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.

27 October 2010

Library: An Unquiet History


Library: An Unquiet History, by Matthew Battles, is a great short non-fiction about the history of the library. Or, more correctly, the search to create the universal library.

Battles starts back at the library of Alexandria. The curators there were always searching for new writings they didn't have, going so far as to confiscate all papyrus works coming into Alexandria on ships, ostensibly to copy them but frequently just keeping them! While there wasn't ever a full on sacking/burning/pillaging of the library there were several fires. Those events prompts one of Battles' themes: libraries, besides making books easy to find, make books easy to destroy.

He moves through the medieval ages in Europe and the Middle East, the Renaissance, onto America. Battles has an amazing cast of characters to work with. He covers Jonathan Swift's Battle of the Books and Antonio Panizzi, who took years to catalog the British Library. Dewey (of the decimal system) was really a dick! The most amazing and heartbreaking parts for me dealt with World War 2. There was an amazing library destroyed both in World War 1 and World War 2 by the Germans. Published in 2004, this book could even have another chapter added on with more on the new internet age and ebooks.

It is a very short book. That's a great complaint though; there are not many books that i wish were longer! I also kept stopping to look up further info online! I recommend this one to anyone who loves to read and loves books; it's quick and fun. a 6!

26 October 2010

She's a Lady?


Lady Audley's Secret, by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, is a fun Victorian sensation novel. There isn't much mystery exactly, as you pretty much know what the secret is pretty early in the story but that doesn't detract at all from the reading experience.

Lucy Graham is a vivacious, beautiful governess with whom Lord Audley falls in love. His first wife is long dead and his only daughter is in her teens and he has no need of a noble heir. He marries her and she becomes Lady Audley. Lord Audley has a nephew, Robert, who is a London lawyer who doesn't do much but travel and go to his club. Months after the marriage, Robert runs into a friend, George Talboys, who has just returned from Australia rich with gold. George left in disgrace, penniless, leaving his wife and infant alone and has not contacted them in over 3 years. Right after meeting Robert, George reads that his wife has died. George is distraught and Robert attempts to console him, first with trips to the Continent and Russia, then with a visit to Lord Audley's home to do whatever guys did back then. However, as they are about to leave, George disappears. Robert doesn't believe that George actually went back to Australia and searches for his friend.

I liked these characters! i liked Robert very much. I think it's about as clear as a Victorian novel could be that he was in love with George. I liked him for that. I felt for his struggles with what he should do, what was right or wrong. He's a darn good detective too, if a little slow. I can't say i liked Lucy but I wanted to read about her.

A thing i liked about the volume i read was the introduction. after having been spoiled by a couple intros i don't normally read them until after i finish the book. When i read this one, after i read the book, they had a few pages of general info then a space with a sentence all in caps: DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO KNOW LADY AUDLEY'S SECRET. Perfect! That is exactly what intros need to do. The older a book is, the more likely a reader may need some background information. But that doesn't mean they already know the story or have read it before. Spoilers suck.

Overall, a 6. This counts for the 2010 Challenge as it is waaaaay Older than Me and also for the RIP Challenge. Oh and the Classics Challenge!

25 October 2010

Macabre du Maurier

I've been reading a good bit since I didn't have internet or cable this last week. I really didn't think i would read much, having so much to do apartment-wise but I did less unpacking once the kitchen was somewhat done. Also, you don't want to be hammering at 10 pm. So, here's the first review of a book I finished last week.

Echoes of the Macabre
by Daphne du Maurier is a collection of 9 short stories. Two, "The Birds" and "Don't Look Now", have been made into pretty decent scary movies you may have seen. Her stories are very atmospheric, which stays true from the one book i've read by her, Rebecca.

My personal favorites from this collection were the two mentioned above, as well as "Kiss Me Again, Stranger" and "The Old Man". I can't really tell you about the second story. Just go read "The Old Man", really. Had I known of this little story when i was in high school drama i would have used it in competition; it is that good. "Kiss Me Again, Stranger" is about a young man you meets the love of his life, only to loose her in a pretty spectacular fashion.

Didn't particularly care for "The Apple Tree" and "The Pool" and the title of "The Chamois" made me think the main character was hunting yellowy cloths that people rub on antique cars. I think that i didn't like the first two because they were too atmospheric. I didn't care about the man in "The Apple Tree" and didn't really know what was going on to the girl in "The Pool". The stories were interesting though.

Overall, a 5. It counts toward the 2010 Challenge for the "Older Than You" category as all the stories were written before i was born. And, it counts for the RIP Challenge too!

24 October 2010

What I Have Been Up To

B and I have officially moved in together. We really should have hired movers; three flights of stairs really defeated us. Our place is still a mess and still cluttered; no internet or cable yet. I have gotten much reading done though, 3 whole books since Tuesday. We have so much stuff: 4 computers (3 laptops and a desktop), 3 desks, lamps and chairs and shelves. I will post a picture of B's awesome desk/study furniture when it is properly put together and filled. Now, for your pleasure, are our boxes of books.

Ok, here is the corner of the bedroom and the library. i think we are going to call it that.

Books in the library. yes, B has a card catalog that is on the bottom there.



Another view of those boxes, so you can see that there are more behind all those in the picture above.

and in the living room

and the dining area,

and the hallway.

and i realized i forgot 1 more box that was in the pantry. and several boxes have a couple books and then other, lighter things in them too.

The great part is now, well, i've got a whole new bunch of books in the house to peruse! WHEE! We get internet access and cable tomorrow so i know my reading pace will slow a bit now. But as i am suffering from Sportcenter withdrawal, that really is a good thing.

Currently: at the library, yay free internet.

16 October 2010

Stories within a Story

Today at lunch i finished The Vanishing of Katherina Linden by Helen Grant. I read a review by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings and decided i had to read this book. I loved it! While the book reminded Carl of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, it reminded me more of The Elegance of the Hedgehog. all have little girl protagonists, though Pia Kolvenbach of Vanishing is the youngest and acts most age appropriate. All the girls have their own trials or adventures and you want to protect them all.

Pia becomes a grade school outcast when her grandmother dies. She has the unfortunate fate of bursting into flames at the Christmas dinner table. Her only school friend is another outcast, StinkStefan, who doesn't seem to smell but just hangs about where he's not wanted. They spend their time visiting Herr Schiller, an older man who was a friend of Pia's grandmother. Herr Schiller tells wonderful stories about their town of Bad Munstereifel, especially about the Unshakable Hans, the man afraid of nothing.

When girls start disappearing, the town gossips think that Herr Duster, Schiller's reprobate brother, is involved. Pia and Stefan start their own investigation as small town life gets scary. Neighbors begin to turn on each other and Pia's own family begins to fall apart.

I give this one a 7. I really liked the book. The atmosphere is creepy right from the beginning. This book counts for the RIP challenge and for the 2010 Challenge.





15 October 2010

The Fall

Well, I have to say I was rather disappointed in The Fall by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. It, to me, seems very much a "we've got to stretch this story into three books" middle book. Sure, stuff happens, but not much and I really feel like it could have been covered in about 2, maybe 3 chapters.

There's a prologue, and an epilogue, detailing some hints as to how the world in the story is going to get much, much worse very soon. Our heroes, Eph Goodweather and his son Zach, his colleague Nora Martinez, aging vampire hunter Abraham Setrakian, and exterminator Vasily Fet are all scattered for much of the book. Nora has to evacuate with her aging mother and Zach goes with them. Eph heads out on his own for a suicide mission to stop the human man who's helping the vampires while Fet and Setrakian search for a book that may hold clues to stopping the vampires. Several things don't go as planned and, as many amazon reviewers pointed out, there is really the feeling of an Empire Strikes Back type downer.

It isn't that i wanted a happy ending. I just felt that some of the characters actions were quite silly. I still think Fet is a cool character but to have him suddenly start blogging? not so sure about that. I did like the gang of vampire killers lead by Gus from the first book; that part seemed really realistic. Overall, a 4, and another for the RIP challenge.

13 October 2010

A World Without Ice

A quickie review. I finished A World Without Ice by Henry Pollack last night. It is a non-fiction book, detailing climate change consequences.

I wouldn't say this is a bad book but I only found it ok. I've read several climate type books before and this one is informative. I thought that it would be more about what may happen if there were no ice or once the climate changes further but it is more about how we know things are changing and all the points of evidence. Pollack also goes into how the various positions of climate change deniers have changed. It is a decent book but more for someone who doesn't know much about the subject. A 5.

12 October 2010

Room

Room, by Emma Donahue, is exactly the type of book that i don't pick up. Child narrator, terrible deprivation, it sounds like such a downer. However, i read Chris' review of it and decided maybe i would go ahead and get it from the library.

Wow. It is completely worth the read. Another book i hadn't intended to read Saturday, i started it Friday night, just to read a few chapters. Instead, i read about 150 pages and had to finish the next day. I had to know what happened to Jack and Ma.

I thought Jack's voice was amazing. With little else to do, Ma has taught him to read and write and given him a huge vocabulary for a child his age. But it makes so much sense. What else was there to do? As he's only been in Room, he has only seen one of most things. So there is Bed, and Table, and Rug. He's still a little kid and does anthropomorphize objects and plants. He's such a great narrator that it makes the rest of the story believable.

I give this one a 6. i recommend it but it could be a trigger for those who have suffered abuse or rape so it is not for everyone.

11 October 2010

60's Gothic


The first book i finished on the Readathon was We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. I had read The Haunting of Hill House several years ago and found it too drifty/dreamy for my tastes. Castle is far more straightforward.


Two young sisters, Constance and Mary Katherine, who is our narrator, live with their elderly uncle, Julian. Several years before they experienced a tragedy; the rest of the family died of arsenic poisoning. Constance was acquitted and Mary Katherine was just a child at the time. Julian himself barely survived. Now, Julian and Constance never leave the estate they live on. Only Mary Katherine visits the nearby town twice a week, enduring the taunts of children and stares and remarks of the adults to get groceries. A cousin, Charles, shows up one day and everything in Mary Katherine's life starts changing.



I really liked this book. It was creepy and the sense of doom just kept growing and growing. I wanted to read faster to find out what happened! Would it be what i was expecting, or better, or worse? a 6 from me and a great read for RIP!

10 October 2010

Readathon Wrap Up

For the Readathon i ended up with 620 pages read. WooHoo! That is almost what i read last readathon where i got to 626 pages and a graphic novel too. I guess next time i'll try to make 650 pages!

I finished 2 books and read most of The Fall, part of A World Without Ice, and 2 short stories. Next time i may work more on short stories as i really liked having those thrown in. The cheerleaders were great! I would say that i think a few things could have been a bit clearer on the main readathon page about what different memes or challenges actually involved. But overall the readathon went great.

What was the best thing you read this weekend?

Back at the book fest

I have never been inside the capitol and now I am in the House Chamber.  I am borrowing the chair of Miller (61).  Hope they don't mind!  Waiting to see Helen Simonson and Robin Oliviera.

Readathon 4

B has been here for the last 3 hours working on a giant book, the complete Amber Chronicles by Zelazny. It has like 10 books in it total.

Pages= 548
Books finished= 2, Room by Emma Donoghue and We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson and reread 2 short stories by Neil Gaiman, "A Study in Emerald" and "Monarch of the Glen". I've been wanting to reread Monarch since i've now read Beowulf and American Gods.
Working on= The Fall by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
Caffeinated beverages=3.5

Not sure how much more i've got in me but i'm not quitting just yet.

09 October 2010

Readathon 3

LSU won! and Alabama lost earlier today! :)

also, in soccer news, US tied Poland in a friendly.

Pages= 338
Books finished= 2, Room by Emma Donoghue and We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Working on= A World Without Ice by Henry Pollack, non-fiction but i think i am going to switch to fiction for a bit.
Caffeinated beverages=2

Snack!

Earl grey and tagalongs.

Readathon 2

I'm back at the house and reading!
Pages- 188
Books finished- We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now?
Room by Emma Donoghue
2. How many books have you read so far?
One, or i finished one i had started before.
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
getting back to The Fall i think.
4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?
I did have to take off work as i work on Saturdays now.
5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
not exactly interruptions but i started late.
6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
nothing much so far.
7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
nothing yet
8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year?
get up a bit earlier. I didn't get out of bed until about 1030 my time.
9. Are you getting tired yet?
not particularly
10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?
again, i've got nothing.

Books bought

So i've bought a couple books for my neice and nephew as well as one for myself.  Paolo Bacigalupi and Brian Yansky were a funny and interesting panel on YA and sci-fi.

Lots of people at the fest!

There are far too many books I would love to buy.  I am going to get a couple presents after I hear the sci-fi panel

Readathon 1

Ahem.

I woke up late. or slept late i suppose.

So i've got no pages read yet but am heading to the book fest now!

Happy reading.


07 October 2010

BTT for 10/7

as we start to gear up for the holidays, Booking Through Thursday asks:

When you travel, how many books do you bring with you?
Has this changed since the arrival of ebooks?


It depends. When i went to NYC this summer i had 3 books and two magazines. However, i had 4 flights and an afternoon at an airport by myself so i think i took at least an extra book than i would have normally. I'm not a good flyer yet and having something to power through (mysteries, thrillers and fantasy seem to work best) helps a lot. I may return my tray table to it's upright position but i'm keeping my book on my lap while we land!

When i go to Louisiana, I usually have an audiobook or two (20 hours round trip drive!) as well as a regular book to read. I don't normally read a lot when i am home but i tend to have a few random hours here and there when everyone has things to do and i just relax with a book. Of course, my parents' house is full of books so if i finished my own i'd have plenty to choose from!

My only ebook reader is my cell phone. It has the kindle for android program and i've read a couple books on it. I have yet to load up something for a trip on it and i don't know that it is anything i'd feel comfortable reading for a longer time period on.

06 October 2010

Mockingjay

So, since everybody's reading Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, should i even write about it?

This book was good but very different from what i expected. I had thought there would be a big portion of Katniss leading troops and going through battles. I had thought she would have been in on a rescue mission to get Peeta and the others caught by the Capital. I had thought she would be very active. The book becomes far more realistic.

Katniss is seriously traumatized and has physical injuries as well as PTSD. She spends big portions of the book sleeping and hiding and avoiding people. She doesn't trust the leaders of District 13 and only reluctantly, and to protect Peeta, does she become the symbol, the Mockingjay. Even then she doesn't really do much until the war is almost over and she becomes more of a regular soldier.

Much of this book occurs off screen. Which is understandable if you make your heroine keep getting hurt but makes things a bit less immediate. and feels like a bit of a cop out at times. Rather like the other books, Katniss herself doesn't have to do the really awful things. She may have killed people but she doesn't have to make some of the complex moral choices that other characters face.

I've also always had a problem with the population size of Panem and the various districts. In the first book, all the residents of 12 are apparently in one plaza. all of the possible tributes and their families are there to watch the reaping. Katniss goes right through the crowd up to the stage with no problems. so at most there may be 1000 people there, tops. Katniss also seems to know everyone, which also seems to point to a small population; i remember some anthropology things about clan group size being about 500 people that someone could recognize and identify with as part of the group. so, if we have 1000 people, at least 25% would be kids, if not more. so that leave 750 adults. to mine all the coal that Panem uses? not even counting that not every adult works in the mines. there are Peeta's parents, a mayor, various other shopkeepers. I can't see how the energy needs of a nation could be covered by such a small population. And even if every District is 5 times the size, that's not a country, that's a moderately sized town!

Overall i would say this is a 5. It counts for the YA challenge and the YA category for the 2010 Challenge.

03 October 2010

Weekly Geeky Farmer's Market

This week's Weekly Geeks topic is about the upcoming Readathon! I do intend to participate but i won't be able to read all day Saturday. I will be having a lovely bookish weekend though! The Southern Festival of Books runs Friday-Sunday. Saturday specifically i intend to see Harold Ford at 10, the authors of American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us at 12, Brian Yansky and Paolo Bacigalupi at 2:30, then at 3 Dr Bill Bass and author Jon Jefferson are talking about their book! 3 is also when Karen Essex will be talking about her book Dracula in Love. there are a couple writing panels i might want to see and several sessions about building community that look interesting. So for the majority of the day time i'll be running about, maybe live blogging the events.

For the Readathon itself, I don't have a strategy. Here's a pic of my library books that i need to read, as well as Handling the Undead which i caved and bought off Amazon. Hey, $11 was from gift cards so I don't feel too bad about spending on a hardback.

I unfortunately already packed the couple graphic novels I've not read yet. If you like those types of books i recommend throwing a few in for your Readathon list. They make a nice break and also help you feel like you've accomplished something. I hope that i will finish whatever i have started by that point but good headway on any books will be great! I won't have any snacks specifically but will probably pick up a few sweets from the Farmer's Market since I will be downtown. B works that day and will get in about 11 that night so i don't have to work around his schedule at all. I bet he stays up half the night playing video games while i read!

As for the Farmer's Market this weekend, i thought i'd pick all the basil and make pesto. instead i picked this much

and didn't even make a dent in my plants! I also found these little guys underneath my balcony.

Those are zinnias on the left and a tiny purple basil plant on the right. apparently a few seeds dropped from above and are happily growing in real soil. See the zinnias under there?

My tomato plant just keeps getting taller. It's really starting to lean over. I don't want to mess with it too much and kill it before the move.

and i still need to pack. I intend to take a picture of all the book boxes at some point just so i can overwhelm myself.

02 October 2010

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

I must say i loved this book too! Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is Helen Simonson's first novel. It's full of dry humor and love and relationships and real feelings and tea and reading.

Major Pettigrew is a British widower. The book opens with him in shock as he finds out his younger brother has just died. Mrs. Ali, a widow who runs the nearby grocery shop, just happens to be dropping off some tea for him when he finds out. From this weird circumstance, their friendship grows over a love of reading, family issues, and just "getting" each other. Pettigrew deals with his feelings over his brother's shotgun, one of a pair of his father's that Pettigrew wants to get in his own possession. Roger, Pettigrew's son, is rude, greedy, and completely un-empathetic. Mrs. Ali's husband's family is trying to muscle her out of her own shop through her nephew, Abdul Wahid. It is all a bit of a mess, taking place in a little English village that may become a planned community for landless nobles. The plot is wonderful but the characters are the really great part. And the writing is beautiful.

He offered her a sustained yodel and she sang back to him a phrase or two of a haunting song from her childhood and while the lake lapped at their feet and the mountains absorbed their calls and the sky flung its blue parachute over their heads, he though how wonderful it was that life was, after all, more simple than he had ever imagined.

just writing that down again has made me all teary eyed. It is just such a beautiful passage. This will sound goofy and sappy but those lines so capture what being newly in love is like and it makes me think of B and i just keep grinning.

a 7. Helen Simonson is going to be at the Southern Festival of Books next weekend and I will make it to her panel.

01 October 2010

beowulf

So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by
and the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness.

I have really enjoyed Beowulf, the translation by Seamus Heaney. I had seen the 3D movie a few years ago completely cold; i knew nothing except Beowulf was a good guy and Grendel was some sort of demon, though i had thought the name was Gretel. Like Hansel's sister. I liked the movie. I really liked the book though.

Beowulf is a great warrior who comes across the sea with a dozen kinsman to help a kingdom being harassed by a demon/spirit/monster. That's Grendel. Beowulf, because he's so badass, fights Grendel hand-to-hand and defeats the monster. Then Grendel's mother, who i don't think gets her own name, attacks and Beowulf follows her back to her lair and defeats her too. Heaped with gifts, Beowulf and his buddies return to their own land. Beowulf ends up becoming king and ruling many years. Then, because a thief steals a golden cup, a nearby dragon goes on a rampage. Beowulf himself fights the dragon and with the help of a compatriot kills the dragon but ends up dying himself afterward.

B suggested it somehow. The poetry is lovely but easily understandable. I loved all the little asides the poet takes, going off on his own to tell a different story before coming back to Beowulf's. It is quite different from the movie. While the movie has the 3 big baddies right (Grendel, Grendel's mom, Dragon) it plays with the relationships between the humans. And yeah, the book is better. Way better. I definitely saw bits of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, King Arthur and Star Wars. Reading this has made me want to go and read some Homer, or Virgil. a 7.

They said that of all the kings upon the earth
he was the man most gracious and fair-minded,
kindest to his people and keenest to win fame.