Saturday, 31 May 2008

My Thoughts: Orchard on Fire - Sheena Mackay

This is one of those books I would never have even picked up in a bookshop as the cover just doesn't look like my type of read but when I saw the title on Bookcrossing I thought I'd give it a go. And I'm really glad I did.
The novel is set in a quaint English countryside in the 1950/60's I'd guess, against this background is set the story of two young girls with not so quaint lives. April's parent's own a little tea shop which doesn't do much business, she attracts the unwanted attentions of an elderly old man. And Ruby lives in a pub with parents who pay her very little attention except with their fists. The girls become good friends but try and deal separately with their problems.
The narration is told by April and the author manages to pull of a child's voice and point of view well, without the novel seeming like a child's book. This really reminded me of Tatty which I read last year and loved.
Definitely a book I'd recommend to others. If you have read this book feel free to comment or leave a link to your own review.

Book 6/6 for the Novella Challenge (my first ever completed challenge!)
Book 3/6 for the 2008 Booker Challenge
Book 31/52 for my A-Z Challenge

Friday, 30 May 2008

My Thoughts: Moon Tiger - Penelope Lively

I would never have picked this book up but it was on the Booker winners list, of which I am trying to read all the winners, and it fitted in with a few other challenges. It got pulled towards the top of mount tbr because the name 'Moon Tiger' sounded exciting, adventurous and romantic - which is what this book wishes to be, but some how doesn't quite get there.

The book's narrator is Claudia, an old lady who is nearing the end of her life, with her death looming she decides to write a history of the world. Her life history gets mixed in with a sparse amount of world history. We here of her lovers her incestuous relations with her brother, her poor attempt at motherhood as well as her jaunts in Egypt as a journalist during the war and her fairly selfish life as a popular historian.

She is created as a woman who keeps everyone distant from her, self sufficient and self involved - which she is - which is why I think I couldn't really care with the story. She seemed so distant that we couldn't believe in this gaping short lived love affair, we couldn't believe that she felt the horror of war or the horror of her upcoming death. It was an ok read, certainly not gripping and one I'm sure to have pretty much forgotten by next week.

If you have read this book feel free to comment or leave a link to your own review.

Book 2/6 for The 2008 Booker Challenge
Book 1/6 for
The What's in a Name? Challenge
Book 5/6 for
The Novella Challenge
Book 5/6 for
Orbis Terravm

May 2008 - Wrap Up

This month has been a poor month for reading, only 6 books read! I normally get through 8 to 10 and thats in a month without a school break in it. The Echo Maker took up a good 10 days of reading and all that exam marking I had to do really didn't help.
My favorite book of the month was A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson which surprised me, but he was really able to draw me into his hike.
Challenge Updates:
I signed up for a couple (!) of new challenges:
The Southern Reading Challenge
What's in a Name?
The Classics Challenge
Book Awards 2
The 2nd Canadian Challenge
As well as the Pulitzer and Nobel Projects

I think next month the challenge should be not to sign up for any challenges and get a few completed!
Orbis, Novella and I Heard It Through the Grapevine are all close to being completed so hopefully they will be done by the end of June, although with all three I'll still continue reading books which would fit in their categories for a long time to come.

The Orbis Terrarum Challenge meme:

1.) What country do you always go back to in your travels (not just while reading for OT)?
I seem to end up in Asia a lot, predominantly ancient China, enjoying all the dynasty's and the life of the women in them - although looking at my reading list this year I seem to be lacking in that area.
2.) If you could visit 4 of the countries you have read about in your life (that you haven't been to yet), which would they be and why? (you can include the book that makes you want to visit if you remember)
Wow I haven't really travelled much in real life so picking just four will be hard.
Tailand (The Beach), I want to go and see it but I'm also put off by the idea that it might be overly touristy.
China (from many different novels including Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and The Binding Chair - two of my favs), I'd love to experience the culture - and next year I may just be going on a paid for trip there with school (fingers crossed!)
India, for the different cultures and ways of living.
Africa (I read a book called Comfort Herself when I was about 13 at school and since then I've always wanted to go), again this is somewhere there is a chance I may go with school - to visit one poor school and community in Malawi then a much richer school and area in South Africa.
3.) Have you ever dreamed about a country you have read about, that you have never actually traveled to- except in your dreams?
Not that I recall, I can't remember all that many dreams unless they are just bizarre.
4.) In what ways has reading about different countries opened up your perspective about global issues?
Like Raidergirl I would say that the plight and treatment of women in other countries has always really struck me - in particular women in Iraq, China and India - it makes me realise how lucky women are in this country. Just travelling to other countries like Tunisia and Vietnam also sinks this message in, you always imagine that its a thing of the past seeing it in real life and biographies highlights how much needs to change.
5.) What countries have you felt your judgment was off about-after reading about that nation?
I was shocked when I read about Afghanistan how much I had assumed about the country from what is portrayed in the news, the country sounds like it was a beautiful place where lots of advancement and changes had come about only to be lost again when the Taliban can in charge. I also found this when I was reading about Iran and Iraq - it must be devestating to have lived with such freedom and rights then to suddenly have then all stripped away in such a short period of time.
6.) Which is your favourite book that you would recommend for this challenge (you don't have to have read it during the challenge)?
Roots - The gorgous views of Africa then the sharp realisation of all that was lost.
Under the Persimmon Tree - An American and refugees life in Afghanistan under the Taliban
7.) I am thinking about hosting again, for a full year next time starting in January, do you have any constructive criticism, is one book a month about right...more? less? Give me some thoughts.
I think one book a month is fine, this challenge is fairly easy as there are lots of books about different countries. It would be nice to see people's choices for some of those countries which are less popular for people to write about. I'd definately sign up as I am trying a personal challenge to read one book from each country around the world.
8.) Anything else that you have been wanting to tell us all about? let us have it!
I like the way Mr Linky works and I think it is a great way to see at a glance what people have read, but I also really like those challenges where people post their full reviews as I tend to read full reviews of books I haven't read/ considered rather than clicking on a link.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

My Thoughts: Sour Sweet - Timothy Mo

I love Asian books and seeing the title and the author I expected this book to be set in China, however this book is about a Chinese family who have recently moved to 1960's London. The family - a young husband and wife, a baby and a sister all start of living in a small flat whilst the husband works in a Chinese restaurant. In the novel it is the women who are in charge, they pester the husband into setting up his own business and become much more integrated into the English culture than he does. However, Chinese customs and beliefs are still followed rigorously. The interpretations on British life and the misunderstandings are humourous and I could have quite happily have read another couple of hundred pages about the family life of the Chens.

The book alternated chapters between the Chen family and a group of Chinese gang members called the Hung Family. The chapters about the gang contained initiation ceremonies and lots of violence, they never really seemed to hang true and the link to the Chen family was very weak and appeared just there to provide the ending. Personally I just skim read these chapters as a means to get back to the Chan family drama.

This is my first read for the 2008 Booker Challenge, as this was short-listed for the Booker prize in 1982. Although it was an enjoyable read I can see why it wouldn't have won a Booker prize.

If you have read this book feel free to comment or leave a link to your own review.

Booking Through Thursday: What is reading, fundamentally?

What is reading, anyway? Novels, comics, graphic novels, manga, e-books,
audiobooks — which of these is reading these days? Are they all reading? Only
some of them? What are your personal qualifications for something to be
“reading” — why? If something isn’t reading, why not? Does it matter? Does it
impact your desire to sample a source if you find out a premise you liked the
sound of is in a format you don’t consider to be reading? Share your personal
definition of reading, and how you came to have that stance.

I used to be a real reading snob, reading had to be proper books (non of the chick lit stuff) or broadsheet newspapers. Then I started teaching which got me into kids books and also made me think about what reading really is. Personally I now say to parents who are struggling to get their kids to read that it doesn't matter what it is so long as they are reading: it could be comics, non-fiction, celebrity biography's, magazines or web-pages. Not everyone enjoys novels and the world can't all be the same. I think that it is the pressure and force to read books that actually puts a lot of people off as kids, for some people reading a huge passage is torture but a graphic novel could be entertaining.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Poem of the Week: A Paper Bag - Atwood

I always both loved and struggled with poetry. Very rarely could I read an poem and just get it, which frustrated me considerably, but I loved reading or being taught about poems, its like being given a key to a maze, once the door is open I can go and discover many different things that I couldn't see at first glance.

I've been reading a lot of poetry with the older pupils at school, lots of Simon Armitage and Carol Ann Duffy as well as a selection of poetry from all different cultures. What this has made me realsie is how little poetry I have read since leaving university, so I'm planning to start trying to read a selection of poetry each week and I aim to put my favorite on here so hopefully others can enjoy and maybe comment.

So this week I've been looking at Margaret Atwoods' poems and this one instantly caught my attention.

The Paper Bag.

I make my head, as I used to,

out of a paper bag,

pull it down to the collarbone,

draw eyes around my eyes

with purple and green

spikes to show surprise,

a thumb-shaped nose,

a mouth around my mouth,

penciled by touch, then coloured in

flat red.

With this new head, the body now

stretched like a stocking and exhausted could

dance again; if I made a

tongue I could sing.

An old sheet and it's Halloween ;

but why is it worse or more

frightening, this pinface

head of square hair and no chin?

Like an idiot, it has no past

and is always entering the future

through its slots of eyes, purblind

and groping with its thick smile,

a tentacle of perpetual joy.

Paper head, I prefer you

because of your emptiness;

from within you any

word could still be said.

With you I could have

more than one skin,

a blank interior, a repertoire

of untold stories,

a fresh beginning.

Margaret Atwood.

This poem grabbed me as I immediately had an image of a child, feeling unloved, unwanted, perhaps bulllied just desiring to be someone else. To wipe out who they where and be given a fresh chance or a new start.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

My Thoughts: A Walk in the Woods - Bill Bryson

My brother has been trying to get me to read Bill Bryson for ages but I always thought that he enjoyed hem because they where written about places he had been to (he's travelled the world twice - I've been to 3 countries outside England!). I tried Byrson's book on Shakespeare, thought it was ok but I didn't learn much as I studied Shakespeare so often I've pretty much got the gist of the little bit of information there is to no about him.

So, when I saw that this was a bookring on Bookcrossing and I could read it just for the price of postage I signed up for it. And I'm so glad I did! I hadn't even heard of the Appalachian Trail that Bryson and his friend hike up across several states of America, I have no interest in hiking (well I hadn't when I started) and I'm not much of a non-fiction fan so it was a great surprise to enjoy this.

Bryson charts his trail, the problems, boredom, his annoyance at fellow hikers alongside an entertaining account of the history and nature of the trail. He writes so well that I felt that I could see the woods surrounding him, feel his frustration at Kratz his fellow hiker and at theAmerican government for not keeping the trail as well preserved as it should be. He comes across as a really interesting guy with a lot to say but with the ability to keep it short and focused.

I will certainly be digging out the copy of The Short History of Nearly Everything that has been lurking on my bookshelves since it got brought.
If you have read this book feel free to comment or leave a link to your own review.

Read the Nobels

The challenge: to read books authored by Laureates of the Nobel Prize in Literature.This blog is dedicated to reviews about the individual books, and your thoughts on the laureates themselves.There is no time limit. You may post your old reviews.Interested in joining?See here. A few rules of labeling your posts:
Label with the year and the name of the laureate (e.g. 2006: Orhan Pamuk)
Also label with your name
Do not label with the book title as there are just too many books!Have fun and here's to our adventure in reading!

I'm looking forward to participating in this as I am already part of the Nobel Spiral at bookcrossing where I recieve a book by a Nobel winning author about once a month. I have just recieved my second book for this which is The Plague, Camus.

The Authors List, I have highlighted in red the authors I have read with the title of the book next to it, unfortunately as I'm a fairly new blogger I don't have many reviews at the present time.

2007 - Doris Lessing
2006 - Orhan Pamuk - Snow (****)
2005 - Harold Pinter
2004 - Elfriede Jelinek
2003 - J. M. Coetzee Waiting for the Barbarians (****), Disgrace (**)
2002 - Imre Kertész
2001 - V. S. Naipaul
2000 - Gao Xingjian
1999 - Günter Grass
1998 - José Saramago
1997 - Dario Fo
1996 - Wislawa Szymborska
1995 - Seamus Heaney - The Collected Poems
1994 - Kenzaburo Oe
1993 - Toni Morrison Beloved (****) Sula (****)
1992 - Derek Walcott
1991 - Nadine Gordimer
1990 - Octavio Paz
1989 - Camilo José Cela
1988 - Naguib Mahfouz
1987 - Joseph Brodsky
1986 - Wole Soyinka
1985 - Claude Simon
1984 - Jaroslav Seifert
1983 - William Golding - Lord of the Flies (***)
1982 -
Gabriel García Márquez - One Hundred Years of Solitude (*****)
1981 - Elias Canetti
1980 - Czeslaw Milosz
1979 - Odysseus Elytis
1978 - Isaac Bashevis Singer
1977 - Vicente Aleixandre
1976 - Saul Bellow
1975 - Eugenio Montale
1974 - Eyvind Johnson, Harry Martinson
1973 - Patrick White
1972 - Heinrich Böll
1971 - Pablo Neruda
1970 - Alexandr Solzhenitsyn
1969 - Samuel Beckett -Waiting for Godot (***)
1968 - Yasunari Kawabata
1967 - Miguel Angel Asturias
1966 - Shmuel Agnon, Nelly Sachs
1965 - Mikhail Sholokhov
1964 - Jean-Paul Sartre
1963 - Giorgos Seferis
1962 - John Steinbeck Of Mice and Men (*****)
1961 - Ivo Andric
1960 - Saint-John Perse
1959 - Salvatore Quasimodo
1958 - Boris Pasternak
1957 - Albert Camus - The Plague
1956 - Juan Ramón Jiménez
1955 - Halldór Laxness
1954 - Ernest Hemingway
1953 - Winston Churchill
1952 - François Mauriac
1951 - Pär Lagerkvist
1950 - Bertrand Russell
1949 - William Faulkner
1948 - T.S. Eliot - The Waste Land
1947 - André Gide
1946 - Hermann Hesse - Siddartha
1945 - Gabriela Mistral
1944 - Johannes V. Jensen
1943 - The prize money was with 1/3 allocated to the Main Fund and with 2/3 to the Special Fund of this prize section
1942 - The prize money was with 1/3 allocated to the Main Fund and with 2/3 to the Special Fund of this prize section
1941 - The prize money was with 1/3 allocated to the Main Fund and with 2/3 to the Special Fund of this prize section
1940 - The prize money was with 1/3 allocated to the Main Fund and with 2/3 to the Special Fund of this prize section
1939 - Frans Eemil Sillanpää
1938 - Pearl Buck
1937 - Roger Martin du Gard
1936 - Eugene O'Neill - Long Days Journey into Night
1935 - The prize money was with 1/3 allocated to the Main Fund and with 2/3 to the Special Fund of this prize section
1934 - Luigi Pirandello
1933 - Ivan Bunin
1932 - John Galsworthy
1931 - Erik Axel Karlfeldt
1930 - Sinclair Lewis
1929 - Thomas Mann
1928 - Sigrid Undset
1927 - Henri Bergson
1926 - Grazia Deledda
1925 - George Bernard Shaw - John Bull's Other Island
1924 - Wladyslaw Reymont
1923 - William Butler Yeats
1922 - Jacinto Benavente
1921 - Anatole France
1920 - Knut Hamsun
1919 - Carl Spitteler
1918 - The prize money was allocated to the Special Fund of this prize section
1917 - Karl Gjellerup, Henrik Pontoppidan
1916 - Verner von Heidenstam
1915 - Romain Rolland
1914 - The prize money was allocated to the Special Fund of this prize section
1913 - Rabindranath Tagore
1912 - Gerhart Hauptmann
1911 - Maurice Maeterlinck
1910 - Paul Heyse
1909 - Selma Lagerlöf
1908 - Rudolf Eucken
1907 - Rudyard Kipling
1906 - Giosuè Carducci
1905 - Henryk Sienkiewicz
1904 - Frédéric Mistral, José Echegaray
1903 - Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson
1902 - Theodor Mommsen
1901 - Sully Prudhomme

The Pulitzer Project: My Reading's from the list

The Pulitzer Project is being held by 3M, this is an ongoing project to try and read all 81 books from the list.

Below is a copy of the list. In Red I have highlighted the books I have already read, with a star rating and in Blue the books I hope to read from the list this year, 2008

2008 - The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

2007 - The Road (McCarthy)

2006 - March (Brooks) ****

2005 - Gilead (Robinson)

2004 - The Known World (Jones)

2003 - Middlesex (Eugenides) *****

2002 - Empire Falls (Russo)

2001 - The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (Chabon)

2000 - Interpreter of Maladies (Lahiri)

1999 - The Hours (Cunningham)

1998 - American Pastoral (Roth)

1997 - Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer (Millhauser)

1996 - Independence Day (Ford)

1995 - The Stone Diaries (Shields)***

1994 - The Shipping News (Proulx)****

1993 - A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain (Butler)

1992 - A Thousand Acres (Smiley)****

1991 - Rabbit at Rest (Updike)

1990 - The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (Hijuelos)

1989 - Breathing Lessons (Tyler)

1988 - Beloved (Morrison)

1987 - A Summons to Memphis (Taylor)

1986 - Lonesome Dove (McMurtry)

1985 - Foreign Affairs (Lurie)

1984 - Ironweed (Kennedy)

1983 - The Color Purple (Walker)*****

1982 - Rabbit is Rich (Updike)

1981 - A Confederacy of Dunces (Toole)

1980 - The Executioner’s Song (Mailer)

1979 - The Stories of John Cheever (Cheever)

1978 - Elbow Room (McPherson)

1977 - None given

1976 - Humboldt’s Gift (Bellow)

1975 - The Killer Angels (Shaara)

1974 - None given

1973 - The Optimist’s Daughter (Welty)

1972 - Angle of Repose (Stegner)

1971 - None given

1970 - Collected Stories by Jean Stafford (Stafford)

1969 - House Made of Dawn (Momaday)

1968 - The Confessions of Nat Turner (Styron)

1967 - The Fixer (Malamud)

1966 - Collected Stories by Katherine Anne Porter (Porter)

1965 - The Keepers Of the House (Grau)

1964 - None given

1963 - The Reivers (Faulkner)

1962 - The Edge of Sadness (Edwin O’Connor)

1961 - To Kill a Mockingbird (Lee)*****

1960 - Advise and Consent (Drury)

1959 - The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters (Taylor)

1958 - A Death in the Family (Agee)

1957 - None

1956 - Andersonville (Kantor)

1955 - A Fable (Faulkner)

1954 - None

1953 - The Old Man and the Sea (Hemingway)

1952 - The Caine Mutiny (Wouk)

1951 - The Town (Richter)

1950 - The Way West (Guthrie)

1949 - Guard of Honor (Cozzens)

1948 - Tales of the South Pacific (Michener)

1947 - All the King’s Men (Warren)

1946 - None

1945 - Bell for Adano (Hersey)

1944 - Journey in the Dark (Flavin)

1943 - Dragon’s Teeth I (Sinclair)

1942 - In This Our Life (Glasgow)

1941 - None

1940 - The Grapes of Wrath (Steinbeck)

1939 - The Yearling (Rawlings)

1938 - The Late George Apley (Marquand)

1936 - Honey in the Horn (Davis)

1935 - Now in November (Johnson)

1934 - Lamb in His Bosom (Miller)

1933 - The Store (Stribling)

1932 - The Good Earth (Buck)

1931 - Years of Grace (Barnes)

1930 - Laughing Boy (Lafarge)

1929 - Scarlet Sister Mary (Peterkin)

1928 - The Bridge of San Luis Rey (Wilder)****

1927 - Early Autumn (Bromfield)

1926 - Arrowsmith (Lewis)

1925 - So Big (Ferber)

1924 - The Able McLauglins (Wilson)

1923 - One of Ours (Cather)

1922 - Alice Adams (Tarkington)

1921 - The Age of Innocence (Wharton)****

1920 - None

1919 - The Magnificent Ambersons (Tarkington)

1918 - His Family (Poole)

11/81 Read

Sunday, 25 May 2008

The 2nd Canadian Book Challenge

Just after I pledged not to join another challenge this year I end up signing up for one. As this is a year long I feel that quite a bit of the reading for it will be done in the new year.

The 2nd Canadian BookChallenge runs from July 1st 2008 for a whole year. The challenge requires participants to read 13 books by Canadian authors or books about Canadians. There are a whole bunch of different ways that the 13 can be choosen, I am participating using the 'free spirit', in which I can pick 13 random Canadian books, as I know very little about Canada and I'm hoping this will give me some idea of the place.

I'm not picking a definitive 13 as I always change my mind when I read others reviews, but here are some I may include:

Anne of Green Gables, Montgomery
Saul Bellow- Humboldt’s Gift
Anne Michaels- Fugitive Pieces
Michael Ondaatje- In The Skin Of A Lion
Coupland, Girlfriend in a Coma
Jack London- Call of the Wild
Jen Sookfong Lee - The End of the East
Margaret Atwood - Alias Grace/ The Tent
Rohinton Mistry, Such a Long Journey
Ondaatje - Anils Ghost
Urquhart - The Stone Carvers
Carol Sheilds - Larry's Party
Baldwin - The Tiger Claw
Lisa Moore - Alligator
Alice Monro - Runaway
Mary Lawson - The Crow Lake
Holly Kennedy - The Tin Box
The ones highlighted I'm going to aim to read by the end of the year.

The Sunday Salon: Giving Up and this weeks reading.

I was just wondering what peoples views are on giving up books you are not enjoying. I was speaking to a friend earlier this week and he claimed that he has never started a book then not finished it, even if he really dislikes it! Personally I give books 50 pages - if I'm not interested by then I'm not willing to waste anymore time on it. I have about 300 books on my tbr pile so I would rather go off and tackle one of those than struggle with a book that fails to hold my attention. This week I gave up on 'I am Charlotte Simmons', the book seemed well written but I just didn't care what happened to her and the pretentious students she seemed to be surrounded by, certainly not bothered enough to read another 600 pages. Giving it up meant I had plenty of time to read the fantastic Paulo Coehlo novel, The Alchemist.

This week is half term, so as a teacher I get a blissful week with plenty of time to read (hopefully if the weather picks back up, I'll be reading in the garden).

I'm planning on finishing A Walk in the Woods, Bryson and Daughters of Fortune, Allende. I then will be reading The Plague, Camus and Sour Sweet, Mo and potentially starting Gravity's Rainbow.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

The Classics Challenge: July - Dec 2008

Trish has set up The Classics Challenge - yet another challenge that I can't resist!

RULES (keep reading for the bonus):
OPTION 1: Read FIVE classics.
OPTION 2: Read FIVE classics from at least TWO different countries
OPTION 3: Read FIVE classics with any combination of at least TWO different countries and TWO different genres (see above for genres).
Cross-posting with other challenges is allowed (and encouraged!); Audiobooks are fine; books must be finished after July 1st to count for the challenge although re-reads are acceptable.
Lists don't have to be set in stone; you can change your selections at any time.
Have Fun. Oh ya...there will be a drawing for a prize or two. To be entered you must complete any one of the above options. You do NOT need a blog to participate.
Am I going to define what a classic is? Nope! There are lots of definitions offered on the Internet, but essentially we all have different opinions so don't stress too much--and see the bonus below.
As you can see, I'm requiring FIVE classics for six months. For the sixth book, I would like the participants to offer suggestions for books that may not be considered classics but that you think should be or books that you think will be a classic one day. Leave your suggestions in the comments below. I'll compile a list of the suggestions and you choose a book from the list and make that your sixth read. I realize this means you may have to wait to make your list if you choose to participate in the bonus round, but I'm hoping this is a modern twist on the old classics challenge.
For example, I am going to suggest The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood and The Remains of the Day by Kazou Ishiguro.

I'm going to be doing Option 2 as I feel that otherwise I will fall into inly reading English classics which I have read a lot of in my studies.

At the moment I'm not coming up with a definitive list just possibilites, I will definately be poking around others sites looking for inspiration.

So far I'm thinking:
Bleak House
Jude the Obscure
The Awakening
War and Peace
Les Miserable
Gone With the Wind
The Sound and The Fury
The Water Babies

And as for the bonus it could be any of these:
Poisonwood Bible
American Gods
Cold Mountain
All the Pretty Horses.
The Books I have actually read:
Junky, Burroughs (Cult Classic)
Neverwhere, Gaiman (Fantasy Classic)

My Thoughts: The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho

This is the second novel I have read by Paulo Coelho and I have loved them both, its a shame I didn't discoved his works earlier in life!

'The Alchemist' is a short novel about the journey of a young shepherd to follow his dream to discover treasure in the Eygptian desert. The novel covers his journey from Spain across Africa and the Sahara. As with The Devil and Miss Prym the novel includes lots of philisophical thoughts and arguments, a belief in the self and some great descriptions.

I particuarly loved the boy's spirit, and the way he was free to follow his dream.

For a different opinion see here.

If you have read this book feel free to comment or leave a link to your own review.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

My Thoughts: A Kestrel for a Knave - Barry Hines

I've been reading this book with my Year 10 pupils as part of their exam preparation. I had never read the book, having only seen the film I managed to pick it as their essential read for a two year course! I really enjoyed it and thought it created a fantastic state of place so thought I'd review it on here in case anyone is interested. It also fits in with the Novella Challenge perfectly.

The novel is set in Nothern England in the 1960s. Set in a small working class town dominated by the coal mines, boys grow up pretty secure in the knowledge that they are heading for a working life spent in the mines just like their fathers and their fathers before that.

Billy, the novels main charcter is determined not to end up working in the mines. His life pretty much sucks! He lives in a single parent family (when those things were rare!), with a mother and brother too interested in drinking and gambling to pay attention to matters such as ensuring their is enough food in the cupboard, or that Billy is at home staying out of trouble. School isn't any better, the boy is bullied by both teachers and pupils, the classes just fill his day untill he is able to leave school and go start working life.

Billy's only escape from this is through training a kestrel, its the one thing in life that he is good at, the one thing he enjoys.

The descriptions in this novel create vivid pictures in your head of the various areas of Billy's life, from the cold bedroom, the council estate to the countryside surrounding the town.

Booking Through Thursday: Books vs Movies

Books and films both tell stories, but what we want from a book can be different from what we want from a movie. Is this true for you? If so, what’s the difference between a book and a movie?

For me what I want from both books and films relies completely on my mood at that time. Sometimes I'm looking for something quick, easy and grabbing - A Jodie Picoult novel or a cheesy or comedy film. Other times I want things which will make me think - like a book about another country or religion, or a film depicting a life very different from the one I lead. With books I'm often looking for stunning language and depictions of scenes and characters, I also enjoy this in film it isn't what draws me to a film.

I would say that with films I'm more likely to accept cheese, romance and comedy because films are quick and instantaneous, I don't mind spending a few hours on something like this. As reading takes longer I tend tend to see these lighter things as something that I use to read alongside some big and/or serious book, or as a break between serious books.

Another Challenge! Book Awards 2

3M is hosting this again, I signed up last year then had loads of problems getting internet access in my new place so I'm going to try again this time. The aim is to read 10 award winners over 10 months, the books must come from at least 5 different awards. This will run from August 1 2008 till June 1 2009.

I'm just coming up with a list of possibilites at the moment:
1. The Gathering by Anne Enright - Booker (2007)
2. The Sea by John Banville - Booker (2005)
3. The Famished Road by Ben Okri - Booker (1991)
4. Wild Swans - Chang - British Book Award (1994)
5. Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy - Commonwealth Writers' Prize (1994)
6. Peter Carey, True History of the Kelly Gang -Commonwealth Writers' Prize (2001)
7. Richard Flanagan, Gould's Book of Fish - Commonwealth Writers' Prize (2002)
8. Andrea Levy, Small Island -Commonwealth Writers' Prize (2005) Costa (2004)
9. Charles Frazier Cold Mountain - National Book Award (1997)
10. Gilead - Marilynne Robinson - Pulitzer (2005)

1. Fugitive Pieces - Michaels - Orange (1997)
2. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami - World Fantasy Award (2006)
3. Alice Munro — Runaway -Giller Prize (2004)
4.Mal Peet, Tamar -Carnegie 2005
5. Mary Norton, The Borrowers - Carnegie 1952
6. Spell of Winter - Dunmore -Orange 1996
7. The Complete Maus, Art Spiegelman - Pulitzer
8. Sunshine, Robin McKinley (Mythopoeic)
9. The Fair Folk, Marvin Kaye, World Fantasy
10. The Hours, Cunningham

Monday, 19 May 2008

My Thoughts: The Shadow of the North - Phillp Pullman

This is the second in a triology about a young woman, called Sally Lockheart, living in Victorian London. I read the first book a few months ago and really enjoyed it so I snapped up the chance to read the next one.

In this book Sally, a financial consultant discovers some dodgy dealings with an investment a client of her has made, she sets out on a voyage of discovery alongside her friends Fred and Jim, private investigators. Embezellment, fraud, photography, contacting the dead and bigamy fill the pages.

The story sounds very YA but actually has a fairly adult side to it as well. Its also well worth the read for the descriptions of Victorian London, the characters and the intricate plots that Pullman manages to create yet again.

If you have read this book feel free to comment or leave a link to your own review.


Sunday, 18 May 2008

The Sunday Salon: Other things just get in the way...

I'm going through a particually bad reading spell at the moment not managing to read anywhere near as much as usual because my life keeps getting in the way! This week it was exam marking week, 200 10 page booklets -I'm nearly finished but it has eaten up so much of my free time. I planned on finishing 3 books this week and moveing onto a fourth. I managed to finish two: The Echo Maker and Persian Brides, and I have about 40 pages left of The Shadow in the North.

Next week doesn't look like I'm going to get much reading done either as I'm out 3 evenings in a row and I still have 50 creative writing exams to mark.... only a week left at school and its the holidays so I'll have to catch up then.

This week I'm attempting:
Charlotte Simmons -Woolfe
A Walk in the Woods - Bryson

The Classics Challenge: Pre-Challenge Fun

Trish has posted these questions for us to answer before the challenge starts:

1. My favorite classic is Jane Eyre, no matter how many times I read it I am still gripped, I still get angry at Rochester and then weep at the end!

2. The classic I had the toughest time finishing is Nicholas Nickleby, having seen the film - which is very good- I expected the book to be the same but much of the story had been left out of the film (definately a good thing). A real shame as I usually enjoy Dickens.

3. I would recommend Tess of the d'Urbervilles to someone who doesn't read a lot of classics or who doesn't generally like classics because its gripping from the first page, and Tess is a character who you can really come to feel passionate about, the book makes you experience a whole range of emotions and has a great storyline.

4. To me, a classic book is a book that has managed to live way past its age and still carry a message or still is relevant to modern lives. They should take you to another world without making it hard work or making you feel out of place.

5. The type of relationship I have with classics is poor. In terms of my lack of reading of them since I finished my degree. There are many on my virtual tbr pile that I just keep putting aside, I'm hoping this challeng will prompt me towards them in real life, in particular Jude the Obscure, Bleak House (and I might attempt War and Peace but I'm not promising anything!).

Friday, 16 May 2008

My Thoughts: Persian Brides - Dorit Rabinyan

This novel explores the lives of two Jewish girls, one aged 11 the other 14. One girl is desperate to marry, she waits constantly for puberty to start so she can start married life, at the age of 11 she is taunted by the other members of the village for her skinny body and child status. The second girl is heavily pregnant, spending each day waiting for her philandering husband to return.

This novel is praised for its language and descriptions, the reviews say that the descriptions bring the village and characters to life but I didn't feel that they did. I'm not saying that I regret reading the book, I don't, but I wouldn't say that I was gripped or pulled into the story. I was interested in all the Iranian rituals and the beliefs surrounding marriage and puberty, and the idea of children so young being so desperate and ready to marry. It was a good look at a different culture.

If you have read this book feel free to comment or leave a link to your own review.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Redux

Following up last week’s question about reading writing/grammar guides, this week, we’re expanding the question….
Scenario: You’ve just bought some complicated gadget home . . . do you read the accompanying documentation? Or not?
Do you ever read manuals?
Only if something has gone wrong when I look for the tips on how to sort the problem out before I phone the help line.
How-to books?
Never, I don't think I've ever even owned one
Self-help guides?
Again no, never owned one.
Anything at all?
I'm terrible a reading the backs of cereal packet, adverts on trains, other peoples newspapers from across the seat on the tube ect

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Book Worms Carnival - Fairy Tales ( Roald Dahl)

As a child I loved Roald Dahl, especially his Revolting Rhymes in which he took fairy tales and transformed them into something a little more exciting, daring and where the women were stronger! One of my favorites is his version of Little Red Riding Hood, I love that she takes charge and becomes the one in control.

As a teacher I use this idea of reversing or parodying fairy-tales in creative writing, it is always something that the kids love and they love reading this poem (especially the line about whipping a pistol out of her knickers). The kids then create stories of Little Red as a serial killer, gangster, a teen with an ASBO (Anti Social Behaviour Order)etc, never anything where she turns out to be good...

I've included a copy incase anyone hasn't read it before:
Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf .

As soon as Wolf began to feel
That he would like a decent meal,
went and knocked on Grandma's door.

When Grandma opened it, she saw

The sharp white teeth, the horrid grin,

And Wolfie said, ``May I come in?''

Poor Grandmamma was terrified,

``He's going to eat me up!'' she cried.
And she was absolutely

He ate her up in one big bite.

But Grandmamma was small and tough,

And Wolfie wailed, ``That's not enough!

I haven't yet begun to feel

That I have had a decent meal!

''He ran around the kitchen yelping,

``I've got to have a second helping!

''Then added with a frightful leer,

``I'm therefore going to wait right here

Till Little Miss Red Riding Hood

Comes home from walking in the wood.

''He quickly put on Grandma's clothes,

(Of course he hadn't eaten those).

He dressed himself in coat and hat.

He put on shoes, and after that

He even brushed and curled his hair,

Then sat himself in Grandma's chair.

In came the little girl in red.

She stopped. She stared. And then she said,
``What great big ears you
have, Grandma.''

``All the better to hear you with,'' the Wolf replied.

``What great big eyes you have, Grandma.''said Little Red Riding

``All the better to see you with,'' the Wolf replied.
He sat there
watching her and smiled.

He thought, I'm going to eat this child.

Compared with her old Grandmamma

She's going to taste like caviar.
Then Little Red Riding Hood said,

``But Grandma,what a lovely great big furry coat you have on.''
``That's wrong!'' cried Wolf. ``Have you forgot

To tell me what BIG TEETH I've got?

Ah well, no matter what you say,I'm going to eat you anyway.

''The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers.

She whips a pistol from her knickers.

She aims it at the creature's head

And bang bang bang, she shoots him dead.

A few weeks later, in the wood,

I came across Miss Riding Hood.

But what a change! No cloak of red,

No silly hood upon her head.

She said, ``Hello, and do please note

My lovely furry wolfskin coat.''

Roald Dahl, Revolting Rhymes

Monday, 12 May 2008

My Thoughts: The Echo Maker - Richard Powers

In this novel a young man is involved in a car crash, this results in a form of brain damage which causes him to not be able to emotionally recognise his sister - he knows that the person in front of him looks, talks and acts like his sister but he can't believe it is really her. Then an over caring nurse gets involved and a neurosurgeon...

I had read about this book last year on different more American forums and blogspot and it seemed to get really good press. Maybe my expectations were to high, but I felt that it was just an average book. Far too long. It did have gorgeous descriptions of the migration of cranes and mythical stories but I felt the link to them was a bit weak. It seemed like something he wanted to write about and needed to find a book to wegde it in to.

If you have any comments or have reviewed this book yourself please feel free to add your review, comments or link.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Sunday Salon - my weeks reading

I've had such a poor week reading this week. I normally get through 2 or 3 books a week, this week I haven't even managed 1! I started The Echo Maker by Richard Powers 10 days ago?(!) and I still have another 100 pages to go. I think its been a mixture of the gorgeous weather Old Blighty is having at the mo and too much time spent on the net. Also I thought this book was going to be amazing and its kind of good but nothing to rave about. I'm going to try and finish it this evening and move on.

Next week I hope to read Persian Brides, The Shadow of the North by Phillip Pullman and get started on I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe. And also not sign up to any more challenges. Not sure how successful I'll be as I have 200 exam papers to mark!

Weekly Geek # 3

This week’s theme comes from Samantha, who suggested that one week we all write about our fond memories of childhood books.

As a child I used to go every Saturday to the library get out the maximum six books and read them all in a week - I think I maxed out the kids and teenage section of the library pretty fast.

My 3 top childhood reads:
My Girl: The novel of the film with Maculay Culkin in it. I must have been around 11 or 12 and read it over and over again, it used to make me cry loads - when a friend died when I was 13 I would read the funeral scene in this over and over as it was my way of letting out what I was feeling. Anyway I leant the book to someone and never saw it again.

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe: I got into this after the BBC made a TV adaptation of it in weekly instalments, we all used to sit around as a family and watch it at tea time on a Sunday evening. I must have been about 9 years old. I loved the book even more, I think it is that idea of being able to escape into another world that all kids love, also a world where there are no parents in charge and the kids have to face and solve the problems themselves.

The third would have to be a Roald Dahl book - probably Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as I loved the family with all the old grandparents in the bed together. I got into his books at around 6 or 7 and read them for years.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Challenge: What's In A Name

I spotted this challenge that has been going on since the beginning of the year but I'm going to jump on the band wagon anyway. The challenge is hosted by Annie. You have to read 6 books one from each of these categories:

"What's In A Name?" Reading ChallengeDates: January 1, 2008 through December 31, 2008The Challenge: Choose one book from each of the following categories.

1. A book with a color in its title. Examples might include: The Amber Spyglass, The Red Pony, Blue Blood

2. A book with an animal in its title. Examples might include: The Hound of the Baskervilles, To Kill a Mockingbird, Julie of the Wolves

3. A book with a first name in its title. Examples might include: Jane Eyre, the Harry Potter books, Anne of Green Gables

4. A book with a place in its title. Examples might include: From Russia with Love, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Out of Africa

5. A book with a weather event in its title. Examples might include: The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Red Storm Rising, Tornado Alley

6. A book with a plant in its title. Examples might include: Where the Red Fern Grows, The Name of the Rose, Flowers for Algernon

--You may overlap books with other challenges, but please don't use the same book for more than one category. (For example, you can use The Red Pony for either a "color" book or an "animal" book, but not for both.)

My Choices:

5. Weather = Gone with the Wind

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Manual Labour

Writing guides, grammar books, punctuation how-tos . .
do you read them? Not read them? How many writing books, grammar books,
dictionaries–if any–do you have in your library?

I have a few different grammar and punctuation books as I'm an English teacher and I use them to check things I'm uncertain of, or when I need activities or examples. The only one I have read is 'Eat Shoots and Leaves'.

One massive dictionary and a huge thesaraus again used for school and when I was at uni. I'm always completely shocked at the amount of kids I teach that can't use a dictionary - they know how it works but takes forever, far too used to spell check!

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Mayday - Booking Through Thursday

Booking Through Thursday
Quick! It’s an emergency! You just got an urgent call about a family emergency and had to rush to the airport with barely time to grab your wallet and your passport. But now, you’re stuck at the airport with nothing to read. What do you do??
And, no, you did NOT have time to grab your bookbag, or the book next to your bed. You were . . . grocery shopping when you got the call and have nothing with you but your wallet and your passport (which you fortuitously brought with you in case they asked for ID in the ethnic food aisle). This is hypothetical, remember….

Although at all costs I avoid the bookshops I would have to be forced, a Jodie Picoult novel and a good newspaper would have to do. Saying that at Heathrow they have a big Waterstones bookshop so if I was there I'd have to stop myself from buying more than one book.

Weekly Geek

This weeks Weekly Geek

The theme for Week 2 is something I borrowed (yes, she said it was ok!)
from Darla at Books and Other Thoughts. She says in her sidebar that if she reviews a book that you’ve reviewed, you
can email her and she’ll link to it in her review. I love this idea for three
1. As a blog reader, I like that I can have my review linked in
someone else’s blog.
2. As a blog reader, I like that if I’m interested in a
book Darla writes about, there will be other reviews linked at the bottom of the
page, so I can get other viewpoints. You can see how this works here.
As a blog writer, when I review a book, I often remember that I read someone
else’s review at some point, but whose? And when? With Darla’s method, people
tell her about their reviews, and she can see what they had to say about a book
that is still fresh in her mind.
So here’s your challenge! If you’re willing,
adopt Darla’s policy in your own blog. I realize this is a big commitment, so
think it over first, but I think it can be really community-building.

Anyone who wishes to add a link to any of my reviews is more than welcome although I don't have a huge amount at the moment as I'm fairly new.

Southern Reading Challenge 2008

This challenge is being hosted by Maggie Reads, participants have to read 3 southern set books by Southern authors between May 15th to August 15th. I loved the feeling and atmosphere created when I read the Ya-Ya Sisterhood years ago so I'm hoping I can find some more great reads like that.

I need to think about which books to pick. Thinking at the moment about: The Sound and the Fury, Gone With the Wind and something else, I'm thinking either The Awakening or Cold Mountain. There's loads to pick from on the 125 best Southern Reads page, but looking for something fairly modern.

Books Read:

The Secrets We Keep, Monroe (North Carolina)

Gone With the Wind, Mitchell (Georgia)

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (Mississippi) with challenge wrap-up

May's Reading List

1.Persian Brides - this is part of a bookring but will also help Reading Around the World Challenge , Orbius and The Novella Challenge. (read)
2. I Am Charlotte Simmons - for
Orbius and Reading Around the World (Abandoned)
3. Gravity's Rainbow -
1001 Challenge (Currently Reading)
4. Elizabeth Costello - for
1001 and the Novella Challenge
5. The Gathering -
The Complete Booker, Notable Books
6. The Echo Maker
- I Heard it Through the Grapevine ( read)
7. The Poisonwood Bible -
MLA, 1001

Plus whatever else comes along.