31 December 2010

Tally post: FINAL

Happy New Year!

Total books read in 2010: 136
Library books: 94
Graphic novels: 23
Non-fiction: 29

Challenges

RIP Challenge: 10/5

I had a great reading year and i hope you did too!

30 December 2010

2010 Bestest Stuff!

Here's the best things i've read, watched and done this year, in no particular order.

Books
-Fiction
  • The Book Thief
  • The Moonstone
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog
  • Giovanni's Room
  • The Vanishing of Katherina Linden
  • Beowulf
  • Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Books-Graphic Novels
  • The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity
  • American Vampire, Vol. 1
  • The Dream Hunters (Sandman Vol 11)
  • I Kill Giants
  • Walking Dead, Vol. 8: Made to Suffer
Books-Non-Fiction
  • Ex-Libris
  • Library: An Unquiet History
  • Packing for Mars
  • How Fiction Works
  • The Great Influenza
Movies
  • Inception
  • Up
  • Blade Runner
  • The Thirteenth Warrior
  • Dial M for Murder
  • The Bridge over the River Kwai
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1
  • The Fantastic Mr. Fox
  • Kick Ass
  • Sherlock Holmes
Events
  • Moving in with B! he's so cool.
  • Going snow tubing in North Carolina with my friends D and C.
  • Flying over New York City at dusk, running into Ben from Lost on my flight, meeting B's family, seeing NYC...well the whole trip!
  • Watching the Saints win the Superbowl
  • Watching the US/England soccer game in a crowded, divided, rowdy bar
  • Finding a new job
I hope everyone has had as good a year as I have and that next year is even better for you and yours!

29 December 2010

Old Movies Encore Post

yup, again.

The Time Traveler's Wife- 5. I cried. B had read the book but i had not. i may now.

Scott Pilgrim VS The World- 5. cute, funny stuff.

Doctor Who The Completed First Series-7, B had me start watching this and i loooooved it! working on the second series now.

28 December 2010

I'm home

Vacation is over :( I loved being back in LA and wish i could have stayed longer. I will be going in the summer as that's when my new niece or nephew will arrive!

I listened to two audio books on this trip and finished reading one paperback. Quick reviews!

HMS Surprise by Patrick O'Brian- Book 3 of the Aubrey/Maturin series. In this, though we thought Jack's money issues were solved at the end of Post Captain, we find he's still in trouble and yet to marry Sophia at the beginning of this book. He gets a chance, partly due to Maturin's cunning, to captain the H.M.S. Surprise as she carries an envoy to the far east. I thought the beginning was a bit of a cheat but liked it overall. a 5.

The Mauritius Command by Patrick O'Brian- Book 4 of Aubrey/Maturin. Spoiler's ahead!
With the money earned in H.M.S. Surprise, Aubrey and Sophia have set up house and have a pair of twin girls. Unfortunately, Sophia's mother has managed to loose her own money and has moved in with the couple. Jack's on shore and so on half pay when he has the chance to be a commodore and fight the French in the south Indian ocean he jumps at it. lots of drama in the battles and the personalities of the captains under Jack. in this one i thought it was the end that was a cheat but liked it better. a 6.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins- a cool Victorian epistolary mystery. really liked it. a 6.

I will probably finish The Sherlockian before the end of the year and maybe At Large and At Small. I am going to get my Best of the Year post ready for tomorrow.

25 December 2010

I'm in Louisiana!

Happy Christmas everyone!


I'm just relaxing swaddled in blankies. My mom, sister, and the Girl Scout troop my mom leads are on their way to England! They've been raising money for this trip for the last year and a half and were so excited to finally be going. We had our Christmas last night. To pictures!


My dad and my nephew.


me and another nephew.


my niece.


The joy of being 4 on Christmas. This was like the second thing he opened.


My mom's computer is so weird and slow. I'm going to go get a cup of coffee; I'm cold!

19 December 2010

Sunday before Christmas

I don't know why this year i'm not so much in the Christmas mood. B leaves tomorrow for Vermont; I'll be leaving work early on Wednesday to head to Louisiana. I'll be driving back next Sunday but i am not sure when B will return; he doesn't technically have to be back until January 5. I've got almost all my shopping done. The only decorating i've done was to put up the Christmas cards we've received and to get out the holidayish kitchen towels.

Maybe the season has just gone by too fast? I'm enjoying the new job and am so so glad i'm not dealing with another season at the cell phone company. It does seem like i just stopped working there when it has actually been about 6 weeks now. In fact, it really seems like since the move time has just shot by. The new job has cut down on my reading a bit as i can eat lunch while i work! I could take a whole hour if i wanted to but i'd rather eat while i work and leave earlier.

Please please don't think i'm complaining, i'm not! B and I have settled into a great rhythm with each other. We're happy being lazy together! We should clean more and finish unpacking all the books and get the dead plants off the porch. But it is much more pleasant to chat and cuddle and watch movies and read together in the evenings. He's great. I should post more pictures of him.

sooooooo. on a completely different note, I'm thinking of taking CB James' TBR Dare but i feel like i'll have to put in too many exceptions (currently checked out library books, library books i may get from my current hold list, audio books for driving to) that it really wouldn't count. I am going to sign up again for Bart's Bookshelf's TwentyEleven Challenge though i am not quite going to finish up the 2010 Challenge.

Currently: watching the Titans and they are winning?!?

16 December 2010

At Home

I finished At Home by Bill Bryson today. It is a rambling book of trivia, terribly interesting if not very useful. It is the sort of book that as you read you are telling various friends and family the little facts you've picked up but that you may not remember in two weeks.

Bryson and his family live in a rambling old rectory in the English countryside. He structures the book's chapters by the various rooms in the home. Some are better than others; the library one is well connected but the attic chapter has little to do with the attic.

I expected it to be more funny! In every other book i've read by Bryson there's been a moment so funny and so startling that i've about embarrassed myself in giggling. This book had some amusing stories but nothing as funny as the others i've read.

So, a 5. i just picked up Seeing Further: The Story of Science, Discovery, and the Genius of the Royal Society, edited by Bill Bryson. But I have so many library books right now i don't know how fast i can get to it.

15 December 2010

Post Captain

I can't say I liked Post Captain by Patrick O'Brian as much as Master and Commander but it is a good book. I believe a bit of the problem may be that I am listening to this series on audio book and had a hard time with the new narrator in this second volume. I had gotten very used to the way the reader in the first book did the voices for Maturin and Aubrey and didn't like the difference. Also, in Post Captain the reader seems to take weird pauses. By the time i had gotten about halfway through I had gotten used to the new voice.

A difference between these first and second books is also in the point of view. Post Captain is told mostly from Stephen Maturin's POV, while Master and Commander had a big mix of Jack and Stephen. There are also several gaps in the story that almost made me think i had put in the wrong disc. At one point we see Stephen about to go on a mission and the next track it is several months later and he is back in England. I didn't particularly like the jumps.

I did like the new characters and coming back to some from the first book. I liked the women, Sophia Williams and Diana Villers, with whom Jack and Stephen become involved. I liked the life on land sequence early in the book; it reminded me strongly of Jane Austen. I also enjoyed the comic, if unbelievable, scenes of Stephen and Jack fleeing France with Jack dressed in a bear suit.

lastly, as occasionally happens with library audio books, there were a lot of scratches on some of the discs which made them skip and stutter. And of course a few of the bad ones were in important places. Like when Jack finds out his agent has run off with his prize money, which he now owes back to England. I missed the track that explained this and didn't catch on to what happened for a while. I am sure that didn't help my enjoyment.

Overall, a 5. i picked up books 3 (HMS Surprise) and 4 (The Mauritius Command) to listen to on the trip to Louisiana. I'm headed home for Christmas!

12 December 2010

Bookie

Running the Books by Avi Steinberg is a very good memoir. To get some steady income to supplement his job as a freelance obituary writer, Avi Steinberg becomes a librarian at a prison in Boston. He supervises some prisoners who work at the library and also teaches creative writing. There's a moment that caught me where he is talking to one of the students after class then has to count all the pencils to make sure none were taken to be used as weapons.

It didn't have the Hollywood moments. This book isn't about the smart Jewish kid reforming the old convicts through the power of literature. Several of the characters Avi meets in prison have died by the end of the book.
The biggest inter-personal conflicts he faces aren't with the prisoners but with the guards, who go out of their way to undermine Avi's authority and seem to be of the opinion the library shouldn't even be there.

This book is touching but not heart-warming. I liked reading about this very particular life. a 6.

It is snowing here! here's some pics taken about 12:30. we've gotten more coverage since then but i still can't tell about the road.

I'm chilly. I am not going anywhere today! I need to vacuum the apartment. Later, i'll try to make pot roast for the first time! Otherwise, i intend to curl up and read and watch football. Maybe i will try some of the tea i got in the mail. Toorah has the right idea!

Speaking of TV, B decided we needed a bigger, better model. He got a 60 inch tv and the 3D conversion thingy. The mass market paperback is there for some scale.

This is a gigantic tv. We watched The Dark Knight the first night we got it as it is one of the few Bluray movies I own and it was awesome! We were playing around with the 3d demo PS3 games last night and i actually got dizzy!

The football looks awesome.

7:30 PM update:
I may not be going to work tomorrow. The pictures didn't show the snow as sparkly as it really is. B says it is because it is cold that the snow is all sparkly. B also says the roads are bad. The snow isn't supposed to stop until after midnight so who knows about work.

10 December 2010

Secret Santa, Maybe

I received a package but i don't know who it's from! Sorry about the poor photo.

The Secret Santa gave me a lovely little book to write in, some yummy sounding teas, and 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. She isn't an author I'm familiar with but the book is a collection of her letters to and from an English bookseller Frank Doel. It looks fun!

So thank you thank you Santa! let me know who you are!

08 December 2010

Unwritten 2

After waiting forever to get Unwritten Vol. 1, the library got part 2 to me in record time! The Unwritten Vol. 2: Inside Man by Mike Carey and Peter Gross goes deeper into the story of Tom Taylor. In prison awaiting trial for crimes he didn't commit, Tom meets some helpful people but many hurtful characters too. When other people start seeing Tom's storytold creations, Tom begins to believe he may actually be a fiction brought to life.

This is a graphic novel series for book fiends. I loved the Kipling/Twain story that ended the last volume and really liked the Pooh-ish story that ended this grouping. I don't want to get all smart sounding and talk about the book being meta-fiction and the intertextuality involved, post-structuralism interpretations and the concept of self. But it is a very smart, literary series. I have to say it again, if you liked the Sandman series you will enjoy this one. a 6.

04 December 2010

Weekly Geeks 12/4

Wow. December of 2010. I know everyone says this but it is amazing how fast this year has gone by. I'll be doing a big, long, end of year post later this month, but today we are already talking about next years challenges!

So, i have one challenge that goes through April 2011, the 1% Challenge. The challenge is for 13 books off the 1001 list, of which i've read 6.

Next, i think the Shakespeare Reading Challenge sounds fun. I'm going to read (or most likely listen to) 6 plays, of which 2 i can see performances of instead of reading. Perhaps after B and I finish A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court we might try a play. We both happen to have the exact same copies of the complete works. We are lit geeks; B was even an English major!

The Vintage Mystery Challenge also looks fun, though i be i am going to be a bit more vintage than expected. I've started loving some oooooollllldddddd mystery novels, so i am sure i can conquer the "Get a Clue" level of 7.

I currently have over 140 books on my TBR list on librarything. wow. And that doesn't count any i may receive for Christmas! Or all of B's lovely books. so i am jumping on the Off The Shelf reading challenge at the "Making a Dent" level of 30 books to read. I can do it!

As a personal challenge, i want to get some of those Russian books off my to-read list. I've not read War and Peace and intend to read that in 2011. So if anyone knows if a Russian challenge is up let me know! I'm sure there will be a couple more challenges anyway, beside the regular ones I sign up for at Stainless Steel Droppings.

I have never hosted a challenge and have no plans to do so this year. I'm a follower, not a leader! :)

Happy reading!

and holy crap, i just realized this is post 800. I can't believe i'm still doing this! Thanks for reading!

01 December 2010

Depressing

I really thought I had read something by Chris Hedges. I've spun back through the blog and see that, while I thought I had read American Fascists, I must not have as it came out in 2008 and i was blogging about every book I had read by that time. I know I've read articles he has written.

The tone of Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle is one of angry mourning. Anger at the corporations and politicians who are fiddling while Rome burns, anger at the people who buy into the culture of more money now, at people who don't think, who use others. The chapter on porn is particularly angry. Mourning because there was a point when knowledge and thinking were important and valued.

He makes many references to various dystopian novels like 1984 and comes to the conclusion that out current society has many similarities to Brave New World, which I haven't yet read so can't comment on, and Fahrenheit 451. The Bradbury book has characters constantly being "infotained" by video screens throughout the home and city. It isn't just that people aren't allowed to have books, most people have no idea there would be any reason for them to do so. Now I am going to add Brave New World on my list for next year.

I guess the biggest problem I had with the book is that, while it does an astounding job of explaining the scope and facets of our problematic culture, it offers no solutions. so, i am going with a 4 for this book.

29 November 2010

Have you reviewed books by people you know?

Because i am going to review 3, all available on Kindle.

Cave of Forlorn by R.C. Rutter- Fantasy. 5. A good old quest! The King is trapped by demons and dying and only his long lost daughter can save him. Is she a farm girl or a warrior woman? I was surprised how funny this book is! Fantasy isn't always a place to find laughs but I really liked the comic characters in this one. Beware the kitten of doom! The plot is fast paced with a lot of different threads that slowly join together for a great finale.

Cades Cove by Aidan James- Horror. 5. Visiting the Smokie Mountains, Miriam and David Hobbs find a strange souvenir: a little bag labeled "Allie Mae's Treasures" containing various things including a broken tooth. David brings the bag with him home to Colorado, where unexplained sounds, chills and moving objects begin to plague the family. David has nightmares of Allie Mae as the violence escalates, so he takes the bag back to Tennessee in the hopes of placating the spirit. I found the atmosphere of the story very creepy. As the ghost starts with annoyances then moves to violence you become really fearful for the characters.


Deadly Night by Aidan James- Murder Mystery. 5. Jimmy and Fiona Alea investigate ghosts, hauntings and other paranormal phenomena in Nashville, TN. When they, and their ghost hunting crew Nash-Vegas Paranormal, discover the brutal murder of famous country singer Candi Starr, it's traumatic but not going to derail their lives. But the death doesn't stop with just the singer. As the killer tears his way through Candi's Nashville connections, the Aleas must try to protect their friends and family, using Fiona's link to the spirit world to help stop the killer. Side plots follow NVP's ghost investigations, which contribute to some of the creepier moments in the book, as well as the funnier ones. The image of a ghost hanging in a plantation home foyer will stay with you. Jimmy is a great narrator, mixing enough snarky comments in that you believe him as the tension rachets up. There's also a good sense of place; you can feel the humidity and hear the southern accents.

28 November 2010

Dark Novellas

Yesterday I read Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King. Yes, i started and finished it yesterday, though it was a close thing. 20 more pages would have taken me after midnight and over into another day. I love how you can get completely pulled into King's work. At one point I know B was talking to me and i was sort of muttering back "uh huh", "mmm" and "yeah" because i just could not put this book down.

These stories all revolve around a "What would you do if..." question. What would you do if you were dying, too young, of cancer, and the devil offered to save you but curse your frenemy? what would you do if, after decades of marriage, you realize your spouse is probably a serial killer? What would you do if you were a famous murder mystery novelist and survived a brutal rape and attempted murder and knew who was responsible?

My favorites of the four novellas were the two with female protagonists, "Big Driver" and "A Good Marriage". "Big Driver" is the one about the novelist. At first, i didn't like the main character but slowly her thinking won me over. "A Good Marriage" also has a simple enough premise, one that's a touch scary to someone who just moved in with a man. How well does anyone really know anyone?

Overall, well worth it. a 6.

27 November 2010

Lotsa Pics Post!

I haven't done pictures in a while so here you go!

I love the farmer's market! I got potatoes, pickles, radishes, collard greens and ham to cook with them, yummy pecan squares, and some red tomatoes.

spent 50 cents at the library book sale last week! I always try to go on the last day as there really isn't much left and what is available is even cheaper than earlier in the week.

While i spent 30 at McKay's today, i got a bunch of stuff. as some of this is going to my secret santa person, and some to B, i'll just show the books, not the titles. i got 4 children's picture books, 4 paperbacks, a cd, and a hardback copy of The Wind in the Willows with lovely pictures.

my plants are all done. we don't have a roof to our balcony now, so B used his ingenious skills to run the tomato along the railing.

some more sad plants.

Anyone have an opinion on the colors? I've been black forever and decided to change some things. Should i go blue instead?

hope everyone is having a lovely weekend! Go Tigers!

26 November 2010

Happy After Thanksgiving Post!

I'm lounging about in my PJ's still, though it is after 3 pm. I have watched football, eaten a ham sandwich from leftovers and a delicious piece of carrot cake, and done some online shopping.

Reading is very good for you, from Ode Magazine.

That is amazing! My parents should be well protected against those age-related mental things then. It's a long article but worth it.

Article on women in the Royal Society of London. Women couldn't technically be admitted until 1945, which is horrible.

I'm looking at what to get my Book Blogger Secret Santa giftee. If they say ARCs and used books are ok, is it ok to give them one of mine?

ok, off to shower.

24 November 2010

I want to join the British Navy, circa 1805

I now have a 25 minute commute each way. So I went to the library and picked up an audiobook. I actually have Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian as a book but i still hadn't gotten around to reading it.

Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin meet at a private concert and almost get into a fight. Jack is in a black mood due to being overlooked for a promotion to captain. When Jack returns to his rooms, he finds that the promotion papers have been waiting for him. He meets Stephen again the next day and the two become friends. When Jack realizes his new command has no surgeon he asks Stephen to come on the ship as his doctor, even though he is a physician. Apparently physicians are rated more highly than surgeons as many other characters refer to how amazing it is that such a small, unimportant ship has a physician aboard.

Since this is the first book in the series, our doctor knows nothing about sailing. He gets a couple of tours of the ship, with a midshipman pointing out what the various parts are called and what they do. That was very helpful later when O'Brian refers back those bits during a battle.

And there are battles, nautical and land. But there is also a lot of inter-personal stuff, as Jack wins over his crew but an ever-changing relationship with his Lieutenant James Dillon. In one of those twists of literary fate, Dillon and Maturin are both Irish rebels who've hidden their pasts. At first wary of each other, Dillon and Maturin regain their former friendship, with Maturin often acting as a go-between with Dillon and Aubrey. Those three men dominate the story but i also enjoyed the well-drawn secondary characters like the midshipmen Babington and Ricketts, the everybody-but-Jack-knows-he's-gay-and-has-a-crush-on-Jack master William Marshall, the master's mates Pullings and Mowett. Not many females but I did picture Molly Harte, Jack's married mistress, as a Scarlett O'Hara-type.

I enjoyed this book. The reader, Patrick Tull, is very good. I couldn't help but picture our two protagonists as Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany, which is probably better than how they are described in the book, at least in Maturin's case. I wonder if that is a movie worth getting on Blu-ray? Anyway, I recommend this if you want to find out what all the men were off doing when Jane Austen was writing. a 6. I've already picked up the second book on audio, Post Captain.

I could have used a drawing of a ship, with labels, though.

23 November 2010

Unwritten

A very good graphic novel to read a few days after seeing Deathly Hallows. Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity by Mike Carey and Peter Gross is very good. So good that i wonder about walking into a comic shop again and picking up the current issues. Yes, perhaps i'll become a fan girl once again!

The gist is that Tom Taylor is the real life basis for a series of books his father, Wilson Taylor, wrote. As Wilson disappeared without finishing the 14th and final novel, fans are still crazy about Tom. Tom hates being called Tommy but makes a living doing public appearances and signing autographs. The one gift his father left him is a talent for remembering "literary geography", the places where books take place or in some cases were written. When a reporter suggests that Tom might not actually be Wilson's son, Tom's world goes a bit crazy.

I really enjoyed this one. a 7. I loved the intertextualness of it, similar to how the Sandman series works. Read it read it!

Something i have found very difficult is to review ongoing comic series. This book is the collection of the first 5 issues so giving a general overview wouldn't really spoil much. But as the series continues, the deeper you go into the story, the less you can say as a reviewer. The Walking Dead is particularly bad as it is a series where the author isn't afraid to kill off characters. I would not have wanted to be spoiled on some of the shocks in that series so other than giving the vaguest of overviews I don't want to say much. mentioning some characters while dancing around not mentioning others so you don't give away someone has gotten eaten by zombies is hard! :)

Does anyone else who read graphic novels have this problem? how do you get around it?

20 November 2010

Another Book about Writing

For a nice, relatively spoiler-free, overview of detective mysteries of the first half of the 20th century, pick up PD James' Talking About Detective Fiction.

She starts with the creation of the general form, then talks about gothic novels and how Wilkie Collins created many of the genre standards. She devotes a whole chapter to the Sherlock Holmes stories, of which i've read everything, and GK Chesterton's Father Brown mysteries, of which i've read nothing. She discusses the many major female writers in the genre and how their detectives are products of the times the authors lived in. James talks about the racisms, sexism, and classism that run through the Golden Age, hard-boiled, and other detective novels. How all the various conventions are used, and subverted, makes for great reading.

If you like mysteries, you will end up with a longer TBR list for sure! I found her commentary very informative and will end up reading several of her suggested titles. A solid 6 from me.

now i'm off to work on The Woman in White.

Deathly Hallows part 1

just want to say i totally called exactly where they were going to cut the movie. I get points for that i think. :) i liked it though i wish it had started with Dumbledore's funeral. We should have gotten to see that i think. a 6!

18 November 2010

BTT for 11/18

a question i have an easy answer to!
the library definitely. I don't really have friends who read, besides B, and we live together now. From the library i have no problem returning a book unread, or late, or hating a book. with one from a friend i have to return it in a timely manner and, if they've read it, have to wonder what i'll say if my reaction is a total opposite to their reaction. I have no problem returning books, to people or to the library, but i am lucky enough that the branch library i go to is about a mile from my apartment! I usually go to it about twice a week, dropping off or picking up or both.

Right now, from the library, i'm about finished with P.D. James' Talking about Detective Fiction and Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian on audio book in the car. Now that i have a 25 min commute i'll be listening to a few audio books. It just wasn't worth listening to books when i only had a 10 minute drive to work.

In other bookish news, I'll be seeing the new Harry Potter movie tomorrow night with my friend D! yippee!

17 November 2010

Book Serendipity

So the other day B and I dug through the book boxes trying to find if he owned Pandora's Star by Peter F. Hamilton. We never found it but I saw he had Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell, which i have been waiting for from the library for a month or so! Of course I plucked it out of the box and asked if he'd read it, if it was good, if he minded if i read it. He had, he couldn't remember, and he didn't.

Faceless Killers is a Swedish murder mystery. I think I saw it on one of those "if you liked this, you might like these" lists of recommendations for books like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The setting is the only similarity though. The detective is a police officer and not as likable as either Blomqvist or Lisbeth Salander.

Kurt Wallander is a seasoned police detective. He has an estranged daughter and a wife who's recently divorced him. He is struggling with his personal life. When an elderly farmer and his wife are brutally murdered, Wallander is in charge of the investigation. When a police source leaks that the wife's last word was "foreign" Wallander and the police must also protect the refugee camps in the area.

It was a very fast read. The complaint I have about the book is that the first few weeks of the investigation take up 90% of the book, while the next few months are covered in the last few pages, including the discovery and capture of the killers. There was the slight feeling of being cheated by the book; this isn't a book where you can figure out the killer's identity before the detective. Overall, i give it a 5 and may pick up another in the series some time. This also counts for the 2010 Challenge in my "Books in Translation" category.

16 November 2010

Another Book About Libraries

I finished a quick one, Libraries in the Ancient World by Lionel Casson. Casson traces libraries from the beginnings back in the Near East when "books" were written on clay tablets in cuneiform. As papyrus use spread after Alexander conquered Egypt books became scrolls but weren't exactly portable; you had to roll with your left hand as you unrolled with your right. But libraries, as places where scholars and scientists and philosophers could read and work, grew. Rome was where private and public libraries really took off. One emperor started putting libraries into the public baths, i hope in a room without the water! as Rome declined, Constantinople remained a place where books were still valued. Casson's coverage ends as the Middle Ages begins.

I guess this one is a 5. Not bad but not great, i could have read another hundred pages on the same topic and in fact have requested another book about books from my library, A Universal History of the Destruction of Books by Fernando Baez. It may be a bit of a downer though.

15 November 2010

Weekly Geeks- Time

The question this week is about finding time to read.


Well, I don't have kids. So that is a big chunk of time that i have available that other people don't. The only family interruption i have is when i need to walk the dog! :) B reads so he doesn't seem to mind if i say i want to finish reading something rather than watch a movie. At my previous job i was able to read at work, if there was time between calls. Now i read at my lunch break and, as i am still in training, during breaks or when i am finished with a task but can't go on to something else until the others in my class have also finished. I'm usually not the first or the last person to finish something, so that gives me another 15 minutes or so during the day.

On the weekends or evenings, i end up multi-tasking a lot. i can read and keep half an eye on football or soccer games at the same time. I'll read while cooking dinner. I don't have a specific time i set aside to read usually; it just depends on what i am reading as to how much time i set aside to finish.

14 November 2010

Ex Libris

Last night i finished Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman. It is a wonderful little book of essays about books and reading.

The essays were originally written over a few years and published in book form in 1998. My favorite may very well be the first one, "Marrying Libraries", which is about Fadiman and her husband finally combining their books after several years of marriage. B and I still haven't unpacked the books. We wandered the apartment this morning looking for one he couldn't remember if he had or not. Most of the boxes i popped open and went "nope, these are mine" or "I might have put a book in this box, let's see" but we never did find it.

Other essays that i responded to were "The Literary Glutton", about words as nourishment, and "Second hand Prose", about the joys of used books. Fadiman and i have some of the same attitudes towards books and reading so perhaps that's why i enjoyed these essays so much. I have had this same experience she mentions in "My Ancestral Castles", even without having kids:
when i walk into an apartment with books on the shelves, books on the bedside tables, books on the floor, and books on the toilet tank, then I know what I would see if I opened the door that says PRIVATE-GROWNUPS KEEP OUT: a child sprawled on the bed, reading.
maybe it is just me but i found her essays beautiful and also melancholy. Most gave me tears in my eyes at the very end. a 7. Go read it.

13 November 2010

Hopping with Hard Books

Literary Blog Hop
This weeks question is "What's the most difficult literary work you've ever read? What made it so difficult?"

I am trying to remember something recent. On the Road, by Jack Kerouac, was a terribly difficult one for me. I just couldn't get into the language and the way it was written. After trying twice to read it i decided to listen to it on audiobook on a trip home to Louisiana. I finally got through it but didn't like it at all. The characters are just awful people. I can't even remember the names but the narrator's friend just made me so angry over and over again. women are treated so poorly and the book just seems like a great testimony against drinking.

The books i find difficult do seem to be about people i can't stand. i never finished Trainspotting because of that; I was fine with the dialect but stopped reading because i just didn't care what happened to anyone. I found American Psycho hard to get through for that reason when i read it years ago. I also was reading it when i lived with my parents after i graduated college and didn't want my younger brother (who was only 10) to accidentally pick it up. just way too much for a kid's mind i think.

I don't mind thick, dense books, just ones with awful people doing awful things to each other.

12 November 2010

Chronicle Books Haulidays!


wows. $500 in books? seriously? can i take $400 in books and$100 in shelving? :) here's my list! the first section is for things i'd give to other people.

  • Creative, Inc.: The Ultimate Guide to Running a Successful Freelance Business
  • All My Friends are Dead
  • Handy Dad: 25 Awesome Projects for Dads and Kids
  • MoMA Modern Play Family
  • MoMA Modern Play House
  • Creature Floor Puzzles
  • The Castaway Pirates
  • Squiggles: A Really Giant Drawing and Painting Book
  • The World Almanac for Kids Puzzler Deck: Reading Ages 5-7
  • The World Almanac for Kids Puzzler Deck: Math Ages 5-7
  • The Wildlife of Star Wars: A Field Guide
and then the list for me!
  • 30 Postcards by David Choe
  • The Ultimate Book of Card Games
  • The Armchair Quarterback Playbook
  • Dracula's Heir
  • Aesop's Fables
  • Home Economics
  • Let's Bring Back
  • Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better
  • New Orleans Stories
  • The Space Tourist's Handbook
  • Signing Their Lives Away
  • The Secret Lives of Great Artists
  • The Secret Lives of Great Authors
  • Writer's Workshop in a Book
  • No Plot? No Problem!
I'm crossing my fingers now!

11 November 2010

Mystery Kick

I don't want to leave these books! Forget the fact that I have both the new Stephen King book of novellas, Full Dark, No Stars as well as The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoot from the library that really need to be read. I want to stay with these mysteries and gothic novels. I don't want to jump to something modern. This morning i picked up The Broken Teaglass and decided that, after flipping through the pages, i didn't want to read it because i saw the word "Geez" as an expression. not that i don't say that occasionally. i just want to stay back in the past, reading Victorian mysteries, and 1800's gothic and classics.

I finished The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston LeRoux last night. It is a pure locked room mystery. A young woman, Mlle. Stangerson, is viciously attacked in her own bedroom with her father, Mr. Stangerson, and their servant, Old Jacques, just in the next room. Her door is locked from the inside as is the only window. When the men finally break into the room with the help of the caretakers only the daughter is in the room!

Like Trent in Trent's Last Case, Rouletabille is a young journalist who's made his name solving cases. Frederic Larsan is the police detective who feels that, because there was no way out of the yellow room besides the door, that Mr. Stangerson must have see his daughter's fiance, Robert Darzac, and allowed him to escape to avoid a scandal. As Larsan begins to collect his evidence, eventually arresting Darzac and putting him on trial, Rouletabille follows his own logic to reach the real attacker's identity.

I literally gasped when the Rouletabille revealed the attempted killer! very very recommended! a 7. And it counts for the 2010 Challenge as an "Up to You" book. My choice was books in translation.

By the by, I needed a book to take to work and couldn't find a properly sized one that fit the age criteria as everything is still in boxes. I decided to take Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman and am almost finished with it now too!

10 November 2010

Return of the Movies Post



Hot Tub Time Machine- 4. Goofy. really goofy, not bad. less of Rob Cordry naked and would have been a 5.

Victory- 6. Soccer movie about prisoners in a WWII camp who have to play the German national team. very fun.

Blade Runner- 7. ok, i'd never seen the whole thing beginning to end. i'd seen bits and pieces and read the book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. The movie is great, though much different from the book.

The Thirteenth Warrior- 7. i can't believe i missed this movie before! it is exactly the kind of movie i like. Antonio Banderas plays an Arab who a group of Vikings draft into going on a quest to save a kingdom from evil marauders. in like 922 AD. I really really enjoyed it!

Whip It!- 5, pretty predictable, getting an extra point because i have a bit of a crush on Ellen Page. Go see a real roller derby match in your area!

The Lovely Bones- eh, ok. 4. i liked it better when it was titled What Dreams May Come and starred Robin Williams.

09 November 2010

Trent's Last Case

I really liked Trent's Last Case by E.C. Bentley. What mystery writer today would use that as a title for their first mystery? It seems like so many titles now are intended to begin multi-book series that the "last" part seems strange. Why is it his last case? Does the detective die? You start this book with a question already.

Trent is an artist who's amazing mind has led him to dabble in solving criminal cases for a newspaper. He's called in to consult on the case of the murder of Sigbee Manderson, an American business tycoon. Trent also happens to know the widow's uncle, Mr. Cupples, who also asks Trent to see what he can discover. Mr. Cupples knows that his niece and her husband had a falling out and knows she will be suspected but he feels his niece is innocent and wants Trent to find the proof.

Trent is brilliant, working out what he feels is the solution but also falling in love with the widow! Later, he discovers much of his careful logic to be wrong.

I delighted in this short little book. Trent is a great character, a detective that laughs and loves and has human failings. a 6. i wish so that the library had the book of short stories featuring Trent, Trent Intervenes. Hmmm, perhaps an assignment for B to look it up at his library?

08 November 2010

So Today

I started work at a new job! Yes, after eight years i decided that i was simply done with big magenta cell phone company and being yelled at by customers while trying to sell them things. I started looking for a job about four months ago but really got no interest from any place until about 3 weeks ago. I'm no longer in a call center! I'll have regular hours Monday through Friday. I unfortunately won't have days off with B anymore but i think i'll be much better to be around when i'm home with him. Stability will be very nice. Now just to learn about insurance billing!

07 November 2010

Murder Must Advertise

I finished my second Lord Peter Wimsey mystery this Saturday, Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L. Sayers. I like mysteries that begin with the investigator trying to decide if there was even a crime. It seems like the detective has to get that much more involved and i enjoy reading those sorts.

Victor Dean is a copywriter for Pym's Advertising and dies after falling down the huge spiral staircase at the office's headquarters. Lord Peter Wimsey, under an assumed name and working as a copywriter, begins investigating the firm for the owner Pym. Wimsey's brother-in-law, Inspector Parker, works for Scotland Yard investigating drug trafficking. Slowly the two investigations begin to intertwine, with Wimsey at one point arranging to be in two places at once! The drug scheme is clever and the resolution very satisfying.

A high 5 for me. It counts towards the 1% Challenge as it is on the 1001 Books list and i am going to use it towards the Win! Win! category for the 2010 Challenge too.

06 November 2010

Do I read Literary Fiction?

Literary Blog Hop
Yes? No? Maybe? I am putting in my opinion on The Blue Bookcase's Literary Blog Hop.
Please highlight one of your favorite books and why you would consider it "literary."
as several other posts have done, I'm looking at what "literary fiction" means first. A couple people have defined it as NOT books that purely entertain. I do highly disagree. I find Jane Austen's works entertaining. The Elegance of the Hedgehog is entertaining. Wilkie Collins is entertaining. And i am sure that plenty of authors books people would consider the opposite of literary fiction feel they've written something that doesn't purely entertain.

I'd say that literary fiction takes itself seriously. It shows the story as real events and treats the characters as real people, with histories and aspirations and failings. It doesn't matter if the events are fantastical. Tolkien is literary fiction. He's writing about elves and hobbits and dragons and fighting evil but he's also writing about overcoming fears and working hard and friendship and family. Universal themes.

It has to sound right. some writers are just better at the craft. Descriptions are rich without being overdrawn. Dialogue doesn't sound hokey. Stephen King just sounds better that Stephenie Meyer. Of a pair of writers, both of which I've enjoyed, George R.R. Martin sounds better that Mercedes Lackey. He's literary, she isn't, though they are both writing fantasy. YA-wise, Meg Rosoff sounds better than Carrie Ryan or Susan Beth Pfeffer.

Literary fiction isn't cookie cutter, cliched, mass produced fiction. It isn't pink covered chick lit about marriage and babies and shopping. It isn't man-fic where the spy sleeps with 4 girls while averting nuclear war and catching the bad guy after an exciting car chase. It isn't a young adult series preplanned for 18 books based on a tv show with a website tie in that you can enter contests on.

It can be popular. it can be new. it can be genre. it can be wildly entertaining. It just has to be something that doesn't go away once you're done reading it.

Here's a few that have beautiful writing, that have stuck with me:
  • Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist-vampires, love, the dark places inside people, growing up.
  • After Dark by Haruki Murakami- nature of reality, finding yourself.
  • Fledgling by Octavia Butler-more vampires, identity, love.
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman-identity, nature of the world, family.
  • The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley- growing up, family.
  • Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn- more growing up, loss, love, revenge, family.
So there are a few books I've loved that may not fall into every one's definition of literary fiction and the themes they explore. Disagree? let me know! :)

04 November 2010

Skinner Sweet


Can't be his real name. I mean, he's an outlaw who likes candy. He has to have given himself a nickname. He robs banks, rapes and pillages in the Old West. oh, and then gets turned into a vampire.

Sweet.

American Vampire, Volume 1 by Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque and Stephen King is a bloody fun book of revenge. One story is the story of Skinner Sweet's transformation and the lawmen who attempt to stop him. The second takes place in Hollywood, where some old Euro-vampires feast on young starlets. Pearl Jones survives long enough for Sweet to find her and turn her into a vampire like him, far different than the others. Sweet and Pearl can thrive in sunlight. These vampires don't sparkle though, they kill, especially those people who've wronged them.

I enjoyed this book and am disappointed to see that the second collection doesn't come out until next year. I am almost tempted to wander over to The Great Escape and dive back into comics. a 6.

03 November 2010

Morality

It can be tricky, can't it? The Moral Landscape, by Sam Harris, tries to show how humans can use modern science to sort out some truisms on morality. um, i am lazy this morning, so here's a bit from a Q & A on Amazon.

Harris: Morality must relate, at some level, to the well-being of conscious creatures. If there are more and less effective ways for us to seek happiness and to avoid misery in this world—and there clearly are—then there are right and wrong answers to questions of morality.

Q: Are you saying that science can answer such questions?

Harris: Yes, in principle. Human well-being is not a random phenomenon. It depends on many factors—ranging from genetics and neurobiology to sociology and economics. But, clearly, there are scientific truths to be known about how we can flourish in this world. Wherever we can act so as to have an impact on the well-being of others, questions of morality apply.

Q: But can’t moral claims be in conflict? Aren’t there many situations in which one person’s happiness means another’s suffering?

Harris: There as some circumstances like this, and we call these contests ?zero-sum.? Generally speaking, however, the most important moral occasions are not like this. If we could eliminate war, nuclear proliferation, malaria, chronic hunger, child abuse, etc.—these changes would be good, on balance, for everyone. There are surely neurobiological, psychological, and sociological reasons why this is so—which is to say that science could potentially tell us exactly why a phenomenon like child abuse diminishes human well-being.

But we don’t have to wait for science to do this. We already have very good reasons to believe that mistreating children is bad for everyone. I think it is important for us to admit that this is not a claim about our personal preferences, or merely something our culture has conditioned us to believe. It is a claim about the architecture of our minds and the social architecture of our world. Moral truths of this kind must find their place in any scientific understanding of human experience.

So, i liked it but i don't know that he could convince conservative religious people. Liberal religious people, maybe. Non-religious or atheists shouldn't have an issue with the premise either. I am not sure the people who should read it will, or would admit that they could possibly be incorrect about the basis for our moral choices. a 5.

and i need to reread some basic philosophy/logic. i know i've got a book around somewhere. hmm. ah, yes i have Being Logical by D.Q. McInerny and Philosophy Made Simple by Richard H Popkin. soon.

Currently: low about the elections. don't know if i should try looking for a silver lining.

01 November 2010

tally post 4

As of 10/30

Total books read: 113
Library books: 79
Graphic novels: 20
Non-fiction: 22

Challenges

RIP Challenge: 10/5

30 October 2010

RIP Movies!


All the appropriate movies i've managed to watch during the RIP challenge! I'd intended to watch more but just didn't manage.



The Birds-5. Kinda slow before the birds start attacking. Not my favorite Hitchcock so far.

The Wolfman- 2. This year's version with Anthony Hopkins. not very good at all.

Carriers- 4. Chris Pine does good grunge. sorta like what Zombieland would have been if it was completely unfunny. And this has a bad title, as a carrier is a person who can pass along a disease without themselves being infected, which as far as we know none of these characters can.