Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Victorian Challenge 2012

I really thought I was done with challenge sign-ups for 2012 (no, I mean really). But apparently I was wrong about that. Just can't resist one more.

The Victorian Challenge, hosted by Laura's Reviews, runs throughout 2012. The object of the challenge is to read (or watch or listen to) 2 to 6 (or more) Victorian items. Anything written during this time period qualifies for the challenge -- also books set during the Victorian age, or books about a Victorian author, history, manners, architecture, Queen Victoria etc. You can find more information and sign up for the challenge here.

I've already got Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre on my list for this year. And I'm thinking that this might be the year I finally read The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. Also, it's just about time for a re-read of Lewis Carroll's Alice books, too. So I've got several books in mind. Whatever I end up reading, watching, etc., I'll be tracking my progress on my challenge blog, here.

Teaser Tuesdays: A Fall of Moondust

This week my teaser lines come from a vintage sci-fi novel, Arthur C. Clarke's A Fall of Moondust. In the book, the Dust-cruiser Selene has malfunctioned and been buried deep beneath the Moon's Sea of Thirst, trapping the crew and passengers under many feet of deadly dust. This snippet is from page 118:
It was then that Pat knew, without any further argument, that he was genuinely in love with Susan. For his first reaction was not fear for his own safety, but anger and grief that, after having endured so much, she would have to die within sight of rescue.
I don't usually expect romance from Clarke's books, but this one definitely has a romantic angle to it. And since this teaser comes from about midway through the story, I'm still hoping for a happy ending.

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by mizB at Should Be Reading. If you'd like to read more teasers, or take part yourself, just head on over to her blog.

And please feel free to leave me a link to your Teaser Tuesday post in your comment here.

Monday, January 30, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Well, once again, I only finished one book last week -- Liberty by Garrison Keillor. Hope to get a review up a little later today, but for now I'll just say it wasn't exactly what I was expecting.

This week, I'm reading some science fiction (inspired by Carl V's 2012 Science Fiction Experience): I've started A Fall of Moondust, by Arthur C. Clarke, and I'm thinking of reading another vintage sci-fi novel, Clifford D. Simak's Time and Again. I'm pretty sure I read that last one many, many years ago, but don't really remember much about it.

Also still plugging away at A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book and Kate Morton's The House At Riverton. So far, I'm enjoying both of those, but if I'm going to finish either of them I'm probably going to have to decide on one and stick with it to the end -- something I have trouble doing with these chunksters.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. If you want to let the world know what books you're going to be reading this week, head on over to her blog and leave your link. It's also a great way to discover new books and new blogs.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Reading Journal: 27 January 2012

Well, after abandoning the last book I started, I've returned to one I began reading back around the first of January. The Children's Book, by A.S. Byatt, has been on my TBR pile for a couple of years now (it came out in 2009). And as it's quite a chunkster (almost 700 pages in hard cover) I'm likely to be reading it most of the year! I do have a problem sticking with big books -- I tend to stop and start, so it usually takes me much longer than it should to get through them. And for some reason, I generally have trouble finishing anything by A.S. Byatt, short or long.

So far, though, I'm enjoying this one quite a lot. However, it's a very dense book -- the first section has an enormous amount of information that I'm sure will be important later in the story, and (as usual with Byatt) there's a cast of thousands to get to know. Very Dickensian -- and fun, but the list of personae can get a little confusing. I've even resorted to diagramming the family relationships, so I know who belongs where:

But that appeals to the genealogist in me -- and the list-maker, too.


Oh, and here's a little bit of "On This Day in Literary History" sort of thing. Today, January 27th is Lewis Carroll's birthday (1832).

The Alice books are some of my all-time favorites, and probably the first "long" books (well, they seemed long at the time) that I read on my own. I still re-read them from time to time.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Booking Through Thursday: Writing or Riveting?

This week, BTT asks: " What’s more important: Good writing? Or a good story? (Of course, a book should have BOTH, but…) "

Well, at first I was tempted to say that if I can only choose one of those, give me good story every time. But then I got to thinking and realized it's very unlikely that just a good story is going to hold my attention very long, if that story isn't well-written. So I really don't think I could choose one over the other. I want both.

Too much to ask?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Reading Journal: First Abandoned Book of 2012

A Man of Parts. David Lodge.
Viking, 2011; 436 pages

Publisher's description:
H. G. Wells, author of The Time Machine and War of the Worlds, was one of the twentieth century's most prophetic and creative writers, a man who moved in the most important literary, intellectual, and political circles of his time. In his new novel, David Lodge has taken the compelling true story of Wells's life and transformed it into a witty and deeply moving narrative about a fascinating yet flawed man.

As the second war he has lived through moves into its final phase, the ailing Herbert George Wells looks back on a life crowded with incident, books and women....Once he was probably the most famous writer in the world, "the man who invented tomorrow"; now he feels like yesterday's man, deserted or disparaged by readers and depressed by the collapse of his utopian dreams for mankind.

I've read a couple of other books by David Lodge, and enjoyed them. This, however, is a very different kind of book. Not bad -- just didn't "grab" me. I'm always a little wary of fiction based on historical figures -- seems that it either takes too many liberties with the subject matter or it's too much like straightforward biography. And I'm afraid this one belongs in that latter category. H.G. Wells is a fascinating figure all right, but I was hoping for more story. After the first fifty pages or so, I felt as though I'd been reading an extended Wikipedia article on Wells -- too much info and not enough action. So this one goes in the DNF batch.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays: Liberty

This week my teaser lines come from Garrison Keillor's novel, Liberty -- one of his Lake Wobegon tales. This snippet comes from page 184:
Irene didn't intend to kill Clint, just bring him to his senses. It was time he learned: You can't have everything. Take your choice. Make a life with me or get a bellyful of hot lead.
That sounds a little more violent than the usual Garrison Keillor offering, but I'm pretty sure Irene isn't going to do any real harm to ol' Clint. Well, almost pretty sure anyway.

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by mizB at Should Be Reading. If you'd like to read more teasers, or take part yourself, just head on over to her blog.

And please feel free to leave me a link to your Teaser Tuesday post in your comment here.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Well, I slowed down a bit last week. After a pretty fast take-off earlier in January, last week I only managed to finish one book -- The Shakespeare Thefts, by Eric Rasmussen. I did read a portion of another (A Man of Parts, by David Lodge), but after the 50-page test, decided it's not for me. So -- one book finished and one book abandoned.

This week, I've got several books going (as usual). But the ones I'm concentrating on are Liberty by Garrison Keillor (one of his Lake Wobegon novels), and another nonfiction Early Reviewer book from Library Thing, Republic of Words: The Atlantic Monthly and Its Writers 1857-1925, by Susan Goodman. I'm about halfway through the Garrison Keillor book and enjoying it, though with reservations. Haven't actually started the Goodman book, so I can't say anything about it yet -- looks fairly scholarly, with over fifty pages of notes and index.

And I'm also still reading two chunksters -- Kate Morton's The House At Riverton, and A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book -- although I've put them on hold until I finish up the other two. So I've got plenty to keep me bookishly busy this week.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. If you want to let the world know what books you're going to be reading this week, head on over to her blog and leave your link. It's also a great way to discover new books and new blogs.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folios

Written by Eric Rasmussen
Palgrave Macmillan, 2011; 222 pages

The book known as the First Folio, the first edition of the collected works of William Shakespeare, was put together by his fellow actors after Shakespeare's death. From the moment the original 750-copy print run left the press, it's been one of the most coveted books ever published -- treasured by kings, billionaires, and bibliophiles the world over.

The Shakespeare Thefts is the account of a renowned Shakespeare scholar's attempt to track down every existing copy of the book (232 are known), and to identify other copies that have been lost or stolen. Rasmussen and his team of literary detectives traveled the globe and spent more than a decade in their effort to "make the First Folio the most documented book of all time." A daunting task, to be sure; and one that certainly appeals to the lit-geek in me. Along the way, they encountered thieves, eccentric book collectors, reclusive librarians, as well as academics and historians, aristocrats and theater people -- all in some way mixed up in the story of one of the world's most sought-after books.

The Shakespeare Thefts was interesting enough, and a fast read; I enjoyed it, even though I was never exactly swept away by the narrative. An awful lot of detail to take in, for such a relatively short book -- occasionally I felt like I was slipping into info overload syndrome. Probably not a book for everyone, but if you're interested in Shakespeare scholarship or theater history or rare book collecting, this should be right up your street.

Note: I received my copy of this book free of charge from the publisher, through Library Thing's Early Reviewer program. No other compensation was provided, and no one attempted to influence my opinion of the book.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Night Strangers

Written by Chris Bohjalian
Crown Publishers, 2011; 380 pages

After a horrific plane crash in which most of the passengers as well as his co-pilot are killed, airline pilot Chip Linton is devastated and in need of both physical and emotional healing. He's been cleared of any wrong-doing or neglect, but he's haunted by survivor's guilt and the possibility that if he'd acted differently or faster, more lives might have been saved. Worried about her husband and anxious to help the family return to some degree of normality, wife Emily Linton decides the best plan would be to move the family to a new town where they can get away from the disturbing memories, and get a fresh start. So the run-down but lovely Victorian house in a quiet town in northern New Hampshire seems the perfect choice.

Chip and Emily decide to buy the place and make a new home for themselves and their twin daughters Hallie and Garnet. They're so enchanted with their new surroundings that they're really not too alarmed when the real estate agent who helped them find the house dies suddenly on the day they're scheduled to close. And once they move in, life seems to be smoothing out again -- until Chip notices the mysterious door in the basement. Why didn't they notice it when they were looking at the house the first time around? What's behind the door, and why does it seem to lead nowhere? And why is it tightly sealed with thirty-nine 6-inch-long carriage bolts? Is it just a coincidence that thirty-nine is the exact number of people killed in the plane crash? Does the sealed door have anything to do with the tragic death of a member of the family who lived in the house before the Lintons arrived?

While Chip becomes obsessed with finding the answers to these questions and deals with all the other questions haunting him (some, quite literally), Emily is starting to wonder about the women she's met in the village. Calling themselves "herbalists," they seem completely caught up in their horticultural pursuits. Emily is sure the ladies are simply harmless hobbyists. But why do they seem so fascinated by the Lintons' twin daughters?

Lots of questions to be answered. Including the one I kept asking: "why don't they just pack up and move back to the city? "

I'd heard so much about this one: it sounded right down my street -- a haunted basement, spooky twins, shamans, witches, a town with a secret from the past. Now how could I resist something like that? Obviously I couldn't -- and when I found the book at the library, I had to bring it home. And managed to read the whole thing in one day; pretty unusual for me, especially since Bohjalian's novel is almost 400 pages long.

So I have to admit, it's definitely a page-turner. But the story itself left me a little cold (and not from terror). Maybe I've just read too many of these creepy tales, but this one seemed a little too derivative -- many other books kept coming to mind including Rosemary's Baby, Burnt Offerings and The Amityville Horror, as well as bits of Stephen King. And I had a lot of trouble believing that two intelligent people could be as gullible and unaware as Chip and Emily seem to be -- even if they are suffering from trauma and depression. Can't say much more or I'd give too much away -- it was all just a bit too predictable for my taste.

But, as I said, I did enjoy the writing. Overall, the book is pleasingly atmospheric, and at times genuinely spooky. So I don't think I'll let this one turn me off Chris Bohjalian. Several of his other works sound very interesting, too.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Booking Through Thursday: Skipping

This week, BTT asks: "Do you skip ahead in a book? Do you feel badly about it when you do?"

Have to admit, I might occasionally skip around in a book. Sometimes I'll skip back and forth, and read different parts, out of order. Sometimes I "skim" sections, without reading every single word. And sometimes I simply leave portions completely unread. Not often -- but it's been known to happen.

Does this cause me shame or embarrassment? Nope. I suppose I might feel a bit uncomfortable if it's an ARC or a book I've promised to review. Then I do try to read every word. And that's one of the reasons I've cut way back on requesting or accepting advance copies.

I agree with Somerset Maugham, in the article mentioned. For me, reading is a diversion (unless the work being read is an instruction book or the like). These days, I read purely for pleasure -- so if I decide to skip a few lines or paragraphs or pages, I don't feel guilty about it at all.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays: The Night Strangers

This week my teaser lines come from Chris Bohjalian's The Night Strangers: Chip and Emily Linton and their twin daughters have just moved into their new home -- a huge old Victorian house in a remote area of New England.
If they noticed a door with thirty-nine carriage bolts partially hidden by a moldering pile of coal, the image never registered in either of their minds....
It was only on their third afternoon there, when Chip Linton descended the basement steps with their first ever load of laundry in their new home, that he would sense something from the corner of his eye and turn toward it, realizing as the hairs on the back of his neck began to prickle that behind all that coal in the corner was a door. (p.18)
Things are just about to get very weird.

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by mizB at Should Be Reading. If you'd like to read more teasers, or take part yourself, just head on over to her blog.

And please feel free to leave me a link to your Teaser Tuesday post in your comment here.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I've had a pretty good reading month, so far -- four books read, and two reviewed:

Will try to get reviews of the other two up later today.

This week, I've got a couple of books going: The House at Riverton by Kate Morton (which I'm thoroughly enjoying), and A Man of Parts by David Lodge (which I'm also liking a lot). Also getting ready to start The Shakespeare Thefts by Eric Rasmussen -- which is what I really should be reading, since it's an Early Reviewer book from Library Thing and I'm very late getting to it.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. If you want to let the world know what books you're going to be reading this week, head on over to her blog and leave your link. It's also a great way to discover new books and new blogs.

The Players Come Again

Written by Amanda Cross
Random House, 1990; 229 pages

At the beginning of The Players Come Again, Kate Fansler -- professor of English literature and amateur sleuth -- has just published a study of Henry James and Thomas Hardy, and is looking around for her next project. So she's very interested when an editor from a New York publishing company comes to her with a suggestion for a biography of Gabrielle Foxx, reclusive wife of the great modernist writer Emmanuel Foxx.

Gabrielle has always been an enigma to academics, who've wondered about her influence on her husband's writing, especially his controversial masterpiece novel, Ariadne. And there are questions about Gabrielle's own secret work -- work that no one has ever seen. Was Gabrielle just a muse and a handmaiden to her husband's enormous talents, or was she much more? As Kate digs deeper and deeper into the background of the Foxx family, she begins to realize the complicated motivations behind their fierce secrecy and desire to preserve the reputations of both Gabrielle and Emmanuel, and to protect their private lives from public scrutiny.

And from there, things just keep getting more and more complicated.

I've read one other book in this series, many years ago, and remember being a bit disappointed by it. But I wanted to give the author (Amanda Cross was the pseudonym of feminist literary critic Carolyn Heilbrun) another chance. I love the academic settings, and Kate herself is a very intriguing character. But, sad to say, this book was even less satisfying than the first. I read it right through, fairly quickly (for me), waiting for the promised mystery to develop. However, except for a possible long-ago murder mentioned in the book's last pages, this was a pretty standard tale of literary research. Not exactly boring, just disappointing if you're looking for real suspense.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Books in Translation Reading Challenge 2012

Well, I seriously thought I was finished with challenge sign-ups for this new year. But it seems I was wrong about that. Gotta squeeze in just one more.

The Books in Translation Reading Challenge is hosted by The Introverted Reader, and runs through December 31, 2012. As the sign-up page says, the challenge is pretty self-explanatory: The object is to read books that have been translated from their original language -- into whatever language you're comfortable reading. One of my main reading goals this year is to read more literature from countries other than the U.S. and England, so this challenge is perfect for me.

There's no limit on genres or formats, and crossovers with other challenges are allowed. You don't even need a blog to participate -- you can link up via Good Reads or Library Thing, or (I assume) any other social media site where you can post your comments. And in order to participate you really only need to read one book -- how easy is that?

To choose your level of participation and sign up, just go to the challenge announcement page here, and leave your link. I'm signing up at the second level ("Conversationalist"), so I'll be trying for 4-6 books. Haven't decided exactly what those books will be yet (although I've already started Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks), but during the year I'll be tracking my progress over on my challenge blog (here).


Written by Penelope Lively
Perennial, 2000; 218 pages
First published 1998

Lively's beautifully written novel tells the story of Stella Brentwood, a 65-year-old newly retired anthropologist who's recently moved to a small cottage in Somerset, England to begin her post-employment life. In new unfamiliar surroundings, Stella falls back on tried and true habits of observation and study. She immerses herself in village life, just as she's done in many parts of the world over a lifetime of field work, all the while maintaining a professional distance from it all -- still the anthropologist who can't allow herself to become too entangled in the lives of the people she's studying. But these new "subjects" are also neighbors and friends, and Stella finds that in retirement she has new opportunities for human connection, and even love. Can she make the emotional commitment these new relationships require?

And at the same time, there are those in the village who aren't so friendly or happy to have this stranger in their midst. Woven in with Stella's story is that of the horrifically dysfunctional Hiscox family -- mother, father and their two young teenaged sons. The boys' home life is hellish, and at school they're social outcasts. They see Stella as a crazy old lady, and mistake her attempts at friendship as ominous meddling. Will they pose a threat to Stella and her new existence?

I always enjoy Penelope Lively's books, and this is one of her best. The writing is stunning, as always -- elegant, intelligent, and yet very accessible. The subject matter is thought-provoking and deeply serious, but not heavy or lacking in humor. And the characters are believable and vivid: Lively can delineate an entire character with just a word or two.

I enjoyed the fact that the story is told (not completely, but mostly) from Stella's point of view, without a lot of changing perspectives -- and largely in the present, although a lot of Stella's memories are always on display. Lively does tell us a lot about Stella's past -- we learn about her field work in several different locations, and her long friendship with her University mate, Nadine, and Nadine's husband Richard; we get glimpses of her life with her parents, and we see her through a couple of serious love affairs. Actually, there's quite a lot of story packed into these two hundred pages! All of which is fascinating -- and necessary, of course, to explain the present-day Stella and how she got to this point.

I loved that the book's protagonist is a "mature" woman who's not either dying of a dread disease, struggling with senility, or fighting with her children. Although she's reached retirement age, Stella is active, in good health physically and mentally, has no children and doesn't spend half the novel moaning about that lack. Even though her interpretation of events has been shaped and in some ways distorted by her life-long habit of dispassionate observation, I found Stella a very appealing and sympathetic character.

This is one I can definitely see myself reading again and recommending.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Booking Through Thursday: Interview, Part 2

I missed last week's question about interviewing -- which is just as well, since I have no idea of who I'd want to interview. Possibly one of my dead ancestors, but I'd have a hell of time figuring out which one.

So, forward to today's topic. This week, Deb at BTT has her own little interview in mind: "But enough about interviewing other people. It’s time I interviewed YOU."

And here are the questions with my answers following:

1. What’s your favorite time of day to read?
My favorite time of day to read is actually night. I love (and do) read at any time of day, but for some reason I read faster and more comfortably at night -- especially after midnight, in the wee hours. Assuming I'm rested and not sleepy, I can very happily read all night long. And I think I retain more of what I read late at night, too.
2. Do you read during breakfast? (Assuming you eat breakfast.)
I do eat breakfast (it's your most important meal -- I'm saying that for my cousin MLB who has been known to skimp on calories by skimping on breakfast -- tsk! tsk!). And I usually do read while I eat it, and sometimes write, too.
3. What’s your favorite breakfast food? (Noting that breakfast foods can be eaten any time of day.)
I suppose my favorite breakfast food would have to be something sweet and gooey and really bad for you, like cinnamon buns or cheese danish or chocolate croissants, or nice fluffy pancakes with real maple syrup. Or anything with bacon and grits. Or those full English breakfasts you get across the pond. Of course, I never actually eat that breakfast because I know all about cholesterol and blood pressure and bypass surgery.
4. How many hours a day would you say you read?
That varies drastically. Some days, I don't read at all. Some days, I've got a book in my hands almost every minute. Just depends on my mood and what else is going on.
5. Do you read more or less now than you did, say, 10 years ago?
Ah, there's a sad story there. And it's actually what got me hooked on blogging (not that I'm sad about that). All during the 1990s and early in the present century, I had become almost a non-reader -- after being a voracious book consumer all my life. Things, mostly my job, just got in the way and I never seemed to have the time or energy to sit down and read a book, just for pleasure. Aside from work-related material, brief newspaper or magazine articles were the most I could manage back then. But then a few years ago, I found out about book blogging and turned myself back into a reader. Which is really why I keep this blog going -- it's keeping me reading. So the answer is -- I read much more today than I did ten years ago.
6. Do you consider yourself a speed reader?
(Excuse the hysterical laughter.) No, I don't consider myself anything like a speed reader. Although I can read fast when I need to, my natural inclination is to read at a very leisurely pace. Too leisurely, really.
7. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
I don't want a superpower. But a phaser and a teleporter would be quite appreciated.
8. Do you carry a book with you everywhere you go?
Just about.
9. What KIND of book?
Whatever I'm currently reading, if it's small enough to fit in my handbag (I don't have a Kindle or Nook yet). Otherwise, I'll grab something that does fit.
10. How old were you when you got your first library card?
You know, I actually don't remember exactly how old I was. Ten, maybe? Not terribly young because we didn't have a public library really near us. I do remember being completely amazed at the idea of all those books to browse and read for free.
11. What’s the oldest book you have in your collection? (Oldest physical copy? Longest in the collection? Oldest copyright?)
I love old books, but there really aren't any ancient books in our collection. We have a (mid) 19th Century edition of Pepys' diary with some very nice prints, and an 1893 edition of Alice in Wonderland with a lovely gilded cover, and a few first editions of some early 20th Century novels. I have no idea what book would have the oldest copyright. And as for "oldest in the collection" -- I guess that would be one of the books I've saved from childhood, probably either The Real Mother Goose or The Bumper Book. I don't remember how old I was when I got those, but they both have my pre-school scribbles and artwork in them.
12. Do you read in bed?
13. Do you write in your books?
Yes, although it depends on the book.
14. If you had one piece of advice to a new reader, what would it be?
Read what makes you happy, but don't be afraid to try something completely unlike anything you've tried before. Maybe that'll make you happy, too.
15. What question have I NOT asked at BTT that you’d love me to ask? (Actually, leave the answer to this one in the comments on this post, huh? So I can find them when I need inspiration!)
Can't promise anything here. I'm really bad at coming up with these questions.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2012

One more. Don't know how I missed this one. I enjoyed the 2011 Historical Fiction Challenge so much, I really can't pass up the 2012 edition. The challenge is hosted by Historical Tapestry, and runs throughout 2012. You can see all the guidelines on the challenge announcement page here. I'm signing up at the "Daring and Curious" level, so I'll be reading at least five books. Don't know what I'll be reading yet, but during the year I'll be tracking my progress on my challenge blog here.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays: Spiderweb

This week my teaser lines come from Spiderweb, by Penelope Lively. The novel tells the story of Stella Brentwood, a 65-year-old newly retired anthropologist who has recently moved to a small English village to begin her new post-employment life. This excerpt is from p.15 of the paperback edition:
She had plans. There were articles that she intended to write, for the journals of her trade. She would keep her hand in professionally. But she would branch out, also. Read with luxurious eclecticism,...learn about things of which she knew nothing.
And I will get a dog, she thought suddenly.
I'm only about halfway through this one, but I'm enjoying it a lot. Stella, however, doesn't really strike me as a dog person, so I'm wondering how that's going to turn out.

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by mizB at Should Be Reading. If you'd like to read more teasers, or take part yourself, just head on over to her blog.

And please feel free to leave me a link to your Teaser Tuesday post in your comment here.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Almost forgot about this being Monday. With all the holiday frazzle and this being my hubby's birthday, I'm a little off-kilter today. Well, a lot off-kilter. What is kilter, anyway?

But I digress. As usual.

I'm starting off the new week and the new year with Penelope Lively's Spiderweb. I figured I should begin the year with something short by an author I've read and enjoyed in the past, and this one fits those requirements perfectly.

And it's also a good fit for several of the new reading challenges I've signed up for -- probably too many again, but a lot fewer than last year, I'm happy to say. I do love challenges, but I tend to get carried away when the new ones start appearing every year. Like the kid in the proverbial candy story. [Note: that should be store. But if there were a candy story, I'd like to be in that, too. But I digress.] This year I'm trying very, very hard to exercise some control.

Last week, I finished off 2011 with Philip Eade's Prince Philip: The Turbulent Early Life of the Man Who Married Queen Elizabeth II, which I enjoyed very much. Not a lot to say about it, though -- it is what it says it is, Philip's early years. If you find the British royal family as entertaining as I do, you'll probably like it; if not, not.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. If you want to let the world know what books you're going to be reading this week, head on over to her blog and leave your link. It's also a great way to discover new books and new blogs.