31 March 2012

Anya's Ghost

I wanted to like this more than I did.  Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol is about a girl, a high school Russian immigrant who doesn't feel she fits in.  While skipping school, she falls down a well and discovers it is haunted by the ghost of a young woman, Emily, who died about 80 years before.  When Anya gets out, a teensy bone ends up in her backpack so the ghost can follow her.  Anya's freaked at first but as the ghost helps her cheat on tests and helps her become more popular, Anya invites Emily into her life.  

Emily begins to show a dark side when Anya won't go along with all her plans.  And when Anya finds out about Emily's true past, things get messy.

I don't know why but it did not work for me.  Something just didn't click.  maybe because i did not really identify with Anya and her family?  Her little brother was cute though.  A 4 but it is really highly praised so don't let my meh-ness turn you off the book!

29 March 2012

I should make it a priority to read more LeGuin

I've pretty much loved everything I've read by her so far. Cheek by Jowl is a series of essays and talks by Urusla K. LeGuin about fantasy.  I believe they were all written, and given as talks, in the last decade.  My favorite, I think, was "The Critics, the Monsters and the Fantasists.  It begins:
     There was a while when people kept telling me, you must read this wonderful book about a school for wizards, it's so original, there's never been anything like it!
     The first time this happened, I confess I though they were telling em to read my own A Wizard of Earthsea, which involves a school for wizards, and has been in print since 1969.  No such luck!  I had to hear all about Harry, and it was hard, at first.  I felt ignoble envy.  But I soon felt a growing and less ignoble astonishment.  Reviewers and critics were talking about Rowling's book as if it were a unique, unprecedented phenomenon. 
Leguin goes on to praise Harry but to also show that it is a pretty typical book in the tradition of the school story in fantasy.  She's appalled that people who read for a living, who should know better, being completely in the dark about fantasy literature. She criticizes the critics and university English departments that have marginalized a swath of literature that people love, that people relate to from childhood through adulthood, and that they dismiss it out of hand.  Wonderful.

Also quite good is the longest essay "Cheek by Jowl: Animals in Children's Literature" and "Why Kids Want Fantasy, or, Be Careful What You Eat" the end of which sounds a bit like Neil Gaiman's "Instructions".  A 6 from me; it's all good.


And the bibliography!  If women still did such a thing, I would swoon over it!  The fiction! the non-fiction!  I could spend a year just reading the books on it. 


so now i've added A Wizard of Earthsea to my library hold list too. B was Shocked, Shocked! to know I had not read it.

28 March 2012

King Peggy

I can't remember what made me decide to throw this on my library list.  For whatever reason, King Peggy: An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, and the Inspiring Story of How She Changed an African Village by Peggielene Bartels and Eleanor Herman ended up on my library hold shelf one day when I went in to grab a wedding book.  It is a true story of a secretary in the Ghanian embassy in Washington DC who becomes king of a village in Ghana.  Her uncle has just passed away and the elders have chosen her to be king.


It isn't a kingship like we imagine from the Disney films.  Her palace is falling apart, her council is stealing the town's money, and she has to pay to bury the old king in style and present herself to the other kings in Ghana to be accepted.  There are hints from the beginning that something is "up" with her being chosen as king and that the elders think they can hoodwink her.  Peggy's not having it though and begins to rearrange things to work for her people, not just a few of them.  With her own money she begins to restore the palace.  She gets a write-up in the Washington paper which brings the needs of her village to the attention of a Baptist church in the area.  They help to bring more fresh water, schooling and medicine to the village.


I tore through this book.  It is definitely one that you keep turning the pages to find out what happens next.  I can recommend this one, very feel good. Very inspiring.  Here's her site with links to donate to the town.  All legit!

26 March 2012

Rereading

So after listening to Good Omens, I decided it was high time for a reread, or a first listen, of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  I expect I'll go through the whole series again for the first time in many years.  I first read this book out of my dad's collection when i was probably 12 or so.  I don't believe i've read it since the movie came out. 


I listened to the Stephen Fry version.  He reads well and I like his Ford and his Marvin.  The movie is actually pretty close to the book.  I understood so many more than the jokes than I did as a middle schooler which is pretty funny in itself because at the time i figured i did get the jokes.  Sure Marvin the depressed robot is completely understandable to a 7th grader but a lot of the other interplay between the characters is a bit, not sophisticated exactly, but you miss it if you read too quickly.  Very worth the reread.


I got this from the library and for the rest of the series the narrator is Martin Freeman!  I'm going to guess that his Arthur Dent is fabulous!

25 March 2012

Father Brown

I finished a book of short stories this morning.  The Annotated Innocence of Father Brown, by G.K. Chesterton and edited by Martin Gardner, has a dozen short stories about Father Brown, a Catholic priest who solves crimes in Edwardian England. I've been trying to broaden my English mystery knowledge and enjoyed branching out into different authors.  The mysteries were clever (The Invisible Man is particularly good) and the criminals were interesting.  I liked it but the fact that the detective was Catholic priest put me off a bit.

FYI, if you go on amazon and search "annotated innocence of father brown", the second link that pops up is The General Principles of Astrology by Aleister Crowley. huh????

24 March 2012

Literary Blog Hop for March


So the question is:
 How do you find time to read, what's your reading style and where do you think reading literature should rank in society's priorities? 


How do you find time to read:  hmm.  well, first off i live with another reader.  B probably reads more than i do.  Admittedly, he has 3 days off work each week and works IN A LIBRARY but he does play more video games than i do.  I think he gets by on less sleep.  


anyway, I say the above because it certainly makes it easier when i say i feel like reading instead of watching something on netflix he's totally ok with that.  He's ok with me reading while he's playing Mass Effect or watching soccer.  I don't ever feel like i'm doing something wrong, relationship-wise anyway, when i'm reading and i hope he feels the same!


Another thing: audio books.  Looking back over what i've read this year 5 of my 15 finished books were audio.  I figure i won't hold to 1/3 for the whole year but when you're commuting 30 mins each way 5 days a week, that ends up being a whole big bunch of reading time! 


What's your reading style:  kinda unsure of the question?  if you mean what type of books i read, fiction, non-fiction, ya, sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, classics, modern stuff.  If you mean where, sitting on the couch or lying in bed are frequent positions.


and Where do you think reading literature should rank in society's priorities?  high?  it is really good for you, see here or here or here.  While i enjoy movies and long form tv shows i wouldn't say i am more relaxed after where most reading does relax me.  Reading grows empathy and we as a world need more of it. 


answer in comments if you wish!

 


17 March 2012

Reading pleasure

I just finished The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs and really enjoyed it.  I've read Nicholas Carr's article "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" for library school so had a bit of background already for this book.  Jacobs admits that the web has changed things and made him more antsy but goes on to say that the reading experience on the Kindle is so great that it brought him back to reading long works.  He says if you need to start by having someone take your iphone away while you read, do it!


Jacobs is against "checklist reading" like the 1001 Books list and those types of things.  He's against teaching reading as something "good for you" like exercise or eating your veggies.  You should read on Whim and be perfectly fine with reading whatever you like.  He does suggest things, like reading poetry because it will start training your brain and is short, that will make you a better reader.  


It is a quick little book and one i highly recommend. 

16 March 2012

Fables: Super Team!

I must say I was rather disappointed by Super Team.  It was not at all what i expected and, while i think i can appreciate what they did, i'm not happy with it really. I expected more of a group attack on Mister Dark and that isn't exactly how things turned out.  I loved the chapter with Bufkin, the flying monkey who is stuck in the Business Office in Fabletown.  His adventures continue!  


I'm ready for volume 17, out in July!

14 March 2012

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith was a strange listen.  I haven't read the original recently but did rewatch the Kiera Knightly version a few weeks ago when I read Death Comes to Pemberly.  

This one was funny and better than i had expected.  The "zombie mayhem" was mostly fun and certainly made Elizabeth's walk to Netherfield to nurse a sick Jane much more a daring escapade.  I listened to this one in the car and had plenty of laughs and moments that i skipped back to relisten to.

There were several things that didn't work though.  Elizabeth and her sisters received training in China; how did the poor Bennett's afford to send all of them there?  I didn't like the change in Charlotte and Mr. Collins' situation, it just seemed half like an attempt to be funny and half sad. I didn't like how the author changed what exactly happened to Lydia and Wickham.  It came across as being somewhat misogynistic, like the two weren't properly punished in the original for their transgression and he had to up the discomfort.  I can't see Wickham submitting to it either.   

overall, if you think you're interested, go ahead and read it.  If you don't like the original or hold it up as too perfect to touch, don't read this one!  :)

11 March 2012

soooo.....

What's going on with you?  Having a good year so far?  Learning anything interesting?  Reading any good books?  I fell off the TBR Dare recently.  It isn't entirely my fault as i suddenly found myself in need of a class of books that i never really thought i would use and therefore didn't own.  

i'm gonna get married.

B proposed a few weeks ago.  Our sleep and work schedules are very different so we do a lot of talking in bed as i'm going to sleep for the night.  We'd been talking about getting a house and maybe baby making for a bit now and he just asked.  I said yes.  We told our respective parents yesterday.  He kinda wanted to just get the parents together and go to the courthouse and, while i do like the idea, i want my best friend and my brothers and his sister and all their kids around too. I want our families to mingle and to dress our nieces as flower girls though that's about all the tradition i want. 


FYI, many wedding books are very, very old-fashioned.  Besides mostly being pink, they all have titles with "elegant", "stunning", "beautiful" and "chic" in the titles and i am none of those (B might argue the beautiful point).  Flipping through some i've seen advice like "talk with your parents about the budget" and "your job is too look your best".  Websites aren't much better with "your fairy-tale princess wedding" and "your magical day".  ugh.  Hey, i'm a grown-up.  I've been living out of my parents home for like 15 years now and I haven't asked for money in quite some time.  I do understand that, if one or both sets of parents are Community Figures then Certain Things may be Expected and many of the guests will be their friends, not yours.  In that situation, i do understand saying parents need to foot some of the bill.  But how many people are really in that type of situation?  


Best resource so far, for me?  The Offbeat Bride: Creative Alternatives for Independent Brides was really a find for me; there is a book and a website. That was the first book i looked at that made me think there were grownups out there that get married, not just women somehow stuck at age 8. 


I am trying to get something put together for this summer, maybe outside, for about 30 people.  Anybody have any cheap ideas for places in/around Nashville?  Parthenon is looking nice and cheap but i am a touch worried about it being too hot for the whole thing to be outside. 


think i can include some portion of this piece of music in the wedding? 
 
Pic by Andrew Malone.

06 March 2012

Good Omens

Good Omens was the first thing i ever read by Neil Gaiman.  I was in maybe 9th grade? I remember it was hilarious and I loved it.  After Good Omens, I moved onto Sandman and much later his other novels.  I always wanted to go back and reread Good Omens but i never did; i guess i was always a little concerned it wouldn't be quite as good as i remembered.  

It is as good, if not better. 

It's about the end of the world.  Crowley (a demon) and Aziraphale (an angel) team up to try to stop the apocalypse.  They focus their attentions on the wrong little boy as the Satanist nuns gave the Antichrist to the wrong couple to raise.  The right one, Adam, is raised by very normal parents in the English countryside.  We get the four motorcyclists of the Apocalypse, a good witch and an amateur witch finder, and Dog, the adorable hellhound with one ear that always sticks up.  Is God's plan ineffable or f***-upable? 

You should read it and, if you can, should try listening to it.  I listen to books at work sometimes and, as i listened to this one, found myself snorting and chuckling and trying not to laugh too loud.  It is clever, British humor clever, Douglas Adams and Doctor Who clever. 


a great big 7.

02 March 2012

Crazy Russians!

"All true Russians are philosophers" Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

guess that explains me!  I didn't like the book though.  Perhaps it is because I listened to it and it really seemed as if it would never ever end.  The book was 28 cds long; there was a whole cd that was just a story, an allegory i guess, told by one of the characters.  There's another cd that is the life story of a character that's dead.  There are some children introduced late in the novel that I still don't know why there were even there.  


I fully admit that, had i been reading this book for a class, i may have understood a lot more.  I would say that the book is about 3 brothers and how they relate to their father and each other.  When the father, Fyodor (who i thought was named Theodore as i was listening to the story) is murdered, the eldest brother is immediately suspected and the rest of the book is about the trial.  The murder doesn't take place until about halfway through the book though, so there is a lot of buildup.  Through that section of the story we are following Mischa, the brother who is accused of killing his father, and he didn't do it.


Unless the narrator is lying to us, which crossed my mind.  Once the murder took place, i began suspecting everyone: the crazy woman who's betrothed to Mischa, all 3 brothers, the servant and the narrator!  I suspected pretty much every named character who wasn't 100% sure to be out of town or dead at one point.  it was actually rather frustrating.


And the book came across as very anti-atheist.  While i can comprehend it is a product of its times, i got annoyed with all the "you can't be good without God" talk.  Because, of course, no one who believes in God has ever done anything really wrong.  I may be completely wrong; it could be that the author was ridiculing the position i thought it lauded.  In my listening though it didn't seem that way.


The women are all crazy too.  


I am glad I read this book and may one day read it on paper.  I think part of what I felt i was missing may have been due to me listening to the book.  The writing is incredibly beautiful and i did tear up just from the emotions and pathos of the story.  There are some really good bits but overall it just didn't work for me.  a 4. 

01 March 2012

Neverwhere

Somehow, I've never read Neverwhere.  I suppose it isn't too weird as I've really just started reading Neil Gaiman's novels in the last few years.  I loaded it onto my audio player for the Christmas trip but we didn't listen to it at that time.  So i listened to Gaiman read the novel by myself.

Richard Mayhew is a Scottish guy living in London.  He's got a nice job and an awful fiance (though he doesn't quite realize it).  As they are walking to a dinner with the fiance's boss, they find a young girl lying bleeding on the sidewalk.  Richard, being a good guy, stops to help.  The girl's name is Door and she begs him not to take her to a hospital.  Because he takes her to his apartment, his fiance dumps him (told ya she was awful).

Door isn't a homeless girl though.  She's royalty but only in London Below, a semi-underground, invisible world of magic.  It is invisible in that most of the people in London Above can't see those living Below.  Door has the ability to, well, open things, like doors to different places.  Her whole family has been killed and the killers, Misters Croup and Vandemar, are after her too.  By helping her, Richard shifts to living in London Below as well.  They team up with the Marquis de Carabas, a rogue, and Hunter, a beautifully deadly bodyguard, to find out why Door's in danger and to get Richard back to London Above.

Gaiman is a wonderful reader.  I really can't recommend listening to him enough.  There's one scene where there's a little girl named Melanie.  I must have rewound and listened that bit 5 times, just to hear Gaiman say my name!  Honestly, you should really listen to him narrate one of his novels or books of short stories.


The book reminded me a lot of Kraken.  That's not exactly fair as i know Neverwhere came out in 1996 and Kraken in 2010.  But you're affected by when you read things.  I'm not sure who's scarier, Croup and Vandemar or Goss and Subby but I'm sure they'd get on fabulously together, Croup and Goss talking each other's ears off while Vandemar and Subby played with knives or something.  There were other similarities: the side-by-side Londons, mysticism, magic, double-crosses.  Very good though, if you've liked one then you'll like the other.  a 6 from me!