Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tuesday Thingers: Least Favorite Books

Tuesday Thingers is hosted by Wendi of Wendi's Book Corner. This week, she has a whole handful of questions about least favorite books:
What is your least-favorite book(s)? Is your least-favorite book listed in your LT library? If it is listed, do you have anything special in the tags or comments section? How have others rated your least-favorite book?
This doesn't have to mean a book that you hated, or one that you didn't finish, although it might be.
This is a tough one. I always find it much harder to answer questions about books I dislike than it is to talk about my favorite books. For one thing, as I've probably said many times, I don't generally finish books that don't grab my interest pretty quickly. But it seems unfair to say that a book is your least favorite book if you haven't read the whole thing, right?

I guess if I had to pick one least favorite book, it would probably be The Scarlet Letter. And I don't like to admit that, because I've really loved everything else I've ever read by Nathaniel Hawthorne. He was a great writer, and his works are rightly considered classics. Even The Scarlet Letter is rightly considered a classic – I recognize that. But I just really didn't like it, and if it hadn't been assigned reading, I never would have finished it. I do remember throwing my Signet edition (or was it Penguin?) across the room several times, in sheer frustration. But I think I was in the tenth grade at the time, so that was probably just a hormonal frenzy taking over. I imagine if I tried re-reading it today, my reaction would be a little less extreme.

Or maybe not.

Yes, my LT library includes The Scarlet Letter; in fact, I have a couple of different editions, one in the Modern Library Complete Novels of Nathaniel Hawthorne, and another in the Library of America edition of Hawthorne's novels. I don't have any special tags or comments attached to either of the editions: just "American literature, fiction."

Looking at the statistics for the book, it seems it's owned by over 10,000 other LT members, and it gets a three-and-a-half star rating! So clearly, a lot of people don't have my reaction to it. However, I also notice that in the discussion group Awful Lit there's a discussion string called "Books to be struck from HS reading lists!" and guess what – The Scarlet Letter is the first book mentioned!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays: Morse and Lewis

My teasers this week are from The Way Through the Woods, one of the Inspector Morse mysteries by Colin Dexter. I'm just getting started on the book, so I'm not sure exactly how this ties in, but I know it's Sergeant Lewis being questioned by the chief inspector, about Morse (from page 59):
'You know Morse better than most.'
'Nobody knows him all that well.'
'You've got a reasonable idea how his mind works though.'
'He's got a strange sort of mind—'
'Not many'd disagree with you.'
'He's good at some things.'
'Such as?'
'He's not bad at catching murderers for a start.'

OK, I know that's more than two lines, but I just had to include the whole exchange. It says a lot about Morse, and about Sergeant Lewis, too. This is the first "Morse" I've read in many years, so I'm looking forward to getting reacquainted with the cranky Inspector and his loyal sidekick Lewis.

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. If you'd like to read more teasers, or participate yourself, head on over to her blog. And these are the rules: Grab your current read; Let the book fall open to a random page. Share with us two (2) "teaser" sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12. You also need to share the title of the book that you're getting your "teaser" from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you've given! Please avoid spoilers!

It's Monday! What are you reading this week?

Almost didn't do a "what are you reading" post this week. I'm afraid last week wasn't a great reading week for me. Didn't get much reading done; didn't finish any books. So my list for this week is still the same as it was last week. I'll be reading (and, I hope, finishing up) Angels & Demons by Dan Brown, and The Private Patient by P.D. James. And I'll be starting The Way Through the Woods, by Colin Dexter. Have to finish that last one quickly because it's due at the library later this week.

Which brings me to something I've realized lately. Not a very surprising revelation, I suppose. But I do seem to read books faster when they've been checked out of the library. As I say, not too surprising – that due-date deadline is a great incentive to sit down and get the book read, even though I know I can renew or check it out again, or in most cases could simply buy my own copy. Maybe I should stop buying so many books and just do a little more library browsing. That might be a more efficient way of reducing my TBR list, and better for my budget, too. So I'm sure that strategy would get my husband's vote!

This weekly-reading roundup is hosted by J. Kaye. If you want to participate or just see what everyone is reading this week, head on over to J. Kaye's Book Blog.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Review: The Age of Innocence

Written by Edith Wharton
The Library of America, 1985; 285 pages
Originally published 1920

If I'm going to see a film made from a book, I generally prefer to read the book first. But that being said, I should also say thank goodness for Martin Scorsese. If I hadn't finally seen Scorsese's magnificent 1993 film of The Age of Innocence, I might never have made up my mind to read the book. And that would have been a definite shame because, as I discovered with pleasure, Edith Wharton's novel is one of the finest books of the 20th Century.

The book, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1921, is set in late 19th Century New York society, and tells the story of Newland Archer, a young lawyer and man-about-town. Archer marries a young society woman, May Welland, but is attracted to her cousin, Countess Ellen Olenska, who has left her wealthy and abusive Polish husband and fled back to her American family. Ellen Olenska is hoping to divorce the Count, and Archer's firm is handling the Countess's legal affairs. The young attorney is assigned to her "case" and their professional dealings soon lead to a more romantic relationship – mild by today's standards of course, but fairly sizzling by the standards of that time and place.

The Age of Innocence is a satirical look at a recently-bygone age, but also a nostalgic one. And the style of writing so perfectly fits the era of the book's setting, I had to keep reminding myself that Wharton was writing in 1920. The book explores the theme of women's changing roles, as well as the importance of family and personal honor and integrity, and the problems facing a society in the midst of changing times. All themes that are still significant for our own era.

I highly recommend this book to all readers, and I really regret it took me so long to get around to reading it myself. I tried reading Wharton's House of Mirth many years ago and just couldn't really get into it. Well, there's no accounting for adolescence – my high school self found Pride and Prejudice mind-numbingly boring, too. But after falling in love with The Age of Innocence, I'm thinking I should really give Wharton's other works another try.

Book Awards II Challenge (Pulitzer Prize)
Books Into Movies Challenge
Read Your Own Books Challenge
TBR Lite Challenge
The Guardian 1000 Novels Challenge
Victorian Challenge
Winter Reading Challenge
20 in 2009 Challenge

The Herding Cats II Reading Challenge or Whatever

Renay, over at Let's Get Literate, is hosting the Herding Cats II Challenge (Attack of the Hairballs). Running from April 1 through December 31, 2009, this one is a reading challenge that's "only a reading challenge if you want it to be."

I had a lot of fun with the first Herding Cats Challenge last year. In these challenges, the participants are asked to come up with a list of favorite books (five this year), to add to one big master list of titles. Then you choose your reading for the challenge from that list. However, this year there's no set number of books to read; in fact, reading isn't really required at all. As Renay says: "Browse the new book list. Stay a while. Read a few (eta: if you want; not even reading is required this time around if you don't have time to commit to a new challenge but still want to share your favorites)." But there's a review link for sharing reviews if you choose to write them.

You can sign up and read all about the challenge on the announcement page. I know it sounds like a strange sort of reading challenge, but since I love to make and read lists, I find it hard to resist. This year, your titles are all supposed to come from books you've read in 2007, 2008, or 2009. So, here's my list of five:

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. This is probably Wharton's masterpiece; winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1921. I read it for the first time earlier this year, and it's quickly become one of my all-time favorites. Now I think everyone should read it!

Booked to Die by John Dunning. First book in Dunning's great Cliff Janeway mystery series. Janeway is a former Denver police detective who leaves the force under rather questionable circumstances, and turns to selling rare books. This is a wonderful series for anyone who loves old books and the book trade. But the Janeway books are definitely not "cozies."

The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas. This novel about a young academic who hunts down a secret text with instructions about entering another dimension has been called "chick lit for nerds." Well, I'm a nerdy chick, and I really enjoyed it.

The Ladies' Man by Elinor Lipman. I guess this one could be called "chick lit for old chicks." The three sisters in Lipman's absolutely wonderful novel are all aging Boomers who should be old enough to know better. But when an old boyfriend shows up out of the blue, they just can't help but get involved all over again. This book has gotten very mixed reviews, but I thought it was hilarious.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Another book about a book. In 1950s Barcelona, the son of a widowed bookstore owner discovers a rare book by an obscure author, and becomes obsessed with tracking down the writer. This is another one I've added to my all-time favorites list, even though it does have quite a lot of violence. It's a subject I love.

These are five of my favorites from the last few years, and I tried to pick books that didn't seem to be on the master list already (at least, not when I looked at it). I also tried to pick a few books that I thought might not appear on a lot of other lists, to add a little variety to things. Haven't decided yet which books I'll read, but the master list has some really interesting choices.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Finds: 27 March 2009

Friday Finds is a weekly event hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Participants are asked to share with other bloggers about the new-to-you books found during the week – books you either want to add to your TBR (to be read) list, or that you just heard about that sounded interesting.

I found most of my Friday Finds for this week while I was scouting books I might want to add to my "possibles" list in the Once Upon a Time III Challenge, so the fantasy genre is heavily represented. I don't believe any of them are very recent books – in fact, Aegypt first appeared sometime in the 1980s – but they're "new finds" for me. The Brookner I picked up a couple of weeks ago in our local library's sale, but since I didn't do a Friday Finds post last week, I'm including it here.

A Closed Eye. Anita Brookner
White Apples. Jonathan Carroll
Aegypt. John Crowley
Endless Things. John Crowley
Bee Season. Myra Goldberg
Song of Kali. Dan Simmons
Endless Things is actually the fourth book in Crowley's four-novel Aegypt series; the first book, Aegypt, is also sometimes called The Solitudes. Here's a description from Wikipedia:
"Aegypt is a sequence of four novels by John Crowley detailing the work and life of Pierce Moffett, who prepares a manuscript for publication even as it prepares him for some as-yet unknown destiny, all set amidst strange and subtle Hermetic manipulations among the Faraway Hills of New York. . . . The four volumes mingle Moffett's real and dream life in America in 1979 and the early 1980s with the narrative of the manuscript he is preparing for publication. The manuscript is a historical fiction that follows the briefly intersecting adventures of Italian heretic Giordano Bruno and of British occultists John Dee and Edward Kelley."
Harold Bloom has praised the books, and my favorite reviewer, Michael Dirda chose the whole series as his favorite book back in 2007. Well, I've never been terribly impressed with Harold Bloom's pronouncements, but if Dirda likes the books, I definitely want to find out more about them.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Best Bad Book

This week's BTT topic:
The opposite of last week's question: "What's the best 'worst' book you've ever read – the one you like despite some negative reviews or features?"
Another hard-to-answer question. I don't think I could really come up with one single "best worst" book. Over the years, I've read an awful lot of books that probably qualify for this category. When I was much younger, two of my favorite authors were John O'Hara and Louis Auchincloss; so I'm used to reading books that got panned by the critics.

More recently, one book that comes to mind is Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code (I suppose that's probably because I'm reading his Angels & Demons at the moment). I didn't read Da Vinci when it first came out, mainly because of all the negative press it got. But when I did finally read it a year or so later, I enjoyed it. Not the greatest book ever written, and Brown's style is nothing to celebrate. It would never make it to my list of favorites, but I thought it was a decent thriller – kept me turning the pages and held my interest right up to the end. Certainly no worse than many other bestsellers I've read; not really sure why it was singled out for so much criticism.

When it comes to the classics, the book that pops right up is Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables. I loved it when I first read it in high school. And then a couple of years ago, I re-read it and still loved it. But it gets mentioned on "Worst Book Ever Written" lists pretty consistently. Same thing goes for Hardy's The Return of the Native and Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. I seem to be on a very short list of readers who actually enjoyed those. Oh, and Eliot's Middlemarch, too. It seems very few people want to admit liking that one. I've got my husband reading it right now and I have to keep cheering him on to the finish line; but I thought it was a pretty good read.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


I've been so busy lately, trying to catch up on my reading for all the various challenges I'm involved in, that I've been neglecting my blogging manners. But I do want to say thanks to a couple of wonderful bloggers who've recently honored my blog with some new awards.

First of all, a big thank you to Jo-Jo of Jo-Jo Loves to Read for passing on the Proximidade Award which is accompanied by this much too flattering explanation:

"This blog invests and believes in the PROXIMITY-nearness in space, time and relationships. These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement! Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. . . ."

Jo-Jo's is one of the blogs I read on a regular basis. She always has interesting posts, writes great reviews, and now and then includes little snippets of her day-to-day life for her readers to enjoy. THANKS so much for the award, Jo-Jo (and please forgive my tardiness)!

And I also need to say thank you to Bella Foxx of Bella is Reading, for awarding me the Sisterhood Award. As she says, the name says it all. I'm really extremely touched and flattered by this one. Bella's is another blog that I follow regularly. I enjoy her reviews, and I really love the look of her blog, too. So I'm sending a great big THANK YOU her way!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tuesday Thingers: Favorite Books

Tuesday Thingers is hosted by Wendi of Wendi's Book Corner. This week, she has a bunch of questions about favorite books:

What is your favorite book (yes - this may be a hard one!!)? Is your favorite book listed in your LT library? If it is listed, do you have anything special in the tags or comments section? Have you looked to see if you can add any information to the Common Knowledge? AND a little off topic, do you find that your 5-starred books are consistent with your favorites, and is your favorite a 5-star rated book in your library? How have others rated your favorite book?

Picking one favorite book is nearly impossible for someone with my eclectic tastes. So I'll give it the "Fahrenheit 451" test. I suppose if I had to save one volume from the flames and commit it to memory, it would be Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-glass (I love Alice in Wonderland, too, but that fantasy of going through the glass into a mirror world has always enthralled me).
Early in my blogging days, I actually wrote a post about my favorite books. If you're feeling adventurous, you can take a look at it here. Yes, it's a little long. But brilliant, of course.

Moving on.

I think most if not all of my favorites are listed in my LT library. If I really love a book, I usually end up buying my own copy even if I've started out with a library book or friend's loaner. I have a bunch of different copies of the Alice books, and some of them do have special tags or comments, generally about illustrations or various editions, formats, etc. No, I haven't really checked out the Common Knowledge section, although I assume that most editions of the Alice books will have quite a lot of info already filled in.

And about book ratings. Well, there aren't that many 5-starred books in my library listing. I'm pretty stingy with those stars; even most of my "favorites" would probably only get four stars. Five-star books would be a very small, select group.

As I was setting up my LT library list, in general I didn't add ratings as I went along. The books with starred ratings are mostly books I've read in the last couple of years – basically, those I've read since I started blogging about books and doing reviews. Whenever I add a review, I always include a rating. I've gone back and added star-ratings to a few books I read earlier, but not many. None of my Lewis Carroll books include star-ratings. My favorite edition of Through the Looking-glass is the one from the 1946 boxed set issued by Random House, with the Tenniel drawings "colorized" by artist Fritz Kredel. That one doesn't seem to be quite so popular with the general LT population: Although it's owned by 1,604 members, it only gets a 4-star rating (4.19). But it's definitely a 5-star book in my rating system.

Teaser Tuesdays: Murder and Mickey Mouse

Still reading The Private Patient by P.D. James this week. I had to dip into the book a couple of times, looking for teasers that would not be spoilers. These come from page 139:
When the young Dalgliesh had first been promoted to the CID, it seemed to him that the air of a murder room always changed when the corpse had been removed, and more subtly than the physical absence of the victim. The air seemed easier to breathe, voices were louder, there was a shared relief, as if an object with some mysterious power to threaten or contaminate had been robbed of its potency.
Now that's a nice thought to start your morning with.

I've also been reading Dan Brown's Angels & Demons this week, so here are a couple of teasers from that one, as well:
Despite the contorted foolishness of Mickey's outstretched arms designating the hour, it was the only watch Langdon had ever worn. Waterproof and glow-in-the-dark, it was perfect for swimming laps or walking unlit college paths at night. [p. 114]
Or, no doubt, for wearing while escaping the clutches of psychotic assassins and hunting for ancient artifacts in exotic locales. Ah, that Robert Langdon. What a guy!

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. If you'd like to read more teasers, or participate yourself, head on over to her blog. And these are the rules: Grab your current read; Let the book fall open to a random page. Share with us two (2) "teaser" sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12. You also need to share the title of the book that you're getting your "teaser" from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you've given! Please avoid spoilers!

Monday, March 23, 2009

It's Monday! What are you reading this week?

This weekly-reading roundup is hosted by J. Kaye. If you want to participate or just see what everyone is reading this week, head on over to her blog.

Last week, I finished A.S. Byatt's Angels & Insects, and started The Private Patient, by P.D. James. Also started Angels & Demons by Dan Brown; I grabbed it to take along to the dentist's office mainly because it was lying on the table by the front door and it fit nicely in my purse. Now I'm hooked. I seem to have a thing for books about angels, don't I? Strange. Anyway, this week I'll be trying to finish up those two.

Next up: The Way Through the Woods, an Inspector Morse mystery by Colin Dexter, and The Hours by Michael Cunningham.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Once Upon A Time III Challenge

The second of two new springtime challenges I'm joining is the eagerly-awaited Once Upon a Time III Challenge, hosted by Carl V. of Stainless Steel Droppings (the first was the Spring Reading Thing 2009). The OUT Challenge has become an annual event, and it was one of my favorite challenges from last year. Once again, Carl is offering several different levels of commitment, or rather several Quests to choose from. Everything is explained on the challenge announcement page.

I'm signing on for the Journey level this year. I'll probably read more than one book, but I'm not sure I'll manage to work in as many as four or five. Also I'm not really good at assigning books to different categories, and with the journey I won't have to worry about that. And I'm much more drawn to fantasy in its broad and various forms than to folklore or traditional fairy tales and mythology. This year I think I'd like to explore some books that use fantasy or mythic themes in new and different ways. Some of the books I'm looking at for this one:

Solstice Wood or Winter Rose, by Patricia A. McKillip
Mortal Love or Waking the Moon, by Elizabeth Hand
The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton
All the Bells on Earth, by James P. Blaylock
The Stress of Her Regard, by Tim Powers
The Book of Lost Things, by John Connolly
Faerie Tale, by Raymond Feist
Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke

There are also a number of Edward Eager's magic fantasies for young people that I'd like to read. And I still have one book to finish in Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising sequence (Silver on the Tree); I read the first four books in the sequence last year, three of the them for last year's Once Upon a Time II Challenge. So I've obviously got a lot of good reading to choose from as I start out on my springtime Journey.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring Reading Thing 2009

Well, when you finish one reading challenge, what is there to do? Sign up for more, right? The Winter Reading Challenge ends today (see my wrap-up post), and Spring begins. What better time to start thinking about new books to read? And I've found a new challenge that should help me get into a springtime reading mood.

The Spring Reading Thing 2009 Challenge, hosted by Katrina over at Callapidder Days, runs from today through June 20, and it's a very easy-to-do challenge: no minimum or maximum number of books, no categories, not many rules. Just make a tentative list of however many books you think you might like to read, and post it on your blog. Then head over to the SRT/2009 announcement page, and sign up. Oh, and you can change your list whenever you want, over the course of the challenge. See – I said it was easy.

Right now, my list for this one is pretty much in flux. I've already got about a dozen or so books earmarked for other challenges, between now and the end of June, but I'd like to add at least one or two new titles for SRT/2009. So these are some of the books I'm looking at:

People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks
Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper, by Harriet Scott Chessman
Solstice Wood, by Patricia A. McKillip
Loop Group, by Larry McMurtry
The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton
The Way Through the Woods, or The Wench Is Dead, by Colin Dexter
The Women, by T.C. Boyle
Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan

I seem to have a sort of Frank Lloyd Wright thing going with those last two titles, don't I? Well, we'll see what develops – I'm sure I'll be adjusting/adding to the list as time goes on. Now I just have to decide if I want to sign on for the Once Upon a Time III Challenge, as well.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: The Worst Best Book

This week's BTT topic:

What’s the worst ‘best’ book you’ve ever read? The one everyone says is so great, but you can’t figure out why.

Well, right away, I'm going to ignore all those books I was assigned in English classes in my youth - the "classics" that all my professors were confident I couldn't possibly live without reading - and all those self-help and love-your-guru books we were all expected to read and live by, back in the '60s and '70s. Some of those were quite, quite awful, though highly recommended.

The more I've thought about this question, the harder it is to come up with an answer, because generally I don't waste a lot of time reading books I don't like. I've been out of school a long time now, and I'm no longer working; so the reading I do these days is purely for my own pleasure. And if a book doesn't totally engage me by the time I've read a chapter or two (sometimes twenty pages or less is enough to judge), I usually put it aside and move on to something else. Also, I'm not one to read a book just because "everyone" is praising it. I almost always try to find out as much as I can about a book before I add it to my "must read" list.

There are authors whose work I don't exactly dislike, although I have a hard time getting through it. Virginia Woolf, for one. I loved Orlando and I thought To the Lighthouse was a fine book. But I've never really been able to enjoy any of her other work. I can appreciate the artistry, but it just doesn't move me the way other writing does. A.S. Byatt is another writer who comes to mind – probably because I just finished struggling through her book, Angels & Insects. She's a fine writer, and I did enjoy parts of the two novellas – at least enough to keep reading. But, overall, I found it pretty tedious – exactly the way I felt about her Possession a few years ago; and I think I must have been the only person on the planet who didn't love that one.

I always used to say The World According to Garp was the worst book I'd ever read, and it was a huge best-seller. I don't say that anymore, though. Mainly because it was a lie – I disliked the book so much I never finished it, so I can't really claim it as a book I've read. Hmmmm. That might be a good question, too. What's the best/worst book you never read, but claimed you did?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Winter Reading Challenge: The Wrap-Up

It seems I've officially completed the Winter Reading Challenge, even though I still have most of the reviews to write. At the start, I said I was aiming for at least five books, since that's what I managed to read in last year's Challenge. As it turns out, I actually read twelve books during the three months the Challenge has been in progress. Here's what I read (I'll add more links to reviews as I get them posted in the next few days):

Drawers & Booths by Ara 13 [See Review]
Cover Her Face by P.D. James [See Review]
The Master by Colm Toibin
Rest In Pieces by Rita Mae Brown
Hotel Du Lac by Anita Brookner [See Review]
Solaris by Stanislaw Lem
Index to Murder: A Miss Zukas Mystery by Jo Dereske
Land of Marvels by Barry Unsworth
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton [See Review]
The Great Victorian Collection by Brian Moore
Blasphemy by Douglas Preston
Angels & Insects: Two Novellas by A.S. Byatt

That's a really eclectic mix, and I can honestly say that I enjoyed all the books, although I struggled a bit with the Byatt and the Unsworth. Still had a good time reading them, though. Many of the titles were works I'd had on my TBR list for years, although a few were new finds. A couple were from series that I'd read in the past, and I discovered one new series (the Miss Zukas Mysteries) that I intend to dip into again in the future. I suppose if I had to pick a favorite, it would be Wharton's The Age of Innocence, but The Master and The Great Victorian Collection would be tied for a close second-place.

So I did quite a bit better than last year. Now if I can just stay on track, I should just about reach my next big goal which is fifty books by year's end. Thanks so much to Robin of My Two Blessings for hosting, and to everyone else who took part and posted all those great reviews.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tuesday Thingers: LT Memes

Tuesday Thingers is hosted by Wendi of Wendi's Book Corner. This week, she has another interesting topic for the group:

Do you visit the memes section often? Have you visited recently? Have you discovered anything that surprises you when you visit the memes for your library?

First of all, Happy Saint Paddy's Day, everyone! I'm not Irish and at the moment I'm not wearing a single bit of green (shame on me!), but my hubby is part Irish (the worst part, he says), so I guess that makes me sort of adopted Irish.

OK, now for the question. And the short answer would be "no." I think the only other time I've looked at the meme section at LibraryThing was when we had another Tuesday Thingers question about it, many, many months ago. So I haven't visited it lately – not until today. And the most interesting thing I found today was that the authors in my library can be divided up by gender (well, of course they can), and that most of my authors are dead! Only 35.7% are alive; 15 are listed as "not a person" and 269 are "unknown."

Right away, I can see at least a few in the "unknown" category who I know are most definitely alive, but I don't really see any way to correct that listing, so I guess they'll just have to remain unknown for now. I wonder if that's anything like being undead? Well, since several of them are English professors and a few are my husband's colleagues, that's an interesting question.

Teaser Tuesdays: Inspector on the Case

Today my teasers come from The Private Patient by P.D. James. Published last year, it's the latest entry in her Adam Dalgliesh mystery series, and this quote comes from page 177:

Dalgliesh said, "It's usually unwise to concentrate too early or too strongly on motive. People kill for a variety of reasons, some unacknowledged even by the killer."

Oh, Inspector – you say the pithiest things! Not sure, but I think Dalgliesh is having a little argument with one of his team members there. Now who would be so foolish as to contradict Adam Dalgliesh when it comes to crime investigation?

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. If you'd like to read more teasers, or participate yourself, head on over to her blog. And these are the rules: Grab your current read; Let the book fall open to a random page. Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12. You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given! Please avoid spoilers!

Monday, March 16, 2009

It's Monday! What are you reading this week?

J. Kaye is my blogging role-model. She's amazing, and just keeps coming up with great ideas. This week she's unveiling a new weekly event, It's Monday! What are you reading this week? Well, officially unveiling anyway – she's actually been doing these posts for a while now. But now she's inviting the rest of us to join her. As she says:
"This is a weekly event to list the books completed last week, the books currently being reading, and the books to be finished this week."
I think I really need something like this to keep me on track. Thanks, J. Kaye.

So, here's where I am, literarily, this week:

Last week, I only finished one book, Douglas Preston's Blasphemy. Hope to make myself sit down and write a short review very soon. Also need to write a bunch of reviews of several other books I've completed in the last few weeks. [Note to self: Get with it!]

Still reading A.S. Byatt's Angels & Insects. I made my way through the first of the two novellas (Morpho Eugenia), and later today I'll be starting the second (The Conjugial Angel). This is not a terribly long book, but it seems to be taking me ages to finish. I had the same problem with Byatt's Possession. Maybe she's just not the writer for me.

Also still reading (theoretically, anyway) The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. In reality, I've sort of shelved this one for a while. It never really grabbed my interest, so I'm letting it marinate a bit. Maybe it'll be more palatable later on.

And coming up for various challenges, these are the books I'll be reading in the next few weeks:
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
The Hours by Michael Cunningham
Ignorance by Milan Kundera
Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion
The Private Patient by P.D. James

At least that's the list for now. I might also throw in a cozy mystery somewhere along the line, too. So I've got lots to keep me busy. Guess I need to get back to my reading.

So, what are you reading this week?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Sunday Salon: Library Shopping Spree

Dontcha just love a library sale? Well, I love all book sales, but since I also love hanging out at the library, library sales are my favorites. Our local branch had its spring sale this weekend, and M and I came away with a dozen new books – well, they were new to us, anyway. Got there bright and early so we'd have our pick of the crop, and I was a little upset to see people already on their way out clutching huge bags and boxes stuffed with books! But once inside, we found there was still plenty to choose from (too much, M would probably say).

Most of the titles I picked up were already on my TBR list, although a couple are books I've read in the past – just never bought my own copy until now. Lots of really good stuff here:

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
A Closed Eye by Anita Brookner
Diana of the Crossways by George Meredith
Frankenstein (Modern Library Edition) by Mary Shelley
A Ghost in the Machine by Caroline Graham
The Hours by Michael Cunningham
Ignorance by Milan Kundera
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
Loving/Living/Party Going by Henry Green
Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper by Harriet Scott Chessman
A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr
Slouching Towards Bethlehem/Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion

So there's plenty of great reading ahead. At the moment, I'm still struggling to finish A.S. Byatt's Angels & Insects. I always have trouble with Byatt – I think I like the idea of her books better than the books themselves. I had the same trouble with Possession when I read it years ago. I'm not a big fan of the tale-within-a-tale formula, and that seems to be her specialty. It's not that I'm not enjoying the book; it's just slow going at times.

But the weather this weekend has been perfect for curling up with a good book – cold, rainy, gray. No good reason to go outside. And now that I've had my book sale adventure, I think I'll go pour myself another cup of coffee and spend the rest of the evening lost in the land of books. That is, if I can tear myself away from this computer for a few hours!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday Finds: 13 March 2009

Friday Finds is a weekly event hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Participants are asked to "share with other bloggers about the new-to-you books found during the week – books you either want to add to your TBR (to be read) list, or that you just heard about that sounded interesting."

These are the titles I've added to my "new finds" list this week. I think they're all likely to join the several hundred other titles on my TBR list. And they all seem to be in the mystery-suspense category.

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson. From 2004. Atkinson is the author of last year's When Will There Be Good News? which is also on my TBR list. Both books center around private detective and former policeman Jackson Brodie. Case Histories is set in Cambridge and involves three "cold cases" from out of the past. As the review/synopsis at Good Reads says, "In digging into the past Jackson seems to have unwittingly threatened his own future. This wonderfully crafted, intricately plotted novel is heartbreaking, uplifting, full of suspense and often very funny." Sounds like my kind of mystery tale.

Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo. Due to be published this June, by St. Martin's Minotaur. I first found out about this one through a Shelf Awareness ad. A mystery with an Amish connection, set in a rural town in Ohio, it also involves a crime from the past coming back to affect lives in the present day.

Bleeding Heart Square
by Andrew Taylor. Published last year in Britain. I'm not sure if this one is out yet in the US. I'm supposed to be getting a copy through the Early Reviewers program at LibraryThing. It's a psychological suspense tale set in pre-WWII London; and also centers around (you guessed it) a crime from out of the past.

And finally, The Codex by Douglas Preston. I just finished reading Preston's Blasphemy from last year, and I think I'm hooked. I've known about him and all the best-sellers, of course, but just never paid much attention until now. This one sounds like an especially right-down-my-alley kind of thriller, involving buried treasure, hidden tombs, and an ancient Mayan codex. Sure to keep me up well past my bedtime.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Movie Potential

This week's BTT topic:
What book do you think should be made into a movie? And do you have any suggestions for the producers?
Or, What book do you think should NEVER be made into a movie?
I almost gave this one a miss this week; it took me quite a while to think of anything to say. I like movies, but it's been a lot of years since I kept very close tabs on the current movie scene. So I suppose some of the books I've read might have had movie versions made that I don't know about.

I don't generally think about movies when I'm reading a book. In fact, if it's a book I like, I'd really rather they didn't make a movie of it. It's always a disappointment. I guess I'd say I think they should NEVER make a movie of any of my favorite books. However, it was Martin Scorsese's film of The Age of Innocence that nudged me into finally reading Edith Wharton's great novel. So I guess film and literature can mix successfully – as long as the director is a genius.

I have read a couple of books within recent memory that I thought would probably make great movies. One was the book I just finished – Douglas Preston's action-adventure-techno-religious-SciFi thriller Blasphemy. Yes, it's really hard to categorize and it would make a terrific action film. I'm sure Tom Hanks or Tom Cruise or Tommy Lee Jones or somebody has already bought the screen rights.

And I believe one of the books I read last year, Brunonia Barry's The Lace Reader would translate to film very nicely. There are some wonderful roles for actresses there, especially "mature" actresses. Frances Sternhagen or Marian Seldes would be perfect for the role of Aunt Eva. And I actually thought of Anjelica Huston as the mother the whole time I was reading the book, although I'm sure the part is probably earmarked for Meryl Streep. Well, they both seem to have a talent for playing strong-but-slightly-nutty mom roles, don't they?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays: Two for Today

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. And these are the rules: Grab your current read; Let the book fall open to a random page. Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12. You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given! Please avoid spoilers!

This week, I'm finishing up Douglas Preston's Blasphemy. Here's a quote from page 159 of the paperback edition:
He had always found it easier to go up against an intelligent adversary. Stupid people were unpredictable.
Well, I'm not sure I agree with that, but I am enjoying the book.

And since I'm starting Penelope Lively's Moon Tiger this week, I'll throw in a quote from that one as well. This snippet comes from page 45:
The trees are singing. They also make whooshing and hissing noises and eyes stare from their trunks, shapes of big cruel eyes at which you must not look or creatures might pounce out and get you – ghosts and witches and old men like the old man who sweeps the street outside Claudia's house in London.
Hmmmm. Not sure what's going on there, but it certainly sounds spooky, doesn't it? Not quite what I was expecting from Penelope Lively.

Tuesday Thingers: Member Giveaways

Tuesday Thingers is hosted by Wendi of Wendi's Book Corner (thanks, Wendi!).

This week, our topic is about LT's Member Giveaways Program:

Were you aware of the Member Giveaways Program? Have you posted any books in the giveaway? If so, what are your thoughts on the program? Have you requested any books, and if so, did you win any?

Yes, I knew about the Member Giveaways Program. Haven't posted any books, but I have requested a few. Haven't won any yet, and I don't really have very high expectations of winning any in the future – with several hundred people requesting some of the titles, and generally fewer than ten copies available, it seems like a really long shot. But you never know.

Other than that, I guess I really don't have any thoughts on the program. Since I'm not a LibraryThing author, if I posted any books, it would just be to unload copies I no longer want on my shelves. And I think I'd be more likely to list those with one of the book swapping sites like BookMooch.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Monday's Movie: The Horror and the Heist

Over at A Novel Menagerie, Sher is hosting Monday's Movie, in which she invites everyone to "write about any movies, television or big screen, that you’ve seen over the past week."

This is my first time participating, and as I only have a couple of movies to mention (we don't go out to movies much anymore, and I'm trying to keep myself focused on reading instead of staring at the TV screen), I'm going to combine them in one post.

Korea, 2003
Written and Directed by Ki-hyeong Park
MPAA Rating: R for violence and language

Synopsis from SundanceChannel.com:
"Korean filmmaker Ki-Hyung Park (Whispering Corridors) serves up an unsettling tale of muted dread about a childless couple's attempts to forge a family. Despite her mother's disapproval, Mi-sook (Hye-jin Shim) and her husband (Jin-geun Kim) adopt Jin-seong (Oh-bin Mun), a quiet, artistic six-year-old boy. Soon Jin-seong evinces an obsessive attraction to a dying acacia tree in the backyard, which he associates with his birth mother. Yet even more unsettling events are in store when Mi-sook unexpectedly becomes pregnant."

My Thoughts:
Strange and definitely "unsettling" film with two adorably spooky kids who looked a little too much like the wraiths in The Grudge for my taste. Pretty good psychological suspense drama with a supernatural touch. One of those films that make the viewer work a little to figure things out. Kept me guessing about what was actually going on, and it delivered surprises right up to the end. Gorgeous cinematography and nice spare settings; even though the film was in color, it almost comes across as black-and-white so that the violent splashes of red in the final scenes are all the more shocking. If you're contemplating adoption, you'll probably want to stay away from this one.

This film kept me watching all the way through, even with its unpleasant subject matter and some pretty graphic violence (including, it should be noted, one rape scene), so in accordance with Sher's rating system, I'd give it two bags of popcorn, out of five.

The Thomas Crown Affair
USA, 1999
Directed by John McTiernan
Screenplay by Leslie Dixon and Kurt Wimmer
MPAA Rating: R for some sexuality and language

My Thoughts:
Part of my ongoing attempt to watch some of the movies I missed during the 1990s. This is a remake of director Norman Jewison's 1968 classic starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway, with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo in the lead roles. The original Thomas Crown was one of the greatest "heist" films of all time, and arguably Steve McQueen's best on-screen work. Playing against type as the urbane, well-educated and fabulously wealthy Crown, McQueen brought the role to life in a performance that's a thrill to watch, even forty years later. Brosnan, although he's a fine actor and an appealing screen presence, never really sizzles here. And where Dunaway was beautiful, brainy, alluring and classy, Russo is abrasive, unkempt and just downright trashy at times. As my husband said, if you haven't seen the original version, this newer film would be a perfectly acceptable entertainment. But if you haven't seen the original, you're missing a great movie experience.

I'm not quite sure why directors want to try to tinker with film classics; it seems a shame to waste all that money and talent. I wasn't as charmed by this one as the hubby was. I thought the best things in it were Faye Dunaway (doing a cameo as Crown's rather unorthodox psychiatrist) and the reuse of the original's signature song "Windmills of Your Mind." So I'd give it a single bag of popcorn, out of a possible five.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Friday Finds: 6 March 2009

Friday Finds is a weekly event hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Participants are asked to share with other bloggers about the new-to-you books found during the week – books you either want to add to your TBR (to be read) list, or that you just heard about that sounded interesting.

This week I put quite a few new titles on my New Finds list. Well, new to me – actually, several of them have been around for a while. Some of these will undoubtedly make it to my TBR list after I've found out a little more about them.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Challenged Again: The 1% Well-Read Challenge

My Inner Responsible Person is wringing her hands and crying "No, no, NO!" right now. But I've found yet one more challenge that looks just too good to pass up. It's the 1% Well-Read Challenge, hosted by Michelle from 1 More Chapter, and running from March 1, 2009 to March 31, 2010.

Basically the challenge is to read 10-13 books from the lists put together by the editors of the book 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. Now I've already signed up for The Guardian 1000 Novels Challenge, and this one should match up well with that one, since crossovers are allowed.

The challenge announcement page has links to the original list of 1001 books, as well as the newer updated list. I haven't come up with a list of my own yet, but a brief preliminary check shows that I've only read something like 150 of the titles. So I've got plenty of choices to think about.

Now I just have to try to calm that Inner Responsible Person a little before I start thinking about joining the Cozy Mystery Challenge 2009, as well!

For my tentative reading list, go here.

Booking Through Thursday: The Best Book You've Never Read

This week's BTT topic:
What’s the best book that YOU haven’t read yet?

Well, of course, the best book I haven't read is the book I haven't written yet!

Seriously, I'm not sure exactly how to answer that question. I mean, there are many thousands of books I haven't read out there on all those lists. How could I possibly know which is the best one of that unread number? I can say that there are several books that keep turning up on each of the best-book lists that are surprising to me. I hesitate to mention titles because – well, one person's trash is somebody else's certified classic, and I don't want to stir up a lot of ire and indignation.

But I will admit that there are quite a few books I myself consider "classics" that I haven't read yet. Some I fully intend to get to someday (Swann's Way, A Farewell to Arms, Sense and Sensibility, The Ambassadors, Rabbit Run, among many others); and some, although I know they're "worthy," just don't sound like my cup of tea (Last of the Mohicans, War and Peace, Tristram Shandy, The Naked and the Dead, anything by Charles Dickens).

This question was especially interesting to me because I recently read one of the classics I've had on my to-read list for many years – Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence. Don't know why it took me so long to get around to it. I'd been putting it off and putting it off, year after year, thinking it would probably bore me to death – one of those things you read because you know you should, like medicine you know you should take. And then I finally made myself sit down and read the thing, and loved it. It's become one of my absolute favorite books – one that I know I'll probably re-read in years to come. So I guess there's just no accounting for taste, is there? Not even one's own.

Edith Wharton, 1915
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Tuesday Thingers: Early Reviewers

Tuesday Thingers is hosted by Wendi of Wendi's Book Corner (thanks, Wendi!). And this week's topic is about the Early Reviewer Program:
Were you aware of the Early Reviewer Program? Have you received any books from the program? If you have, how have you liked the book(s)? Any other thoughts on the LTER program?
Well, I might not be remembering correctly, but didn't the Tuesday Thingers group actually start up as an offshoot of the Early Reviewers discussion group at LT? Hmmmm. Not completely sure about that.

Anyway, yes, I've been aware of the ER program almost since I first signed up with LT. I didn't join right away because I wasn't sure I'd be able to get the books read on a timely basis, but after a couple of months of "lurking," I decided to jump in. Looking back over my book list, I see that I didn't receive any books the first couple of months after I joined. But after that, I was lucky five months in a row, April through August of last year. Since then, I haven't received any books. Well, technically I "snagged" a book in the November listing, but I never received it (How to Profit from the Coming Rapture – as far as I can tell, nobody received any copies of that one – I guess the Rapture wasn't as lucrative as they thought it would be).

And as for the books I've received through the program, I can honestly say that there really wasn't a stinker in the bunch. Well, maybe that Rapture book - who knows what I might have thought of that one. I've enjoyed reading all of them, and one (The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society) has joined my long list of all-time favorites.

Actually, I'm really a little leery of talking openly about Early Reviewers because I have this personal superstition that the more I say about it, the less likely I am ever to get another book. Yes, I know that's completely bonkers, and it all has to do with the mighty algorithm and what sorts of books I've got catalogued, and what sorts of books I've reviewed, and being in the right place at the right time, and sending cheese offerings to Abby, and all that; but I was never really known for my rationality.

Addendum: OK, as I was writing this, I checked my LT account and discovered I've snagged a book from the February batch (Bleeding Heart Square, by Andrew Taylor). And I hadn't even sent in my cheese bribe yet. I'll never doubt the sacred algorithm again, I promise!

Teaser Tuesdays: Gloom and Doom

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. And these are the rules: Grab your current read; Let the book fall open to a random page. Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12. You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given! Please avoid spoilers!

This week, I'm just getting started on Douglas Preston's Blasphemy; reading it for the Suspense-Thriller Challenge. And here, not for the squeamish, are my two teasers (from p.65 of the paperback edition):
"I brought my cat – I couldn't bear to be parted from her. Two days after we arrived, I heard a howl and saw a coyote running off with her."
Well, that was pretty awful, wasn't it? So, since I'm still reading A.S. Byatt's Angels & Insects as well, I thought I'd include a quote from that one, too – maybe lighten things up a little. No such luck, I'm afraid. These are from p.273:
Cecilia's lost children approached from the spirit world through the voices of Sophy Sheekhy and Mrs Papagay. Cecilia's marriage had been happy, but the boy Edmund, the child invoked into being in the poem, had died long ago, aged thirteen, followed by his two sisters Emily and Lucy, over the slow years, at nineteen and twenty-one, breaking poor Cecilia's heart.
Well, I guess you can't really expect a lot of laughs from Byatt. But I'm hoping the Preston doesn't turn out to be as gloomy as those teasers make it sound. Otherwise, I may have to limit my reading adventures to P.G. Wodehouse and Fannie Flagg for the rest of the year.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Sunday Salon: Life List

This week was a pretty good reading week for me. I finished Barry Unsworth's Land of Marvels, and Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence; and I only have a few more pages left to read in Brian Moore's wonderful and weird 1975 novel, The Great Victorian Collection. I'm going to try to get reviews of all three posted on my blog this week. I'm so extremely far behind on review-writing, that I'll probably never catch up. But I did manage to post a review of one book (count 'em – one!) last week – P.D. James's first Adam Dalgliesh novel, Cover Her Face; and I'm hoping that means the dry spell is ending.

The main thing that's been swallowing up all my non-reading free time during the last couple of weeks is my obsession with creating a life list of books. Do you have a life list? Over the years, I've kept a lot of separate lists of the books I read each year – lists on pages in my journals, lists on the backs of envelopes, lists on scraps of newspaper, etc. But I've never tried putting them all together in one humongous list until now. It was all those darn "X Number of Books You Just Have to Read Before You Shuffle Off This Mortal Coil" lists that have been published lately: That's what did me in. I started comparing my own reading life to the various recommendations, and of course I was immediately hooked. I love lists and list-making – so I guess it was inevitable.

I started out keeping a Microsoft Works database of all the titles. But then I realized it might be more useful if I could keep it online, so I've converted it into a Google Docs spreadsheet which seems to work very nicely. I'm up to a little over a thousand titles now, but I'm listing everything I can remember – even the books I read as a child.

And now I've got my husband hooked, too. So we've been spending the last week or so reminding each other of books we remember reading, books we think we've read, books we should have read or probably read but can't remember now. It's actually been a lot of fun, in a deeply twisted sort of way. And it's been a very valuable memory-jogger, too. I've rediscovered dozens of books I'd forgotten about reading – it's almost like having the experience of reading them all over again. But now that my life list is almost complete (well, I think it is anyway), I'm really looking forward to getting back to reading in the present once again!