Monday, March 31, 2008
What I read in March:
1. The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler (5/5)
2. Animal Farm by George Orwell (5/5)
3. Girls Under Pressure by Jacqueline Wilson (5/5)
4. The Memory Keeper's Daughter (5/5)
5. Gossip Girl by Cecily Von Ziegesar - Audiobook (2/5)
6. The Year 1000 by Robert Lacey and Danny Danziger (4.5/5)
7. Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett (4.5/5)
8. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (4/5)
9. Undead and Unwed by MaryJanice Davidson (4/5)
10. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark (4/5)
11. Chloe by Freya North (4/5)
11 books, I can't believe it! :-)
And here's how I'm doing with all my challenges:
100+ Reading Challenge - 19/100 read
A-Z Challenge - 15/52
888 Challenge - 9/56
Decades Challenge - 3/8
Eponymous Challenge - 3/4
Numbers Challenge - 2/5
Chunkster Challenge - 1/4
Banned Books Challenge - 2/6
Man Booker Challenge - 0/6
Title Master Reading Challenge - 0/4
Mythopoeic Challenge - 1/7
Novella Challenge - 5/6
Hmmm... not too bad, but some of them haven't been getting any attention at all! Must be rectified...
There are some new challenges starting tomorrow too, but I overlap books so I still hope to manage! :-)
Oh yes, and there are the reading projects too...
For the 1001 Books You Must Read Befor You Die project, I read 4 books in the first quarter of this year. For my Rory's Book Club project, I don't think I read any. And I only just started my trip Around the World in Books.
OK, so everything about this challenge is brilliant, but one of the big things for me is that it's got me thinking about cooking again - and with that came the motivation to put some effort into my other blog, Lost in the Kitchen. I haven't been paying much attention to it until recently and now I started again I plan to continue. I'll be posting about this challenge on that blog too and my recipes will be reviewed over there, while the books themselves will be reviewed here. I hope that will work.
The challenge is this: select 6 cookbooks to read and make a recipe from each. My list of possibles is below, although I might change my mind! Check out the challenge blog for full details and to sign up.
1. WeightWatchers' Take Out Tonight
2. Vegetarian Supercook by Rose Elliot
3. The Student Cookbook (Hamlyn)
4. Jamie's Dinners by Jamie Oliver
5. The 30-Minute Cook by Nigel Slater
6. Feast by Nigella Lawson
7. The Ethnic Paris Cookbook by Charlotte Puckette and Olivia Kiang-Snaije
8. Indian Food Made Easy by Anjum Anand
Sunday, March 30, 2008
It's short, a novella, and reads quickly and easily. But the ideas in it stay much longer. The story is about an animal revolution - the animals of Manor Farm revolt against the human owners and turn it into Animal Farm, running it themselves. It's a commentary on power and what it can do to those with even the best intentions - and this political side to it certainly made me think. But the part that really stuck in my mind wasn't about politics but about nature:
"Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals."This sentiment, the original reason behing the animals' revolution, is very important today, as more and more of us start thinking about what we are doing to the planet and to other beings.
Animal Farm is considered a classic and it's easy to see why this is so. Although written in 1945, there is nothing dated about it, the ideas in it still apply. Isn't that a good reason to read it? It's also a novella so a perfect choice for the Novella Challenge. :-)
I'm giving it 5 stars and look forward to reading for of George Orwells's work. I recently heard that his lesser known works are also fantastic.
Friday, March 28, 2008
I liked it! It's about a girl named Ellie who overhears someone calling her fat and decides that she needs to lose weight - now. It's a really good way of talking about eating disorders, I think. I'm nowhere near being a teenager, but I got the feeling that it all sounded natural enough and I believe that the books are quite popular with early teenage girls.
Even though it's not meant for my age group, I could relate because I haven't conquered the eating/food issues that started going wonky in my head so many years ago. I've never had a serious eating disorder, but my relationship with food is anything but healthy and I've always been overweight. I'm glad I read this book now because it reminded me of some of the basics that should be part of my attitude towards food. And since I'm striving to be a healthier person, finally, going back to basics is a good thing.
I don't really have any teenage girls in my environment, but if I did they'd be getting some presents from me! I'm giving it 5 stars simply because I really enjoyed it!
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Norah Henry gives birth to twins: a healthy baby boy and a girl with Down's Syndrome. Her husband Henry takes the decision to tell Norah that the girl died at birth and in fact secretly entrusts her care to a nurse. This happens at the very beginning of the story and the rest of the book deals with how an unspoken secret influences the lives of everyone involved.
It made me think about two things. One of them is that we can never really know any other person, an idea that I'm just now getting used to. No matter how close we are to someone, we can never truly know and understand what is going on in their minds. And no one can ever fully know us either. I find this kind of a lonely thought, but also liberating in the sense that it allows me to understand human relationships better and act on them from a different point of view.
It also made me think of disability and society's and my own attitudes towards it. This wasn't at the forefront of the story, but it was certainly there, in a book that starts out in the 1960s. I haven't had much contact with disability, so I can't presume to understand it and I'm sure that this shows. This book has made me think about things a bit differently and I hope to learn more about these issues in the future.
The Memory Keeper's Daughter is a 5-star book for me - it's lengthy and yet I got through it in no time, I kept wanting to go back for more. And I'm still thinking about the characters, even though I've already started reading something else!
Also reviewed at:
Melody's Reading Corner
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Isn't this button great? How could I not join this? :-) Annie from Reading, Writing and Ranting is hosting this Historical Fiction Reading Challenge and since I only had to add a couple of books to my list to do it, I decided to take the plunge.
Annie says - There is only one rule:
1) You must commit to reading 6 historical novels over 6 months.
So... between 1 April and 1 October, I plan to read six of the following:
Completed: All as of 8 September 2008 - read my wrap-up post here
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Star of the Sea by Joseph O'Connor
The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
The American Boy by Andrew Taylor
Witch Child by Celia Rees
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Two of those are extra-chunky so we'll see if I end up substituting something else!
I also love fairy tales. I started re-discovering them quite recently, I had to get over the 'you're too old for this' block in my head. It's a real privilege to have the ability to completely lose oneself in a fairy tale. If there are actual fairies in it, so much the better!
Joy from Thoughts of Joy is hosting the Non-Fiction Five Challenge - I always try to work some non-fiction books into my reading. Since I already have a non-fiction category for the 888 challenge, I can easily join this without adding to my reading list - which is great because I'm challenge crazy!
Here are the rules:
1. Read 5 non-fiction books during the months of May - September, 2008 (please link your reviews on Mister Linky)
2. Read at least one non-fiction book that is different from your other choices (i.e.: 4 memoirs and 1 self-help)
If you're interested, you have to sign up on the challenge website.
Completed: All 5 as of 24 September - view my wrap-up post
And my choices are here - I reserve the right to change them, I'm fickle these days!
The Story of God by Robert Winston
Paris - A Secret History by Andrew Hussey
Imperium by Ryszard Kapuściński
A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong
The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Dziennik Irlandzki by Heinrich Boll
The Celts, First Masters of Europe by Christiane Eluere
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson
The Truth About the Leprechaun by Bob Curran
Getting Things Done by David Allen
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
To be honest, I wasn't expecting much from this book and I didn't get much. I thought both the story and the characters were flat. Maybe I just can't relate. The books tells the story of some spoiled rich kids living in New York. They live in a different world than that of other teenagers and they know it. But their problems are the same - sex, friends, gossip, acceptance. The story went along quickly enough, but I don't really care what happens to the characters next. Ah well, you can't like everything and at least I have something to put in the 2 stars category!
But audiobooks... The idea was to force myself to go walking more often. Originally I put a lot of fast-paced music on my ipod, but music that's good to walk to isn't the sort of music that I like so that didn't go very well. The book thing worked though. I went out on Saturday morning just because I wanted to finish this book! I'm very pleased with the concept and already signed up to Audible.co.uk and got my next one - I happened upon something called The X-mas Factor by Annie Sanders and it sounded interesting - and it starts with X so it's perfect for the A-Z challenge! I was going to cheat and read Douglas Coupland's Generation X or something like that, but I can save that till next year!
The book is full of interesting trivia, as well as 'proper' early European history. It is structured by month and each chapter highlights what would have been important to people at that point of the year. What I really enjoy about learning about early history is how much of what we celebrate now, of how we structure our lives, is based on what people did back then. The holidays we celebrate are based on old pagan dates, some of our traditions, such as Midsummer celebrations, date back to old rituals. Being pagan, I always look out for references to old Gods and was happy to find some here too.
I liked reading this book around Ostara and the Equinox, when I could think about the symbolism that we now associate with Easter - the bunnies, the eggs, the color yellow, all signs of fertility, of life beginning again. Spring is here! Well not here, it's actually snowing here, but in theory Spring is here!
The only minus isn't even the book's fault - it's only about England and I'd like to read more about the rest of Europe. But life looked the same in most places so until I find more books on this subject I'll have to project what I already know to other parts of the world. ;-)
Definitely 5 stars - I hope some of you out there read this, it's a short book packed with fascinating information and I think it's always useful to know something of what came before us.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
I enjoyed many parts of it, I enjoyed some parts of it very much. Sometimes I felt frustrated. Sometimes I felt bored. Sometimes I laughed out loud at the absurdity of it all. At times I was engrossed in what was going on and at times I yearned for something lighter or at least for something different. Is this how a soldier would feel during a war? Maybe. I know that the book is very anti-war and perhaps all these emotions were exactly what was supposed to happen.
The story takes place during World War II in Italy and is told from the point of view of American soldiers. It is written in a very specific style that sometimes got to be too much. But should I complain? I guess the war itself also 'got to be too much' for those involved.
The term 'catch-22' which is now in popular use really explains the whole atmosphere and tone of this book. The idea of going around in circles does say a lot about the futility, absurdity, senselessness of war.
Would I recommend it? Yes. Was I riveted? No. But it's worth reading anyway, both for the unique style and for the ideas presented. It goes into my 4-star basket - which is where the good books go, it seems to take a lot for me to give more stars!
Oh yes, and finishing this allows me to took one off from the A-Z challenge, the 888 challenge, the numbers challenge, the decades challenge, the banned books challenge and the chunkster challenge. How's that for efficient? :-)
Monday, March 17, 2008
The story is about a girl named Betsy who is killed and turned into a vampire - but she doesn't want to live in the shadows and participate in vamp politics or anything like that. She doesn't see why she can't just continue her life, even if she is dead. Umm, undead. She wants to hang out with her friends, go shopping for shoes and visit her Mom - not fight other vampires. But she has to come to terms with some new experiences - like learning to hunt for dinner and not being able to eat real food. And it doesn't help that the other vampires she encounters seem to think that she's the foretold Queen and won't leave her in peace.
I'm giving it 4 stars - not because it's a masterpiece of literature but because I had so much fun reading this book, I had to convince myself not to go out and buy the next one in the series right away!
And while in Paris... well, I came back with a bag full of books. As it happened, the hotel that Joe booked for us in our favorite St Germain disctrict was two steps away from what is apparently the biggest second hand English-language bookstore in continental Europe; San Francisco Books, I think it was called. How's that for meant-to-be? Around the corner was the second-biggest one. And two doors down from the pub where Joe was watching the rugby in the afternoon was a lovely quaint book shop, where I spent about an hour. And while we were deciding what to do on Sunday we happened upon, totally accidendally, the Shakespeare and Company bookshop, which I'd read about on Sassymonkey Reads just a few weeks back. Sassymonkey posted more on the history of this bookshop over at BlogHer.
I hope that all this allows you to understand the long list of books we came back with:
1. Paris - A Secret History by Andrew Hussey
2. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
3. Perfume by Patrick Suskind
4. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
5. Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
6. Watership Down by Richard Adams
7. The Thomas Covenant Trilogy by Stephen Donaldson
8. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
9. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
10. The Gathering by Anne Enright
11. The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
12. A Hundered Secret Senses by Amy Tan
13. The Witch of Portobello by Paolo Coelho
14. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
The non-reading related parts of our trip to Paris were also great - I'm really developing an appreciation of France, I'd like to see more of it. Maybe Bretagne will be next! :-)
Undead and Unwed also reviewed by:
Kristi at Passion for the Page
Friday, March 14, 2008
- The Orbis Terrarum Challenge begins April 1 2008 (you are welcome to join later) Through December 20th 2008.
- For the challenge each reader is to choose 9 books (for the 9 months).
-Each book must be by an author from a different nation in our world.
Completed: ALL as of 17 November 2008 (read my wrap-up post here)
My list is made up of books I'm already reading anyway, so it's an easy one for me to join:
Thursday, March 13, 2008
_____would have been a much better book if ____.
Hmmm... I'm not sure I read a book I wanted to change in quite a while. If I had to, I'd say that
Children of Men would have been a much better book if it belonged to a different genre. What I mean is that it was SUCH a good story idea that I think it would have been better developed as a 'regular' character-focused novel rather than a thriller. I think much more could have been done with the idea.
I really can't think of anything else. I don't have the reflex to want to change storylines, I kind of just go with the flow.
Monday, March 10, 2008
The character of Miss Brodie is interesting and bizarre, worth meeting I think. The book was turned into a stage play and a film, so others must have seen something different in the story too!
4 stars - it's quick and fun, I'd recommend it.
Oh and this is my 4th book for the Novella Challenge.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Thursday, March 6, 2008
I'm trying very hard to answer this before I read anyone else's answers... so as not to be swayed!
I have to admit that I'm more partial to female lead characters and don't have many male ones that I've been impressed by. I guess it's an identification thing, I often find male characters amusing or cool or "good people" but they don't stick with me like the female ones do.
Except for Henry from Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveller's Wife. I loved Henry. I remember dreaming about him, thinking about him and generally giving him room in my head as if he were real. I loved the book he was in, the story and the writing, but also his character in itself. He was strong when faced with a very strange problem. He tried to be strong for Claire when she needed him to be. He tried to shield her. He tried to be responsible during the times when the age difference between them was really big. I found him to be both sensitive and strong, which is a combination hard for me to resist in a man. He was very real to me and I felt a huge loss when the book ended.
I'm all emotional now!
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
What a great way to get focused! For the Spring Reading Challenge, just choose however many books you want to read in March, April and May. That's it!
My list is here - I want to get through these to finish the Eponymous Challenge and the Numbers Challenge, although I'm hoping to get through a few more than these to make good use of my latest trip to the bookstore!
Completed - my wrap-up post is here.
2. Chloë by Freya North (finished 07/03)
3. Getting Things Done: How to Achieve Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen
4. An ABC of Witchcraft by Doreen Valiente
5. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
6. The Girls by Lori Lansens
7. The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
8. Number9dream by David Mitchell
9. The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien
10. The Year 1000 by Robert Lacey and Danny Danziger (finished 22/03)
11. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
A novella is meant to have between 100 and 250 pages - some ideas are available on the challenge blog, more are out there on the web, look around. I have already read three that qualify:
1. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
2. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
3. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
and I plan to read another three (probably more!) from the following list:
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
The Devil and Miss Prym by Paulo Coelho
The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien
The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Gabriel's Gift by Hanif Kureishi
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Summer Sisters by Judy Blume
A Model World and Other Stories by Michael Chabon
Mourning Ruby by Helen Dunmore
Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella
The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
I Don't Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson
One True Thing by Anna Quindlen
The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
Heaven and Earth by Nora Roberts
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar
Affinity by Sarah Waters
Pretty good for a small second-hand book store in Brussels!
Monday, March 3, 2008
Five stars - the storytelling is incredible.