Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Sunday Salon: Saying Bye-Bye to May

Haven't written a Sunday Salon post for a few weeks. May has been particularly hectic this year – for some reason I just couldn't settle down to anything for any length of time during the first few weeks of the month. Spring fever, I guess. Well, that and annual mammogram time – I always get a little frantic when health check month rolls around.

And then, of course, there were all those NBA playoff games to attend to.

But that's all done now – everything is OK (if you ignore what happened to the Celtics and the Spurs) and back to normal; so I've been playing catch-up this last week, and trying to make up for lost reading time.

Still, I read seven books in May (counting the one I'm reading now, which I should be finishing up tonight). Here's the list, with links to a couple of reviews:

Brimstone. Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
The Optimist's Daughter. Eudora Welty
Ellen Foster. Kaye Gibbons
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. Robert C. O'Brien
To Dance with the White Dog. Terry Kay
The Unit. Ninni Holmqvist
Moon Tiger. Penelope Lively (reading now)

And although I haven't reviewed all of those yet, I did post two reviews of books I read earlier this year:

The Master. Colm Toibin
The Great Victorian Collection. Brian Moore

I know I still have a lot of reviews to write, but I'm working on it. Especially since I need to do a wrap-up post for the Book Awards II Challenge which ends tomorrow. Now I need to decide what to read next. Do I go with a book for one of the other reading challenges I've signed up for, or do I get back to Dance of Death, by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, which I started a while back and put aside? Or do I start that ARC of Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Angel's Game I've been itching to get to?

Well, I'm really thinking I'll probably go with the Preston/Child – maybe I can make it fit one of my challenges, with a little tweaking. See, I think I've fallen seriously in love with Agent Aloysius Pendergast – he of the ghostly complexion and the perfectly-tailored black suits. And June is a good time for a nice bulky thriller, right? What a nice dilemma – two good books and a whole new month stretching out ahead.

Review: The Unit

Written by Ninni Holmqvist
Translated from the Swedish by Marlaine Delargy
Other Press, 2009; 268 pages
Originally published in Sweden, 2006

This review refers to an advance uncorrected proof of the novel, received through Library Thing's Early Reviewer program.

Description from Random House:
One day in early spring, Dorrit Weger is checked into the Second Reserve Bank Unit for biological material. She is promised a nicely furnished apartment inside the Unit, where she will make new friends, enjoy the state of the art recreation facilities, and live the few remaining days of her life in comfort with people who are just like her. Here, women over the age of fifty and men over sixty – single, childless, and without jobs in progressive industries – are sequestered for their final few years; they are considered outsiders. In the Unit they are expected to contribute themselves for drug and psychological testing, and ultimately donate their organs, little by little, until the final donation. Despite the ruthless nature of this practice, the ethos of this near-future society and the Unit is to take care of others, and Dorrit finds herself living under very pleasant conditions: well-housed, well-fed, and well-attended. She is resigned to her fate and discovers her days there to be rather consoling and peaceful. But when she meets a man inside the Unit and falls in love, the extraordinary becomes a reality and life suddenly turns unbearable. Dorrit is faced with compliance or escape, and…well, then what?

THE UNIT is a gripping exploration of a society in the throes of an experiment, in which the “dispensable” ones are convinced under gentle coercion of the importance of sacrificing for the “necessary” ones. Ninni Holmqvist has created a debut novel of humor, sorrow, and rage about love, the close bonds of friendship, and about a cynical, utilitarian way of thinking disguised as care.

A novel of humor, sorrow, and rage, indeed. But not nearly enough rage! What these people needed was an armed insurrection!

It's hard to know exactly what to say about this book without sounding excessively negative. And I wouldn't want to do that because I thought it was well-written and a quick read, and certainly an interesting idea for a good science fiction-y novel. But I can't really say I enjoyed it. Maybe if I were younger, or a parent, and not so very near to Dorrit's situation myself, I could be more dispassionate! As it is, I can identify just a little too closely with those "dispensables" to make this a comfortable read.

It's certainly true that as the book progresses, Dorrit's situation becomes more and more "unbearable." But I wouldn't agree that it happens suddenly – it's unbearable from the very start. The whole idea of a society based on the sacrifice of one group for the survival of another chosen group is abhorrent – just, I suspect, as Holmqvist intended it to be. It was difficult to stick with the book as characters kept disappearing without warning and sometimes without explanation (including Dorrit's older sister), heading for that final sacrificial "donation." I also found the ending (which is a bit of a surprise) very hard to accept; in the same circumstances, I don't think I'd make the same decision.

However, having said all that, I would still definitely recommend it for readers who can handle the very chilly subject matter. I think it's an extremely readable novel – just a little too disturbing for my taste.

Challenges: 20 in 2009; Lost in Translation; Read Your Own Books (RYOB); Spring Reading Thing

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Review: The Great Victorian Collection

Written by Brian Moore
E.P. Dutton, 1985
First published 1975

There is still some confusion as to when Anthony Maloney first saw the Great Victorian Collection. Can it be said that he first envisaged the Collection in his dream? Or did he create it in its entirety only when he woke up and climbed out of his bedroom window? [p. 3]

Brian Moore's novel The Great Victorian Collection tells the wonderfully bizarre story of Anthony Maloney, a 29-year-old assistant professor of history at Canada's McGill University in Montreal, and an expert in Victoriana. One morning, while on a trip to San Francisco to attend a seminar at Berkeley, Maloney wakes up to find that a dream he's had has come true: Outside his hotel window a vast, magnificent collection of exquisite and rare Victorian objects has magically appeared in the hotel parking lot.

From that moment, Maloney's life is completely taken over by the care and maintenance of the collection. The mass of objects is so large it can't be moved, so the hotel management has to be placated. Security has to be seen to. The press and TV journalists are soon clamoring for interviews. Maloney acquires an agent and an assistant (and promptly falls in love with his assistant's young girl friend). Debates develop between rival academic camps – some claim the collection is the real thing, others believe the objects to be very skillful fakes; although no one seems able to explain how Maloney might have pulled off such a "hoax." And Maloney finds, somewhat to his dismay, that when he goes to sleep at night, he can only dream about the collection – he conjured it up, and he's destined to guard it – even in his dreams.

Throughout the book, Maloney himself struggles with the problem of just how real or unreal the collection might be. Was it actually created by his dream? Or is there some other mystery involved? And if it is just a manifestation of his imaginings, what exactly is allowing it to exist in the real world? Is it here to stay, or likely to disappear just as suddenly as it came into being? At one point, Maloney experiments with trying to remove an object – an antique toy train engine – from the collection only to find the engine seriously altered when he inspects it afterward:
And, on picking it up, [he] read the . . . incriminating legend: "Made in Japan."

Then, and only then, Maloney realized the laws of his creation. Already the toy engine reproached him, a small cancerous blemish on the perfect bloom of the whole. It had been given to him to envisage the Collection here, in a parking lot in California. Any further attempts to remove these items to some other location would result, not in the greatest collection of Victoriana the world had ever seen, but in an astonishing conglomeration of . . . fakes
. [p. 17]
In the end, the collection causes Maloney nothing but grief, and his attempts to maintain it in its pristine condition fail miserably. But that's all I'll say about the ending because there are twists and surprises I don't really want to reveal (including a strange subplot involving Mary Ann, the young companion of Maloney's assistant, and a road trip to Los Angeles).

This stunningly inventive, and deliciously weird novel won both the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Canadian Governor General's Award for Fiction in 1975, but seems to be out of print now (I had to hunt my copy down on eBay). And that's too bad. It really deserves to be rediscovered.

Challenges: 20 in 2009; 2009 TBR (Lite); Book Awards II; Read Your Own Books (RYOB); Winter Reading Challenge

Friday, May 29, 2009

Review: The Master

Written by Colm Toibin
Scribner, 2004; 338 pages
Originally published in Great Britain by Picador, 2004

"I have in mind a man who all his life believes that something dreadful will happen to him," Henry said. "He tells a woman of this unknown catastrophe and she becomes his greatest friend, but what he does not see is that his failure to believe in her, his own coldness, is the catastrophe, it has come already, it has lived within him all along." [p. 334]

I've never been a huge Henry James fan. Although two of his shorter works, The Aspern Papers and The Turn of the Screw are among my favorite novellas, I've generally found his longer novels hard work. I tend to agree with one of my old college professors who used to say that Henry James was "all about whether I should have broccoli for lunch, or whether I should have carrots, and who the hell cares anyway." Of course, that prof was a Medievalist, so I suppose his opinions on Victorian novelists don't carry much weight. But I always thought it sounded perfectly accurate.

However, the story of Henry James the writer and the man is something that's always intrigued me. So I was eager to read The Master, Colm Toibin's fictionalized portrait of James. The book was highly praised by critics, and honored with several awards, including the 2006 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Los Angeles Times Novel of the Year, the Stonewall Book Award and the Lambda Literary Award. It was also shortlisted for the 2004 Booker Prize, and was listed by The New York Times as one of the ten most notable books of 2004. Needless to say, my expectations were high.

And I was not disappointed. The Master is a fascinating blend of fact and invention, offering a poignant image of James and just how many sacrifices he made to become a great writer. James never married, never resolved his sexual identity; he had problems with intimacy and close friendships throughout his life. As Toibin has said, James missed out on a lot of things in life because he spent so much time working. And although the work itself gave him great satisfaction, and not doing it would have made him unhappy, there's little doubt that his private life and personal relationships suffered because of the work.

Rather than trying to portray James's complete life story in a straightforward narrative, Toibin has chosen to show us several dramatic episodes in that life – eleven episodes, set between January 1895 and October 1899: from the disastrous reception of James's stage play Guy Domville, to the acquisition of his beloved Lamb House in Rye. During this period, although many of his greatest works were completed or yet to be written, he produced The Turn of the Screw, What Maisie Knew, and The Awkward Age. And for me, one of the most interesting aspects of The Master was the way in which Toibin allows us to watch James receiving the inspiration for these works, and then doing the research and writing. I suppose there's no way of being certain that this is how the great man did what he did, but it's a terrifically absorbing speculation.

Challenges: 20 in 2009; 2009 TBR (Lite); Book Awards II; Read Your Own Books (RYOB); Winter Reading '08-'09

Friday Finds: 29 May 2009

Friday Finds is a weekly event hosted by mizb17 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.

Just two new finds this week. Lately, I've been devoting most of my time to reading, and not doing so much "shopping around."

Picked up The Romance Readers' Book Club (by Julie L. Cannon) from the bargain table at our local Borders. Have to admit I was mainly attracted by the cover – it looked so summery. But the story sounds interesting, too; perfect reading for the months just ahead.

I think I first discovered Michelle Richmond's No One You Know while browsing the May selections in LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program, but I've seen it mentioned several places since then. It's "a tale of a woman's search for her sister's killer" and sounds like it might be another great summer read.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Unread It?

This week's BTT topic is a follow-up to last week's question about books you'd like to read again for the first time:
Is there a book that you wish you could “unread”? One that you disliked so thoroughly you wish you could just forget that you ever read it?
Kind of a strange question, but an interesting one. At first glance, I thought, "Ah-hah! A chance to slam all those boring, pointless, and unreadable books I was forced to struggle through in high school!"

But after I had a chance to ruminate a bit, I started having second thoughts. After all, one of those books I fussed and fumed about was Pride and Prejudice. Given a chance at the tender age of seventeen, I would have gleefully condemned Lizzie and Darcy and all their boring ilk to the fires of hell forever and ever. Eventually, of course, I re-read P&P and realized what a imbecilic ninny I'd been, way back all those years ago in Miss Weber's senior English class.

And that's an experience that teaches a useful lesson. Things change. Life is change. And change can be good. Your reading shapes who you are: everything you read adds a little to the person you turn out to be. Even books you feel may be a waste of your precious time might have an influence that won't make itself apparent until years later.

These days, I'm privileged to be able to read what I want, with no pop quizzes or deadlines other than the ones I set myself. If I start a book and it doesn't appeal to me after a chapter or two, I put it down and pick up another. But even remembering all those boring, pointless, and unreadable books I was compelled to read back in the day, I think I can honestly say I don't regret any of them. There might be many books I'd never read again, but I can't say there are any I wish I hadn't read.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tuesday Thingers: What's Missing?

This week's Tuesday Thingers topic is another good one:

Is there anything you would like to see added to the Library Thing site? Is there something you like on another bookshelf style site that LT doesn't have?

In addition to my LT account, I have accounts with Good Reads and Shelfari; and I think for general cataloguing purposes LibraryThing is far superior to either of those. And basically, that's what I use LT for. Well, I also like the Early Reviewer program, of course, but that's an extra and not what originally attracted me to LT.

And I love the personal touch you get with Library Thing – Tim and Abby and the rest of the staff are always there ready to answer questions and solve problems. You always feel you're dealing with actual human beings, something you don't really get with most of the other "bookshelf" sites.

I was never all that taken with Shelfari, and I don't use it much. However, there are things about Good Reads that I like. I mainly use GR to keep track of my TBR list and the books I'm currently reading. One thing I like about GR is the little capsule synopses they have for each book – I'd like to see LibraryThing do something like that. You can get reviews at LT, of course, but if you just want to know a little about the plot of a book or what it's about, rather than readers' opinions, it's a little more difficult. And GR has such nice large photos of all the various book covers, instead of the tiny thumbnails at LT.

Also, I've found the discussion groups at Good Reads a little friendlier than those at LT. Maybe I just "hang out" in the wrong groups, but it seems some LT members can be quite prickly at times. It's probably just a result of the Good Reads groups having actual moderators who keep things from getting out of hand, but there does seems to be a lot less arguing and "flaming" there.

Tuesday Thingers is hosted by Wendi of Wendi's Book Corner. If you'd like to see more or participate yourself, head on over to her blog and leave a comment.

Teaser Tuesdays: Heavy Reading

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by mizB17 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!

This week I'm trying to finish up my reading for the Book Awards II Challenge which ends June 1. This first quote is from Terry Kay's To Dance with the White Dog:
The death of their son was a grief that she could not release, and she had obsessively tended the grave, pushing him away with her sobs and her bitterness. It was the one thing they had never been able to resolve: she blamed him for their son's death. [p. 58]
And since that's a really dark, depressing excerpt, I thought I might lighten things up with some teasers from the other challenge book I'm starting this week – Vanessa and Virginia, by Susan Sellers:
It is too cold to paint outside so we have taken our easels upstairs, where we can look out across the pond. The bare branches of the willows cast strange reflections on the glassy surface, like witches' hair. [p. 142]
Well, I'm not sure I'd really call that lighter, but at least no one is tending a grave there. Not literally anyway, but since the substance of the book is Vanessa Bell remembering her dead sister Virginia Woolf, I guess graves do figure prominently in this one as well. What I really need right now is some Garrison Keillor or P.G. Wodehouse or something to chase away all this gloom.

Monday, May 25, 2009

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading This Week? is a weekly event hosted by J. Kaye of J. Kaye's Book Blog, "to list the books completed last week, the books currently being reading, and the books to be finish this week."

OK, it's just recently (like last night) occurred to me that May is nearly outta here, and with the arrival of June comes the end of the Book Awards II Reading Challenge. Which means I've really got to get serious if I'm going to complete the challenge on time. I've read seven of the ten books required, although I haven't gotten all the reviews written yet (one more thing for the to-do list). Still have three books to go, so this week I'll be reading these books for BAII:

And if that's not enough to keep me busy (!!!???), I really need to get back to Ninni Holmqvist's The Unit which I started but put aside a couple of weeks ago. I received it through Library Thing's Early Reviewer program, so I really do feel obligated to read and review it. And it's not that I don't want to – it's just that for some reason, May has been a very slow reading month for me. Must be spring fever. And all those NBA playoff games could have something to do with it, too, I suppose.

But at least I finished one book last week: Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons. I read it for the Southern Reading Challenge, and absolutely loved it. I'll try to get a review up today or tomorrow, but for the moment I'll just say if you haven't already discovered this wonderful little novel, you should do it now.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Finds: 22 May 2009

Friday Finds is a weekly event hosted by mizb17 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 my new finds this week. I haven't decided if they'll all make it to my TBR list, but they all look interesting. I believe I discovered most of them while browsing Good Read's First Reads feature. I've requested several of their books lately, but hadn't snagged any until this week – I'm supposed to be receiving The Book of Love soon (so they tell me).
The Painter from Shanghai. Jennifer Epstein
The Embers. Hyatt Bass
The Book of Love. Kathleen McGowan
The Brambles. Eliza Minot
Breakable You. Brian Morton
Silent on the Moor. Deanna Raybourn

I found Silent on the Moor by reading the review by Jenclair over on her blog, A Garden Carried in the Pocket. I know a lot of bloggers have been raving about Deanna Raybourn for years now, but for some reason this was the first time one of her books actually caught my attention. The Lady Julia Grey series sounds great, but I agree with Jenclair about the book covers, so I've included photos of two different examples. I suppose it says a lot about me that I prefer the less lurid, more boring cover – didn't think I was quite so over the hill!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: A Second First Time?

Do-overs. This week's BTT question: "What book would you love to be able to read again for the first time?"

At first glance, this seems like a simple question, but it's really a little problematic. I've thought about it before, and I always have trouble with it. I'm assuming we're not talking about time travel – so I wouldn't actually be returning to childhood or young adulthood or that original experience. And if I read any of my favorite books for the first time now, would I have the same reaction I had then? I'm a different person now – I've changed; maybe my feelings will have altered, too. In most cases, I wouldn't want to risk that. Not if it's a book I love.

However. Just to play the game – there have been some "first-reads" I wouldn't mind experiencing again. Mostly childhood books, of course. I suppose Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass would have to be on the list – I think they were probably the first "real" books I read on my own (as opposed to picture-books and easy readers), and they were absolutely magical.

And definitely Huckleberry Finn. I didn't actually read that one myself, the first time; my mother read it to me at nap-time everyday during the course of one summer. It was very effective at putting Mamma to sleep (she survived Tom Sawyer a little better), but I was fascinated and couldn't wait for the next afternoon's installment. I've re-read the book many times since then, and still love it. But none of my re-reads have come close to that first mind-altering experience.

And then, there are those books that served to help me get through trying times. Some of those are pleasant memories today – Little Women, the Nancy Drew mysteries, Be Here Now by Baba Ram Dass – and some, like the novels of Barbara Pym, have become all-time favorites that I return to over and over. For those, while I'd love the experience of devouring them for the first time, I certainly wouldn't want to go through those rough patches of existence again.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Review: The Optimist's Daughter

Written by Eudora Welty
Library of America, 1998
Originally published 1972
The past is no more open to help or hurt than was Father in his coffin. The past is like him, impervious, and can never be awakened. It is memory that is the somnambulist. It will come back in its wounds from across the world , . . . calling us by our names and demanding its rightful tears. It will never be impervious. The memory can be hurt, time and again – but in that may lie its final mercy. As long as it's vulnerable to the living moment, it lives for us, and while it lives, and while we are able, we can give it up its due.
In Eudora Welty's short novel, The Optimist's Daughter, Laurel McKelva Hand travels from Chicago to New Orleans in order to help look after her aging father who is undergoing eye surgery. Though Judge McKelva seems strong and in otherwise good health, he never recovers from the surgery and dies several weeks later. Along with the Judge's second wife, Fay (his first wife, Laurel's mother, died a few years before the story begins), Laurel accompanies her father's body back home to Mount Salus, Mississippi, for the funeral. There, Laurel is reunited with friends and family, and struggles with the strained relationship between herself and Fay. Fay's family arrives unexpectedly from Texas for the funeral, and causes much uproar. Tempers flare. Old wounds are reopened. Memories of the past come painfully alive in the present. But eventually Laurel leaves it all behind and returns to her new life in Chicago.

In his New York Times review of the book (May 21, 1973), Howard Moss called it "a miracle of compression":
. . . the kind of book, small in scope but profound in its implications, that rewards a lifetime of work. Its style is at the service of a story that follows its nose with the instincts of a good hunting dog never losing the scent of its quarry. And its story has all those qualities peculiar to the finest short novels: a theme that vibrates with overtones, suspense and classical inevitability.
And that's basically pretty true. I especially admired the first part of the book – the hospital drama, with Laurel and her young stepmother locked in a sort of genteel mortal combat for proprietary rights to the Judge's care. But while I enjoyed the book as a whole, I must admit I was a bit disappointed with the second half of it. Once Laurel and Fay take their rivalry and the casket back home to Mount Salus, I felt the whole story sort of deteriorated into caricature and chaos. There seemed to be dozens of characters to keep track of, with nothing much to differentiate any of them, so that they ended up turning into a sort of Greek chorus of mourners. Laurel fades so far into the background, I was a little surprised when she emerged at the end for her final confrontation with Fay, who never really seemed like a flesh-and-blood character to me. And there's a rather heavy-handed use of symbolism in the last pages of the book when a bird gets trapped in the house and Laurel spends a night locked away from it, going through her mother's old books and letters. Perhaps in a longer work, that wouldn't have grated quite so much.

And as a Texan, I was more than a little disturbed by the fact that the nasty, loony people in the novel all seemed to come from Texas!

The book won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1973, and rightfully so. Even with all my quibbles I agree it's a powerful novel, with its themes of family, memory, and renewal. Before reading it, the only other Eudora Welty I'd read was her wonderful short story "Why I Live at the PO," which I'd loved. After finishing The Optimist's Daughter, I went back and re-read "PO" just to make sure I hadn't missed something. I hadn't. It's still just as wonderful. So, I guess you can't love 'em all. But that won't keep me from reading more Welty in the future. And although it wasn't my favorite read this year, I'd definitely recommend the novel to one and all.

Photo: Wikipedia

20 in 2009 Challenge
2009 TBR (Lite) Challenge
2nds Challenge 2009
Battle of the Prizes Challenge
Book Awards II Challenge
Read Your Own Books (RYOB) Challenge
Southern Reading Challenge
Spring Reading Thing 2009 Challenge

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tuesday Thingers: Going Mobile

Wasn't that a song by the Who?

But I digress. Already.

This week's topic for the Tuesday Thingers group is about Library Thing and mobile devices:

Were you aware that LT had a mobile version of the site? Do you ever visit sites via a mobile device? Can you think of anything this would help you with?

Yes, I guess I did know about LT's mobile capabilities. But I've ignored them. See – I'm one of the least knowledgeable people in the world when it comes to mobile technology. My cell phone is so ancient (and yet, it's only a few years old) that it isn't set up to access email or the internet or play games or take photos. Or play the ocarina. It rings, I answer. That's it.

To me a mobile device is a bicycle or a wheelchair.

I don't text or IM. Although I think my cell phone is sophisticated enough for that – I would not even know how to go about it.

But having said all that, I should also say that I can see how wonderfully convenient it would be to have access to my library catalogue when I'm out book shopping or library browsing. Yes, I have on occasion come home with a copy of a book that's already sitting on my shelves. Avoiding that would be an obvious good thing. So maybe when I finally decide to upgrade to a jazzier mobile device, I'll give LT's mobile thingies a try.

Tuesday Thingers is hosted by Wendi of Wendi's Book Corner. If you'd like to see more or participate yourself, head on over to her blog and leave a comment.

Teaser Tuesdays: Now That's True Love

This week I'm reading an ARC of Stone's Fall by Iain Pears. And I suppose I should say that I haven't checked this quote against the published edition, which I believe came out this month:

It is worth any sort of nonsense or frivolity to make her happy, see her smile, to have her turn and say – thank you for putting up with that. For her I even learned to dance, although never well; but I am content to behave like an elephant to see her graceful, to feel her body move as I hold her in my arms. [p. 606]

As I've only read about a hundred pages, I'm not sure what's going on there – who's talking about who. The book is holding my interest so far, but at 800 pages, it's really going to have to pick up quite a bit for me to make it all the way through! If you've read it, I'd be gratified to know what you thought.

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by mizb17 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!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday Finds: 15 May 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.

Here are three interesting new titles that I found this week (well, new to me anyway). I'm pretty sure all three are going to end up on my TBR list, which is now so enormous it will take more than one lifetime to make a dent in.

A Proper Education for Girls: A Novel, by Elaine DiRollo
Sacred Hearts: A Novel, by Sarah Dunant
The Family Man, by Elinor Lipman

I've never read any of Dunant's other works, although I've got a couple on my TBR list. And I've only read one of Lipman's earlier novels (The Ladies' Man), but it quickly became one of my all-time favorites, so I'm very much looking forward to reading this latest book.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Gluttony? Who, Me?

Hello. Joy's books here. Joy can't come to the blog right now because she's either: a) out buying more books; b) running to the library to bring home more books; c) dusting/arranging/storing/reading the books she's already got overflowing her shelves.

But she just wanted to let you know that she admits to being a truly world-class Book Glutton who just can't seem to get enough of us books. She loves new books and she loves old books and she loves her own books and she'd love your books, too, if she could get her hands on them. ( Watch it!) She buys way too many books – many more than she'll ever actually read because she's the world's slowest reader (don't tell her we said that).

Anyway, it was nice talking to you, and Joy will be back soon. So if you'd like to leave a comment, please do so after the beep, and she'll get back to you ASAP. 'Bye now. Beeeeeeeeeeeepppp!!!!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tuesday Thingers: Reviews

This week, the Tuesday Thingers topic is about the LT reviewing process:
Do you add your reviews to the books you add to your library? If so, do you put your full review on there, or a quick review (one - two paragraphs)? Do you find other people's reviews helpful? Do you know of any other ways to enter your reviews (Other than Edit Book, or Quick Edit)?
I almost decided to sit this one out. I've gotten so far behind in my reviewing, it's really kind of embarrassing to talk about. I've been sort of all over the place lately – not getting much reading or reviewing done, for some reason. [Note to self: Pull yourself together!]

I do put just about all my reviews on LibraryThing as well as on my blog. At first, I was just putting a link to the blog review, but I decided that was sort of off-putting. Now I put an actual review on the LT site, but it's frequently a scaled-down version of the review that appears on my blog.

No, I don't know of any other ways to add reviews. In the beginning, I did find the process a little confusing; but now that I've had some experience with it I don't really find it all that inconvenient. In addition to the book page, I usually put a very short thumbnail review or synopsis on my 50 Book Challenge site, for each book I read – just a line or two.

Yes, I do find other people's reviews very helpful, and I do read them. Lately, however, I've begun thinking that if a book already has hundreds of reviews, there's probably not much point in adding one more. So probably in the future, I'll take that into consideration before I add my rantings to the already crowded LT review list. Of course, that wouldn't apply in the case of the Early Reviewer books I get. I'll definitely keep on adding my reviews of those, no matter how many are there before me.

Tuesday Thingers is hosted by Wendi of Wendi's Book Corner. If you'd like to see more or participate yourself, head on over to her blog and leave a comment.

Teaser Tuesdays: Time For a Little Rumpus

This week I'll be starting The Unit by the Swedish writer Ninni Holmqvist. It came to me through the Early Reviewer program at LibraryThing, so I know I did request it. But after skimming a few pages, I'm really wondering how I'll be able to get through such a depressing book. Well, at least it sounds depressing – people over a certain age being harvested for body parts. But for now, I'll reserve judgment and just throw out a few teaser lines:
Time was passing, inexorably. I would soon be fifty-one. Johannes had just turned sixty-four, which was old for a dispensable person. [p.176]
Don't know about you, but that just made me shiver a bit. So I'll include a couple of teasers from a happier book. I've been reading Knight's Castle by Edward Eager, for the Once Upon a Time III Challenge. When I was young, I used to love Eager's magic fantasies; and this is one I never managed to get to until now.
What they saw was a perfectly ordinary-looking rumpus room. If it hadn't been so big it might have looked rather jolly. [p.133]
Hmmmm. Wonder whatever happened to rumpus rooms? They used to be all the rage in the '50s. I guess now they've turned into family rooms, haven't they? Cut out all that "rumpus." Sounds much more well-behaved, doesn't it? But not quite so jolly.

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, May 11, 2009

Southern Reading Challenge 2009

Now how could I pass this up? I've lived in the South most of my life, and always enjoyed reading its literature. Besides, who could ignore that gorgeous button?

The Southern Reading Challenge runs from May 15th to August 15th, and is being hosted (as it was last year) by Maggie of Maggie Reads. The goal is to read at least three books during that time, and they can be any genre or style, just as long as they have something to do with the American South. The challenge announcement page has all the rules, as well as links to several lists of books, if you need ideas for reading material. So if you've got a hankerin' to get back to the magnolias and the mint juleps (and you know what it means to miss New Orleans), head on over and sign up.

For my three books, I'll probably read The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty, Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons, and Victory Over Japan by Ellen Gilchrist. Then, if I have time left over (she said, laughing insanely), I might choose one from this list:

Lunch at the Piccadilly by Clyde Edgerton
The Floatplane Notebooks by Clyde Edgerton
To Dance With the White Dog by Terry Kay
Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter
Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind by Ann B. Ross
Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty

And the Mrs. Murphy Mysteries by Rita Mae Brown, set in southern Virginia, are also possibilities.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Friday Finds: 8 May 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.

Just two new finds this week, both of them first entries in mystery series that have been around for a while but are new to me. I think it's very likely that both of these will be going on my TBR list.

The Novice's Tale (Sister Frevisse Medieval Mysteries, Book 1), by Margaret Frazer. I'm generally not a big fan of mystery novels set in the distant past, but these Sister Frevisse stories sound really intriguing. I discovered them while browsing the Teasers last Tuesday, in a post over at Bookishgal's blog. Here's a brief description from the publisher:

"It is the year of Our Lord's grace 1431, and the nuns of England's St. Frideswide sweetly chant their Paternosters behind gracious, trellised walls. But their quiet lives are shattered by the unwelcome visit of the hard-drinking, blaspheming dowager Lady Ermentrude, with her retinue of lusty maids and men, baying hounds, and even a pet monkey in tow. The lady demands wine, a feast, and her niece, the frail and saintly novice Thomasine. What she gets is her own strange and sudden death. Sister Frevisse, hosteler of the priory and amateur sleuth, fears murder. The most likely suspect is pious Thomasine...but Frevisse alone detects a clever web spun to entangle an innocent nun in the most unholy of passions — and the deadliest of deeds."

Blessed Is The Busybody (Ministry Is Murder Series, Book 1), by Emilie Richards. Emilie Richards has written more than sixty books, so she's obviously been around for a while! Why am I just now discovering her? Blessed Is The Busybody is the first book in the Ministry Is Murder series, set in the (I assume fictional) town of Emerald Springs, Ohio. The series even has its own website with "Perish News." Here's a bit about this first book, from the Emilie Richards website:

"Meet the unconventional Aggie Sloan-Wilcox, a minister’s wife with her own calling: helping troubled souls in need of justice. . . Aggie’s free-spirited ways have been raising many an eyebrow at the Consolidated Community Church, tucked away in cookie-cutter perfect Emerald Springs, Ohio. But nothing is more shocking than the naked body of a murdered woman turning up on her front porch. Suspicion falls on Aggie’s husband, who counseled the victim before her death. Now Aggie doesn’t have a prayer of clearing his name unless she can uncover the truth in a town not known for confessing its sins. . . "

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Graphic

May 2 (last Saturday) was Free Comic Book Day. So this week's BTT topic is in celebration of graphic novels and comic books:
  • Do you read graphic novels/comics? Why do/don’t you enjoy them?
  • How would you describe the difference between “graphic novel” and “comic”? Is there a difference at all?
  • Say you have a friend who’s never encountered graphic novels. Recommend some titles you consider landmark/”canonical”.
I don't believe I've ever read a graphic novel. Not one that I can remember, anyway. So I can't recommend any. And I guess I really shouldn't have a firm opinion about them until I've tried one. But I love illustrated books, so I'm thinking I'll probably like graphic novels when I do try them.

Are they the same as comic books? Well, to me, yes they do seem very similar. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, though. I've always loved comic books; as a child, some of my earliest reading matter was comic books – much to my mother's chagrin. And I still have a large collection of classic Little Lulu and Bugs Bunny comics. I really identified with Lulu when I was a tyke. She was funny and feisty and resourceful, and was always getting punished for "no reason at all." And her curls were never out of place.

Hmmmm. I seem to have strayed from the subject a bit. So I should shut up and start reading all the other BTT posts – maybe I can find some good recommendations for a graphic novel to start with.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Tuesday Thingers: Clouds

This week's Tuesday Thingers subject is all about cloud gazing:

Have you looked at your LT Clouds? Were you surprised at any of the larger tags within the Tag Mirror? Any thoughts on the clouds in general?

This is a really good topic, and something I would never have come up with. But I should probably say right up front that I have no idea what to make of the "tag mirror." Even after I've looked at it, I don't really understand what it is.

I think I may have played with the clouds back around the time I first joined LibraryThing, but not since then. Or maybe when the feature was first introduced. I think clouds are interesting, but I guess they're just not really my thing. I've never been exactly sure what I'm supposed to do with my clouds. I tend to think of them as clutter.

And it bothers me that they're so automatic. I'd like it better if I could have a little more control over which words or terms pop out. Yes, I know they're just a reflection of my collection, but I don't like being reminded that I have more Ruth Rendell than Jane Austen on my shelves. Or that I have more books tagged "amateur sleuths" than I have "history of ideas"!

I guess I need to be more imaginative. And you know, now that I look at it – that author cloud would make pretty cool wrapping paper, wouldn't it?

Tuesday Thingers is hosted by Wendi of Wendi's Book Corner. If you'd like to see more or participate yourself, head on over to her blog and leave a comment.

Teaser Tuesdays: Teasing the Old Man

Well, this week I'm still making my way through Elaine Dundy's The Old Man and Me. Seems like I've been reading it for weeks. It's really not a long book, and shouldn't be taking this much time, even for a slow reader. April was not a good reading month for me, for some reason. Hoping to do better in May. Anyway, here's our Heroine (Honey), the little gold digger, working on C.D. McKee, the Old Man of the novel's title:
"Oh, well, he's awfully handsome and all that," I said this slowly and looked worlds at C.D. while I was talking to see if he was receiving what I'd put into 'all that' and if it was disconcerting him. He had and it was. [p. 132]
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!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Friday Finds: 1 May 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 this week's books while researching possibilities for various reading challenges. They may not all make my TBR list, but they all look interesting. My "new finds" list:

The Reserve. Russell Banks
The Dark Lantern. Gerri Brightwell
The Unquiet. John Connolly
Dreaming of the Bones. Deborah Crombie
Water Like a Stone. Deborah Crombie
Doctor Olaf van Schuler's Brain. Kirsten Menger-Anderson

I think the two Deborah Crombie mysteries look especially promising. Dreaming of the Bones was short-listed for the 1997 Edgar Award, and won the 1998 Macavity Award for Best Mystery Novel. I hadn't known about Crombie's Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series. Kincaid is a Scotland Yard superintendent and Sergeant James is his partner in solving crimes, and the two are also (as they say) romantically involved. Hmmmm. Not sure I'll be able to accept that very easily. And does the Yard really allow that sort of thing?