Saturday, 28 February 2009

1% Well-Read Challenge

3M is hosting the 1% Well-Read challenege for another year.

The Rules (taken from her post):
The editors of the book 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die threw a kink into our challenge when they updated the books with new titles last year. So, I’ve got three options for you on this next challenge:

Read 10 titles from the original list from March 1, 2009 through December 31, 2009.
Read 10 titles from the new list from March 1, 2009 through December 31, 2009.
Read 13 titles from the combined list (of almost 1300 titles) from March 1, 2009 through March 31, 2010. In other words, “What were they thinking dropping titles from Dostoevsky and Jane Austen?”

I was already challenging myself to read more books from this list and have managaged a few already this year so I'm going to plunge in for option 3. I'm not 100% sure what I will read but here is my pool:

1. Watchmen, Alan Moore
2. Blonde, Joyce Carol Oates
3. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
4. Great Apes, Will Self
5. Jack Maggs, Peter Carey
6. The Ghost Road, Pat Barker
7. Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood
8. The Reader, Schlink
9. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
10.Jazz, Toni Morrison
11. Wild Swan, Chang
12. Senor Vivo and the Coco Lord,de Bernieres
13. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Kundera
14. Arrow of God, Achebe
15. V, Pynchon
16. Out of Africa, Dinsen
17. All Quiet on the Western Front
18. The Count of Monte Cristo,Dumas
19. Animals People, Sinha (New List)
20. Small Island, Levy (New List)
21. The Reluctant Fundamentalist,Hamid (New List)
22. Suite Francaise,Nemirovsky

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Library Loot 2

I've been to the library twice this week so this is the second instalment. All three books that I picked up were reserved for me so I was very good and didn't look around - I must be up to the maximum allowed books by now.
The Red Tree, Shaun Tan I saw this book blogged about a couple of weeks ago and love picture books so I had to order it in. If I had plenty of spare money I would love to have shelves with this type of book on, books that you can just pick up and marvel at for a short time.
City of Oranges: Arabs and Jews in Jaffa, Adam LeBor - Eva reviewed this earlier this week. I know very little about this political situation so I'm hoping this will enlighten me.
Baghdad Diaries, Nuha Al- Radi (for In Their Shoes Challenge)I have a copy of Baghdad Blog so I'm going to read these in tandam and see how/if the male and female views of the political situation differ.

Sunday Salon: Today and a quick review

Today should be busy and I really should be getting on with lots of work at the moment, but its Sunday and I seem to be in a go-slow mood today.
I woke up and read my first Manga - Priests. I wasn't overly impressed but I'm going to try Manga Shakespeare next, hopefully I'll enjoy that more. Oh and I built a table - well a flat pack table!
I'm just about to pop off to the library to pick up my reservations then I should be filling out coursework forms for 50 pupils - this should be really stimulating, for each one I have to hand write in the title of their 4 or 5 essays that they are entering - I'm sure I could be doing something more worthwhile!

A Quick Review: Castle Waiting, Linda Medley
This is a big-ole graphic novel of 450 pages but a fairly quick and easy read. The fairy tale story is set is an old secluded castle where people retreat to in times of need. Through the novel we are told the stories of several of the lovable characters who come to live in the castle - like the bearded nuns, and a single mother.
The book has its funny moments and was an enjoyable way to pass a few hours. I thought it was an okay graphic novel, check out Eva's review she loved it.
The Graphic Novel Challenge

In case you missed anything I posted this week:
Orbis Terrarum - my picks for this years challenge
My thoughts on the excellent Fugitive Pieces
Library Loot
A Short Story Review: The Camel's Back
Two books others loved but I didn't, have you read them? What did you think?

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Orbis Terrarum 2009

I loved this challenge last year and finished really early, so this year I'm adding a twist to the books I will choose. Each book has to have a link to the book that went before it. I have about 4 possible lists worked out, but they keep changing and I know I'm bad at following lists so I'm going to just add the books as I go along.
I have my first 4 worked out then I'll go from there:
The Hive, Camilo Jose Cela (Spain) - a Noble winning author as was Gabriella Garcia Marquez, I will tackle his Love in a Time of Cholera (based on Columbia). Whilst we are in South America I'm going to check out Cristina Garcia's novel The Aguero Sisters (Cuba) which links nicely to Sister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (India). Where I go from there I'm not sure as yet but it must be somewhere which lurks in mount tbr.

P.S I'll probably have an extras pile for those books I read on the side which come from different countries.

My Thoughts: Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels

This is one of those books that I have been meaning to read for so long, and I finally got their and finished it off in just two sittings! Not bad for a 300 page book.

The novel starts in a series of images, a young boy listening to his sister playing the piano, eating a family meal, and playing in his hideout. Then suddently the reader is presented with a startling image, he goes to play in his hideout when suddenly he hears a crash inside the house, his mothers bowl of buttons spill across the floor. Then silence. His parents and sister are removed from him forver by the Nazi soldiers.
While hiding from the guards in the marshy muds of Poland Jakob is discovered by a Greek geologist, who takes him home and stays his friend and companion for life. Jakobs life takes his through Greece and Canada and back again, yet no matter how far he travels from the terrors of his childhood he can never forget or lay his sister's ghost to rest.
The language in this book is stunning, with a real poetic quality. I started the book marking all the notable passages, but after sticking in 10 post its in the first 20 odd pages I thought it was best to just read and enjoy. I'll certainly be searching out more of Anne Michaels books in the future.

999 (1001)
Book Awards 2
War Through the Generations: WWII
Orange Prize Project

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Library Loot

After winning 20 odd books last week with more arriving everyday I was planning on being strict with myself with this weeks trip to the library. I was planning on borrowing just the 3 books that I had reserved - and that's what I did in a way. I only borrowed 3 books but got tempted by the library sale shelf and 5, for the grand total of £2.35!

I borrowed:
The Girl Who Played with Fire, Larsson (For the Pub challenge)
Castle Waiting, Linda Medley (a book I saw on Eva's lists when I was looking for inspiration for the Graphic Novel Challenge)
Sky Burial, Xinran (An impulse reservation that I made after seeing someones review - can't remember who!)

I then brought:
Anything But Ordinary: The Nine Lives of Cecile, Cecile Dorward (In their shoes)
Tales of Innocence and Experience, Eva Figes (In their shoes)
Elements, A.S Byatt (I love her stuff)
Please Mr Einstein, Carriere
Contemporary British and Irish Poetry, Sarah Broom

Want to see what others have borrowed, check out Eva's post here

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Short Story: The Camel's Back by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is the third story I have read by F. Scott Fitzgerald and I'm really starting o love his style, this is another story from the collection Tales of the Jazz Age. The story starts in this assured manner:
The glazed eye of the tired reader resting for a second on the above title will presume it to be merely metaphorical. Stories about the cup and the lip and the bad penny and the new broom rarely have anything, to do with cups or lips or pennies or brooms. This story Is the exception. It has to do with a material, visible and large-as-life camel's back.

Mr. Perry Parkhurst is one of the key players in his small society, always fashionable and good looking he is a young man with a happy future ahead of him. In love with Betty Medill, a girl who's looks belong in the movies he decides that their private engagement needs to be brought into the open and the marriage declared. Yet when he arrives on her doorstep with this proposal they bicker and he is left alone and single.
In a fit of lonliness Perry decides to party at the biggest social event in the area, the Townsend's circus themed fancy-dress party. As he is looking for a costume at the last minute he ends up attending the party dressed as a camel. His ex, Betty, falls in love with this absurd costume, giving dances and flirting with this unknown man. From his hidden vantage point Perry gets to see Betty as all the other men in town see her, as a flirt and he becomes the centre of her attention.
As the evening ends the two people with the best costumes are awarded, both Betty and Perry win and a 'fake' marriage ceremony is issued by the local minister, yet this wedding turns out to be all to real and the camels true identity is discovered. To see how Betty reacts grab a copy of the text.

I'm reading this collection of shortstories through DailyLit a free book service which delivers stories to your email address. They have a wide range of books, both non-fiction and fiction avaliable.

Two so-so books that others have rated highly...

Ever pick up a book that others have said is 'great' a 'must-read' and just gone 'err?' I read two books like that so far this week.
The first is the graphic novel Pyongyang by Guy Delise. The French animator is placed in North Korea for a 2 month stint in which he has to check editions of cartoons for French TV. The graphic novel is sold as 'a journey through North Korea' but is actually a single-minded mans view of a small part of North Korea. Now, I'm not saying that North Korea is amazing or politically correct, in fact I know so little about the place that I couldn't make an educated comment on the country, but I can say that Delise is negative about the place from the opening to the end of the book. He never says a single positive thing about the country or the people that he meets, instead he mocks their views, behaviour and culture. Surely if you visit a country you must find something nice to say. Anyone else read this? Have a different opinion?

Graphic Novel Challenge 3/12
A-Z (Title)
In Their Shoes 2/4
Lost in Translation 2/6
The Well Seasoned Reader
My Year of Reading Dangerously 1/12 (Banned

The second disappointing book is sold as 'an American Classic'. The Wonderful O is an extremely short book, which is considered to be one of the 1001 books to read before you die. The simple story is about a pirate who hates the letter O, he travels to a small island where he decides to ban the letter O and all things with that letter in its name. I liked the concept of this but never understood why the people so willingly let this stranger change their world, smash up and ruin their belongings. I liked the rhyming sentences and the amazing amount of things he could ban, and also he ludicrous ways of getting around things ie, you don't have to destroy Cows if they are part of a herd, but it was never gripping and I was happy when it was over.
A-Z (Title)
999 (1001)
Decades Challenge (1950s)
Genre Challenge (Adventure)

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

My Thoughts: Talking Heads 2 by Alan Bennett

This book contains a series of monologues which originally were written to be performed on the BBC television programme, they since have been recorded for radio and for theatre performance. I read the book of transcripts and I will certainly be looking out for an audio book version of the first series.
The monologues are all told by various people, people you may pass unnoticed on the street, the neighbour, the elderly lady at the bus stop etc. Yet each character has an unseemly story behind their ordinary exterior; they are a peadophille, they are married to a serial killer or they have befriended their neighbour who killed her husband after years of abuse at his hands.
The truth is gradually revealed after you feel that you have gotten to know the person. The monologues are all fairly short, no longer than 15 pages each but each one tells an extraordinary story.

999 (Short Story Collections)
A-Z (Title)
Themed Read (Move 'em Along)
What's in a Name (Body Part)

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Short Story Monday Jelly Bean by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Jim Powell was a Jelly-bean. Much as I desire to make him an appealing character, I feel that it would be unscrupulous to deceive you on that point. He was a bred-in-the-bone, dyed-in-the-wool, ninety-nine three-quarters per cent Jelly-bean and he grew lazily all during Jelly-bean season, which is every season, down in the land of the Jelly-beans well below the Mason-Dixon line.

Jim Powell never quite fit in, in an effort to make something of himself he goes away to the war yet when he returns his reputation hasn't changed and the girls are still not interested in him.
He spends his days listlessly, culminating in a party that the girl he has his eye on is attending. He tries to rescue her in two seperate situations yet his luck never changes. He is always to be one of those men that never gets the girl

Saturday, 14 February 2009

My Thoughts: Silk, Baricco

I first read about this book earlier this year when Eva reviewed it, gorgeously as usual - it is certainly well worth going and checking out her post.
I sat down to read it this afternoon and wasn't expecting to be blown away by it quite as much as I was.
The novella is only 104 pages in length, with 65 chapters many of which barely fill a page this can be read in about an hour. Despite its shortness every page holds tons of tiny images, the sparse language is almost poetic in its ability to create a picture in the reader's mind.
The book tells of a French silkworm trader. In the 1880s the silkworms across Europe have developed a bug and keep dying. Herve Joncour is sent to Japan, a country, at the time, which was kept unopened to foreigners and reportedly killed any man trying to export products from its shores. While there Herve meets a young women, of unknown origin. They never speak and barely touch, yet she transforms his life.
This was one of those books I wish I had studied at university, I have a ton of questions about individuals interpretations of the events that happened swarming my head and the langauge would be beautiful to look at in close detail.
I will have to check out his other work soon.
A-Z (Author)
Lost in Translation
The Decades Challenge (1990s)
999 (1001)

Short Story Sunday: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald

A copy of the story can be found online here

I really want to go and see this film, but it doesn't look like I'm going to get to the cinema anytime soon so I thought I'd check out the story till it comes out on DVD.
The story probably took around 30 minutes to read at the most but it made me think about Benjamin's life for much longer. Benjamin is born an old grey haired man, his father distraught is determined to treat him as a baby so provides him with warm botles of milk and baby rattles etc. The longer Benjamin lives the younger he becomes, gradually becoming younger than his father, wife, son and even grandchild.
This story is told with a real simplicity of language yet we ca vividly see Benjamin's pain by the way others around him treat him. Definately a story to check out

My Thoughts: Wicked by Gregory Maguire

I've been meaning and meaning to read this book for ages, I love retellings and interpretations of stories whether it is through novels, films or poetry. For the few people who don't know this book tell the life of the Wicked Witch of the West. Now before we go any further I will say I have never seen The Wizard of Oz, so I went into this with just the basic information about the background story.
Elphaba is born green all over, with an aversion to water, religion and compassion for other people. The novel covers her birth till her death and all the intervening event in between.
I have a really mixed view of this book, I loved sections of it and happily curled up on the sofa to read about her childhood, college days and days in love. When she moved to free herself of her guilt, and her son into Sarima's house I found myself wondering how much more of the book I had to read, I kept checking the page numbers and felt like I was pulling myself through. The final section was too wordy and by the end I had lost my desire to know what happened to Elphaba or to care for her fate. In my opinion it needed a good edit, and some pace at the end.
999 (Fantasy/fairytale)
A-Z (Title)
Themed Read (Move 'em along)
Chunkster Challenge (496 pgs)


I heard a reading of this poem on the radio last week and thought it was one I'd like to share. The poet Ventriloquist's MySpace page can be found here

A Letter from God to PanHey Pan
How's it going?
Long time no see
This is kind of awkward, but I think I owe you an apology
I recently wrote to Man, discussing his disregard of nature
And I thought, I couldn't really leave you out, funny, guess it makes ya
Think about things, you know the order of us Gods
I know I've been the big man, but I do feel sorry for all you sods
Who had a role, each representing an element of existence
And when I got promoted I didn't put up any resistance
I thought I could handle it, like a heavenly president
But like the human system, the failure is more than evident
So I'm writing to acknowledge, the role you used to play
And apologise for your transformation & the price you had to pay

I was just a nipper when you were at the height of your powers
I heard stories about you, would sit and listen for hours
God of nature, flocks, mountain wilds and rustic music
Your appetite for sexual adventure was legendary & you'd use it
To remind people of their animal nature, their place in the scheme of things,
I know when people worshiped you, they hadn't yet heard of sins
You were important to shepherds, which is why you're half man, half goat
Funny how your horns remained in that book that men wrote
I remember you loved singing, dancing and partying in nature
It really doesn't make any sense why men began to hate ya
Well, maybe it does if you think about how much power women had
When you look at the early Hebrew teachers, their attitude was pretty bad
Whereas you loved to play with women and men in equal measure
The founders of Christianity thought women didn't deserve pleasure
They thought shame was born with every woman, men couldn't handle their own desires
They ran from your free spirit while you danced naked around fires

There were too many gods and you had an element of danger
I guess you roamed too free my friend so they made you a stranger
After the bloke on the cross had some admirable ideas
Those who interpreted his teachings seemed to be gripped by fears
Of forbidden this, and shameful that and gradually they turned against you
The more time passed, your reputation grew worse, they'd paint you
As the bad guy, the horned one who raised hell
Me I got promotion and at my feet all the praise fell

I know you stuck around for as long as you could
Still engendering that feeling of fear and wildness in the wood
In the field, on the mountain and in wide open spaces
Humans still use the word Panic, so you still leave traces
But once the church had grown to the Holy Roman Empire
It was only a matter of time before your funeral pire
As they wrapped you up in stories, changed your name and your purpose
Anywhere you showed your face, it was like being at the circus
Satan this, the Devil that, then calling your followers witches
No-one could have predicted the insanity that spread, the stitches
Of your reputation unpicked for all to see
Millions of people were burned because they didn't worship me

I guess you were god of animal and that wasn't enough any more
They wanted something supernatural & that's what I was invented for
One God, to rule them all, made in the image of man
But Gods only exist as long as people believe in us..damn
I just didn't see it coming, now less and less people believe in me
Because they are beginning to realise that they invented me
My powers are waning because I'm only the God of Man
Without you, I'm not strong enough, you're the God of Nature, Pan.

I've still got a few tricks left up my sleeve, I'm giving things a shake up
People need to re-evaluate their place, they need to wake up
They've forgotten they're all actually made of the same stuff
And that being locked in a human frame of reference isn't enough
People are doing some interesting research into nature's building blocks
They might just realise yet that they are the shepherd and the flocks
They are the rivers they're polluting, they are the tarmac too
They are every God they've ever -worshiped, which means they're also you.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

The Sunday Salon: I won!

Through Bookcrossing I have won the International SMILE day prize, this is drawn every 2-3 months, the participants sign up for the chance to win, in exchange they send a book to the winner. The choice of book is up to them but many base it on the winners wishlist or preveious readings. These are the books I have recieved:
The Wild Wood, Charles de Lint
Baumgartner's Bombay, Desai
Lucia, Lucia Trgiani
Northanger Abbey, Austen
On Love and Shadows, Allende
The Republic of Love, Sheilds
The 14-Carat Roadster
Random Acts of Heroic Love
The Things We Do for Love
Stone Cold
Gravity's Rainbow
The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Beyond Black
A Lover's Lover

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Library Loot

Library Loot is here
The Boy, Germaine Greer - Greer explores the sexualisation of pictures/paintings of young boys.
Collected Fictions - Borges - For a Librarything Latin American read and for my own Latin American challenge
O Pioneers - One I've always meant to read
Kimono, Dalby - For my non-fiction challeges
Rumpelstiltskin and other Grimm Tales, Carol Ann Duffy

Sunday Salon: While I've Been Gone....

I'm finally back, I deleted the massive piles in my Google Reader as there was way too much to trudge through so I will get back to commenting soon. My computer problem turned out to be something that was fixed in 30 seconds!
Anyway this is going to be a post about the books I read whilst I wasn't blogging, I didn't get through as many as I had hoped as I seem to have been in a reading slump and had one week where I seemed to have eye strain constantly.

This is one of the Booker Nominees of last year, it was a fantastic read so it gives me hope as I'm in a group reading last years short list.
This is a family saga spanning the 1970s till 2006. The ovel starts in Sheffield, a northern English town famous for its mines and the mining strikes of the 1980s.
The beginning of the novel is a shocking introduction to the street that the novel is primarily focused on, the new neighbours move in witnessing on their first day a mother stamping on her sons snake and also revealing all her marital problems.
The novel then travels through the families ups and downs, success, illness, hatred and love.
This took a while to read because of the hefty size and weight but was well worth it in the end.
A-Z (Title)
999 (New Fiction)
The Complete Booker
The Chunkster Challenge (738 pgs)

Birthday Stories [ed] Haruki Murakami
The is a amazing collection of short stories from around the globe, Murakami set out to fine stories which all featured birthdays. There was only one story in the whole collection I didn't enjoy. Definately a must read.

999 [Short Story Collections]
A-Z (Title)
100 Shots of Short

So Many Ways to Begin, Jon McGregor
I read McGregor's 'Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things' last year and jumped at the chance to grab this copy at my last bookcrossing meeting.
This novel is about the lives of David and Eleanor, childhood sweethearts from two different parts of the UK. The ovel explores the way that love has to cope with all the incidents in peoples lives, the painful memories from the past and the small, incidental happenings which can spiral into something much larger. As with Nobody Speaks... the language and the sense of atmosphere is lovely, warming and gripping. An author who deserves to be discovered by many more people.

A-Z (Author)
Themed Reading Challege (Move 'em Along)

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, Alison Brecdel
I spotted this in the library, a graphic novel-cum-memoir (two challenges in one!).
Alison's father can be abusive, he struggles to restore their home to Victorian perfection, and he is a closet homosexual (a fact she doesn't learn to she comes out herself). Her mother reveals her fathers secret affairs, including those with young boys and the babysitters. From this revelation Alison looks back at her childhood and her own developing sexuality, along with her relationship with her father before his death/suicide.
The Graphic Novel Challenge
In Their Shoes
A-Z (Title)

I also read The Master of Margarita graphic novel, which I'm still not sure of. I think I need to have read the novel before I pass judgement.

Family Matters, Mistry
I won this fantastic novel from Bethany from B&B Ex Libris as part of the OT challenge last year, for anyone taking this challenge this year you should certainly stick this on your reading list if you haven't already read it.
The Chenoy family are living on the brink of poverty in a tine two roomed flat. Their jealous siblings, envy them their freedom. These siblings live in an 8 roomed apartment with plenty to eat, but with the burden of looking after their elderly step-father. When he breaks his leg and becomes bedbound he is simply dumped on his youngest daughters doorstep. Despite a lack of food and space she cares for his every need and his developing Parkinsons Disease. Her family struggle with the problems the grandfather brings with him but learn a lot in the process.
999 TBR

Two Challenges

Biblo File is hosting The Guardians 1000 Novels everyone should read challenge.
You have to read 10 books, There are 7 categories and you need to read 1 book from each category, and one book you have never heard of. I'm going to pick books as I go along.
The numbers in brackets show how many books from tht section I have already read.
Comedy [6]
Crime [8]:
Family and Self [45]: Currently reading The Karamazov Brothers
Love [37]
Science Fiction and Fantasy [25]
State of the Nation [27]
War and Travel [13]

I'm also going to participate in the Banned Books Challenge held href="">here I will be reading 4 banned books between Feb 22nd and the 30th of June