Thursday, December 31, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Favorites of the Year

This week's BTT topic is a good one, and just what you'd expect: "What were your favorite books of the year? (Books that were new to you in 2009, if not necessarily published this year.)"

I guess it's natural to want to look back at your year's reading and do some summing up. I've already done a post about the books I read in 2009 (Reading Wrap-Up), but didn't rate anything. I enjoyed almost all the books I read – only a few were real stinkers. Here's the list of my ten favorites.
  • The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton
  • Ellen Foster, by Kaye Gibbons
  • The Great Victorian Collection, by Brian Moore
  • Homer & Langley, by E.L. Doctorow
  • The Longshot, by Katie Kitamura
  • The Master, by Colm Toibin
  • Rabbit Is Rich, by John Updike
  • Sacred Hearts, by Sarah Dunant
  • Stardust, by Joseph Kanon
  • The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett
The list is in alphabetical order, but of all of them, I think Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence would actually be my top pick – the one I can see myself reading again in years to come.

2009 Reading Wrap-Up

I'm going to try to keep this as short and simple as possible. My only real reading goal for 2009 was to read more books than the 42 I read in 2008, so I set 50 books as a target to aim for. And I very nearly made it. I've read 49 books at this point. And if I could realistically hope to finish the one I'm reading now by tonight at midnight, I could claim 50! That's unlikely to happen, but it is raining with more of the same predicted for later on. And we don't have any parties planned. So I suppose a literary marathon might not be out of the question. Just have to see what the evening brings.

For 2010, I have two goals. First, I want to read at least as many books as I read this year - more, if possible. And second, I want to try to be more faithful about reviewing each book, even if it's just a "thumb's up/down" approach - especially for books I'm reading for challenges. Of course, I'm a world-class procrastinator, so I'm not sure how far I'll get with that one, but we can hope.

I'm not going to include a lot of statistics or analysis. And I'll do a separate post about some of my favorites from this year's batch. So here's the list of books read in 2009 (listed as they were read), with links to reviews:
  1. Drawers & Booths, by Ara 13 (2007; 215 pages; fiction)
  2. Cover Her Face, by P.D. James (1962; 250 pages; mystery fiction)
  3. The Master, by Colm Toibin (2004; 338 pages; fiction)
  4. Rest in Pieces, by Rita Mae Brown (1992; 347 pages; mystery fiction)
  5. Hotel Du Lac, by Anita Brookner (1984; 184 pages; fiction)
  6. Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem (1961; 204 pages; science fiction)
  7. Index to Murder, by Jo Dereske (2008; 259 pages; fiction)
  8. Land of Marvels, by Barry Unsworth (2009; 287 pages; fiction)
  9. The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton (1920; 285 pages; fiction)
  10. The Great Victorian Collection, by Brian Moore (1975; 213 pages; fiction)
  11. Blasphemy, by Douglas Preston (2008; 524 pages; fiction)
  12. Angels & Insects: Two Novellas, by A.S. Byatt (1992; 340 pages; fiction)
  13. The Private Patient, by P.D. James (2008; 352 pages; fiction)
  14. Angels & Demons, by Dan Brown (2000; 572 pages; fiction)
  15. The Way Through the Woods, by Colin Dexter (1992; 296 pages; fiction)
  16. The Book of God and Physics, by Enrique Joven (2009; 350 pages; fiction)
  17. The Old Man and Me, by Elaine Dundy (1963; 231 pages; fiction)
  18. Brimstone, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (2004; 500 pages; fiction)
  19. The Optimist's Daughter, by Eudora Welty (1972; 109 pages; fiction)
  20. Ellen Foster, by Kaye Gibbons (1987; 126 pages; fiction)
  21. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, by Robert C. O'Brien (1971; 233 pages; fiction)
  22. To Dance with the White Dog, by Terry Kay (1990; 241 pages; fiction)
  23. The Unit, by Ninni Holmqvist (2006/2009; 268 pages; fiction)
  24. Moon Tiger, by Penelope Lively (1987; 208 pages; fiction)
  25. The Longshot, by Katie Kitamura (2009; 191 pages; fiction)
  26. The Valley of Fear, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1914; 320 pages; fiction)
  27. The Mothman Prophecies, by John A. Keel (1975; 288 pages; nonfiction)
  28. The Angel's Game, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (2009; 470 pages; fiction)
  29. Sacred Hearts, by Sarah Dunant (2009; 402 pages; fiction)
  30. The Fire, by Katherine Neville (2008; 445 pages; fiction)
  31. Grave Goods, by Ariana Franklin (2009; 337 pages; fiction)
  32. Fear the Worst, by Linwood Barclay (2009; 400 pages; fiction)
  33. Rabbit Is Rich, by John Updike (1981; 467 pages; fiction)
  34. Victory Over Japan, by Ellen Gilchrist (1984; 277 pages; fiction)
  35. Dance of Death, by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child (2005; 560 pages; fiction)
  36. The Man in the Picture, by Susan Hill (2007; 145 pages; fiction)
  37. The Woman in Black, by Susan Hill (1983; 160 pages; fiction)
  38. New Year's Eve, by Lisa Grunwald (1997; 366 pages; fiction)
  39. From Doon with Death, by Ruth Rendell (1964; 226 pages; fiction)
  40. The Friend of Madame Maigret. Georges Simenon (1950; 186 pages; fiction)
  41. The Lair of the White Worm. Bram Stoker (1911; approx. 120 pages; fiction)
  42. Homer & Langley. E.L. Doctorow (2009; 208 pages; fiction)
  43. The Uncommon Reader. Alan Bennett (2007; 120 pages; fiction)
  44. The Lover. Marguerite Duras (1984; 117 pages; fiction)
  45. The Lesson of the Master. Henry James (1888; approx. 63 pages; fiction)
  46. Stardust. Joseph Kanon (2009; 506 pages; fiction)
  47. Santa Clawed. Rita Mae Brown (2008; 240 pages; fiction)
  48. Christmas Card Magic. Margaret Perry (1967; 127 pages; nonfiction)
  49. Crewel Yule. Monica Ferris (2004; 245 pages; fiction)
  50. [Maybe] The Inn at Lake Devine. Elinor Lipman (reading now)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays: Don't Go There

Well, I'm sorry to have to report that I'm still reading the same book I was reading the last time I posted a Teaser Tuesday entry - and that was a couple of weeks ago. December has been a slow month for me, where reading is concerned. All that holiday-ing is fun but time-consuming. So, here's another snippet from Crewel Yule by Monica Ferris. I should explain that the Belle in the quote is (or was) Eve's best friend and business partner, and Jack is (or was) Eve's hubby.
It happened when Eve was visiting her husband at work and casually logged onto his e-mail account to send a message -- and found a whole set of red-hot, lusty exchanges between him and Belle. Jack didn't deny it. He said Belle understood him in a way Eve didn't. Jack packed a bag and left home that night. [p.44]
Ah, yes - the old "you don't understand me" gambit. Well, I hope she learned a good lesson about the dangers of "casually" logging onto someone's e-mail account - even your husband's. Especially your husband's.

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by mizb17 at Should Be Reading. If you'd like to read more teasers, or do a little teasing 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 somewhere on that page. 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!

The Winter Words Reading Challenge

OK, here's another one. Tarissa over at In the Bookcase is hosting the Winter Words Reading Challenge which runs throughout the season, from December 21 to March 19. The workings are a bit complicated, so you should head on over to the challenge announcement page and read up on it, but it sounds intriguing.

Basically, the challenge is to read at least three or as many as nine books. You choose from a list of winter-related acronyms and then match up your reading choices with those words.

Here's the list of acronyms:
  • 3 books - ice, ski
  • 4 books - snow, sled
  • 5 books - frost, slick
  • 6 books - winter, icicle, flurry
  • 7 books - mittens, snowman
  • 8 books - slippery, ice skate
  • 9 books - snowflake

I'm having a lot of fun pairing up books with those wintry words, but I'm going to play it safe and choose the 3-book level and use "ice" as my acronym. Haven't decided on definite book choices yet, but my candidates are:

I = I Am Madame X by Gioia Diliberto, or The Inn at Lake Devine by Elinor Lipman
C = The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt, or The Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever
E = The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, or Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

I'm using the titles of the books to match up, but you can use authors' names if you prefer. And I'll be updating my progress on my challenge blog here.

The challenge is open to readers of all ages - children, teens, and adults - so I'm assuming that young adult and even children's literature is acceptable reading matter. It also means that this might be a great excuse to do a little more reading to/with your kids. Or even read some of those childhood classics you never got around to. Should be fun.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Here and There in Bookland

Just catching up on my journal reading.

On expensive reading matter, from the New York Times Book Review, 12/27/2009, p. 18:
"Big Spenders: Every month, the used-book Web site releases a list of its most expensive sales. The list is often dominated by specialty items and antique works.... But in November, with the holidays approaching, things took a distinctly literary turn. Did the person who spent $12,500 for a set of Charles Dickens's works (and a signed note from the author) plan to give them to someone special for Christmas? That sale topped the list, followed by a first edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 'Tender Is the Night,' for $11,000, and a signed, limited-edition copy of Helmut Newton's gargantuan photography book 'Sumo,' for $10,867. The Newton book is 20 inches wide and more than 2 feet long, but for that kind of money you don't need to worry about finding a place for it on your coffee table: it comes with a custom display stand designed by Philippe Starck."
On the reaction to the Twilight series, from "Girls Just Wanna Have Fangs," by Sady Doyle, in The American Prospect, 11/19/2009:
"As Twilight demonstrates, not everything girls like is good art -- or, for that matter, good feminism. Still, the Twilight backlash should matter to feminists, even if the series makes them shudder."
On the moral teachings of Jane Austen, from "What Would Jane Do?," by James Collins, in the Wall Street Journal, 11/14/2009:
"I find that reading Jane Austen helps me clarify ethical choices, helps me figure out a way to live with integrity in the corrupt world, even helps me adopt the proper tone and manner in dealing with others. Her moralism and the modern mind are not, in fact, in direct opposition, as is so often assumed."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Sunday Salon: Not Another End of Year Wrap-Up

I had pretty much decided to give today's TSS a miss. I'm still in holiday mode, and not getting a lot of reading done. And my Salon posts don't usually get picked up by Yahoo Pipes anyway, so in my case it's mostly a labor of love.

But this is the last Salon of the year, and (depending on how you count) the last one of the decade, too. And how could I miss that? Even if I really don't have much to write about.

What I've been doing today instead of reading is sorting through the reading challenges I've joined for 2010, and the ones I'm thinking of signing up for - and getting my challenge blog organized for the new reading season. Just discovered the Typically British Reading Challenge yesterday, and I knew immediately (just by the name, in fact) that it was one I just couldn't resist - so that was one more to add. It's being hosted by the very creative Book Chick City, and I'm seriously considering signing up for her Speculative Fiction Challenge, too. But I'll have to give that one a little more speculation (sorry).

Otherwise, I've just been decompressing from all the Christmas-ing, and doing laundry. Oh, and watching a little football (Saints are losing again? oh, my!), and following the #MLA tweets on Twitter. The Modern Language Association Convention has always been held after Christmas every year, in New York City or some other major urban area - this year it's in Philly. Back in the day (the Day being back when M was still an active member of the MLA), we used to go to the convention whenever it was held in NYC, and it was always exciting and fun. Well, it was exciting and fun for me, anyway - I didn't have to attend any of the sessions or listen to any of the papers. I could just hang out in the lobby bars and go wander around Bloomingdale's and Tiffany's and FAO Schwarz. Fun times, fun times.

Anyway, I hope all of ya'll had (and are still having) a great holiday season, and that 2010 brings us all happiness and prosperity, and lots of good books to read, and no new reality TV shows.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Typically British Reading Challenge 2010

Well now, how could I possibly pass up a challenge with a name like that? Even though I thought I was all done with challenge sign-ups for next year, this is one I've just got to add to the list.

The Typically British Reading Challenge is another great challenge being hosted by Book Chick City, and runs throughout 2010. And, of course, the purpose of the challenge is to read typically British books. (Duh! Don't I just say the most obvious things!)

This challenge is for fiction only - no nonfiction; but any format is allowed, and you don't have to make a list to start with. Also, crossovers with other challenges are OK.

There are four different levels of participation:
  1. "Put the Kettle On" - Read 2 typically British novels
  2. "Gordon Bennett" - Read 4 typically British novels
  3. "Bob's Your Uncle" - Read 6 typically British novels
  4. "Cream Crackered" - Read 8 typically British novels
Since I typically read an awful lot of typically British fiction anyway, I'm going to sign up for Level Four (actually, I'm feeling pretty "cream crackered" right now!) and read eight novels. I'm not going to make a list; but I've already got A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book, Penelope Lively's Family Album, and a bunch of Hazel Holt's Mrs. Malory mysteries on the back burner for next year, and I'll be updating my progress on my challenge blog.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Speed

In answer to this week's BTT questions (What do you think of speed reading, and do you do it?): I'll say not much, and yes and no.

I do know how to speed-read. Back in the 1970s when speed-reading was a hot topic, I read one of those early how-to books. Not, I believe, Evelyn Wood; but something along the lines of Teach Yourself to Speed-Read in However Many Lessons. And it worked. I did learn to speed read, and I can still do it when necessary.

But when I look back at the books I read during the two or three years when I was actively using the system - I find that those works are mostly just a blur in my memory. I know I read the books because the titles are there on my lists of "books read" during the period. But I remember very little if anything about almost all of them. Books like Watership Down and A Wrinkle in Time and The Source (among others) - perfectly readable and probably very memorable books. But they're just gone - whoosh! Disappeared!


So I guess I'd have to say that I'm not really a fan of speed reading. It probably does work for some readers (or at least they say it does), but apparently not for me. I have noticed, though, that the more I read, the more rapidly I seem to be able to read. So I think, for me, the best system is to read at my own slower pace, but to just keep reading.

2010 Bibliophilic Books Challenge

And another one! I had promised myself I'd cut back on reading challenges in 2010, but so many creative bloggers keep coming up with challenges I just can't refuse! So here's yet another challenge I'll be signing up for.

The 2010 Bibliophilic Books Challenge runs throughout the coming year, and is being hosted by Lesley of A Life in Books. And it sounds like a really fun challenge. Participants will read a set number of books (fiction or non-) that focus on books or reading - basically, books on books. Now that's one of my favorite genres, and I was just recently thinking that it would make a wonderful reading challenge. So I'm really pleased that Lesley has had the same idea and done something about it - now I don't have to!

To find out more about the challenge, and to sign up, just head on over to the announcement page. The rules are pretty flexible (which I love), and there are three different levels of participation:
  • Bookworm (read three books)
  • Litlover (read six books)
  • Bibliomaniac (read twelve books)
I think I'll play it safe and just sign up for the Bookworm level; but since I really enjoy this subject, I'm hoping to do better than that. And there's no requirement to make a list of books, but I've already got quite a few "books-about-books" tags on my TBR list, and I'm sure I'll be discovering more as the year goes on. And I'll be updating my progress on my challenge blog.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays: It's a Crewel World

This week my teaser comes from a book I haven't actually started reading yet. But it's next up, and I'm hoping to get to it later this week. The book is Crewel Yule, one of the needlecraft mysteries by Monica Ferris (read the first chapter). I love this series, which centers around Betsy Devonshire, part-time sleuth and owner of the needlework shop Crewel World. And in this snippet, police Sergeant Jill Cross Larson is watching someone being carried away in a body bag, reflecting on the mysteries of life after death, and wondering if this life is all there is.
Though a Christian, Jill wasn't absolutely sure it wasn't the last - but, as she reflected at every death she attended, the deceased now knew. And just in case, Jill recited a very old prayer against the darkness, "May perpetual light shine upon her." [p.113]
Sometimes, as Gilbert and Sullivan told us, a policeman's lot is not a happy one.

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by mizb17 at Should Be Reading. If you'd like to read more teasers, or do a little teasing 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 somewhere on that page. 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, December 14, 2009

The Art History Reading Challenge 2010

Found another one. I know, I know - I should really stop looking! But for a while there, several centuries ago, I was headed for grad school in art history (alas, never to be). So this is a subject that's dear to my heart.

The 2010 edition of the Art History Reading Challenge is being hosted by Nomadreader, and runs throughout 2010 (1 January to 31 December). You can sign up and read all about the challenge over on the announcement page, but basically the idea is just to read art-related books (either fiction or non-). There are four different levels of participation; I'm going to be very conservative and opt for Level Two ("Fascinated") - so I'll be reading at least six books, but I hope to do much better than that. Listing your books ahead of time isn't a requirement, but I've got a few that I'm thinking about:
  • The Forgery of Venus, by Michael Gruber
  • Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper, by Harriet Scott Chessman
  • Seek My Face, by John Updike
  • Stealing Athena, by Karen Essex
Plus two more. Of course, my list may change and (I hope) expand as time goes on its flight. I've got a much longer list of titles to choose from, over on my challenge blog; and I'll be updating my progress there, during the year.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Chunkster Reading Challenge 2010

Here's another challenge I'm joining for next year. The 2010 Chunkster Challenge runs from February 1, 2010 to January 31, 2011 and this time it's being hosted by Wendy of Caribousmom (and A Novel Challenge). Most of the rules and reading levels are the same as last year, but you can read all about that over on the challenge blog.

Once again, I'm playing it safe and just committing to three books (the Chubby Chunkster level), and I might just try to make one of those nonfiction this time around. But there's no requirement to list books ahead of time, so let's just see what emerges, OK?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Unfinished Friday: Test Flight

Marie over at The Boston Bibliophile is testing a new Friday meme this week. It's called Unfinished Friday, and asks us to share a few words about books we've started but left unfinished. As she says: "I know most of us endeavor to finish everything we read, but we don't have to, and sometimes it's impossible - it just doesn't work for us, for one reason or another."

And that's certainly true for me. I could probably come up with quite a list if I sat here and thought about it, but for now I'll just list the two that come immediately to mind. Both came highly recommended by readers whose taste I trust, so I'm sure they're good reads. Just not for me.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards. I know everybody says it's not, but I just found this one really, really depressing. Couldn't stick with it past the first couple of chapters. For a while, I thought I might go back and give it another try, but I've come to realize that's just not gonna happen.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Same with this one; didn't make it beyond the first hundred or so pages. I found all that jumping back and forth between Clare, Henry, Clare, Henry really irritating. And I also had trouble believing the whole thing about his clothes not traveling with him. I mean, why not? If you're going to accept time travel, why limit it to the naked body? I could see that going through the whole looking-for-clothing routine every time was going to get pretty tedious, so I finally just threw in the towel (so to speak).

So, how about you? Left any good (or bad) books unfinished lately?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Mark the Spot

I love this week's question! BTT asks: "What items have you ever used as a bookmark? What is the most unusual item you've ever used or seen used?" I love it because I love bookmarks. I've collected or, more precisely, accumulated them since I was a child. Most of mine aren't terribly old or rare or anything – just things that have caught my eye or that have been given to me over the years. Some of them I inherited from my mother. Some I picked up while traveling – bookmarks make excellent souvenirs.

I like to make my own bookmarks, too. The computer and home printer have made that really easy – you can have a new, unique bookmark for every book you read. And I love finding bookmarks in the used books I buy. On our trip to Texas last year, I bought a copy of Ellery Queen's Blighted Dwellings in a used book store, and inside I found this homemade marker – pressed flowers someone had laminated and tucked away. Very sweet.

I'm not sure I've ever used anything extremely unusual as a bookmark. But I've certainly used all kinds of things to mark my place in the books I read – not just "official" bookmarks, but slips of paper, Post-It notes, pieces of yarn, feathers, Metro passes, old dental appointment reminder cards, nail files, paper dolls, wine labels, candy and gum wrappers, playing cards. My aunt used to cut the pictures off Celestial Seasonings tea packages to use as bookmarks, and I still have a number of those.

Right now, I'm reading a couple of Christmas themed books, so I'm using two vintage Christmas bookmarks. One appears to be from about the 1930s and says it's from "Miss Groves and Miss Staudt." Possibly a gift to an honored student from two admiring teachers? And the other is a home-made marker with a drawing of Santa and a "Merry Christmas" greeting – it was in a batch of old ephemera I bought years ago.

And one of my very favorite bookmarks, and one I use quite a lot, is this one. Not sure where I got it, but it has some wonderful advise:

If you're looking for more info on bookmarks, I've got a little list of links to favorite websites on my sidebar (just scroll down – OK, farther down). I always especially enjoy the Forgotten Bookmarks site, which has photos of some of the strange and "heartbreaking" things people leave in books.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays: The Animals' Christmas

I'm mortified to admit that I'm still reading the same book I was reading last week, Rita Mae Brown's Santa Clawed. The book is not a long one and even a slow reader such as myself should be able to finish it off in less than a week, but real life keeps getting in the way, I'm afraid.

The book is a mystery novel and it's a little hard to find excerpts that don't give away too much of the plot. In this snippet, the animal companions of the book's main character (Mary Haristeen, called "Harry") are going along with her to pick out the family Christmas tree. Tucker is her Welsh corgi, and Mrs. Murphy and Pewter are cats. They do a lot of talking amongst themselves, and if Harry could understand what they say, she'd save herself a lot of time and trouble.
"Very nice." Tucker admired the twelve-foot tree, which would look good in the old farmhouse with its high ceilings.

"Can't wait to climb it," Pewter said.

"Have to wait until it's decorated. Maximum damage," Mrs. Murphy gleefully ordered. [p.18]

Now isn't that just like a cat? Actually, none of our cats ever brought down a Christmas tree; but we once had a kitty who ate one of our ficus trees - one branch at a time, over several weeks. Probably tasted like chicken.

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 somewhere on that page. 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, December 07, 2009

Assorted Challenges: Wrap 'em Up!

Don't know if it's the Thanksgiving-Christmas busy-ness, or this cold I've had for the last week, or just general winter hibernation mode setting in, but for some reason I haven't felt very much like blogging lately. I've been intending to post wrap-ups for a few challenges that end soon, or in some cases have already ended, but just haven't been able to make myself sit down and do the writing. But the cold is better and the snow is melting (we won't mention the backache just yet because I'm hoping if I ignore it, it'll go away), so I thought I'd take a stab at a sort of all-in-one wrap-up post. As usual, I haven't written reviews for all the books I read, but I'm going to work on that this week (no, really I am).

First of all, the November Novella Challenge ended with the month of November (funny how that worked out, isn't it?), so I'm just about a week late closing things out. It was hosted by Bibliofreak (many thanks!), and I think it was a great idea for a challenge. I have a long list of short fiction I hope to get read someday, and this challenge provided the perfect incentive. I didn't get as much read as I had hoped (when do I ever?), but I did read three works that have been on my TBR list for more than a year, and one that I hadn't really known about until I started researching works for the challenge. The novellas I read were:
  1. The Lair of the White Worm, by Bram Stoker
  2. The Lesson of the Master, by Henry James (the new discovery)
  3. The Lover, by Marguerite Duras
  4. The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett
Out of the four works, only one disappointed (Stoker's Worm is a decidedly forgettable tale), so I think that was a pretty successful experience. And if Bibliofreak repeats this next year, I'll definitely be signing up.

The 20 in 2009 Challenge still has a few weeks to run, but I'll go ahead and bring down the curtain. Fortunately, I read my twentieth book quite a bit earlier this year - just never managed to get the wrap-up post written until now. So far, this year I've read nearly fifty books (a few more than last year), so for the purposes of the challenge, I'm just listing twenty titles I've actually reviewed. I have a separate blog page dedicated to this challenge, and you can click here to see my list of books read. I want to say thanks very much to the challenge coordinator (Lynn?) for hosting, and for being so well-organized!

Now this one is just slightly embarrassing. The 2009 Southern Reading Challenge ended back in August. And while I did manage to read the three requisite Southern works, it looks like I never posted a wrap-up. So I'll do that now. The challenge was hosted by Maggie of Maggie Reads (thank so much for hosting, Maggie!), and I'm extra upset about forgetting this one because it was one of my favorites. I've always enjoyed reading Southern literature (well, I was born and raised there), and this challenge gave me a much-needed nudge to go back and pick up a few works I'd neglected over the years. My three books were: Ellen Foster, by Kaye Gibbons; The Optimist's Daughter, by Eudora Welty; and To Dance with the White Dog, by Terry Kay.

Thought I had done reviews of all of those, but I see now that I still need to say a few words about Ellen Foster. One more item for this month's to-do list.

And finally, the Sci-Fi 42 Challenge ended December 3rd. It was hosted by Becky of Becky's Book Reviews, and I must say it was one of the most enjoyable challenges I've encountered. I haven't been terribly faithful about keeping up my entry on the challenge blog, but I've been keeping my own list of the sci-fi items I've watched/read/tinkered with, and you can see that on its own little blog site here. Didn't do much reading for the challenge, but I watched a humongous amount of TV shows and movies. I'm sending a really big thank-you to Becky for coming up with the idea and hosting the challenge. She says she's doing it again for 2010, so if you're interested, head on over there and sign up. I know I'm already looking forward to it.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: But What About Me?

This week, BTT is asking why participants participate: "What's your favorite part of Booking Through Thursday? Why do you participate (or not)?"

You know, that's a question I've been asking myself lately. Why do I keep coming back here every week when I could be spending that time reading? Or sleeping. Or, well, doing something constructive and useful – like learning to knit or painting the kitchen. It's a good question and I'm not sure I really have a good answer.

I do like the interaction with other bloggers, of course. I definitely like to see all the different opinions and ideas and "takes" on each topic. And I like having a chance to air my own feelings on whatever subject is at hand. I like the fact that it's like a little once-a-week writing assignment – but one with an easy deadline and no grades to be handed out when it's turned in.

But I suppose finally it just boils down to addiction. I'm a very habitual person – if I do something twice, it becomes a ritual and I get upset if any changes are made. I think that's probably an indication that I was a cat in an earlier life (well, that and the fact that I don't like getting wet). So I suppose as long as Booking Through Thursday keeps throwing a new subject out there every week, I'll keep checking in to see what we all think about it.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays: Getting Away With Murder

Today my teasers come from Santa Clawed, one of the Mrs. Murphy mysteries by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown. In this snippet, "Fair" is Fair (short for Pharamond) Haristeen, husband of Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen, the series' main character (main human character, that is); and he's chatting with one of the other series regulars, Mim Sanburne, about the most recent murder that's turned up in the little Virginia town of Crozet:

"Murder is easier to accomplish and remain undetected than television crime dramas acknowledge. Why do you think there's so much publicity when a murder is solved?"

Fair finished his tea. "Also fuels the illusion that you can't get away with murder, when you can." [p.60]

Hmmmm? That's an interesting thought, but if it's true, I wonder how much longer that will last. In these days of twenty-four-hour news coverage and total media access to everyone's private information, it's getting harder and harder to get away with even the smallest transgressions. Just ask Tiger Woods.

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 somewhere on that page. 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!

TBR (Lite) Reading Challenge 2009 and 2010

In 2010, MizB is once again going to be hosting her popular TBR (Lite) Challenge, and once again I'll be signing up. I managed to read quite a few books from my TBR list in 2009, so the challenge was definitely good for me. Oddly enough, though, only one of the books I read was actually from my original list for the challenge. Good thing I chose Option B which doesn't require lists to be carved in stone. So, officially, the books I read for the challenge (with links to reviews) were:

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
Cover Her Face by P.D. James
The Great Victorian Collection by Brian Moore
Hotel Du Lac by Anita Brookner
The Master by Colm Toibin
The Way Through the Woods by Colin Dexter

All of those had been on my "to read" list for years - don't know why it took me so long to get to them, because they were all great reads. I enjoyed each of them, but of the six, I believe my favorite would have to be The Age of Innocence; it really is a wonderful novel and one I'd gladly reread.

Now for the 2010 edition of the challenge, I'm going with Option B again (six books in twelve months), just in case I want to make some changes along the way. But I'm going to try to stick a little closer to my original list (I promise!), so I've done quite a bit of thinking about it. And here's what I've come up with:
  1. Afternoon Men by Anthony Powell
  2. The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald
  3. Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes
  4. The Inn at Lake Devine by Elinor Lipman
  5. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
  6. Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion
Again, all those have been on my TBR list for years - I even started reading Flaubert's Parrot at one time and then put it aside; so we'll see how far I get with it, the second time around.

You can see the full list of all the books I read this year from my to-be-read list here. And to learn more about the challenge, visit the challenge announcement page.