Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May - This Month in Reading

I know I probably say this every month, but time is seriously flying by. I can't believe it's already June - it really seems like just yesterday when I was creating this blog and signing up for a bunch of challenges, etc., and now it's already 90 degrees F (32+ C) outside. I am not a fan of summer at all, but at least we are now closer to my favorite season, fall (autumn)!

For May, I wanted to finish up all library books and read at least one book for every challenge, as well as read multiple Harry Potter books and other books for the Hogwarts Challenge. I also wanted to get and stay caught up in War and Peace. I did manage to finish all the library books I had checked out and read 2 Harry Potter books, and I did read some books for other challenges, but didn't get one for each challenge in as I'd hoped, and I did fall behind in War and Peace. I managed to read 15 books in May, not too bad all things considered.

For June, I am putting all my reading eggs into the Hogwarts Challenge basket. I need to read the last 4 Harry Potter books, and I want to participate in the current mini-challenge after missing the others - I need to get some points for Hufflepuff! So all books I read in June will be for the Hogwarts Challenge (except War and Peace chapters to stay caught up), and there will be no library books either - it's all going to be books from the to-be-read shelves, etc. I know this will make the first official month of summer go by quickly - and I have a special reading theme planned for July, which I'm really excited about, so while I try to keep cool this summer I will be having fun reading! Hooray!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle - Betty MacDonald

Originally published in 1947, this book about Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's nearly magical ability to cure children's bad behavior seems quaintly common-sensical now. I read these books when I was a kid and there are some very funny things in them, and a special bonus: illustrations by Hilary Knight, who also illustrated the Eloise books and is one of my favorite children's book illustrators. A fun window into the past.

The Life of Elizabeth I - Alison Weir

Another interesting book about the Tudor monarchy in England. I just wish there were more images to go with it, such as images of the actual documents that are quoted/referenced in the book as original sources written by the Queen herself, etc. It's amazing to me that we still have documents that old and that some of them are viewable in museums, libraries, etc. Elizabeth is a lot like her father, Henry VIII, but seems to have had more of a level head when it came to matters of the heart than her father.

In a side note, this is the last library book I have and I am going to take a break from the library again in June, so as to read books I already have on hand, mainly those that pertain to the Hogwarts Challenge. Hufflepuff is currently in last place but I know we can still emerge victorious!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling

On this latest read of this book, I really wondered about Crookshanks. That character really kept me guessing throughout the series and in fact I am still wondering about him. I'll have to look up some info to get some answers. I also wish we could have heard more about Moony, Padfoot, Wormtail, and Prongs - not to mention the Weasley twins. I'd love a spin-off series about these characters, there is so much to explore there. The dementors have to be one of the scariest inventions of any author - although haven't we all felt one close by at some point? And I really want to try butterbeer!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Book Blogger Hop

Another great question!

Book Blogger Hop

This week's question is:

"What book-to-movie adaption have you most liked? Which have you disliked?"
My answer: Off the top of my head, I have to say that Blade Runner (the director's cut) is probably my favorite book-to-movie adaptation. The movie took the basic elements of the book and made them more... well, cinematic, I guess, although I read the book so long ago I am not sure I recall it properly and now I feel like maybe I should read it again. I love the movie though, I love the way it looks and Rutger Hauer is both menacing and heartbreaking as Roy Batty. I really feel for the replicants and his character in particular.

A close runner up would be the awesome film version of Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess made in 1995. It's a beautiful film and a great story. Now I want to reread this book too!

Other good ones are the original 1970s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the book is amazing and has a much darker sense of humor, but this film version is fun - who can resist the Oompa Loompa songs?), Breakfast at Tiffany's (I know, it strays from the novella quite a bit, but it's still a classic film, and Audrey Hepburn is irresistible), The Remains of the Day, and Girl with a Pearl Earring (despite all the "significant eye looks" etc. that are a hallmark of so-called independent films).

As far as movies based on books that I have disliked, I have to say that the movie of Memoirs of a Geisha was a huge disappointment. I love the book, and I was afraid the movie couldn't live up to my feelings for the book and sadly I was right. Oh well, maybe some day someone will remake it, or better yet make a mini-series out of it. In Japanese. I can dream! :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Mystery of the 99 Steps - Carolyn Keene

This book is a Nancy Drew Mystery Story, #43 to be exact. I read all of the Nancy Drew books that were available when I was a kid, and they were some of my favorites - quick reads, and I love seeing a mystery get solved.

When I found this book at the Library Sale, I had to have it, as I have a small collection of the editions of these Nancy Drew books that I loved as a kid. What can I say about them - the crazy coincidences, the police that have nothing better to do than help Nancy with her "sleuthing," the silly episodes of "danger" that occur - I can't help but love these books! They are emblematic of the simpler time that we all like to think once existed, not too long ago, that probably never really did.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Road - Cormac McCarthy

When I started this book I found the writing style annoying - it struck me as the author letting technique get in the way of storytelling. But then I grew used to it and it didn't bother me, and I got absorbed in the story. I haven't seen the movie but I had heard good things about the book for a while and I see why it got so much praise. I'm actually not sure if I'd watch the movie but I'm glad I read the book.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Secrets - Frederick Ramsay

The second Ike Schwartz mystery. This one is a straight-up murder mystery as opposed to the first one, which was a thriller. I like these books, they are decent mysteries and quick reads. I look forward to reading the other ones in the series, although I may have to go back and reread the fifth book that I read out of order - oh well! Any excuse to read, I guess!

Octavian Nothing, Vol. II - M.T. Anderson

This book, the full title of which is The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves, was both epic and personal. Like True History of the Kelly Gang, it's a book that is so well done I prefer to think that it is really a first-person account of the events depicted therein rather than a work of fiction. There is so much in this book that is hard to read about, but whether I like it or not these things happened and it is important to allow these things to inform our present and to inspire all of us to be better people. I am so happy I discovered M.T. Anderson this year, what an amazing author.

Book Blogger Hop

I like participating in this, it's fun!

Book Blogger Hop

And this week's question is great:

"If you were given the chance to spend one day in a fictional world (from a book), which book would it be from and what would that place be?"

My answer: I would have to say I'd love to experience the world of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series. It's hard to explain, but in this world, a parallel universe to our own, some people can "enter" books and interact with the characters, etc. In addition, literature in general is esteemed very highly, a nice change from our own, where people are sometimes willfully anti-reading. 

The books in this series are full of allusions to literature and inventive wordplay and are a really fun, creative read. They are some of my favorite books and I can't recommend them highly enough. Jasper Fforde got me to read Jane Eyre for Pete's sake! I will probably do a reread of the series this year at some point, maybe after I've read some of the other classic books he references. If you haven't read these books, please give the first in the series, The Eyre Affair, a try and let me know what you thought, even if you didn't like it. 

As a runner up, of course a day in the magical world of Harry Potter would be fun too!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

True History of the Kelly Gang - Peter Carey

This was an absorbing book that felt very real. I felt as if I were truly reading a first person account of these events. It was difficult to read in that the writing style was nontraditional and it took me longer to read than I would have liked partially for that reason. All in all this was fascinating and I would recommend it.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J.K. Rowling

I have library books due but I can't resist the siren song of a Harry Potter book and I need Hogwarts Challenge Points. Dobby has to be one of the most frustrating and yet likable characters. I also want to know what ultimately happened to the flying car!

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Power and the Glory - Graham Greene

I created a post about this book when I finished it yesterday, and now it's gone from my blog - ? How annoying. Fortunately it wasn't terribly long or involved. Sufficient to say I very much enjoyed the book. It was very vivid and I thought Greene captured the arguments for and against religion very well, and I hope to read this book again after some time has passed as I think there's much more to discover. Oh, and I confessed that I can't hear the phrase "the power and the glory" without thinking of the Ultravox song "Hymn," the video of which you can see/hear on YouTube - I won't link the video again in case that's what made my original post disappear. :(

Friday, May 6, 2011

Home Fires - Candace Schuler

The things I do for the ROYCZ Challenge!

One of the categories I chose for this challenge was romance novels. I am not a romantic or sentimental person and so I don't read this type of book, or chick lit, as these books are usually romantic and sentimental and all about falling in love and getting married and having babies and just YUCK. It's just not my thing.

This book was no exception. There is not much I can say about it except that it wasn't the worst book I have ever read. A couple random thoughts: This book was originally published in 1987 and the references to leg warmers and typewriters made me nostalgic. For some reason I kept seeing the title as "Home Fries" and that made me laugh. I also had somewhat (but not entirely) mean-spirirted thoughts about a sequel showing what life is like for the protagonists a few years down the road, when the glow of new romance is off and reality has set in and etc. Maybe I'll write it up, ha ha. I don't think Harlequin Books would accept it for publication.  Hmm, maybe I should start a publishing company devoted to parodies of romance novels... that could be fun. I'll have to think about that!

One of the best things about this book was that I got it for free on a book exchange shelf my office keeps for people to help themselves, so I didn't have to pay anything for it and it therefore qualifies for the Buck Stops Here Challenge too - hooray! I will be bringing this book back to those shelves for someone else to enjoy. And now, back to my regularly scheduled reading!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Artscape - Frederick Ramsay

This is the first Ike Schwartz mystery and I felt compelled to read it after having read the fifth one out of order, something I loathe doing. I enjoyed the book overall, and I like the main character a lot so I will most likely read the whole series, although this series might have to wait, as I have some library books I need to finish up before the due date and I am not going to the library in June. I want to read the others though so I might have to read some books quickly so I can squeeze them in!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Attack of the Theater People - Marc Acito

This is the sequel to How I Paid for College and it was even more entertaining than the previous book. There is a scene that takes place in a restaurant that involves disguises that I am still laughing about. I was sorry to finish the book because I wanted to keep reading about the narrator and his friends and what they get up to. I hope there is another book in this series!

Oh, and to keep from feeling like a hypocrite, there are farfetched things that happen in this book as well as College but for some reason they work within the book a little better than the events in Tales of the City for me. I think it's because Tales seems mostly very true to life and so the farfetched events stand out more, whereas in these books it seems more organic to the book's overall feel. Also, apparently people in the 80s did drugs too, not just Baby Boomers. There, I feel better :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

More Tales of the City - Armistead Maupin

I told you I would read more in the series! After I read the first book, I made a list-style review, so I will repeat that for the sake of continuity.

Things I liked about this book:
1. The writing is still well done.
2. I still mostly enjoy the characters, and the character that annoyed me quite a bit in the last book didn't bug me so much this time.
3. It's still fun to read about places in San Francisco that are familiar to me.

Things I sort of didn't like about this book:
1. Baby Boomers evidently did a lot of drugs back in the late 1970s. That explains a lot about them.
2. Some of the events that take place toward the end of the book are far fetched and crazy again, but for some reason it didn't bug me as much this time.
3. No mention of Tab this time - BOO! :(

I will happily pick up the sequels and read them although I will probably do so later in the summer as I have a pile of library books to get through in May and I'm doing another library ban in June. 

As a side, semi-related note, although I am of course counting this for the GLBT Reading Challenge, I don't want to rely on just a few writers who wrote multiple books to fulfill my 15 books, I intend to read a variety of writers so that I can discover more writers that I like. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Six Wives of Henry VIII - Alison Weir

Another interesting non-fiction book about Henry VIII of England and his wives. Henry seems like an intelligent person in most regards, but falls short in matters of the heart. His wives seem to have run the gamut from wealthy and learned women to silly schoolgirl types, although many of them had a lot of ambition all on their own.