Monday, March 30, 2009

Blogging break

I'm actually offline this week and there are only so many posts that I can schedule, not doing much reading at the moment... Life stuff got in the way of reading so I need to take a break. I have some more serious life stuff coming up soon too, but of the kind where I'll be obliged to get lots of rest so books will be making a comeback then! See you in a week or two!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Historical Fiction

I didn't participate in the last Weekly Geeks on historical fiction, but I've been going through the posts of those who did and had so many books to add to my list that I decided to put them in a separate post. Much more fun this way.

The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough (Ancient Rome, via Maree)
A Woman's Place by Lynn Austin (WWII, via Becky)
Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher (WWII, via Becky)
The Rest Falls Away by Colleen Gleason (Regencyy, via Chris)
I, Claudius by Robert Graves (Ancient Rome, via Coversgirl)
Imperium by Robert Harris (Ancient Rome, via Coversgirl)
Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters (Medieval, via Robin)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

What an Animal! Challenge Completed

I didn't think I would manage to complete Kristi's challenge, but I did. Only because she's so flexible with her definition of 'animal' though! :-)

My original post is here and what I read is below:

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Aesop's Fables by Aesop
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Pawing through the past by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown

OK, so one of these is about vampires and one is about an insect, but I think that's ok! :-) My favorite of these was Winnie-the-pooh, closely followed by Twilight and Kafka on the Shore. I enjoyed the others too, just not as much.

Thanks Kristi, for hosting. This was fun!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Non-Fiction Five Challenge

I really enjoyed this when Joy hosted it last year and I'm sure that this year will be just as great! This edition is hosted by Trish, who has kept the rules the same, I believe. Check out the original post to see them, but basically you have to read 5 non-fiction books between 1 May and 30 September 2009. I have tons of these on my radar so this will be easy! :-)

Completed: 3/5 as of 26 July 2009

The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
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
The Stork Club by Imogen Edwards-Jones
We Thought you would be Prettier by Laurie Notaro
The Best Friends' Guide to Pregnancy by Vicki Iovine

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Once Upon a Time III

Carl is hosting this fabulous challenge again - and this is one you don't want to miss, it's become a tradition in the blogging world that spring time is fantasy and mythology time!

Carl is really good at getting everyone to participate, even people who don't have that much time or promised not to join any more challenges. He's created various levels of participation - check them out in his post about the challenge.

I'm opting for Quest the First: Read at least 5 books that fit somewhere within the Once Upon a Time III criteria. These criteria are basically fantasy, fairy tale, mythology and folklore. Cool, eh? My possibilities are below...

The challenge ends at Midsummer.

Completed: ALL 6/5 as of 19 June 2009 (see my wrap-up post here)

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Sleeping Beauty and Other Stories
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
Ombria in Shadow by Patricia McKillip

Plus: A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pawing through the past

I didn't read the back of Pawing through the Past by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown carefully enough or I would have noticed that Sneaky Pie Brown is a cat. And that cats are central to solving the mystery. Hmm, not usually my sort of thing, but since I was moving house (this is why I was missing in action for a week or so) I wanted something REALLY simple yet engaging to read in between packing and cleaning.

I must say that I was pleasantly surprised about how the whole cat angle was handled. The animals communicated with each other and understood what the humans were saying, but the humans didn't understand the animals. Interesting. It was actulally quite cute and cleverly managed and whereas I won't be rushing out to get more in the series, I'd be happy to read another one if I happen upon it somewhere.

A short review only as my time is still limited! I don't know how much reading I'll manage to get done till the end of the month, but I don't think it will be a lot! So many boxes to unpack!!!

Challenges: What an animal, Suspense and Thriller, Genre Challenge

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mailbox Monday

Marcia of The Printed Page hosts Mailbox Mondays and I think I'll try to participate from now on. Here's what arrived in my mailbox last week - and a couple of things that arrived by other means... :-) Which should I start with?

Check out what everyone else got last week in today's Mailbox Monday post.

In my mailbox via bookmooch:
The Princess Diaries: Take Two by Meg Cabot
The Queen of Everything by Deb Caletti
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

Bought at a charity booksale:
Girls' Night In, ed. by Fiona Walker, Jessica Adams, Chris Manby
Pawing through the Past by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown
Lightning by Dean Koontz
Cold Fire by Dean Koontz
The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett
The Cater Street Hangman by Anne Perry
The Keys to the Street by Ruth Rendell
The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Yellow Wallpaper

This short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is not new to me, I read it in high school, but all I remembered was that I really liked it back then. I liked it now too, but probably understood it better, since I immediately got annoyed with the narrator's husband.

The narrator is a woman whose husband confined her in an upstairs room of a house, so that she can get 'better'. He, a physician, has diagnosed her with depression and hysteria, basically. She is now allowed to work, she can't see her child, she can't even write in her journals. She becomes obssessed with the wallpaper and imagines that a woman is trapped in it. Eventually she starts believing that she IS the woman behind the bars in the wallpaper.

All I kept thinking about was feminism and how the woman's husband belittles her and her opinions about what's best for her. He says to her one time: "Bless her little heart!" said he with a big hug, "she shall be as sick as she pleases!" How condescending is that?? He really made me angry.

Apparently, many people think that the story is feminist and about attitudes towards women's mental health in those years (the story was published in 1891). I think so too.

This was another one of my Daily Lit adventures. I'm really getting into short stories this way! :-)

It's the End of the World (as we know it) Challenge

I missed this last year, but will give it a try this time around, since I like the 'end of the world' theme. Gloomy, eh?

The goal is to read at least 4 books between 10 March and 9 October 2009. For all info, check out the original post and Becky's blog.

Completed: ALL 4/4 as of 10 July

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Carbon Diaries 2017 by Saci Lloyd
Berserker by Fred Saberhagen
Uglies by Scott Westerfield
Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
The Mist by Stephen King
Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
Messenger by Lois Lowry
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Outsiders

I can't believe that the author, S.E. Hinton, is a girl! Well, a woman by now, but you know what I mean. Wow, am I impressed with this book! My friend Elaine lent it to me because it's one of her favorites. It took me a while to get to it, because I thought I wouldn't really be into the subject - the book is about teenage boys, gang stuff, etc. But wow, The Outsiders goes straight onto my favorites of the year list.

The book is narrated by Ponyboy - that's his real name, it says so on his birth certificate. One of his brothers is called Sodapop. :-) Anyway, Ponyboy is a Greaser - part of a group of underprivileged boys known for greasing their hair back and for being rough and tough. These are the boys no one believes in and who always get accused first when something goes wrong. They are in constant conflict with the Socs - the rich kids. 'Socs' is pronouned 'Soashes', short for 'Socials' - I pronounced it 'socks' all the way through and it didn't lessen my enjoyment of the book.

The story is about so much - growing up, being poor, loving your family and friends, being loyal, class differences, tolerance and so much more. Several things struck me specifically:

Firstly, I loved the scenes where Ponyboy and his two brothers hung out together. The warmth of their feelings for one another practically jumped off the pages. Actually friends were family too, so I felt this warmth a lot. It was a lovely opposite to some of the rough behavior.

Secondly, I loved how Ponyboy realised that rich or poor, everyone has problems. And that it's humanly possible for him to relate to some of the Socs too.

Thirdly, I loved that not everything ended happily. Some characters go over the problems and some didn't. That's life. In fact, the author herself said that she wanted to write something that showed teen life as it was. Nothing realistic existed at that time (1960s).

This would be the place to mention that, probably because of the realism, The Outsiders has been banned and challenged numerous times. Too much violence, the kids smoke and some drink and (can you imagine?) most of them come from broken homes. The fact that this is primarily a book about being a good, tolerant and loving person doesn't seem to help.

I loved Ponyboy, his brothers and their friends. And I'm amazed by this author - she started writing this when she was 15! I am now very curious about her other books, although I can't imagine how she could ever match this.

Challenges: A-Z Challenge, 999 Challenge, Banned Book Challenge, Decades Challenge, New Authors, YA Challenge

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Metamorphosis

I'm sure I read Kafka's The Metamorphosis at school, but I couldn't remember much, so when I noticed it on DailyLit I subscribed.

It's the story of Gregor, a man who one day wakes up to find that he is a giant insect. His first thoughts about this situation relate to work and not being able to show up on time. He works for some very strict people and although he hates it, he does it so that he can support his family who have financial problems. He loses his job quickly of course and the family have to fend for themselves. They take care of Gregor to a certain basic extent - they clean his room and bring him food - but they are disgusted by him and wish he were gone. When he does go, they are relieved that their hardship is over.

There is alot of analysis of this story on the internet, but apprently scholars can't agree on what it really means. I guess what struck me was that Gregor sacrificed his life for his family, to be able to support them, and they didn't really appreciate it. I know that when I'm in situations that seem very hard, I end up wishing I could just give up, even if logically I know I can't. I tend to wish that something would happen to change the situation, something I can't even think of.This is what happened to Gregor, I think. Something happened to get him out of the unsatisfying situation he was in and he could just give up.

I also though a lot about being different and alienated while I was reading this. OK granted, turning into a bug is an extreme example and I'm sure I wouldn't treat Gregor in the same way if I was there, but still... you have to wonder if his family would have taken care of him if he was unable to work for other reasons. He became something different and was no longer needed.

He must have been really lonely too, not to really mind turning into a bug. He didn't seem too concerned with his new state...

I guess the point of my rambling is that I don't really know what I'm talking about. :-) I enjoyed reading Kafka's novella and I can see how it touches on a whole variety of issues, but I don't really see the big picture. I feel better about this knowing that scholars haven't really figured it out either.

Kafka is an interesting person though, Czech but living under German-speaking rule in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and I'd like to read some of this other works.

Challenges: A-Z Challenge, 999 Challenge, Decades Challenge, Jewish Literature (Kafka was Jewish!), Orbis Terrarum, What an Animal

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


I'm probably the last person in the world to read the first book of this series, but hey, it was worth the wait! I was even more curious to read it after I saw the movie in December - I thought it was really beautifully filmed. So when I started reading I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the tone, the atmosphere of the book was the same as in the movie. So they got it right!

Twilight is a love story between Bella and Edward. They don't really have the usual teenage complications, but they have a different (big) one. Edward is a vampire. He's a good vampire and tries real hard not to feed on humans, but still. I liked the way their differences were treated by Stephanie Meyer - it doesn't really bother Bella that Edward could eat her at any moment. That's really the best example of adolescent love and trust I've seen, obvously brought to new heights.

I really enjoyed reading this. The first half was slow and dark - Meyer had to set up the characters I guess. Then it got very exciting and I couldn't put it down.

I won't say any more, since you've all either read it or at least heard about it. Just that I'll need to get to a bookstore to buy the second book soon!

Challenges: 1st in a series, 999 Challenge, A-Z Challenge, Banned Book Challenge, Countdown Challenge, New Authors, Romance Reading Challenge, TBR Challenge, What an Animal, What's in a Name, YA Romance, Young Adult Reading Challenge, Whitcoulls Challenge

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

I read F. Scott Fitzgerald's now-famous story through Daily Lit, which I'm completely in love with. Reading a short story like this was very enjoyable - except I kept wanting to find out what happens next so I read more than one installment per day. Oh well.

The story is about Benjamin, who is about 70 when he is born and who progresses through his life by steadily getting younger and younger until he dies as an infant. The idea was really good - kind of too good for a short story because there isn't much scope to develop it. I now want to watch the film, has anyone seen it?

I want to count short stories as something towards my goals for the year and am stealing the idea that Lezlie had - once my short story page count reaches 300-350pp I will count it as a book. I won't count this towards my goal of 100 books this year, but I will count it as part of my end-of-year tally. Thanks Lezlie!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

International Giveaways

What's on this week:

Carrie from Carrie's YA Bookshelf is giving away 3 books - enter here by 31 March.

Katrina from Stone Soup is giving away a book of your choice! She's hoping for lots of recommendations to come her way like this, so hurry on over. Enter here by the end of the week.

Lauren from Lauren's Crammed Bookshelf has a copy of The September Sisters by Jillian Cantor to give away - enter here by 13 March.

Cecilia from The Epic Rat is giving away a copy of Fairy Tale Blues by Tina Welling. Sounds sweet! Enter here by 15 March.

Nadine-Stella from Starry Night has a copy of The Season by Sarah Maclean to give away. She's interviewed the author over at her blog too, so make sure you don't miss it. Enter here by 15 March.

The Cupcake Witch (what a cool name!) is giving away a copy of Sophomore Switch by Abby MacDonald. She's also interviewed the author over at her blog, so go on over there! Enter here by 17 March. She's ALSO giving away a signed copy of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere - enter here by 13 March.

Kelsey from Reading Keeps You Sane is giving away two copies of Jessica's Guide to Dating of the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey. Enter here by 27 March.

For the love of books is giving away a whole bunch of books! It's not sure whether this contest is open internationally, but check the post out anyway, the info should be on there any day now - the contest ends on 21 March.

The Story Siren has 10 ARCs for one lucky winner! Enter here by 7 April.

Keri has loads of YA books - check them out here. The contest ends on 30 April.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Daily Lit

I am so excited! I was over at Iliana's and she mentioned that she subscribed to Daily Lit. It sounded intriguing so I immediately went over to check it out. And I have to tell you, it's so cool! The people who thought of it did so because they found themselves on email all the time, but without the time to read a book. At Daily Lit you subscribe for a book and you get it by email, in daily installments. I subscribed and chose Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis as my first one and I love it already. The system, the book I'm not so sure about.

Between this and the online reading I found out about from Nymeth, I'll never get any work done! ;-)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

International Giveaways

The Book Giveaway Carnival has finally arrived! The event is hosted by Tracy from Bookroom Reviews, who has set up a Mr Linky where you enter your giveaway or browse the list for ones you want to enter yourself. There are top many to sift through this week to find the international ones, so you're on your own. But I will give you the link! :-) Good luck!

Classics Challenge

Trish is hosting the Classics Challenge again and she's right, I really can't resist. I enjoyed this last year and since I want to read more classics anyway, this is certainly the right way to go.

There are several options and I'm choosing to read 6 classics + one modern classic between 1 April and 31 October 2009. To sign up and for detailed info, visit the challenge post.

Completed: ALL 6/6 and 1/1 as of 29 June 2009

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (re-read)
The Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (re-read)
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter
Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Watership Down by Richard Adams
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (re-read)
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Dracula by Bram Stoker
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
The Good Earth by Pearl Buck
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
War of the World by H.G. Wells
Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos
A Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Possibilities for the "Should be/Will be Classics" Bonus
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
Dune by Frank Herbert
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Uncommon Reader

I am still trying to ease myself into the world of audiobooks so I cannot hide that I chose The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett not only because I'd heard good things about it but also because it was short. I am so glad I chose it - it's definitely my favorite audiobook so far.

The story (and storytelling) is very simple - one day, the Queen of England notices a mobile library and goes in. She feels its rude not to borrow a book so she does so - and gets hooked on reading. She starts reading all the time and lets it get in the way of her duties. Those around her, her advisors and staff, are not too thrilled about this development, firstly because it's clearly changed her into someone unrecognisable and secondly because she keeps trying to get all of them to read too and makes them feel like schoolchildren with homework. But the Queen perseveres and pretty much reads everything she can get her hands on.

You can say that this short book is about many things - not only about the love of literature. It's also a satire about England, about the upper classes and about people in general. It made me chuckle several times and I found myself walking more - since that's when I listen to audiobooks.

I'm sure the book in its regular form is great too, but I must say that it was a joy to listen to Alan Bennett read it to me. His accent is perfect for it.

I strongly recommend this!

Challenges: A-Z Challenge, Audiobook Challenge, 999 Challenge, Countdown Challenge

YA Romance Challenge

Becky of Becky's Book Reviews is hosting YA Romance Challenge.

Read six YA romance novels between March 1, 2009 and June 30, 2009.Romance should be a strong element with the story. But it doesn't have to be the only element.

Completed: ALL 6/6 as of 30 June 2009 (see my wrap-up post here)

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky
The Luxe by Anna Godbersen
Honey, Baby, Sweetheart by Deb Caletti
Beauty by Robin McKinley
Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison
The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart
Sweethearts by Sara Zarr
Bloom by Elizabeth Scott
Perfect You by Elizabeth Scott

Vegan Virgin Valentine by Carolyn Mackler
Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Monday, March 2, 2009

1% Well-Read Challenge

I enjoyed this one last year and reading from the 1001 list is a project of mine anyway, so here I am for another year.

There are several options this year - I chose to read 13 books from the combined list. The challenge last from 1 March 2009 to 1 March 2010 - all info is here.

This year, I'm not making definitive lists, but long lists of possibilities, like the one below.

Completed: 8/13 as of 5 January 2010

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Unless by Carol Shields
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster
I'm not Scared by Nicolo Ammaniti
Cryptonomicon – Neal Stephenson
The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
The Hours – Michael Cunningham
Silk – Alessandro Baricco
Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood
The Reader – Bernhard Schlink
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – Haruki Murakami
City Sister Silver – Jàchym Topol
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis de Bernieres
The Shipping News – E. Annie Proulx
Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
Wild Swans – Jung Chang
Like Water for Chocolate – Laura Esquivel
A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
Watchmen – Alan Moore & David Gibbons
Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel García Márquez
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
The French Lieutenant’s Woman – John Fowles
Slaughterhouse-five – Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
Fingersmith - Sarah Waters
The Corrections - Jonathan Franzen
Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf

Sunday, March 1, 2009

First challenges of the year done!

So far this year, I finished a couple of challanges and I didn't make the deadline for a couple of others. Here's where I stand:

I finished the Bang Bang Book Challenge, hosted by Kelsey. Here's what I read:

1. Briar Rose by Jane Yolen
2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
3. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
4. Night by Elie Wiesel
5. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

I loved them all so it's impossible to choose a favorite. They are all on my list of books that everyone should read! Thanks for the great challenge, Kelsey!

I also already finished the Casual Classics Challenge, hosted by MizB. We only had to read 4 books for this, which is why I managed to complete it so early in the year. Here's what I read:

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
Aesop's Fables by Aesop

I liked all of these as well... I suppose if I had to choose a favorite it would be Little House in the Big Woods, but I loved all the others too! Thanks MizB for helping me get my classics in!


I also already completed the Lost in Translation Challenge, hosted by Frances of NonSuch Book. To see all my possible books, visit my original post about this challenge. Here's what I read in the end though:

Out by Natsuo Kirino (translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder)
The Witch of Portobello by Paolo Coelho (translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa)
The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (translated from the French by Mattias Ripa and Blake Ferris)
Karlson on the Roof by Astrid Lindgren (translated from Swedish)
Aesop's Fables by Aesop (translated from the Greek)
Night by Elie Wiesel (translated from the French by Stella Rodway)

My favorites were Out, Persepolis and Night. Thanks for this challenge, I loved it!

And the last one that I finished for 2009 is the Well-Seasoned Reader Challenge, hosted by BookNut. There were many choices of books and I wanted to read something more food-related, but ended up reading authors of a different ethnicity than my own and basically learning about other countries. For a list of all my posibilities, visit my original post about this challenge. Here's what I read in the end:
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
The Good Women of China by Xinran
Out by Natsuo Kirino

Again, I loved all of them so can't pick a favorite... I'm very lucky this year! Thanks to BookNut for this challenge - I loved the idea and kept wishing that it would last all year!

And these are the ones I didn't manage to complete:
Japanese Literature Challenge (I finished my last book, Out by Natsuo Kirino, a few days too late)
Naming Conventions (no excuse)
New Classics Challenge (shame on me, I even hosted this one!)

This of course leaves me room to sign up for more! Yay!