Sunday, November 29, 2009

And two more reviews

Now I'll be almost caught up with my reviews, just one left to do I think. I don't usually like to group them, but I'm afraid that if I don't then they just won't get done...

The first book I'd like to tell you about is an anthology of Native American Songs and Poetry, edited by Brian Swann. I picked this up during our Boston holiday at the beginning of the year and I thought that the month of November would be a good time to go through it. It's a very short book but even so I admit that there were some poems that I just skimmed through. I think they are probably more beautiful actually voiced in a fitting atmosphere... Some were ancient folk poems and some were more recent works which included a lot of stereotyping and racial issues, for example one called How to Write the Great American Indian Novel. I preferred the ancient ones, they referred mostly to nature and were written for specific Gods or for specific spiritual reasons. Still, I was expecting to be more touched by them than I was...

And since it's Thanksgiving month, for those of you who are Buffy fans, didn't you love Anya's explanation of Thanksgiving as a ritual sacrifice? Brilliant! :-)^

Hope all of you who celebrate the holiday had a good time. I don't celebrate, but I do make sure to think about all the things I'm thankful for anyway.

Challenges: A-Z Challenge, Every Month is a Holiday


And a quick word about the second book I finished in the past few days, Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery. Oh Anne, how I love you! There's not much to say, really, except what I always say, which is 'read this series if you still haven't!' Beautiful books and my collection of the entire series, received for my name day when I was 12 or 13, is a perfect way of trying to read more books in Polish.

Challenges: 999 Challenge, Celebrate the Author

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Two graphic novels

I've been missing in action again, dealing with personal stuff and another period of pregnancy exhaustion. I've also developed pregnancy related carpel tunnel syndrome, just to add to my list of woes, so sitting at the computer is not my favorite thing to do... I apologise, as I know I've been a terrible blogger and haven't visited anyone in ages. I shudder to think how many unread posts my reader has! I promise to catch up a bit in the next few days though.

I have been reading some, although not as much as I'd have liked to. Graphic novels have been somewhat easier to manage and I have now added an extra two to my list.

The first, The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg, was about a girl named Jane, whose family moves from a big city to suburbia following a terrorist attack. Jane misses the city though and finds it hard to adjust to her new life, with its limitations imposed by her terrified and paranoid mother. She makes some friends at school and as a group they start using art to pass on express themselves - which is seen as beautiful by some and as defacing public property by others. I liked the art and the message of The Plain Janes and can certainly recommend it.

Challenges: 2010 Countdown Challenge

The second graphic novel I recently read was American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. Now this one I absolutely loved. It consists of three seemingly separate stories that come together nicely in the end and is about Chinese young people growing up in the US and trying to fit into the American way of life. It's about identity and roots and how hard it is to come to terms with some of the labels that define you. A beautifully illustrated book with a very smart message, this will end up on my list of favorites for the year, I think.

Challenges: A-Z Challenge, 2010 Countdown Challenge, Graphic Novels Challenge

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My 100th book of 2009: Her Fearful Symmetry

I like that my 100th book of the year is Audrey Niffenegger's Her Fearful Symmetry - The Time Traveller's Wife is one of my favorite books evers so to me it is fitting that my second book by this author has a special place on my list.

To be honest, I'm not really sure what I feel about this book. It took me a long time to get through the first half and I thought I didn't like it, but in restrospect that may have had more to do with being distracted by some personal stuff and the fact that at 32 weeks pregnant it's really hard to get comfortable on the couch and read for any length of time. Now that I finished the book, I think I liked it overall, although I think I also feel slightly disturbed...

The book is all about the characters. Elspeth dies and leaves her apartment to the twin daughters of her own estranged twin sister Edie. Julia and Valentina move to London to live in Elspeth's old place, with Elspeth's lover Robert living downstairs and a man with OCD living upstairs. The way that the characters' relationships unfold is interesting and deep and both real and unreal. If that makes any sense.

I didn't actually like any of the characters besides Martin, the man with OCD. But the others intrigued me, as did the relationships between them. The twin thing is obviously a huge part of the story and I admit that it was creepy at times, the way Julia and Valentina were joined together. The desperation to become one's own person pervaded the story and gave it some sort of meaning, although events turned out to be so extreme that a part of this meaning was lost. Or maybe it was strengthened. Hmmm, I really don't know what to think.

There are so many questions... How far would we go for freedom? Is there a limit to what we'd accept for love? These and others are dealt with in the twin relationships, but also in the OCD aspect, which I thought was an interesting addition to the story.

The whole thing is slightly (or even very) creepy. A creepy tone is very difficult to set well, I think, and this was certainly a success here. The creepiness stays with you afterwards too... I can't say more about this without spoiling it for you if you haven't read it...

One thing's for sure, Niffenegger has wonderfully original ideas for storylines although the messages she passes through her writing are simple and human. This is a wonderful talent, I think.

Many bloggers have been saying that you'll either love or hate this book and I have to agree. I thought I'd hate it but now that it's over I am definitely leaning towards the love camp. We'll see if the feeling stays with me long enough for this book to make my top books of the year list...

Challenges: 2010 Countdown Challenge, 999 Challenge, 2nds Challenge

Sunday, November 8, 2009

New books and Secret Santa

I can't believe we're working our way through November already and that it's almost time for Christmas again. And that means almost time for the baby to finally be here too... time is definitely flying!

And since it's almost time for Christmas, the book blogging community is getting ready as well - it's time to sign up for the Book Blogger Holiday Swap. Sign up before November 12 and you'll be sent the name of the blogger to whom you need to send a holiday gift. What fun!

And speaking of presents, I needed to kill some time in town this week and ended up at a bookstore of course. Here's what I got:
  • The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
  • The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  • Gone by Michael Grant
  • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
  • Nation by Terry Pratchett
Which one do you think I should start with? :-)

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Tales of Beetle the Bard

What fun! :-) Reading this short book of stories by J.K. Rowling was just as pleasant and absorbing as reading the Harry Potter books was for me. As in I was totally inside the story world and didn't care about anything else. It's nice when books do that, isn't it?

There are five fairy tales in this collection, each followed by some notes and commentary by Albus Dumbledore. I enjoyed this analysis and 'historical' information just as much as I did the stories themselves.

I won't say more, as it's a short book and you should read it. Unless you hate Harry Potter, in which case it's probably not for you! :-)

Challenges: 2010 Countdown Challenge, 999 Challenge

The Friday Night Knitting Club

This was another recommendation, which unfortunately I was expecting much more from. Kate Jacobs' book was ok, but I found it only that, I wanted to enjoy it more than I did.

The premise is great - Georgia owns a  wool shop and loves to knit. With time, several women become regular customers and end up spending Friday night together, some knitting, some learning to knit. They share and grow and generally have a good time. It works, although they are of different ages and backgrounds and have very different problems.

What was the problem for me? I didn't care enough about the characters... I suppose they didn't jump off the page for me. It's a nice enough light book to relax with, but that's about it. I did love the knitting focus though, so who knows if I won't be reading about the characters' further knitting adventures!

Challenges: 2010 Countdown Challenge, A-Z Challenge

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Women Unbound Challenge

I realize that I have less will power than some other people, but there are some challenges that I really, really cannot say no to. The Women Unbound Challenge, co-hosted by Aarti, Care, and Eva,is all about reading books related to women's studies - non-fiction about women and related fiction all qualify. There are three levels you can choose as a reader:
  • Philogynist: read at least two books, including at least one nonfiction one.
  • Bluestocking: read at least five books, including at least two nonfiction ones.
  • Suffragette: read at least eight books, including at least three nonfiction ones.
I'm going to be brave and ambitious and go for the Sufragette level - but I do reserve the right to change my mind! Some options are below and I'm sure more will be added as we go along.

The challenge runs from November 2009 to November 2010.

Completed: 4/8 as of 7 September 2010

Fiction (1/5):

Non-Fiction (0/3):