Friday, May 29, 2009

Some Polish reading

I really have to force myself to read in Polish. It just doesn't come naturally. I think this is very sad, since I am Polish, but that's how it turned out. I did all my schooling in English so Polish suffered. This blogging thing encourages me to set goals though and Polish reading is one of them.

I took advantage of the Childhood Favorites Challenge to squeeze in a couple more books in Polish. I re-read a book of poetry for children (Brzechwa Dzieciom by Jan Brzechwa) and a YA book (Szosta Klepka by Malgorzata Musierowicz).

The poetry one was really fun to re-read as I didn't realise that many phrases from the poems entered into normal everyday language! I'd be reading and I'd think to myself 'Oh, I didn't know this phrase came from here!'.

The YA book is by an author that I adored when I was 12 or so. It was easy to read and is part of a series so I'll continue with that.

I won't tell you about the plot, firstly because it's one of those books about the life of a teen where nothing really happens and secondly because it's not translated into English anyway! :-)

Challenges: 999 Challenge, Childhood Favorites Challenge

Thursday, May 28, 2009

First Among Sequels

First Among Sequels is the latest (fifth) book in Jasper Fforde's brilliant Thursday Next series. I read the first four years ago so really should have re-read them before moving on to this one, but I didn't, so there.

I won't say too much about the plot, but I will say that if you love books and haven't read this series then you're really missing out. Thursday Next lives in a world where moving between reality and fiction is possible - she can literally jump into a book and hang out with the characters. Cool eh? The stories always include some trouble in the book world - someone has kidnapped Jane Eyre, someone is trying to kill Sherlock Holmes etc.

All the books are also a commentary on various aspects of our modern world - including politics, war, consumerism and the decline of reading. This latest one also includes some thoughts on reality tv, which were hilarious. And a bit scary, because they're so close to the truth.

Fforde's use of language is delightful - loads of plays on words and clever phrasing. I think many of you book bloggers would love these books! Highly recommended.

Challenges: Numbers Challenge

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Book Awards 3 Challenge

This round of the popular challenge hosted by 3M is shorter, only 5 months. It runs from 1 July to 1 December and requires us to read 5 books that won 5 different awards. For full details, visit the challenge post.

I get intimidated by many of the award winners so this challenge is always really good for me. Here's the list I'll be choosing my 5 from:

Completed: 2/5 as of 25 August 2009

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier (1997 National Book Award)
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (2009 Newbery Award)
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (Printz Award)
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (Pulitzer winner)
Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz (Nobel Prize Prize)
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry (2009 Costa Award)
The White Tiger by by Aravind Adiga (Man Booker Prize)
The Hours by Michael Cunningham (PEN/Faulkner Award 1999 + Pulitzer Prize 1999)
The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz (2008 Alex Award)
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (2007 Alex Award)
Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card (1986 Nebula Award + 1987 Hugo Award)

Friday, May 22, 2009


The first (and only) time I heard about Kindred by Octavia E. Butler was from Dewey's blog. I can't believe I'd never come across this book before, especially since I loved it so much that it might be my favorite read this year... Certainly one of my favorites anyway.

Kindred is the story of Dana, a black woman living in the 1970s, who on her 26th birthday somehow time travels to the antebellum South, with plantations, slaves, precursors to tje Ku-Klux Klan and everything. She eventually understands why this is happening to her and what her role is, but that knowledge doesn't make it any easier for a modern woman to take being treated like a slave, complete with whippings. It doesn't do wonders for her marriage to a white man either.

The story is original and beautifully written, plus the historical aspect is more than interesting. The author also asks some difficult questions about how easily we adapt to new places and circumstances... even if they are unthinkable to us at first.

Another one of those books that everyone should read!

Challenges: 999 Challenge, Dewey's Books, New Authors, Orbis Terrarum, Support your Local Library

P.S. The news I was waiting for is positive so I'm in a much better place. Thank you for all the warm words and wishes!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Themed Reading Challenge done!

Another one finished, yay!

The 2009 Themed Reading Challenge was hosted by Caribousmom, who asked us to choose a theme and to read 4 books on this theme. My theme was 'Books with proper names in the title' and I managed to finish it earlier than the end of the challenge on 31 July. I didn't exactly stick to my original choices, here's what I read in the end:

Getting rid of Matthew by Jane Fallon
Karlson on the Roof by Astrid Lindgren
The Private Lives of Pippa Lee by Rebecca Miller
Waiting for Daisy by Peggy Orenstein

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee and Waiting for Daisy tie for first place - both were fantastic books, well worth reading!

Thanks to Wendy for hosting - can't wait for the next one so I can make another fun list! :-)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Hmmm.... I hope this isn't for kids! :-) Neil Gaiman wrote a pretty freaky story here and I would be scared for ages if I'd read this as a child! :-)

Reading Coraline was like reading a Tim Burton film. If you see what I mean. The one that readily comes to mind is The Corpse Bride, I guess that's how I imagined the characters.

Coraline is the child in the center of this story - she goes through a door she's not supposed to go through in her new house and ends up in a parallel world where someone really, really wants her to stay. It's a twist on the Alice stories, but spooky rather than silly.

I suppose what makes Coraline good (as well as scary) is how normal the strangeness is. There are no fantastic creatures or monsters, it's all bizarre but in a natural way. That makes no sense when I re-read it, but I can't think of a way to explain it better.

I guess you should just read it yourself and see!

Challenges: 999 Challenge, Dewey's Books, Once Upon a Time III

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee

Wow. What a book. I certainly wasn't expecting Rebecca Miller's The Private Lives of Pippa Lee to be a page turner, but it was. Joseph O'Connor, whose Star of the Sea was one my favorite reads last year, says it's a page-turner on the front cover - who knew that you could sometimes trust these testimonials?

We first meet Pippa when she's in her 50s, living in a retirement community with her much-older husband. She basically starts wondering how she ended up where she was and we start getting glimpses from her past. She is certainly not the woman you'd think she is - she not 'just' a wife, mother, neighbour etc. She had a colorful, wild life and she misses it. Her past is told in the first person, while her present is told in the third person. That sure says a lot.

The book says so much about identity. About living your life how you want to live it, about being true to yourself, but also about how important security turns out to be. I guess that most of us struggle with these questions sometimes, we think about trade-offs in life. So most of us will find a piece of ourselves in Pippa Lee.

The author's style is brilliant - the simple and effective writing kind of reminded me of Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis. Although this isn't a graphic novel, the writing is so vivid that I could see everything anyway.

One not to be missed.

Challenges: 999 Challenge, Countdown Challenge, New Authors, Support Your Local Library, Themed Reading Challenge

Monday, May 18, 2009

Salem Falls

The answer I've been waiting for will arrive tomorrow night, so I am still distracted and not really into blogging and commenting... sorry about that and I hope to be back to my normal involved self real soon.

In the meantime, my thoughts about Jodi Picoult's Salem Falls. Basically, it was ok. This was my second book by this author, the first being My Sister's Keeper, which I thought was much, much better, probably because the subject matter was more original and therefore interesting.

Salem Falls are about residents of a small New England town and how a new arrival, Jack, a man who had been convicted of sexually assaulting a minor, changes their lives. A group of local teenage girls, who are witches by the way, accuse him of rape and he ends up the target of a witch hunt, which is what the author of course intended, as she wanted to write an updated version of The Crucible.

Jack's only support comes from newly-found love Addie, but even she finds it difficult at times. She certainly come through in the end though!

The book ends with a long court scene, which I enjoyed. It made me remember that I used to like reading courtroom dramas - maybe I should track some good ones down again.

The book reads like a soap opera, but nothing more. Pleasant no-brain reading, but that's pretty much it. I'm intrigued by some other Jodi Picoult books - are there any that you think are worth reading?

Challenges: 2nds Challenge, Celebrate the Author, Chick Lit 2, Countdown Challenge, Romance Reading Challenge,

Friday, May 15, 2009

Gathering Blue

I fell in love with Lois Lowry's books when I read The Giver and Number the Stars last year. I guess the way that she addresses what I consider important and interesting issues really works for me. I ordered Gathering Blue right after finishing The Giver, since it's part of a loose trilogy, and the book has been sitting on my shelf for about year. Isn't that always the way?

Gathering Blue tackles similar issues to The Giver in that it portrays a community that forms after the end of the world as we know it today. Some cataclysm comes and everything is destroyed and small societies form. In this one, the community lives in primitive conditions, has no technology and few comforts. It is rules by hierarchy though and, of course, the people at the top, the rich ones, have loads more comfort than the others can possibly imagine. They also take more liberties than we'd expect.

The main character, a girl called Kira, is born with a disability and has to constantly prove her worth, to contribute to a society that doesn't tolerate such weakness. She is proud and strong and smart and I liked her very much. I don't want to say too much, as the story is intriguing as it unfolds, so you'll have to get the book yourself to meet Kira.

Gathering Blue wasn't as strong as The Giver, but I liked it all the same and am ordering the last one in the trilogy, Messenger, today. Apparently Jonas from The Giver meets up with Kira! :-)

Challenges: 999 Challenge, It's the end of the world, Countdown Challenge, Young Adult Challenge

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Mysterious Affair at Styles

Yay, I finally got around to reading my first Agatha Christie novel! And it's the first one featuring Hercule Poirot to boot! I can't believe that I managed to avoid these charming mysteries my whole life, but there you are, thanks to it being available on The Literature Network, I finally got my chance.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles is the perfect mystery. It has plenty of conflict and emotion, it has loads of little clues and hints and it has Poirot, who I found to be delightful. One of his lines that I just had to jot down is what he said about using insomnia as an explanation for ones actions:
"Which is a very good, or a very bad explanation" remarked Poirot. "It covers everything, and explains nothing."
Ha ha ha. The book is full of these one-liners. :-)

I was fooled till the end and kept suspecting everyone in turn, as I suppose I was meant to. What more could I want? I'll definitely read more Agatha Christie in the future!

Challenges: Genre Challenge, New Authors, Suspense and Thriller, Classics Challenge

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Book of Lost Things

Wow, I managed to finish another book! I'm SUCH a slow reader these days, I can't concentrate on anything... To all of you reading this who believe in positive energy/thinking, I need some of both desperately this week. It's a waiting week for me and I am SO not good at waiting.

Anyway, the book - John Connolly's The Book of Lost Things. It was a huge hit in the blogosphere last year, I think, and it's been on my shelf for ages. It's the story of David, who is very lonely and angry and lost after his Mom dies and his Dad starts a new family with Rose. David loves stories (he learned that from his Mom) and ends up in a world where some of these stories exist. The twists and turns aren't all happy though, the tales have taken on darker aspects and the story world isn't as cheery as it should be.

The Book of Lost Things is a fairy tale for adults. I'm sure children read it too, but I don't think they can get all the messages and I also think that they'd be really scared in some parts! I wasn't too crazy about the book until David actually found the book of lost things. It all came together for me then, I understood the story more I guess and I really enjoyed reading it until the very end. I even read the extras, including the authors comments on the fairy tales included in the book.

I marked two quotes somewhere at the beginning of the book, both about stories:
Stories wanted to be read, David's mother would whisper. They needed it. It was the reason they forced themselves from their world into ours. They wanted us to give them life.
The stories in books hate the stories contained in newspapers, David's mother would say.
I enjoyed the book in the end - and now want to read more about the origins/meanings of fairy tales. Any recommendations?

Challenges: Once Upon a Time III, Dewey's Books

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Sleeping Beauty and Other Stories

This beautifully illustrated collection of fairy tales was given to me when I was 9 or 10 and I loved it. I haven't read it since, but recently found it again and here we are.

The book includes 10 stories, most of which are apparently by a Frenchman called Charles Perrault, who lived in the 17th century. His stories were published in the 1680s and 90s and have been translated, adapted and retold frequently since then.

The stories are retold here by Susie Saunders and the edition is illustrated by Monique Gorde.

I had one big shock when re-reading this collection - it concerned the ending to Sleeping Beauty. I remember the ending as the prince kissing the sleeping princess and her waking up. Have I been wrong all these years? I was very disturbed to read on and find that the prince's mother came from a family of ogres and that she'd go on to try and eat the princess and her children! Did anyone else know about this??

Aside from this, I greatly enjoyed getting a bedtime story again. :-)

Challenges: Centuries Challenge, Childhood Favorites, Once upon a Time III

Friday, May 8, 2009

Story of a Girl and The Stork Club

After a week of very difficult personal life stuff, here I am, back again, and with only two reviews! I am working on a couple other books - including The Book of Lost Things, which I'm finding quite slow... am I abnormal?

Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr is one of those young adult books that today's teenagers should be thankful are out there. I'm sure they're not, but they should be. I don't recall ever being able to read about such serious issues when I was an early teen. The book's heroine and narrator is Deanna, who makes some bad choices a few years ago (when she's thirteen) and is branded the school slut. No matter what she does, she can't get away from her reputation. Even her Dad can no longer look her in the eye. Deanna tries to cope but it's too hard for her when she feels that no one wants/loves her, that she doesn't belong to anyone - which are the same emotions that landed her in this mess in the first place.

Story of a Girl is very, very realistic. I could identify with a lot of Deanna's thoughts and feelings, I actually remember feeling that lost when I was her age. I hope that this book is of comfort to today's young women as they struggle with belonging, love and sexuality.

Challenges: 999 Challenge, A-Z Challenge, Countdown Challenge, New Authors, YA Challenge, Dewey's Books

And the other book I read this week - The Stork Club by Imogen Edwards-Jones. Another memoir of a woman with fertility problems trying to have a baby. It was honest and sometimes brutal, but I still preferred Waiting for Daisy by Peggy Orrenstein. It's worth reading if this is an area that interests you though!

Challenges: 999 Challenge, A-Z Challenge, Countdown Challenge, Every Month is a Holiday, In Their Shoes, Non-Fiction Five

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

This beautiful book by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows is definitely one of favorite books of the year. I wondered about it because it's received so many fantastic reviews and I hate when there's that much hype about a book and then I hate it... but this one is beautiful and touching and interesting and really, really deserves all the praise.

The story is told through letters between the various characters. There are in fact two stories - one of Juliet who is living in London in 1946 trying to come up with an idea for a novel and one is about some inhabitants of Guernsey and what German occupation looked like for them during the war. The two come together because one of the Guernsey men finds a book that had once belonged to Juliet and writes to her.

As the stories of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society unfold, Juliet starts to care about the people involved and begins to realise something about what's important in others and in life. The stories are wonderful, the characters are engaging, the writing is charming.

The way the occupation is described reminds me of the second part of Suite Francaise - the Germans and the locals start to get to know each other and it turns out that they are all human beings who don't want to be in that situation. It doesn't seem to matter who started it...

Here are a few of my favorite quotes - there were way too many good ones to write down though!

Juliet on her old flat being destroyed in a bombing:

"I know that I am fortunate to have any place at all to live in London, but I much prefer whining to counting my blessings."
Juliet on not being able to buy new shoes to go with her new dress:

"...doesn't it seem shocking to hqve more stringent rationing after the war than during the war? I realise that hundreds of thousands of people all over Europe must be fed, housed and clothed, but privately I resent it that so many of them are Germans."
Juliet on finding out more about the German occupation of Guernsey:

"I want to talk to people like him (...) and hear about their war, because that's what I'd like to read, instead of statistics about grain."
The comments on the back cover say that you won't want it to end and it's true. I now want to visit Guernsey and I will be very, very disappointed if the characters from this book don't live there!

Challenges: 999 Challenge, Countdown Challenge, War through the Generations

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Vegan Virgin Valentine

I read my first Carolyn Mackler book, The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things, last year - largely because I really loved the title. My second of hers, Vegan Virgin Valentine, certainly did not disappoint.

Vegan Virgin Valentine is a YA novel, a coming-of-age story about Mara - perfect, well-behaved, honor student Mara. Mara is not only bound for Yale, but working her butt off to be able to start as a second-year student. Until she spends some time around wild V and sweet James and realises that rushing past her teen years isn't what life is about. She slows down, finds love and makes some unexpected choices and friends.

I enjoyed reading Vegan Virgin Valentine - I like the way that Carolyn Mackler addresses some complex issues that teens face. She doesn't shy away from showing that the right choice isn't always apparent and that makes me respect her writing. If you like these kinds of books then try this one, I'm sure you won't be disappointed.

Challenges: A-Z Challenge, 999 Challenge, 2nds Challenge, Countdown Challenge, YA Romance, YA Challenge

Friday, May 1, 2009

Two more reviews for April

I can't believe that April is over! I don't where this year is going, time feels like it's going really fast...

I've been busy for the past few days, so no blogging, but I'm back with two reviews of great books I want to tell you about.

First - Waiting for Daisy by Peggy Orenstein. The subtitle is 'The True Story of One Couple's Quest to Have a Baby', but I think that it would interest those of you not really into fertility/motherhood issues. Anyone who likes reading memoirs would enjoy reading about Peggy's story. The author asks a lot of questions about the choices women make and whether you can say that they are right or wrong. She also asks a lot of questions about how much women are willing to sacrifice in order to have a biological child - I found a section on whether it was pregnancy or motherhood that was the goal especially thought-provoking.

It's not all about babies either - Peggy tries to go on with her life in the meantime, which, among other things includes some fascinating glimpses of 'parasite singles' in Tokyo and survivors of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.

Aside from the ideas and questions, which I thought were fascinating and incredibly pertinent to today's world, I absolutely loved the author's writing and voice. So honest and thoughtful and real. I truly identified. Especially with sentences like: "I had just turned thirty-five. I was beginning to realize what it meant to be a grown-up." :-)

Seriously, I can't recommend this book enough - it's certainly not just fluff.

Since April is the month of the pre-Easter pagan holiday Ostara, which is all about fertility, this book is my April book for the Every Month is a Holiday challenge.

Challenges: 999 Challenge, A-Z Challenge, Countdown Challenge, Every Month is a Holiday, In their Shoes, New Authors, Themed Reading Challenge,

And speaking of fluff, the other book I finished yesterday is Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic and Baby. After finding Shopaholic and Sister only ok, I'm happy to report that I absolutely loved this. Becky is a great character - I know she bugs some people but I don't care because I'm very much like her. :-) If you're looking for some light reading that's a notch above most of the chick-lit that's on the market, give this series a try.

Challenges: Chick Lit 2, Countdown Challenge