Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Audiobook ideas - help!

Are there any audiobooks that you would definitely recommend to someone whose concentration isn't always what it could be? I wanted to cancel my audible account but I can get six books before I do so I might as well get ones I'll actually enjoy!

Please share your favorites with me!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Mini reviews

OK, it's mini-review time. If I don't do these soon, they won't get done before the end of the year, so here goes.

The Secret Life of the Unborn Child by Dr Thomas Verny
I tried reading this all year (honestly, I started when I was pregnant) and I still didn't manage to finish it. I bought it because I liked the idea that unborn Baby S understood more than I tended to think. But the author really pissed me off. He kept talking about how if a mother is sad/stressed etc the baby suffers. And how if the birth is induced the baby suffers. And although he did also say that he's talking about higher-than-normal stress, that normal levels are ok, it still made me feel guilty. And what about things you can't do anything about, like an induced birth? That would make me feel guilty too. Basically, I was on the defensive the whole time I was reading this so I decided that I got the general idea of what he was trying to say and left it at that, about halfway through.

A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen
This is a chraming little book about simple happiness. I read it during the October read-a-thon because it's super short, but I think I'll leave it on my nightstand and will read it again from time to time, when I'm in need of things being put in perspective. That's what Anna Quindlen does, she makes you look at the world differently. A lovely book to give as a gift, I would think.

The Borden Tragedy by Rick Geary
Another one I read during the read-a-thon, this is a short graphic novel. It's based on the apparentlt famous (though I'd never heard of it) 19th century double murder of Abby and Andrew Borden. Lizzie Borden, their daughter, was accused, tried and later acquitted and she remained under suspicion for the rest of her life. The story is interesting, especially as it's based on fact, and Geary's illustrations are wonderful. The Borden Tragedy is part of A Treasury of Victorian Murders, which also includes Jack the Ripper and The Murder of Abraham Lincoln. I understand that Geary's series is very well researched (The Borden Tragedy includes the text of original press clippings), which pretty much means that I won't be able to stay away from the rest of the series.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Who knew that this book, which I argued my way out of reading when I was a kid, would be so charming? I didn't really read adventure stories as a child, I much prefered Judy Blume and the like, and it seems that I missed out on a lot! Tom Sawyer is a great character and a charming little rascal. The stories were fun and I was surprised at just how trouble Tom got himself into. Although I'd never read the book, I must have seen the film when I lived in the States, because I kept getting flashes of Becky in a frilly dress at some picnic. Has anyone read the one about Huckleberry Finn? Is it just as much fun?

That's October's books done, now only November's books are left to do and I'll be all caught up! :-)

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Odyssey - Check-in the Third

I'm finding Homer's The Odyssey a very curious beast - after reading a chunk of it I find myself thinking, ok, I've now had enough of this old language, time for something different. And then, out of nowhere, the chapter ends on a cliffhanger of sorts and I'm compelled to read on. Who would have expected this from such a classic? I'm very surprised at how much of it I'm happy to read in one sitting.

I'm reading The Odyssey for Trish's read-a-long, which I'm enjoying very much. The Monday posts are like one big literature class, with everyone picking up on something different and focusing on various aspects of the story. It's great!

Last week, we were reading books 13-18. I finished Book 18 this morning, so I'm right on track. This section covered Odysseus landing back in Ithaca, Athena making him appear as a beggar and him going onto his estate in this unrecognisable form to plan his revenge. I guess 'Revenge is a dish best served cold' should be this section's tagline... boy, does it take him time to plot out his plan! I would have lost my cool a thousand times already! I guess that's why I'm not a famous hero. ;-)

I found a lot of this section slow going, nothing really happens. There's a lot of talking and scene setting but that's pretty much it.

A lot of it annoyed me too. Like if beggars piss the suitors off so much how come they don't just kick them out? Why do they have to keep them in the banquet hall and insult them instead? Honestly.

And the whole having to be patient thing. Ody's been away so long, how can he wait even longer before he takes his house and his wife back? Maybe I shouldn't be annoyed by that, maybe I should aspire to it instead... Hmmm...

Also, what's up with Eumaeus the loyal swineherd? Why does the text talk directly to him, in the second person? As in 'And you replied, Eumaeus, loyal swineherd'. Is there something I'm not getting?

I'm still enjoying reading this though and am really looking forward to the next bit, when Ody meets up with Penelope... Finally. :-)

Friday, November 19, 2010

One, Two, Theme! We're hosting a challenge!

It seems that Alex and I are announcing too much at once, but we couldn't wait any longer with this fun project.

We've been talking about reading by themes, to get into subject areas, find out more about certain things. We wanted to finally do what we always say when we read an interesting book - 'I must read up on that sometime'. Well, 'sometime' has arrived and we decided to welcome it warmly and stuff it into a challenge format.

We set up a separate blog where you can sign up and read about the challenge and eventually, hopefully look at all the themes that bloggers are exploring. Unless no one signs up.

I noticed that the tendency in the blogosphere is going towards themes anyway though (see Eva's thoughtful post) so hopefully people WILL sign up.

The idea is to identify subjects that you want to know more about, then rank them in some way to show that you want to go more in depth on some and less so on others. So for theme one you'd read one book, for theme two, two books and so on. From theme 2 onwards you need to read at least one fiction and one non-fiction.

We're very excited about this. :-) If you want to focus and organise your reading next year, join us here!

Here are the themes that I'll be exploring, along with some book ideas. I might add some or change some, who knows, but this is what I'm starting with. Let me know if there's something you think I should add! I have no idea of how I'll rank the themes, I'm leaving that bit open!

(see my wrap-up post here)

New York
- The Island at the Centre of the World by Russell Shorto
- Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
- Ironweed by William Kennedy
- Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

Ancient Egypt
- Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
- Daily Life of the Egyptian Gods by Dimitri Meeks

Pagan Europe
- A History of Pagan Europe by Prudence Jones
- The Sacred and the Feminine in Ancient Greece by Sue Blundell

- The Burning of Bridget Cleary: A True Story by Angela Bourke

Quantum Theory
- Physics of the Soul: The Quantum Book of Living, Dying, Reincarnation and Immortality by Amit Goswani
- What the Bleep do We Know!?: Discovering the Endless Possibilities for Altering your Everyday Reality by William Arntz
- Quantum Questions: Mystical writings of the World's Greatest Physicists by Ken Wilber

Reincarnation and the Afterlife
- Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian Weiss
- Talking to the Dead by Barbara Weisberg

- The Mystic Foundation: Understanding and Exploring the Magical Universe by Christopher Penczak
- The Element Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells: The Ultimate Reference Book for the Magical Arts by Judika Illes

Food and nutrition
The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone
Nurturing Superwoman by Carolyn Moody

Challenge with blogging friend Alex

As you know, Alex from The Sleepless Reader and I both live in Brussels and met 'for real' a couple of months ago. We've been meeting regularly, for lunch at a cute bookstore in town, great fun! Obviously we talk about books a lot and it seems that we like a lot of the same ones. We decided to do a challenge together, where Alex gives me 5 book titles to read in 2011 and I give her 5 as well. I know that Nymeth has done this with Rhinoa and it's always looked like fun.

Here's what we came up with - I stole the book cover collages from Alex. ;-)

This is what Alex wants me to read next year:

(see my wrap-up post here)

And this is what I want Alex to read:

Pretty exciting, eh? I must admit that Alex's choices for me seem daunting. But I guess that's what this challenge is about, to read some books that are not ones I'd heard of or would necessarily choose myself. Plus I think that Alex is really, really cool and I totally trust her taste in books.

I'm really looking forward to starting and I think I'll do so before 2011 even, if Alex agrees!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Odyssey - Check-in the Second

The second installment of The Odyssey is done and I even finished on time, even if I didn't get the time to post about it. I still don't have time but want to get something quick out there. Anyway, organiser Trish has an illustrated synopsis over at her post, so make sure you go and visit.

Books 7-12 told of Odysseus' adventures, the ones that The Odyssey is famous for. They include all sorts of dangerous characters, including vicious cyclops who eat men for dinner and Circe the witch who turns men into animals and keeps them as pets. It's a wonder that Ody ever makes it back to Ithaca!

I'm almost too embarassed to type this but what kept coming into my head as I read about Ody's adventures was Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series. Now I recognise the references, so many of what Percy encounters comes from The Odyssey! It made me happy to think that there are authors who try to re-package such classic stories for a younger audience. Hopefully it'll get kinds interested in 'the real thing' and they'll pick up Homer too at some point.

No deep insights this week, I'm afraid. Too tired. Baby S decided that he no longer likes to sleep during the night. It's a great time to play, what with both Mommy and Daddy being home and all.

Trish mentions women in her post and I do think it interesting that they're portrayed so negatively. Except one, who was known for her dainty ankles. Lol. All the others eat or maim or trap men in some way. But hey, at least they have power right? :-)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Gothic Reading Challenge

Is it time to sign up for 2011 challenges already? Yay! I didn't sign up for much last year and I missed my lists so I'm definitely going for it this year, whether it's realistic or not! :-)

Susan B. Evans is hosting the Gothic Reading Challenge.  Here's what she says:

There is nothing better than a great Gothic read - crumbling old castles, mysterious legends, shadowy characters, supernatural beings and unexplainable events, make for some of the most haunting and captivating reading imaginable.

There are 4 levels of participation - I'm opting for The Darkness Within - 5 novels with gothic elements. But I might end up reading more, we'll see.

It sounds fabulous, doesn' it? :-) When I started making a list of potentials I went a bit crazy, it seems that loads of gothic books have been on my TBR list for a long time! My possibilities are below - do you have any other suggestions?

Completed: 0/5 as of January 1, 2010

The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole
The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe
Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende (re-read)
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (re-read)
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
New Moon by Stephanie Meyer
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
We have always lived in the castle by Shirley Jackson
The Witching Hour by Anne Rice (re-read)
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (re-read)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Book Blogger Holiday Swap


Yay, it's here! The Book Blogger Holiday Swap has become one of the things I love about the holiday season. You get matched up with another blogger and exchange gifts. Bookish gifts. 'Nuff said.

Make sure you sign up before the November 14 deadline, so that everyone's gifts arrive on time!

Thanks to Amanda, Amy, Jen, Jen, Kelly, Lenore, Lena and Nicole for organising this fabulous event. And to Nymeth for the heads up.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Motherhood, reading notes and a possible early birthday present

Motherhood is wearing me out. Little S is amazing, his sunny personality is really coming through, he seems to already have a sense of humor and he's incredibly cute. But he has soooooo much energy and I don't. He wakes up so early, at around 5 am and I'm just not functional at that hour. Plus he's been testing out his lung strength. Constantly. I'm surprised that I have the brain power to read The Odyssey on my commute to work.

I'm really behind on my reviewing... I haven't even reviewed what I read for the Read-a-thon! One of the books I read was Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay, which I absolutely loved. The story is amazing! As is the fact that all three books in the trilogy were total pageturners, usually at least one is weaker than the others. I know that some people didn't like the introspective aspect of Mockingjay, but it worked for me. I thought that it was a perfect state to be in following all that happened. I'd need some recovery/introspection time too. I was satisfied with the ending too. Maybe it didn't have that 'happily ever after' touch to it, which made it more realistic. That melancholy tone added an extra layer to the story, I thought.

There, can that count as my review?

My kindle is in the house! Joe ordered it early so that it would get here in time for my birthday in December and now it's way early! It's sitting in the spare room in its amazon box. And mocking me. I think it's cruel not let me have it, don't you? I mean it's RIGHT THERE. I'm negotiating with Joe, last year's present was late so I think it's only fair that this year's is early. Right? ;-)

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Odyssey - Check-in the First

The first Monday of The Oddyssey readalong organised by the lovely Trish has come around far too soon! I only managed to read  four books out of the six I was meant to. Oh well, maybe I'll make up the time this week. Or maybe I'll finish way later than everyone else, but at least I'll have read it, which will be a huge achievement for me!

On this first Monday, Trish posted a short summary of what happened in the first 6 chapters and asked a couple of discussion questions, which I'll answer here.

How does reading The Odyssey compare to my expectations? Well, I was expecting to be bored stiff and I'm not, so that's gotta be a good start. :-) Most of my reading time is on the subway to and from work and I thought that I wouldn't be able to get into it enough. I'm finding it very readable though (the Fagles translation) and I'm enjoying it.

Trish's second question actually addresses one of the things I wanted to talk about anyway, the involvement of the Gods and especially Athena. They're really involved in everything aren't they? Athena especially seems meddlesome in this story, although I must say that I'm surprised by how good she is since most of her meddling aims to help people in need. I suppose someone must help them, since it's other Gods who put them in various complicated predicaments in the first place.

It must be very easy to be able to explain everything away with the Gods. Good things that happen, bad things that happen, your destiny, everything. Did free will feature at all in the ancient world? I guess it must have, since you could go against the Gods and be punished for that. But the role that the Gods play in everything is enormous - I'd love to time travel back there and see what that was like.

I do find the idea of the Greek Gods great though - that they interact with each other and with mortals and that they really they have lives of their own. The path I follow has similar ideas; this way of thinking really works for me.

But boy oh boy did they like their sacrifices! The sacrifice scenes didn't appeal to me at all, way too gory and cruel. I caught myself thinking that I'm glad that doesn't happen any more. And then I remembered Anya's line from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, about Thanksgiving - "To commemorate a past event you kill and eat an animal. A ritual sacrifice... with pie." :-)


The Odyssey so far is better than I expected. And I haven't even met Odysseus yet!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

R.I.P. V Wrap-up

I'm a few days late with this post, but I've been away visiting my parents and with baby Shane in our lives blogging while on holiday has become a thing of the past.

For the R.I.P. Challenge, I aimed to complete Peril the First, which required 4 scary books, and I succeeded. But only because Carl let me cheat a bit and include a book I read just before the challenge started. Thanks Carl! :-) Here's what I ended up reading (as compared to my plan):

Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris
Dracula by Bram Stoker
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Room by Emma Donaghue

It's not hard to pick a favorite, since I absolutely LOVED Room. But the others were all great too. I'm particularly pleased that I finally read Dracula, as I've been meaning to explore the more classic scary stories. I guess Frankenstein and anything by Edgar Allan Poe will be next!

Thanks Carl for continuing to host this fabulous challenge, it's been great!