Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The RIP V Challenge

It's here, it's here, it's here!!! The challenge I've been waiting for since...well, since this time last year. Carl V. at Stainless Steel Droppings has finally announced the start of the Fifth edition of his R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril (RIP) Challenge. And the first thing I want to say (besides yippee!!!) is: Just look at that graphic!

OK, down to business. The challenge runs from September 1st through October 31st, and as usual will offer several levels of participation. You can read all about that on the challenge announcement page here. Last year, I signed up for Peril the First (at least four books), and didn't have any trouble finishing. This year, my schedule is going to be a little hectic during the next couple of months, but I'm throwing caution to the winds and signing up at the Peril the First level once again. In fact, I'm hoping to combine that with one or two of the other "perils," but we'll just see how it goes (Carl has added a Peril on the Screen category this year, and it looks really tempting).

Now, about books. I've been giving a lot of thought to what I might read for this one. And since the challenge focuses on just about all my favorite genres (mystery, suspense, thriller, dark fantasy, gothic, horror, supernatural), my list of possible reads is unbelievably (and ridiculously) long. But these are a few of the books I'm considering:
  • The Dark Half or The Dead Zone. Stephen King (It's been over thirty years since I read anything by the King of horror.)
  • Grave Sight. Charlaine Harris (The first book in the Harper Connelly mystery series. Everyone else has read something by Harris, and I'm beginning to feel left out.)
  • The House Next Door. Anne Rivers Siddons (An early work by Siddons, and very different from her later books.)
  • The Hunger. Whitley Strieber (I'm not usually a vampire fan, but I could make an exception for this one. Loved the movie.)
  • Mr. Murder. Dean Koontz (Never read anything by Koontz, but several trusted recommenders have recommended this one.)
  • The Prince of Mist. Carlos Ruiz Zaf√≥n (A spooky novel for young adults, by the author of Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game.)
  • The Rapture. Liz Jensen (Mainly because I received an ARC of this one which I never got around to reading. Shame on me. Must do better.)
  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Shirley Jackson (I've had this one on my TBR list for years now, and this would be the perfect excuse to get it read. Recommended by my cousin MLB.)
  • Widdershins. Oliver Onions (First published in 1911, and one of the classic ghost story collections; includes the novella that is probably Onions' best-known work, The Beckoning Fair One.)
Or, I might ignore all those and just stick with Preston and Child – there are still quite a few of their Pendergast novels I haven't gotten to yet. And Diogenes P. is a really delicious villain – perfect for a little autumnal reading spree. Anyway, during the challenge I'll be updating my reading progress on my challenge blog here.

Now, I'm off to sign myself up for the challenge, and then do some blog-hopping to see what everyone else is thinking about reading.

Teaser Tuesdays: Juliet

Wow – last day of August. Can't believe this year is zipping by so fast. Fall is right around the corner; although that's hard to believe too, what with temperatures still in the 90s here in Northern Virginia.

So, here we have the last teaser of the month. This week my teaser lines come from Anne Fortier's debut novel Juliet. Since I'm just getting started on this one, I'm using the first lines from the book's Prologue. And this is Juliet speaking – one of the Juliets, anyway:
They say I died. My heart stopped, and I was not breathing – in the eyes of the world I was really dead. Some say for three minutes, some say four; personally, I am beginning to think death is mostly a matter of opinion. (p.3)
Hmmm. Sounds a little like something Anne Rice might have written. I'm hoping Julie isn't hanging out with the undead.

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 a comment here

Monday, August 30, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

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.

I know I'm late getting this posted. Wish I had some really exciting excuse – just getting back from that week in Tuscany or something similar. Alas, the only excuse I have is that I stayed up way too late last night, reading – so I've been running on empty all day. Must try to mend my ways.

So, anyway, here's how things stand:
  • Last week -

    Finished Think of a Number by John Verdon (review to come)
    Started All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost by Lan Samantha Chang (should finish this one up tonight or tomorrow)
    Made a start at posting brief reviews of some of the books I read earlier this year (The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, and Damaged by Alex Kava)

  • This week -

    Besides the L.S. Chang book (see above), I'm going to try to get back to Anne Fortier's Juliet which I started earlier this month. Also hope to get a few more reviews finished and posted.

  • In the wings -

    I'm thinking either Peter Robinson's new Inspector Banks novel, Bad Boy, or Julia Stuart's The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise, both of which I've had for a while and really need to do something about. Given my tendencies, I'll probably look at that bad boy first.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Booking Through Thursday: Giving Up

This week, the BTT question is about perseverance: "If you’re not enjoying a book, will you stop mid-way? Or do you push through to the end? What makes you decide to stop?"

Interesting questions. There was a time, not too long ago, when I would have simply said "Life is too short to read books I'm not enjoying." Well, life is still short, but these days, what with ARCs and reading challenges, sometimes I will try to finish up a book that isn't really turning out to be my cuppa. This doesn't happen too often because I'm pretty careful about choosing my books. And as to what makes me decide to stop - well, that's a little hard to define and could be any number of things. But if a book isn't touching me emotionally or intellectually, then it's time to give it up.

And usually I'll know whether or not I like a book long before I'm midway through it. Usually. Sometimes there are exceptions, of course; but in general, I know after the first couple of chapters or the first few pages whether or not a book is for me. And if it's not, then yeah, I don't mind stopping and moving on to something else. Lots of books out there calling my name, you know?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Reading Report: The Forgotten Garden

Written by Kate Morton
Washington Square Press, 2010; 554 pages
Originally published by Allen & Unwin, 2008

Description from the publisher:
A tiny girl is abandoned on a ship headed for Australia in 1913. She arrives completely alone with nothing but a small suitcase containing a few clothes and a single book – a beautiful volume of fairy tales. She is taken in by the dockmaster and his wife and raised as their own. On her twenty-first birthday, they tell her the truth, and with her sense of self shattered and very little to go on, "Nell" sets out to trace her real identity. Her quest leads her to Blackhurst Manor on the Cornish coast and the secrets of the doomed Mountrachet family. But it is not until her granddaughter, Cassandra, takes up the search after Nell's death that all the pieces of the puzzle are assembled.
My Thoughts:

I have to admit, I started this book with a lot of misgivings, not expecting to finish it. It's long (over 500 pages in the paperback edition), the story was improbable and formulaic, and none of the characters seemed particularly sympathetic. Morton makes rather liberal use of plot elements from Frances Hodgson Burnett's children's classic The Secret Garden, the sort of thing I usually don't approve of. And the writing in general is a mish-mash of styles, with bits of Charles Dickens here, Daphne Du Maurier there, and a little A.S. Byatt thrown in for good measure.

But even with all those things stacked against it, the book really won me over in the end. I wasn't even too bothered by the inclusion of all those fairy tales from the mysterious book at the center of the novel – the story-within-a-story device can be be boring and superfluous, but here it seemed a natural and necessary addition. I still think that most (though not all) of the characters were off-putting – some more than others. And I finally got very impatient with the way the plot jumped around among all the different settings and voices and time lines – at times, that made it difficult to figure out exactly where and when the action was taking place. But that seems to be pretty standard for novels these days. Whatever happened to just telling the story?

I'd give this one a very solid B, maybe even a B+. It gets strong marks for having an interesting older woman as one of the main characters, even though some of her behavior is a little questionable. It's wonderfully atmospheric with its hidden walled garden, mysterious maze, and frequent images from folk and fairy tales. And it kept me guessing and re-evaluating right up to the final chapter. And it's a book about a book – how could I not love that?

Reading Report: Damaged

Written by Alex Kava
Doubleday, 2010; 272 pages

This review refers to an uncorrected proof of the novel, furnished free of charge by the publisher.

Description from the publisher:
On Pensacola Beach, the Coast Guard prepares for a Category 5 hurricane that has entered the Gulf of Mexico. When the air crew patrols the waterways, they spot a huge fishing cooler about a mile offshore. Drug traffickers have been known to dump coolers with smuggled product to avoid detection and pay fishermen to retrieve them. But when the crew open this cooler, they’re shocked by what they find: body parts tightly wrapped in plastic.

Though she is putting herself in the projected path of the hurricane, Special Agent Maggie O’Dell is sent to investigate. Eventually, she’s able to trace the torso in the cooler back to a man who mysteriously disappeared weeks earlier after a hurricane hit Port St. Lucie, Florida. Only Port St. Lucie is on the Atlantic side. How did his body end up six hundred miles away in the Gulf of Mexico?
My Thoughts:

Overall, I enjoyed Damaged. Not quite as suspenseful as I had hoped – you sort of know from the beginning how the whole thing is going to tie up at the end. But Alex Kava is great at leaving you with just that teensy bit of doubt – just enough to keep you reading to see if your guesses are correct. She keeps the action rolling, too, peoples the book with an appealing cast of colorful characters, and pares it all down to the fine essentials without a lot of unnecessary filler. And although the subject matter can be a little gruesome (severed limbs, body parts brokers, shenanigans in the mortuary, etc.), the forensic details are fascinating. Maybe not for everyone, but if you're not squeamish about such things, it's actually a fun read.

This is Alex Kava's eighth whodunit featuring FBI profiler Maggie O'Dell, but my first. As usual, I've jumped right into the middle of a series, and I think that probably influenced my reaction just a bit. Some of the relationships that have been established in the earlier books were a little puzzling to me as I read this one. But that didn't keep me from enjoying the book. I liked Maggie O'Dell and definitely want to get to know her better.

Note: I received an advance uncorrected proof of this book from the publisher, free of charge. No other compensation was received, and no one tried to influence my opinion of the book.

Teaser Tuesdays: Remarkable Creatures

This week my teaser lines come from Tracy Chevalier's Remarkable Creatures. It's one of the books I picked up on my last library visit. You know – one of those trips when I was just supposed to be returning books and not even glancing at the "new books" shelf. But of course, I ended up bringing several home with me anyway.

I've just opened this one, so I'm not sure who's speaking here, or who she/he is speaking about, but the quote is from page 26:
At that time turbans had not yet arrived in Lyme - though I can report now that Margaret pushed the fashion onto Lyme's women, and within a few years, turbans were a common sight up and down Broad Street. I am not sure they complement empire-line gowns as well as other hats, and I believe some laughed behind their hands at the sight, but isn't fashion meant to entertain?
Well, of course it is! How else would you explain Five-Finger Shoes?

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 blog post in a comment here

Monday, August 23, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

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.

Once again, last week was a very slow reading week around here. Didn't finish anything, and didn't get any reviews written. I did post a couple of movie reviews (Sherlock Holmes, Ten Items or Less), but only one of those was even vaguely book-related. Spent quite a lot of time playing around with new blog templates. And an enormous chunk of my week was taken up with restoring some lost genealogy database info (family history is fascinating work, but maddeningly time-consuming). Ultimately, though, I think I've just got the end-of-August blues. Hoping to perk myself up this week and actually get some reading done.
  • Almost finished last week:
    Think of a Number by John Verdon. I'm enjoying this one a lot and only have a short bit of it to go. Hope to finish it up tonight.

  • Reading this week:
    All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost by Lan Samantha Chang. This is a Library Thing Early Reviewer book, so I'll be dropping everything else while I get it read. It's gotten very mixed reviews so far, but I'm looking forward to reading it.

Friday, August 20, 2010

At the Movies

Sherlock Holmes
USA/UK, 2009

MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some startling images and a scene of suggestive material.

Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Written by: Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, and Simon Kinberg (screenplay); Lionel Wigram (story)
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong


Sherlock Holmes (played by Robert Downey, Jr.), along with his trusted ally Dr. John Watson (Jude Law), investigates a string of brutal ritualistic murders in this 2009 effort from British director Guy Ritchie. When Holmes and Watson arrive upon the scene just in time to prevent the aristocratic villain, Lord Blackwood, from doing away with his latest victim, the evil lord warns them that death has no power over him. And, seemingly, he's right about that: After Dr. Watson witnesses Blackwood's hanging and pronounces him dead, Blackwood reappears in London and continues on his murderous path. Scotland Yard is flummoxed, but Holmes is back on the case. And as they search London for Blackwood in order to put a stop to his evil shenanigans, Holmes and Watson are involved in a world of dark arts and dangers more deadly and surprising than any they've faced before.

My Thoughts:

Boring movie, really; nothing but special effects – and extremely annoying special effects, at that. The characters of Holmes and Watson were completely unrecognizable, but since the film was aimed at an audience that obviously had never read the Conan Doyle stories, I guess that really doesn't matter. I suppose the fact that the movie was based on a comic book version of the Holmes tales (by Lionel Wigram) should be a good indication of what to expect. I know I'm fighting the entire trend of the 21st Century here, but I really long for the days when movies had real sets, real locations, and real actors.

And about those real actors – Robert Downey was as watchable as ever, but even his performance couldn't save this one. And Jude Law seemed to have abandoned Dr. Watson in favor of a sort of stiff-upper-lip portrayal of Wilde's Dorian Gray. I'm afraid the rest of the cast wasn't very memorable, but then they had all those special effects planted firmly between them and the audience.

We watched this one on DVD, so maybe the experience of seeing it on the big screen might have improved my opinion. But I doubt it.

Nutshell Review: The best thing about this movie was the poster.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Booking Through Thursday: Reading Questions

This week BTT has come up with a list of fifty-five (ouch!) questions about your reading life. It came from Lorette's Knitting Doctor blog. Lorette got it from Lisa who got it from Amy who got it from Chan who got it from.... Well, you know how that goes - it's been around for a while. But it's a new one for me. I'm not promising to answer all the questions, but I'll give it a shot. Here goes:

1. Favorite childhood book?
That would have to be a tie between Lewis Carroll's
Through the Looking-Glass, and a chunky book called 365 Bedtime Stories by Nan Gilbert. Oh, and I suppose Little Women would be a close runner-up.

2. What are you reading right now?
All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost by Lan Samantha Chang, Books: A Memoir by Larry McMurtry, Juliet by Anne Fortier.

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
None at the moment. The last one I had was
Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which I returned without reading - decided I'd better get some of these ARCs out of the way before getting started with such a long book.

4. Bad book habit?
Writing notes in the margins. Letting stray books pile themselves up in artless and precarious stacks.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
The McMurtry book (see no. 2, above). Also Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier. Hoping to get to that one before I have to take it back, but it's not looking good.

6. Do you have an e-reader?
I have an
iPad which I've used as an e-reader (with the Kindle app).

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
Well, I would probably
prefer to read one book at a time, but I'm not that disciplined; so I almost always have multiples going at any one time.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
Yes, I'm happy to say they have. Back in the late '90s I realized that I hardly ever read for pleasure anymore. And that was disturbing because I had been a voracious reader all my life up to that point. But blogging about books has really nudged me back into reading.

9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?)
Tinkers by Paul Harding.

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
Almost never. I read for the fun of it, so why would I want to be uncomfortable?

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
I have pretty eclectic tastes, but most of what I read falls into the mystery-thriller or literary fiction genres. I don't read a lot of nonfiction (at least, not lately). And I stay away from anything about vampires, zombies, or werewolves. Don't read a lot of modern romance (although I used to read it in the past) and most historical romance doesn't interest me. Don't read what's referred to as "chick lit." I do read science fiction, but prefer the branch that doesn't involve fire-breathing monsters or a lot of Star Wars type battle action.

13. Can you read on the bus?
I try to avoid buses.

14. Favorite place to read?
I don't really have a favorite place - I just like it to be quiet with good lighting.

15. What is your policy on book lending?
I don't mind lending to friends who I know will return the book (if I want it back). Don't really like lending to anyone I don't know well.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
I used to. These days, I try not to, but I have to admit that sometimes I back-slide.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?

18. Not even with text books?
See above. (You're not listening.)

19. What is your favorite language to read in?
English is not only my
favorite language to read in - it's the only language I can read in. Darn it.

20. What makes you love a book?
Many factors.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
I'm always reluctant to recommend a book unless the person I'm recommending it to is someone I know really well. I usually try to fit the book to the potential reader - I know my tastes are not always mainstream.

22. Favorite genre?
See number 12, above.

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)
See number 12, above. But I don't really regret what I don't read. If there were a genre I
wished I read, I'd read it. Does that make sense?

24. Favorite biography?
I haven't read any biographies in recent years (although I
have read some autobiographies or memoirs). But a couple of my favorite biographies from years past are Virginia Woolf by Quentin Bell, and Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O'Keeffe by Laurie Lisle.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
Oh, yeah. Back in the '60s and '70s weren't we all reading self-help books? We may not have called them that, of course. But I touched all the pop culture bases.

26. Favorite cookbook?
Well, I can't say that I really
read cookbooks (although I do have a small collection of them). The one cookbook I've actually used the most is The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book by Fannie Farmer. Tried and true. My grandmother gave me a copy when I got married, and I've depended on it ever since. But I suppose my favorite cookbook would have to be The Settlement Cook Book (The Way To a Man's Heart), compiled by Mrs. Simon Kander. It's a sentimental favorite, I admit. I have my mother's 1944 edition, and it includes a couple of her hand-written recipes in its back pages, and some of my preschool scribbles. I really should do a blog post about it.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
I'm not sure "inspirational" is a word I could apply to any of the books I've read this year. In general, I don't read inspirational works. I guess Anne Tyler's
Noah's Compass comes as close as any.

28. Favorite reading snack?
I try
not to snack while reading. That way lies obesity.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
Well, it didn't ruin the experience for me, but I had some misgivings about starting Dan Brown's
Da Vinci Code because of all the hype and hysteria going on around it. As it turned out, I liked the book quite a lot and didn't really understand what all the uproar was about.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
Depends on which critic we're talking about.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
In general (not always, but most of the time), I only finish books that I enjoy, so it's rare for me to give a really negative review. But I do say what I think, and hardly any book is all good or all bad.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?
I suppose Spanish. Several of my favorite authors write in Spanish. But French or German would be great, too.

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
Ulysses by James Joyce. The Bible. War and Peace (never finished that one). Swann's Way (ditto).

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
Anything by Thomas Pynchon.

35. Favorite Poet?
Don't think I have a favorite poet. I have some favorite poems.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
Usually between two and six.

37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?
Many times. I'll frequently check out a book just to see if it's something I'll enjoy. Sometimes that works out well, and sometimes it doesn't. I don't feel compelled to finish reading a book just because I checked it out.

38. Favorite fictional character?
Now how could I possibly answer that?

39. Favorite fictional villain?
Again, impossible to answer. Although Diogenes
Pendergast, from the Douglas Preston-Lincoln Child series of thrillers, would be right up there at the top.

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
That would depend on a number of factors, but they'd probably be paperbacks - easier to pack and carry around.

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
(Refer to answer no. 8.) For quite a few years from the late '90s until around 2005 or so, I read very little besides an occasional cozy mystery, and a multitude of doll collecting magazines.

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
(Refer to answer no. 33.)

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
My hubby.

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
Hmmmm. Interesting question. Probably The Maltese Falcon. But I also love Kubrick's Lolita and Barry Lyndon. And Scorsese's version of The Age of Innocence. And Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby. And two adaptations that are very different from the novels they're based on, but are wonderful films anyway - Orson Welles' adaptation of Kafka's The Trial, and The Ninth Gate (based on The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez Reverte) also by Roman Polanski (basically, Polanski never made a movie I didn't like).

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
Can't answer this one right now. If it disappointed me, I've probably repressed it. Maybe I'll come up with something later.

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
No idea.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
Now and then. But more often I rely on reviews and descriptions by other

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
If a book isn't grabbing my interest after the first couple of dozen pages or the first few chapters, I'll put it aside. I don't need to get half-way through it.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
I absolutely adore it! I rarely manage to do it.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
Unless it's borrowed, once a book enters my possession, it's mine for life.

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?

52. Name a book that made you angry.
I'd probably have to go back to my youth for this. I try not to read things that will make me angry (blood pressure, you know). Maybe
Exodus (Leon Uris)? Or The Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison)? Not because I didn't like the books (I did); the subject matter was just very disturbing.

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
The Longshot, by Katie

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
The Map of True Places, by
Brunonia Barry.

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
Just about everything I read is for pleasure, and I never feel guilty about it. That's what reading is all about.

Whoa! That was quite a project. Now I'm gonna go see what everybody else came up with.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays: Books

This week my teaser lines come from Books: A Memoir, Larry McMurtry's first volume of bookish memories (he's written two more volumes since this one was published). A wonderfully entertaining account of his life as reader, writer, and bookman, the work is chatty and learned at the same time (a lot like McMurtry himself), and crammed full of great "teaser" bits.

This snippet comes from the end of Chapter 2 (p.6), with McMurtry remembering his life as a six-year-old on a Texas ranch, and his earliest discoveries in the world of books and reading:
With the day-to-day life of our ranch being so crowded, I somehow failed to get around to fantasy – to story, to invention – until one day in 1942 when my cousin Robert Hilburn, on his way to enlist in the new war, stopped by the ranch house and gave me the gift that changed my life.

The gift was a box containing nineteen books.
And Cousin Robert gets my vote for Cousin of the Year!

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 blog post in a comment here

Monday, August 16, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

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.

Still not a great deal going on, on the reading front, last week. I've been doing a lot of playing around with my family history databases, trying to get them transferred from my old Family Origins program to the new Roots Magic program I've got installed on the new Mac. Most of the info made the switch without any problems, but not all. So a lot of my week was taken up with tearing of hair and gnashing of teeth, and trying to figure out how much data is missing and how to get it back.

The bad news is that there's a lot of info that seems to have disappeared. The good news is that it's all recoverable. The bad news is that it's going to take a massive amount of work to get it back. The good news is that it's the kind of work I like doing. The bad news is that I really don't have time for genealogy work right now.


So, anyway, about my adventures in reading:
  • Last week:

    Finished one of the two books I was reading: The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, by Helen Grant.

    Well, OK – I still have a few pages to read in that one, but I should be able to finish it up today, so I'm claiming it for last week. (Shhhhh!)

  • This week:

    Still reading John Verdon's Think of a Number. I'm definitely enjoying this one, and should finish it pretty quickly once I get Katharina out of the way.

  • Waiting in the wings:

    I have several ARCs of books that either have come out recently, or are due out in the next few weeks. So I should probably be starting one of those – most likely Juliet by Anne Fortier.

    Sounds like a good read, but it's something of a chunkster, which makes it another good news/bad news thingie.

    Also need to start taking stock of all the challenges I've been participating in this year, and see how much reading I still need to do for those; I think it's possible that I've already completed a couple and don't even know it!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays: Think of a Number

This week my teaser lines come from Think of a Number, the new mystery by first-time novelist John Verdon. I've just started this one, and I don't know a lot about it. But the Washington Post called it a "brain-teasing thriller," so I have high hopes. These are the opening lines of Chapter One:
Jason Strunk was by all accounts an inconsequential fellow, a bland thirty-something, nearly invisible to his neighbors – and apparently inaudible as well, since none could recall a single specific thing he'd ever said. . . . All expressed a conventional initial amazement, even a temporary disbelief, at the revelation of Mr. Strunk's obsessive devotion to killing middle-aged men with mustaches and his uniquely disturbing way of disposing of the bodies: cutting them into manageable segments, wrapping them colorfully, and mailing them to local police officers as Christmas presents.
Well now, that's just a tad grisly, isn't it? But, hey, I don't write 'em – I just read 'em, cut 'em into manageable segments, and use 'em for teasers!

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.

Monday, August 09, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

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.

Well, I'm a little late with my reading report this week, but I almost decided not to bother doing one. Last week, I really got no reading done. That's none, nada, zip, zero! I'm still playing with the new iMac, trying to expunge all my old Microsoft habits and get with the new program. Some things are just the same, but a lot of it is really new and different. And I always have trouble with new and different, so I tend to get bogged down very easily. So, here's how things stack up (in the bog):
  • Last week:
    See above.

  • Reading this week:
    This week, I hope finally to finish up The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, by Helen Grant (yes, I know I promised to get that one wrapped up last week, but this time I really, really mean it).

  • Waiting in the wings:
    A couple of books I've started, but only read a few pages in each --

    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson (this one is looking like a long-term project)

    Think of a Number, by John Verdon (reading an ARC of this, but I think it came out earlier this year)

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Booking Through Thursday: First Time

This week's BTT topic is about early reading: What is the first book you remember reading? What about the first that made you really love reading?

The first book I remember actually reading on my own (not a book that someone read to me) is probably My Little Red Story Book.

Called a "pre-primer," it was the first book in the Basic Reading Series published by Ginn back in the 1940s and '50s. It was a slim paper-bound book, and it was followed by two other pre-primers: My Little Green Story Book and My Little Blue Story Book. The books were similar to the Dick and Jane readers that so many people grew up with, except they featured Tom, Betty, and Susan (and, of course, Father, Mother, Flip, and Pony). If you went to school in Texas in the 1940s through the 1960s, you're probably familiar with that crew.

I'm not really going to get into the controversial aspects of these books. Yes, they were sexist, but so was the rest of life on the planet back then. But in general it's true that the males in the books were usually the ones shown doing things, while the females mostly sat around looking pretty (often in pink) and saying things like "See Tom run! Run fast, Tom!"

But they were great books, just the same. And while the stories weren't the most scintillating or inspiring, they did instill a love of reading simply by being my first real reading experience. Finishing My Little Red Story Book left me with possibly the greatest feeling of accomplishment I've ever had.

I think before I started school and got immersed in those primers and early readers, I thought of reading as a kind of magical knowledge that only adults and "big kids" were privy to. I knew that the printing on the pages of my books "meant" something: words, sentences, thoughts. But I remember being utterly fascinated by the mechanism of putting those different sounds – those letters of the alphabet – together in seemingly endless ways to form other sounds – words – that made up the stories I loved. And it was those Red-Green-and-Blue Story Books that really taught me how to do that.

So when I look around at these overloaded bookshelves, and think about the small fortune I've spent on books over the years, I know I have three rosy-cheeked culprits to blame. Tom! Betty! Susan! See Joy read!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

A-Z Wednesday: "Z"

A-Z Wednesday is hosted by Vicki at Reading At The Beach. To join in, just visit her blog for the guidelines and leave your link in a comment.

Well, here we are with one more trip through the alphabet completed. This week's letter is "Z." So I went to my shelves, and this is what I pulled out.

Zuleika Dobson
Written by Max Beerbohm
First published 1911

Description from Good Reads:
Max Beerbohm's sparklingly wicked satire concerns the unlikely events that occur when a femme fatale briefly enters the supremely privileged, all-male domain of Judas College, Oxford. A conjurer by profession, Zuleika Dobson can only love a man who is impervious to her considerable charms: a circumstance that proves fatal, as any number of love-smitten suitors are driven to suicide by the damsel's rejection. Laced with memorable one-liners ('Death cancels all engagements,' utters the first casualty) and inspired throughout by Beerbohm's rococo imagination, this lyrical evocation of Edwardian undergraduate life at Oxford has...a beauty unattainable by serious literature.
See the book's page at Wikipedia here.

See the book's text at Project Gutenberg here.

My Thoughts:

Beerbohm's classic satire (and his only novel), the story of the impossibly desirable Zuleika who drives all the undergraduates at all the colleges in Oxford to drown themselves for love of her, is not for everyone. I read it many years ago, and loved it at the time. Not sure I'd be quite so enthusiastic about it if I reread it today. But if you can manage to put up with the extremely arch humor, the book does have some very funny moments. Zuleika is something of a monster, but a sweet and comic monster; and the story paints a very interesting picture of Edwardian Oxford.

You can also expand your vocabulary, reading Beerbohm. Just giving the book a quick glance, I found several words I probably had to look up when I read it the first time (chevelure, gallimaufry, chrysoprases, dubiety). And now I'll have to look them up again.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

As usual, I've got several books going at the moment. But I've already used a couple of them for Teaser Tuesday posts. So this week, I'm taking my teaser lines from one of the books I'm intending to read this summer, but haven't actually started yet: Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It's one I've wanted to read for a long time, even before the series became such a rage (I kept seeing Larsson's books over and over again on the beach last month).

This snippet comes from the middle of the book (p. 191), and I know it's more than two lines, but they're very short:
The easiest thing would be for Bjurman simply to disappear from her life. A quick heart attack. End of problem. The catch was that not even disgusting fifty-three-year-old men had heart attacks at her beck and call.....But that sort of thing could be arranged.
I have no idea who any of the characters are, or how they relate to one another. But it sounds distinctly like one of them is not long for this world, doesn't it?

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.

Monday, August 02, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

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.

Last week was a bit disjointed for me. After years of threatening to ditch Microsoft and go all-Apple, the hubby and I have finally taken the plunge. So I spent most of last week rehabbing and retraining. After using a PC for the last quarter century, I'm now having to rethink everything and learn to use the new Mac. And I don't do technology change really well, so that's more difficult than it really should be.

And it definitely cut into my reading time. But I did manage to finish one more book before the month of July disappeared. So here's my done/doing/to do list: