Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Antibiotics are a wonderful thing.

In fact, I almost feel human right now.

The only upside to being sick is that I've had two days (when I'm not sleeping) to read. I've gotten through several more books these past couple of days, as well as watched a couple of dvds that I had laying about.

I also had a chance to look through my books more, and as Dani wanted to know what they were...

Children's Books
The Nutcracker, illustrated with these beautiful "pencil" drawings. It used to be "Sarah's Book".
The Cat in the Hat
Green Eggs and Ham
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, for my niece Emily
Lon Po Po, by Ed Young. It's a Red-Riding Hood story from China, again with beautiful illustrations.
The Legend of the Willow Plate, by Alvin Tresselt and Nancy Cleaver. Beautiful pen and watercolor illustrations. (are you sensing my theme?)
The Samurai's Daughter, by Robert San Souci...again, lovely illustrations, especially the one where she's battling a water dragon.
Tam Lin, by Jane could I pass this one up? I mean, Tam Lin, for children!
Brother Eagle, Sister Sky, a message from Chief Seattle
The Brave Little Tailor, by Eve Tharlet, for my niece Emily
and The Real Mother Goose, again, for Emily

Young Adult Books
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, by JK Rowling, for my mother.
The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint Exupery
Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare. Oh, how I loved this book when I was younger.
A Taste of Blackberries, by Doris Buchanan Smith. Again, another book I loved as a kid, and this was the first one I can remember dealing with friendship and death.
Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry. Another old favorite.
The Giver, by Lois Lowry. My brother pushed me for years to read this, so of course I never did. And when I finally did..just excellent.
Lost in the Barrens, by Farley Mowat. I was in the sixth grade when I read this book; I remember because we were going to watch the movie at my birthday party, but I got sick and it was cancelled.
Witch Child, by Celia Rees
Bunnicula! by Deborah and James Howe. Hee, Bunnicula. I picked up Howliday Inn, The Celery Stalks at Midnight, and Bunnicula Strikes Again! too.
Witch Business, by Diana Wynne Jones
The Headless Cupid, by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. I loved The Egypt Game when I was younger, so I had to pick this up once I realized why it looked so familiar.
Another old favorite, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by EL Konigsbury. After reading this book, I've never quite lost the urge to run away and live in a museum, although, I've always preferred the British Museum to the Met.
The Grey King and Greenwitch, by Susan Cooper. Last year I remember reading something about the author, so I picked up The Dark is, I only have two left to find, and then I can start the series. I mean, I can't start without the first book.
Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
and four Ramona books that I picked up on the behalf of a friend

The Magnificant Ambersons, by Booth Tarkington
Inferno, by Dante
Barchester Towers, by Anthony Trollope
Bleak House, by Charles Dickens
The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins
The Forsythe Saga, by John Galsworthy
Cry, the Beloved Country, by Alan Paton
The Vagabond, by Colette
The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton
Henry James' Midnight Song, by Carol DeChellis Hill
The Master & Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov
1984, by George Orwell. I actually have a copy of this already, but the cover was just too cool to pass up.
A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway. I have this one already too, but I forgot.
The Vampyre, and other tales of the macabre, by John Polidori. How could I pass this one up?Hiroshima, by John Hersey. I think I'll read this one once I finish Before the Fallout.
I, Claudius, by Robert Graves
The Beautiful and the Damned, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I've been looking for this book for a couple of years now, hee!
A Clergyman's Daughter, by George Orwell. I've never heard of this book before, but I do like Orwell's writing.
The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle. I loved loved loved this movie as a child; how could I pass up the book?

Baltasar and Blimunda, by Jose Saramago. I picked this up only because I recognized his name from Blindness.
Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters...I keep hearing what a good book this is.
Five Quarters of the Orange, by Joanne Harris. I love this author, but I'd walked right by this book without seeing it. However, another woman in the literature room saw it and passed it to me; she'd been pulling out books that she liked and passing them to whoever was closest. Lucky me, eh?
La Cucina, a novel of rapture, by Lily Prior. I picked it up solely because Joanne Harris had written a blurb for the back.
The Dew Breaker, by Edwidge Danticant. I've wanted to read this for a while now, but I read Breath, Eyes, Memory, and didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would.
Snow, by Orhan Pamuk. Another that's been on my list.
Year of Wonders, by Geraldine Brooks. It's my book club selection for the next month.
Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell
The Illuminator, by Brenda Rickman Vantrease. It was the alternate for my book club selection for next month.
Galileo's Daughter, by Dava Sobel. And damnme if I don't already have it.
The Alchemist's Daughter, by Katharine McMahon
Daughter of the Forest, by Juliet Marillier...another one on my to be read list.
Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman. Hee, I love his writings.
Dreams Underfoot, by Charles de Lint.
Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson.
In the Company of the Courtesan, by Sarah Ducant. I really enjoyed both The Birth of Venus and Mapping the Edge, and I've heard good things about this one.
Three Junes, by Julia Glass.
The Queen of the South (which I've read), The Seville Communion, and The Nautical Chart by Arturo Perez-Reverte. I really love The Flanders Panel and The Club Dumas and I've read The Fencing Master (which I thought was okay), but I haven't had a chance with these other two yet.
and I picked up The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, because everyone keeps comparing him to Arturo Perez-Reverte.
Eah! I nearly forgot! The Ghost Orchid by Carol Goodman.
Books that Changed the World, by Robert Downs. Sounds promising
The True History of the Kelly Gang, by Peter Carey. I can't count this as "literature", because to me, it should be history, even if it's technically historical fiction. I know, I'm odd.
Careers for Bookworms & Other Literary Types, by Marjorie Eberts and Margaret Gisler. Hee.
The Great Divorce, by CS Lewis
Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv. It's been on my list since I first heard about it.
Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, by Gloria Steinem
and finally, Bibliotherapy: The Girl's Guide to Books for Every Phase of our Lives, by Nancy Peske and Beverly West. How could I pass this one up?

So that's it, that's every book I purchased at the SPL book sale this year. Right now, the poor things are all stacked on my dining room table, as my stupid book case hasn't been delivered yet. Once it is, I'll have to re-arrange my books, and then get reading. Such a miserable life I live.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Wow. Just, wow.

Well, I have good news and bad news.

The bad news; I'm feeling worse. My mild little cold has turned into a full fledged "disease", which currently is leaving me rather voiceless, sore, and with a general feeling of illness.

The good news; I made out like a bandit at the book sale this year. Picked up 79 books. 79. Honestly, I think that's a record. (Although to be perfectly honest...4 of them were books a friend asked me to look for and 3 of them will be birthday gifts for my niece Emily. But 72 is a respectable number, yes?)

The score:

11 picture books
22 young adult books
(including "The Little Prince"; because Colleen recommended it and "Speak"; because Leila did.)
19 classical books
(including "The Magnificent Ambersons"; because Dani recommended it and an absolutely beautiful translation of Dante's "Inferno". It's so shallow of me, I know.)
22 novels (literary would be the classification, I think)
and 6 others (a history, 2 books on other books, some social stuff)

(It's sad that I look at them and have no idea where to start.)

In other book news, I've finished several more from my library stack, including Neil Gaiman's "Smoke and Mirrors", which was excellent (as always). I'm a huge fan of his writings; I just think they're brilliant and descriptive and just a bit mind-twisting. For example, he rewrote "Snow White", but this time from the 'evil queen's' point of view, which gave it a whole different spin. In his version, Snow White is an evil little thing and the Queen is the one who's harmed while trying to protect herself and the kingdom. (He said in his author notes that he hoped that anyone who read this story would never be able to think of the "original" in the same way.)

"Rain", by Kristy Gunn was a novel that someone in my book club recommended we read (but they chose "The Buffalo Solider" instead). It's told from the point of view of Janey at an unknown age; she's flashing back to when she was a 12 year old girl responsible for her 5 year old brother, James. They spend all their time out on the lake, whether swimming or sitting in the family's boat, trying to avoid their parents (as well as everyone else). For the most part Janey is successful; she's made her whole life her brother and he loves her, but inevitably, they get sucked back into their mother's view, where she alternates between loving them, ignoring them, and treating them like they're toys to be showed off. Her husband is too busy trying to keep her happy to do anything about it. And as for the other adults, well. They're either egging her mother on, indifferent, or a whole other problem.

The author uses some incredibly detailed language,

Up in that part the water smelled rivery. We hadn't even passed the little bay at the end of the first beach but already the air was touched by the promise of our destination. All the trees were drowning. They reached their long skinny branches into the lake, leaning so far that their gnarled roots could barely hold the clay. You knew it was only time before whole bodies would be dislodged, allowed to drift, then sink. The water would seal over them again and that's how it would end: you would never know there had been trees there at all.

so much that I could picture the lake, the trees, the hidden paths in my head. I felt like I was there with Janey, watching their treks to the hidden places, jumping into the waves when the crashed towards shore. (However, the author kept using "lovers" to describe things, and as she was talking about children, that bugged me in the beginning.)

Unfortunately, there are just some things that Janey can't control and the end of the book is pretty much heart-braking.

I probably should have waited a bit before picking up "Siberia" by Ann Halam, because I was in tears during half of it. (I'd like to blame it on the cold, but I think I'd be doing the author a disservice.)

Sometime, somewhere, it seems that the human race has killed off most of the planet they live on, ending up in a "Siberian" place; it's almost always winter, people live in cities which are strictly controled, and the only animals left are "farm animal", which are used for clothing, and mutants. Rosita and her mother are sent to a camp for prisoners when she was 4; it seems her parents were scientist working with animal DNA and when the figured out what their government was actually doing, they attempted to steal the DNA samples (refered to as Lindquists), and destroy everything else. However, things go wrong, someone sells them out, and they end up trying to ekk out an existance in a miserable plot of land. Her mother is forced to make nails; there's a camera in everyone's "home", and Rosita is merely trying to understand. One day though, Nivvy appears on her doorstep and after that, everything changes for Rosita.

The story begins to move quickly from there, with Rosita's mother teaching her about the "magic" of the Lindquist, as well as their importance. However, she doesn't get to explain everything before Sloe (Rosita's name was changed as a pre-teen) is sent away to a special school. As she still doesn't understand that the government doesn't want anyone knowing anything about science, Sloe ends up selling out her mother and becoming a "permanent" at the school; no hope of leaving. From there on out, all she has is herself and the Lindquists.

(I doubt I've done a good job giving you any sort of description about this book; really, it's truely fantastic. There are twists, and bits of scientific knowledge, and such sadness. I loved it.)

Finally, the last book I finished recently was "Socerey & Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot" by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer.

It's like a cross between Jane Austen and, and I don't know...someone who writes magic books, I'm blanking right now. It'll come to me after I post, no doubt.

Anyway. Kate and Cecelia are cousins in 1817 England; Kate is off with her sister Georgina having her first Season (with their harridan of an Aunt Caroline), while Cecelia is stuck at home in the country, with her father and her strict Aunt Elizabeth. (It's never explained what happened to the girls' mothers, which did kind of bug me.) Things start to get more interesting though, when Kate is nearly poisoned with chocolate by a witch who thinks that she's actually a wizard and Cecelia makes a new friend, who not only has every young man who sees her desperately in love with her, but she's got a stalker too.

The story is told in letters from one girl to the other, where they begin to piece together all the things that are happening to them, which turn out to be related. While figuring this out though, Kate has to deal with a fiance (not to mention her aunt), and Cecelia is battling a magician or two, while trying to teach herself magic on the sly. It's truly a great story, very entertaining, and I'm looking forward to the sequels.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Book Sale

Bah! I can't focus on work today. Instead, all I can think about is the semi-annual SPL book sale. Which starts tonight, members only. (However, you can purchase your membership at the door, so it's not a big deal.)

My friend 'Rin and I started going to this a couple of years ago, after we'd both settled in Seattle. I heard about it on the SPL website and we both decided that it sounded like a good time (you know you're a fan of reading when public, book, and sale sound like fun). However, we had no idea how big this thing was. (It's big. People come from all over the western part of the state to attend this sale.)

We get there, Friday night and the line is long. Really long. Starting at the door (to an old hanger building), it snaked around the front of the building, then down along the side, then snaked around this fence (we lost sight of it there)...and there was still 30 minutes to go before opening (6.30). (Needless to say, we learned to get there earlier.) Then you go inside...

which is a whole 'nother maze of tables and boxes and books and just madness. I think that first year they had people passing out maps to where the different sections were...not helpful. Eventually, we just dove into the classics and went from there. Two hours and 25 books later (that's the book limit per membership) and we lined up to have our books sorted, then lined up again to pay for them. (Yes, lots of lining up. But it's clearly marked and the volunteers do an excellent job of keeping things quick and orderly.)

You'd think we'd be exhausted and sore, from lugging clumsily stacked piles of books, quickly shoved into bags and back packs. You think our feet would be killing us from standing and crouching. You'd think our backs would hurt from lugging around said books, from diving under tables to look at the boxes stacked on the floor. You'd think our arms would hurt, again from the lifting and the carrying and the oh-so-polite (we're in Seattle after all) shoving and pushing that goes on. You'd think we'd be cold, because there is no heat in that drafy old hanger building. And you'd be right.

So explain to me why we met up EARLY the next day, to do it all over again? Or every 6 months since. Rain or shine, we're there.

It's all I can think about today....the planning of shoes and clothes to layer, the two page list of books that I doubt I'll find, but since you never know, the cash I have to remember to get (although there's a rumor they're taking credit cards now), to make sure I pack water and Advil, because I'm going to need it. And the books, the blessed 25 (or more, depending on how many I can convince 'Rin, and her sister, a first timer, to get for me--'Rin never meets the limit, slacker) books I'll be taking home with me tonight. That's why I can't focus today...I'm dreaming of 25 new books (and the 50 or so I'll get tomorrow).

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Catching up

I have a confession to make:

I love lists. Love them. I make them all the time, posting them on my desk, my front door, the palm of my hand. It'll be a rare day when I don't have at least one list floating around me, with things to do, buy, read, check out, or eat on it.

That said, I hate book lists. Not all of them, mind you, but bestsellers lists? Please, like I care what you (whoever you are, nothing personal) think is a good book? (And the definition of a good book deserves its own post.) A lot of these lists end up looking like popularity contests, with big names getting the top spots, deserved or not. And anything that a celebrity (coughOprahcough) suggests...I'm automatically turned off from it. That's not to say that celebrities don't read or have good book recommendations, but no. Just no. (Nothing is worse than seeing a book with that "seal of approval" on it. Or worse, the movie adaptation cover.) And then there are the "BEST" Just, no. (Sometimes, I wonder if it's just me. Actually, it probably is. I hate being told what to read. Hate. It. Even when I'm being told in the nicest possible way. Mom always said I was the type of girl who'd "cut off her nose to spite her face".)

And yet, I troll the internet looking for book lists. I check out book publisher sites, my libraries' "new and interesting reads", book blogs, 'zines... I want to know what other people think are good, new, interesting reads. I read their reviews, or their recommendations, then head to one of the libraries to check it out for myself. Which leads me to this.

It's a list, and a rather well known list at that. It should be the sort of thing I shudder at the very sight of and hurriedly click away, and yet...I seem to be drawn to the list. I printed it out during a slow time at work and looked it over. There are 9 books that I've read from the Board's list...but twice that many off the Reader's list. There are five books off the Board's list that I tried and/or hated...15 from the Reader's list. And 7 books from each list that I think sounded interesting, of which four are the same. (Well, okay, so that part's not entirely honest. There are several more books in the Reader's list that I know I won't read or that I know I will read, but I didn't want to pad my results. Why? I don't know.)

(I don't think I have a real reason for this post, but it's something I think about off an on. Why do I hate book list so much? It it just the 'author' of the list that I don't like? Or the being told part? Am I really just that stubborn? Sigh. Maybe my mother really is right.)

Also, I have been reading, I just haven't had a chance to write any of them up. I finished both "The Letter Home" (near the bottom of the post) and "Landed" over the weekend. They are both picture/young children books that actually have a story to tell, rather than the "Dick and Jane" motif of my youth. The first one is about a father writing home to his son; he's been writing a letter about his experiences, but he didn't want to send it until he knew he'd be coming home. The second book was about a Chinese boy and his experience with emigrating to the United States during the early 1900s. I'm going to have to go to my local bookstore and see if they have copies I can purchase for my niece. She's a bit young for them, but I think that my mom will read them to her when Emily visits her and I know she'd enjoy them, if for nothing but the pictures right now. (To be honest, I want "The Letter Home" for myself; the drawings are really fantastic.)

Another recently finished book was "Firebirds", a collection of fantasy stories by various authors. It was one of my library binges; I went on this one after reading "War for the Oaks" by Emma Bull. There were several excellent stories in there, most from authors I'd never heard of before, which is not going to help my to be read pile...Delia Sherman, Diana Wynne Jones, Sherwood Smith, Megan Whalen Turner and Nina Kiriki Hoffman (to name a few).

Lastly, I just read on Monday "The Bookseller of Kabul" by Asne Seierstad, a Norwegian journalist. A white "Western" woman, Asne is allowed into the home of Sultan Khan (a liberal bookseller, but a fundamentalist husband/father) and his family for a period of about three months. It was more a collection of essays than a cohesive story, as the author never once referenced herself in any of these experiences. Instead, she was either an observer or the story was recounted to her by various members of the family. I have to say that I honestly didn't enjoy this book, but I think it was an interesting book. We hear from all of the members of his family, from his widowed mother to his youngest son and we get to see how an Afghanis family lives. It's rather funny that when Asne started this book, she thought that Sultan was much more liberal and forward/Western thinking than he turned out to be; rather than this being an unusual family, it really seemed to me a much more typical family, at least from what I've read.

I'm still working on "Before the Fallout" by Diana Preston; it's interesting and all, but it's taking me forever to get through. And as I have the semi-annual Seattle Public Library booksale this weekend...well, let's just say that the bookcase I just ordered is not going to arrive in time.


articles in the NYT this morning.

The first one is about a well known Washington reporter, Jack Anderson. The FBI is attempting to search just under 200 boxes of documents, notes, etc, that belonged to to him. Currently, his family is blocking the attempts.

F.B.I. Is Seeking to Search Papers of Dead Reporter - New York Times

The other article is about how Germany is finally opening up their Holocaust Archives in Bad Arolsen, which is more than 15 miles long. Its not yet open to the public; apparently the 1955 treaty needs to be revised first, and Italy is still holding out.

Germany Agrees to Open Holocaust Archive

So one on side, we have people witholding and blocking access to documents and on the other side, we have people attemtping to open them up.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Another Meme...

Name books you liked, one for as many letters of the alphabet as you can come up with. (via pagesturned)

A: A Pirate of Exquisite Mind: Explorer, Naturalist, & Buccaneer: William Dampier
B: Brideshead Revisited
C: Chocolate
D: Diary of a Young Girl
E: Ender’s Game
F: Fahrenheit 451
G: (The) Girl Who Owned a City (c’mon, I was 11)
H: Harry Potter and the ….
I: Issola
J: Jigs & Reels
K: (To) Kill a Mockingbird
L: (The) Lake of Dead Languages
M: Mansfield Park
N: Never Let Me Go
O: Orca
P: Pride & Prejudice
Q: ?
R: ?
S: Seduction of Water
T: The Time Traveler’s Wife
U: ?
V: ?
W: War for the Oaks
Y: Yendi
Z: ?

Huh…I had to wrack my brain for some of these…

Book Meme!

Man, I love these...ripped this one from Dani again...

Just BOLD those you've read, ITALICIZE the ones you've been meaning to read and ??? the ones you have never heard of, and a strike through the ones I will never read.

Allcott, Louisa May--Little Women
?? Allende, Isabel--The House of Spirits
Angelou, Maya--I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Atwood, Margaret--Cat's Eye

Austen, Jane—Emma
?? Bambara, Toni Cade--Salt Eaters
?? Barnes, Djuna--Nightwood
?? de Beauvoir, Simone--The Second Sex
Blume, Judy--Are You There God? It's Me Margaret
Burnett, Frances--The Secret Garden
Bronte, Charlotte--Jane Eyre
Bronte, Emily--Wuthering Heights

?? Buck, Pearl S.--The Good Earth
Byatt, A.S.—Possession
?? Cather, Willa--My Antonia
Chopin, Kate--The Awakening
Christie, Agatha--Murder on the Orient Express

?? Cisneros, Sandra--The House on Mango Street
Clinton, Hillary Rodham--Living History
??Cooper, Anna Julia--A Voice From the South
Danticat, Edwidge--Breath, Eyes, Memory
??Davis, Angela--Women, Culture, and Politics
?? Desai, Anita--Clear Light of Day
Dickinson, Emily--Collected Poems
Duncan, Lois--I Know What You Did Last Summer

DuMaurier, Daphne--Rebecca
Eliot, Geroge—Middlemarch

??Emecheta, Buchi--Second Class Citizen
?? Erdrich, Louise--Tracks
Esquivel, Laura--Like Water for Chocolate
Flagg, Fannie--Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café
Friedan, Betty--The Feminine Mystique
Frank, Anne--Diary of a Young Girl
?? Gilman, Charlotte Perkins--The Yellow Wallpaper
?? Gordimer, Nadine--July's People
Hamilton, Edith—Mythology
Highsmith, Patricia--The Talented Mr. Ripley
?? Hooks, Bell--Bone Black
Hurston, Zora Neale--Dust Tracks on the Road
?? Jacobs, Harriet--Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
?? Jackson, Helen Hunt--Ramona
Jackson, Shirley--The Haunting of Hill House
?? Jong, Erica--Fear of Flying
Keene, Carolyn--The Nancy Drew Mysteries (any of them)
Kidd, Sue Monk--The Secret Life of Bees
?? Kincaid, Jamaica--Lucy
Kingsolver, Barbara--The Poisonwood Bible
Kingston, Maxine Hong--The Woman Warrior
?? Larsen, Nella--Passing
L'Engle, Madeleine--A Wrinkle in Time
Le Guin, Ursula K.--The Left Hand of Darkness

Lee, Harper--To Kill a Mockingbird
?? Lessing, Doris--The Golden Notebook
?? Lively, Penelope--Moon Tiger
?? Lorde, Audre--The Cancer Journals
McCullers, Carson--The Member of the Wedding
?? Markandaya, Kamala--Nectar in a Sieve
?? Marshall, Paule--Brown Girl, Brownstones
Montgomery, Lucy--Anne of Green Gables
?? Morgan, Joan--When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost
Morrison, Toni--Song of Solomon
Murasaki, Lady Shikibu--The Tale of Genji
?? Munro, Alice--Lives of Girls and Women
?? Murdoch, Iris--Severed
?? Naylor, Gloria--Mama Day
Niffenegger, Audrey--The Time Traveller's Wife
Oates, Joyce Carol--We Were the Mulvaneys
?? O'Connor, Flannery--A Good Man is Hard to Find
?? Piercy, Marge--Woman on the Edge of Time
Picoult, Jodi--My Sister's Keeper
Plath, Sylvia--The Bell Jar

?? Porter, Katharine Anne--Ship of Fools
Proulx, E. Annie--The Shipping News
?? Ray, Rachel--365: No Repeats
Rhys, Jean--Wide Sargasso Sea
?? Robinson, Marilynne--Housekeeping
Sebold, Alice--The Lovely Bones
Shelley, Mary--Frankenstein
Smith, Betty--A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Smith, Zadie--White Teeth
Spark, Muriel--The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

?? Spyri, Johanna--Heidi
Strout, Elizabeth--Amy and Isabelle
Tan, Amy--The Joy Luck Club

?? Tannen, Deborah--You're Wearing That?
Ulrich, Laurel--A Midwife's Tale
?? Urquhart, Jane--Away
?? Walker, Alice--The Temple of My Familiar
?? Welty, Eudora--One Writer's Beginnings
Wharton, Edith--Age of Innocence
Wilder, Laura Ingalls--Little House in the Big Woods Wollstonecraft, Mary--A Vindication of the Rights of Women
Woolf, Virginia--A Room of One's Own

Huh, there are a lot of books on here I know nothing about.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Booked by 3

Name 3 books you liked, titles which start with A, B, C (one per letter).

A: A Pirate of Exquisite Mind: Explorer, Naturalist, & Buccaneer: William Dampier
B: Brideshead Revisited
C: Chocolat

Name 3 authors you like whose names (given or surname) start with A, B, C (one per letter)

A: Jane Austen
B: Emma Bull
C: Orson Scott Card

Name 3 books on your To Read list with titles starting with A, B, C (one per letter)

A: Animal Farm
B: Bleak House
C: (The) Collector

Ripped this from Dani

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Ghost Orchid

So, while some people were out enjoying the sunshine we had here over the weekend, others (namely me) we inside, devouring "The Ghost Orchid" by Carol Goodman.

I'm a huge fan of Carol's writing and enjoyed her other three books ("The Lake of Dead Langauges", "Seduction of Water" and "The Drowning Tree") as well. I remember reading something earlier in the year about her newest novel, but of course forgot about it until recently when Colleen mentioned reviewing it. I stopped reading her post immediately and went and put it on hold.

This novel is set a bit differently from her previous three, in that this one is actually a ghost story and the story goes back and forth between the present time and the past.

We start out with Ellis Brooks (present), a novelist who is setting her first novel at Bosco in 1893, during Corinth's visit. She's part of a group of artists who were invited to stay at Bosco, which is now an artist's colony. Also there are Nat Loomis (never Nathanial), another novelist, Bethesda Graham (never Beth), (who's friends with Nat) who's writing a biography about Aurora, Zalman Bronsky, a poet, and landscape architect David Fox, who's actually there on behalf of the Garden Conservancy, investigating whether or not the gardens can be saved. There's also Diana Tate, the director of the program, and her younger neice Daria, who's spending her summer there.

Meanwhile, we have Corinth Blackwell (past), a spiritual medium, who is coming to Bosco at the request of Milo and Aurora Latham, do perform a seance so that Aurora can say good bye to the children who died. Just like Ellis, she's not the only one there either; there is a painter (who seems to have a thing for Aurora), a romance novelist (who knows some of Corinth's secrets) and her assistant/lover Thomas Quinn, who just happens to be Corinth's former lover and a magician. There's also Mrs. Norris, the housekeeper for the Lathams, who knows both Corinth and the Latham's secrets.

As the story progresses, we see how events from Ellis and Corinth's pasts are affecting their presents, as well as how the events of that summer actually unfolded. Corinth ends up uncovering more than she ever suspected, including the fate of her own child, while Ellis and the other guests end up unlocking the secrets that Bosco had, their own histories, how each of them is tied together and what actually happened in 1839. (At least, what she thinks actually happened; the ending can be read in one of two ways.) And as I said, it's also a ghost story, with mysterious voices, handprints, and someone being possesed.

The author did a Q&A for/with Random House, where she talks a bit about what led her to this story, as well as some details about the upcoming one, which I'm looking forward to.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

National Poetry Month continues

My second poem for the month is Sylvia Plath's "Mad Girl's Love Song":

"I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell's fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan's men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you'd return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)"

I have no idea where I first read this poem, probably somewhere on the internet, but I love the first stanza of this poem. I've been searching off and on for a couple of years, trying to find a collection of her poems with this one in it, but so far, no joy. So, if anyone of you knows where to find it, I'd love to hear from you.

Well, will you look at that

Someone here has been a busy little bee. I don't know if it's the urge to "catch up" in my reading or the fact that the weather has been iffy, but I've read another 2 books. Of course, that's kind of negated by the fact that I picked up 3 more at the library yesterday and 5 more today....


The first book was "A Pirate of Exquisite Mind : Explorer, Naturalist, and Buccaneer: The Life of William Dampier" by Diana & Michael Preston. It was a fascinating look at an aspect of history I wasn't aware of.

For example, Dampier sailed around the world three times. Three. He took exquisite notes on everything he saw and experienced, and then took steps to make sure his work survived his journeys. He gave us the first description of the flamingo, the tortoises on the Galapagos Islands, the term sub-species (which Charles Darwin later incorporated into his theory of evolution), and so much more. He contributed more than 1000 words to the Oxford English Dictionary, including avocado, barbecue, breadfruit, cashew, chopsticks, and kumquat to name a few. He was the first to write in English about soy and Thai fish sauce, not just describing them, but talking about how they were produced.

He was the first person to figure out that winds caused current; he published the first wind maps across the world. He gave descriptions of indigenous people he met throughout his journeys, their way of living, religion, and government were all carefully recorded. He was the first Englishman to arrive at Australia; Cook landed there 80 years later. In fact, his writings about everything influenced not only Charles Darwin, but Captain Bligh, Captain Cook, Admiral Nelson, Sam Taylor Coleridge, Johnathan Swift and Daniel Defoe (to name but a few). His observations in navigation (the sea passages he discovered, as well as the tips on how to approach reefs, tidal faces, and shoals) were used by the British Navy well into the twentieth century. Granted, he was also a buccaneer, sacking ships that flew a flag other than England's and port towns in his search for wealth. (He didn't write a lot about those experiences, and when he did, he glossed over them, saying he was there because he wished to explore, not pillage and rape.)

(Looking over this review, I know it's choppy and full of short sentences, but I can't think of a better way to highlight some of the incredible things this man discovered. I mean, avocado and soy sauce; I love soy sauce. Chopsticks. Flamingos. Hummingbirds. Australia. The plants he carefully preserved for future study.)

It's a fascinating book and one I highly recommend to anyone interested in the following: sailing, history, discovery, navigation, pirates, plants, animals, and soy sauce.

The second book I read was "War for the Oaks" by Emma Bull and it was amazing. Seriously good. It was another of those books that I'd heard about, but didn't put on hold until recently, a fact that I'm kicking myself for now.

Eddi McCandry is a singer and guitar player who's just broken up with her (lousy) boyfriend and his (lousy) band. Deciding to walk home, she ends up being chased by a phouka; it seems that the Seelie Court has chosen her to be their "mortality" in a war between the courts. As you'd imagine, she's just thrilled with the honor. Still, there's no way out, so Eddi finds herself with a new bodyguard/keeper, the phouka, new enemies, and a new band.

Did I whet your interest at all? Would it help if I mention the brownie Hairy Meg? She's awesome; all fierce and independent, stubborn as hell and can make one hell of a currant scone. Or Willie Silver, the new guitarist, who plays the violin, sings sad, sad ballads, and can hold his own in a knife fight. Or Carla, Eddi's friend from the other (lousy) band? She plays the drums, gives Eddi a reality check, helps her to try and escape the phouka (which she doesn't), and has her back in everything. Not to mention, there's the whole farie court, including the Unseelie Queen, the Queen of Air and Dark, who really really hates Eddi. (Really)

The story ends well, no ties left untied or anything like that, but I have to be honest when I say I wish she'd write a sequal, or another book with these characters because I'd love to read more. (Also, I have to point out that the twist with Willie was kinda obvious; I kept waiting for Eddi to pick up on it, which did bug me. But that's a teensy-tiny flaw to me.) Seriously (yes, I am over-using that word), it's a fantastic story. I finished it last night and immediately went on-line to see what else Emma has written (a bunch of books have just been added to my request lists, thank you very much). I'm planning on adding her name to my "hunt for list" at the SPL booksale in 2 weeks; that's how good this story is.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

And another one bites the dust

Last night, I finished "The Historian" by Elizabeth Kostova.

I think I received an email about this book, or maybe I read a review, but either way, it's been on my to read list for several months now. I remember when it first came out, how I decided to wait to put it on hold at the library because the list(s) were so incredibly long (I use two different library systems). Last week, I finally put it on hold it arrived Friday night, along with another stack of books (but that's a whole other post).

I'm kind of surprised at how long it took me to read this, because I didn't finish it until last night. I usually devour anything related to Vampires! the same night I start, as I have a secret weakness for them. (Seriously, I do. I love Vampires! That is also another post, maybe.) This book, however, was not one I could read quickly as it's packed with descriptions and names and dates and I found myself flipping back through the book, trying to remember where I first read so-and-so name, or date checking.

It starts out when a 16 year old girl discovers in her father's library a rather old and unusual book with a packet of letters, written to "My dear and unfortunate successor". She begins her own investigation into this, asking her father about the letters and doing research in a University library on the sly. From that point on, the story has three different points of view: the first is the daughters' (whose name we don't learn until almost the end of the book), then her father's, either by his stories or by the letters he leaves for her once he dissapers, and finally, we have the author of the letters (who was her father's mentor at the University he attended) and the daughter's mother, but that happens later on in the story. (Yes, the way I'm writing it, it does sound quite confusing, doesn't it? But it's not, not really. It's very clear who is speaking when and to whom they are talking to, I promise.)

What I found interesting about this story was not the search for Dracula, but the family history itself. The daughter, raised to believe that her mother died when she was a child and brought up by her father, was a dutiful child. She makes a point of mentioning how she never lied, never snuck out, never wanted to. But then, once she spies the book and opens it, it changes her. She begins to push for answers and goes so far as to start lying to her father and the housekeeper so she can sneak off to the library. Meanwhile, her father is also lying and sneaking around, first as a grad student when he receives his book and begins the search for Dracula, and then again, once his daughter starts inquiring. And then there is her mother, Helen, who's been doing her own investigations on Dracula for years, and gets sucked into this because not only is she investigating Dracula, but she's investigating her own father and her own family history.

You see?! Dracula is just the lynch pin (or something like that) in this story; it's really about the family and them all being historians/librarians/researchers and how this family is put together and torn apart and then put together again by this book. (Of course, it is about Dracula too, but, it's not. It was a drier book, a drier Dracula then I expected...too much Bram Stoker I guess.) There were a lot of other things of interest in this book, like the places Paul and his daughter go on trips, as well as the historical facts that are part of the story, and I highly recommend you pay attention to them.

The author did a Q&A for Amazon, which you can read here.

Also, did you notice how I worked in a lot of things Vampire! related? Like "bites the dust"? Hee.

Book Meme!

I love memes. I know some people find them annoying, but me, I love them. Especially when they have to do with books!

So, ripping this from booklust

Meme instructions: Look at the list of books below. Bold the ones you've read, italicize the ones you might read, cross out the ones you won't, underline the ones on your book shelf, and place (parentheses) around the ones you've never even heard of.

The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
The Great Gatsby - Scott F. Fitzgerald
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J. K. Rowling
The Life of Pi - Yann Martel

Animal Farm: A Fairy Story - George Orwell
Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
1984 - George Orwell
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J. K. Rowling (as well as 1, 2, 4 and 5)

One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut
Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis
Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides
Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
Atonement - Ian McEwan
(The Shadow of The Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon)
The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway Can't do it, not after I've just sworn off Hemingway...
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood Hated this book. I just, ugh. I got maybe a third of the way through and put it down. Didn't grab me at all.
The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
Dune - Frank Herbert
Sula by Toni Morrison I know, I know
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

What titles would you add to this list, be it because you love them or because you think they're worthy of note?

I would add:
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card,
The Lord of the Rings series by J. R. R. Tolkien
The Last of the O-Forms by James Van Pelt
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Um, I know I have more...

Right. Thanks to Magnus, I'll have to add Philip K. Dick. The link is to a published collection of his short stories, which I highly recommend for anyone who hasn't yet read anything by him.

So much to catch up on

For instance, did you know that April is National Poetry Month? Oh, you did? Me too. Really.

So, slacker that I am, here's my first poetry post, William Blake's "The Tyger".

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

I don't remember when I first read this poem, although I must have been around 17, the summer before senior year of highschool. I took AP English with Mrs. Taylor (whom I adored!) and she told us all that we had to pick several poems and memorzie them. No other disclaimers, no suggestions, just pick them and know them. (I can not, for the life of me, remember the other poems, but this one stuck, probably because I loved it before I started memorizing it.) We studied it later on that semester, and I remember thinking that it was amazing, that someone could write about the Industrial Revolution like this:

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

I don't think I ever would have figured that out on my own, but then, I wasn't much for reading in to poetry then (nor am I now). If I read the poem and I liked the words, or the way it sounded, then that was fine for me (and still is). I really can't remember more than the first stanza of this poem, as that was always my favorite, but I think Mrs. Taylor would forgive me.

(Mrs. Taylor, if you ever read this, please forgive me. I know you said we had to memorize them and remember them, but, clearly, I've failed. I still have my copy of "Brideshead Revisted" that you gave me though.)

Saturday, April 01, 2006

1/4 of the year down...

As today is the first of April, it's time to take stock of how I'm coming along with my personal resolutions.

So far, I've only managed to read 12 books this year; I'd hoped to be at 15 (at least).

The plan fell apart in February, where I only managed to read one book. (One book, one book. And I didn't even have the flu!) Still, I've made up a lot of ground this month, getting up to a book a day this last week, so I'm still on track to finish 50 books by the end of the year. (Again, this is 50 new books, or books that I haven't read in at least 2 years.)

However, I have managed to read one to be read book a month, which means that I'm right on schedule to read 12 of them this year. (It's sad that I've just realized that 12 books won't begin to put a dent in my tbr's...I counted last night and realized that I have 86 tbr on just two of my four bookcases. 86. Plus the five on my coffee table, the four that people said I "just have to read", the other two book cases, the dozen odd books I seem to get from the library every other week, and the semi-annual SPL book sale in 3 weeks...)

I have to say that my favorite books so far would have to be "Last of the O-Forms" (which I just raved to my mother about) and "Chocolat" (she's seen the movie). Both were incredibly well written, with descriptions of things/people/smells that made it seem as if I were actually in the story(ies). I'm looking forward to reading more by the both of them (which means that soon I'll be adding to the tbr stack. Oh, how I suffer.)

As for the book club readings, well, I'm keeping up with my rl one (we're reading "The Bookseller of Kabul" by Asne Seierstad for April.), but...the online one? I'm failing miserably. Miserably. I've only read one out of three books so far. This month's selection is "Anansi Boys" by Neil Gaiman, and I'm really hoping I read it. (In fact, I just put it on hold. Along with another book.)

I'm never going to be done reading, am I?