Sunday, July 31, 2011

Beach Week!

Communication may be sporadic or nonexistent for a short interval, but Joy's Blog will be up and running again after a few days' R&R.
See ya in August!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Friday's List: These Are the Greats?

I've seen this list on several blogs and websites. It was put together by the (London) Times staff a couple of years ago, and it's supposed to represent the fifty best postwar British writers. I'm not really sure how they arrived at their conclusions, but I think I agree with most of their picks; although I'd order the list a little differently (Barbara Pym, Anthony Powell, and Muriel Spark would be right at the top, and my list would definitely include P.D. James). Those authors whose works I've sampled are the ones in red.
1. Philip Larkin
2. George Orwell
3. William Golding
4. Ted Hughes
5. Doris Lessing
6. J. R. R. Tolkien
7. V. S. Naipaul
8. Muriel Spark
9. Kingsley Amis
10. Angela Carter
11. C. S. Lewis
12. Iris Murdoch
13. Salman Rushdie
14. Ian Fleming
15. Jan Morris
16. Roald Dahl
17. Anthony Burgess
18. Mervyn Peake
19. Martin Amis
20. Anthony Powell
21. Alan Sillitoe
22. John Le Carré
23. Penelope Fitzgerald
24. Philippa Pearce
25. Barbara Pym
26. Beryl Bainbridge
27. J. G. Ballard
28. Alan Garner
29. Alasdair Gray
30. John Fowles
31. Derek Walcott
32. Kazuo Ishiguro
33. Anita Brookner
34. A. S. Byatt
35. Ian McEwan
36. Geoffrey Hill
37. Hanif Kureishi
38. Iain Banks
39. George Mackay Brown
40. A. J. P. Taylor
41. Isaiah Berlin
42. J. K. Rowling
43. Philip Pullman
44. Julian Barnes
45. Colin Thubron
46. Bruce Chatwin
47. Alice Oswald
48. Benjamin Zephaniah
49. Rosemary Sutcliff
50. Michael Moorcock

Remarkably, there's only one name I'm completely unfamiliar with. Benjamin Zephaniah? OK, I'll have to go google that one.

So, what d'ya think? Anybody you'd leave off the list? Anybody you're shocked not to see included?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays: Whose Body?

This week my teaser lines come from Whose Body?, the first novel in the series of Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries by Dorothy L. Sayers. In this snippet, Wimsey has just been informed by his mother (the Duchess) about a very interesting murder case involving the architect who was working on the local church. Not sure what page it's from, since I'm looking at it on my iPad; but it's around the middle of the first chapter. The dialogue is between Lord Peter and his manservant Bunter:
"Her Grace tells me that a respectable Battersea architect has discovered a dead man in his bath."

"Indeed, my lord? That's very gratifying."

"Very, Bunter. Your choice of words is unerring."
I love the little bits of banter between these two. I read this Wimsey many years ago, but I think it might just be time for a re-read.

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.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday's List: This Time It's Personal

Since we're already past mid-year now, I've been doing a little stock-taking: trying to figure out how I'm doing with all the reading challenges I've foolishly enthusiastically signed up for this year. Also trying to decide what to take with me to the beach in August. So this week's list is a little bit of how-I'm-doing-so-far business. The links will lead you to my reading lists for each challenge.
I'm actually doing a little better than I realized, considering the first half of this year has been really slow for me, where reading is concerned. Hoping to do a little better in this second half.

With just a few exceptions, all the challenges run through December, so I've still got time to catch up with most of them. However, the Themed Reading Challenge ends August 15, which means I should definitely keep that one in mind when I'm packing away those beach reads next week. But my chosen theme is mystery novels that feature amateur sleuths, written by female authors -- and for me that's a perfect choice for vacation reading.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: Repeats

This week, BTT asks: "What’s the first book that you ever read more than once? (I’m assuming there’s at least one.) What book have you read the most times? And–how many?"

You know, I can't honestly remember the absolute first book I read more than once. But I'm pretty sure it was probably a Little Golden Book. Maybe The Poky Little Puppy or Scuffy the Tugboat. Or Little Red Riding Hood -- that one was always one of my favorites.

Or The Real Mother Goose -- not an LGB but a book I really loved (still do and still have my childhood copy). Or The Little Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings -- I just re-read that one again, not long ago.

Of course, the sticky point here is "reading," since I most likely had those books read to me, at least at first. When I was a tot in Texas, kindergarten (or pre-school as we call it now) was not a universal, expected thing for everyone -- some kids went and some didn't. None of the schools near us offered any kind of pre-school program, so I didn't go to school until I was six years old. By then, I could read a little, but not enough to do a lot of reading on my own. So even though I had a large library from the time I was old enough to look at pictures, the reading part would have come later.

So, I'm thinking that the first book I actually read on my own more than once was almost certainly Alice in Wonderland. Probably the Little Golden Book of the Disney version, and then the Lewis Carroll classic.

And that's probably the one book I've read the most times, too (although I have no idea how many). There are several others I've read multiple times -- Huck Finn, Wuthering Heights, Virginia Woolf's Orlando, Barbara Pym's Quartet in Autumn. But Alice's dream journey is the one story I always love to lose myself in, no matter how old I get.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays: The Fatal Touch

This week my teaser lines come from the new Commissario Alec Blume mystery, The Fatal Touch, by Conor Fitzgerald. It's Fitzgerald's second book about Blume, a police inspector in Rome. I haven't read the first book in the series (if two books can be called a series), but this one looks like it can probably stand alone. In this snippet, one of Blume's colleagues is musing on the fact that she's actually pleased to be awakened in the middle of the night to be told that her presence is needed at the scene of a murder:
It was not easy to explain the difference between wanting somebody dead and wanting a dead somebody. Homicide cops understood at once, but to people in the outside world, it came across as the sort of nice distinction a psychopath might make. (p.5)
So this one sounds like my kinda read. Maybe I'll take it with me when I go to the dentist today.

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.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday's List: Just Not Your Cuppa?

OK, I'll admit the Huffington Post is an odd place to be looking for book-related articles. And it's not even a journal I normally read. But somehow I came across this list Huffpost recently ran, and it caught my eye because I've been doing some thinking about this very subject -- books that got rave reviews from just about everyone, even though they didn't appeal to me. Huffpost polled their readers and put together the following list of "Books They Hated That Everyone Else Loved":
  1. The Lovely Bones. Alice Sebold
  2. The Lord of the Rings trilogy. J.R.R. Tolkien
  3. The Twilight saga. Stephenie Meyer
  4. The Shack. William P. Young
  5. Water for Elephants. Sara Gruen
  6. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Stieg Larsson
  7. Fight Club. Chuck Palahniuk
  8. The Reader. Bernhard Schlink
  9. The Corrections. Jonathan Franzen
  10. A Visit from the Goon Squad. Jennifer Egan
  11. The Road. Cormac McCarthy
  12. Moby-Dick. Herman Melville
  13. Angela's Ashes. Frank McCourt
  14. The Giving Tree. Shel Silverstein
  15. The Kite Runner. Khaled Hosseini
  16. Eat Pray Love. Elizabeth Gilbert
  17. The Book Thief. Markus Zusak
  18. The Bridges of Madison County. Robert James Waller
  19. The Great Gatsby. F. Scott Fitzgerald
  20. Running with Scissors. Augusten Burroughs
  21. The Alchemist. Paulo Coehlo
I've only read a few of the books on the list (those in red), and parts of a few others (twice I've managed to get through about the first quarter of Moby-Dick before starting to tear my hair out). And there are quite a few on the list that I wouldn't even attempt -- no way I'm ever gonna read Eat Pray Love. On the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed the Ring trilogy when I read it many years ago, and The Great Gatsby is one of my all-time faves (I've returned to it many times). So, go figure.

How about you? Got any "well-loved" books that you just can't stand?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Theme Thursday: Body Parts

This is a new one for me. Theme Thursday is a weekly event hosted by Reading Between the Pages. Each Thursday, a theme is posted for that week. Participants select a conversation, snippet, or sentence from whatever book they're reading and post it for everyone to read. Sounds like a great way to discover new books and authors, so here goes.

This week's theme is BODY PARTS, and this excerpt is from John Verdon's new thriller, Shut Your Eyes Tight. It's taken from an uncorrected proof of the novel, so please remember that the quote may differ slightly in the published edition.

And I should probably put up a **GORE ALERT** before I start!
"The body was sitting in a chair at [a] small square table in the front room, six feet from the entry door." He grimaced, as one might at the smell of a skunk. "As I said, the body was sitting at the table. But the head was not on the body. The head was on the table in a pool of blood. On the table, facing the body, still wearing the tiara you saw in the video." (p.73)
Sorry. Hope you're not eating breakfast while you're reading this.

Booking Through Thursday: Biographies

This week, BTT asks:
There are so many crappy biographies … would you rather read a poorly-written biography of a fascinating life, OR an exquisitely well-written, wonderful read of one of a not-so-interesting life?
Sorry, but why would I want to read anything that's poorly written? I'd much rather read a fascinating well-written biography of a fascinating individual.

Wouldn't we all?

And then there's fascinating and fascinating, isn't there? My opinion of what constitutes an interesting life might not agree with yours at all.

Actually, though, I don't really read that many biographies or autobiographies anymore -- I'm almost an all-fiction-all-the-time gal right now. In the past, I read a lot more nonfiction than I do now, for some reason. Guess I need the escape fiction provides. (Thank you, Doctor Freud.)

But if I did pick up a biog, I'd certainly prefer "exquisitely well-written" over crappy every time. No matter how fascinating its subject might be.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday is hosted weekly by MizB at Should Be Reading. To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions:

What are you currently reading?

Shut Your Eyes Tight by John Verdon

Verdon's second thriller to feature retired police detective Dan Gurney. I read the first book (Think of a Number) last year and really enjoyed it. I'm reading an ARC of this one, but I think the book is being released this week.

What did you recently finish reading?

Nat Tate by William Boyd

Deliciously inventive tale of the "well known" American artist, Nat Tate. Boyd's little hoax is probably not for everyone, but I found it a wonderful read. You'll probably appreciate "Tate" more if you're familiar with Boyd's 2002 novel Any Human Heart.

Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt.

Hope to have a short review of this one up today or tomorrow. It's taken me much too long to finish, but that's not a reflection of the book's quality or length. Just real life flooding in on me at just the wrong time.

What do you think you'll read next?

Whisker of Evil by Rita Mae Brown

Actually, this one could have gone under "Currently Reading" -- started it last month, and only got a couple of chapters read. Again, not a reflection on the book -- I always love the Mrs Murphy mysteries.

And after that, probably a vintage mystery of some sort. Seems to me that mid-summer is the perfect time of year for some Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays: Mr. Chartwell

This week my teaser lines come from the book I just finished, Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt. This snippet comes early in the novel (p.19), and the Churchill mentioned is Winston Spencer Churchill, former Prime Minister of England. He's painting in his garden when he begins to sense a very dark presence:
Churchill knew what worried him. And then there it was.
Behind him it whispered ardently in his ear, "You can't hide from me...."

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.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Friday's List: Vacation Reads

Best books to take on vacation? I guess we all have our favorite summer authors, or favorite types and genres. Here's what thinks might make the best summer reads for 2011:
  1. Then Came You. Jennifer Weiner
  2. The Paris Wife. Paula McLain
  3. State of Wonder. Ann Patchett
  4. Planting Dandelions. Kyran Pittman
  5. The Gap Year. Sarah Bird
  6. The Memory of All That. Katharine Weber
  7. Conquistadora: A Novel. Esmeralda Santiago
  8. Caleb's Crossing. Geraldine Brooks
  9. Nothing Daunted. Dorothy Wickenden
  10. Sister. Rosamund Lupton
A little something for everyone: some fiction, some non-, some romance, some humor, some history. Haven't read any of them yet, and there are a few I've never even heard of (as usual). But also one or two I'll definitely be adding to my "want to read" list.

What about you? Got any recommendations for that "perfect vacation read"?

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: Dog Days

This week, BTT asks: "...what animal-related books have you read? Which do you love? Do you have a favorite literary dog? (Snoopy, anyone?)"

Well, I love books and I love animals. But in general, I'm not really a great lover of books about animals. Especially the overly sentimental and maudlin works produced in the wake of John Grogan's hugely successful Marley & Me. And I really can't abide those books that introduce a pet only to kill it off, for emotional effect.

But one of my favorite mystery series, the Mrs. Murphy books by Rita Mae Brown, features cats and a dog who help solve the mysteries their human friend gets herself involved in; I'm reading one right now (Whisker of Evil). And one of my all-time favorite books is Conan Doyle's Hound of the Baskervilles (although I don't suppose anyone would pick the terrifying gigantic hound as a favorite literary canine).

Another favorite "animal" book is one I read just a couple of years ago -- Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. There's really not a dog in the book (the main character has a pet rat), but the entire plot hinges on the investigation of the death of a neighbor's dog.

And yes, I do love Snoopy -- I've got a small collection of Peanuts books. I imagine Snoopy has been everyone's favorite literary pup at one time or another. But when it comes to cartoon dogs, I've also always loved those loopy animals drawn by James Thurber. Thurber was a writer, not an artist; but he loved drawing and he loved dogs. And that combination made for some wonderfully weird illustrations to his stories over the years.

And today I hope to finish reading Rebecca Hunt's Mr. Chartwell, about a sort of dog/monster haunting the book's protagonist. But Mr. Chartwell (or Black Pat as he's mostly called) isn't a nice doggie and you definitely wouldn't think of him as man's best friend.

Oh, and I almost forgot -- one more animal-related book: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH! Can't leave that one off the list. Read it for the first time just a couple years back and really loved it. Can't believe it took me so long to get around to it.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Friday's List: Samples

I've had my iPad for over a year now, and I still think it's a nifty little device. Pricey, but comes in very handy for travel or those times when I'm away from my main computer. And it's also a very efficient e-reader; in fact, I've looked at the Nook and the Kindle, and I think I really do prefer the iPad (but to each his own, of course). I haven't done a huge amount of e-reading -- just enough to discover (as I figured I would) that I really like reading actual books as opposed to the electronic kind. But one of the really nice things about having the Kindle app (downloaded free from Amazon) is that I've been able to take advantage of Amazon's sampling feature. And that's allowed me to download free samples of interesting-looking books before making up my mind about whether or not to read the whole work. Here's what I've "sampled" so far:
  1. The Attenbury Emeralds. Jill Paton Walsh
  2. Fall of Giants. Ken Follett
  3. A Game of Thrones. George R.R. Martin
  4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Stieg Larsson
  5. Henrietta's War. Joyce Dennys
  6. In the Garden of Beasts. Erik Larson
  7. Leviathans of Jupiter. Ben Bova
  8. A Lonely Death: An Inspector Rutledge Mystery. Charles Todd
  9. Love You More: A Detective D.D. Warren Novel. Lisa Gardner
  10. Miss Hargreaves. Frank Baker
  11. Mr. Chartwell. Rebecca Hunt
  12. On Borrowed Time. David Rosenfelt
  13. Separate Beds. Elizabeth Buchan
  14. West of Here. Jonathan Evison
  15. What the Night Knows. Dean Koontz
  16. The Winter Ghosts. Kate Mosse
  17. Wish You Were Here. Stewart O'Nan
  18. Wolf Hall. Hilary Mantel
  19. 13, rue Therese. Elena Mauli Shapiro
The samples are usually somewhere around twenty-five to fifty pages, or the first few chapters of each book. But after all these downloads, I've actually gone on to read just one of the titles (Mr. Chartwell). I've got another downloaded (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), but haven't read it yet. This doesn't mean I'm not interested in reading the other books I've sampled -- just haven't had the time yet. Maybe if I cut back on all that sampling....