Monday, December 29, 2008

The reading week

How are we looking for the last few days of 2008?
I'm glad you asked, imaginary blogging friend, and the answer is: "okay". Bland, I know, but accurate.
I'm about halfway through My Sister, My Love by Joyce Carol Oates and I'm contemplating starting The Count of Monte Christo _ January's classic _ a few days early.
For one simple reason: that book is HUGE! I honestly had no idea, thereby exposing my ignorance. So I may truck off to bed soon(ish) and maybe make a dent in it. Or I might dig deeper into My Sister, My Love and save the Count for Thursday, which is what a right-acting blogger would do.
Me? I'm a rebel without a clue (which I did steal from somewhere, but I can't remember where.)
Shortest reading week post ever?
Discuss :)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Not blogging, but reading

I love this photo. It's one of my favourites. Sigh ...

I've been lazy and uninspired to blog this week. I have, however, been reading. I finished Stranger in a Strange Land today, and also read The Uncommon Reader.
Lately I've also finished The Broken Window by Jeffrey Deaver, Embroidered Truths by Monica Ferris and made a decent dent in My Sister, My Love: The Intimate Story of Skyler Rampike by Joyce Carol Oates.

I enjoyed The Uncommon Reader the most. It's really short, and takes maybe 1-2 hours to read, but it's just lovely. It's on my list for the Dewey Reading challenge, so I'll either count it as an early read, or find something else to add to the list.

I did enjoy The Broken Window and all I can say right now about Stranger in a Strange Land is I'm glad it's finished. But maybe I just didn't grok its fullness.

We had a good Christmas. Noisy morning, with family and suchlike coming in to see Patrick and exchange presents and then a lovely quiet afternoon. I read/dozed on the couch while Jeremy made us roast chicken for dinner. I could have stayed there the rest of the afternoon but I had to go to work.

I had a weirdly serendipitous moment in a bookshop on Friday. I'd ducked out of work for a bit _ ostensibly to go to Starbucks but also to have a quick look in the bookshops across the road _ and in one of those bins of paperbacks, $6 each or four for $20, I spotted Requiem by Graham Joyce. And I'd blogged about him not so long ago.

So, of course, I couldn't just buy one book, I had to shuffle through the bin for three others. I got a book of short stories, called Phantasms, by Some Guy, a Ngaio Marsh mystery and a crossword-based mystery novel as well. I'd go look up titles and such, but they're all the way across the living room.

Then, on the way out of the store, I noticed they had copies of The Stand by Stephen King. The store _ Whitcoulls _ has a Top 100 list every year and The Stand was part of a display of those books. With 25% off fiction, I was tempted. But managed to resist ... until today, that is. I love The Stand, it's one of my all-time favourite books but I've never owned a copy.

Until now. Heh.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Book bloggers Christmas swap

Yay! Look at what was in the mail for me today! My Secret Santa parcel, from Jessie in Georgia;

First, there were these packages, all very carefully wrapped in extremely cute paper :


Then, this is what was inside (and I'm sorry, they were so well-wrapped, I had to tear the paper!)

We have: Four tins of Altoid mints (I really like them, but can't buy them here). There's Creme de Menthe, Cinnamon, Peppermint and Wintergreen. Two CDs; one of Brer Rabbit stories (Jessi's hometown is the home of the author of the stories) a CD of Christmas songs, which I"m going to listen to tonight; a leather bookmark from the Uncle Remus Museum and Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris.

Jessi, thank you so much; it's a great parcel and I love everything! :)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Reading Week

Sigh. I read a whole book today, because I was home sick from work.
Gallstones. In the New Year, I'm going to have to bite the bullet, go to the doctor and 1) get better painkillers and b) go on the waiting list for surgery, even though the thought of going under general anasthetic gives me the ya-yas.
However. I had an attack this morning, for no reason. I hadn't even had breakfast yet when it hit. Normally, they're food related. AND I haven't had one for more than three months.
So I spent most of the morning fighting pain and wanting to lie down and go to sleep, and feeling sick and ... ugh. No work for me.
So, once the pain had (finally) eased, I spent most of the day reading and trying not to pick Patrick up too much, although that's one of his things at the moment _ wanting to be picked up.
The book I read was a ''cosy'' mystery by Monica Ferris: Embroidered Truths, A Needlework Mystery. It wasn't bad, and was chock-full of cross stitch and embroidery references, which is fun for me, as a cross-stitcher, and the characters are likable.
I also finished The Broken Window by Jeffrey Deaver yesterday, his latest Rhyme/Sachs novel. All the hallmarks of a Deaver novel: well-paced, easy to read, full of forensic fun, but ... I've found, in his past few books, his 'whodunit' twists (which I used to love) have lost their punch a little bit.
So. On to this week.
I've started Stranger in a Strange Land, so that's on the agenda for this week. Also, still, My Sister My Love, which I haven't really picked up but hopefully I will.
I'm actually working Christmas (yay ... *sarcasm*) but not until 5 in the afternoon. So my mother and my sisters are coming here in the morning for present-exchanges and suchlike before my mother and my sister who is single go to my brother and sister-in-law's place for lunch and my other sister and her two kids head home (they live out of town) for their own Christmases. Low-key, but it works for us.
My husband will roast a chicken and we'll have a peacable afternoon until it's time for me to head to work. I'm not too upset about working Christmas; Patrick's still too little to really notice, plus I get paid time-and-a-half.
Plus, I like Christmas week anyway, because we get two days off. We get our normal, rostered day off, plus Christmas Eve, because Christmas Day is a non-publishing day. So we all take our stat day (day in lieu) from Christmas then. (I have shares in the word "plus").
That was convoluted.
My point is, I should have more reading time than usual this week.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A post about challenges

Well, the ones I decided to sign up for, anyway.
I have lists done for the Art History Challenge and the Dewey's Books Challenge; and my own Classics challenge. I have other classics, too, that I'd like to try and find, and read during the course of the year, but these 12 are my one-a-month books.
It was a good compromise for me, and helped me focus my list. :

My Classics challenge books are:
January: The Count of Monte Christo by Alexander Dumas
February: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
March: Mrs Dalloway by Virgina Woolf
April: The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
May: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
June: Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
July: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
August: The Woman in White by Wilke Collins
September: Intensive Care by Janet Frame
October: The House of the Spirits by Isabelle Allende
November: A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K LeGuin
December: To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway
To date, I've read seven of the 12 novels I earmarked for this year's list. Not bad, I feel, but Must Improve.

For the Dewey's Reading Challenge, I took the read six books, one from each year that Dewey blogged, and came up with this list:
1): Grass by Sherri S. Tepper (2003)
2): The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (2004)
3): The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant (2005) (crossover to the Art History challenge)
4): March by Geraldine Brooks (2006)
5): Enstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman (2007)
6) The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett (2008)
And in one of those serendipitous moments, I was talking today about The Uncommon Reader with our features editor, who pretty much sung its praises. :)

For the Art History Challenge, here is my list:
The Agony and the Ecstacy by Irving Stone
The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant (crossover with Dewey challenge)
Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland
The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Arles by Martin Gayford
Death and Restoration by Iain Pears
The Illuminator by Brenda Rickman Vantrease

I have a copy of The Agony and the Ecstasy, so that segues nicely into the Read Your Own Books challenge.
I don't have a list. But last night, with little effort, I managed to gather together 35 books from my bookshelves that I haven't read. They're in the photo. I know that new books and review books will also cross my path, but for that challenge, those 35 are my starting-points.

Last but not least, are the Support Your Local Library and 100+ Books challenges. Given my lists above, I'm (very) cautiously optimistic.
We'll see.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wednesday Wants _ on Thursday!!!!!

First up is one I saw over at Nymeth's blog:
You may, or may not have noticed that I have a passing interest in cats. We have, um, several and even Patrick thinks he's a cat. So, naturally, I want The Curious History of Cats, by Madeline Swan and Celia Haddon
It is, according to Amazon, "This is a biography of the cat, beginning in ancient times when it was revered as a goddess and following it as it emerges as enigma, playmate and companion. There are also tales of great and famous cat-lovers throughout history and literature, such as Dr. Johnson, Horace Walpole (and his noble Maida) or Sir Walter Scott, whose own constant companion waited for a snap of his master’s fingers to rise and lay his head on his knee. The book is illustrated throughout with noteworthy and intriguing images of cats through history including ancient Egyptian tomb paintings and medieval engravings and drawings."
I keep seeing The Private Patient by P D James everywhere and who am I to ignore book-related serendipity? I've only read one other of hers, Death in Holy Orders, but The Private Patient is still going on my Want!!! list.
The title of The Solitary Vice: Against Reading by Mikita Bottman caught my attention while I was trawling some best-of lists for 2008. Hmmm ... yep, Want!!!
Wednesday Wants: being all that they can be.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Reading Week

I'm free!!!!!!!!!
I finally finished Love in the Time of Cholera yesterday.
I feel as though I've been reading the same books for weeks on end. Oh, wait ...
So that should mean that Stranger in a Strange Land is up next for December's classic.
Except maybe ... it's not.
Let me 'splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up:
I have a book on the go at work, sorta kinda; one from the review cupboard. I've had it there for a while, and it's interesting and all, but it's a long book. And there's nothing like trying to read on your break at work for attracting people who think you want to be interrupted.
Um ... booooooooooooooook .... see the book? See me reading? Booooooooooooook ...
anyway. The book is My Sister, My Love by Joyce Carol Oates and I'm only a little ways in, so I've brought it home, in order to get stuck into it properly and I'll take a shorter book to work to try and read on my breaks.
So I'm thinking I might get stuck on that. I also feel the need for something lighter in touch and tone, so I'm probably leaning towards an Agatha Christie, or a Star Trek novel.
Stay tuned, and all that jazz. :)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

2009: The Year of the Challenges

I can't remember if I said I'd never do another book challenge, after failing so badly on the ones I joined this year.
But I never listen to myself. Also, a couple of the challenges dovetail with my own reading goals for 2009, one has a deeper meaning, for a lot of us, I think and one is just ... because.
First up is the just-because challenge.

The Art History Challenge; hosted here:
I do love Art History. I nearly majored in it at university. *Sigh*
The challenge itself is simple; to read six art history books _ either fiction or non-fiction _ during the course of 2009. I don't have a list yet, but I do know that I'll have The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone on that list. I started it many years ago but never finished it.
So ... one down, five to go.

The ones that dovetail with my own goals are these:

The Read Your Own Books Challenge hosted here:
I have oh, so many of my own books to read. So I'm aiming to read 30 of my own books in 2009. I have way more than that, but 30 feels like a nice, round number.

Then there's the Support Your Local Library Challenge; hosted here:
I love the library and a lot of my reading comes from there. So I'll be joining Challenge No 2: Read 25 books from your local library.

Next up is this one:
The 100+ Reading Challenge, hosted here:
My goal is to actually try and read two books a week for the year; plus one. I don't know; for some reason 105 sounds more rounded than 104.

Then I'm also going to be doing my own personal challenge of reading one Classic novel a month _ the handy thing being that that challenge can merge with the Read Your Own Books and the Support Your Local Library challenges.

The final one is the Dewey Books Reading Challenge, hosted here:
I've decided to go with the six books, one from each year that Dewey blogged, that I trawled through Dewey's archive (and damn near started crying) to find. So I have that list done, but not the others yet.
This is already pretty long, so I'll put my lists on a separate post, when they're done.


Just After Sunset

You know, I love me some Stephen King. When he's on, he's on like Donkey Kong and no one can touch his ability to tell a story.

Unfortunately, this collection falls a bit short. King was inspired to release another short story collection after editing the latest Great American Short Story compilation. Great, fantastic; King writes wonderful short stories. Only, not here. Oh, some of them reach that level that you'd expect but most of the stories _ I'm sorry Stephen King because I truly do love you and I LOVED Lisey's Story even though a lot of people didn't _ are just ... forgettable.

For me, the strongest story in the collection is ''N.'', which is King doing what he does best _ scaring the growth out of you with seemingly everyday things. In this, a patient with bad OCD comes to a therapist. The story unfolds through the therapist's case-notes as "N." explains how he came to have OCD and why it's so terribly important to keep counting ... everything.

Beyond that, I'm hard-pressed to remember the details of a lot of the stories. I found The Cat from Hell entertaining, and the last story in the collection _ about a man locked in a portable toilet by a vengeful neighbour.

I get the impression that King put the collection together in kind of a hurry and I just wish that he had taken a little bit more time, because then we might have been looking at something really special.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Reading Week

Le Sigh
Well, as you can see below, I finally finished a book, although all of my other good intentions packed their bags and went surfing, or something.
I'm STILL reading Love in the Time of Cholera and I had meant to have it finished by now, and be on to Strange in a Strange Land. Now I'm aiming for Wednesday.
I'm also still reading Just After Sunset, which I keep picking up ... and putting down ... and picking up ... well, you get the idea.
I'd really like to get that one finished this week too and finally move on to something new _ I'm well over posting the same Reading Week over and over again.

The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette by Carolly Erickson

The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette does just what it says on the tin. It's a novel, in diary form, told in the voice of Marie Antoinette.
I'm not usually a fan of novels told in letter or diary form but this was very easy to read and makes me want to dig out a biography of the queen. Handily enough, Erickson has written one so I'm putting that on my to-read list.
The diary is written in a very chatty style, as Marie Antoinette transitions from being a young Austrian princess, to the Queen of France.
It is, obviously, written through a period of tremendous upheaval for France and despite the fact it's all a matter of historical record now, in parts of it I was reading right along with Marie Antoinette holding my breath, and hoping she would find a way to save her family, which is a tribute to the immediacy of the diary style of writing.
A good summer read. :)

Also reviewed here:

Friday, December 5, 2008

Weekly Geeks 27 _ Making It Count

Here, as Becky suggested in this post, is my Weekly Geeks post in honour of Dewey. It's nothing specific, just a collection of thoughts.

It's nearly a new year, a time when people reflect, renew and go forward with purpose and energy. Sometimes that purpose and energy sustains them throughout the year, sometimes it flags on January 2. I'm usually of the latter category but you know what? That's okay.

And you know what else? Not this time.

I never met Dewey except as a book-blogger and a Weekly Geek participant. And while her loss reverberates and resonates through all of us, I started thinking how I could make it mean something, even in my little corner of the world.

You know the movie Titanic? There's a scene in that, when they're all sitting in the first-class dining room and this is part of Leonardo di Caprio's character Jack's speech:
"... I figure life's a gift and I don't intend on wasting it. You don't know what hand you're gonna get dealt next. You learn to take life as it comes at you... to make each day count."

So. That's my goal for 2009. Making it count.
And what does that mean for me?
It means trying to make the most of the things I love.
My family, yes, my cats; my reading and other hobbies; even my work. That last one may sound a bit strange but the thing is, I love my work but after the upheavals of the past year or so, I'm not so sure I love my job. So I'm going to focus on the work. I also want to answer that nagging question: "What if I did all of the things that I want to do, every day. What would my life look like then?"
Those things are (apart from be the best mum I can to Patrick and as good a wife as I can):Read every day
Write every day
Go for a walk every day
Do some cross stitching every day and actually finish some projects
Blog often, listen to more music, go to more movies and laugh .... a lot.
I really want to know what the shape of that life is.

It also means actually trying to pay down some debt and saving some money for a change, so that I can make some long-held dreams _ mostly to travel _ come true.

I don't know if any of us had any idea how ill Dewey really was. Certainly the energy she put into her blogging and community-building belied any illness, or hint of illness. I believe that, in her own way, Dewey really and truly made her life count and maybe the best way to remember is to make our own lives count, in our own way.
I do know that, because of Dewey, I started a couple of "regular" features for myself, on my own blog. My Reading Week and Wednesday Wants posts, became, along with the Weekly Geeks, the framework on which I hung my blog posts. And, in Dewey's honour, long may it continue.

In your honour, Dewey, wherever you may be, I'm going to sit down sometime this weekend, with a good book, a cup of tea to raise to your extraordinary energy, and I'm sure a cat or two ... or three.

Here's to you, Dewey.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Reading Week ... so late!

Oh, so late! It's Thursday.
The truth is, my reading has been bogged down for the past week or so. The last book I finished was Oxford Exit, last week, I think.

I'm still in the middle of Love in the Time of Cholera, which I'm trying to finish so I can start Stranger in a Strange Land and be all done for my new Classics list in January, which I haven't finalised yet. Still time.

I'm also still halfway through Just After Sunset, which I'm reading in bits and pieces at lunchtime mostly, when Patrick is captive in his highchair and he can't grab it (he loves books, but not for the same reason I do, yet).

I'm also reading The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette, which I'm trying to get finished because it was due back at the library on Monday. Luckily, it's a pretty speedy read, so I'm hoping to finish that tonight after work.

Then tomorrow I'm working 11.30am-7.30pm, so, providing nothing catches my attention on TV (no guarantees there, I swear sometimes I'd sit through a test pattern) I'm going to give Love in the Time of Cholera some much-needed attention, leaving just Just After Sunset for Saturday.

After that, I'll probably start Stranger in a Strange Land, on Sunday, with luck and a fair wind. And A Guide to the Birds of East Africa, which I've had on the boil for a while.

My goal is to try and read two books a week from now on. After I'm out of this mire, hopefully I can organise myself and make it happen.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Weekly Geeks for Dewey

Becky, in this post, has suggested a way that the Weekly Geeks _ and others _ can honour the memory of Dewey and her commitment and energy to the blook blogging world. It's a great idea, and mine will be coming up soon.

Meantime, she's asked us to spread the word. :)

Also, Raych at is calling for artists to create a button for Dewey. I have no idea how to go about that, but thought I'd mention it any way. :)

I'm hoping that the Weekly Geeks, the Readathon and the Bookworms' Carnival will continue, although I think Jackie at is going to keep the Carnival running.

I'm a bit crap at doing things to be honest, but if anyone needs any behind-the-scenes help, I'm a GREAT behind-the-scenes person.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Huge loss

I don't have a lot of words to say; I think Nymeth summed my _and I'm sure others' feelings up best here _ about what a huge loss Dewey is.
I'm still in shock and my thoughts and heart go out to her family at such a sad time.