Sunday, November 28, 2010

It's Monday! What are you reading?

Meme here:

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

I'm only 50 pages in, but so far, so good ...

I also started By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham today. :-)

Happy reading!

More challenges than is deemed healthy

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's RIP challenge without realising it. It's possible.

However, in the past few days, I've found myself lurking here: 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 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: - I still need to pick  my themes, but it appeals to the part of me that wants to learn about everything ever. - It's like a treasure hunt!!! :D - Technically speaking, not a challenge, but a kind of reading group. But I had to Sign Things, so therefore it's a challenge. - I failed this so hardcore ... last year? Sigh. However, that hasn't stopped me from signing up again...

Off The Shelf! - 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: and I'll be hosting a mini-challenge again, like I did last October: So ... clear your calendars, brush up on your slang, and look up some Kiwis ;)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo review

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.

9/10 So good, you'd take it to meet your Mum

Sunday, November 21, 2010

It's Monday! What are you reading?

Your meme is here:

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.

Happy reading!

Book buying ban update

So back in August I blogged about a book-buying ban: 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.

I'm carrying on with the ban until the end of the year, like I said. And I don't regard the fact that I broke it ... more than once as a fail so much as ... a learning curve? Yeah. Let's call it that.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

It's Monday! What are you reading?

Your meme is hosted here:

I'm still reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. It's interesting and smart, and I'm enjoying it a lot, but it's one of those books that you need to sit down with for an extended period and I haven't seemed to be able to find that lately - lol.

Otherwise my nightstand to-read pile is the same as last week: and up next is In Cold Blood, which I need to finish before December so I can read The Way We Live Now for the Classics Circuit book tour.

Books and cats and piles, oh my

So, you know how you get these brilliant ideas at stupid times of the day sometimes? Okay, I didn't quite have this idea at 11.30pm on a Sunday night, but that's when I executed it.

Previously, I had a sort-of TBR pile precariously balanced on a spare nightstand. On Saturday it suddenly occurred to me that what I should do is put my TBR in the bookcase nearest the bed so it was a) not precarious and b) closer at hand.

The above is what happened. It took me an hour and a half, and made my fingers itch to re-arrange my other bookcases, but I managed to talk myself out of that ... for now ...

Also, there's a whole new pile of books on that nightstand. Sigh. I need another bookcase.

I know my TBR pile (my immediate TBR pile I should say) isn't half as impressive as some others, but it's big enough. There's roughly 100 books on that bookcase, library books included, and for me, with how slow I'm reading at the moment, that's a comfortable number.

I'm planning on nabbing Chris's ( 50x50 idea, ( but scaling it down to 20x20, and featuring my TBR pile in that somehow. I have about 12 things on my list so far, so I just need another eight, and I'll be blogging about it over here: I thought of starting a new blog, or getting a tumblr for it, but that blog is already there, and the last thing I need is another online time-sucker - lol.

So my plan is to work my way through that bookcase, and incorporate into my forthcoming 20x20 project. Doable, yes? :D

Oryx and Crake review

Spoilers maybe?

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

It's Monday! What are you reading?

Your meme is hosted here:

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.

I'm on holiday now until December 1, so I'm at least hoping to get a lot of reading done. :)

Here is my holiday TBR - I've kept it relatively simple:

So I'm reading Oryx & Crake, and I have The Passage, Wolf Hall, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a whodunit set in ancient Egpyt called Tutenkhamen something and In Cold Blood, which is my #diversityclassic read for November.

Just for kicks, here's my library pile at the moment as well:

There's even a couple of non-fiction books in there, which is a bit unusual for me. I hope I have time for them before they have to go back to the library.

Happy reading everyone!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

How did that happen?

Somehow I have seven books on my read list that I haven't done blog reviews for. That's ... so very much not going to happen.

So welcome to the first ever edition of Maree's super-short book reviews. One paragraph, or your money back. 3o day guarantee.

1): Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare: I was lukewarm mostly on The Mortal Instruments- & and I'm happy to say that I enjoyed Clockwork Angel a lot more. Clare's starting to settle in, I think, and it's a fascinating read - very atmospheric and olde Londony and all that jazz. - 7/10 Someone else cooks dinner – yay!

2): Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson: This deserves a full review. It really does, but I just don't have time right now to do it justice. Speak is brilliant. Brilliant and moving and heartbreaking, and basically everyone should read it. Melinda starts her new school year as a complete social outcast. Something happened at a party over the summer that Melinda is unwilling - and unable - to talk about. Melinda's struggle with what happened to her, and high school itself with its carefully delineated cliques is so vividly realised. It's a short book, but I had to stop reading a couple of times, because it's just so raw. - 10/10 Could not be improved on, even by angel dust and a basket of kittens

3): The Belgariad: I'm just going to throw these all into the same short-short - lol. I used to eat up series like The Belgariad as a teen, and it's been many, many years since I revisited. But thanks to #teamsilk on twitter, I've been taking a trip down memory lane and going on an old-school fantasy quest. (This isn't really so much a short review as ... nostalgia - lol). Next up: The Mallorean ... #teamsilk - 8/10 That movie that you've watched 100 times and you never get tired of

4): American Gods: I can cheat! I've already reviewed this one, and my opinion hasn't changed :D 8/10 That movie that you've watched 100 times and you never get tired of

5): Hell House by Richard Matheson: I'm still not sure how I feel about this one. I really want to read The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, to see how well it compares. Hell House is your classic haunted house plot, but I'm shaky on whether Matheson really pulled it off - his characters are a bit flat; especially the one guy who's supposed to be the most talented psychic of them all - and the big ending ... isn't. BUT it is well-written and it is spooky. So ... - 7/10 Someone else cooks dinner – yay!

This is totally cheating, but at least I'm all caught up now. :D