Monday, 29 June 2009

My Thoughts: Goodbye Mr Chips by James Hilton

This has been my bath read for the last week: perfect for soaking after a 2 hour session in the gym as its short, has short chapters and is a good easy read.
Goodbye Mr Chips tells the quaint English tale of an old school teacher with a love and passion for the school he teaches in and the boys who board there. Despite being well past retirement age, Mr Chips still meets new pupils, lunches with the staff and at times gets called in in an emergency. The boys see him as a representative of the school.
If you fancy tackling a classic but want an easy read this is the one for you.
999 (tbr)
The Rescue Challenge
a-z (title)

My Thoughts: So Many Books by Gabriel Zaid

I'm trying to push my non-fiction reading by reading stuff which isn't just memoirs, my comfort zone. However I have been pretty unsuccessful as they seem to get pushed to the bottom of the pile, then get returned to the library.
This book is the first of the books I borrowed that are about books or words - I'm studying an English Language course at the moment so this is fairly safe ground for me.
So Many Books is a tiny book with just 146 pages, the premise of the book is based on the fact there is a surplus of books which far exceed demand. Zaid discusses whether publishers should print more titles a year than there are babies born, and what the effect is.
The book discusses supply and demand, publishing costs verses losses and whether a book can be seen as a piece of media, all of which seem quite heavy but you are never lost. The book also touches briefly on the history of printing, which is interesting as my next book is about the publication and printing of the first dictionary.
An easy and interesting little read.
Non-fiction 5
999 (non-fiction)

Sunday, 28 June 2009

The Sunday Salon: The Absolutely True Diaries of a Part-Time Indian by Alexie Sherman

If you haven't read it grab a copy! Or even better download the audio version!

This YA novel deals with some pretty tough issues: death, racism, alcoholism and even masturbation. You shouldn't let you put you off.
The narrator grows up with a dysfunctional family on an Indian Reservation, despite having brain damage as a child he is determined not to follow the same path as his parents so he travels 25 miles a day (often having to hitch-hike) to attend a better funded state school. His life is cmplicated by his race, what others see as the 'abandonment' of the 'rez and all the normal teenage boy/girl stuff.

The audio book is read by the author and is fantastically done, I was hooked immediately and loved every minute of it. Apparently the novel is has loads of cool pictures so I'll have to grab a copy to look at at some point.
I'll be searching out more of his books in the future.

YA 2009
My Year of reading dangerously (banned in Oregan)

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

My Thoughts: The Clothes on Their Backs by Linda Grant

This book continues my reads of last years Booker Nominee list, so far I have read four: one ok (The Sea of Poppies), one good (Northern Clemency) and one I abandoned early on (The Lost Dog). So I wasn't sure what I was going to get with this one.

The novel is told from the view point of Vivian Kovacs, a child of immigrant Polish parents. Her parents, thankful for their rescue from Poland during the war stay hidden away in the house, they go to work, come home and watch the tv. She grows up 'a mouse' told to respect England and never to do anything wrong so that England regrets the choice to house the family.
Hidden away in the closet is an uncle with a rather different view of England, he came to the country and exploited immigrants and women. Vivian is drawn to this man, a man who can reveal to her her parents past and a life she has never known.

The book was a good read, I finished in in just two sittings, it was an easy read with colourful characters. However, I never felt this was a Booker Nominee, it doesn't fit in with the other Bookers that I have read over the years. I'm starting to wonder what the next one shall be like - The White Tiger - the winner, lets hope it makes the grade.
999 (New Books)

Monday, 22 June 2009

Challenges: A Decision

The TBR stacks are growing. The library loans are ridiculous. And the books I don't own that I need to complete challenges are stupid. And the fund for travelling to India next year or teaching abroad for a year is still at zero.So something has to go.
I pondered all week over whether to just scrap all my challenge commitments, but couldn't actually bring myself to do it. So I've decided I will only read the books that I already have, no more library loans (on fiction)or purchases till the tbr stacks get down to a reasonable level. (I have over 400 unread books, most of them I barely even glance at as I know I need to read the next challenge book from the library). I'm also laying off signing up for bookrings.
I have tons of bookcrossing books at home that I have been sent by kind bookcrossers - some of which I've had for 2 years - these books make me feel bad. I love to see my books travelling around the world yet I'm hording the ones I've been given.

Some challenges will be completed easily from what I have at home, some will sag a little but I'll read for them what I have in the house, if I can't complete the challenge because of this thats the way it goes.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

My Thoughts: Then by Morris Gleitzman

Then is the follow up to Once, a book I read a good year or so ago, a book that I thought was amazing. Then is a good read, but not as good as the first.
The Story: Felix and Zelda are on the run, they have escaped from a train taking them to a concentration camp. Running through the Polish countryside they meet Genia, they become new people with new identities and new pasts.
What I liked: Although its a kids book the war is not softened and the truth isn't locked away.
What I didn't like: In the opening of the book I was frustrated by the amount of scenarios they managed to wiggle out of. I had to keep reminding myself theis is a book for 9 year olds.

Orbis Terrarum
War Through The Generations

Orbis Terrarum 2009: Short Story Mini Challenge: Prague

I'm continuing my armchair travels and have moved on to the next country on my way Prague.
An Odd Story by Karel Tichy can be found here at the wonderful Words Without Borders.
This story focuses on the transformation of families due to the persecution of the Jewish in the Old Czech Republic.
Karl is brought up in his fathers shop, successful but with a wealth that is hidden and never spoken of. His German nanny and housekeeper secretly Christians him. When the war strikes his parents are forced onto trains destined for the concentration camps, but Karl stays, changing his name, to live with his German nanny.

Where else have I been:

visited 4 states (1.77%)
Create your own visited map of The World or jurisdische veraling duits?

Want to join me in this mini challenge? Look here

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Challenge Update July

A-Z Challenge (Authors) 14/27
A-Z Challenge (Titles) 16/27
In Their Shoes 4/4 COMPLETE
The Dream King 2/12
1% Well Read Challenge 4/13
Orbis Terrarum 14/12 COMPLETE
The Genre Challenge 6/10
The Decades Challenge 4/10
The Carribean Challenge 0/6
My Year of Reading Dangerously 2/12
The World Citizen Challenge 0/3
Y.A Challenge 10/12
Deweys Book Reading Challenge 0/6
100 Shots of Short 53/100
The 2009 Pub Challenge 2/9
Themed Challenge 2/4
999 Challenge 43/81
Book Awards 3 0/0
2nd Canadian Challenge 1/13 ABANDONING - WILL NEVER COMPLETE
Latin American Challenge 4/4 COMPLETE
The Rescue Challenge 0/6
The Graphic Novel Challenge 10/12
Manga Challenge 1/4
War Through the Generations: WWII 2/5
Lost in Translation 7/6 COMPLETE
Notable Challenge 3/6
What's in a Name? 5/6
The Well Seasoned Reader 3/3 COMPLETED!
The Chunkster Challenge6/6 COMPLETE
The Guardian 100 novels 3/10
Banned Book Challege 1/4
Once Upon a Time III Challenge 5/5 COMPLETE
Herding Cats 0/2
Its the End of the World 1/4
100 Books Project 0/100
Non-Fiction 5 2/5
Beckys Mini Challenge - Scott Westerfeld 0/2 Steinbacek 0/2 Defoe 0/2

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

My Thoughts: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

I finished my last book for the Once Upon a Time III challenge!
I had kept The Invention of Hugo Cabret for this challenge, and then had a tough time finding an evening to sit down and devour it.
For those of you who haven't read it (you should go add it to a wish list now! ;0 )
the book is told through a large number of sketches and words, it looks chunky but can be read in a few hours tops. The tale follows Hugo an orphaned mechanical genius as he fights to restore an automaton - a machine which can write or draw. He discovers many new people along the way.
I loved the pictures they were so serene, I'll be going back to this book again and again. I also loved using this book at school with a class of kids who all have either dyslexia or literacy difficulties. They could 'read' the pictures fantastically and it was a book that was easily accesible. I'm trying to convince the department to buy a set as I only had my copy and 15 kids.

Other Once Upon a Time III reads:
The Wild Woods, Charles de Lint
Inkheart, Cornelia Funke
Beauty Sleep, Cameron Dokey
Lady Cottingham's Pressed Fairy Letters, Brian Froud
Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire

4 of these books were out of my pool of 8, which I'm very impressed with as I normally go off on a tangent. If I really had to pick a favourite I'd pick Beauty Sleep, but all of the books were great.
I should be joining in reading a version of A Midsummer Night's Dream on Sunday but not sure if I'll be managing the play or a fairytale version I discovered in the school library

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

My Thoughts: The Wild Wood by Charles de Lint

Charles de Lint is an author I've heard much about through the blogging world and this was my first experience with his work.
In The Wild Wood Eithnie, an artist lives surrounded by her beloved woods yet her art and her feeling of serenity in the woods is fading. She feels like she is watched, like someone or something is haunting her.
Eventually she is visited by the Faeries who have a special favour to ask of her.
I liked the simple language in this book and that the Faeries were part of a very real and recognisable world. I wouldn't give it 5 stars but I definately want to read more of Charles de Lint's work in the future.
Once Upon a Time
999 (Fantasy)

A Graphic Novel Trio


Orbiter by Warren Ellis and Collen Doran
This really wasn't my cup of tea, way too sci-fi.
Venture, a space mission which went missing 10 years ago suddenly lands back on earth, one astronaut has survived the other 7 are missing. And the space ship is covered in a layer of skin!
Very random and full of science stuff that went straight over my head, I must have been suduced by the pretty colours on the cover when I picked this up because it was never going to be my thing.

Aya by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie
Set on the Ivory Coast in the 1970's when the country was experiencing an economical boom: the city florished, education was of a high standard and life was a lot easier than it had ever been.
Aya is hardworking, she concentrates on school while her friends spend their evenings out partying trying to attract the next man. Despite Aya's warnings her friends meet their boyfriends in the 'night city' - the empty benches of the market. Parents are concerned with finding the best (richest) husband for their child.
Gorgeous illustations.

Read for Graphic Novel Challenge, YA, Olympic Challenege, Orbis Terrarum

The Wasteland by Martin Rowson
I was really concerned when I picked this up that this fella may do a disparity to my favorite poem. Luckily he stayed fairly well away from the poem.
The graphic novel is apparently based losely on TS Eliot's The Wasteland and Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep (which I haven't read). The story is about a cops hunt for his partner's murderer in the murky underground of the city.
It was okay, nothing to scream home about, odd character references and titles from the poem came into play but not in a big way.

Monday, 15 June 2009

My Thoughts: The Bonesetter's Daughter

Synopsis: Ruth is struggling in America with her life, her ungrateful step kids and boyfriend, a busy life and her mothers constant put downs. Gradually Ruth realises that her mother is becoming more and more forgetful, and a doctor diagnoses Altzimers. Whilst searching her mother's house she discovers a manuscript her mother had written in Chinese about her childhood, the husband and mother her own daughter had never known she had.

What I liked: I prefered the section in China, discovering how mothers of illegitimate children were treated and the simple tone of this section of the novel.

What I didn't like: The rushed simplistic ending, felt like everything suddenly was fixed and perfect which seemed unrealistic in the situation.

Orbis Terrarum
999 (tbr)

My Thoughts: Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

With just 5 days to go till the end of the Once Upon a Time Challenge I still have 2 books to read!!!! Life has been chaotic and I haven't been getting in my normal amount of reads, last week we had an open door week at school - any teacher can go and walk in and observe another teachers lesson (stressful), I had to organise and take 200 kids on a trip and write 26 reports on pupils in my form group (I see them for 15 mins a day and only teach 2 of them). Plus I uped the amount of time I'm spending at the gym.

I have the biggest book pile to tackle, the 6 weeks summer holiday is going to be a book a day mission to try and control the ever growing stack of books.

Over the weekend I finished Inkheart, and boy it was great.
Synopsis: Meggie is wokeon one night to find a strange man standing outside her bedroom window. Awakening her day he invites the man in and they go off for a private chat.
After that night Meggie's life makes a massive change, her and bookloving bookbinding father go off to an book obsessed aunt in the country. Meggie discovers her father can read characters out of a book, and he is hunted down and kidnapped by the very creatures he once read out of a book. And then the adventure begins...

What I liked: The fairy tale style, made me feel like a kid again. It also has a really positive approach to reading.

What I didn't like: It made my mental tbr pile grow, each chapter starts with a quote from another novel, it made me want to read Peter Pan again, The Princess Bride, and The Jungle Book. Seriously, I enjoyed it all.

Once Upon a Time
YA 2009
A-Z (Title)
999 (YA)

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Orbis Terrarum Short Story Mini Challenge: Poland

visited 3 states (1.33%)
Create your own visited map of The World or jurisdische veraling duits?
So far I journeyed from France to Germany and now I'm setting foot in Poland. As the last two stories have been classics I thought I'd mix things up a little and read a modern story I found here at the wonderful Words Without Borders

The Knight by Olga Tokarczuk
This is a strange story, its about being in a relationship and both knowing that everything isn't working, that your out of synch, both alone and yet neither person is able to break the relationship up.
The couple go away to a cold cottage beside the sea, a fairly good description of their relationship, cold but locked tight trying to keep out the truth that is battering them every second they are together.
Its a simple story but worth reading for the detail, the small things that manypeople will be able to empathise with having been at that point too.

The Sunday Salon: Short Story review and other related stuff

It's been a strange old day weather wise here in England, this morning was raining so hard and cold I put the heating on, then I popped to the supermarket and boiled, the sun had dried all the puddles in a matter of hours and now the sky looks just about ready to burst again.
In terms of reading I seem to be falling really behind again, I joined a new gym and have been spending more time there than at the last one, I had a reading funk for a while and I have so many reading commitments I'm reading 4 or 5 books at one and have a massive pile that needs tackling.
This week I'll hopefully finish: an audiobook The Absolutely True Story of a Part Time Indian (fantastic), Inkheart (fantastic), The Lost Dog (mmm haven't got into it yet and its a bookring so need to speed up), The Hard Facts of the Grimm Fairy Tales (due back to the library next weekend) and The Bonesetter's Daughter (a bookcrossing read-a-long that finishes Saturday).
I also didn't realise that Carl's Once Upon a Time Challenge finished in June, I was convinced it was July so I have to finish Inkheart plus 2 other books for that in the next 2 weeks!

visited 2 states (0.88%)
Create your own visited map of The World or Like this? try: The Next President

The Orbis Terratum Short Story Mini Challenge as some of you may have read I'm hosting this mini challenge for Bethany's Orbis Terrarum challenge. Participants need to read 10 short stories from 10 different countries, between June 1st and Sept 1st. Prizes will be avaliable at the end of the challenge.
As I like to test myself I'm trying to see how far around the world I can get. Today I'm visiting Germany the second country on my travels.

How Old Timofei Died with a Song by Rainer Maria Rilke
Opening line: "What a real joy it is to tell stories to a paralyzed person."
The narrator in this tale reguarly tells stories to a local paralysed man. In this story she tells him how in the past stories where alive, they were kept alive by being passed orally from person to person, commited to memory and passed along to the next generation. The narrator claims that once a story is no longer remembered and can only be told through reading it in a book it is no longer alive.
Timofei was the villages storyteller, he remembered all the oldest stories and went through the town passing on stories to everyone in hearing distance, when Timofei had children only oe of them had the gift of storytelling, the others like the others in the village forgot what they had been told. Timofei saw it as his sole responsilbilty to pass on each and every story to his son so the community's stories could still live on.

I'm looking for more participants, so if you'd like to join a challenge that you could complete in a day or use to take you on your travels this summer see here for further details

See what I read when I 'visited' France here

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

My Thoughts: Blindness by Jose Saramago

This is the first novel that I have read by this Nobel winning author and I'll definately be keeping my eye out for more.
As Blindness opens we are on a busy main road witing for the lights to change from red to green. As soon as the lights flicker to green all the lanes start moving except one. The car at the front of the lane is stopped still, as people go to find out why they notice the man inside screaming. Someone opens the door and the sound of his screams, 'I'm blind' echo around the streets.
Gradually as the days pass more and more people become blind, first only those who came into contact with the first blind man and then those who come into contact with them.
As a method of controlling the spreading of the blindness, those who have gone blind and those who are known to have had contact with them are entered into an empty mental asylum. No one exchanges names, as more people enter the institution they announce their proffession but all instinctively keep their names, and thus their try identities hidden.
Unbeknown to anyone except her husband a woman who hasn't lost her sight is living amongst the blind. She keeps an eye out for people, helps the sick and injured. As the days pass less and less food or sanitation is provided, inevitably things in the wards go from bad to worse and the situation spirals out of control.

This novel is so full and degfinately worth the read, clearly allegorical, looking at the 'blindness' of society, the selfish and helpless people we have become.
My only hangup with this book was the layout. There is no punctuation for speech, when someone speaks there was just a comma followed by a capital letter. And when another person replied this was simply shown by the capitalisation of their forst word. As a result the paragraphs are extremely long, after a few pages I got used to the layout and it didn't bother me so much, but made this book hard to read when I was tired.
A-Z (Author)
999 (Award Winners)
Lost in Translation

Book Awards III

Book Awards II finished on June 1st and I failed miserably reading only 5 books when I needed to read 10. I read:
1. The Gathering by Anne Enright - Booker (2007)
2. The Famished Road by Ben Okri - Booker (1991)
3. The Hours, Cunningham
4. Fugitive Pieces, Michaels
5. Gould's Book of Fish, Flanagan

My favourite would definately be Fugitive Pieces with The Gathering being runner up.
Despite, or probably because of my failure I'm going to be giving this challenge another go.I still have many books on my original list that I'd like to read.
This 3rd version starts on July 1st and runs untill December 1st and requires 5 books to be read. This is my pool which I will chose from (and hopefully complete this time).

The Sea by John Banville - Booker (2005)
Wild Swans - Chang - British Book Award (1994)
Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy - Commonwealth Writers' Prize (1994)
Peter Carey, True History of the Kelly Gang -Commonwealth Writers' Prize (2001)
Andrea Levy, Small Island -Commonwealth Writers' Prize (2005) Costa (2004)
Charles Frazier Cold Mountain - National Book Award (1997)
Gilead - Marilynne Robinson - Pulitzer (2005)
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami - World Fantasy Award (2006)
Alice Munro — Runaway -Giller Prize (2004)
Mal Peet, Tamar -Carnegie 2005
Mary Norton, The Borrowers - Carnegie 1952
Spell of Winter - Dunmore -Orange 1996
Sunshine, Robin McKinley (Mythopoeic)
The Fair Folk, Marvin Kaye, World Fantasy

The 5 books have to come from 5 different awards, for more details go to the challenges blog here

Monday, 1 June 2009

SS: 'The Necklace' by Guy de Maupassant

visited 1 states (0.44%)
Create your own visited map of The World or Like this? try: Archean
I'm starting in France and seeing if I can jump from one country to the next to see how far around the world I can get.

'The Necklace' written in 1884 is a tale with a moral.
It starts with the introduction of a pretty young woman, "born as through an error of destiny" into a poor family. She has no hopes of becoming rich, of marrying a wealthy man or having all the things she wished for. Knowing this she marries a poor man and settles unhappily into life.
Life changes when her husband brings home an invite for a ball, they scrape together enough money for her to have a suitable dress, and she borrows a diamond necklace from a friend as she is desperate not to appear poor to the other women.
Arriving home after being declared the most beautiful woman at the ball she realises the necklace is missing. With no hope of finding the necklace a replacement must be brought at great cost and debt to the couple. They hand over the replacement necklace hoping the friend will never know the difference.
Now they really know what a life of poverty and drudgery is.

My first short story read for the Orbis Terrarum Short Story Mini Challenge (which I happen to be holding right here)