Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted

A quick post on this audiobook I listened to - The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted by Elizabeth Berg. I can't say that I loved it, in fact I don't think it was my kind of thing. This collection of short stories wasn't exactly what I expected... Although I liked the title story (and its great title!) and could identify with the weight loss and health theme, I thought that it came back too often in other stories. The characters too were not people I could really understand - older than me for one thing, which doesn't usually bother me, but it did this time. They were all so disappointed with the way their lives turned out, so resigned to the way their lives turned out. I didn't quite understand why things had to be that way for them.

The writing was good and emotive, but the stories just weren't for me. I've yet to read a short story collection that I really enjoy, by the way, maybe the whole genre isn't really for me? Something to think about...

Challenges: A-Z Challenge, Audiobook Challenge

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Some chick lit

I've read two chick lit novels in the past week or so - guess I was just in that kind of mood! They're both pregnancy/motherhood-related... I bought them a long time ago in the hope that I'll one day be able to read them without sadness. And here I am, that day has arrived, yay! :-)

The Rise and Fall of a Yummy Mummy by Polly Williams is the story of Amy and how she copes with the chaos of early motherhood - especially when everyone around her seems to be calm, collected and problem-free. She negotiates her way to having some sort of life again, complete with shopping splurges and not-so-smart decisions. I liked the character a lot and I understand that these kinds of books have to have a happy ending, but I must admit that I enjoyed reading about Amy's problems and struggles and being unsure much more than I enjoyed the solution parts. Any guesses about my current frame-of-mind?? :-)

Bed Rest by Sarah Bilston is about Q, a successful 6-months-pregnant lawyer living in Manhattan. It turns out that there is some problem with her pregnancy and Q is put on bed rest for three months. Plenty of time to discover what's truly important, with lots of thinking hours built in! I enjoyed this one too, the character of Q certainly had her quirky, sarcastic moments, which I always like. I think I'm chick-lit-ed out for a while now though!

There are few things as comforting as a good, intelligent totally girly book. Both of these are recommended, if you like this sort of thing, of course.

Challenges: Chick Lit Challenge

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Hours

I did not expect to like The Hours by Michael Cunningham and I'm not even sure what about it intrigued me enough to pick it up in the first place. Isn't it nice when a book that you think will be totally over your head surprises you by being touching and, at least at some level, understood? This is what happened with this one.

The Hours is actually three stories in one; the stories of three women, all looking for something different, something more. There is Virginia Woolf herself, working on writing Mrs Dalloway in the 1920s; her husband insists on living in the country because it should keep her more sane, but she yearns for the bustling energy of London, she feels stifled in her environment. There is Clarissa, modelled on Clarissa Dalloway herself, who, in modern New York, spends her day planning a party for a dying friend. And there is Mrs Brown, who lives in 1940s California and tries to be what her family expect her to be; when all she wants is some time on her own to read Mrs Dalloway.

I found all three women's stories engrossing. Cunningham replicates Virginia Woolf's stream of consciousness style and does so splendidly. The stories all take place in the space of one day, which is apparently meant to show the beauty in the everyday. But what it showed me was how rich the human mind is; we go through so many thoughts, observations, worries, questions, moments of peace and happiness in each and every day. If we'd take the time to notice every single thing we come across in the space of one day, we'd find it all incredible I think.

The longing of the characters for something else was touching and beautifully portrayed. I understand that the themes running through The Hours are the same as some of the themes in Mrs Dalloway, so I'm now inspired to read the latter. We'll see.

Oh and The Hours won both the Pulitzer and the PEN/Faulkner Award, so I guess many others were also touched by it.

Challenges: 1% Well-Read Challenge, 999 Challenge, Book Awards 3

Monday, August 24, 2009

Challenge update

The deadlines for several challenges recently passed or will be here soon, so it's time for another moment of truth. How did I do?

I failed miserably at the Eco Reading Challenge, hosted by Chris from Book-a-rama. When she announced this challenge, I signed up knowing that I wouldn't be able to finish it, but I definitely thought that I'd manage to get through at least a couple of items on my list... but alas, 'failed miserably' is the only way to describe what happened...


I also really wanted to complete the Numbers Challenge, hosted by Callista. It's one that I enjoyed doing last year and thought I'd repeat the experience. What deterred me in the end is that 2 of the books had to be read for this challenge only, couldn't overlap with others. I didn't like doing this, I like the feeling of accomplishment when I can check boxes in loads of challenges with just one book. So that's another incomplete!


I can also already say that I won't be able to complete the Battle of the Prizes Challenge. It was a fabulous idea, hosted by Rose City Reader, and I really, really wanted to do it... But I simply was in the mood for other books this summer and didn't get to the reading list. Ah. Can't do them all, eh? ;-)


I can't believe I'm writing this, but I didn't manage to finish the Southern Reading Challenge, one of my favorites! I had so much fun last year and was so happy that Maggie from Maggie Reads has made the challenge into an annual event. But... well, there just wasn't enough time and I wasn't in the mood for what I planned to read... So sad, but there's always next year, right Maggie??


One I DID finish is the wonderful Orbis Terrarum, hosted by Bethany. I love participating in this chalenge, since I always try to read books from various cultures. I had a long list of choices, but here's what I read in the end:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (Sweden)
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (Afghanistan)
Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky (the Ukraine)
Seek the Fair Land by Walter Macken (Ireland)
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (Czech Republic)
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler (United States)
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (Canada)
A Midsummer Night's Dream by Wiliam Shakespeare (United Kingdom)
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (France)

Favorites? A Thousand Splendid Suns, Kindred and The Handmaid's Tale. All fantastic books, highly recommended.

Thanks, Bethany, for hosting, I'm already looking forward to next year's edition!


And another one down! The Romance Reading Challenge was hosted by Naida from The Bookworm and was great fun. Again, I had loads of possibilities, but here are the five books I read in the end:
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
Getting Rid of Matthew by Jane Fallon
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Crime Scene at Cardwell Ranch by B.J. Daniels
Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult

Garden Spells was by far my favorite, I just love that kind of writing and storytelling. Magical. :-)

Thanks Nadia, it's been fun!


And last, but certainly not least, another of my annual favorites, the What's in A Name Challenge, hosted by Debi. This year we had more great categories, which I actually managed to fill! Here's what I read:

A book with a "profession" in its title:
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

A book with a "time of day" in its title:
Twillight by Stephanie Meyer

A book with a "relative" in its title:
Shopaholic and Sister by Sophie Kinsella

A book with a "body part" in its title:
Murder on a Bad Hair Day by Anne George

A book with a "building" in its title:
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

A book with a "medical condition" in its title:
Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland

I liked all of these in their own way, they were very different. Can't choose a favorite! But I can't wait to see next year's categories, Debi! :-)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Just Listen

This Sarah Dessen title has been on my radar forever, since so many bloggers really enjoyed it. I read it in 2 days or so, I was completely engrossed in Annabel's story.

It's the story of the girl who has everything. Except that she doesn't. I loved that an engaging author covered this topic - it's so easy to assume that people like Annabel really do have everything. And comforting to discover that everyone has more-or-less the same problems and concerns when growing up. The idea of the book applies to adults too - just because people don't talk about their problems doesn't mean they don't have any...

Blogging has made me discover a whole new genre, young adult books. I am so glad that I started reading these, sometimes a reminder of those early life lessons is a good thing. :-)

Challenges: A-Z Challenge

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I still can't believe how disappointed I was with this book. I took it on holiday with me because so many people thought it was the perfect read for sitting by the pool - and I was bored! Seriously bored!

The story centers around journalist Mikael and security expert Lisabeth trying to solve the mystery of a disappearance. The other, parallel, plotline concerns business/finance journalism and chasing a story about a crook in the business world. That plotline bored me to bits, I must say.

The action was only vaguely interesting, the writing didn't flow, I kept hoping it would get better but it never did. I found the style simplistic too. It seems that this book was most definitely not for me - am I the only one in the world who didn't like it?? And I so wanted to read something exciting and gripping!!! :-(

Challenges: 1st in a series, 999 Challenge, Orbis Terrarum, Suspense and Thriller Challenge

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Thousand Splendid Suns

I literally just finished reading this and had an urge to write about it before my emotions died down. The book has been sitting on my shelf for years, as I couldn't imagine it being as good as Khaled Hosseini's first one, The Kite Runner. I'm happy to report that A Thousand Splendid Suns is just as good, if not better!

The two main female characters are beautiful. I loved Mariam and Laila from the first pages of reading about them and continued to do so until the end. Their strength in the face of unimaginable hardship was amazing, especially so since I imagine that they represent a whole generation of women. We, living in countries where there is peace and equality, don't know how lucky we are. I admit that I take so very much for granted, all my freedoms included. I have nothing but admiration for the women who lived through Afghanistan's troubled years and the Taliban's rule. I cannot imagine going through it myself.

A Thousand Splendid Suns gives us a glimpse into the history of what seems to be a beautiful country (I've never been) and one which definitely has a rich culture and past. This history is shown to us through regular human beings in everyday situations. There can't be anything that we can identify with more.

If it wasn't for authors like Khaled Hosseini, we would never have the chance to experience Afghanistan and to be made aware of what the news we watch on tv means to the people there, how it affects them. I for one feel richer having read A Thousand Splendid Suns and am extremely grateful to the author for affecting my life in this way.

Challenges: 2nds Challenge, 999 Challenge, Every Month is a Holiday, Orbis Terrarum, Whitcoulls Challenge

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Undead and Unemployed

Undead and Unemployed is the second book in MaryJanice Davidson's series about Betsy, the vampire queen. I read pretty much the entire thing during my long train ride to the South of France and it was great entertainment!

I loved the first book, Undead and Unwed, and was very curious about Betsy's further adventures. She becomes a vampire kinda by chance and then becomes Queen also kind of by accident. And she can't admit that she's actually attracted to her King. Oh and she's sassy. And she loves shoes. And her friends. Think of it as Buffy meets Sex and the City. :-)

If you're looking for some light, fun reading I can totally recommend this vampire chick lit series. Can't wait to get my hands on the next book!

Challenges: 2nds Challenge, A-Z Challenge, 999 Challenge, Celebrate the Author, Chick Lit 2

Friday, August 14, 2009

Odd Thomas

I'm back! :-) Well, I'm not that happy about my vacation being over, but I have another mini one coming up in a week and a half so it's not too bad. I hope that I can get my blogging motivation back up again too. I'll have more time come September, as I'll be working part-time due to some pregancy related stuff - nothing serious, just annoying.

So, Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas... this was a July read for me, I've just been away from a computer since then. I can't say that I loved it, although I wanted to. I liked Odd, but I wasn't completely engrossed by the story, which is what I expected. Odd can see dead people and this ability helps him solve certain crimes. It also obviously seriously influences the kind of life he leads, not always for the better. But he accepts his destiny and tries to make the best of it. In this particular book, he uses his gift to stop an evil man from committing his planned crimes. It works of course, but not without consequences.

I found the idea for the story better than the story itself, for some reason. The only time that I was remotely excited about the book is at the end, after a twist in the story line that I totally wasn't expecting. That part is still on my mind.

I'm kind of curious about the next book in the series, but I'm not sure it's worth it. What do you think?

Challenges: 1st in a series, Celebrate the Author, Suspense and Thriller Challenge