Sunday, 29 June 2008

My Thoughts: Heavy Words Lightly Thrown, The Reason Behind the Rhyme, Chris Roberts

I'm really not much of a non-fiction reader, I always mean to read more but some how get caught up in fiction books and never make it on to something that is real. This book was brought years ago, back when I was a University, and more than likely brought because it had a cool cover.

The book features a huge mix of nursery rhymes, giving us the history of how the rhyme originated, or the various theories of where the rhyme originated as well as information about different versions of the rhyme in history and in other countries across the world.

I enjoyed the book for the most part, and as the book is written in short chapters -each chapter dedicated to a different rhyme I read it during the ad breaks while watching Big Brother (a reality show in England - not something I should admit to watching!). My only problem was one, that after a while the origins of the tales all merge into one and that my knowledge of history is shockingly poor. I know a little about the Romantic period and World War 1 and 2 and nothing else! I think if I could place the names of the Kings and Queens with the events he was talking about I would have got more from the book, even so I still got a lot from the book.

I loved the language, each nursery rhyme is discussed in a fairly chatty style, almost like you have an interesting mate down the pub talking to you about it. Also the drawings for each rhyme where fantastic, I could only find one example to illustrate but it's a good example.

If you have read this book or blogged about it leave a comment and I'll link your thoughts to the post.

My Thoughts: A Dog So Small, Phillipa Pearce

Curled up on the couch to let the gogeous Tapas I had for lunch digest and finished a couple of chapters of Gone With the Wind and then this little gem of a kids book.

A Dog So Small is a quaint little tale about a little boy, the middle of 5 children so often the lonely one who believes he is going to get a dog for his birthday. He is desperately disappointed when a picture of a dog arrives through the post instead. Ben continues to want a dog, but knowing that it isn't feasible where he and his family live in London he keeps his dream to himself and ends up with an imaginary dog.

This book would be ideal for a quiet child, it isn't full of adventures or the unimaginable like other kids books that are out today, but it creates a cosy little atmosphere to curl up with.
If you've read this book or blogged about it leave a comment and I'll link your thoughts to my blog.

The Sunday Salon

I've just spent the last hour ish looking at the read-a-thon blog looks like everyone is doing great and there was me whinging this morning that my housr rabbit had woken me up after just 6 hours of sleep!

This week I managed to finish 2 books which I really enjoyed, The Space Between Us and Elizabeth Costello. I'm still reading Gone With the Wind, and I started this week The Red Queen, a book of short stories by Joyce Carol Oates, The Tent by Margaret Atwwod and a kids book called A Dog So Small which I should finish later. I have a friend over for lunch today but should have plenty of reading time, I definately want to dedicate at least an hour to GWtW later so I can make decent headway with it. Not sure how my reading is going to go this week as things seem fairly busy at school.

For Weekly Geeks this week we had to update on the challenges we are participating in, I did making me realise how man books I have to read this year and then joined two new challenges! The July Book Blowout and Joy's Young Adult Challenge.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Weekly Geeks: Challenges

I posted earlier this week on the challenges I am participating in at the moment, since that post I have added another 2 challenges to the lot, The July Book Blowout and the Young Adult Challenge, the first one doesn't add any extra reads to my list it just helps me get organised and motivated with my reading, the second adds 12 more books to the pile to read this year! I'm pretty certain that some challenges won't get completed but they are helping me find books I never would have found and see different bloggers opinions.

Challenges! Challenges! The Young Adult Challenge

Yes, another challenge but this is one that should be fairly easy to complete as I tend to read a lot of YA books over the summer. Joy has a challenge for the whole of 2008 to read 12 YA books and link your posts to Mr Linky over at her site.
I'm not going to come up with a list as I'll only change it.
Books I've read for this challenge:
1 Twilight , Meyer
2 Mirrormask, Gaiman
4 Gatty, Crossley-Holland
5 Apache, Landman
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

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Another Challenge: July Book Blowout

Yes I've joined another challenge but this one will actually help me to complete the challenges that I'm participating in. Mrs S is hosting the July Book Blowout.
The rules:

You can sign up any time between today and July 14 - just because I’m a bit slow to announce this!
To join you need to post about the Book Blowout on your blog - and set yourself a target number of books you will try to read - go on challenge yourself!
Use the Mr Linky below to link to that post so we can all see how many books you’re taking on in the Blowout
Post a list of the books you managed to read by the deadline of August 7 to complete the challenge
What rules do I need to know?
Only books read between July 1 and July 31 count towards the challenge
You can include re-reads - as long as they are read within the month of July
Books you abandon will only count as half a book
If you read to your children you can include all books which have more than 100 pages
You can include up to two graphic novels
You can include up to two audio books - (if you have a visual impairment that prevents you from reading then you can use just audio books for the challenge)
Books you read for other challenges are eligible - use this as an opportunity to catch up!
I’ll try and keep things lively by posting some Book Blowout mini-challenges along the way so be sure to stop by throughout the month and see what’s happening (or better still subscribe to my site feed - it’s free and easy!)
As an added incentive I’ll put the names of all of the entrants who complete the challenge into the proverbial hat and one winner will receive an Amazon gift voucher to the value of $20 (£10).
So what are you waiting for? Blog your target and sign up with Mr Linky - and start planning what books you’ll read.

My Prospective List:
Junky, Burroughs for 1001 Project
Stardust, Gaiman (Bookring)
Stuart A Life Backwards (Bookring)
The Awakening for Southern Challenge and Classics Challenge
The Sound and the Fury for Southern Challenge
try to finish Gone With The Wind for Southern and Classics Challenge
Jamacia Inn for What's in a Name Challenge
Blonde, Oates for 1001 Project
After Dark, Murakami for Notable Books Challenge and Around the World Project
Middle Age for Oates Project
Presopolis 1 and 2, for Graphic Novel Challenge
If I have extra time:
The Water Babies for the Classics Challenge
I'll Take You There, Oates for Oates project
Journey to the River Sea
My What I actually have read list:
I finished The Red Queen by Margaret Drabble 1/2
1. Junky - William Burroughs
2. Stardust - Neil Gaiman
3. Twilight - Stephanie Meyer
4. Siddartha, Hesse
5. Persepolis
8. Persepolis, Satrapi
13. Gatty, Crossley-Holland
14. Tomaree, Robson

It's a lot of books but I only have to teach till the 18th then I get 6 weeks off!

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

My Thoughts: Elizabeth Costello, Coetzee

Every time I pick up a novel by Coetzee the standard gets better and better. The first Disgrace was, wellin my opinion a digrace how it won the Booker Prize I'll never know, that put me off for many years till earlier this year I read Waiting For the Barbarian's a good read, this latest novel Elizabeth Costello was fantastic. I was gripped from page one and it wasn't even my type of novel.
Elizabeth Costello is a famous novelist, she is now elderly and has produced a wide span of work but still remains known for her first book. In her old age she no longer writes but completes the lecture circuit, giving lectures on everything from fiction to animal rights. I said this was not my type of book because it seems (cynically) as a way for Coetzee to show his intellect, viewpoints and arguments spewing them out through his mouthpiece, Elizabeth Costello. But I was gripped because the arguments were interesting, attention grabbing. Elizabeth's life seems pretty much a mess, but the majority of the novel focused on her lectures, how they unravelled as she got closer to death.

I read this book for The What's in A Name Challenge and my project to complete the 1001 BooksYou Must Read Before You Die List

Monday, 23 June 2008

Weekly Geeks: Challenge Update

I've finished 3 challenges this year but still have loads to go.
Most recently I signed up for the Short Story Challenge where I'm aiming to read 5 short story collections by different authors, I have started this one by reading a short story by Joyce Carol Oates each evening.
Like the Short Story challenge the Graphic Noevl challenge is an attempt to try somethin g new, I have to read 3 graphic novels by the end of the year, I've read one, see here, and have the other two ready to be read.
The Southern Reading Challenge is also underway, I'm currently reading Gone With the Wind, a huge book!
The Complete Booker Challenge and the Booker Challenge 2008 are run at the same site, the first is an ongoing challenge to read all the Booker Prize winners, the second is a sub challenge to help, for this you need to read 6 Booker winners or nominees by the end of the year. I've read three, and have 3 to go.
The Notable Books Challenge takes a list of book awards for the year and then you pick 8 of those books to read, this keeps me up-to-date with new fiction. 2 down 6 to go.
What's in a Name is a clever little challenge in which there are 6 categories linked to the title and you have to pick a book to fit each. 1 finished for this, 1 on the go and 4 to start.

Upcoming Challenges
In July I start both the Classics Challenge, 5 classics and one book that deserves to become a classic in the future, and I also start the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge 13 books set in Canada or by Canadian authors - I've picked my titles but will need to look at whats avaliable in England as I'm discovering many of the less well known authors are harder to get hold of.
Starting in August and lasting 10 months is the Book Awards Challenge 2, for this I have to read 10 award winning books from 5 different awards. If anyone is interested in joining see here

As you can see I have a lot of books to get through, and this doesn't even take into consideration the long term projects, Bookrings and yahoo groups I'm reading for!

Sunday, 22 June 2008

A Quarter With Joyce Carol Oates

I'm reading through a variety of works by Joyce Carol Oates with BFB readers and the Literature Study Group both over at Yahoo. This is the list of books with proposed dates for discussions to start, no one is expected to read every book and other comments about JCO work is welcome. I'm certainly not tricking myself that I'm going to read all of them but I'm going to give some a go. I have Bellefleur ordered but I still haven't recieved it so I won't be reading it in time for the discussion, I also have Middle Age out from the library so I'll be way ahead with that one. And as some pre-reading I am looking at some of JCO's short stories, one of which I have reviewed here. Previously I have read We are the Mulvaneys, which I absolutely loved and Rape: A Love Story which I certainly didn't love so this may be a bit of an adventure.

The Reading List
01.07.08 Bellefleur
01.07.08 What I Lived For
16.07.08 A Garden of Earthly Delights
08.08.08 Wonderland
01.09.08 Middle Age: A Romance
16.09.08 Zombie

Did you know?
- She has published an average of 2 books a year since 1970
- Frequent topics in her work include rural poverty, sexual abuse, class tensions, desire for power, female childhood and adolescence, and occasionally the supernatural
- Violence is one of the most frequent topics in her novels
- She also writes under the pen names Rosamond Smith and Lauren Kelly

If you have any recommendations etc for me let me know.

My Thoughts: The Space Between Us, Thirty Umrigar

The Space Between Us is a novel about the relationship between a servant and her employer in Bombay. One lives in the slums, the other in a nice apartment, one has to work long hours everyday the other complains if she has to make breakfast. Despite this their is a bond between the two women, they would not class themselves as friends for the social divide between them is just to great a step to bridge, but they rely on each other for support. And despite the social divide their lives frequently parallel each others. Until an event occurs which puts this bond to the test.

This book falls into that area of books about Eastern communities which we seem to be swamped with at the moment. Communities which have huge social and gender divides and which seem a million miles away from the concerns of the Western world. I certainly wouldn't say this is one of the best examples but it is a good read, some thing perhaps that fits in as an easy read between harder/heavier books. The relationships are well constructed, believable but I could see the conclusion coming from miles away, there were no surprises with this novel. I also felt that I would like to have spent more time seeing what life was like in the slums of Bombay. As seems to be a regular thing with these books, they were centred around the women giving us their views on the absent men in their lives.

I read this for the Notable Book Challenge Book 2 of 8

Other Bloggers thoughts:

The Sunday Salon and a short story review.

Another busy week this week so again not a lot of reading completed, I can't wait for the 6 weeks summer holidays so I can catch up on the reading for all the challenges I am participating in, and just wallow in the garden (if the British weather sorts itself out!), with a good book and hours and hours of free time.
I have managed to finish two great books, both recommended: A Pure Swift Cry and The Space Between Us, which I have yet to review. This afternoon I will be going out to lunch, doing some more marking and lesson preparation, catching up on Big Brother and watching The History Boys, I may squeeze in a chapter of Gone With The Wind or start Elizabeth Costello if I'm lucky.

I did this morning read a short story over breakfast, so I'm going to include a mini review here.
'Concerning the Case of Bobby T' - Joyce Carol Oates.
An excellent short story. The basic story is that Bobby T got locked up for knocking a young girl around. But Oates doesn't like telling stories in a basic way. This story is told in fragments, fragments of time and fragments of the victims and perpetrators lives. We see into the days and years after this act of violence showing how a single act of violence can control and affect the lives of those involved for years to come.
Oates employs an omnipotent narrator, giving the story a report like tone, you feel like you are simply watching the scene. No feelings, elaborations or judgemnets are made the reader is made to feel like the judge and jury, who is to blame is for you to decide.

Monday, 16 June 2008

"Cathedral" by Raymond Carver (Short Story)

This is the first short story I have read as partof my participation in A Curious Singularity, a blog in which they read a short story each month.
This month the chosen short story was 'Cathedral' by Raymond Carver. I have read his short story collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love last year so I was expecting something great and that is what I got.
There will be spoilers in this from now on so if your planning on reading it or would like to read it first click on the title, it is just a few pages long.
In the story the narrator appears a little unfriendly from the start, too blunt and very negative. He spends the first part of the story complaining about how he has his wife's friend, a blind man, coming to stay for a few days. I got the feeling he would have been grouchy however was coming to stay, but he felt particuarly put out because the guest was blind. He also seemed put out as his wife and the blind man seem to have a very close relationship, something you just can't imagine the narrator having.
When the guest arrives the narrator feels very awkward with him, and resorts to turning on the TV as a destraction, the wife falls asleep and the men are forced to communicate. On the TV there is a show about Cathedrals and he realises the blind man has no idea what a cathedral is. After failing to describe it well, he draws a picture of it with the blind man following his hand movements. This moment of touch and the drawing of the cathedral seems to wake the narrator up to life and where he is.

I found this was a really good read, the voice of the narrator is well played out in the sparseness of the tone. It also really reminded me of an English lesson I taught with a young blind boy, the children where talking about their past time and we realised he had no concept of golf or fishing, what happened, how big the golf ball was etc. His mentor managed to bring in some golfing gear to let him feel and we tried our best to describe a fishing rod but it was a lot harder than I had imagined it would be.

For another review of the story check out A Work in Progress

Sunday, 15 June 2008

My Thoughts: A Pure Swift Cry, Siobhan Dowd

I have meant to read this book for a few years now, but never quite got around to it (like many other books) so when I saw it on the Notable Books challenge I added it to my list of challenge books, and I'm really glad I did.

This book is categorised as young adult fiction but is definately part of the cross over genre.

The book is set in Ireland, in a small rural village. The Talent family are busy coming to terms with their mother's recent death and the relative abandonment of their father. Shell may be only 15 but she is the one left responsibe for running the house, feeding her father and acting like a mother to her younger brother and sister. The occupants in the village mey feel sorry foe Shell and her family but they offer little to help, usually just sympathetic glances. When Father Rose arrives in the village Shell thinks she has found a friend and Jesus, but this relationship is not to last long. Shell then retreats into finding comfort with the local choir boy, Declan Ronan, a child who doesn't quite follow with the rules of Catholicism. A scandal occurs with Shell lft smack bang in the middle of it.

As an adult reading this your able to look on and see the mistake she is making, and see the reality of situation that she is too naive to be able to read herself. A great story about growing up and dealing with what life throws at you.


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

Short Story Reading Challenge

I'm joining another challenge, The Short Story Reading Challenge in which the readers aim to read a variety of short stories or short story collecteions throughout 2008. I am picking option 2 in which I aim to read 5 short story collections before the end of the year. On my list I have:
My Reads:
Skin, Roald Dahl

The Sunday Salon: Another Poor Reading Week...

Yet another week when my reading has slowed down considerably, I finally finished Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende and I read my first Graphic Novel and that was it! A very poor show. It managed to be a majorly busy week at school, I had to write a report for each child in my form group plus insert grades and feedback on every child I teach, thats a good 120 kids, all in the space of a week, plus teach the kids. I also was out 3 evenings in a row so I was rushing in and then out again.
I did however manage to complete this weeks Weekly Geeks in which we had to post pictures of our fav places to read etc, I took a slightly different slant on it too most people and posted pics of the different types of places I had visited in my reading that week, everything from the slums of Bombay, a Caribbean Island, California in the Gold rush and Georgia.

Well I'm off to try and catch up on some of that missed reading, I have an afternoon with a couple of Chapters of Gone With The Wind and I reckon I'll finish A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd which has been excellent so far

Saturday, 14 June 2008

My Thoughts: Daughter of Fortune, Isabel Allende

This is my second Isabel Allende novel and I will certinly be going back for more. It wasn't what I was expecting as I had been led to believe that all of her work was magical realism but this one certainly wasn't, but it was still a great read.

The novel is set in Chile in the 1840's. A young British family bring up their 'adopted' child Eliza into the colonialist culture of the area. Their is much discrepancy about Eliza's parentage and she is even left unsure about her national heritage. Like many children belonging to rich families she is expected to follow all the rules and customs of her class yet she is largely left to be brought up by the sevants in the kitchen. The novel follows Eliza through her childhood till she meets her first love. He promptly leaves her, leaving for the Gold Ruch in California and she follows him, leaving the world of riches for a place of prostitutes, slaves, murder and poverty.

Allende created a novel which caused you to consider human greed, racism and the treatment of woman in a variety of cultures. The novel had some fantastic scenes spanning from England, Chile, California and over to China. Each character was well rounded and believeable. The only thing I would say is that it could have done with being just a little shorter.

If you have read this book feel free to comment or leave a link to your own review.
Chech out Adventures in Readings review of this book here

My Thoughts: The Sandman: Dream Country, Neil Gaiman

My first Graphic Novel ever! And my first read for the Graphic Novel Challenge. I picked a Neil Gaiman as I am interested in reading more of his work since reading some of his short stories that he has posted on his blog, see here for my mini review, I also have my first Neil Gaiman novel arriving in the next week so I'll be able to compare his style in that.

Now, not having a clue about Graphic novels I ordered The Sandman: Dream Country from the library, recognising the title Sandman and not realising at all that this was in the middle of a series, having enjoyed it I will now look for the first volume and maybe work my way through all of them.

This book was composed of 4 stories: Calliope, A Dream of a Thousand Cats, A Midsummer Nights Dream and Facade. I loved reading the first 3 in particular A Midsummer Nights Dream, in which the theatre troop is taken by Will Shakespeare to perform his famous play on the Downs in Sussex, to a rather unusual audience. The illustations where fantastic and I really loved the scene when the 'Longman' of the Sussex Downs opens up to reveal the audience.
I also really loved the idea of the cats in A Dream of a Thousand Cats attempting to change the universe with their dreams, something people aim to do all the time.
The fourth story was the only one that reall didn't hold my attention, it was a bit too sci-fi for my tastes.
I'll certainly be reading more graphic novels in the future.
If you have read this book feel free to comment or leave a link to your own review.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Another Project!!! The Orange Project Prize

Yet another project! I keep saying I'll stop. This project aims to read all the winners and short list for the Orange Prize for Fiction and the Orange Prize for new writers. If your interested in joining or reading people's reviews for these books visit The Orange Prize Project. I have highlighted the books which I have read already in Orange, as you can see I have given many of them a high rating - I hope this is a good sign!
The Orange Broadband Prize for New Writers
2008 Short List
The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff
Inglorious by Joanna Kavenna
The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam by Lauren Liebenberg
2007 Winner
The Lizard Cage by Karen Connelly
Poppy Shakespeare by Clare Allan***
Bitter Sweets by Roopa Farooki

2006 winner
Disobedience by Naomi Alderman
The Dream Life of Sukhanov by Olga Grushin
A Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li

2005 winner
26a by Diana Evans*****
Lucky Girls by Nell Freudenberger
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff*****
The Orange Prize For Fiction
2008 Short List
Nancy Huston Fault Lines
Sadie Jones The Outcast
Charlotte Mendelson When We Were Bad
Heather O’Neill Lullabies for Little Criminals
Rose Tremain The Road Home
Patricia Wood Lottery

2007 winner
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Half of a Yellow Sun ****
Rachel Cusk Arlington Park
Kiran Desai The Inheritance of Loss ***
Xiaolu Guo A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers
Jane Harris The Observations
Anne Tyler Digging to America

2006 winner
Zadie Smith On Beauty ****
Nicole Krauss The History of Love *****
Hilary Mantel Beyond Black
Ali Smith The Accidental ** 1/2
Carrie Tiffany Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living
Sarah Waters The Night Watch *****

2005 winner
Lionel Shriver We Need to Talk About Kevin *****
Jane Gardam Old Filth
Sheri Holman The Mammoth Cheese
Maile Meloy Liars and Saints
Marina Lewycka A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian ****

2004 winner
Andrea Levy Small Island
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Purple Hibiscus*****
Margaret Atwood Oryx and Crake*****
Shirley Hazzard The Great Fire
Gillian Slovo Ice Road
Rose Tremain The Colour

2003 winner
Valerie Martin Property
Anne Donovan Buddha Da
Shena Mackay Heligoland
Carol Shields Unless***
Zadie Smith The Autograph Man***
Donna Tartt The Little Friend*****

2002 winner
Ann Patchett Bel Canto
Anna Burns No Bones
Helen Dunmore The Siege
Maggie Gee The White Family
Chloe Hooper A Child's Book of True Crime
Sarah Waters Fingersmith*****

2001 winner
Kate Grenville The Idea of Perfection
Margaret Atwood The Blind Assassin*****
Jill Dawson Fred & Edie
Ali Smith Hotel World
Rosina Lippi Homestead
Jane Smiley Horse Heaven

2000 winner
Linda Grant When I Lived in Modern Times
Judy Budnitz If I Told You Once
Elizabeth Strout Amy and Isabelle
Eilis Ni Dhuibhne The Dancers Dancing
Zadie Smith White Teeth*****

1999 winner
Suzanne Berne A Crime in the Neighbourhood
Jane Hamilton The Short History of a Prince
Barbara Kingsolver The Poisonwood Bible
Toni Morrison Paradise
Julia Blackburn The Leper's Companions
Marilyn Bowering Visible Worlds

1998 winner
Carol Shields Larry's Party
Kirsten Bakis Lives of the Monster Dogs
Pauline Melville The Ventriloquist's Tale
Ann Patchett The Magician's Assistant
Deirdre Purcell Love Like Hate Adore
Anita Shreve The Weight of Water

1997 winner
Anne Michaels Fugitive Pieces
Margaret Atwood Alias Grace
Deirdre Madden One by One in the Darkness
Jane Mendelsohn I Was Amelia Earhart
E Annie Proulx Accordion Crimes
Manda Scott Hen's Teeth

1996 winner
Helen Dunmore A Spell of Winter
Julia Blackburn The Book of Colour
Pagan Kennedy Spinsters
Amy Tan The Hundred Secret Senses
Anne Tyler Ladder of Years
Marianne Wiggins Eveless Eden

New Free Literary Magazine

This is just a real quick message, I recieved an email from Penguin today about a new literary magazine that is going to be published each month, called The Five Dials. It'll features short stories, reviews poems and drawings. And it's FREE, they send a pfd of it to your email each month. I took a look and it looks good but I think I'll be needing to print it out to read it. If anyone is interested go here

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Poem of the Week and Weekly Geek Photo Journal - Thursday

I feel like I'm not getting much reading done this week, have hardly made any progress with either of the books I'm reading as my evenings have been fairly full. So today we are journeying with a poem again. And this time we are split between a Caribbean Island and dreary London.
I've included a copy of the poem below to make this also squish in with my poem of the week. I love the way this poem shows how home stays with you no matter where you end up in the world.
and island man wakes upto the sound of blue surf
in his head
the steady breaking and wombing

wild seabirds
and fishermen pushing out to
the sun surfacing defiantly
from the east
of his small emerald island
he always comes back groggily groggily

Comes back to sands
of a grey metallic soar
to surge of wheels
to dull North Circular roar
muffling muffling
his crumpled pillow waves
island man heaves himself
Another London day

Booking Through Thursday: Reading Groups

Have you ever been a member of a book club? How did your group choose (ot, if you haven’t been, what do you think is the best way to choose) the next book and who would lead discussion?
Do you feel more or less likely to appreciate books if you are obliged to read them for book groups rather than choosing them of your own free will? Does knowing they are going to be read as part of a group affect the reading experience?

I have only belonged to one face-to-face reading group in which books were read on a monthly basis. It was the only bookgroup avaliable which wasn't full up or run at a ridiculous time (like 3 in the afternoon!). Unfortunately it didn't have many members and I was the youngest by a good 30-35 years. The books were supposed to be picked each month from suggestions by everyone but the woman who started the group seemed to hold that power. She only picked books that were best sellers or Richard and Judy reads, and she picked the books in line with the ones she was reading with other reading groups.

I thought it was good discussing the books, if people had actually made the effort to read them, one lady just seemed to come for the company and never appeared to read a book and another one had never finish it so we wouldn't be allowed to talk about the end of the book. I did feel that I had to read the books regardless of whether I was enjoying it or not so I could contribute.

I would have stayed in the group if the chosen books were more to my taste.

I also used to complete the monthly read on BookGroupOnline but recently people seem to be voting for the book with only a few people who had voted making the effort to read it. For instance I have this months rread, The Squire by William Golding, it wouldn't be my choice but I'm willing to read it, I posted to ask if anyone else was reading it and noone responded, so now I'm reluctant to start.

I do also belong to a BookCrossing group, we do not have a monthly read but we meet each month to swap books, have a chat and discuss the books we are swapping and books that we are currently reading. I find that this group works really well and I have read some books that I would never hae thought to pick up.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Weekly Geeks: A Reading Journal in Pictures - Wednesday

I'm off to Salsa in a bit but when I get back I shall be tucking myself up in bed with a copy of Isabel Allende's Daughter of Fortune.
In the novel a young girl has had an illict relationship with a man who has now run away to California to search for gold. She has had a traumatic journey causing her to lose her baby and nearly her life, she is now in Sacremento in search of the missing man and it's not looking promising.
Other Weekly Geeks Pictures.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Weekly Geeks: A Reading Journal in Pictures - Tuesday


For this weeks Weekly Geeks I'm logging all the places reading takes me in a week. Yesterday it was the slums in Bombay, today its off to sunny Georgia.

I'm reading Gone with the Wind one chapter at a time (I never realised it was so huge till I picked it up from the library).

I'm still really near the beginning at the mo but I'm enjoying what I have read. This is a book for two of the challenges I'm participating in The Southern Reading Challenge and the Classics Challenge
Other Weekly Geeks pics:
Go here for some shelf envy
And here for a cool way to frame a pic

Weekly Geeks: A Reading Journal in Pictures


Weekly Geeks this week is dedicated to photos, now I hate having my picture taken so I was wondering how I was going to get around this so I decided on a picture journal of this weeks reading.

First up is this striking image from the slums of Bombay, its hard to remember that people still live like this, that for some people the reality of their day is waking up to this scene and not being able to escape from this to the dazzling city in the distance.
This picture is part of a 'journey' taken when reading the poem 'Blessing' by Imtiaz Dharker to the pupils in my class. The blessing in the poem is a split water main, a day in which they aren't thirsty, they get the water they have been praying for.
Click on the pics to see them up close.
Other WeeklyGeeks pics:
See Chris' collection of books
And Nymeth's cute cat pics

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Orbis Terravm & I Heard it Through the Grape Vine Challenges Complete!!!

I fiished reading Mister Pip today and it helped me to complete two great challenges, and what a great book to finish with.

Orbis Terravm for this challenge I had to read 9 different books from 9 different countries. I managed to span a whole load of different places and really enjoyed the journey

I read:

Peony In Love, Lisa See - China (read)

The Plague, Camus -Algeria (Read)

USAMicroserfs, Coupland - Canada (read)
The Motorcycle Diaries, Che Guevara - Argentina (READ)

My favorite was definately Mister Pip closely followed by Peony in Love.

I Heard it Through the Grapevine for this challenge I had to read 3 books which had been recommended. I read:

The Echo Maker was the one book that I felt didn't live up to the hype.

My Thought: Mister Pip - Lloyd Jones

I have been meaning to read this book since it came out and I had it down for a few different challenges, so I was very happy when it arrived as part of a bookring, a great book and free too!
The novel is focused on a small island in Papa New Guinea, the islands men have travelled to Australia to work in the mines leaving the women and children on the island till they can find a way to join the men. Then war strikes, daily routines are hit and dreams of seeing fathers and husbands again are put on hold.
The only white man on the island decides to start up the school again, many of the lessons are dedicated to Great Expectations, the children are gripped. Matilda the main character uses the novel as a means of escape from the war and also a way to understand the world around her.
I thought that this was one of the best reads of this year so far. The language was fantastic, the characters well rounded and the shock well placed. Definately a novel I'll be recommending to others.
Book 3/3 for I Heard it Through the Grapevine
Book 9/9 for Orbis Terravm
Book 4/6 for 2008 Booker Challenge
Also part of my ongoing project to read a book from each country in the world

If you have read this book feel free to comment or leave a link to your own review.
Read other peoples thoughts about Mister Pip:
Raidergirl3's thoughts
Trevor's thoughts

The 20th Century Challenge: Another Long Term Project

I'm stealing this idea from Lizzy's page, the aim is to read one book from each year of the twentieth century. I'm starting as of tomorrow, I wonder how many years this will take...
1999: Hardboiled/Hardluck, Yosimoto
1996: Rabbit Proof Fence, Pilkerton
1992: All the Pretty Horses, McCarthy
1963: The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea, Mishma
1952: East of Eden, Steinbeck

The Sunday Salon and I always meant to meme

It has been a bit of a different reading week for me this week. I finally discovered audiodownloads, and found lots of free downloads on and at itunes so I have started going to bed listening to a chapter as I'm drifting off to the land of nod. I have also discovered Neil Gaiman's Journal and spent the week reading his short stories, of which I did a mini review here. Which has then progressed to finding different shortstory sites.
So my reading challenges have been almost abandoned this week, and new discoveries have been made. I must however get back on track with my normal reading and challenges this week. I should complete Mister Pip today which will me I will have successfully completed the Orbis Terravm challenge, which is great as I managed to sign myself up to another challenge this week! The Graphic Novel challenge, this is a year long challenge but Dewey has opened it up to new participants saying that if the join now they will only need to read 3 graphic novels by December. As I've never read a grahic novel in my life I thought this was a good way to start and I brought my first one yesterday.
That was a bit of a ramble.....

I was thinking about my reading habits the other day, and geek that I am, I managed to create a little meme for myself, would be good to see others answers.
I always meant to...
The author I always meant to read is Angela Carter, I have her books, she has been on mount tbr since a uni lecturer and some students raved about her but I've just never got there.
The autor I always meant to read more of, well this list is huge but I'll just keep it to a few: Ian McEwan, Charles Dickens, A.S Byatt - other stuff always comes up instead.
The genre I always meant to try/read has to be cult classic, I always look at those lists and I haven't even scratched the surface.
The book on my tbr pile I always mean to read next is The Poisonwood Bible or Arthur and George.
The book I always meant to try again is Sophies World by Jostein Gaarder
Some responses to the meme:

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Short Story: Briar Rose by Kim Antieau

This is a hugely powerful short story about a young girl who wakes up in a hospital room, she has no recollection of who she is, how she got here and why her arms are covered in fresh wounds. Her first memory is triggered by a small tattoo of a rose.
The girls past is gradually revealed to her through the images she draws on her body, each image reveals another episode in her, another reality for her to accept.

This is really well written and the idea of being able to rub off all the wrongs that have been done is refreshing. A copy of the story can be found

Friday, 6 June 2008

My Thoughts: The Plague - Camus

This novel is based around a small Algerian city in which a plague gradually develops leaving the inhabitants of the city prisoners in the town. The book focuses primarily on small group of doctors and their friends who are working on the cure of the plague, attending the sick and dying and also who are asked to help in the regulations of the city.

I expected this novel to have more of an effect on me, to be more powerful and shocking. If I hadn't been reading it for a bookring I don't know if I would have carried on reading it. I'm not saying it was poorly written, just not as gripping as it could have been.
If you have read this book feel free to comment or leave a link to your own review.

Read for the Nobels Project
Book 8/9 for Orbis Terravm Challenge

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Trends

Have your book-tastes changed over the years? More fiction? Less? Books that are darker and more serious? Lighter and more frivolous? Challenging? Easy? How-to books over novels? Mysteries over Romance?

My taste has changed over the years as a teenager I read loads of horror and mysterys, then somehow worked my way into a bit of chicklit (the type my Mum reads). When I started my A Level English Lit course things started to change as I got introduced to more authors and genres, although the majority of my reading was still very light and modern.

My A Level course featured a lot of 20th century fiction so you can imagine my horror the first day of my English degree when one bloke stood up and quoted a Shakespeare sonnet and everyone was talking about having read Mill of the Floss etc. I had never planned to take an English degree and had got into the university by applying to study Sociology and Law, I changed my mind at the last minute. All the other people on my course had had an interview to study English and been sent home with a list of 100 books that it would be useful for them to have read - most people had read a good 30 books on this list, I had read one! So the first year at university I only read books from the list. It was a good experience in that it broarderned my reading habits but some of the books I read because I felt I had to rather than because I enjoyed them.

Since finishing my degree and MA I have been able to read books that I have choosen, I still stick predominatly to literature but it is generally contemporary, and I will go off and explore other genres and authors. Bookbrossing and blogspot have also helped me discover new favorites. And teaching has re-introduced me to Childrens and YA books

Graphic Novel Challenge

I'm going to give this a go, I have never read a graphic novel in my life and not sure if it'll be my thing but I like to try new stuff. Dewey is offering the chance for people to join this challenge half way through and only read half the books (just 3) which makes it less daunting.

I have ordered from my library:

Persepolis 1 and 2

Sandman by Neil Gaiman

As I had read a great review about the first 2 the other day (I can't remember who by) and I'm interested in reading more Gaiman.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Neil Gaiman: Various Short Stories

I saw a link to the Neil Gaiman Journal on Eva's page and during the last few days I've been reading his short stories which are avaliable to read on the site. I just thought I'd pop up a few quick thoughts about them on here.
How To Talk To Girls at Parties
A trifle of a story depicting two teenage boys descending upon a house thinking their luck is in. Unfortunately for them these aren't quite the type of girls they were looking for...
A lovely story about a young Princess with pearls for eyes, who refuses to talk. The girl's aunt offers rewards for the person who can make her talk, all fail until a tiger arrives.
I loved the fairytale-esque style of this sory.
A Sudy in Emerald
I followed the links on his site to download this free of charge for Harper Collins and listened to it doing some housework then curled up in bed.
I thought this was an okay story, very Sherlock Holmes in style (which isn't my taste at all). It was made better by listening to Gaiman reading it. Hearing the intonation and the different character voices took me back to childhood, being read a bedtime story or listening to a teacher reading a story (well) to the class.
I Cthulhu
A strange little story, with a sci-fi feel, in which a "tentacle-faced thing" is reported to a human his journey to earth.
The Case of Four and Twenty Blackbirds
A parody of a murder mystery in which the murder victim is Humpty Dumpty and the murederer is...................................? This tale is full of different nurserytale characters.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Poem of the Week: Salome - Carol Ann Duffy

I picked this poem this week as it's one of my favorite poems to study with my class. I always lte them study a few of Duffy's angsty poems before getting to this, I love seeing the realisation on their faces that this isn't a poem about one night stands.

The voice rumbles on in a gossipy tone, bragging about the conquest of the night before, and the language works well to lead the reader into a false sense of security.

Duffy's collection The World's Wife is my all time favorite poetry book.

I’d done it before
(and doubtless I’ll do it again,
sooner or later)
woke up with a head on the pillow beside me – whose? –
what did it matter?

Good-looking, of course, dark hair, rather matted;
the reddish beard several shades lighter;
with very deep lines around the eyes,
from pain, I’d guess, maybe laughter;
and a beautiful crimson mouth that obviously knew
how to flatter…
which I kissed…
Colder than pewter.
Strange. What was his name? Peter?

Simon? Andrew? John? I knew I’d feel better
for tea, dry toast, no butter,
so rang for the maid.
And, indeed, her innocent clatter
of cups and plates,
her clearing of clutter,
her regional patter,
were just what I needed –
hungover and wrecked as I was from a night on the batter.

Never again!
I needed to clean up my act,
get fitter,
cut out the booze and the fags and the sex.
Yes. And as for the latter,
it was time to turf out the blighter,
the beater or biter,
who’d come like a lamb to the slaughter
to Salome’s bed.

In the mirror, I saw my eyes glitter.
I flung back the sticky red sheets,
and there, like I said – and ain’t life a bitch –
was his head on a platter.

For last weeks poem see here

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Free Audiobooks

Maybe I'm way behind but I wasn't aware that you could download free audiobooks, I found some at librivox plus loads more on itunes. I've never listened to any books before so I'm going to give this a go over the next few weeks and see how I like it.

June Reading List (Proposed)

To finish Daughter of Fortune - Allende
The Plague - Camus (for Nobel project)
Elizabeth Costello - Coetzee (for Whats in a Name Challenge)
The Red Queen - Drabble (for What's in a Name Challenge and 1001 Books)
What I Loved -Hutverdt (for 1001 Books)
The Space Between Us (for Notable Books Challenge)
Mister Pip (For Booker and I Heard it Through the Grapevine)

Sunday Salon - a week in reading and plans for June

This week it was half term, a week reading out in the garden, lots of trips out etc was all planned. Unfortunatley British Weather decided to play it's ususal part and it rained nearly everyday, my friend who I was planning on going out with a lot got ill and the car last night decided to break down so not a great week.
The reading however did go well, I completed The Novella Challenge and I read some great books: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson and The Orchard on Fire by Shena Mackay and two ok books: Sour Sweet by Timothy Mo and Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively. I also decided that I would try and rediscover poetry as I have abandoned it since I finished studying, I blogged my first Poem of the Week, which I'm hoping will keep me on track reading poems and maybe introduce new poems to people who come across my blog.

My June reading list (all going well):