Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 - The Year in Reading

What a year it was for NOT reading! Yikes. I read 49 books this year, which I guess isn't a terrible number or anything, but at the same time I was hoping for at least 100. Plus, I had at least 1 month with 0 books read - not a good thing. Here are some lessons learned from 2013: 

1. I need to read from the TBR Pile. I know that's really obvious, but I had a few too many instances this year of looking at the pile and deciding that none of the books appealed to me at that moment, therefore I wouldn't read anything, etc. I need to be more disciplined. 

How will I implement this? I physically made piles of the pre-chosen challenge books, and I am going to start with the biggest books first, and go in size order (largest first). Period. No "I'm not in the mood for this book" nonsense - the next book on the pile gets read, pronto. 

2. I need to make time to read. Another obvious thing, but for some reason I let the lure of the TV and the Internet get to me this year, and it cut into my reading time. I also wasted a lot of opportunities to read during lunch breaks from work, etc. 

How will I implement this? I am going to restructure my day a bit so that I will have ample opportunity to use my lunch breaks for reading, and/or make sure that I read a little every day - even 1 15-minute reading coffee break per day is better than no reading for months and then cramming a bunch into the last weeks of the year. 

3. I need to be strategic with challenges. I did OK with this in 2013, since I pared down to 3 challenges total: the TBR Pile Challenge, The Color-Coded Reading Challenge, and my own ongoing Around the World Challenge, but I love challenges so I need to be careful about not overcommitting myself without  checking the TBR Pile first. I really need to reduce this pile and fast. 

How will I implement this? I rejoined the TBR Pile Challenge for 2014 (that will be another 12 books read and removed from the pile), and joined the Back to the Classics Challenge when I realized that I had books for each category on the TBR Pile as well (so another 10 off the pile). I also committed to 1 - 3 books in the Books on France Challenge (I have at least 2 that I can use from the previously mentioned challenge lists, so I will definitely complete this one). I did "cheat" and join up for 2 challenges that will require me to hit the library, but I have a Blackadder-style "cunning plan" for that: I am going to work on the other challenges first, through May 2014, and then use library access as something fun to look forward to this summer, since I hate summer and dread its arrival. So I think I can make this work. 

So there you have it - a plan for 2014. To be honest, in a perfect world I'd like to finish both of the list-based challenges by June 1, then spend the 2nd half of the year reading for the other challenges as well as doing necessary pre-reading for other TBR Pile books (some of the books on my pile are parts of a series, but I am a nut that has to read a series in order, so I can't read those pile books until I read the preceding books, which I'll have to get from the library or a bookstore, etc.). But at this point I'll settle for not letting my reading get so far behind. 

As always, I wish all my blog readers a very happy, healthy, prosperous new year full of books! 

December - This Month in Reading

Well, December was a banner month for my reading in 2013, but not necessarily for the right reasons. Mainly, I woke up out of my stupor, realized just how far behind I was on my challenge reading, and decided to rally and finish the challenges at all costs. So for the last couple weeks of December, I woke up earlier than normal to read, blew off the evening TV and Internet surfing to read (not a bad thing at all, really) and just generally devoted more time to reading. I managed 13 books in all, although a couple of those were kids-type books and consequently easy, fast reads, etc.

For January, I am going to aim high. I would like to finish at least 1 book for the challenges I have chosen books for (the TBR Pile Challenge and the Back to the Classics Challenge) and 1 for each of the other challenges I have signed up for, which would be a total of 5 books, most (if not all) of which are on my TBR Pile right now anyway. Obviously that is more than possible, if I order my day properly, so I am going to work on these new habits for 2014.

Anyone else do a crazy amount of last-minute challenge reading?

Books on France 2014 Reading Challenge

What can I say, I am a reading challenge junkie! I justify joining this challenge because I know that at least one of the books I am already planning to read will count, so I am going to sign up for the lowest level, un peu, which is 1 - 3 books, so I know I'll succeed.

I'll update this post with the books I have read and links to the reviews, etc., as I read in 2014.

Merci à Emma du blog Words and Peace pour accueillir ce défi!

If you haven't joined already, please do, and leave me a comment with any book ideas!

1. The Man in the Iron Mask - Alexandre Dumas (French author; set in France; originally published in French)
2. Bel Ami - Guy de Maupassant (French author; set in France; originally published in French)
3. The Mice of Bistrot des Sept Freres - Marie Letourneau (French author; set in France; includes French language)
4. La Canne de Jonc - Alfred de Vigny (French author; book in French; set in France)
5. 35 kilos d'espoir - Anna Gavalda (French author; book in French; set in France)
6. The North China Lover - Marguerite Duras (French author; book set in French colony of Indochine)


To wrap up, I have to say, this was a good challenge for me. I was nervous to read actual books in French but that worked out fine - I read pretty fast in English, so reading in French is much slower going, but I now have more confidence to read more. And reading about France is always rewarding, even if it's in English :) So Merci mille fois à Emma! I look forward to doing Emma's 2015 challenge - go check it out!

Color-Coded Reading Challenge 2014

I literally just finished this challenge for 2013 about an hour ago, and I must say, I do NOT recommend that! It was due to my overall lack of reading this year - I read a few books for the challenge, but then I needed to hit the library for the majority of the books, and I just didn't manage, etc. etc. But the good news is I was able to skate by this year, so all's well that ends well and all that, I guess. In fact, the lack of books on hand for this challenge and my overall lack of reading this year made me really think about whether I should join up for 2014 or not; but ultimately, I decided that I really like this challenge, and it has led me to discovering some really amazing books I might not otherwise have found out about, so what the heck. I have a couple books I can use, and I had already decided to hit the library for the Harlem Renaissance Challenge, so what the hey. I'll figure it all out.

So here are the categories, and I'll be updating the list with the titles and links for the books I have read as I read them, and etc.

*Read nine books in the following categories.

1. A book with "Blue" or any shade of Blue (Turquoise, Aquamarine, Navy, etc) in the title. - Blue Asylum - Kathy Hepinstall

2. A book with "Red" or any shade of Red (Scarlet, Crimson, Burgandy, etc) in the title. - Cities of the Red Night - William S. Burroughs

3. A book with "Yellow" or any shade of Yellow (Gold, Lemon, Maize, etc.) in the title. - We Are the Goldens - Dana Reinhardt

4. A book with "Green" or any shade of Green (Emerald, Lime, Jade, etc) in the title. - Lights Over Emerald Creek - Shelley Davidow

5. A book with "Brown" or any shade of Brown (Tan, Chocolate, Beige, etc) in the title. - The Chocolate War - Robert Cormier

6. A book with "Black" or any shade of Black (Jet, Ebony, Charcoal, etc) in the title. - The Blackhouse - Peter May

7. A book with "White" or any shade of White (Ivory, Eggshell, Cream, etc) in the title. - The Reflections of Queen Snow White - David Meredith

8. A book with any other color in the title (Purple, Orange, Silver, Pink, Magneta, etc.). - Blood Orange Soda - James Michael Larranaga

9. A book with a word that implies color (Rainbow, Polka-dot, Plaid, Paisley, Stripe, etc.). - The Rainbow, D.H. Lawrence

I'd like to thank Bev at My Reader's Block for hosting this challenge again - go sign up and then leave me a comment with any book recommendations! :)  

Brown Girl, Brownstones - Paule Marshall

Wow, what a fantastic end to my 2013 reading! I wasn't previously familiar with this author, but I stumbled on this book in the library since I needed a book with "brown" in the title to finish up the Color-Coded Reading Challenge and I am so glad I did. When the book ended, I wanted to keep reading about the characters in this book, particularly the main character, but also her sister. There is a scene in the middle of the book involving 4 characters and some purchases in which the author so skillfully shows us each character's reactions and inner motivations and conflicts about what is happening that this scene will live in my mind for a long time. I would definitely read more by this author. Highly recommended.

TBR Pile Challenge 2014

This will mark the 4th year I have done The TBR Pile Challenge, and I am really looking forward to doing it again. This challenge has helped me move 36 books off the TBR Pile, and it's also helped me avoid the "I'm not in the mood for this book so I'll let it sit on my pile for another couple years or so" attitude I can be prone to.

Here is my list for 2014:

1. 1Q84 - Haruki Murakami (2011) - read Apr. 2014
2. The Lacuna - Barbara Kingsolver (2009) - read May 2014
3. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen (1813) - read Feb. 2014
4. Our Man in Havana - Graham Greene (1958) - read Mar. 2014
5. World and Town - Gish Jen (2010) - read Apr. 2014
6. Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut (1963) - read Apr. 2014
7. The Meaning of Night - Michael Cox (2006) - read Oct. 2014
8. Ilustrado - Miguel Syjuco (2008) - read Apr. 2014
9. Late for Tea at the Deer Palace - Tamara Chalabi (2011) - read Mar. 2014
10. Hubert's Freaks - Gregory Gibson (2008) - read May 2014
11. Palace of Desire - Naguib Mahfouz (1957/1991) - read Oct. 2014
12. Sacred Games - Vikram Chandra (2006) - read Dec. 2014

1. The Kingdom of Ohio - Matthew Flaming - read May 2014
2. Cold Sassy Tree - Olive Ann Burns - read Oct. 2014

Thanks again to Roof Beam Reader for hosting this challenge again! What's on your TBR Pile Challenge list for 2014?

Monday, December 30, 2013

Black and Ugly - T. Styles

Another book I found specifically for the Color-Coded Reading Challenge. It's sort of a chick lit book aimed at the African-American reading market. I know I've mentioned ad nauseum on this blog that I am not the target market for chick lit type books, but I enjoyed this book for what it was. I will say the Epilogue was sort of jarring, but it made sense within the context of the book.

Rainbow Soup - Brian P. Cleary/Neil Layton

Dear reader, this post should be subtitled "How NOT To Finish Up A Reading Challenge." In a previous post I mentioned that I was in a mad dash to finish the Color-Coded Reading Challenge, so I had to hit the library for 3 books to finish the last 3 categories. The library branch closest to my house is smallish, so after a thorough perusal of the online catalog and the shelves and even the books for sale, it came down to a choice between this book, which is a small book of and about poetry that is aimed at kids, or Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. As much as I would have loved to tackle that novel, the sheer size of it meant that there was no way I could read that, plus 2 other books, in less than 48 hours (I have plans for New Year's Eve, so I can't spend that evening reading, etc. etc.). Thus it was that I came home with this book in hand.

This wasn't a bad book, just much shorter and scantier that I would have liked in terms of a book challenge-worthy book, if you know what I mean. On the plus side, it had a lot of interesting poetry terminology that I wasn't even aware of, and many examples of different kinds of poems. I liked how the author encouraged the reader to try writing their own poetry; I'm sure if I had read this book as a kid I would have loved doing so. On the down side, one of the poems uses the word "midget," and a couple others have a religious aspect, and I found both of these things jarring in a book published in 2004 and not, say, 1964 or even 1984. So that struck me as odd.

The moral of this story, dear reader, is: plan your time better throughout the year, so that you aren't scrambling on December 30 and you can use a big, heavy classic for your reading challenge if that's what you'd rather do! :)

The Bobbsey Twins on the Deep Blue Sea - Laura Lee Hope

I managed to escape childhood without reading a single Bobbsey Twins (BT) book, even though there was a series reissue when I was a kid and eagerly devouring Nancy Drew mysteries. In the previous post, I explain how a smallish eBay binge led me to having a few BT books in the house, but I still didn't bother to read any of them until I needed a book to help me finish up the Color-Coded Reading Challenge.

Dear me, what can I say about this book. My copy has two copyright dates, 1918 and 1946, listed, so I assume my copy is from approximately 1946. And if you guessed that I pointed this out so I could talk about the rather dated things in the book, you would be correct - in particular, I was completely thrown by the horrible racial stereotyping of the "colored" help (who luckily for us both get a vacation in this book, so it's mostly confined to the beginning of the book, thank goodness). I realize that this type of thing seemed completely normal in 1918, and not too abnormal in the mid-40s, but it's still really jarring to a modern reader. I guess I usually say that it's important to keep these things in mind so that as a society we can learn from them, etc., but it still wears on me to read this type of thing, especially in a children's book. Maybe I'll let these books go to the used book store in 2014... it will make room on my shelves for more fulfilling books.

The Secret of the Silver Dolphin - Carolyn Keene

I have 2 days left in 2013, so I am going to try my best to finish the Color-Coded Reading Challenge, even though I am going to have to hit the library later this morning when it opens to pull this off. This is a book I have had on hand but hadn't read - the result of an eBay spree several years ago, when I randomly decided to lay in a supply of vintage Nancy Drew, Dana Girls, Hardy Boys, and Bobbsey Twins books (a glass of wine may have been involved - ahem). Luckily I didn't go too crazy, but I did amass a small collection of books that I then neglected to read, which is a good thing because I was therefore able to use 2 of them for this challenge.

Not much I can say about this Dana Girls Mystery Story - it's a product of a different time, when gender roles were more fixed, most white families seem to have some kind of non-white "help" that also provides "comic relief," animals were there only to serve people or be captured from the wild and trapped to be pets, etc. etc. In fact, reading this book (and the next book I will blog shortly) has honestly made me question the presence of these books in my house. The story is simple enough, in the "Carolyn Keene" model, and this book does what it was supposed to do, which is to provide a simplistic mystery story that's not too scary for the small-town and suburban white children of the time in which it was originally written (for this particular book, 1972). Not a terrible book, but "Shakespeare it ain't."

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

Eh la la, as one of the characters in this book might say, what an amazing book. It boggles my mind that this book wasn't published in the author's (tragically short) lifetime - but in reality it was probably too ahead of its time. This book made me laugh audibly quite a bit, which is highly unusual for me. The main character sort of predicts the (semi-) current anti-heroes that make you cringe, like the David Brent character from The Office, but neither can you tear your eyes away from them, because you just have to see what they could possibly get up to next. Another book I can't believe I put off reading for as long as I did. Highly recommended.

I need to note that the title comes from this fantastic quote from Jonathan Swift: "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." This is a deliciously ironic beginning to this book, and it's sadly true as well.

Harlem Renaissance Reading Challenge

2014 Harlem Renaissance Reading Challenge

I can't resist this challenge, hosted by Dusky Literati! I scoured the TBR Pile and unfortunately didn't see any books that would qualify, so I'm sort of breaking my own ban against reading books I don't already have around, but this is such a great opportunity to explore writers that I already like (e.g., Langston Hughes) and discover new-to-me authors as well. I am going to sign up for the lowest possible level for this year, and commit to a single book, only because of the other 2 challenges I have already signed up for, etc. I might have to put this one off for a couple months too, to ensure I chip away a bit at Mount TBR before  I go nuts at the library (or, bank account forbid, the book store!). The challenge is flexible if you read more, which I do hope to do, so that will work for me. You can sign up any time between now and next November, so go sign up and leave me a comment when you do. Should be a fun challenge, I'm looking forward to it!

1. Mule Bone - Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes
2. My Soul's High Song - Countee Cullen
3. Not Without Laughter - Langston Hughes

Friday, December 27, 2013

My Endless War ... And My Shattered Dreams - Sonia Kaplan

This is a personal narrative of a Holocaust survivor. The author devotes the first chapters to daily life and customs in her Polish city before the war, which I found very effective, not only to learn what daily life was like, but because it reinforced what was lost in the Holocaust. I came across this book on a visit to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. (a truly wonderful museum everyone should visit in their lifetime) because the author was there signing copies. Sadly it got lost in the shuffle and I hadn't read it until now. Of course now I wish I could have somehow read this book before I had the opportunity to meet the author, who is the only survivor from her family. This book is of course sad but as I have said before in other posts, it's so important that we remember the past so that the horrible things that happen are not repeated.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The History of Danish Dreams - Peter Høeg

This is another mystery book; I have no idea how it wound up on the TBR pile. I assume I got it at a library book sale, and I do know that I would have picked it up based on really liking Smilla's Sense of Snow way back when that was a bestseller (yes, kids, I am older than even I think I am - ugh!). Maybe it's the effects of trying to cram a lot of reading in these last 10 days or so or something, but this book just didn't send me. I found it hard to get into for some reason. I liked the narrative tone and some of the characters, and the magical realism that popped up here and there, but overall I am just glad to have finally finished this book.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoevsky

A friend of mine who loves Tolstoy told me she couldn't stand Dostoevsky. Now as I've mentioned in past reviews, I am not a huge fan of Tolstoy - I don't dislike him, per se, but having read two of his books, I'm fine to leave it at that and not read him again, if that makes sense. This friend also loves Jane Austen, another author I enjoy to a point but don't love (sorry Austen fans, I'm just keeping it real! :) ) I started to suspect that I might actually prefer Dostoevsky for some reason...

...and I was right! I enjoyed this book MUCH more than Anna Karenina and War and Peace. It seemed more focused than those Tolstoy books to me. It did feature some amazingly long (multi-page) paragraphs, and frankly Raskolnikov was rather moody and prickly and had quick changes of temper that seemed familiar from Tolstoy, but for some reason it didn't annoy me as much; maybe it was because it made more sense in the context of the book. Yes, both authors pontificate, and I can understand that that was simply a feature of literature of this era, but again, it seemed a bit less heavy-handed and more germane to the story in this book.

If I can ever get a handle on Mount TBR, I'll have to tackle some other classic Dostoevsky and see how that goes - maybe for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2015? :)

You many remember that in my original TBR Pile Challenge post, I said I was going to read this as a chapter-a-day read in 2013, starting on Jan. 1. I did in fact start doing that, but was unable to keep up with it. Of course, now I wish I had kept up with it, for many reasons; it would have been easier to finish that way, of course, and I would have had more time to digest it than during my 2.5 day binge while I desperately attempt to finish off the 2013 TBR Pile Challenge in the last days of December 2013.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Snow Falling on Cedars - David Guterson

This book packed a lot into its 460 pages - a murder mystery, a courtroom drama, a love story (or two), racism, the interment of Japanese citizens during World War II - but it all worked together well. For its length, this was a surprisingly fast read. Some of the subject matter was sad but it's an unfortunate part of U.S. history, so it's important to learn from it so we can try not to make the same mistakes again. All in all this was a very enjoyable read.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Crack in the Edge of the World - Simon Winchester

The subtitle of this book explains the subject matter: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906. I found this book for $1.00 at the local dollar store, and since (as I've mentioned quite a bit on this blog) I love reading about and learning about the turn of the 20th Century, I eagerly snatched it up - and then left it on the shelf until I prioritized it for this year's TBR Pile Challenge. This book is really a comprehensive history of the quake which pretty much destroyed San Francisco in 1906, and the author skillfully covers the geology and plate tectonics and etc. that is the background of the quake. While reading this book I thought it would make a great movie - in fact I'm surprised it hasn't been made into one (or maybe it has and I'm just unaware of it - I should look into that!). One cool feature of this book is the dust jacket - when you remove it from the book it unfolds so you can see some photos of the aftermath of the quake and the fires that raged for days. That was a really innovative thing that I wish more books incorporated, as it's really cool.

I lived in San Francisco briefly so it was gratifying to read about places I remember, and to hear about how the quake shaped the city (or didn't), etc. I didn't experience an earthquake while I lived there; my first quake occurred in 2011 on the east coast and it was crazy! Luckily it didn't cause a lot of damage or injury (particularly compared to the 1906 quake); I can't even imagine how horrible that California quake must have been. This author has written many other books, so I'll look for them if I ever get a handle on the TBR pile.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Inferno - Dante

I know Dante has a last name, but most people seem to call him by his first name only, so I will too. Another classic book I can't believe I haven't read until now. I have to mention the translator, John Ciardi, since I think he did a wonderful job. Dante very vividly describes his vision of Hell, and of the punishments therein for those who apparently deserve them. I sometimes like to think that this type of afterlife punishment does happen, as of course it makes one feel better to think that horrible people who seem to get away with, and even prosper by, their horrible words and deeds, will get some kind of punishment at some time. The more rational part of me knows it isn't so, but it's still strangely satisfying to think of Dante scribbling his poetry and picturing his enemies bitterly regretting their earthly misdeeds at length.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Exit Into History - Eva Hoffman

As I mentioned in the original TBR Pile Challenge post, I have no idea how I came to own this book. I suspect it was a used book that I bought because the subject matter, described in the subtitle: A Journey Through the New Eastern Europe, was intriguing. I wasn't wrong - this book painted an up-close portrait of the changes in Poland, (then) Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria in the early 90s, when these countries were emerging from communist rule. This book was originally published 20 years ago, so as I was reading it I couldn't help but wish for an updated sequel. I'd love to find out about the people described in the book, and how the cities and towns the author visited look today, compared to this time of upheaval and change.

Back to the Classics Challenge 2014

So remember the last post, where I bemoaned my lack of reading generally and in November specifically? After writing something like that, a logical, sensible person would probably think about how little they had read in 2013 and decide not to do reading challenges in 2014. Well, thank goodness I'm not particularly logical or sensible, because I stumbled on a book blog post today and immediately decided to sign up for the Back to the Classics Challenge, hosted by Karen K. at the Books and Chocolate blog.

Now I should make it clear that I decided to sign up for this challenge based on my enormous to be read pile - I was able to easily find books for each category in this pile, so I will not have to visit the library or otherwise obtain new books in order to complete this challenge. In addition, reading classic books is always a good thing, as I've mentioned on this blog repeatedly. So I figure this is a win-win scenario all around.

Here are the categories and the books I've chosen:

Required Categories:
A 20th Century Classic - The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
A 19th Century Classic - Bel Ami, Guy de Maupassant
A Classic by a Woman Author - Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
A Classic in Translation - The Tin Drum, Günter Grass
A Wartime Classic - Catch-22, Joseph Heller
A Classic by an Author Who Is New to You - Lady Chatterly's Lover, D.H. Lawrence

Optional Categories:
An American Classic - The Prince and the Pauper, Mark Twain
A Classic Mystery, Suspense, or Thriller - The Man Who Was Thursday, G.K. Chesterton
A Historical Fiction Classic - The Man in the Iron Mask, Alexandre Dumas
A Classic That's Been Adapted Into a Movie or TV Series - Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
Extra Fun Category: Write a Review of the Movie or TV Series adapted from Optional Category #4 - Rebecca, the 1940 Alfred Hitchcock film starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine (the film review has spoilers)

Head over to the challenge sign up post (linked above) for more info, including the rules, etc., and sign up!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

November - This Month in Reading

This post should really be titled "This Month in NOT Reading." I was out of town for part of the month, work was insane again, leaving me little time to read for most of the month, and time got away from me. I think this is the first month, since I started this blog, with NO books read over the course of a month. Shameful! Plus, I am now really behind in my 2 challenges. I still have to read 8 books (out of 12) to complete the TBR Pile Challenge, which will be a crunch, and I am not sure I will be able to complete the Color-Coded Reading Challenge, which makes me sad. I need to make some changes somehow, I think.

Who else is going to try to cram a bunch of reading into December 2013??

Thursday, October 31, 2013

October - This Month in Reading

Last month my goal was to read one TBR Challenge book - instead, I somehow read one book that wasn't for this challenge at all. Work was busy this month and I was out of town for some of it, which didn't help. For November, I'll state the same goal - one book for the TBR Pile Challenge. Wish me luck! Happy Halloween!!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Strange Case of the Composer and his Judge - Patricia Duncker

Another Borders last days sale book that I finally got around to reading. This book had a murky plot but was well written, and included a reasonable amount of words in French and German, which made me happy. I liked the titular Judge; I'd like to read more about this character.

Monday, September 30, 2013

September - This Month in Reading

Yikes, another month has zoomed out of my reach exactly like the sand through the hourglass cliche. I read 5 books this month, but unfortunately none of the books was for any challenges - oh well! Not sure what was going there.

So for October, I think I will simply try to read one book for the TBR Pile Challenge. Any other reading that happens can be a happy addition to getting rid of the TBR pile.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

American Fuji - Sara Backer

This book was enjoyable enough, but at times I didn't understand the motivations for some of the main character's actions. At times it seemed like she could have simply explained things in plain language to clear up an issue and chose not to instead... which is exactly the roundabout way of communicating that Japanese people are accused of having in this book. Not sure what the author was going for there - ?

One thing this book had going for it was the inclusion of a decent amount of Japanese and other language explanations, and even a scene featuring a language class, which as a language junkie I loved. I actually took a year of college-level Japanese MANY years ago, so unfortunately I have forgotten most of it, but I did recognize words here and there and that made me happy.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Yiddish Policemen's Union - Michael Chabon

This book's beautiful cover art has been tempting me for a few years now, but I managed to avoid it until it popped up on the Library Sale shelves for 50 cents and I took the plunge. I have mixed feelings about the author, as I feel he's talented but I've read a couple of his books now and I feel like they don't quite live up to the hype. This was no exception. I really liked the main characters and the noir mood/setting, and the story drew me in, but the resolution just ... wasn't as satisfying as I might have liked. That said, the writing was excellent.

One thing I feel compelled to mention is my shock at reading that some Amazon.com reviewers dogged the book as being full of Yiddish and therefore incomprehensible. Which book were these people reading? I'm a shiksa* with just a passing knowledge of random Yiddish words beyond several variations of oy vey**, but this book is not so full of Yiddish that those with no knowledge of it would have trouble understanding the book as written. In addition, the book includes a glossary so.... not sure what this ridiculous, baseless criticism is really about. As a language person (so therefore I am admittedly biased to enjoy the inclusion of other languages in books) I found this annoying. For the record, I loved the Yiddish, including the slang the author invented.

*a not-Jewish female
** in case you're curious, my favorite is oy vey iz mir

Monday, September 16, 2013

Trixie Belden and the Mysterious Code - Kathryn Kenny

This book requires me to have a review that contains spoilers. I doubt this will be a problem, but just in case you've time-travelled to this blog and are a 12 year old girl from the early 60s eagerly awaiting this next book in the series, 1) sorry in advance if I give away all its secrets and 2) can I please borrow your time machine? 

OK, this book threw me a little. First, the titular code barely appears in the book at all, so the title doesn't match the contents well - but I had a hard time coming up with an alternative - "Trixie Belden and the Possible Antique Thieves" just doesn't sing out from the bookshelf, you know? Reading this book it was hard to shake the idea that it was a parody of books from this era written in modern times, as so many weird or silly things happen:

  • Trixie and Bobby are going home in a snowstorm and masked men rob them of a small wooden lapdesk 
  • Trixie, her brother, and their friend Jim are lost in a blizzard and end up spending the night in a deserted cabin; during this ordeal Jim almost gets lost in the blizzard trying to find wood to start a fire, and a strange old man returns the stolen lap desk to this deserted cabin during the height of the blizzard - but doesn't knock on the door to announce his presence, help them get home, help them collect wood, etc. 
  • The school board threatens to disband the kids' "secret club" that is so secret the entire town knows everything about it, including its name, all the members, etc. 
  • The book mainly centers on the ups and downs of putting on a charity antique show and sale to raise money for UNICEF - so the not-so-secret-club won't get disbanded by the school board - which shouldn't have any jurisdiction over a non-school-related club in the first place... ??? 
  • Mysteries, such as the code and a mysterious jewel box that's found in Honey's attic, are brought forth and then solved only a few pages later, lest we take time away from the antique show preparation 

I'm a fan of antiques and I have no problem supporting UNICEF, but this book was just out of place somehow compared to the other two books of this series I happen to own and have on hand. At the same time, its weirdness made it oddly endearing to me. It makes me wonder if the "Black Jacket Mystery" will end up being about how Trixie and her friends raise some chicks in the back yard after a cursory 2-page mystery about a newcomer to town who wears a black jacket and turns out to be selling chickens; or if the "Mystery of the Emeralds" is really just a half-page mixup about why Ireland is called the Emerald Isle after which Trixie and company spend the rest of the book riding horses through the woods after school. I joke because I love, really :)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Trixie Belden and the Mysterious Visitor - Julie Campbell

When I read these books I do have to ask myself - did people really ever live like this? Did kids really make "secret clubs" complete with matching embroidered jackets and etc.? In a way I kind of hope they did, even if in our modern times it seems hopelessly silly. If someone ever invents a time machine, I'll stop in a town like this and report back to you all here.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Trixie Belden and the Secret of the Mansion - Julie Campbell

Well, so much for reading for my challenges. Maybe because Fall has started, I wanted a sort of "comfort food" level of reading and so I revisited my old childhood "friend" Trixie Belden. The story isn't terribly complicated, the characters are rather simple, and the setting is a kind of small-town, just before World War II American life that probably never really existed. These books are a fast read that sometimes just hits the spot.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

August - This Month in Reading

I managed to read a few more books than I had planned for this month - hooray! I read a total of 7 books, which was more than the goal of reading at least 4. I also made my goal of finishing my library books and of reading books from the TBR pile, one of which counted toward the Color-Coded Reading Challenge, so that's good.

On the down side, I didn't manage to read any of the actual TBR Pile Challenge books in August, but it's OK - my plan for September is to read 4 of these books for sure, and of course more if possible.

Longtime readers know that Fall (autumn) is my favorite time of year, and that Fall starts on September 1 in my mind, so BRING IT ON! I hate summer and I am thrilled to see another one end at midnight tonight. I'm ready for all the wonderful things Fall brings - cool weather; beautiful colorful leaves; sweaters and jackets; acorns, pinecones, and pumpkins; Halloween; pumpkin spice latte; school supplies in all the stores; etc. etc. etc. I couldn't be happier right now!

What is your plan for Fall reading?

G0ing R0gue - Sarah Pal1n

My sister in law sent me this book as a joke several years ago, and it's been gathering dust on the TBR shelves ever since. One reason for that was that I hate, loathe, despise politics, and have never been interested in them (I like literature, language, culture - things that can bring people together, not things that easily divide them on purpose). Having read this ghostwritten book now, I can honestly say that if you are a fan of the author, you will most likely continue to be a fan after reading this, and if you are a detractor, you will not change your mind after reading this. The best thing I can say about reading it is that I am now finished reading it LOL

If you're wondering, I didn't want to write the book's title or author's name in the title of this post because I don't want anyone searching for this book to find this site and infest it with politics. Yes, I am paranoid and it's silly, but I really hate politics that much, and it's WAY outside the scope of this blog to discuss them here.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Lost and Found - Carolyn Parkhurst

Yet another book that I think I saw on the bargain shelves at Borders every time I visited the store. I picked it up numerous times; the premise seemed interesting and I was intrigued by the characters, but I never actually bought the book until the last days sales. Having finally read it, it was enjoyable, and although the point of view switched between first-person narratives of many different characters, I thought the author did a nice job of differentiating them, so they didn't all sound the same. There were some things I was unsure of - one character seems to change and it's unclear why or what caused it; there are some implausible things but no more than in many other novels, I suppose. All in all it was a quick, enjoyable read worth the 60 cents I ended up paying for it.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Goldengrove - Francine Prose

This book takes its title from a poem I loved when I was younger and had put down in a book in which I'd handwrite poems I liked. I had sort of forgotten about the poem to be honest, and then seeing it on the page instantly reminded me of how much I liked it, and now that I'm (much) older, I see more in it than I did when I was younger, etc.

I can't transfer the way I feel about the poem to the way I feel about this book, unfortunately. It wasn't awful or anything, but... One of the many things I crammed into this summer was a writing class. I think I'm an decent judge of what constitutes poor writing in general, but this class has really made me more aware of things like a critique I have of this book - the narrator is supposed to be a 13 year old girl, but sounds like an adult. In addition, the characters all sounded very similar to me, despite differences in age, etc. Having now brushed with attempted writing myself, I know it's difficult to write dialogue and have that dialogue "sound" different for different speakers, etc., but as a beginner I give myself more slack than with experienced, published authors. So I have mixed feelings about this book. Sorry I can't be more definitive on this one!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

I'm Feeling Lucky - Douglas Edwards

The subtitle of this book is The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 and as that subtitle suggests, is an insider's view of working in the marketing department at Google in its early days. I would have loved a little bit more dirt, which is suggested by the word "Confessions," but that's just the voyeur in me. I probably use Google every day, and have for years, so it was interesting to read about how it came to be and how it grew, why it's such a good search engine (I try others now and again and I'm always disappointed, while I'm generally very pleased with Google's pertinent results), how the Doodles developed, the origin of gmail and even Blogger, etc.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Green Hills of Africa - Ernest Hemingway

As an English major, I have read other works by Hemingway, but hadn't read any of his nonfiction. This book was sort of an assignment for a class I took this summer. The writing was clear and I was able to visualize the situations and the setting well, but overall this wasn't something up my street, as they say. It's all about hunting, which I am not a fan of, and hunting circa the 1930s, which was all about blowing away as many animals as possible, which I am not a fan of, not to mention the rather racist and sexist "norms" of that era, which I am not a fan of. Of course, Papa somehow anticipates my reaction by including a paragraph toward the end of the book about how he justifies hunting because the meat gets eaten, the skin and etc. are valuable and kept, and that we all die anyway, etc. etc., and he isn't wrong; I was actually impressed by this paragraph, since it seemed so modern there among all the 1930s attitude and social norms. So that stopped my grumbling to some degree, ha ha. So overall my impression was... well, not overly enthusiastic, I guess. Writing = great, topic = meh. This book did make me want to fill in the gaps on Hemingway's fiction someday, though, if I ever clear the TBR pile.

As a bonus, this book counts for the Color-Coded Reading Challenge - hooray!

I will now resume reading the books that make up my Everest-size TBR pile. I think I will try to focus on some challenge reading for the rest of the month, since I am behind - wish me luck!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Fabulist - Stephen Glass

The other day while Internet surfing I found out about a runner who apparently cheats at marathons, although no one can figure out exactly how, and he hasn't admitted to doing so. This man even went so far as to make up races, creating race websites and phony results for imaginary runners. What kind of a person does that? I can see wanting to win a marathon, but to go to the lengths a person would have to go to cheat at a marathon, or to make one up, seems like more work than just running the marathon and not worrying about placing in your age group or whatever.

The cheating runner made me think about Stephen Glass. I have to confess that for some reason I love the movie Shattered Glass, which is based on the true story of Glass, a former journalist who was caught making up quotes, people, and even events in his stories, some of which were completely made up. I thought maybe reading this book, a supposed work of fiction but really a sort of retelling of Glass getting caught and fired and then his life for a couple months after that, would give some insight into why someone would cheat/lie. That was not the case. In fact, I have to say that if his writing for The New Republic was as poor as the writing on display in this book, I seriously question the people who didn't immediately sense that it was fiction - and poorly done fiction at that.

One might think that someone who lies compulsively could come up with a great work of fiction, but this was not even "good." The dialogue sounds phony, most of the events make little sense - I think sometimes this is meant to be funny, but it's just stupid. For such a skilled liar, Glass can't keep track of details at all. Does the apartment building have a doorman or not? How could you see Syl's bikini when she's wearing a hoodie that goes past her waist and then a couple lines later she removes the jeans she now has on? The story goes so far off the rails in the last 30 or so pages that it's breathtaking. What's baffling to me is that the events in the book will begin in a way that seems very realistic, and then you can see Glass adding nonsense and silliness as he continues to describe what is happening, so that as a reader my mind kept catching on this fluff and thinking - what? And of course, there was no real explanation or motivation offered. This book was not worth reading, I'm afraid.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Ella Minnow Pea - Mark Dunn

What a fun yet thought-provoking book! It reminded me of James Thurber's The Wonderful O, but with a darker subtext. This book was deceptively deep and I will be thinking about its message, and what exactly I think that message is/was, for a while now. Recommended.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July - This Month in Reading

Well, I managed to make my goal of reading at least two books in July - I even exceeded it, reading three. MUCH better than reading fewer than two, or reading none. So I'm OK with these results.

For August, I would like to read at least four books - I have some library books I have to read for a class I'm taking, so I'll be satisfied if I can finish these books quickly. I'd be over the moon if I can then go back and read at least one book from my TBR pile, but I don't want to get too carried away with goals, ha ha!

How was your reading this month?

Practical Demonkeeping - Christopher Moore

Christopher Moore is an author I've been meaning to read for a while now, but longtime readers will know that I'm a weirdo about having to read an author's books in the order in which s/he's written them, if the books are a series, and I heard that his books have a lot of the same characters, etc., so I figured that was close to a series, so I should read them in order. (Ugh, that's a terrible run-on sentence, sorry!) I haven't been using the library but I had to read a couple books for a class I'm taking so I had to break my own library ban, so I figured, why not get started with his books while I'm at it. I'll be honest, the first couple chapters weren't grabbing me, and I was tempted to give up. I can't stand abandoning books  if I can't help it, so I stuck with it, and in the end I enjoyed the book. It was a fast read with some funny moments that I found enjoyable. I have to get on with reading some other things or I'd get the next one; that will have to wait for a bit as I chip away at my assignments and also my neverending TBR pile, but  I look forward to reading more by Moore.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Book Blogger Hop - July 26

It feels good to get back into the Book Blogger Hop!

If you're new to my book blog, welcome! My reviews are deliberately spare so as to avoid spoilers. Please leave me a comment so I can be sure to visit your book blog and follow you!

This week's Book Blogger Hop question is a good one:

How do you organize your books to be read?

My response:

Not very well! Right now my TBR pile is on a bookshelf in my home office, and the books are horizontal (for space reasons) and in piles by size. I would like them to be alphabetical and/or organized by genre (fiction separated by non-fiction, for example) and author, but at this point, at least they are in relatively neat piles!

How are your TBR books organized?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

Yet another book that was all over the bookblogosphere (is that even a word?) a while back that I hadn't had a chance to read until now. The description sounded amazing so I really wanted to read it, and I went to the library anyway for some other books, so I figured, why not check it out now.

I really wanted to fall in love with this book, but just couldn't. I loved the idea of the circus, and the reveurs (a wonderful idea), but clunky writing kept interfering with my immersion in its world. Apparently no publishing house employs proofreaders or actual editors anymore - sad. And here's something: in real life I swear like a sailor at home, but go out of my way not to do so on this blog or in situations (work, classes, being in public places) where it isn't appropriate. This book has a single instance of the "F b0mb" that is completely unnecessary, since swearing isn't a general character attribute of the person who says it, for example. In addition, it's anachronistic, and pulls the reader out of the book. It's jarring and it annoyed me, since its only purpose seemed to be to make sure people know the book isn't YA. So if I, as someone who has no problem at all with encountering swear words of all kinds in books of all kinds, object to an author's single use of one, something is very wrong.

Speaking of YA, I think this would have been a MUCH better book if the author had focused on 2 younger characters - it could have been billed as a YA book that adults could also enjoy, and it might have worked a lot better than the plot as it stands now.

Overall I can't really recommend this book, as much as I would like to.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Apparently the last book I read, How to Buy a Love of Reading, was supposed to contain a lot of allusions to this American classic. As an English major, I have read this book multiple times, but ::cough cough:: that was sort of a long time ago ::cough cough::. Between reading the previously mentioned book, hearing about this movie that is coming out with ridiculously anachronistic music (BOO! I LOVE music from that era, and am not a fan of Baz Luhrmann, so I won't be seeing this film), and me realizing I barely remembered The Great Gatsby at all, I figured now was the time for a reread. I enjoyed this book more than I'm sure I did when I read it ages ago, since as an adult I can understand the adult characters better, etc. I'm glad I reread it and just sorry it has taken me this long. Highly recommended.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

June - This Month in Reading

UGH. Seriously, that's all I can say for June's reading, since there was exactly one book of it. Needless to say, I met no goals in June. So for July, I'll say that I'd like to read at least TWO books and see how that goes. At least I'm closer to fall (autumn) now that June is over!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

How to Buy a Love of Reading - Tanya Egan Gibson

Another book I found during the Borders Last Days sales and just got around to reading. And also another book that wants me to feel sorry for the poor, poor privileged children of wealth. As much as anyone else who did not have a happy childhood, I completely understand that having lots of money doesn't automatically equal having lots of happiness, but the wealthy characters in this book were so unlikeable to me that I couldn't drop my own bias about this and root for them like I would have liked. No, not even the main character, whom I did feel sorry for, but just couldn't like.  The ending reminded me of the ridiculously overwrought works of fiction commonly written by high-school aged children, and the denouement was extremely unlikely. Maybe I'm just cranky because it's summer, but I just couldn't love this book.

Friday, May 31, 2013

May - This Month in Reading

Wow, May turned out to be a banner month for reading. I think I actually read more books this month than I have in January through April combined! My TBR books are in neat-ish piles on a bookshelf in my office, so this month I decided that instead of browsing from the entire collection I'd attempt to clear a single pile, regardless of the actual books in that pile. In other words, no "I'm not in the mood for this type of book," whichever book was at the top of the pile was the next book to be read. That actually worked very well, and it was amazing how often I'd end up enjoying that next book on the pile. I didn't clear the pile just yet, but I did read a whopping 10 books and reduce it considerably, so I'm happy with that.

I read 10 books this month, but summer is going to be very busy for me, so I honestly can't be sure how much reading I will be able to do (although of course I will do my best to get some done). So for a goal for June, I think I'll try to read at least three books - that seems manageable. A bonus would be if I could read books for my challenges, but clearing the pile is more important for that psychological feeling of accomplishment.

How is your summer reading shaping up?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa - Benjamin Constable

I couldn't resist the intriguing premise of this book when I saw a recent NetGalley email, so I broke my own vow to only read books on my enormous to-be-read pile and requested it. I'm glad I did, I enjoyed it. I love puzzles so that aspect of the book really appealed to me. All in all, however, I really think this book is almost more of a character study than anything else, if that makes sense. I am left with lingering questions about the narrator and the nature of the narration, making me question the reality of some of the events of the book. So as to avoid spoilers, I can't elaborate, but when you read it you'll understand what I mean. It was almost like a journey through a writer's mind that also happens to be part of a mysterious story. I'd recommend this book.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Finder - Colin Harrison

Another lucky Borders last days find. I enjoyed this book, particularly how the author wove together stories that seemed too disparate to ever be joined. I did take issue with a few too many exclamation marks here and there, but as someone who has a bad habit of overusing exclamation marks I can let it slide, since I was otherwise riveted by the story. I'd definitely check out the author's other books.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Your Perfect Right - Robert Alberti and Michael Emmons

Not sure how this book ended up on my bookshelves - I think it belonged to Mr. K and at some point, I thought I might like to read it - so I did! Maybe this edition was just too outdated for me, but the examples felt hokey, so if you're looking for a book to be A Guide to Assertive Living I would recommend finding the most updated version of this book.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle - David Wroblewski

Another book that I feel like I read about a lot on book blogs a few years ago, so I eagerly bought it when it appeared on the Library Sale shelves. I enjoyed it, it was hard for me to put down at times, and yet there were other times when I wasn't sure where the story was going, where it seemed to meander a bit. I enjoyed the characterizations, and there was one character I absolutely hated, loathed, and despised. I have to say I had no idea it was an 0prah book, or I would have probably skipped it (I try to avoid "bestsellers" and overly popular books, as I've mentioned before, since they are often tiresome to me), but I nevertheless found the writing to be excellent and liked most of the characters quite a bit.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Grand Ambition - Lisa Michaels

Found this book on the Library Sale shelves and couldn't resist. It's a novel based on the true story of Bessie and Glen Hyde, who attempted to be the first newlyweds to run the Grand Canyon's rapids. This was a great book, the writing was fluid and I could see very vivid, cinematic images in my mind as I was reading. I had trouble putting the book down. I'll definitely be checking out the author's other writing. Recommended.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Emma - Jane Austen

I'm a big fan of the movie Clueless, so ever since I realized it was based on this book, I've been meaning to read it. I snagged a copy of this book at the Borders last day sales and finally made it happen this month. While I was reading it was fun to try to identify the story elements that made it into the movie, which book character was which movie character, etc. In general, however, reading British literature from this time period just makes me think excessively about how envious I am that there used to be an entire class of people who had nothing better to do all day than take walks, visit the neighbors*, and pursue their own interests, and of course an entire class of people who had no choice but to serve the luckier class. And yes, I'm jealous of the "landed gentry" types; my dream is to be able to read and pursue my own interests all day, even as I realize that this is a gross oversimplification of how things were back then, and people were severely limited in their roles, and etc., but I can daydream :) Also, after reading books from this time period, I long to read something written in a more contemporary voice, so there will definitely be a few more recently published books on the reading horizon.

* Only the ones of the proper sort, of course!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Years of Red Dust - Qiu Xiaolong

Subtitled Stories of Shanghai, rather than simply a random collection of stories, this is a series about a single Shanghai street that takes place from 1949 - 2005. My usual reluctance about short story collections didn't materialize, as the overall focus on single area meant that many of the characters appeared in multiple stories. The overall effect is more like a novel and I found it to be a fascinating look at the changes in China since 1949. Recommended.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Marcus of Umbria - Justine van der Leun

I found this book baffling. Its subtitle is What an Italian Dog Taught an American Girl about Love, but the dog really isn't a major player in the book at all. Some of the events make no sense - the author tells us that the rural Italian family she is tangentially part of (by virtue of being the ostensible girlfriend of one son) is constantly battling bankruptcy, yet a few chapters later she has convinced the boyfriend to part with his life savings to buy her a horse, solely because she has a fantasy of owning a horse. She claims she is a great novelty to the villagers, who are supposedly unused to an American in their midst, but her boyfriend's mother works for a wealthy American, and non-Italians are always mentioned as being part of the village life, so - ? She tells us she has learned a rough, rural dialect of Italian that leads her to sound crude and coarse to non-villagers, but doesn't back this up with any relevant examples. Books like this are usually more light-hearted, but this book had such a negative tone it felt more like a chore to read - it was more about an American "girl"'s year of moping around rural Italy, failing to meet her own unrealistic expectations for life.

Destroy All Monsters - Greg Hrbek

What a wonderful exception to my usual mixed feelings about short story collections. This kind of fluid, beautiful writing seems to be more and more unusual and hard to find these days. My usual complaint, that short stories feel unsatisfying and leave me wanting more, was rendered moot in this collection, as each story felt perfectly self-contained and seemed to tell a complete story despite its shorter format. In fact, my only complaint about this book is that I want more of these stories. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Cold Zero - Christopher Whitcomb

The subtitle to this book is Inside the FBI Hostage Rescue Team and it's written by an FBI Special Agent, who is something of a Renaissance man with a background in writing/literature, so the writing is solid. I love behind-the-scenes type books, and I found this book's description of the training and actual real-life hostage/stand off situations fascinating. Recommended.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April - This Month in Reading

Well, April ended up being a vast improvement over March, even if it's sad that a "vast improvement" included only 4 books! But even with my rudimentary math skills, I know that 4 > 0, so I'm claiming it as a victory.

I didn't set a goal for April at the end of March, but for May I would like to read at least 1 book for each challenge I have going, and also to finish a bunch of books I have somehow started and then set down unfinished. This is just plain silly, and I need to stop doing it, as it's just putting me behind in my reading, since I'm flitting from book to book instead of just finishing one already.

How has your reading been?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Neanderthal - John Darnton

Another book that I would call a "serviceable thriller." It was about what I expected - a classic "bestseller" type book. The real mystery of this book is that I got it from a coworker, "S," who sold a bunch of books for 5 cents each (Mr. K of course said "why didn't S just give them away?" and I couldn't give him a good answer!) before a move. Although I don't claim to know S all that well, he strikes me as a very intelligent person in general and I don't picture him purchasing books like this. Maybe it was a gift or something, or he joined one of those book clubs where you get four books for $1 each but then you have to buy a book at full price, and he got cornered into buying this one. Who knows. I wouldn't want to seem like a jerk for asking S about it, plus this happened more than 5 years ago now so he probably doesn't even remember.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane - Katherine Howe

I saw this book on every visit to Borders for a year or so, and kept picking it up because the premise seemed intriguing, and then deciding I was too cheap to buy it. I was able to pick it up for under $1 during the Borders last day sales, and finally got around to reading it. I liked the book overall, but I wanted to like it a lot more than I did. I liked the flashbacks, particularly because the reader gets to see what daily life in the late 17th century may have been like. All in all, there were some things in the book I felt unsure about... For example, the story is set in 1991, but no particular reason is given for this, so it feels arbitrary - or maybe it was used to remove a "use the Internet to get information in seconds, which will solve your mystery" potential plothole.  Something happens at the end of the book that I feel like I must have misunderstood or something, but it could just be that ... who knows. So while I enjoyed it for what it was, and it certainly wasn't the worst book I have ever read, it wasn't a new favorite or something.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Toughest Indian in the World - Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie is an author I've been meaning to read for a while, but didn't get around to reading until I was finally lucky enough to stumble on this book on my office's book exchange shelves. As I've said so many times it's an annoying cliche at this point, I am not usually a big fan of short stories, but there were some here that I really enjoyed. Alexie has a way of creating characters that can be unappealing on the surface and yet have enough underlying humanity that you want to read more about them. I also liked that he was able to explore different genres and styles in the stories. As with any story collection, I liked some quite a bit more than others, and I'd definitely check out his other writing.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Inexpensive Books for 2013

I thought I already did this, but apparently not, as I can't find a post for it. I'll keep track of inexpensive books I have read this year. For some reason I like doing that and it helps me feel better about book spending.

1. Charley's Web - Joy Fielding (less than $1 book from Borders last days sale)
2. Man and Boy - Tony Parsons (free book from neighbor)
3. The White Hound of the Mountain and Other Irish Folk Tales - Thomas J. Kiernan ($1 Library Sale book)
4. The Consequence of Skating - Steven Gillis ($1 Borders last days sale book)
5. Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides (50 cent Library Sale book)
6. Zoya's Story - Zoya with John Follain and Rita Cristofari (50 cent Library Sale book)
7. The Toughest Indian in the World - Sherman Alexie (free book from office book exchange shelves)
8. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane - Katherine Howe (less than $1 book at Borders last day sales)
9. Neanderthal - John Darnton (5 cent book from coworker)
10. Cold Zero - Christopher Whitcomb (free book from neighbor)
11. Marcus of Umbria - Justine van der Leun ($1 Borders last days sale book)
12. Years of Red Dust - Qiu Xiaolong ($1 Borders last days sale book)
13. Grand Ambition - Lisa Michaels (50 cent Library Sale book)
14. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle - David Wroblewski (50 cent Library Sale book)
15. The Finder - Colin Harrison ($1 Borders last days sale book)

Zoya's Story - Zoya with John Follain and Rita Cristofari

It routinely makes me both sad and furious that there are so many horrible, sick, evil people in the world. Books like this one, which is subtitled An Afghan Woman's Struggle for Freedom, give me hope. I so admire women like Zoya, who literally risk their lives to help others and to fight injustice perpetrated by horrible, sick, evil people. I hope for the best for her, her country, her people, and the people who work alongside her to help others.

Side note - it doesn't escape my notice that those of us who feel secure in our supposedly "enlightened" Western world have work to do as well. We may not face the daily horrors faced by women under the rule of monsters (and I am truly thankful every day for that), but we live in a "civilization" that decrees that gifted, talented writers like J.K. Rowling and D.C. Fontana (to name two off the top of my head) can't publish under their full names because "boys won't buy books by female authors, they'll write the books off as 'girl books.'" Not to mention some of the public figures who make shocking comments that denigrate women - but that is straying way too far from the purpose of this blog. I guess my point is we all need to work for human rights and fight injustice and "backwards thinking" wherever we may live.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

March - This Month in Reading

This was officially the worst month for reading that I have had since I started this blog in 2011. I literally read nothing in March. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Rien. Niets. Not a single word from a book met my eyes. I have no idea why, either.

On the positive side, I started several books in February so I can work on finishing those for April. I also started a book last night and got halfway through, so that's another work in progress that can help lessen the To Be Read books.

One other note: I think I have finally cured myself of my compulsion to hit the Library Sale shelves and  buy random 50 cent paperbacks: bedbugs. Mr. K is obsessed with bedbugs, and apparently they are becoming a big issue these days. I'm terrified to inadvertently bring them into my home, because they are notoriously difficult to get rid of once you get them - it seems like nothing kills them! The other day I read an article about how bedbugs can take up residence in USED BOOKS and I about fell off my chair! As you can imagine, being a true bookworm, this was very, very disturbing, as the vast majority of my reading is done through the library or through inexpensive used books! As heartbreaking as this is, I think I have to stop bringing home used books. I just can't take the risk that I'd bring home bugs from someone else's infestation. On the plus side, maybe now I can concentrate on the books that are actually here and read those. It's really sad though :(

(Side thoughts - I am aware that "new" books could potentially harbor bugs too; and I am also aware that I could have already purchased infested books before reading the article. However, because I have issues with denial [ha ha], I have decided that all the TBR books are officially bug free, as it is too late to worry about them anyway. I'm also aware that library books I borrow could end up infested so I am going to skip borrowing books for now too, since I have so many on hand anyway. I'll maybe reevaluate if I ever run out of books on hand but for now it's a total ban :( This really blows because some of my TBR books are books that come later in a series, and I was planning to read the preceding books through the library rather than shell out the cash for new copies. I'll have to see how things play out on that front once I get there.)

Thursday, February 28, 2013

February - This Month in Reading

February 2013 had to be one of my worst months for reading yet. I only managed two books, and neither was for a challenge. If there is anyone actually reading this, you may have noticed that although this entry is dated February 28, I didn't actually publish it until April. To tell you the truth, my reading went so far off the rails at the end of February that I haven't read a single book (although I started more than one) since Middlesex. I think I'm somewhat back on track now so keep your fingers crossed for me! I can honestly say that I never thought I'd have so many of the same books taking up space on my shelves a year and half after the Borders closing sale spree, since I read relatively quickly when I do read - I just haven't read in the volume I expected this past year. Lately I haven't felt motivated in any aspect of my life, for some reason I can't pin down. I'm hoping that maybe the change of season will shake things up in a good way.

Virtual kicks in the pants welcomed, so if you have any tips for breaking out of a funk, please let me know!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides

This book is one of the books that gets written about endlessly on book blogs. I feel like every blog I have read for the past couple years has had a review of it. So how could I possibly resist when I found a copy on the Library Sale shelves? 50 cents and many months later, I can now add my review to the mix.

I enjoyed this book but I have to say I preferred the parts of the book that focused on Cal. I did appreciate the historical and ancestral context of Cal's life, but still would have preferred less of that and more of hearing about Cal. The story was engrossing and well told and I'd definitely check out the author's other books. I see why this book was so talked about. Recommended.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Consequence of Skating - Steven Gillis

I liked this book, yet another last days of Borders sale book. I didn't love everything the main character did, but that's what made him interesting, and I enjoyed the first-person narration and the mix of characters. Recommended.

Astute blog readers (assuming anyone actually read this blog at all, other than me rereading my posts obsessively :) ) may have noticed that I have not been around for a while - I am going to rectify that!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

January - This Month in Reading

I confess I was hoping to read more than 3 books in January, but life got in the way once again. I did manage to read a book for the Color-Coded Reading Challenge, so that was good. I didn't manage to make my goal in January, but for February I'd like to read at least one book for each challenge as well as at least three others from the TBR pile.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The White Hound of the Mountain and Other Irish Folk Tales - Thomas J. Kiernan

I found this vintage children's book from 1962 on the Library Sale shelves and couldn't resist the cool illustrations and the title, which fits in perfectly with the Color-Coded Reading Challenge. I enjoyed these stories, and it was easy for me to imagine hearing these stories in front of a fire in a thatch-roof cottage hundreds of years ago in Ireland.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Man and Boy - Tony Parsons

Another quick read that was reasonably enjoyable.

Charley's Web - Joy Fielding

In the interest of creating some momentum in reading right away in January, I grabbed some books I thought would be fast reads and went to town on New Year's Day. This was an enjoyable thriller that was indeed a fast read. I liked the Bronte reference and it kept me guessing. It would have been a perfect beach read, but since it's even set in Florida I just imagined I was on the beach as I was reading it.

2013 Reading Challenges

In the interest of clearing the maximum number of books from my enormous TBR pile this year, I decided to concentrate on a couple of challenges instead of having to resort to hitting the library or otherwise taking in even more books (perish the thought!). So here they are:

TBR Pile Challenge. Once again hosted by Adam at Roof Beam Reader, this challenge has been really good for motivating me to actually read some of the books I've accumulated over the years but never opened. I've completed it both times so far (2011 and 2012) and look forward to participating again this year, and most importantly, getting those poor dusty books read!!

Color-Coded Reading Challenge. Bev at My Reader's Block is hosting this another year, with slightly modified requirements I'm looking forward to using to my advantage. I happen to have a couple I can use on my pile, and I think there will be more that now qualify. If not, I will hit the library MUCH later in the year, when I've made more progress on my TBR books.

Planet Earth Challenge. This is the challenge I belatedly came up with last year, in which I try to read a book set in each country on Planet Earth. Rather than set a time limit and therefore add pressure to my reading, this challenge will be ongoing, and will simply involve trying to use the books I have on hand to fulfill as many countries as I can. If I ever clear the TBR pile, I will probably try to locate books set in countries I haven't found books for, but that's a long way in the future :-).

So that's it for formal challenges! Very manageable I think. Which challenges are you doing for 2013?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Cumulative List of Books Read in 2013

I like to keep a running total of the books I've read in a year, so here's 2013's list.

1. Charley's Web - Joy Fielding
2. Man and Boy - Tony Parsons
3. The White Hound of the Mountain and Other Irish Folk Tales - Thomas J. Kiernan
4. The Consequence of Skating - Steven Gillis
5. Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides
6. Zoya's Story - Zoya with John Follain and Rita Cristofari
7. The Toughest Indian in the World - Sherman Alexie
8. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane - Katherine Howe
9. Neanderthal - John Darnton
10. Cold Zero - Christopher Whitcomb
11. Destroy All Monsters - Greg Hrbek
12. Marcus of Umbria - Justine van der Leun
13. Years of Red Dust - Qiu Xiaolong
14. Emma - Jane Austen
15. Grand Ambition - Lisa Michaels
16. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle - David Wroblewski
17. Your Perfect Right - Robert Alberti and Michael Emmons
18. The Finder - Colin Harrison
19. Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa - Benjamin Constable

Edited 1/1/16 - evidently I didn't keep up with this, ha!