Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Booking Through Thursday

Who is your favorite female lead character? And why? (And yes, of course, you can name more than one . . . I always have trouble narrowing down these things to one name, why should I force you to?)

The truth is, I have no idea. Usually in fiction, I find female characters really annoying and two-dimensional. So this will be interesting ... hmm ...
Beatrice from Wideacre by Phillippa Gregory. She is definitely a woman ahead of her time _ scheming, manipulative and smart _ what's not to like?
Miss Marple. I love Agatha Christie novels, and although I think I prefer Poirot as a detective, I still have the love for Miss Marple.
Uhm ... this is going to sound strange, but Rebecca, from Rebecca. I realise that she's not actually in the book as a character, but even so she's larger than life and about 10 times more vivid than the present Mrs de Winter. Plus, we only have Maxim's word for how much of a witch she was.
Yvaine from Stardust by Neil Gaiman. I love the fact that, despite her being a star and all, she's in a bad mood for a lot of the book. As you would be.
Uhm .... Arwen from The Lord of the Rings. I know her role in the books isn't that big, but she always seems beautiful and remote and otherworldly to me _ as she's supposed to, I suppose.
I'm sure I'll think of others, but that'll do for a start!

Monday, February 25, 2008

What I've read so far this year

Argh. I thought I had already done this and saved it as a draft, but I thing blogger ate it.
Thanks! Okay. One more time; in no particular order:

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: A Novel by Caitlin R Kiernan
The Reading Group by Elizabeth Noble
Star Trek: TNG Resistance
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
CSI Miami: Cult Following (it's easier to read about Horatio Crane than it is to watch David Caruso)
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Sin City

If there are more than that, I've forgotten. But not bad for the first two months of the year.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

February classic: Sense and Sensibility

Two down, ten to go. This is kind of fun! I'm considering starting next month's book _ The Old Curiousity Shop _ early because it's so big and I'm not sure I'll get it read in a month.


I have to admit, I didn't enjoy this Austen as much as others of hers I've read. There was something exhausting and enervating about it, all at once. The push-pull between the different natures of Elinor and Marianne, the fact that there aren't really any particularly likeable characters; even Colonel Brandon comes across as a bit passive, and of the lot of them, I think I liked him the best.
On the other hand, I really loved the movie. It excised the worst excesses of each character, and trimmed the story to its essence.

So I don't think I'll be re-reading it any time soon, but I may watch the movie again.

On to The Old Curiosity Shop :)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Booking Through Thursday

All other things (like price and storage space) being equal, given a choice in a perfect world, would you rather have paperbacks in your library? Or hardcovers? And why?

Interesting question. The truth, for me, is that I just don't care. I have more paperbacks than hardbacks, because they're cheaper to buy. I find hardbacks heavy and unwieldy to hold up for too long. So I would probably have a house full of paperbacks.

And cats.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Reading ... reading ...

I finished the Star Trek novel: Resistance. It wasn't bad. Good escapism. :)
I'm still reading Sense and Sensibility, and so far I prefer Pride and Prejudice, I think. These sisters are exhausting me! Especially Marianne.

Last night I started The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser. Haven't got very far yet, but it looks promising.
I might give up on What-the-Dickens; I don't know that I'm enjoying it. I feel as though I'm waiting for something to happen and I'm halfway through the book!
This week, I'm going to make a TBR pile, and take a photo of it. Then I'll see how my progress goes.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Booking Through Thursday

Here’s something for Valentine’s Day.
Have you ever fallen out of love with a favorite author? Was the last book you read by the author so bad, you broke up with them and haven’t read their work since? Could they ever lure you back?

I think I've fallen out of love with Lilian Jackson Braun's Cat Who ... series. The earlier books are a lot of fun, and I found I wanted to spend time in Pickaxe, finding out what the characters had been up to. The murders were almost incidental, but that was okay. But I really didn't like her last book. It felt rushed, and wrong. The characters did things that were, well, out of character. And not in a good, story-moving way. I'll probably read the next one, because I have a weakness for Siamese cats, but I don't expect the same from the relationship.

Other than that ... the only other author I can think of, that I've fallen out of love with a little bit, is Marian Keyes. And she's nearly the only chick-lit author I read on a regular basis now. Her last Walsh sisters novel, Anybody Out There, was good, and sad; and it was nice to see Anna grown up, but I really didn't like what she did with Rachel (Rachel's Holiday) and Claire (Watermelon) who went from strong, funny women in their own stories to sidelined cliches.

That's all I can think of for now. Oh! James Patterson maybe. And Jeffrey Deaver a little bit.
That's really all.
I mean it this time.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

From the sublime to Star Trek

My escapist reading has changed. It used to be chick-lit. Now that I'm on the wrong side of my mid-thirties, it's Star Trek novels. I'll still dip my toe in the odd chick-lit novel, and I'm excited at the prospect of a new Marian Keyes coming out this year, but by and large I've moved on. Or sideways. Or something.
I suppose now that I'm on the slope heading for 40, I should take up mum-lit. But I just can't. I work fulltime, I have a husband and a son, and pretty much (half-assedly) run a household. And I've read one or two. But I get this odd sensation, like I haven't really had a break. I go from taking care of my family to reading about someone else's and where's the escapism?
So ... Star Trek. Specifically, The Next Generation and Voyager.
I can travel to the final frontier and truly leave myself behind for a while.
I'm still picking away at Sense and Sensibility, although I haven't picked it up for a few days. I've been re-reading The Lord of the Rings for .... um ... two years? I'm finally up to Return of the King, so I"ve been giving that some attention.
The good thing is, I've read it so many times that months can lapse before I pick it up again and I still know where I am.
So. Star Trek, Sense and Sensibility and The Lord of the Rings. That's what I'm reading at the moment, with a side order of What-the-Dickens by Gregory Maguire and the occasional foray into The Reality Dysfunction.
That'll do.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: Review

I’ve been mulling this one over for a few days. It’s a very short book; and a fast read. But it definitely stays with you.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a memoir of the mind. It’s by Jean-Dominique Bauby who, at the age of 43, suffered a stroke which left him with locked-in syndrome.
Basically that means he couldn’t move, but his mind was fine.
He dictated the book through the only means he had – his left eyelid.
That in itself is remarkable, but the book itself is even moreso.
It’s beautiful, haunting and wistful all at once.
Bauby – who died in 1996 two days after the book was published in France – is a compelling narrator. His voice is so strong throughout that I had to remind myself he was gone – and had been for a long time.
There’s a lot of stream of consciousness in Butterfly, but it all comes together.
Bauby starts with waking from a coma in hospital and ends with the day it happened.
In between is a remarkable journey into the deepest recesses of someone’s mind.
All Bauby has left to him are his thoughts, making The Diving Bell and the Butterfly a profound, and profoundly moving read.
I’m looking forward to the movie.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Booking Through Thursday

Okay, even I can’t read ALL the time, so I’m guessing that you folks might voluntarily shut the covers from time to time as well… What else do you do with your leisure to pass the time? Walk the dog? Knit? Run marathons? Construct grandfather clocks? Collect eggshells?

Ah ... the life outside books! Let me answer this with a series of pictures:

This is the biggest thing that keeps me away from books, and has done away with lazy Saturday afternoons, alternately dozing and reading: my son, Patrick.
Who came into the world looking like this:

(he's in his father's hands there)

And who, at nearly nine months old is full of mischief and energy, and looks like this:

I went in to get him up from a nap, and found him like this - at the wrong end of the cot and turned completely around!

Then there are the cats. There are 10 of them ....

In this photo, left to right, we have Misty, Sam, Chloe and Casper

This is Merlin and Scout


Piper, guarding the DVD remote


........ and JD

I also cross stitch:

And I watch far too much TV. But that's okay, because I write a TV column for the local paper. Oh, and I love movies. And puzzles occasionally, but not right now - see: baby. And ... um ... lots of things. Surfing the net, which I also do to much. My husband says that's the only time I'm still. Heh.
Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

What am I reading?

Good question!
I've weeded out my library books and have a bunch to take back on Saturday. Which will mean getting more out, obviously, while the library workers coo over Patrick. It's a win-win.
Anyway. Still going (slowly!) on Sense and Sensibility and I"m wondering how long it's going to take me to read The Old Curiousity Shop, which is March's classic novel.
It doesn't help that I have the concentration of a kitten and I end up reading every sentence in Sense and Sensibility at least twice. And whenever Colonel ... Brandon? the one Alan Rickman played in the movie comes on the scene, I see and hear Rickman, but as Severus Snape!
Anyway. Apart from that, I just started The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Crucially, I started it at midnight last night and was accidentally sound asleep on the couch by about 12.40am. Nothing to do with the book and everything to do with the fact I'd only had about 3 and a half hours sleep the night before.
I work second shift, in case you're wondering why I'd be up so late. I'm almost always up until about 1.30am -2am and usually it's prime reading time. But not last night.
And now I'm rambling.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is the memoir of Jean-Dominique Bauby, the editor-in-chief of French Elle magazine who, at the age of 43 suffered a massive stroke that left him with locked-in syndrome. His mind was fine, but the only part of his body he could move was his left eyelid. Remarkably, that's how he dictated the book. He died two days after its French publication. So, despite falling asleep, I'm looking forward to reading the rest of it. :)

Monday, February 4, 2008

Nefertiti: A review

I’ve always been a bit fascinated by Nefertiti, so I wanted to love the novel by Michelle Moran. At best, I quite liked it, and I’m disappointed.
I suppose anyone who has a fascination for the people and events of ancient Egypt has their own idea of what the people are like. And yes, I have my own Nefertiti characterised. I didn’t expect Moran to bring my Nefertiti to life, but the one she did bring to life is, at best, two-dimensional with extremely questionable motives.
She behaves so appallingly throughout the book, that it’s hard to fathom why she does what she does most of the time, and her husband Akhenaten, portrayed as a mad despot, is no better.
The novel is told from the point of view of Mutny, Nefertiti’s younger, more virtuous sister. Also a two-dimensional figure, and really annoying in the early part of the book, as her only function seems to be reactionary.
The actions of Nefertiti and Akhenaten have to be called into question.
It’s well known that Akhenaten left Thebes and built a whole new city in the desert. But, in the novel, he also seems to set about systematically destroying Egypt. And, as our only in is Mutny, his motivations are unknown. And he spends so much of the book shouting, or in a rage, it’s hard to see him governing anything.
The trouble with historical fiction is that it really is the author’s interpretation of events. And these events took place so long in the past, that you could make Akhenaten a dancing monkey if you wanted to.
But I think a little too much dramatic licence has been taken, and certain things have been done for effect, rather than to move the story along. And as for the plague … how likely was that in ancient Egypt, really? Wasn’t plague carried by the fleas on rats? And surely ancient Egypt would have been full of cats. So … plague?
Having said all that, I did like it. It’s readable, and it’s dramatic. I just wish I liked the main players more.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Sense and Sensibility

Okay, the classic for this month is Sense and Sensibility, and I did start it yesterday. I'm running on very little sleep at the moment, however, and Jane Austen can be hard to concentrate on sometimes. Having said that, I love the very ... Englishness of it.

The country homes ... the dances ... the ... everything!

I've seen the Emma Thomson movie, which is very good and I've enjoyed the 20 or so pages I've read so far.

I ploughed through a quick read - Blood is the New Black; a somewhat quirky novel about vampires in the fashion industry. A speedy and fun read.
I'm still picking away at Nefertiti, but I haven't decided yet how much I like it. I have a thing for Nefertiti, so was excited to find the book, but .... I'm not sure yet.
Also reading What-the-Dickens, by Gregory Maguire, about a rogue tooth fairy. It's ... different. Not in a bad way. Just ... different.