Sunday, 30 November 2008

Sunday Salon: A couple of tiny reviews.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 22 November 2008

My Thoughts: Under The Skin by Michel Faber

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

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

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

Monday, 17 November 2008

2009 Themed Challenge Feb 1st- July 31st 2009

The Rules:

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

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

3. Overlaps with other challenges are allowed.

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

5. Readers may choose three different levels of participation:

- Read at least 4 books with the same theme.

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

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

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

Sunday, 16 November 2008

The Sunday Salon: Short Stories

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

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

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

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

(I also participated in Short Story September)

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

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

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

Friday, 14 November 2008

My Thoughts: Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Book Ownership

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Metamorphosis by Kafka

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

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

Definately a book everyone should checkout.

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


Olympic Challenge 2012

Lost in Translation 2009

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

The rules:

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

The Neverending Story, Ende (German)

The Brothers Karmazov (Russian)

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Sweeden)

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

Sunday Salon

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

My 4 bookrings

Free from Bookcrossing meeting

A free copy from Cannongate publishers

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

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

Monday, 3 November 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Margaret Atwood
- Alias Grace, Atwood

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

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

My Thoughts: The Memory Keepers Daughter by Kim Edwards

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Weekly Geeks 23#

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

I'm repeating Weekly Geeks 12

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

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

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

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

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

The Sea of Poppies

New Moon, Meyer

Gilead, Robinson

I Sweep the Sun off Roof Tops, Al-Shaykh

The Book of Chamelons, Agualasa

Allah Is Not Obliged, Kourouma

History: A Novel, Morante

Cry, the Beloved Country, Paton

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

The Sunday Salon: Challenges???

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

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

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

Do you join or avoid challenges? Why

Well Seasoned Reader Challenge

This challenge is being held by BookNut

Here's how it works:

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

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

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

ORbe about cooking/eating

ORhave a place name in the title

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

ORbe about a specific culture

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

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

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

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

My List:

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

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

Biter Fruit, Achmat Dangor (Ethnicity and Food)

What's In A Name? 2 Challenge

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

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

The Robber Bride - Atwood

The Zookeepers Wife

The Ice Queen, Hoffmann

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

Naked Lunch

Tender is the Night

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

The Bonesetter's Daughter

Sister of my Heart - Divkrum

When We Were Orphans, Ishiguro

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

Heart Songs - Proulx

Heart Shaped Box

The Wood Wife, Windling

The Bluest Eye, Morrison

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

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Jamacia Inn, Du Mauriner

Perdido Street Station

The Castle, Kafka

House of Leaves

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

Girlfriend in a Coma