Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Series Challenge Season 4

Now this is a challenge that seems like a natural for me. So how did I miss out on Seasons 1 through 3? The Series Challenge (Season 4) is being hosted again by Kathrin of Secret Dreamworld of a Bookaholic, and runs from December 1st, 2009 to November 30th, 2010. You can read all about it and sign up by visiting the challenge announcement page, but these are the basic guidelines:
  • Pick a couple series you already started and now want to finish (meaning, you'll be all up to date with the series when it ends).
  • Read at least 4 books, more are also okay, of course!
  • Crossovers with other challenges are always okay.
  • Post your reviews on your blog or in the comments section of the challenge page, no matter how long. If you post the review on your blog, post a link to the review in the comments section so everyone else can check out your review.
  • Have fun!
I've got dozens of series that I've dipped into but still need to finish (see my List of Series blog), so it's not easy to choose. But I think the series I'm going to work on in 2010 are these:
  • The Cliff Janeway series by John Dunning (2 books left to read)
  • The Mrs. Malory series by Hazel Holt (6 books left to read)
  • The Pendergast series by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (7 books left to read)
That would be a total of fifteen books to read. I'll be updating my progress on my challenge blog, as I go along.

I really don't have much hope of actually finishing all of these series in a year's time. (Well, maybe the Cliff Janeway books - only two of those left to go.) But that's OK - I'm signing up anyway. At least the challenge will focus my attention on some of the series books I love, and who knows - I might end up doing better than I expect. And that's really what challenges are all about, isn't it?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays: The Lover

This week my teaser lines come from The Lover by Marguerite Duras. And once again I'm cheating a bit - more than two lines, and these lines are the opening sentences of the book, so they're really not random. But they do sort of reach out and grab you:

One day, I was already old, in the entrance of a public place a man came up to me. He introduced himself and said, "I've known you for years. Everyone says you were beautiful when you were young, but I want to tell you I think you're more beautiful now than then. Rather than your face as a young woman, I prefer your face as it is now. Ravaged." [p.3]

Makes me think of all those great French cinema stars - Jeanne Moreau or Simone Signoret, or even Catherine Deneuve. I once had someone tell me I had the face of a ravaged 8-year-old. Or maybe it was ravished. No, probably not that. Well, neither of those sound like compliments, do they?

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!

Tuesday Thingers: SantaThing

Tuesday Thingers is hosted every week by Wendi of Wendi's Book Corner (thanks, Wendi!), and this week her question is about LibraryThing's Christmas gift-giving feature, SantaThing: "Have you ever participated in SantaThing (it is in its third year)? If so, what did you like? Dislike? Are you planning to participate this year?"

I remember SantaThing from last year, but haven't participated. Don't know that I will this year, either. I never really feel very confident about buying books for others, unless I know the other person really well. I don't hesitate to recommend books, but I'm more reluctant to engage in the actual thrusting-upon routine.

And Christmas gift-giving in general can be very traumatic for me – I tend to obsess about finding the perfect gift until the whole activity becomes more of a chore than a pleasure. (OK, I'm neurotic. I admit it.) I'm still considering, but right now I'm thinking that SantaThing might turn into PressureThing, and that's not really something I want to take on!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

New Authors Challenge 2010

Well, I was going to give this one a miss because I figured there was no way I would ever be able to read enough new authors in one year to complete the challenge. But after looking at my reading list for this year, I realized that at least twenty or more of the works I read in 2009 were written by new-to-me authors.

So I'm signing up for the New Authors Challenge. It runs through 2010 and it's being hosted by Jackie at Literary Escapism. The idea behind the challenge is pretty simple (which I love, of course) – just commit to reading 15, 25, or 50 authors you've never read before. Think I'll play it safe and just go for 15 to start. After January 1st, I'll be updating my progress on my challenge blog.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Thriller and Suspense Reading Challenge 2010

This is one I could not possibly resist. I had so much fun reading all the books for the 2008-2009 edition of the Thriller & Suspense Challenge, that I'm already looking forward to the Thriller & Suspense 2010 Challenge. It's being hosted this time by Book Chick City, and runs from 1 January to 31 December, 2010. Participants will read twelve books from a number of different sub-genres (see the list here), and the rules are very loose:

"You don't have to select your books ahead of time, you can just add them as you go. Also if you do list them upfront then you can change them, nothing is set in stone! The books you choose can crossover into other challenges you have on the go."

To read more about the challenge, or to sign up, just visit the challenge announcement page here.

I have a number of mysteries/thrillers/suspense novels I was hoping to read this year, but never got around to; so I'll start my list with those, and add to it later. So far, here's what I've got:
  1. The Atlantis Revelation. Thomas Greanias
  2. The Book of the Dead. Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
  3. The Forgery of Venus. Michael Gruber
  4. Lethal Legacy. Linda Fairstein
  5. The Lost Symbol. Dan Brown
  6. Mr. Murder. Dean Koontz

As we go along, I'll be updating all the challenge info on my challenge blog (here); and I'll try to remember to update this post, too. Now I can start looking around for the rest of the books for my list. And I think I enjoy that almost as much as reading the books themselves (more, in some cases).

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Posterity

Do you ever have that dream where you're taking a final exam for one class or another, and when you sit down to go to work you realize you haven't done any of the reading, or attended any of the classes, and don't have even the slightest idea how to answer any of the questions? Well, I haven't had it in quite a while, although it used to be one of my recurring nightmares. And that feeling of panic and frustration that accompanies the dream? Well, that's exactly how I felt when I read this week's Booking Through Thursday topic.

Here's the question: Do you think any current author is of the same caliber as Dickens, Austen, Bronte, or any of the classic authors? If so, who, and why do you think so? If not, why not? What books from this era might be read 100 years from now?

I feel like I've stumbled into English Lit 101, and you know what? I'm just not ready for this!

So I'll just say that, if I felt qualified to answer it, my response to the first part of this question would be a definite maybe. See, I'm not a big Dickens fan – never have understood the adulation there. And as for the Brontes – well, they wrote a couple of great books (Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre), but I really don't think the rest of their output comes up to that level. I can't help thinking that they're actually remembered more for their interesting life stories than for their literary achievements. Jane Austen, on the other hand, is truly one of the greats and no, I don't think there's really anyone writing today who's in her class.

I do believe there is some very fine writing around today – worth reading and remembering and passing on to posterity. But with the future of the book and the future of reading as we know it being debated and researched and pondered in every university, publishing house, book store, and literary or educational establishment on the planet right now, I would not dare make any predictions about what or who will be read a hundred years from now. Let's just hope the human life forms who are still around in 2109 will still be able to read for pure enjoyment or personal enlightenment. And that they'll still have that same passion for reading. But right now, it's hard to be optimistic.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Chunkster Challenge: Wrap-Up

The Chunkster Challenge 2009 officially ended November 15th, so I'm just a wee bit late in getting this posted. I read several books that would qualify for this challenge, but haven't reviewed all of them. Here's the list (with links to those I have reviewed):

Angels & Demons. Dan Brown (approx. 550 pages)
The Angel's Game. Carlos Ruiz Zafon (544 pages; 470 pages, ARC)
Brimstone. Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (512 pages)
Dance of Death. Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (451 pages)
The Fire. Katherine Neville (451 pages)
Rabbit Is Rich. John Updike (467 pages)

This was a fun challenge, and it reminded me how satisfying it can be to get involved in a nice, long novel. When I signed up, I was only aiming for the Chubby Chunkster level (just two books), but over the nine months of the challenge I seem to have been quite a glutton for chunksters. I ended up reading six of the things – so I guess I've landed smack in the middle of the Mor-book-ly Obese category!

I want to say thanks to Dana for hosting the challenge, and also that I'm sorry to hear that she's had problems along the way (hope everything gets worked out soon). Also want to thank all the other participants for reviews and recommendations – quite a few more titles got added to the ever-expanding TBR list, and I'm assuming that's a GOOD thing!

And for information about the 2010 Chunkster Challenge, check with Wendy at A Novel Challenge (here).

WWW Wednesdays: 18 November 2009

WWW Wednesdays is a new meme hosted by mizb17 over at Should Be Reading. It asks three (3) questions:
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?
And my answers for this week:

Currently (still) reading: Stardust by Joseph Kanon.

Recently finished? Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow (review to come – soon, I hope!).

Reading next? Ignorance by Milan Kundera, The Old Maid by Edith Wharton, The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett, and The Lover by Marguerite Duras.

Now, let the world know what's on your reading list. Just click here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays: In the Swim

My teaser this week comes from Stardust, by Joseph Kanon. I'm enjoying this one quite a lot – enough to stay up reading into the wee hours. But it's a long book (over 500 pages), so I'll be interested to see if Kanon can go on keeping me up past my bedtime.

In this excerpt Ben Collier, the book's protagonist, comes back to his brother's house in the Hollywood hills to find his sister-in-law enjoying a late-night swim:
She was in the pool when he got home. He followed the faint sounds of splashes through the quiet house and out onto the terrace, stopping for a second by the lemon tree near the door. Only the pool lights were on, a grotto effect, with blue light rising up, not spilling down, and he saw that she was naked, her body gliding through the water with a mermaid's freedom, alone in her own watery world. [p.114]
Hmmm. Joy's Blog seems to have gone a little R-rated here, haven't we? Well, I'll just reassure you – the sister-in-law covers up pretty quickly and nothing illicit happens. Yet.

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, November 16, 2009

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Last night I finished one of the books I've been reading for what seems like months now (but it's really only been weeks!) – E.L. Doctorow's Homer & Langley (review to come later today, hopefully). I've got a couple of other books going right now, but this week I'm concentrating on finishing Stardust by Joseph Kanon. It's a library book and has to go back soon, so that should give me a little extra push to stick with it.

I'm also trying to read at least one shorter work this week, for the November Novella Challenge. Probably Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome or one of the novellas from her collection, Old New York.

Also trying to get caught up with reviews before the end of the year which, although hard to believe, is almost upon us!

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly event hosted by J. Kaye of J. Kaye's Book Blog. To find out what everyone is reading, or to participate yourself, head on over to her blog.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Sunday Salon: Hi, There!

It's been a couple of months since my last Sunday Salon visit. Sundays around here are usually taken up with errands, shopping, and watching countless football games on TV (or basketball games, or tennis matches, or . . . well, you get the idea). But today, the hubby is away on a business trip and I'm here on my own with no real schedule to keep. A perfect time to catch up on my reading.

I've got three books going at the moment – actually, I've been reading the same books for several weeks now. I'm trying to train myself to read one book at a time, as I really think that's the most sensible way of handling things: start a book, read it right to the end, then start another. See how nice and regular that sounds? But I keep backsliding.

The book I'm reading today (I'm determined to finish it tonight) is E.L. Doctorow's Homer & Langley. It's a novel based on the lives of the Collyer brothers, New York City's notorious hoarders who lived together in a boarded up brownstone filled with massive stacks of newspapers, broken furniture, bits of machinery, and other paraphernalia the brothers had "collected" over the years. After the two men were found dead in their home in 1947, more than a hundred tons of garbage were hauled away by the authorities.

The Collyers have been the subject of other fictions over the years, but Doctorow's has probably made the biggest splash. So far, I'm enjoying it quite a lot. I love his imagining of a reason for Langley's newspaper collecting mania, his ". . . collection of the daily papers with the ultimate aim of creating one day's edition of a newspaper that could be read forevermore as sufficient to any day thereof."
He would run out for all the morning papers, and in the afternoon for the evening papers, and then there were the business papers, the sex gazettes, the freak sheets, the vaudeville papers, and so on. He wanted to fix American life finally in one edition, what he called Collyer's eternally current dateless newspaper, the only newspaper anyone would ever need. [pp. 48-49]
Yes, it's OCD at its most rampant, but I can see how it would be a very satisfying endeavor. And, yes, I've got hoarding in my genetic makeup, too. They used to just call us pack rats!

Hmmmm. Now that I think about it, maybe I should stop reading for a while and do something about those boxes of old magazines that seem to be building up in the corners here. Before someone has to break into this place and dig me out from under a ton or so of old New Yorkers and Metropolitan Homes!

The Christmas Reading Challenge

Now I know exactly what you're gonna say: Somebody who's still struggling to finish this year's reading challenges really shouldn't be looking around for MORE challenges to join. That's what I've told myself, too. But see, this one just looks like so much darn fun. And it'll give me incentive to read a couple of books I already wanted to read. And it just makes me feel so Christmas-y and festive, and all.

So call me crazy, but I'm signing up for the Christmas Reading Challenge hosted by Michelle of The True Book Addict. The challenge runs from Thanksgiving Day, November 26 through New Year's Eve, December 31, 2009. The books have to be Christmas books – either novels with a Christmas theme, or books of Christmas short stories, or nonfiction books about the holiday (no children's books, but YA is allowed). And participants only need to read one book (or more, of course) – which is great, since this is such a busy time for everyone.

At the moment, I'm thinking of going with Christmas-themed mystery novels. There are a lot of those I want to read, but the two I've pretty much settled on are Santa Clawed by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown, and Crewel Yule by Monica Ferris. Those are both entries in series I've been reading, so they seem like perfect choices for me. However, I've got a list of possible alternates, too – partly gleaned from the lists of other challenge participants. I'll never get all of these read, of course, but some of the titles are:
  • A Christmas Guest, or A Christmas Secret, both by Anne Perry (or any of the other "Christmas Stories" novels by Perry)
  • A Rumpole Christmas: Stories, by John Mortimer
  • The Body in the Sleigh, by Katherine Hall Page
  • Christmas is Murder: A Rex Graves Mystery, by C.S. Challinor
  • Christmas Stalkings, or Mistletoe Mysteries, by Charlotte MacLeod, et al.
  • Hercule Poirot's Christmas, or The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, both by Agatha Christie
  • Mistletoe Murder, or Christmas Cookie Murder, both by Leslie Meier
  • Plum Pudding Murder, by Joanne Fluke
  • Shivers for Christmas, edited by Richard Dalby
  • The Twelve Deaths of Christmas, by Marian Babson
Sounds like fun, right? Well, if you think so, why not head on over to Michelle's challenge announcement page, and sign up. And then go read yourself a merry little Christmas book!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Too Short?

Today BTT asks a question that's close to my heart – do I really believe life is too short to read bad books? ("Do you read everything all the way through or do you feel life really is too short to read bad books?" )

And the short answer is I'm a believer! In fact, I always thought I was the one who invented that line about life being too short to waste any of it on bad books. And I don't seem to be changing my mind with the passing years, folks.

Of course, I read purely for pleasure now – no longer have to read anything for school or work. And that's a luxury I'd be reluctant to part with. It's one of the reasons I've cut way back on requesting or accepting books for review – I really don't want to be committed to finishing a book that just doesn't interest me. Even if it's a book that's enormously popular with other readers. I just don't want to invest the time.

I usually give a book the "fifty page test" – if its author hasn't put me under his or her spell by that time, I move on to the next book waiting on the shelf. Goodness knows there are always plenty to choose from. And more and more I'm finding I really only need twenty or fewer pages to know if a book is going to be readable. In fact, sometimes I can tell after scanning the opening sentences. At this rate, in ten years I really will be able to judge a book by its cover!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

WWW Wednesdays: 11 November 2009

WWW Wednesdays is a new meme hosted by mizb17 over at Should Be Reading. It asks three (3) questions:
  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll be reading next?
Embarrassingly, my answers for this week are pretty much the same as last week:

Currently reading Stardust by Joseph Kanon.

Currently reading Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow (determined to finish this one this week).

Recently finished? Nada!

Reading next? Most likely Ignorance by Milan Kundera, and something for the November Novella Challenge – possibly Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome.

Now, let the world know what's on your reading list. Just click here.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Awesome Author Challenge 2010

Alyce of At Home With Books is hosting The Awesome Author Challenge in 2010. As she explains:

The idea behind this challenge is to read works by authors who have been recommended to you time and again, yet somehow you haven't managed to read any books by those authors. These are the authors that everyone else tells you are awesome, thus the "Awesome Author Challenge" title.

The challenge runs from January through December, and there are four levels of participation to choose from:
  • Easy: Choose three authors and read at least one title from each author.
  • Moderate: Choose six authors and read at least one title from each author.
  • Challenging: Choose ten authors and read at least one title from each author.
  • Over-Achieving: Anything over ten authors.
This is really the kind of challenge I love - there aren't too many rules and regs. Crossovers with other challenges are allowed. You don't have to make a list ahead of time if you don't want to; but if you do, the list can change at any time. And your books can be from any genre or reading level: "the only requirement is that you have heard great things about the author, but haven't yet read any of their works."

I've promised myself to be a little more selective about my reading challenges for next year, but this one is just too tempting to pass up. And since the challenge runs all year, I'm throwing caution to the wind and choosing ten authors to try. The only problem is deciding on exactly which ten authors and which of their books to read; since I've been blogging, I've had so many wonderful authors and books recommended to me. This is my list for now, although it may (verily I say, it definitely will) change over time.
Kate Atkinson: Case Histories, or When Will There Be Good News?
Paul Auster: The Book of Illusions
Julian Barnes: Flaubert's Parrot
Heinrich Boll: The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum
T.C. Boyle: The Women
Geraldine Brooks: People of the Book
Italo Calvino: If on a winter's night a traveler
Angela Carter: Wise Children
Philip K. Dick: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Dean Koontz: Mr. Murder
Haruki Murakami: Norwegian Wood, or The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Audrey Niffenegger: Her Fearful Symmetry
William Trevor: Love and Summer
Sarah Waters: Affinity, or The Little Stranger
Rebecca West: The Fountain Overflows
And yes, I know there are more than ten authors on my list. Well, I've never been accused of over-achieving. I just don't do decisiveness very well.

Friday, November 06, 2009

R.I.P. IV Challenge: The Wrap-Up

I feel like Alice's White Rabbit – I'm late, I'm late, I'm late! Late in getting this posted, that is. The R.I.P. IV Challenge ended October 31, but I'm just now getting around to wrapping everything up. This is always one of my favorite reading challenges – it's become one of those autumn rituals I look forward to every year in September and October.

This year I signed on for Peril the First (four books), but ended up reading six books from several different sub-genres – two ghost stories, one almost-ghost story, two mystery tales, and one horror story wanna-be. So I guess I slipped into Peril the Second, as well.

The books I read (with links to my reviews) were:

The Woman in Black, and The Man in the Picture, both by Susan Hill
New Year's Eve, by Lisa Grunwald
The Friend of Madame Maigret, by Georges Simenon
From Doon with Death, by Ruth Rendell
The Lair of the White Worm, by Bram Stoker

The books were definitely a mixed bag – in general, I'd say I enjoyed most of them. Some more than others, of course. The one real stinker in the lot was The Lair of the White Worm. I suppose another reader might find it easier to get through than I did, but it's really not one of Stoker's best efforts.

I want to thank Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings for hosting, and all the other participants, too – I've added a whole slew (and that's a lot) of new titles to my wish list after reading some of their reviews. And I'm already making my list for next year's challenge.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Review: The Lair of the White Worm

Written by Bram Stoker
Electronic edition by Project Gutenberg, 2005
First published 1911, William Rider and Son, Ltd.

Photo of Bram Stoker (left): Wikipedia's Wikimedia Commons.

The story is set in central England in 1860. Young Adam Salton travels from his native Australia and stays with his granduncle Richard Salton, lord of the family estate in the heart of what was once the old kingdom of Mercia. Uncle Richard wants to make Adam his heir and is eager to show the young man the countryside and introduce him to its residents. But once they arrive at Lesser Hill, the ancestral home of the Saltons, Adam quickly finds himself involved in a series of suspenseful and increasingly horrific goings-on. His neighbors – Edgar Caswall, the new heir to the estate known as Castra Regis, and Arabella March who lives in her own mysterious house in a place called Diana's Grove – begin to seem more and more sinister. The Salton property is overrun with deadly black snakes, and Edgar Caswall's African servant Oolanga is a frightening presence.

Sir Nathaniel de Salis, another neighbor and an old friend of Uncle Richard's, fills Adam in on the local mystery of the White Worm, a large snake-like creature that's supposed to live in a huge pit in (or underneath) Arabella's home in Diana's Grove. This ancient gigantic worm eats anything that's thrown into its pit and occasionally even ventures out and hunts down its prey among the local inhabitants. Both Adam and Sir Nathaniel suspect that Arabella is connected with the White Worm's crimes. They set out to destroy the creature and possibly Arabella along with it.

Alongside the main story, there's another very strange and confusing plot line involving Edgar Caswall's fascination with Mesmerism. And Caswall also has an enormous kite in the shape of a hawk, which he's devised to scare away pigeons that have suddenly appeared in huge numbers all over the country, killing crops and changing weather patterns and generally causing all kinds of chaos.

OK, that's enough of that – you get the idea. I had really expected to like this a lot more than I did. There's the germ of a really good horror story here, but it just doesn't develop into anything. The plot gets sillier and sillier as it goes along. And the racist attitudes toward the "savage" Oolanga become a little too much after a while, even allowing for the historical setting. It's really hard to believe this was written by the same author who brought us Dracula. But by the time he published The Lair of the White Worm in 1911, Stoker was very ill (he died in 1912), and that may well have contributed to the poor writing. Whatever the reason, this is a very bad book. Which was made into a fairly mediocre horror film by Ken Russell back in the 1980s. And after reading the book, my advice would be: just see the movie.

Short Review: From Doon With Death

Written by Ruth Rendell
Ballantine Books, 2007; 214 pages
First published 1964 by J. Long, London

Publisher's synopsis:

There is nothing extraordinary about Margaret Parsons, a timid housewife in the quiet town of Kingsmarkham, a woman devoted to her garden, her kitchen, her husband. Except that Margaret Parsons is dead, brutally strangled, her body abandoned in the nearby woods.

Who would kill someone with nothing to hide? Inspector Wexford, the formidable chief of police, feels baffled – until he discovers Margaret's dark secret: a trove of rare books, each volume breathlessly inscribed by a passionate lover identified only as Doon. As Wexford delves deeper into both Mrs. Parsons' past and the wary community circling round her memory like wolves, the case builds with relentless momentum to a surprise finale as clever as it is blindsiding.

My Thoughts

From Doon With Death is the first book in Ruth Rendell's long-running Inspector Wexford mystery series. I've read several of the later books, so I thought I'd go back and see how it all started. And I was pleased to see that it all started excellently. Everything is here: the intriguing characters and settings, the wry and sometimes macabre humor, and an ingenious and absorbing plot. And the book has aged relatively well – given that, by today's standards, a lot of the more "shocking" aspects of the plot are just a little less so. In spite of the publisher's claim of a "blindsiding" case, I managed to figure out what was going on pretty early in the story. But that didn't lessen my enjoyment. I believe if I'd read this one when it first appeared in 1964, it would definitely have kept me coming back for more.

WWW Wednesdays: 4 November 2009

WWW Wednesdays is a new meme hosted by mizb17 over at Should Be Reading. It asks three (3) questions:
  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll be reading next?
And my answers are:

Currently reading Stardust by Joseph Kanon.

Currently reading Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow.

Recently finished: Embarrassed to admit I have not finished anything in the last week or so. (Must do better.)

Next, I think I'll be reading Ignorance by Milan Kundera.

Now, let the world know what's on your reading list. Just click here.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays: Another Epidemic

This week my Teaser lines come from Edith Wharton's The Old Maid, one of the works I'm reading for the November Novella Challenge. In this quote, Delia Ralston is listening to her unmarried sister Charlotte talking about why she's decided not to marry the man she was engaged to, and finding it hard to understand Charlotte's enthusiasm for looking after the children of the "ignorant and careless" poor [from Chapter I, p.383 of Novellas and Other Writings by Edith Wharton, Library of America edition]:
No one in New York had forgotten the death of the poor Henry van der Luydens' only child, who had caught smallpox at the circus to which an unprincipled nurse had surreptitiously taken him. After such a warning as that, parents felt justified in every precaution against contagion.
Well, maybe not all that tempting a teaser, but it is sort of timely, isn't it? Of course, H1N1 isn't quite as deadly as smallpox was in the 19th century – so far, at least. Just hope it stays that way.

Photo of Edith Wharton: Wikipedia's Wikimedia Commons.

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!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Challenge Review

Well, the month of October has gone bye-bye, and in just a couple of months 2009 will be history, too. So I think it's time to take a brief look at all the reading challenges I'm still trying to finish this year, and admit defeat in a couple of them. It's boring, I know, but I love list-making, so . . . .

  • First of all, the R.I.P. IV Challenge ended October 31. I did manage to complete that one, but haven't written my wrap-up post yet. Will try to get that done later tonight, or tomorrow. So at least that's one successful closure.

  • I'm just one book away from wrapping up the Lost in Translation Challenge, so I think I'll be able to complete that one – although I still haven't decided on what that last book will be. Milan Kundera's Ignorance is high on my list of possibilities. Or maybe Italo Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveler. Both of those are pretty short works – definitely something to consider, this late in the game.

  • And for J. Kaye's 2nds Challenge 2009 (which ends December 31), I just have to finish one of two of the several books I've got going at the moment – either Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow, or The Inn at Lake Devine by Elinor Lipman. That will give me my twelve books. I don't really expect any problems there.

  • Another of J. Kaye's challenges, the two-year-long Suspense-Thriller Challenge, also ends in December, and I've managed to read all twelve of the books I needed. (Although I had to cheat just a bit – didn't actually read six in 2008 and six in 2009, as planned.) Haven't written the wrap-up for that one either, but it's in the works.

  • The 42 (Sci-Fi) Challenge, hosted by Becky's Book Reviews, also ends in December. And although I haven't been keeping really close track of all the books/films/TV shows I've read/watched during the year, I'm pretty sure I'll have my list of 42 by December.

But now the bad news.

  • It looks pretty obvious that I'm not going to finish the Romance Reading Challenge. Actually, when I signed up for that one, I had doubts about whether I'd ever make it to the end. So far, I've only read one book that really qualifies as romance – Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence. I suppose it's still possible I might get another romance novel read before year's end, but certainly not the four I'd need to complete the challenge. I'm not declaring defeat just yet, but it's probably coming soon.

  • And then there's the Herding Cats II Challenge (or non-challenge, since the rules state "read or not"!) – another one that I'm clearly not going to finish because I haven't even begun it yet. Not the fault of the challenge itself – it's a great idea. Just sloth and forgetfulness on my part. (Shame on me!)

So, besides the November Novella Challenge (which only runs through this month), I think that's just about it. I do still have two other challenges going, but they both continue on into the new year, and I'll report on those a little later. But at the moment, I'm afraid it doesn't look good, folks. Still, I love reading challenges – even the ones I don't manage to complete. Even the ones I don't manage to start! So I'll undoubtedly be signing up for more in 2010.