Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Top 5 of 2008.

I read 103 books in 2008, definately a best since I have been counting - in the last couple of years I managed about 75 and 77 books. This is a quick top 5 plus a few plans for 2009.

1. Gone with the Wind, Mitchell
2. East of Eden, Steinbeck
3. The Gargoyle, Davidson
4. Roots, Haley
5.Neverwhere, Gaiman

In 2009 I seem to have gone a little mad with the challenges but I enjoy being able to discover new books and I've also managed to add mainly books from mount tbr to my challenge pools. I will be coming on here less to browse, as I find I can easily waste an hour and a half when I should be doing something productive. But when I do come on I hope to write better posts and comment more on peoples blogs (I've deleted loads of blogs from Googlereader who I just skim).
I'm also hoping to tackle more non-fiction to stretch my brain a bit further.

Plans for January - as well as getting back to the gym (3 weeks away now! all that hard work will have gone to waste). I'm planning on reading:
finishing American Gods, Gaiman
finishing The Tales of the Beedle and the Bard, Rowling
The Northern Clemency, Hensher
The Hive, Camilo Jose Cela
Blood River, Butcher
Family Maters, Mistry
When We Were Orphans, Ishiguro
Fugitive Pieces, Micheals
The House of Spirits, Allende


My Thought: The Host by Stephanie Meyer

The Host is set in a dystopian American world, which has been taken over by these small creatures which are implanted into the necks of humans. The host body and mind is then controlled by these friendly altruistic creatures, who are trying to rescue our world from our violence and destruction. Wanda is implanted into Melanie, but Melanie (unlike most humans) fights back, she battles to gain control of her body and fights to stop the others from seeking out her family and implanting them. As the novel progresses Wanda and Melanie travel to find Melanie's family, with many unexpected outcomes.
Wanda becomes engrossed in Melanie's memories, falling into love with her boyfriend and caring deeply about her brother. But she has to fight for acceptance from other humans, some give it easily - a little too easily - and others will never drop their guard around her. She also has to battle with fellings and emotions she never expected or had ever experienced before. Huge questions are asked about what it means to be human and about love.
This book is sold as Meyer's first adult novel, but I couldn't see that it was anymore adult than Twilight was, and I can't see many non YA reading adults reading this.

PS I finished my last challenge of the year!!!

Other reviews:

If you've reviewed this leave a link here

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Sunday Salon

Well that's Christmas over for another year. I had a good, but very quiet one. Ate too much and received many presents. Book wise, I got 6 new books, as seen above. The one not pictured is called The Book of Words by Tim Glynne-Jones. I have read a few tales from The Beedle and the Bard (ok so far) and I'm 200 pages into American Gods (Fantastic so far).

I some how managed to go to my mums leaving my books (The Host and The Court in the Air) and my hair stuff behind, so as well as having flat hair for four days I had little to read till Christmas Day. I managed to find a book by an English Comedian, which I finished in a day other tha that I had The Lord of the Flies to read and plan lessons for - still loads more to go!

Now I have one week off, I have a stack of marking and planning to do, I also have a ton of studying on the langauge differences between Men and Women, with an essay to write at the end of it (I'm a good 2-3 months behind on my course so I need to majorly catch-up this month). Hopefully I will have my afternoons free to read and go out, and avoid the fact that I have to turn another year older. I also have one more challenge to finish by Wednesday - I've got to read The Host.

Orbis Terrarum: Wrap Up and Meme

I seem not to have done a wrap up post for this challenge which I finished way back in June! I read :
Mister Pip ,Lloyd Jones (Australia)
The Plague, Camus (Algeria)
Moon Tiger, Lively (Eygpt)
Persian Brides, Rabinyan (Persia)
Peony in Love, Lisa See (China)
The Devil and Miss Prym, Coehlo (South America)
Microserfs, Coupland (Canada)
The Motorcycle Diaries, Che Guvara (Peru)

Peony in Love and Mister Pip are probably my favorites, and Moon Tiger is certainly the most disliked.

1.) What did you like about the challenge?
I enjoyed the opportunity to read books from a wider range of countries and also to read some great reviews making me add to my amazon wishlist!
2.) What would you like to see change for next year?
I didn't see any problems with last years challenge, maybe a mini challenge to make us go and look at other people who are participatings reviews - something I tend not to do with challenges that use a Mister Linky rather than a challenge page.
3.) About the rules, or the non-existent rules...did you like that?
It was nice and simple, ideal.
4.) Are you going to join us next year?
Yes, I'm already participating in several challenges making me read books from different countries, but I'll be joining yours too.
5.) Pretty please give me any suggestions for changes, the betterment of the challenge, or just anything that you would like to see changed for next year.
Only, as I said above for questions 2
6.) Would you like the challenge to be more involved? What if we read books together sometimes? Would that interest you?
That would be good, or we could all read a book from one country or continent during one month
7.) would you be interested in helping somehow next year? How would you like to help?
I wouldn't mind hosting a mini challenge, possibly likned to short stories.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Happy Christmas

I'm off away to my Mum's for four days of Christmas-ness. Hope everyone has a great holiday and manages to sneak in a little (or a lot) of reading time x

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Sunday Salon: The Late Edition

It's half ten at night her so Sunday is nearly over. I was thinking I'd pop out for lunch today then spend a few hours reading and go check out Twilight. Instead lunch, Tapas, ended up with an afternoon in various bars, I brought a few Christmas presents - I think the alcohol will be blamed for buying my 2 yr old nephew a variety of old fashioned kids instruments - and I then went for pizza. So I managed to oly read the synopsis of America Gods which I brought for my ex-boyfriends Christmas present.

Last week was hectic, end of school, work dinner and just being worn out as its he end of a very long school term, I read 'Passing' by Nella Larson and All the Pretty Horses. But this week I'll be able to read lots more. I'm starting The Host by Stephanie Meyer and I have either N orthern Clemency or The Court in the Air to take home for the holidays, I will also definately read The Beadle and the Bard, as I know for definite Santa has got me it - my mum ordered my Christmas books whilst Amaon was logged into my account! Doh!

I get to spend 4 days relaxing and enjoying my time off then I have a week off but that will need to be spent getting marking and planning done, turning a year older (yuck!) and working in a bar New Years Eve.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

The Caribbean Challenge

Another Challenge to help my long term goal of reading around the world for the Olympic Challenge. The Caribbean Challenge requires you to read 6 books from Caribbean authors or about Caribbean people, I've chosen to read books from the different countries.

This is my list, as usual it is subject to change:
George Lamming, In the Castle of My Skin (Barbados)
Michelle Cliff, Abeng (Jamacia)
Naipaul, Migel Street (Trinidad and Tobago)
Junot Diaz, The Brief and Wonderous Life of Oscar Diaz (Dominica)
Christina Garcia, The Ag├╝ero sisters (Cuba)
Grace Nichols, Whole of a Moring Sky(Guyanu)

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Sunday Salon: Challenge Completion

I just finished another challenge! I thought that was the last for the year then looked down my sidebar and realised I still have to read a Stephanie Myer book, I have The Host as my read once school finishes.

I managed to read The Sailor Who Fell From Grace with the Sea this afternoon, (I should have been studying but couldn't face phonetics!). The book centres around a widow and her only son. The son spies reguarly on his mother as she gets undressed for bed each evening, then one evening she brings home a man and he watches everything, almost as if he was watching a science experiment. The woman falls in love with this sailor, spelling disaster him at the hands of her precocious son.

The book features a nasty scene with a group of boys, a knife and scissors, and a kitten, one I don't think I'll get out of my head for a while.

I certainly wouldn't rave about this book, I've heard loads of positive comments about it and maybe I was expecting too much. It was ok, I'm sure bits of it will stay with me, but I much preferred the romantic Sound of the Waves.

Japanese Challenge completed!!!

What I was meant to read:

Any of Murakami which I haven't read
The Pillow Book by Shonogan
The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea, Mishma

Out by Kirino (Started it and was put off by the violent disposal of the body)

The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea, Mishma

Sunday Salon

I was thinking I wouldn't get much reading done in the last week, but actually managed to finish two books and read another. I have my last week of school coming up, and then from Friday I am free (after the dreaded Christmas works do!). I'm probably only going to read one book during the week, but then I will be reading lots more over the holidays, around exam marking, lesson preping and studying, oh and spending time at home for Christmas.

Just a quick note to say you should check out this story - The Parade of You, by Barth Anderson, it's a very perculiar story about a death ritual but beautifully written.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

A Challenge and a My 100th Book!!!

Another Challenge!!! My Year of Reading Dangerously 2009

Your job: Read 12 books you deem "dangerous." between January 1st and December 31st 2009. They may be banned or challenged books, new-to-you genres, books that seem to inhabit a permanent space on your stacks, or authors you're afraid of. The possibilities are endless! If it's dangerous to you, it's challenge-worthy to us!

My Pool: I'll read some of these and probably discover other books as I read throughout the year.

War and Peace
The Awakening by Kate Chopin

A Passage to India by EM Forester

Night, Dawn, and Day by Elie Wiesel

Inferno, by Dante

Beasts, by Joyce Carol Oates
Man in the Dark, by Paul Auster
American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang
The End of America, by Naomi Wolf
The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
Maus I and II, by Art Spiegelman
The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
Moll Flander's - Defoe (Banned)
Fahrenheit 451 - Bradbury (Banned)
Brave New World - Huxley (Banned)
Cry, the Beloved Country (Banned)
The House of Spirits, Allende
Wild Swans

My thoughts: Hardboiled/Hardluck by Banana Yoshimoto
I polished off these two novell this weekend. Hardboiled is a strange mystical story about a Japanese woman on a walking trip, everything seems to be fine untill she comes across a shrine, an area with a funny feel to it. The day continues with many strange occurances including fires and ghosts. Very simply told, an easy way to pass an hour but not overly exciting.
Hardluck this was the better of the two, only around 50 pages in length it tells the tale of a young woman waiting for her sister - who has been labelled 'braindead' to die. During this tiem she mets a man, a man she knows ahe would love if only she had met him at another time.

Japanese Literature Challenge book 2/3

Thursday, 11 December 2008

My Thoughts: East of Eden by John Steinbeck & Choke by Chuck Palahniuk

I've been reading East of Eden as part of a read-a-long and I am surprised to say I finished the book in the week it was supposed to be finished. A few times I fell behind, but caught up easily. This was a great way to pick up a book which looked daunting in size. And a great book too.

East of Eden tells the story of Adam, he grows up in a tense household, of sibling rivalry. Desperate to love someone he immediately falls for the first women to come through the door. Cathy, certainly has no plans to be a perfect housewife. She is fiesty, and out for herself and herself alone, walking out on him when their twin sons were just a few days old. The book then continues with the story of how Adam copes, and his sons life.

My favorite characters were Lee the chinese cook, and Sam Hamilton a loving neighbour.

Lived up to my high expectation of Steinbeck, and made me look forward to reading 2 of his books in 2009 for Becky's mini challenge.

Choke was a 'different' book to say the least. Dealing with the life and childhood of a sex addict, its full of sex, and grated on my teeth everytime he called his penis, his 'dog', yuck! Talking about his childhood, he speaks of his mother's numerous kidnappings of him from various foster parents, and then her arrests days later. Randomly he talks aboout his childhood in the third person, and clearly despises the way he acted as a kid. His mother is now in a medical care centre, where he has had to devise an ingenious way of getting money from strangers to pay for her medical bill.

Should it be on the 1001 list? I doubt it, it was certainly different, but definately not outstanding.

Monday, 8 December 2008

More Challenges for 2009

I do realise that I will probably not finish some of these but I really enjoy creating a 'pool' and looking at other peoples recommendations, which then leads me to abandon my pool and read something different.

The World Citizen Challenge
I've signed up to read at least 3 books. I have a few on my TBR pile to consider:
Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart, Tim Butcher
The Trouble With Tigers: The Rise and Fall of South-East Asia

Plus I'd like to read some history, I'm quite interested in Colonialisation and Slavery, or some books about Religion and Cultures - particuarly the treatment of women in other cultures.

2009 Young Adult Book Challenge
12 YA books. I've done this before and never struggled with it. I have several on my TBR pile I'd like to read including: the rest of the Twilight series,
the Scot Westerfeld books,
Witch Child,
No Angels
And then I'll probably read some of the Carnegie nominees

Dewey's Books Reading Challenge
1. Pick one book from each of the 6 years that Dewey has archives of. You can
access her archives by clicking on the archive link in the sidebar of her website. It’s a dropdown menu. For
instance, you would read one book that she reviewed in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006,
2007, and 2008 for a total of six books.

I've linked each of the books to her review
2003: Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk
2004: The Inner Circle by T.C Boyle
2005: Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
2006: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
2007: The God of War by Marisa Silver
2008: After Dark by Haruki Murakami

Sunday, 7 December 2008

The World in Shorts

Short Stories from across the World - Starting from Today and on-going (lets see how well travelled I can be).

Face, Alice Munro

(Ohio) The Gold Cadillac - Mildred Taylor

A Stench of Kerosene -Amrita Pritam

Indonesia: Maybe Not Yem, Etik Juwita

Short Story Sunday

I found a great selection of short stories in the back of an exam anthology our school used to teach, I have been reading these on and off, and they have been great. They are also from all different parts of the world so they have also been enlightening.

This morning I read:
'The Gold Cadillac' by Mildred Taylor

This 1950's story starts with a father returning home with a new Cadillac, gold in colour, gold insides the full works, a car that everyone stops and stares at. But the problem is he is black, in Ohio where he lives thats fine, but when he wants to travel down to Mississippi it's like "putting a loaded gun" to his head.

"A Stench of Kerosene" by Amrita Pritam

What starts of as a happy story, a story of a seemingly independent, confident girl in 1950s India changes drastically when her husband is given a new bride, as his first bride hasn't produced any children.

The Sunday Salon: December the nightmare month for reading!

My reading has fallen lower and lower throughout November and December, I'm not sure if its just because I discovered Runescape (I am a Geek offically) or because of the huge amounts of marking I'm having to do or because the kids at school are all crazy at the mo, that I come home so tired that sitting playing in a virtual world is the most I can do.

I need to finish one challenge by the end of December, and really need to get my butt into gear to start working on my challenges that I have already signed up for to finish mid 2009, as I have signed up for a huge amount in 2009. I'm not hugely disappointed if I don't complete challenges, it's about trying to make myself dive into mount tbr, and finding new discoveries from other peoples reviews. I will also be joining Eva's World Citizen challenge, as I feel I know so little about the world, even about England. I lack knowledge of politics, history, culture and religion - the little I do know is stuff I had to research as it related to a novel I studied.

As for this weeks reading, I'm planning on finishing Choke by Chuck Palahniuk and the last few chapters of East of Eden. I will be swamped with exam marking for most of the time, I'm trying to get it all finished so me Xmas holidays can be spent studying and planning for teaching Lord of the Flies - I'm trying to make the lessons very hands on, and introduce lots of theories, real life links and politics as they are high ability kids. I had them studying politics in relation to the film V for Vendetta this term, and seem to have brought about some radical ideas, and quite a lot of ideas and thoughts about why some terrorists strike - not sure how well it will go down with the parents!

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Sunday Salon: A couple of tiny reviews.

I didn't have my computer for a week as my badly behaved house rabbit chewed through the power cable! As a result I managed to get 4 books read in 7 days. I'm back to a computer now so I'm sure things will slow down again.

I've been out all day at my Mums so I'm fairly tired so I'm going to just jot down my thought on three of the books I read.

Life isn't all Ha Ha Hee Hee, Meena Syal: About 2nd generation Indians living in England torn between the beliefs, religion and religion of their nationality and parents and the world of London where they actually grew up. The story is about 3 girls, all friends, all with very different lives. This was a good fun read, something I have have on my mental tbr pile for years and years.

Man Crazy, Joyce Carol Oates: Sounds like Chick-lit but it isn't. It's actually a very dary novel, the central character grew out with her dad passing in and out of her life, and several men in and out of her Mum's bedroom. The character is desperate for love, so desperate she ends up in a very harmful situation with a cult, in which she is abused in many ways.

A Scent from a Strange Mountain, Robert Olen Butler: An excellent, Pulitzer winning collection of short stories, and my final collection for the Short Story Challenge. The stories are set in Vietnam and America and are about Vietnamese migrants. There is a lovely tone to the tales. Well worth checking out.

I'm also joining Rhiona's Ramblings Manga Challenge. The rules are simply to read 6 Manga novels in 2009 - I've never read any before so this should be a great introduction. I have no clue about Manga except that you can get Manga Shakespeare, so I'll have to hunt around in bookstores and see which ones appeal, and seek advice from Manga readers.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

My Thoughts: Under The Skin by Michel Faber

This is going to be a really quick review, as my home computer is broken and I'm having to use the annoyingly slow and awkward computers in the local library.

The premise of this book is simply about a female driver, driving the roads of Scotland in search of muscley hitchhikers to pick up. As the chapters progress we discover that her constant searches for hitchhikers are for hidden purposes and she has a hidden agenda. Which I won't reveal here as it would spoil the book for future readers.

I have really enjoyed Faber's other work, The Farenheit Twins and The Crimson Petal and the White, but always ignored this one as the cover just put me off. But I'm really glad that it was lent to me. As well as gradually revealing what is hyappening as the novel progresses Faber is also writing his his Animal Farm style political comment imbedded beneath the surface of the story.
A must read.

Monday, 17 November 2008

2009 Themed Challenge Feb 1st- July 31st 2009

The Rules:

1. Books should be chosen from the reader’s TBR pile (this may be an actual physical pile or a virtual pile). The challenge will from February 1, 2009 - July 31, 2009.

2. The goal is to read 4 to 6 books linked by theme.

3. Overlaps with other challenges are allowed.

4. Readers may change their list of books at any time.

5. Readers may choose three different levels of participation:

- Read at least 4 books with the same theme.

- Read at least 5 books that share at least TWO themes.

- Read at least 6 books that share MORE than two themes.

I'm torn between picking Contemporary Classics or Move 'em Along (Bookcrossing Books) both of which I have plenty of unread options for. Hopefully by February I will have picked.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

The Sunday Salon: Short Stories

I finished my forth collection of short stories this year, thats not many for some people, but until this year I had only really read short stories for school and university, they somehow passed me by.

This morning I finished a collection which I found in school - 30 copies mainly unused that I tripped over while looking for something completely different, typical of our overly stocked and underused collection - Mystery Stories of the Nineteenth Century. Some of these stories I had read previously - The Red Room, The Ostler, The Pit and the Pendulum but I also managed to discover some which were new to me and a few authors I plan on researching to find out what other material they have written - namely Ambrose Bierce and Guy de Maupassant. And this also ticks of one genre in The Genre Challenge

I'm not sure if it is just the collections whic I have read this year:

Skin, Roald Dahl
The Little Black Book of Stories, Byatt
Fragile Things, Gaiman
Mystery Stories of the Nineteenth Century, ed. Robert Etty

(I also participated in Short Story September)

but short stories seem to largely feature twists and turns, and generally do it better than novels.

I'm not sure why I haven't picked up many collections of short stories over the years, maybe because they tend to be mingled in amongst the fiction in libraries and bookshops and I just miss them, and maybe because you rarely hear them recommended.

Do you read short stories? if not, what puts you off?
The rest of my day is largely going to be spent planning and marking, and hopefully devoting a few hours to The Known World.

Friday, 14 November 2008

My Thoughts: Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

Boy this book has taken me so long to read, a week and a half may not sound so long to some people but thats more than double the time I normally take.

An Indian housewife steps down to the Ganga to wash and sees a vision of a ship, she goes inside and immediately draws what she has seen. What is so shocking about the vision is that the woman has never seen even a drawing of a ship before, yet before long her life has dramatically changed and the ship, the Ibis has become an important element of her life.

This book is littered with characters from far reaching areas of life - a mixed race American, a young girl born and raised outside of the traditions of the British or Indian culture, a fallen raja, and an Indian widow on the run after marrying below her caste. Each has an individual story, a reason to end up onboard the Ibis.

These characters where all gripping and I will be looking out for the next instalment of the triology to see what becomes of them.

Having read and loved The Glass Palace I was disappointed with this book, I did find it was overly long, and although I loved all of the characters, the vast array of plot lines and the ranges of langauges, religious and cultural traditions and beliefs created a very challenging read.

Have you read this? Id be interested to hear other peoples opinions on this book.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Book Ownership

I’ve asked, in the past, about whether you more often buy your books, or get them from libraries. What I want to know today, is, WHY BUY?
Even if you are a die-hard fan of the public library system, I’m betting you have at least ONE permanent resident of your bookshelves in your house. I’m betting that no real book-lover can go through life without owning at least one book. So … why that one? What made you buy the books that you actually own, even though your usual preference is to borrow and return them?
If you usually buy your books, tell me why. Why buy instead of borrow? Why shell out your hard-earned dollars for something you could get for free?

I'm a bit all over the place. Nowadays new books coming into my house tend to come via bookcrossing - a good way to read books for the price of a few stamps, and also a good way to save trees.
I do use the library but tend to do so sporadically, and I find when I'm in there I grab stacks, which then sit around for months waiting to be read and are often returned unread. I think because I'm not paying for them I tend to take stuff I'm not sure of, or let it linger because I have book rings to fulfill first. I also find a lot of the books I want at the library I have to order in advance, it's when I go to pick these up I end up picking up a few that I notice on he shelves.

My book buying habit is improving all the time. I once only brought books and they had to be brand new, now I tend to buy in second-hand stores, library sales (10 paperbacks for £1), and in the privately owned section of Amazon. As these books are cheap I'm not discerning about what I buy and I know that when read they will get moved out of the house via bookcrossing.
I now try to only go into the bookshop when I have money to spend, or I am buying for a gift. I like buying books that are part of a series so I have the whole set, books from certain authors that I love or are classics I know I will reread. Having said that I sometimes get this terrible itch where I just have to spend some money - whether or books, clothes or shoes - then its the pretty covers and the 3 for 2 offers that kill me.

Ans just to say that I hate that supermarkets now sell books, they are usually half the normal price and you just end up chucking them in the trolley as you wander past, not really thinking about the 400 unread books you have at home already.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Metamorphosis by Kafka

I've been meaning to read this for years and years and disgracefully only just got around to it, but at least I got there. This was my first read for Dewey's Martel Harper Challenge.

I knew the basic concept of this book, a guy wakes up one morning transformed into a bug, but I never realised how drawn in I'd get. As the novella progresses we watch the way his family reacts to his transformation - moving from fear through to contempt. And we watch his reaction, his loneliness and abandonment.

Definately a book everyone should checkout.

The Martel- Harper Challenge is to read the books that Yann Martel sends to the Canadian president Stephen Harper, here is a copy of the letter Martel sent along with the book


Olympic Challenge 2012

Lost in Translation 2009

Nonsuch Book is holding a great sounding challenge, and one that should help me with ideas for my own Olympic Challenge

The rules:

The challenge is simple – read six books in translation by the end of 2009. Comment with links to share or email me review URL to post. Check in periodically to see suggestions, reviews and what others are reading as well as articles and posts related to reading works in translation.

The Neverending Story, Ende (German)

The Brothers Karmazov (Russian)

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Sweeden)

Going to look out for more ideas and browse my own shelves

Sunday Salon

I've found that I haven't read much this week - the first week back to school has been pretty hectic. I'm also reading a book (The Sea of Poppies) which I seem to be struggling with - struggling because its an awkward hardback, struggling because it's full of Indian slang and words, struggling because there are 4 different storylines happening. Having said that I am enjoying it, I just seem to be reading very slowly.
Despite not having read much i had 6 books arrive in the house this week, 4 of them are bookrings which need to be finished in the next 4 weeks

My 4 bookrings

Free from Bookcrossing meeting

A free copy from Cannongate publishers

The Notable challenge, is now going to be a perpetual challenge. Challengers challenge themselves to a set number of books for the year - I want to read at least 6.

My list of possibilities:
My Revolutions, by Hari Kunzru (from 2008 Publishers Weekly Best Books)
The Calling, by Inger Ash Wolfe (from 2008 Publishers Weekly Best Books)
The Angel of Grozny: Orphans of a Forgotten War, by Asne Seierstad (from 2008 Publishers Weekly Best Books)
Bog Child, by Siobhan Dowd (from 2008 Publishers Weekly Best Books)
A Long way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, by Ishmael Beah (International Reading Association 2008)
The Yiddish Policeman's Union, by Michael Chabon (ALA Notable Book List 2008)
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, by Barbara Kingsolver (ALA Notable Book List 2008)
The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story, by Diane Ackerman (ALA Notable Book List 2008)
My South Seas Sleeping Beauty by Guixing Zhang (Kiriyama Prize Notable Book List 2008)

Monday, 3 November 2008

This is a challenge that I'm joining over at LibraryThing. The challenge is to create 9 categories of your own choice and read 9 books from each of those challenges. You may overlap 9 of the books.
For an extra challenge try and finish your list by 09.09.09
The Library group is here and they have their own blog for reviews here

My List:
1. Award Winners
- Wild Swans, Chang
- A Suitable Boy, Seth
- Cold Mountain, Frazier
- Small Island, Levy
-Fugitive Pieces, Micheals*
- Tamar, Peet
- The White Tiger,
- Sunshine, McKinley
- The Sea, Banville

2. 1001
- Family Matters, Mistry
- Spring Flowers, Spring Frost, Kadare
- Blonde, Oates
- Jack Maggs, Carey
- Fugitive Pieces, Micheals*
- Alias Grace, Atwood *

3. TBR pile
- A Suitable Boy, Seth *
- Big Sur, Kerouac
- The Peacock Throne
- Sophie's World
- Bel Canto, Patchett

4. Fantasy/Fairy/Folk tales (originals or rewrites)
- Beauty, McKinley
- The Ladies of Grace Adieu
- The Princess Bride, Goldman
- The Complete Chronicles of Narnia
- American Gods, Gaiman
- Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland

5. Non-fiction
- Blood River, Butcher
- Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucia, Chris Stewart
- My Booky Wooky, Brand
- History of Modern Britain, Marr
- Himilayas, Palin
- New Europe, Palin

6. African reads
- Blood River, Butcher*
- Caliban Shore, Taylor
- Bitter Fruit, Dangor
- Cry, the Beloved Country, Paton

7. Margaret Atwood
- Alias Grace, Atwood

8. I've always been meaning to read
- The House of Spirits, Allende
- Canary Road, Steinbeck
- Love in a Time of Cholera, Marquez
- Nights at the Circus, Carter
- The Brothers Karamazov (LT group read)
- War and Peace
- Fellowship of the Ring
- The Two Towers
- The Return of the King

9. New Fiction
- The White Tiger
- The Northern Clemency, Heshner
- A Fraction of a Whole, Toltz
- The Clothes on Their Back

My Thoughts: The Memory Keepers Daughter by Kim Edwards

This was one of those must read books of last year which I just never got around to at the time. As I was visiting my Mum over the weekend, I knew I needed something light and easy so I picked up this, not remembering that it would be sad.

The story is about 2 families with a shared secret connection. One family have twins, when the father delivers the baby one of the babies has Downs Syndrome, this is 1964 and he thinks the best thing for her is to go to a home. He sends her off with a nurse, telling his wife, the babies mother that the baby had died. The nurse feels unable to abandon the baby in the home and takes her home raising her as his own.

The lies and secrets go on for years, the marriage has a huge crack in it created by the lost daughter. In the other family their is the struggle for education and for security.

As with all secrets, you spend the whole time waiting for the truth to come out.

This was a good read, and had me weeping all Sunday afternoon.
Also reviewed by:

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Weekly Geeks 23#

This week, every participant gets to choose one of the previous Weekly Geeks themes to repeat. I think it’ll be a lot of find seeing what everyone chooses. It’ll give me an idea of what the most popular themes have been, and it’ll give everyone else a break from seeing almost identical posts on the blog of all the WG participants. And of course it gives you the flexibility of choice.
Exceptionally simple instructions!
1. Browse through the previous Weekly Geeks posts.
2. Decide what you’d like to repeat.
3. Do it!
4. When you finish, come sign the Mr Linky with the url to your specific post, not just your general blog url.
5. Don’t forget to check out what other Weekly Geeks chose.

I'm repeating Weekly Geeks 12

This week, for Weekly Geeks, we’re listing books we’ve read but not yet reviewed, and asking readers to leave us questions in our comments.

I enjoyed this last time, and having to answer questions helped me focus my reviews.

So if anyone has any questions on these books please leave them in the comments (you don't have to be a WG to ask questions, the more the merrier.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

Out, Kirino
The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea

The Sea of Poppies

New Moon, Meyer

Gilead, Robinson

I Sweep the Sun off Roof Tops, Al-Shaykh

The Book of Chamelons, Agualasa

Allah Is Not Obliged, Kourouma

History: A Novel, Morante

Cry, the Beloved Country, Paton

The Poisonwood Bible, Kingsolver
Check out these other WGs:
Becky is also asking for questions about her up and coming reads
1330v and bookworm are featuring a quote a day

The Sunday Salon: Challenges???

Despite having a week of work I got very little reading done, my week was jam packed. I shouldn't even be on here this morning as I have a ton of planning to do!

I completed another 2 challenges this week, The Man Booker 2008 and RIP III and now only have 3 challenges left that I need to complete before the year finishes, and thats only 2 books to finish that I'm part way through and 3 books to read fully. Despite clearing up my challenges I seem to be joining a whole host more for next year, its like just can't help myself. I just joined two more this morning:

I enjoy participating in challenges as it often brings to my attention new books and authors I never even knew about and those books I always meant to read. This year, however, I'm going to try and use challenges to read a lot of the books I already own.

Do you join or avoid challenges? Why

Well Seasoned Reader Challenge

This challenge is being held by BookNut

Here's how it works:

Rule #1: The challenge runs from January 1 to March 31. (No cheating and starting before!)

Rule #2: You must read three books. After that, it's up to you how much you want to read.

Rule #3: The books must:
have a food name in the title

ORbe about cooking/eating

ORhave a place name in the title

ORbe about one (or more) person's travel experience

ORbe about a specific culture

ORbe by an author whose ethnicity is other than your own (see, I squeezed it in!)

I'll leave it up to you to choose how the three books you read fit the criteria.

Rule #4: They must be middle-grade on up, but can be either fiction or non-fiction.

The purpose, this winter, is to take yourself someplace out of the ordinary, to go on a literary trip, whether that be challenging your expectations, discovering a new place, or enjoying the experience of reading about good food, places, and people.

My List:

Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucia, Chris Stewart (Travel and food)

Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart, Tim Butcher (Travel)

Biter Fruit, Achmat Dangor (Ethnicity and Food)

What's In A Name? 2 Challenge

Amy is holding a second round of the What's In a Name? Challenge. The premise is the same as before, read 6 books, each title has to fit into a different category.

1. A book with a "profession" in its title.

The Robber Bride - Atwood

The Zookeepers Wife

The Ice Queen, Hoffmann

2. A book with a "time of day" in its title.

Naked Lunch

Tender is the Night

3. A book with a "relative" in its title.

The Bonesetter's Daughter

Sister of my Heart - Divkrum

When We Were Orphans, Ishiguro

4. A book with a "body part" in its title.

Heart Songs - Proulx

Heart Shaped Box

The Wood Wife, Windling

The Bluest Eye, Morrison

5. A book with a "building" in its title.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Jamacia Inn, Du Mauriner

Perdido Street Station

The Castle, Kafka

House of Leaves

6. A book with a "medical condition" in its title.

Girlfriend in a Coma

Thursday, 30 October 2008

My Thoughts: The Gathering by Anne Enright

Lots of reviews of this book say it is too depressing, too miserable. This is a book about a suicide, its hardly likely to be full of happiness and joy.

The book is narrated by a middle aged, middle class woman, with a seemingly perfect life - she's at home looking after the kids, whilst her husbands business is going so well she can buy anything she wants. But she isn't happy.

When her brother commits suicide she starts mulling over events in the past, her past and her families past, as well as the present, her lifeless, loveless marriage. Veronica is from a large family, one where the kids all drag up each other. The mother has too many kids to care about each child individually, and she also has some type of problem, so the family is constantly trying to protect her from the live going on around her. Veronica seems to hate, and yet love her mother, and also blames her father for having to grow up in this overly large family.

After her brother's suicide, Veronica explores a past she would have never known, the meeting of her grandparents, and how that meeting led to the event that she says it the root cause of her brother's death.

This novel is firmly based in the thoughts of the narrator, no great event happens, and you guess early on what childhood event will be revealed. I felt I never knew whether to trust this narrator, at some points she even told you that she couldn't clearly remember events. I also didn't really like her, or any of her family, they all seemed fairly self absorbed, no one really seemed to love anyone else, they all just existed side-by-side.

Saying that I thought it was well written, and a good read.

This was the last book I had to read for the 2008 Man Booker Challenge, this year I read:

By far my favorite was Mr Pip. In the next year I shall be reading all the of the 2008 shortlist, as well as some previous winners and runners up

Booking Through Thursday: Book Conditions

Are you a spine breaker? Or a dog-earer? Do you expect to keep your books in
pristine condition even after you have read them? Does watching other readers
bend the cover all the way round make you flinch or squeal in pain?

I used to bend the corners of pages to make my place, but I have gotten myself out of that habit, however I do leave them open face down. The spines do get broken, and occasionally pages have a gorgeous quote underlined or starred. I tend to only write notes around poetry.
I believe books are there to be enjoyed, they are not items in a museum. I used to know a guy who barely opened the book to read it as he wanted it to look pristine when he had finished with it, he always looked uncomfortable as he read.
As most of the books I read are second hand, or come from bookcrossing, they have already been read so its not a problem what condition they arrive in.
What makes me annoyed is when the kids at school bend the cover all the way around, its not their book and is just likely to make it break or pages fall out so other people can't enjoy it in the future. And when they write rude words or pictures in it - then they know they are in trouble!

P.S I have a challenge running till Dec 09 based on the BTT question from a couple of weeks ago, about books that have been sitting on your shelf for ages waiting to be read. Thr Rescue Challenge is to save those poor books from being ignored any longer, details can be found here

Book Give Away

There is a book giveaway over at BLOG.LITERARILY.COM for The Witches Trinity: A Novel. The giveaway is open till the 14th of November.
Plus over at the site is a great little essay about witches in history, go check it out.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

RIP III: Wrap-up

I ended up going a little overboard on my reading. I needed to read 4, I managed....

I also started and abandoned one book, and started and put aside for a little while another, as I just wasn't in the mood for it.

Just pipping the post for fav over The End of Mr Y, is The Gargoyle. This was an excellent read. Look forward to taking part in this challenge again next year.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

My Thoughts: The Gargoyle - Andrew Davidson

Ultimately going to become my favorite book of the year!

I sat down this morning to read some of this book, and read for 7 hours, only stopping to nip to the supermarket and to eat tea. Its amazing, really powerful.

The book is about a burns victim, he is in a car crash, his own coke-induced fault, which leads to immense burning of his hole body - the descriptions of the burns on the first 10 pages is horrific, and nearly made me put the book down. He goes from being a pornographic cassonova, with his own company and party lifestyle, to a guy completely dependent on others for his every need.

Into the ward, and into his life walk Marianne Engel calmly announcing that she has been looking for him for the last 700 years, since they were last lovers.

Marianne is Schizophrenic/manic depressive/ genius/ fantastic story-teller. She recounts their life together, plus telling him tales of various other connected figures, and folk tales while helping him with his treatment and taking him into her own care. She is a compulsive sculptor, working into a frenzy when God talks to her and tells her what to create.

The book is full of knowledge, of burns, religion, myth, Dante's Inferno (which I so want to read now!), and schizophrenia but everything is delivered so you can understand. It felt like a cross between The Time Traveller's Wife (my fav book) and The End of Mr Y.

Read for the RIP III challenge (book 9/4)

Other Readers

If you have read this please leave a link to your review in the comments and I'll add the link to the post

Sunday Salon: A week of reading planned

This last week has been really busy, the last week before half term is always jammed packed, so my reading has been limited. The only things I did seem to do, was create 2 new challenges; The Rescue Challenge and Exploration: Latin American Reading Challenge (see here for info), and join a new challenge for 2009, The Pub Challenge - a challenge to read books published in 2009.

As I have a week off I'm planning to attack my reading piles and especially my reading challenges. I have to finish The Gargoyle and Out, both of which are extras for Carl's RIP III challenge. Out is also my second read for the Japanese challenge, hopefully I'm going to find another Japanese book this week and get this challenge bagged. I'm also trying to read at least one short story a day from a collection of Nineteenth Century short stories, then I'll only need to read one more collection of stories before the end of the yet.

Anyone else tackling their challenges st the moment? How is it going?

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Decades Challenge 2009

3M is hosting this challenge again

Did you participate in the By the Decade Challenge last year? Would you like to
again? Or, if you didn’t take part in 2008, are you interested in doing so in
2009? We’d love to have you join us!
Decades ‘09 Rules:
1. Read a minimum
of 9 books in 9 consecutive decades in ‘08.
2. Books published in the 2000’s
do not count.
3. Titles may be cross-posted with any other challenge.
You may change your list at any time.
5. Peruse the eligible book lists and
reviews from 2008 or 2007. Any book from that decade is eligible; it doesn’t
have to be on the list to qualify. A good source to find out when books were
published is wikipedia. For example if you follow this link, you will
see how easy it is to search books by a particular decade. Another resource is
7. Sign up through Mr. Linky below.
Please use the url of your specific post for this challenge rather than just
your blog url.
8. 6. After about January 12, come back and post the links to
your reviews into Mr. Linky for the appropriate decade. Please don’t post
‘09 reviews in the Mr. Linky before January 12. I’ll need some time to
switch over the ‘08 reviews and set up the new ‘09 Linkys. You don’t have to,
but you are encouraged to post all the books you’ve read for that decade if
you’re participating in Decades ‘09.
9. Have fun reading your Decades ‘09
books, and have a great year!

Here is my potential list, I've picked 2 for each year so I have more freedom to chose according to my mood.

1990: A Suitable Boy, Seth or Alias Grace, Atwood

1980: Love in a Time of Cholera,Marquez or The House of Spirits, Allende

1970: The Sea, The Sea, Murdoch or In A Free State, Naipaul

1960: Big Sur, Kerouac or The Arrow of God, Achebe

1950: Naked Lunch, Burroughs or The Go Between, Hartley

1940: Canary Row, Steinbeck or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Smith

1930: Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald or The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck

1920: The Sound and The Fury, Faulkner or The Trial, Kafka

1910: Of Human Bondage, William Somerset Maugham or The Secret Garden, Burnett

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

The 2009 Pub Challenge

The 2009 Pub Challenge held by 3M

Here are the 2009 rules:
Read a minimum of 9 books first published in 2009. You don’t have to buy these. Library books, unabridged audios, or ARCs are all acceptable. To qualify as being first published in 2009, it must be the first time that the book is published in your own country. For example, if a book was published in Australia, England, or Canada in 2008, and then published in the USA in 2009, it counts. Newly published trade paperbacks and mass market paperbacks do not count if there has been a hardcover/trade published before 2009. Any questions on what qualifies? Just leave a comment here, and I’ll respond with the answer.
No children’s/YA titles allowed, since we’re at the ‘pub.’
At least 5 titles must be fiction.
Crossovers with other challenges are allowed.
You can add your titles as you go, and they may be changed at any time.
Sign up HERE using Mr. Linky.
Have fun reading your 2009 books!

I haven't decided on a list books yet, I'll probably decide when I read reviews.
Here are a few I am aware of:
Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro, 2009
Sarah Waters of Fingersmith fame is releasing a book in June, I'll definately be grabbing it as I love all her books so far.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Two Completed Short Story Collections

The Little Black Book of Stories - Byatt

Way, way back in April I picked up and started this collection of short stories on a bus journey, the book then got put down and forgotten about till I rediscovered it for the RIP III challenge, and now its finally finished.

I love A.S Byatt's Possession but have never got around to reading any of her other stuff, well if this collection is anything to go by I should dig some more out. With the exception of one story, 'Body Art' I enjoyed all the tales, most I would say are relevent to the RIP challenge, while one 'A Stone Woman' was just very strange and mysterious. My favorite has to be 'Raw Material' a story about a creative writing teachers dismal class, with one shining light. The story was so soft and gentle that the ending came as a sharp surprise.

Fragile Things - Gaiman

This was a great collection of short stories, as expected by Gaiman. A few were abandoned but most were loved, in particular The Day the Saucers Came and Octobers Chair. A random selection of these stories I have reviewed as I read them:

The Sunday Salon: Announcing Two Challenges

Two new challenges I'm hosting, now looking for participants.

The Rescue Challenge
In this weeks Booking Through Thursday people were asked about those books which just linger on the shelves for years, never making it to the top of the pile. Which got me thinking about a new challenge, The Rescue Challenge. Help rescue those unloved books from the obscurity of the bottom of the tbr pile.
There would be two parts to the challenge, the first would be to get rid of any books you know deep down you will never read, so whether you bookmooch, bookcross, give them away to a charity shop these books will take up less of your space and have the opportunity to be read.
The second part of the challenge, will be to set up a pool of those unloved books and read between 3-6 of them between Nov 1st 2008 - Dec 31st 2009.
Books can definitely count for other challenges as well, in fact this will probably urge you to read them, and you set yourself the amount of books you'd like to read. The prize, is simply space on your shelves and freeing yourself of guilt when you once again sweep past that copy to reach for a shiny new book.
List of Participants here

I'm going to aim to read 4 of these, all have been on my shelves for more than 3 years:
A Suitable Boy - Seth
Arthur and George - Barnes
Sister of my Heart - Divkrum
Glasgow - Freud
Acts of Mutiny - Beavan
Big Sur - Kerouac
Alias Grace - Atwood
The Robber Bride - Atwood
The Swimming Pool Diaries - Hollinghurst
Heart Songs - Proulx
The Woodlanders - Hardy
War and Peace - Tolstoy
Adam Bede - Eliot
North and South - Gaskell
Love in a Time of Cholera - Marquez

Exploration: Latin American Reading Challenge
This challenge will run for 4 months, between the 1st January - 30th April 2009. The aim is to read a 4 books from Latin America, these can be fiction or non-fiction the mix is up to you. The books can be used as part of other challenges, but must be finished between the dates of the challenge. I will supply a small prize drawn from the names of those people who finish the challenge.
I've shown below a couple of options you may want to follow:
Free Choice: Read any four Latin American books
Mix it Up: Read a variety of fiction and non-fiction Latin American books
Author Challenge: Read a variety of work from just one author.
States: Read a book from a variety of the different states of Latin America
Magic Realism: Latin America is famous for producing the Magic Realism genre, you may decide just to read books fitting this genre.

Just so everyone is clear as to what will count as Latin America, I found this handy definition:
The Spanish-speaking, Portuguese-speaking, and French-speaking countries (except Canada) of North America, South America, Central America, and the West Indies. The 20 republics are Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. The term Latin America is also used to include Puerto Rico, the French West Indies, and other islands of the West Indies where a Romance tongue is spoken. Occasionally the term is used to include Belize, Guyana, French Guiana, and Suriname.

List of Participants here
Reviews here

For now pick which option you would like to participate in, create a list or a pool of books you'd like to read (these can be changed at any point).
My List: (Free Choice)
Love In a Time of Cholera - Marquez
The House of Spirits - Allende
Easter Island - Vandebes
Bel Canto - Patchett
The Agero Sisters - Garcia
The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto - Llosa
The Empress of South America - Cawthorne

Signing up for the challenges: if you'd like to sign up for either of these, please leave a comment below with the challenge you'd like to join and a link to your pool of books. Anyone without a blog can list their pool in the comments. I'll then create a participants list. I'll also create a post where people can leave links to their reviews once the challenges are up and running.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Sunday Salon: A Tidy Up and Short Story Weekend

I couldn't participate in the read-a-thon as I have loads to do this weekend - marking etc, I had to work in a bar last night and I have to be perky for the last week of school for the term, which is a shame as I'd love to know how long I would have lasted for. Instead I decided I'd try and read as many short stories as I could in a weekend around all the other stuff I had to do. (This will help towards the Short Story Challenge, and 100 Shots of Short. The list so far:

1. Instructions, Gaiman

2. Diseasemaker's Croup, Gaiman

3. Goliath, Gaiman

A very perculiar tale. A man 'judders' through time, he lives his life again and again, repeating and changing aspects of it each time. He has been designed to save the world against aliens, and seems to get various bits of information at each point in his life, everytime earth is attacked he returns to an earlier point, eventually being at a point where he can make a difference.

4. A Stone Woman, Byatt

A scar from an operation feels strange and lumpy, leaving the woman feel like she has a part of her which is not her own body. Weeks later she realises that this scar is producing little red grains of glinting sand, which start emerging from different sections of her body. As time passes her scar turns into a line of rock, carnelians, diamonds, granite etc start forming in mounds across her body.

5. The Duc De L'Omelette, Poe

The Tidy Up:

I finished the Young Adult Challenge hosted by Joy weeks ago and seem to have forgotten to post a round up. I read the following books

Books I've read for this challenge:
1 Twilight , Meyer
2 Mirrormask, Gaiman
3 Journey to the River Sea, Ibbotson
4 Gatty, Crossley-Holland
5 Apache, Landman
6. The Garbage King, Laird
7. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Taylor
8. Ruby Red, Glass
9. Blankets, Thompson (Graphic Novel)
10. Goodbye Tsugumi, Yoshimoto
11. Three Shadows, Pedrosa (Graphic Novel)
12. Varjak Paw, S.F Said
13. Rabbit Proof Fence, Pilkington

My favorite: Gatty

My Least fav: Mirrormask

I've also decided to be rusthless and get rid of a few challenges I am definetly not going to finish. I'm abadoning: The New Classics Challenge, Unread Authors Challenge, and 2nds challenge so I can focus on finishing the rest.

For the rest of the day I will be reading short stories in between marking exams, going out for lunch and getting some cleaning done

My Thoughts: The Wooden Sea by Jonathan Carrol

I'm not quite sure how I'm going to make this description of this book make sense, but here goes.

Frannie finds a sick dog, who promptly dies and he buries it, finding in the ground a bone and a multicoloured feather. The problem is the dog and the feather won't stay buried and they keep reappearing all over the place, as solid items, tatoos, pictures etc. Along with these items haunting his days Frannie is visited by, and visits hisself at various stages of his life. He needs all the Frannies he has even been and ever will be to help him save the world and those around him.

Sounds confusing right? But somehow when you read it, it is simple, clean and polished. I loved this book, and definately need to be reading more of his work in the future.
Challenges: Fall into Reading.
Have you read this? Leave a link to your review here and I'll pop in a link.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Booking Though Thursday: The Brunt of Mount TBR

So, the question is this: “What tomes are waiting patiently on your shelves?"

My shelf has many books that have been sitting waiting for me for years, many of these are classics that I brought during university with the aim of having good knowledge, and never got around to, like Moll Flanders, War and Peace, North and South by Elizabeth Gaskel and The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy.
I also have:
The Robber Bride and Alias Grace by Maragaret Atwood, both of which I brought 10 years ago during my A' Levels, when I was just 17! I have no idea why these two haven't been read as I have enjoyed all of her stuff.

A few others with have been hanging out on my shelves for several years: A Suitable Boy, Arthur and George and Yellow Dog.

Maybe there should be a rescue challenge for those books that never quite make it to the top of the pile.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

A Week of Reading Short Stories

I'm attempting to get 100 Shots of Short off to a good start by reading at least one short story everyday this week. Teaching has really helped (kinda cheating I know)

On Monday I reread Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl to the kids at school. The story stars off all peaceful and calm and then unexpectedly turns dark. Always a favorite

On Tuesday I read The Red Room (H.G Wells) twice, to 11 year olds then 16 year olds. This 19th century tale is a great read for haloween, the brave young man ventures off into the red room to face whatever it is that lurks up there.

I also read a story for pleasure, Country Lovers by Nadine Gordimer. This was an excellent read. Set in Africa, it talks of how black and white children start off as friends, almost equals in play and in development, but the private education and benefits of the white children brings seperation, the division into master and worker. But one pair of children continued their friendship, from their teens, with innocent gift giving and hanging out through to 18, when this had developed into a secret sexual relationship. As with all secret relationships the outcome isn't happy. Very well, and very simply told, making the ending even more heart wrenching.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

My Thoughts: The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas (plus a mini challenge)

I brought this book ages ago, and to be honest I'm not sure if I ever read the blurb, the fantastic cover design (reminding me of the brilliant Glass Books of the Dream Eaters) and the black edged pages were screaming out for me to buy this. It finally found its way to the top as I thought it would fit into the RIP III challenge, and its darkness makes it a good choice although its subject matter may stop people from thinking it fits.
The End of Mr Y is about a cursed book of the same name, everyone who reads it dies. Well that's actually, surprisingly, fine as only one copy is known to exist and its locked inside a bank vault. Ariel is an overly intelligent (she knows about everything apart from religion and love) PHd student, studying Lumas, the author of The End of Mr Y, her lecturer disappears, her university sinks into the hill and she randomly comes across a copy of this book. Obviously this is a book in which you need to suspend your disbelief.
The book contains a recipe, which promises knowledge, and despite knowing all about the curse, Ariel seeks out the ingredients and takes the mixture. The recipe leads people into the troposphere a place where you exist within your own mind and can jump between other peoples minds. Now, some bad men also know about this recipe and want to stop anyone else discovering it, so they are after Ariel and any one else who's involved, and they are not so easy to escape as they can also travel through minds.
It all sounds very bubble-gum like from that description but in amongst this adventure there is a whole heap of philosophy, language theory and science. I could keep up with the Sartre and Baudrillard just about, but a lot of the science went over my head. Definitely a book that needs concentration.
Fall into Reading


Another Challenge!
I'm also going to participate in Dewey's Martel-Harper challenge. This challenge involves reading 3 books from the list of books that author Yann Martel has recommended for the Canadian Primeminister Stephen Harper. Dewey's sign up page is here . October - December 31st
Birthday Letters - Ted Hughes
Metamorphoses - Kafka
Anthem - Ayn Rand

Saturday, 11 October 2008

The Sunday Salon: Short Story Sunday

I've had a busy week, but managed to read all of The Hours, and I'm halfway through The End of Mr Y, which I'm really enjoying and planning to spend a few hours on later once I've got all my jobs done. And England is bathed in gorgeous sunshine at the mo, so I'm off for a wander around town and into the library to make sure I enjoy it before it disappears again.

My first short story for 100 Shots of Short.

Gold Boy, Emerald Girl By Yiyun Li (can be found online here).

A very melancholy tale set in the busy Beijing but with that air of tranquility that you often fing in Chinese stories. He has been brought up along by his mother, and she alone by her father. Despite countless attempts to get them married, both had remained single. When he arrives back from the freedom of America his mother is quick to try and set up a meeting between him and one of her prized students.

Anyone know any good online stories to recommend? I'm going to try and do Short Story Sunday everyweek from an online story.