Thursday, July 31, 2008

Unread Authors Challenge

And another one, but how could I possibly pass this up??

This is the 2nd Unread Authors Challenge and is hosted by Pour of Tor. The challenge is to read 6 books by authors that you've always wanted to read but haven't yet. It lasts from 1 August 2008 to 30 January 2009, so the same timing as the challenge I'm hosting. But I really like this idea!

Completed: 6/6 as of 22 December 2008

Here are some authors that I've always wanted to discover but haven't got around to it yet, plus possible books:
1) Zadie Smith (On Beauty)
2) Joanne Harris (Chocolat)
3) Anna Gavalda (Hunting and Gathering)
4) Agatha Christie (probably whatever is the first one)
5) Elizabeth Berg (Dream When You're Feeling Blue or The Year of Pleasures - any thoughts?)
6) Orson Scott Card (Ender's Game)
7) Lorna Landvik (Angry Housewives Eating Bonbons)
8) Fannie Flagg (Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man)
9) Philippa Gregory (The Other Boleyn Girl)
10) Sue Monk Kidd (The Secret LIfe of Bees)
11) Laurie Halse Andersen (Speak)
12) Cecilia Ahern (P.S. I Love You)
13) Meg Cabot (Queen of Babble)

I'll read six from that list, I think! :-)

Bang Bang Book Challenge

Here's another one that enticed me - and there are more coming, I'm just doing my lists! :-) The Bang Bang Book Challenge is hosted by Kelsey and asks me to read five books set during one or more wars, between 1 September 2008 and 28 February 2009.

Completed: ALL 5/5 as of 28 February 2009 (view my wrap-up post here)

What a great idea, Kelsey, thanks!

Japanese Literature Challenge 2

I stumbled upon this interesting challenge and decided to join in the fun, partly because I'm joining everything that comes along for some reason and partly because I've enjoyed everything I've read in this genre so far and would like to discover more! Bellezza is hosting - check out the rules over at her blog. Basically you have to read three books by Japanese authors between 30 July 2008 and 30 January 2009. I'd only planned one Japanese book for this year, but I'm sure I can manage two more! :-)

Completed: only 2/3 as of 30 January 2009 :-(

This is what I'm planning on reading:
2) Out by Natsuo Kirino

I'm looking forward to it!

New Classics Challenge

Just a reminder that this first challenge I'm hosting starts tomorrow. Yay! I'm going away for a long weekend so I'm posting this today and will have a Mr. Linky for August reviews up next week. Of course you can sign up anytime, I don't mind, click on the link on the sidebar.
See you next week!

Edited to add that I just went to see if any more people signed up and was surprised to find 40 of you taking the challenge with me! Wow! :-) And for many of you it's the first challenge, so I'll feel responsible for you getting addicted! :-) I'm very excited!

Don't you want me? and Chick Lit Challenge wrap-up

India Knight's Don't you want me? was fun and light and yet still real somehow. I could totally identify with Stella in more than one place. The story is about a 38-year-old woman who has a small child and is also trying to get back into dating. It's pretty straighforward, but what makes the books special is the writing style - the way India Knight phrases things had me laughing out loud. I really liked it and will be looking out for other books by the same author. Sometimes I need some smart chick lit to read!

Challenges: Chick Lit Challenge only, but now it's completed, so I guess I should wrap-up!

The other two books I read were Can you keep a secret? by Sophie Kinsella and The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Ann Brashares. I liked all of them - the Ann Brashares was a bit different from the other two because it's for young adults, but it was very good. Sophie Kinsella is my favorite chick lit author so far, but India Knight is really good, possibly just as good. I'll hve to read more of her stuff to find out!

The Chick Lit Challenge was hosted by Twiga the book addict 4 life - thanks for a fun idea!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Southern Reading Challenge completed!

Great, another challenge completed! And what fun! The Southern Reading Challenge was hosted by Maggie Reads and challenged us to read 3 Southern setting books by Southern authors. I originally had quite a few to choose from, but in the end I read these three:

All three were very good, but my favorite was To Kill a Mockingbird. That was fantastic. But the others are highly recommended too, I guess I was lucky.

Thanks Maggie - I really enjoyed reading these and won't stop there, I hope to read a lot more about the South. And maybe you'll host this again (hint)! ;-)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Murder on a Girls' Night Out and some Polish reading too

I found out about Anne George's mystery series starring two Southern sisters from Joy's blog - she called the sisters delightful and I was intrigued. She was right. I don't read mysteries often, but the first book Murder on a Girls' Night Out was really very enjoyable. Maybe because I really liked the characters and a lot of the book was about them and not only about the murder. Very definitely recommended. Challenges: A-Z Challenge, Southern Reading Challenge

I also finished my first Polish novel of the year - yay me! The title (Tego lata w Zawrociu) translates as That summer in Zawrocie; the book is by Hanna Kowalewska. The story is about a woman who inherits a large mansion from her grandmother, who she didn't really get along with. Throughtout the book, the main character tries to get to know her grandmother through the things she left behind and to figure out why she was chosen to inherit her house. It was enjoyable and I think I'll be less scared to read something else in Polish - I really want to, I'm afraid that otherwise I won't have much contact with the language. 'Polish books' is one of my categories for the 888 Challenge, so at least I got a bit further with that!

I've been nominated!

My friend Lezlie from Books 'N Border Collies nominated me for an award! Here it is (drumroll):

Isn't it fantastic? And it's my first nomination ever, I feel so loved! :-)

Here are the rules for the recipients:
1. Put the logo on your blog.
2. Add a link to the person who awarded you.
3. Nominate at least seven other blogs.
4. Add links to those blogs on your blog.
5. Leave a message for your nominees on their blog.

I'm a bit late with all this and it seems that everyone I'd like to nominate has already been nominated, usually more than once! So I'll just ask you to browse the blogs listed on the sidebar - they're all ones I enjoy so much that I visit them regularly!

Thanks again Lezlie!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

New Classics Challenge

I guess it's time for me to make my list for this, since I'm hosting it and all... I'm slightly surprised that I've only read 17 of these, but many more sound familiar to me and I'm looking forward to reading them!

The challenge rules and sign-ups can be found here.

Completed: only 1/6 as of 31 January 2009 :-(

The 6 books that I will read are:

1. The Road , Cormac McCarthy (2006)
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
19. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (2005)
29. Bel Canto, Anne Patchett (2001)
79. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
83. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields (1994)

or any of the others, there are too many to choose from! :-o Such as:

Black Water by Joyce Carol Oats

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)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The American Boy

Unfortunately, I had to give up on Andrew Taylor's The American Boy, an audiobook I'd been listening to while on the treadmill at the gym. It was getting so incredibly slow that it made me avoid the gym. And we can't have that.

I've tried reading other book in this style - this London of the 19th century dark novel style. I haven't liked them either, I just find that this type of story really drags. The reviews seem to all be good so maybe this was just better suited to reading than listening, I don't know. All I do know is that I really wanted to finish it, but only got half way. I now started listening to Bill Bryson's The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid and my love of the treadmill has suddenly returned. Life's too short to read/listen to things I'm not enjoying!

Have you read this? What did you think?

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Devil and Miss Prym

Hmmm... Paolo Coelho's books are always thought-provoking, aren't they? I've read The Alchemist and Veronika Decides to Die before and really liked them and I tried reading Eleven Minutes, but couldn't get into it. Is it worth trying again?

I enjoyed The Devil and Miss Prym, though not as much as the first two books of his that I read. This one's theme is good and evil - how they interact in the world and within each one of us. Are people intrinsically good or evil? A couple of ideas on this theme really struck me as I was reading. One of them was the notion that we are only good because of the threat of punishment, i.e. that we would do a lot more things 'wrong' if we didn't think we'd get into 'trouble'. This is probably true to some extent - maybe people wouldn't respect their hours at work if no one was watching; but I'm not sure that it means that more people would commit murder if they could go unpunished. What do you think?

The other idea that I liked is one that the author mentions in his introduction, namely that a week is enough time to show our true face/decide where our destiny lies/pass or fail a test of God or the Gods or the universe. I agree with Coelho on this - a week is plenty. I'm sure we've all had times in our lives when everything changed in one week.

So, thought-provoking and interesting, although I wasn't totally crazy about it, I can't really explain why... maybe I'm still not completely in the mood for 'heavy' books and it was giving me too much to think about! ;-)

Challenges: 10 out of 100 out of 1001 and the 1% Well-read Challenge, A-Z Challenge, Orbis Terrarum

Can you keep a secret?

Another very entertaining book by Sophie Kinsella, this one about Emma, a likeable and normal 20-something living and working in London. She's trying to figure out what she wants from life, from her boyfriend and from her job - and of course gets into various scrapes in the process. I didn't like it as much as what I've read of the Shopaholic series or as much as The Undomestic Goddess, but it was a nice light book for what is supposed to be summer - Belgium isn't known for its summers you know!

Challenges: A-Z Challenge, Chick Lit Challenge

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Shadow of the Wind

Wow. I just finished reading Carlos Ruiz Zafon's novel and it was amazing. It had a bit of everything in it - funny moments, sad moments, mystery, crime, history... And the language! It is so beautfully written - I'm not usually blown away by language, more often by the general style, but this is just so good. It's originally in Spanish but I can't imagine anything better than the translation by Lucia Graves (daughter of the poet Robert Graves).

The story is about so many things and so many people that it's hard to describe it here. It is set in Franco's Spain and starts with a visit to the Cemetary of Forgotten Books in Barcelona - from there it takes the reader on a journey through the intertwined lives of many wonderful characters.

This is one you shouldn't miss out on, really. I don't know what took me so long to get to it.

Challenges: Historical Fiction, A-Z Challenge, Chunkster Challenge, Raved About Reads

Thursday, July 10, 2008


I cannot believe that I have never read this before! I'm actually in the middle of Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, but was finding it dark and wanted something lighter for a couple of hours. Pooh was just sitting there on the shelf so got picked up.

It's so cute and simple and silly and innocent. It made me feel like a kid - safe and protected and with no worries in the world. And it made me think of wanting to read it to my future kids. If, like me, you haven't got around to reading A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-pooh, do so now, you'll love it! Make sure it's the edition that's illustrated by E.H. Shepard, the simple drawings really add to the book.

Challenges: A-Z Challenge, 888 Challenge, Classics Challenge, Decades Challenge, Initials Reading Challenge, What an Animal Challenge - very good for a cute little book I read accidentally while reading something else! ;-)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Weekly Geeks #10: Magazines

I couldn't resist joining in this week's Weekly Geeks about magazines - I love them! I actually have to consciously make sure that I control my magazine habit because it gets so expensive - English-language magazines are so expensive here!

The magazine I read regularly, i.e. I buy it pretty much every month, is BBC Good Food - full of recipes, ideas and food news. I love cooking and I have another blog about cooking and food, but I don't update that nearly often enough. I must get on that actually. Anyway, Good Food is really great - the recipes range from simple and quick to more elaborate so I'll always find something I want to make. They have a great website too, registration is free and they have a fantastic recipe collection on there. But I still buy the magazine, nothing beats sitting down with a cup of coffee and the new issue on a Saturday afternoon!

Through Melody's Weekly Geeks post, I found Bookmarks magazine. I hadn't heard of it before, but it looks amazing. I'm considering subscribing to it - perhaps I'll forego my monthly allowed Amazon order in August and subscribe to Bookmarks instead!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

New Classics Challenge

I've decided to host a challenge! And I'm very excited! :-)

Deb from the A Novel Challenge yahoo group posted a link to this list of Entertainment Weekly's list of new classics, what they call the best reads from 1983 to 2008. I loved the list - many of my recent favorites are on it so I'm intrigued to see what some of the ones I haven't read yet will be like.

So the challenge rules are:

1) Copy the list (which I have pasted here, just in case that link ever disappears) and bold the titles that you have already read.

2) Choose at least 6 other books from the list , read and review them between 1 August 2008 and 31 January 2009.

2) Come back here and post links to your reviews.

3) In January 2009, cast your vote for which one of the 100 books on the list is your favorite (and write a post on why). The winning book will be sent to a lucky winner chosen by the scientific method favored here in the blogosphere, i.e. names in a hat. Other contests are very probable too, I have some ideas, but they need planning.

4) Have fun! :-)

Oh and can anyone make a button for this? I have no idea how to do that so a kind volunteer would be welcome!

Sign-up here - make sure you link to the specific post about this challenge!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Raved-about Reads

I like the sound of this challenge, hosted by MizB - it has its own blog, go have a look for yourself. The challenge is to read at least 3 books that everyone else is raving about. I'm going to treat this is a 'living' list of such books so I'm sure to read more than 3. Since it's ongoing, I'll put it in the project section.

What a great idea! :-)

American Born Chinese by Gene Yang
Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
The Birth House by Amy McKay
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Chocolat by Joanne Harris
The Complete Maus by Art Spielgman
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea
I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Love Walked In by Marisa De Los Santos
The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks
Moloka’i by Alan Brennert
The Orphan's Tales by Catherynne M. Valente
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Salem Falls by Jodie Picoult
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
Uglies by Scott Westerfield
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Young Adult Romance Challenge

Here's another fun-sounding one - Becky from Becky's Book Reviews has organised the YA Romance Challenge - check out the pretty pink blog! :-) The challenge is to read 6 YA romance novels between 1 July 2008 and 28 February 2009 - this isn't a genre that I know much about, but I enjoyed reading from it so far and would like to continue. Plus pretty much everything that I've read based on Becky's recommendations so far has been good... so I'll be looking through her suggestions for this too!

Here's my list, which I'm sure has a life of its own and will change:

Completed: 2/6 as of 11 November 2008

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
The Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
Honey, Baby, Sweetheart by Deb Caletti
Forever by Judy Blume
Zel by Donna Jo Napoli

What an animal!

Kristi from Passion for the Page is hosting her first challenge, What an animal! It sounds like too much fun to resist, the challenge is to read 6 books about animals or with animals in the title or on the cover (for complete rules check out Kristi's blog) between 1 July 2008 and 30 June 2009.

Completed: 6/6 as of 24 March 2009

My possibilities:
Wild Swans by Jung Chang
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke (which apparently has a lizard on the cover!)
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Watership Down by Richard Adams
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (because apparently vampires count)
The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami (because cats are central to the story and there is a cat on the cover)
Aesop's Fables by Aesop
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (because if vampires count then surely insects do too!)
Pawing through the past by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown

Thanks for hosting Kristi!

The Celts, First Masters of Europe

I got this book by Christiane Eluere when I decided I wanted to read up on the historical side of the Celtic world some years ago - we're Pagan and we lean towards the Celtic pantheon and culture more than any other, although others (Germanic, Scandinavian, Slavic) are important to us as well.

It's basically a quick overview of the history of the Celts. It's beautifully printed, on heavier-than-usual paper, I suppose to accommodate all the beautiful photos that are integral part of the book. These photos are one of things I liked most about reading this - they're mostly of various unearthed objects attributed to the Celts and are very interesting to look at. I enjoyed the reading part less - it's a complicated historical period, what with all the tribes and battles, and I found that I didn't have enough knowledge to understand everything. They could have done with more maps of where things were taking place and more basic explanations about who was around back then.

The book includes a section of excerpts from primary sources, such as Julius Ceasar's The Gallic Wars, and this is the section I found most fascinating. I'll definitely have to plan some of these older materials into my reading.

Challenges: 888 Challenge, Non-Fiction Five Challenge