Monday, June 30, 2008

Weekly Geeks #9: Challenges

I haven't participated in this for quite some time, but I'm able to fit this in since this edition lasts for 2 whole weeks because Dewey has been busy with the 24-hour Read-A-Thon (wow, by the way, I'm very impressed with that!).

I've been really busy lately, looking for a new job (found one) plus on holiday last week - which means I read a lot, which is good. My challenge list is growing steadily, but I completed quite a few as well, so I'm feeling optimistic. I hope to do fairly well in the end! :-)

This week's topic is challenges and we are asked to get organised, update lists, catch up on posts, etc. For the full description, go to Dewey's post.

Right, so these are the challenges I'm participating in:

Banned Books Challenge
Numbers Challenge
Eponymous Challenge
Novella Challenge
Once Upon A Time Challenge (done, although with only one book!)
Spring Reading Challenge
Title Master Reading Challenge

In Progress:

8 months left (till end February '09):
1% Well-Read Challenge - 3/10 done

6 months left (till end of '08):
100+ Reading Challenge - 41/100
888 Challenge - 20/56
A-Z Challenge - 27/52
Chunkster Challenge - 3/4
Decades '08 - 4/8
Man Booker Challenge - 1/6 (yikes again!)
Mythopoeic Challenge - 2/7 (hmmm...)
Orbis Terrarum - 3/9

5 months left (till end November '08):
342,745 ways to herd cats - 0/3
Initials Reading Challenge - 2/5

4 months left (till end October '08):
10 out of 100 out of 1001 - 4/10 done

3 months left (till end September '08):
Historical Fiction Reading Challenge - 1/6 (yikes, not looking good!)
Non-Fiction Five - 1/5

2 months left (till end August '08):
Chick Lit Challenge - 1/3
Southern Reading Challenge - 2/3 (ends 15 August actually)

Starting soon:
Classics Challenge (starts 1 July)
Book Awards II (starts 1 August)

and a few others that I'm just getting ready to post about...

Whew. Organising this is actually quite informative! :-)

Book Awards II Challenge

When I started blogging at the beginning of this year, I was sad to learn that I could no longer join some of the challenges and the Book Awards one was one of them. So here I am, very happy that 3M decided to host the Book Awards II Challenge. The challenge runs from 1 August 2008 to 1 June 2009 and requires us to read 10 books that won at least 5 different awards. I'm crazy so I'm trying not to duplicate awards!
Completed: 1/10 as of 8 September 2008

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (Hugo)
The Road by Cormac McCarthy (Pulitzer)
Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky (Prix Renaudot)
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (Printz)
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly (Alex)
The Gathering by Anne Enright (Man Booker)
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (Orange)
Dune by Frank Herbert (Nebula)
The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney (Costa/Whitbread)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Dziennik Irlandzki

At last, a book in Polish! When I signed up for the 888 Challenge, I vowed to read 8 books in Polish this year... this is the first one I managed. And it's only fair that I admit that the only reason it's done is that I ran out of books to read while visiting my parents and so decided to try this one. Dziennik Irlandzki is written by Heinrich Boll and so is translated from its original German. Boll, a well-known German writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1972 9I must check what he won it for), recounts his impressions of 1950s Ireland. He brings his family there for their holidays and ends up buying a house on Achill Island.

Since Joe is Irish, I like reading books about Ireland anyway. And actually we're going on a big family holiday to Ireland this year and everyone has been reading up about the country, which explains why my parents had this book in the first place. It's made up of 18 mini-stories, each about some observation about the Irish, who, it has to be said, are very unique.

I had two favorite parts. In one, Boll talks about how the Irish are so relaxed and never in a hurry and tells us about a saying of theirs: 'When God created time, he created enough for everybody.' It's true that all the Irish people I know are like this - sometimes this truly infuriates me since I'm more of a manic person. :-)

My other favorite part concerned the way the Irish approach bad things that happen to them. In other countries, when someone breaks a leg or misses a train or something it is always the worst that can happen and everyone laments with them. To the Irish it can always be worse. 'It could be worse' is one of Joe's regular sayings so I don't even ask him of all this is true! It's really a great trait to have, to be able to put things in perspective and it's a wonder to me that a whole nation seems to have it.

I enjoyed the book, although the language is a bit flowery and poetic for me. But Ireland is a poetic sort of place so it fits. And of course Heinrich Boll must have won the Nobel for something!

Challenges: 888 Challenge, Non-fiction Five Challenge

The Color Purple and the Banned Book Challenge Wrap-up

I'm not sure why I haven't read Alice Walker's The Color Purple earlier - I think I remember watching the film and not liking it, but it was really long ago so I must have been quite young and probably didn't really understand it. In any case, I'm really glad that I finally got around to reading it - I enjoyed it from so many different angles and can definitely understand why it's considered a classic and why it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1983.

The book is set in the Deep South between the wars and is written in the form of letters, most of them from Celie, the main character, to God. When she's a teenager, Celie is raped by her father and the two resulting children are taken away from her. She is forced into a loveless marriage to a mean man, who amongst other things keeps Celie away from the person she loves best, her sister Nettie. It isn't until Celie meets Shug Avery, the love of her husband's life, that she starts to understand about love and strength and courage and all the things that make life worth living.

The writing is beautiful, the story and characters show us a time in history that many would rather forget but that should certainly be remembered.

I personally loved the spiritual aspect - Shug's belief that she is a part of everything and that God is a part of everything and that Church doesn't have that much to do with it. I marked one of my favorite quotes:

"She say, Celie, tell the truth, have you ever found God in Church? I never did. I just found a bunch of folks hoping for him to show. Any God I ever felt in Church I brought in with me. And I think all the other folks did too. They come to Church to share God, not find God."
Perhaps this idea, that so appeals to me, is why The Color Purple was banned in certain schools... which brings me to the Banned Book Challenge, for which this book is the last one on my list. The others I read were:

1) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
2) Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
3) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
4) The Giver by Lois Lowry
5) The Earth, My Butt and Other Round Things by Carolyn Mackler

and Alice Walker's The Color Purple makes six. I can't choose favorites here, I loved all of these books and I feel sorry for those whose educational system banned them as they all had messages worth sharing and thinking about.

Other challenges this contributes to: 1% Well-Read Challenge, 888 Challenge, Southern Reading Challenge

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Giver

After reading Patrick Suskind's Perfume, I really wanted to read something lighter - I'm on holiday after all! So I brought Lois Lowry's The Giver along, since so very many bloggers have talked about it recently. In fact, The Giver is really one of the books that I would have never heard of if it hadn't been for the blogging world - so thanks! :-)

I loved this book! It takes place in a future where Sameness rules - there are strict rules for everything and everyone is encouraged to be the same as everyone else. The Community described is orderly and well-functioning and predictable - but at least it doesn't have war or crime or hunger. The story really makes you think about choice and about the kind of world that you'd like to live in. The specific edition I read also had some extras, like questions for kids about their ideal world and discussions on how they can each change the world they live in, for example by fighting climate change. I really liked that, how it was obviously a great choice for the classroom.

It's meant for young adults but I really enjoyed it. I literally read it in two sittings and it would have been one, but I'm here to spend time with my parents so I can't just be reading all the time! :-)

I won't tell you who The Giver is or why it's called that because I want all of you to read it yourselves!

Challenges: Banned Books Challenge and hmmm... looks like that's it, but it sure was worth it!


Wow, was this different! Patrick Suskind's book is interesting, clever and very, very disturbing. It reads really quickly and certainly made my flight to Poland to see my parents pass by fast! That's exactly what you want from whatever book you read on the plane!

The story is about Jean-Baptiste Grenouille living in 19th century France. He is certainly not like other people and he certainly does not fit in. His talent is his sense of smell - over-developed as if to make up for the lack of any othe humanness in him. Although he is clearly not the sort of person you'd want around you and although human life and human in general are not things that he values, I must say that I didn't dislike him all that much until quite a bit into the story. I felt some sort of indifference for him and certainly some interest in his life, but strong negative feelings towards him only came later. That still surprises me.

Perfume was recommended to me by so many people and I can see why. If you haven't read it yet put it on your list, you won't regret it.

Challenges: 1% Well-Read Challenge, 888 Challenge, Orbis Terrarum Challenge

Friday, June 20, 2008

Novella Challenge Wrap-up

I thought this was a really good challenge because it got me to read some shorter books that I wouldn't have read otherwise. Meaning that participating in it also increased my total number of books read this year. Always a good thing! The challenge was to read at least 6 novellas between April and September. It was hosted by Trish.

I had many options listed in my original post, but I ended up with the following 6:

Animal Farm by George Orwell
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Gabriel's Gift by Hanif Kureishi

It's hard to choose a favorite - they were all really good in their own way... I guess my least favorite was The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and even that was very good!

Thanks Trish for encouraging us to include some of these excellent shorter books!

Once Upon A Time II Challenge Wrap-up

Hmmm... I didn't finish as many of the books as I indicated in my original post, but thankfully Carl has experience with over-eager people and offered us many levels for the Once Upon A Time II challenge.

I managed to read two books: J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad. This qualifies me for The Journey.

I'm looking forward to other wrap-up posts. I really do want to read more of these kinds of books and I'm always looking for ideas!

A big thanks to Carl for hosting this - I'm already looking forward to next year's edition!

Title Master Reading Challenge Wrap-up

This was a really fun one - I really enjoyed searching for books to read for this as well. The challenge was to read at least 4 books whose titles had every word starting with the same letter. I read the same ones I specified in my original post, so:

1. Like Life by Lorrie Moore
2. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
3. Gabriel's Gift by Hanif Kureishi
4. Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

The Thirteenth Tale was probably my favorite, although Gabriel's Gift was also fantastic. Summer Sisters was only mediocre and Like Life was definitely not for me!

Thanks to MizB for hosting!

Gabriel's Gift

I'd never even heard of Gabriel's Gift by Hanif Kureishi - I found it on the list of 1001 books you must read before you die and only because I was looking for a book that fit into the Title Master Reading Challenge. I am very, very glad that I came across it, because I ended up really enjoying it!

The story is about a boy named Gabriel growing up in London. He comes from a fairly normal dysfunctional family (I'm sure you know what I mean) - his parents split up and each of them has loads of issues and somehow rely on Gabriel for all sorts of things. I really loved the quick and witty writing style, as well as the way the characters' paths met up and influenced one another.

A short book that really deserves to be read.

Challenges: Title Master Reading Challenge, 1% well-read challenge, 10 out of 100 out of 1000, A-Z Challenge, Novella Challenge

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Numbers Challenge Wrap-up

Yay, my second challenge finished! ;-) Thank you to Callista from SMS Book Reviews for hosting this, it was fun! The challenge was to read 5 books with a number in the title - it orginally finished on 1 June, but Callista extended it to 1 August so I was able to get my last book in.

My original challenge post, back in February, had a different list of books, if I remember correctly, but in the end I read the following five:

1. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
2. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
3. number9dream by David Mitchell
4. The Year 1000 by Robert Lacey and Danny Danziger
5. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Choosing a favorite would actually be really hard because I liked all of them and they were so different.

Anyway, it was great, nice to be able to tick a challenge off on my giant list, especially since I want to join some new ones, and I hope that this one turns up again next year!


This is David Mitchell's second novel, but the last one of his that I've read. I liked it the least out of all his, although I didn't dislike it in general. It has to be said that David Mitchell has an amazing imagination and writing style - styles really since he uses different for various parts of the book. He does that in Cloud Atlas too, but that one is easily my favorite of his and indeed one of my favorite books ever.

So, number9dream... the story is simple enough, about a boy who comes from a small Japanese island and who moves to Tokyo to find his father, who he never met. His time in Tokyo is never boring, he meets a lot of strange people, some good people, and some very weird things happen to him. Oh yeah and he imagines a lot of stuff too. All of this makes for a very colorful story, but I must admit that I read most of it while thinking 'what the hell is going on??'. I started to really like it about 2/3 of the way in, but that could have been linked to the fact that I happened to be way more relaxed then so perhaps I was simply more focussed.

If you haven't read any of David Mitchell's novels, I wouldn't start with this one. And if you have and you have and you liked them then you need to read this one no matter what I say here.

This book completes the Numbers Challenge for me - it was extended until August so I had the chance to squeeze this one in. Thanks to Callista for hosting... and extending!

Other challenges this qualifies for: A-Z Challenge, 888 Challenge, Man Booker Challenge

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants

I've been meaning to read The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Ann Brashares for a really long time - basically ever since I started watching the Gilmore Girls and finding out that Alexis Bleydel is in the movie. But I wanted to read the book first - now I have so I can get the dvd!

Anyway, I liked the way it's written. The characters were interesting and the storylines were good. The book's about four teenage girls who have always been friends and their first summer spent apart. They all go through very different experiences and they have to cope with things without their usual support system. Before they go off, they decide to keep in touch with the help of a pair of jeans - they pass the pants to each throughout the summer and it makes them feel like their friends are closer than they are. It's a pretty cool idea!

I really liked that they were all friends because their mothers met in some pregnancy class and stuck together because they were due around the same time. I thought that was a really nice touch and start to the story!

I also liked how there were no chapters but the book was divided by using sayings and quotes - I can't remember any at the moment, but many of them were really witty.

If you've read and reviewed this one, let me know in the comments ssection.

Challenges: A-Z Challenge, Chick Lit Challenge

And - this is my 100th post! I can't believe it! I've been lagging behind on my blogging lately because of various life things, but I got here so quickly anyway. Must be all those challenge posts! :-) A big thanks to all of you for making my blogging experience so great!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Spring Reading Challenge Wrap-up

Well - I didn't read all the ones I planned on, but I read more than the number I aimed for so I'm still counting it as a success! I read 25 books during the months of March, April and May - details of what I read can be found here.

For my original post, see here. Thanks to Kathleen for hosting!

Crow Lake

Mary Lawson's book is the story of a family that had to deal with tragedy and loss. The older brothers decide to care for their younger sisters rather than have the family split. They manage but life gets in the way of certain plans and things don't end up exactly as planned.

Although I liked many of the themes in this book, I must say that it was good, but I wasn't riveted all the time. I guess this is what happens when you hear too much hype - everything I heard about Crow Lake had been not only good, but fantastic. I admit that it was beautifully written though!

It was certainly thought-provoking. To me personally, it really spoke about how you can never presume if another person is happy with their life or not. We shouldn't presume, period. What a good lesson to learn!

Challenges: Orbis Terrarum, 888 challenge

Monday, June 2, 2008

The New Classics


1. The Road , Cormac McCarthy (2006)
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)
3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
4. The Liars' Club, Mary Karr (1995)
5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)
7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996)
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997)
11. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (1997)
12. Blindness, José Saramago (1998)
13. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87)
14. Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates (1992)
15. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers (2000)
16. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood (1986)
17. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (1988)
18. Rabbit at Rest, John Updike (1990)
19. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (2005)
20. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding (1998)
21. On Writing, Stephen King (2000)
22. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz (2007)
23. The Ghost Road, Pat Barker (1996)
24. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985)
25. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
26. Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984)
27. Possession, A.S. Byatt (1990)
28. Naked, David Sedaris (1997)
29. Bel Canto, Anne Patchett (2001)
30. Case Histories, Kate Atkinson (2004)
31. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien (1990)
32. Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch (1988)
33. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion (2005)
34. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold (2002)
35. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
36. Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt (1996)
37. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (2003)
38. Birds of America, Lorrie Moore (1998)
39. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri (2000)
40. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (1995-2000)
41. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (1984)
42. LaBrava, Elmore Leonard (1983)
43. Borrowed Time, Paul Monette (1988)
44. Praying for Sheetrock, Melissa Fay Greene (1991)
45. Eva Luna, Isabel Allende (1988)
46. Sandman, Neil Gaiman (1988-1996)
47. World's Fair, E.L. Doctorow (1985)
48. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (1998)
49. Clockers, Richard Price (1992)
50. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (2001)
51. The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcom (1990)
52. Waiting to Exhale, Terry McMillan (1992)
53. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon (2000)
54. Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware (2000)
55. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (2006)
56. The Night Manager, John le Carré (1993)
57. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe (1987)
58. Drop City, TC Boyle (2003)
59. Krik? Krak! Edwidge Danticat (1995)
60. Nickel & Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
61. Money, Martin Amis (1985)
62. Last Train To Memphis, Peter Guralnick (1994)
63. Pastoralia, George Saunders (2000)
64. Underworld, Don DeLillo (1997)
65. The Giver, Lois Lowry (1993)
66. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace (1997)
67. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003)
68. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel (2006)
69. Secret History, Donna Tartt (1992)
70. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
71. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Ann Fadiman (1997)
72. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (2003)
73. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (1989)
74. Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger (1990)
75. Cathedral, Raymond Carver (1983)
76. A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ruth Rendell (1998)
77. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)
78. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
79. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
80. Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney (1984)
81. Backlash, Susan Faludi (1991)
82. Atonement, Ian McEwan (2002)
83. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields (1994)
84. Holes, Louis Sachar (1998)
85. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson (2004)
86. And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts (1987)
87. The Ruins, Scott Smith (2006)
88. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (1995)
89. Close Range, Annie Proulx (1999)
90. Comfort Me With Apples, Ruth Reichl (2001)
91. Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (2003)
92. Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987)
93. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (1991)
94. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (2001)
95. Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman (1998)
96. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003)
97. Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson (1992)
98. The Predators' Ball, Connie Bruck (1988)
99. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman (1995)
100. America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004)

May Round-up

Hmmm... I didn't do so well with my reading in May. I had lots of personal stuff going on plus two shows - meaning that reading time was pretty much limited to when I was on the metro going from one place to the other. I'm hoping that I'll do better in June, but I'll only do what I can, this is still supposed to remain fun! :-)

Books read in May - a whopping total of 5:
Jennifer Government by Max Barry
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
To Kill a Mockinbird by Harper Lee
I don't know how she does it by Allison Pearson
The Boy on the Bus by Deborah Schupack