pages in, but so far, so good ...
I also started By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham today. :-)
I always promise myself I'm not going to do it. And this year I did pretty well. In that I only signed up for a few challenges and ... failed them all, I think. Although I may have accidentally finished http://www.stainlesssteeldroppings.com/'s RIP challenge without realising it. It's possible.
However, in the past few days, I've found myself lurking here: http://novelchallenges.blogspot.com/ which is never a good idea, because my brain immediately goes OH MY GOD SHINY GIVE IT TO ME I WANT ITTTTTTTT about pretty much every challenge ... ever.
Which, of course, leads to sign-ups. Somehow, that's inevitable.
I was going to limit myself to five, but then I remembered Once Upon a Time and RIP. And http://www.inspringitisthedawn.com/ is doing a Murakami challenge at some point. If I stuck to five, that's three slots gone already, and that's just not fair to the challenges! (Yes. This is how my mind works.)
So, without further ado, I have signed up for these:
http://onetwotheme.blogspot.com/ - I still need to pick my themes, but it appeals to the part of me that wants to learn about everything ever.
http://whatsinaname4.blogspot.com/ - It's like a treasure hunt!!! :D
http://feministclassics.wordpress.com/ - Technically speaking, not a challenge, but a kind of reading group. But I had to Sign Things, so therefore it's a challenge.
http://glbt-reading.blogspot.com/2010/11/glbt-challenge-2011.html - I failed this so hardcore ... last year? Sigh. However, that hasn't stopped me from signing up again...
http://bareadingchallenges.blogspot.com/p/off-shelf-challenge.html - I was thinking of doing something along the lines of this anyway. I counted yesterday, and I have 120 books on my TBR bookcase by my bed. I've decided to do level three - "making a dint", which is 30 books, but I'm hoping to read at least 50 (ambitious, for a woman who hasn't even cracked 40 books this year) from those shelves.
Also, March 2011 is NZ Book Month: http://nzbookmonth.co.nz/ and I'll be hosting a mini-challenge again, like I did last October: http://justaddbooks.blogspot.com/2009/09/business-time.html So ... clear your calendars, brush up on your slang, and look up some Kiwis ;)
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
I've had this one on my reading radar for a while, and the wait was totally worth it. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a thriller with a definite difference, and that's a very, very good thing.
It opens with a mystery that's years old _ in the 1960s, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a small isolated community. Nearing the end of his life, her uncle Henrik Vanger, a Swedish industrialist, hires investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist _ recently dragged through the courts by a wearying libel case _ to find out the truth about Harriet once and for all.
He takes the case, and heads to Hederby, the same small, isolated community that Harriet Vanger disappeared from in the 1960s, with the covering story that he's ghost-writing Henrik Vanger's autobiography.
Woven among Mikael's tale, is that of Lisbeth Salander, a 24 year old hacker, private investigator, and the titular girl with the dragon tattoo. She's hired, at first, to do a background check on Blomkvist, and ends up working with him on the Vanger case, when Blomkvist finds he needs to delve deeper into the family's history than he thought.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo isn't an easy read, but it's a rewarding one. Less of an edge-of-your-seat thriller, and more of a slow burn - Blomkvist and Salander don't meet until something like two-thirds of the way through the book - it demands your attention and then holds on to it all the way to the end.
Blomkvist is a little world-weary and suitably cynical for a middle-aged investigative journalist, and a well-rounded main character for a thriller, but the really interesting character here is Salander. She's a self-protective enigma who has suffered tragedy in her past, and she deals with and controls her environment in unexpected ways.
It's a work-out for the braincells, and not necessarily just because of the twists and turns the story takes, but the way Larsson has set everything out so carefully - the structure of the novel is amazing, and I'm excited to read the second book in the trilogy.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Your meme is here: http://bookjourney.wordpress.com/
I finally finished The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which I loved. Review to come.
This week - my last full week of holiday - I have In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, I Shall Wear Midnight by Mr Sir Terry Pratchett and The Way We Live now by Anthony Trollope on the pile.
So back in August I blogged about a book-buying ban: http://justaddbooks.blogspot.com/2010/08/on-non-buying-of-books.html I figured that I wouldn't make it entirely until the end of the year without breaking it, because ... I'm weak-willed - lol. But what I did do, when I happened to buy a book (which wasn't really that often) was not think "oh, well, I might as well give that up because I failed," but went "Okay, bought a book. BACK TO THE BAN." And that ... sort of actually worked?
I've bought ... one? new book since August - Stephen King's latest, Full Dark, No Stars, and the rest have been from secondhand bookstores, or the library's withdrawn pile. I counted, and I've bought 11 books since instituting the ban. Given that before that I was nearly buying a book a week, that's not too bad. The most expensive was the Stephen King, of course, given that it was new, and the cheapest were probably the withdrawn books from the library that go for about 50c - $1.
As you can see from the picture, I'm a magpie when it comes to books and reading. I go for things that catch my eye at the time ... which might also explain my overflowing bookcases - lol.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
It's the future, and humanity has basically disappeared.
The only one left – to his own knowledge – is a man calling himself Snowman, who was once known as Jimmy. Snowman has the care of what he calls Crake's Children: a group of near-humans who were created by the aforementioned Crake, before humanity lost its battle for survival.
Snowman isn't exactly happy to have the charge of the Children. Back when he was just Jimmy, he was friends with Crake, and blames himself partly for not seeing what was coming in time to stop it. He's also punishing himself for what happened to Oryx – the female corner of their triangle. Oryx is in love with Crake, and Jimmy is in love with Oryx.
Oryx has the kind of terrible, exploited childhood that would make anyone feel bad or sorry for her, and Jimmy takes on that role eagerly; wanting to find a way to "fix" her – except Oryx – who is a wonderfully self-contained character – doesn't appear to want to be fixed, which frustrates Jimmy.
Oryx and Crake is a powerful story about the somewhat casually destructive nature of the human race, and the possibly terrifying consequences of that destruction. It's also about consumerism and how – in this future – everything is a commodity and up for sale – until it isn't.
Snowman doesn't really have any outstanding qualities – he's (understandably) permanently sour, he doesn't like the fact that Crake left him in charge of his creations, and he knows that he has to do something drastic, or he's going to starve to death under the Childrens' benevolent indifference. He's sort of an everyman, and since he's the only man – apart from Crake's Children – then he kind of has carte blanche to act however he likes.
The fact that he sticks with the Children and acts reasonably decent to them (overall) shows that there's a little bit of Jimmy left inside the leftover human that Snowman has become.
I've read Oryx and Crake before, and it's just as powerful the second time around. Maybe more so, because I had forgotten so much of it.
It's also interesting re-reading it after reading The Year of the Flood, which is the companion novel. Oryx and Crake is all from Snowman's point of view, so we only have his narrative for what happened, whereas Year of the Flood tells the story from multiple points of view and broadens the spectrum, if you like.
Now, of course, Year of the Flood is back on my TBR. It's somewhere near the bottom for now, but it's on there ...
9/10 So good, you'd take it to meet your Mum
Sunday, November 7, 2010
I've actually had a pretty good couple of reading weeks. I finished something like four or five books (and most of those were the Belgariad - lol) and now I'm re-reading Oryx & Crake by Margaret Atwood, which I'm loving all over again.
Happy reading everyone!
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Your meme is here: http://bookjourney.wordpress.com/
I'm reading American Gods – and I'm finally ¾ of the way through – still The Two Towers and now, thanks to a Twitter conversation – I've picked up the Belgariad again.
I started re-reading The Belgariad last year, when David Eddings died: http://justaddbooks.blogspot.com/2009/06/thank-you-mr-eddings.html and ... I got through Pawn of Prophecy – lol. I've read them so many times that I can easily pick up from book two and carry on from there, so that's what I'm doing. :-)
Last week I finished Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, and presumably reviews will be forthcoming.
So I'm spending this week with some old friends. Entirely by accident, but it's certainly not a bad thing. :-)
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert – possible spoilers
Madame Bovary was book one on my #diversityclassics reading list that I started last month. I was slightly intimidated, never having read Flaubert, but spending a few weekends at my mother's while she recovered from heart surgery, and not having access to the internet while I was there, was very conducive to reading.
I had very few distractions (apart from my mother of course) and finished the book over the course of two weekends.
Just sitting down and reading for several hours is, of course, a bit foreign to me now, so I savoured the experience, along with the book.
Madame Bovary is about the life of Emma Bovary in 19th century rural France.
Emma is a dreamer and a romantic, finding that real life is a harsh place to be, so she hides, in her affairs and her dreams and her shopping.
All of these things, ultimately, lead to Emma's downfall.
As does, it has to be said, being a young woman in rural 19th century France. Emma is passed with hardly a thought from her father to her husband, and instantly regrets her marriage.
She's an incurable romantic and seeks out affairs and material trappings to try and make her life seem a little less bleak.
For me, the overall tone of Madame Bovary is suffocating. Emma's life gets smaller, and smaller until the very end when she can't bear it any more, and I had to keep stopping to take little breaths as Flaubert wove a claustrophobic world around his central character.
I loved Madame Bovary, although the translation I have – by Geoffrey Wall for Penguin Classics – is a little bit choppy which could pull me out of the story a little but. But Emma as a character – as sad and doomed as she was – and the story itself are so strong that it wasn't long before I was drawn back in to Emma's tragic, suffocated life.
I think the biggest tragedy, for me, is that there really isn't another life for Emma. I kept trying to think – in my 21st century girl kind of way – that she had options, that she could have ... and that was always as far as I got.
Emma's options were truly limited. And yes, ultimately she was a victim of her own somewhat overwrought imagination, but even so it's hard not to feel sorry for her as she tries to fill her empty spaces with ridiculous affairs and purchase after purchase.
I found her husband and her lovers to be a little bit ... blurry? I couldn't quite get hold of them all that well as characters, which – if it was intentional – was very clever on Flaubert's part. It makes Emma's story and her struggles that much more painful to read, because she was so very front and centre.
The other character that did stand out was the chemist, with his strange ideas and his platitudes. He's unlikable, but certainly memorable, with his picky, pettifogging ways.
I'm not sure if I would ever re-read Madame Bovary – it's fairly draining, but I'm glad that I have read it now ... if that even makes sense.
Book two of the #diversityclassics challenge for October was supposed to be The Matriarch by Witi Ihimaera. But somehow I've let most of October slide without picking it up, so I'm moving straight on to November's book – In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.
8/10 That movie that you've watched 100 times and you never get tired of
Monday, October 18, 2010
The Fulfilments of Fate and Desire by Storm Constantine
The last book of the Wraeththu trilogy is narrated by my overall favourite character, Cal. He's engaging, irreverent, self-absorbed and really, really funny. When the book opens, he's somewhat down on his luck, and working as a whore in the Wraeththu equivalent of a frontier town. It's not long before Cal is working out how to escape, and to move on.
Events are unrolling around him, and although fate has plans for Cal, he drags his steps and rebels every step of the way. For me, this was the best of the trilogy, but I'm biased because I love Cal so much. I do want to read the second Wraeththu trilogy now.
7/10 Someone else cooks dinner – yay!
For the Win by Cory Doctorow
In the near future, young gamers are used by big business to make them rich. The gamers take exception to this and start to unionise. There are a lot of narrative threads to keep track of here, and the plot can sometimes wear a little bit thin. It's also hard to keep track of when Doctorow stops periodically to give the reader history or object lessons, which threw me out of the story.
Overall, though, For the Win is an enjoyable, intersting read with a fascinating point of view.
6/10 Leaving work 30 minutes early
Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden
A group of Australian teenagers go bush for a few days of the summer holidays before school starts up again. When Ellie – the narrator of the novel – and her friends get back to town, they discover that something is very wrong and Australia has been invaded; forcing them into hiding.
I did enjoy Tomorrow ... but for such a short novel it took me forever to read and some of it read a little choppy, with short sentences and some of Ellie's thought-processes felt off to me. But overall a good read, and I'm looking forward to reading the second book. :-)
6/10 Leaving work 30 minutes early
The Insatiable Moon by Mike Riddell
This is a re-issue of a New Zealand novel. The film is coming out this month so I suspect the book has been re-issued to coincide with that.
Arthur is a psychiatric patient, living in a halfway house in Ponsonby, a fairly well-to-do Auckland suburb. He also thinks he's the second son of God and that the apocalypse is coming.
Margaret is a slightly discontented housewife who has a chance encounter with Arthur which changes her life.
The Insatiable Moon is a short novel, but it meditates on some profound themes – belief, love, connection and community being the strongest threads running throughout.
It's an easy novel to read, even with the deep themes and it does leave you with some interesting questions.
7/10 Someone else cooks dinner – yay!
Sunday, October 10, 2010
End of Event Meme:
1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
Um. Sigh. Probably between 2am-3am my time, when I had to argue myself into bed - lol.
2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
Uhm ... nothing specific. Short novels; YA; and short stories?
3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
Pretty much everything from what I could see in my sort of manic dipping in and out.
5. How many books did you read?!
See below ;)
6. What were the names of the books you read?
Uh ... one short story (Autopsy Room Four by Stephen King); 45 pages of The Passage by Justin Cronin and about 80 or so pages of Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare.
7. Which book did you enjoy most?
Hrm. Not having finished one ... at the moment I'm really liking Clockwork Angel. :)
8. Which did you enjoy least?
Uhm ... Lol, I don't think I read enough to compare ...
9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
I was a cheerleader, and I got around most blogs in my "section" about twice, but I had a slightly hectic weekend. The cheerleaders were super-organised and it was a lot of fun :-) My advice? Have fun!
10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again?
Very, very likely.
What role would you be likely to take next time?
I shall be a fail!reader and a fail!cheerleader again! *\O/*