Tuesday, May 30, 2006

My fangirl heart is weeping at the tragedy that was X-Men 3.

(I'm almost hoping for some memory loss.)

Also, I finished Coyote Cowgirl by Kim Antieau over the weekend. Fun book.

Monday, May 29, 2006

It's almost time....

...for the summer reading challenge. Which I'm really excited for. It's odd, though. They're my books, I've had (some of them) for years now. No one (but myself) stopped me from reading them, so why am I so damn giddy about it?

In anticipation of this event, I've been reading through my library books as quickly as I can. It helps that a good portion of them are due in the next couple of days.

First up was The Wright 3 by Blue Balliett and illustrated by Brett Helquist. This book was rather simplistic in plot; Petra (the writer and observer) and Calder (the math genius), along with Calder's best friend Tommy (the finder), try and stop a group of thieves who are attempting to steal from the Robie House. (The Robie House was one of the houses that Frank Lloyd Wright designed and it's full of interesting patterns and geometric shapes in the stained glass windows.)

What held my attention though were the puzzles that Blue and Brett include throughout the story. For example, there are clues in every illustration that one is supposed to look for and they can be challenging to find. Also, Calder is completely obsessed with pentominos, so the children use a code to write down their notes that he derives from them. And while they give you clues to it, you have to figure it out for yourself.

It's not a great book in my opinion, but it is a good one. It makes you stop and think and work towards something, so you get the feeling that you have solved the puzzle, along with the children.

The next book was The Gods in Winter by Patricia Miles. As I mentioned in a previous post, it's a modern re-telling of the myth of Persephone. (If you don't know it, you can read it here.) Adam Bramble and his family (dad's a physicist, mom's an American-I think she used to be a teacher, and two younger siblings, Charlotte-called Lottie, and Zach, with a third on the way) are moving to their new home in the Midlands as their dad has just gotten a new job there. Nearing their new home, they pass a young girl who's picking poppies in a field by herself. A bit later, they're nearly run off the road by a large black vintage car, which is careening down the road. Inside, they see the girl from before, screaming, while being held by the driver. Shaken, they brush it off as her being terrified of the near crash and continue on. Well, until they come to the great hole in the ground, that is.

The story continues from there, with them settling into their new home, and their mom trying to find some help as she's having a rather rough time with her pregnancy. A Mrs. Korngold is the name of the woman who's hired. She settles in well enough, although the oddest things start to happen. There's the fact that she's crying for her missing daughter, that strange visitors start to ring and appear on their doorstep, asking her to return-she always says no. Then there are the dreams that Adam and his siblings are having, not to mention the strange guy who keeps trying to get Adam's attention at school. (He keeps changing his appearance, but Adam can still tell that it's the same messenger as before.) And did I mention that their mom can't seem to get well, or that it's the worst winter anyone can remember?

As the story goes on, the Brambles' eventually come to the conclusion that there is something going on with Mrs. Korngold, which comes to a head the day the messenger finally gets a hold of Adam and give him a telegram, which Adam passes on to Mrs. Korngold: her daughter is coming home. There are still things to be resolved though, but in the end, the family comes to the conclusion that they weren't hallucinating the things that happened over the winter and that Adam should be the one to write the story down for a future reader.

The book after that was Pay the Piper by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple. It's another re-telling, but this time about the Pied Piper. Callie McCallan is 14 years old and desperate for some freedom from her parents (they'd had the kids fingerprinted and registered with the local police). So, when the band Brass Rat is scheduled to play in her sleepy hometown, she comes up with a plan to get her parents permission to go to the concert; she's covering it for the school paper. Her plan backfires a bit, when her parents (fans of the band) decide that the whole family is going to go, including Callie's eight year old brother.

At the concert, where it seems that everyone is dancing like they can't stop, Callie and her brother go backstage to interview the band, along with a few other children. But the band doesn't give answers; instead Peter Gringras (the lead singer) tells a tale about where he got the name 'Brass Rat'...apparently, after purchasing one, he was whistling a tune while walking home, when he suddenly noticed he was being followed by a group of rats. Realizing that he couldn't shake them, he ran to the river and threw the statue in, and every last rat in the city followed, drowning themselves. That's when Callie begins to get suspicious and clues into the fact that the members of Brass Rat aren't exactly...normal. Going back to get another interview, she over hears a conversation in which Gringras is told that they aren't going to be paid, which ends with Alabas (the drummer) telling Scott (who's been with the band 21 one years, but looks like he could be Callie's age, but must be at least 20) that
He [Gringras] must send silver or gold or souls Under the Hill. Human souls. To pay off a blood guild, a teind. And if he does not, he will grow old as any who walks upon the earth instead of living long Under the Hill. He will grow old and then die himself.

Callie begins to research all of this, tying together the Pied Piper of Hamelin with the Children's Crusade, the missing Tower princes, and all the children whose faces you see on milk cartons, and writes one version after another for her article. But she can't hardly believe that what she's writing is true, and she knows that no one else will. But then it's Halloween night and every child in the town turns up missing, except Callie, who'd been trying, once again, to re-write her article and had been wearing headphones. She decides that it's her duty to find the missing kids, as she was the only person who knew what had happened.

Throughout the story, in alternating chapters, we're treated to Gringras's story. In his point of view, we see the events that lead to him becoming the "pied piper", his friendship with Alabas, and the only way that they'll be allowed back Under the Hill. It ends rather satisfactory, with Callie realizing what needs to be done, and Gringras getting his heart's desire. (The irony is what he discovers once he gets it.) The authors plan to continue this "Rock 'N' Roll" series, with the next book about a troll bridge; I'm looking forward to it.

The last two books that I finished over the weekend are Aftershocks by William Lavender (author of Just Jane), and Bowery Girl by Kim Taylor.

"Bowery Girl" is set in Brooklyn in 1883, and tells the story of Annabelle Lee, a prostitute and Mollie Flynn, a thief. The girls, best and only friends since the day that Annabelle rescued Mollie, have one goal: to earn enough coin and leave the Fourth Ward, via the Brooklyn Bridge. However, that dreams seems to be impossible once Annabelle comes back from jail pregnant. Unwilling, and soon unable to work, she'd rather spend her days at the Cherry Street Settlement House, learning to read and write, which Mollie sees as nothing but a false attempt by the "do-gooders", led by Emmeline DuPre, to make themselves feel better. She'd rather pick pockets all day, since they still need money to keep Annabelle's boyfriend/pimp Tommy off their backs, pay the rent, and buy food. But when Mollie starts to lose it (her hands just won't stop shaking), she ends up at the Settlement House too.

It's not a "happy" story, there isn't any white knight or saviour at the end. It's more about friendship, love, and having a dream and then doing whatever it takes to keep going, even after you're just left with the dream. And it's not just a "New York 1883" story, no, this is a story that's constantly being retold by women all around the world. The heroines aren't "good" people, but they feel real as do the choices they were forced to make. The author includes a ton of references that she used in the back of the book, and I think several of them will be fascinating reads.

"Aftershocks" is set a few years before the great earthquake of San Fransisco in 1906. Jessie Wainwright wants nothing more than to be a doctor when she's older, which her father finds intolerable. She single-mindedly pursues this dream, under her father's nose, with the help of Mei, the seventeen year old niece of Ching Lee, the family's servant. One night though, Jessie witnesses something involving Mei that she shouldn't and the end result is that one day both Ching Lee and Mei are gone without word, leaving Jessie to decide which is more important, her dream of becoming a doctor or braving Chinatown to find her friends. She gives up the search after being robbed and then arrested for entering an opium den and focuses on her studies.

A few years later though, the earthquake hits, Chinatown is destroyed and Jessie once again begins to search for her friends. Although she finds some of them in one of the refugee camps, helping them isn't easy as everyone is still prejudiced against the Chinese. Her friend Hazel, jealous because Jessie seemed to care more for her servants than her, didn't want to help, her parents flat out forbid her to have anything to do with Chinatown, her friend Wanda, also her father's head nurse, was resistant to helping as well. In fact, the only two people who really did want to help was Henry Wong, who Jessie and Hazel had met the first time they ventured into Chinatown, and Dr. Alan Lundquist, a doctor working in the refugee camps. (In all honestly, at first Dr. Lindquist and Henry really seems to be the only people who cares about the Chinese. Jessie is just looking for her friends; while she thinks things are bad for the refugees, she doesn't seem to give their situation much thought. That does change as the story goes on.)

This story has a much happier ending for those involved, ending with Jessie enrolled in college and actively working her way towards becoming a doctor, her goals realized and her friends helped. But it also re-enforced (at least for me), how poorly the non-white immigrants were treated when they came to America, and how poorly they still are. (This isn't unique to America though; it seems every country is trying to "block their doors" and bar entry, or make things impossible once immigrants do arrive.)

Now, I think it's time I run a few errands, like buying food for myself and getting my oil changed. It's amazing how little I care about errands when I have 3 whole days to do them. But give me 3 hours and I'm all about being non-stop. I'm also trying desperately to forget the horror that was X-men 3: The Last Stand. It's so un-cannon that it's pissed me off and left me rather desperate for the comics. I've put every last one I could find at the libraries on hold.

Hope you all had a nice Memorial Day weekend.

Friday, May 26, 2006


Recently, I read both His Majesty's Dragon and the Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik and they rocked! Seriously good books.

So good in fact that when I started reading the first book around 11pm, I'd only planned on reading a few chapters or so. Yet before I know it, it's after 4am and I've just devoured the second book. (Granted, that has thrown me off for sleep this whole week, but I really feel it was worth it. My coworkers however don't agree, something about me being cranky.)

Novik has taken the Napoleonic Wars and added dragons to them. Yes, dragons. Dragons that think and speak and serve in their countries Aerial Corps (think Air Force. Every country has their own breeds, bred for abilities like speed, or shooting acid from their nostrils, which are highly guarded. And that is where the trouble starts. Captain Will Laurence and his crew capture a French ship, which was given the dubious task of transporting an egg to the French Emperor. Pleased with their success, they crew is quick to dismay when they figure out that the egg is about to hatch, and they are days from land. When that happens, they are surprised, as Temeraire ends up being a black (Chinese) dragon, the likes of which no one in Europe has ever seen. (The Chinese are somewhat fanatical about their dragons, which plays out in book 2.) Laurence is chosen by Temeraire as his 'companion'; so he's forced to resign his commission in the Navy and join the less than illustrious Aerial Corps. (Personally, given a choice, I'd pick the Aerial Corps any day. I mean, hello, dragons vs scurvy, rats, and unwashed men. So easy.)

The story continues from there, with Laurence and Temeraire going to Scotland for aerial training and then quickly plunging into battle with the French Aerial Corps. (Novik does a really good job of describing the battles; I've read quite a few different reviews where people have commented on her attention to historical details.) Laurence and Temeraire also get closer, as he begins to see Temeraire as a friend and companion. (Which is the norm in the Aerial Corps; I really enjoyed reading the bits about the other members of their unit) There's also the discovery that women serve in the Aerial Corps as well, something thought to be unheard of. (See, there are a few breeds that are only willing to tolerate women companions, but this is kept a state secret as during those days, women were considered too fragile to do more than stay at home. Granted, we could cook, clean, sew, birth children, work on a farm, manage a store, and wear those damn corsets, but God forbid we dressed in man's pants and served in the armed forces. yes, I'm coming off the soap box now) Laurence has the reaction you'd expect to that bit of news, which was amusing to read as well. (He handles it nicely though.)

The first book ends at a celebratory ball for the Aerial Corps (with the women in dresses that they complain about and the musicians playing for the dragons) after their amazing victory over the French's sneak attack, but with surprising news for both Laurence and Temeriare; not only is he a Chinese dragon, but he's the type of dragon that the Chinese will go to war over to get back.

That leads us to the second book, where members of the Imperial Chinese court have come to demand that Temeraire be returned to them. However, both Laurence and Temeraire disagree with this idea, Temeraire going so far as to 'kidnap' Laurence, so the British and the Chinese reach a compromise: Temeraire will go to China, but Laurence (and the crew) will accompany them. The plan, since the voyage is too long and dangerous to fly, is to take a dragon transport ship, captained by an old friend of Laurence's. The journey itself is a challenge, not only is there a sea serpent, a battle with the French, illness, but they have the Imperial Court trying to woo and sway Temeraire into wanting to stay in China, without Laurence. That's where the Chinese are most successful. In Europe, dragons are treated more as (intelligent) beasts of burden, but in China, they are revered and treated as royalty. Dragons read and write, shop, even walk in the cities, all things that are unheard of back in Europe (but try fitting a dragon in London). Temeraire starts to see how things could/should be and is understandably mad, while Laurence feels incredibly guilty, because these things aren't done and he feels they should.

There are so many things that go on during this novel, from Temeraire meeting his family, meeting a 'girl', several assassination attempts on Laurence's life, and meals that sound incredibly good. (Small tangent here, but Novik did an excellent job of describing the dishes and the types of food prepared, not just for Temeraire, but Laurence and co. I could almost taste the dishes, like I could see the battles in my head. Really, an excellent writing job.)

Novik has put up the first chapters of both books on her site, as well as other interesting bits to read. She also has a live journal, where she mentions that she's working on a forth books, with ideas to carry her thorough the sixth book.

I've heard people compare these books to works by Jane Austen/Patrick O'Brian/Anne McCaffrey and I have to say that I don't disagree. I adore Jane Austin as a writer; she's topped my favorite list for almost a decade, ever since I first got my hands on "Pride and Prejudice". Patrick O'Brian wrote a fantastic series, starting with "Master and Commander", and I spent an entire summer one year, going back and forth to the library to get more of Anne McCaffrey's novels; the Rowan series, and the Dragonriders series were particular favorites. I'm going to be keeping my eye out for more works by Novik; I can't wait to see what she comes up with after this.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Last night

...was a disaster. Really. Although I shouldn't be surprised.

I look up the directions to the Mill Creek store yesterday afternoon; unsurprisingly, I couldn't find any. The area it is in is sort of a collection of stores, so MapQuest wouldn't let me narrow it down. But, as I looked at the address, I felt comfortable that I could find the place. Despite the littlest feeling of nerves, I decide not to call the store and ask them for directions, as I'm sure that it was the book store in this little "commons" area near where a friend of mines lives.

So, 6.30, I grab my book and bag and head off. Traffic is just a bit sticky, so I don't pull into the lot until 2 minutes till 7. Look up at the sign and it's...Third Place Books? Um...

I'm starting to feel just a bit more nervous about this whole thing. Granted, a lot of the bookstores in this area "share" readings, so it's still possible that I'm at the right place.

Go inside and see a "Who's Here" sign by the information desk. Quickly, while securing a place in line, I scan the list and...do not see Jim Lynch. At all. Um...

Politely ask the guy behind the counter if this is where the reading is. He replies that there are so many of them, he can't remember and grabs the June schedule. I pick up the May one and put it down as he realizes his mistake. As we both look...no Jim Lynch. Um...

I then ask if this is the correct book store and was not surprised to be told that it wasn't. I then ask for directions to the correct book store, which he is more than willing to give me. However, they are incorrect. I know this because the road he was telling me to look for is the same road that I drive on daily to get to and from work. It is nowhere near there. I nod as if I understand and while I begin to ask him to clarify, his coworker interrupts and tells me the correct road to be looking for. I smile, because that makes more sense.

Then a third coworker interrupts her to let me know that it's going to take me at least 30 minutes to get there. I look over my shoulder at the clock. It's already 7.10. That would put me there at 7.40, at the earliest. And let's all keep in mind that I am routinely, habitually, not my fault, always 15 minutes late when going to a new place. It doesn't matter how early I leave, how good my directions are, or if there is no traffic. I'm always 15 minutes late.

I smile, thank them all for the directions and leave, as they wish me luck.

Sitting back down in my car I think about this. Odds of me getting there before the reading is over...slim. Very slim. Is it worth it? I really wanted to attend the reading, but at least I can still get my book signed, which will be cool. I look down at my book, so pretty. So...

I see the "autographed copy" sticker on the cover.

I say a few things that my mom would no longer blush to hear, then start laughing.

I needed to go the library and the store anyways.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Summertime fun

Well, I think I'm officially excited for summer. I mean, despite the rain and clouds and grey we've been experiencing here in Seattle, I'm really feeling the summer vibe. Not only is Copper River suddenly appearing in all the stores (note to self: go, buy!), flip flops are on everyone's feet (despite the rain and clouds and grey), my tomato plants are looking good (not to mention my potatoes), but it's almost time for the summer reading challenge to "officially" begin.

Amanda is still taking sign-ups for this, and she's got a whole list of recommendations if you're stuck on what you'd like to read. I've got to say, I've been checking out the sign up list and it's grown quite a bit in the past few days. (Looks like I'm not the only one excited, 'eh?)

I'm also looking to see what other people have chosen to read, such as Work in Progress, Pages Turned, The Book Junkie, Sassy Money (her list looks quite challenging!), and Oil on Ice (she's got a theme going). I can't wait to find out what everyone thinks about the books they've chosen to read.

(I know I owe a review of the Temeraire series; I've read books 1 and 2, while 3 comes out next week...but that's going to have to wait. I'm also desperately behind on updating my goals, etc.)

Monday, May 22, 2006

How I love a book reading

Some days, I want to do nothing but go home, feed Bailey, then curl up on my couch and read one of the (hundred thousand) books I have on hand waiting for me.

And then on other days, I want to go and meet authors. Authors of books that I've loved, or liked, or just sound interesting.

Lucky for me, the University Bookstore does a great reading event. I've only been to a few of them in the past, but I've been making a conscious effort this year to constantly check (and re-check) who's coming to town.

Charles de Lint was here on the 14th (but my mom was in town visiting for Mother's Day, so I couldn't go.). Jim Lynch, author of The Highest Tide will be here tomorrow (I loved this book when I read it last year right before Christmas. It was such an excellent story), and I'll be attending that. A publishing house that I'd never heard of before, Aqueduct Press--they publish science fiction written by women, will be there on the 31st (which I can't go to either!).

Then in June, there's Robert Asahina, who wrote a novel about the 100th Battalion/442d Regimental Combat Team, made up of Japanese-Americans who volunteered to fight in WWII. 4 days later, Rachel Cohn & David Levithan will be there, to talk about their new book, Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist, which I haven't had the chance to read yet, although it's been on my list since I first heard about it. Jacqueline Carey will be here on the 15th; I haven't read any of her works yet either... M. John Lubetkin, who wrote Jay Cooke's Gamble: The Northern Pacific Railroad, the Sioux, and the Panic Of 1873, which sounds like a fascinating novel, will be here on June 27th. Maureen McHugh, who wrote Mothers and other Monsters, which I have sitting in my library to be read pile, will be in town on on the 27th as well, although she'll be doing her reading at the Science Fiction Museum here. (Dammit! Which one to go to???)

And that's only the smattering that interests me, from one bookstore.

I can already tell it's going to be one busy, busy summer. Still, I love a good book reading.

On Reading

Lately, it seems that every book I pick up sparks an interest in more books. Every book.

For example, "Year of Wonders" has me looking for more books (preferably non-fiction) about the plague in Europe and China (since that's where it originated). I'm reading "The Gods in Winter", which has me re-interested in mythology. I'm still reading "Before the Fallout" (it's taking me forever, unfortunately), but now I want to read books about all the different scientists involved, including Michael Faraday, Marie Curie (and her family), etc, more books on the science involved, the aftermath in Hiroshima (I know what happened, but only barest of details) --which has now sparked in interest in learning more about Chernobyl, more about what happened to the Jews and other persecuted peoples during WWII, the camps, more about the Swedish government during WWII (which made the offer that any Dane seeking sanctuary could find it in Sweden), the Danish underground during that time (I've only read one book on that, "Number the Stars" and that was at least a decade ago), --which has sparked in interest in the French Resistance, --which has re-sparked an interest in the Underground Railroad here, which will lead me back to my childhood hero, Harriet Tubman...

I just finished a bunch of fantasy short story collections ("Farey Reel", "Firebirds", and "The Wolf at the Door"), which now have me searching for books by the various contributors (Tanith Lee, Neil Gaimen, Kelly Link...). Also, "The Wolf at the Door" was a collection of retold fairy tales, so now I want to look up them. Then there is the fact that since I've found two of Diana Preston book's so good, I need to get her other novels ("The Boxer Rebellion", "A First Rate Tragedy", and "Lusitania"), which will lead me to yet more topics.

No doubt, I could continue this for an hour...maybe making up some kind of flow chart. (Actually, that's not a bad idea. I'd be able to keep track of what sparks what, etc.)

But that's not the point, right? The point is...the point is that there are too many damn books. I will not be able to read every book that interest me, and I'll never be able to make even a dent in that "list" if I keep finding more interests.

I really wish I could blame somebody other than myself for this.

(edited: And I just finished two books over the weekend, which I shouldn't have done since it kept me up all night and has totally screwed me for sleep, which were about the Napoleonic Wars, but with dragons...and now I've got a whole 'nother set of interests.)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Year of Wonders

Well. It has been a really long time since I've written a review about anything other than the overwhelming stack of books in my apartment, hasn't it? And as I'm bored with talking about that...

Recently, I read the Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks (yes, that Geraldine Brooks) for my real life book club.

Set between 1665 and 1666, the year the Bubonic Plague decimated Europe, it's the story of Anna Firth and the small village of Eyam, where a remarkable thing happened. Eyam, a small village to the north of London, was exposed to the plague when it was brought in a shipment of cloth. Stories had already reached them about the outbreak in London, where people were being buried before they had died, and where anyone with the means to leave did. (As we know, this did nothing but help the plague spread.)

Anna, a young widow who now works as a maid for the Vicar Michael Mompellion and his wife Elinor, takes in George Viccars as a boarder. He settles into their life rather quickly, stepping in as the father figure for Anna's oldest son Jamie, and as a potential husband for Anna herself. However, the day he receives a shipment of cloth from London (he's a tailor), everything changes. George is the first victim in Eyam, but it spreads quickly via the clothes he had made from the cloth. Pretty soon, children and other adults are falling ill, covered in sores and boils, before dying a rather painful death.

And that's when the remarkable thing happened; the vicar makes a plea for everyone in the village to willing quarantine themselves. No one is to enter or leave the village until the plague has left them. Mompellion has worked out an arrangement with the Earl; in exchange for their quarantine, he will provide food and stores, ensuring that those who do not die of the plague will have the means to survive. Despite their fears, the villagers all agree, with the exception of the Bradfords, the wealthiest family in the village. They immediately return to their home and begin packing up their belongings, the Colonel even going so far as to mock Mompellion when he arrives by quizzing him over which book should he bring with him.

From Anna's point of view, we see how the effects of the plague (thought to be God's punishment for sin) affect the villagers. Anna, who buries her own two sons, becomes something of the village mid-wife/wise woman, along with Elinor, after the town's two wise woman are killed for "conspiring with Satan, bringing on the plague, cursing various villagers, engaging in sexual relations, etc." Villagers both cleave together and turn on one another, depending on the various moods of the town. There are also outbreaks of superstition, worshiping the devil, and self-flagellation. Changes happen to the villager's personalities too; Anna's father (a bully to begin with) becomes a grave-digger/attempted murderer in his desire to get rich off the dead's belonging, Elinor, the rather quiet and gentle wife of the vicar, reveals herself to have something of a sordid past, as well as an inner core of strength, and Anna herself grows from a rather weak woman into one of strength and purpose.

A little over a year after the plague first shows up in Eyam, it leaves, taking with it over half the villagers. However, it did not spread to any of the neighboring villages, so the townspeople were successful in that. In the aftermath, Mompellion has fallen apart with his wife's death, the Bradfords have returned, and Anna still hasn't realized her full strength. (I'm deliberately not telling you the ending; there were a lot of surprises in the last few chapters that I think shouldn't be spoiled.)

What made this story so good, in my opinion, was that it was based on facts. There is a village named Eyam, north of London, that did in fact quarantine themselves after the plague arrived to stop it from spreading to neighboring villages. Half of the townspeople survived, seemingly by random. However, in recent years there have been tests done on the direct descendants of the surviving villagers, where it was found that they all carry a gene called "delta 32", which seemingly made them immune. Testing on the gene has also been done in regards to the HIV virus; still in the early stages, the researchers/drug companies are working on a drug that could prevent the HIV virus from attaching to the white-blood cells.

I also found it interesting that the plague first arrived in Europe (Italy) back in 1347. It was brought over by ships from China (where the plague first started) that were carrying flea-infested rats. A year later it reached England, where it killed 100,000 people. After that, it seemingly went into hibernation, popping up now and then, until the Great Plague struck in 1665-6.

And also, there are still outbreaks of plague to this day. In fact, there were cases in LA less than a month ago. Granted, these days we know how the disease is spread and we have antibiotics for it, but it's amazing to me that something the plague is still around. I realize that's a rather naive view, given that we still have Malaria, Small Pox, and Influenza...but maybe that's because we still learn "Ring around the Rosie" as children. (I guess it depends on what you think was the foundation for the nursery rhyme though.)

Monday, May 15, 2006

Books are going to be the death of me

So, I spent the weekend reading (when I had free time), talking about reading (to my mother who can not believe how many books I have from the library), thinking about reading (because my mother kept giving me these looks about all the library books), and plotting out my reading.

Specifically, for the summer reading challenge. Pretty much immediately after posting that I was up for this challenge (please oh please oh please), I began to think about which classics (that I own) I was going to read. That in itself took an hour, as I had to think about which books I owned (did I mention I was still at work?) and which ones I thought would be interesting enough to keep me interested for a full week.

So, may I present, in the exact order I'm going to read them...

1. Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen
(I have to be honest, I can't remember if I've actually read this book or not)
2. Wives & Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
(This book has been on the list for a couple of years)
3. The Beautiful and the Damned by F.Scott Fitzgerald
(The title grabbed me)
4. 1984 by George Orwell
(I haven't read this in several years)
5. Animal Farm by George Orwell
(I've never read this)
6. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
(I read a collection of her short stories last summer and just fell in love with her)
7. Crime & Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
(I love this novel, it was my first Russian, but I haven't read it since I was 18)
8. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
(We had to read one of her short stories back in AP English and I thought it was brilliant. So explain why I've yet to read anything else by her?)
9. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
(I've yet to make it through anything by him--Oliver Twist, I'm looking at you, but from the parts I saw on Masterpiece Theatre, well, it looks excellent)
10. The Forsythe Saga by John Galsworthy
(Someone once told me it was excellent)
11. The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles
(I've wanted to read this since I was 17 and no matter how many times I start it, I've yet to finish it.)
12. The Vampyre: And Other Tales of the Macabre by John Polidori, Robert Morrison, Chris Baldick, etc.
(Hee, vampires!)
13. Inferno by Dante
(Another book I've wanted to read for years, yet never have)
14. War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
(I think any book that can be read over the radio to cause mass panic, should be read)

So that's the list...and it's been giving me grief ever since. I mean "Wives & Daughters" is a huge book. Do I really think I'm going to read it in a week? Or "The Forsythe Saga"? Sometimes I wonder about my subconscious.

So I've given myself four alternates, just in case.
1. Paradise Lost by John Milton
(I think knowing that this book is the first alternate will make me rethink giving up whatever book I'm planning on giving up on)
2. Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
3. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
(Hmm, can I really have two books by him on the list?)
4. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
(I know, I swore off him, but a friend asked me to give this book a chance)

Currently, all 18 books are stacked on the top row of my new "classics" book case...that's right, I spent 2 hours on Sunday reorganizing every damn book in my apartment, while my mother napped. I've now got the young adult, children's, and picture books in my bedroom (um, subconscious, what the hell?), all of my classics on the new book case, in alphabetical order.

Then, the next book case is Science Fiction (only one shelf?), Fantasy (a bit more than a shelf), the Harry Potter series (yes, it does get it's own shelf), and then a collection of History/Biography/Memoirs on the bottom.

The third book case is All Fiction. All Fiction. Lit fiction I guess the classification is. (and I think I've read MAYBE 10 of them. Dear God, how I have a problem.)

Then, in the last book case...the first shelf is travel books/guides, books on coffee and other little things (you know, the random book in the random subject). The second shelf is all Urban Fantasy (yes, I have distinctions in fantasy), and the third shelf is "Fiction that is not literature", Women's studies, Poetry, Mythology, and Philosophy. (Please, do not ask me how or why I came up with that last shelf. I think it's because I was out of room and I can double shelve things in this last book case.)

I'm a little bit dissapointed with myself, because now, I have maybe a shelf left. Maybe. If I add up all the spaces in each of the 5 bookcases.

Oh. I did finish "A Year of Wonders" by Geraldine Brooks. I'll write up a review sometime this week, hopefully before the book club meeting. (And speaking of reviewing, Bookslut is looking for reviewers...and part of me wants to submit. The other part is looking for duct tape.)

Friday, May 12, 2006

This may be the push I need

...to finally start reading my classics.

Amanda has issued a summer reading challenge, starting June 1st and lasting 14 weeks. Now, while Amanda is going to read 2 books per week, I'm not quite that ambitious (not after the past few weeks), so instead, I'm issuing the following challenge to myself:

I will read 1 of my classical books per week, for the 14 weeks.

It's public now, so really, mock me if I don't, kay? The year is almost half over and I've done little more than add to my collection of classics...so I've still got my minimum of 23 to read.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I've been overwhelmed...

...and sadly, it's been with books.

Two weeks ago, one of my co-workers left for her wedding (in Hawaii) and suddently, I was busy busy girl at the office. Non-stop back and forth, with a phone in one hand and a pen in the other, trying to keep up with everything that the two of us normally do. Those duties, combined with another co-worker's (she went to a wedding) simply left me swamped, with no time to read anyone's blog, much less type something for my own.

Unfortunately, that wasn't all: I didn't even have time to read. Which was something of a problem, as I have 5 stacks of books from the library sitting on my coffee table. I'd come home, look at them, and sigh. Errands, Bailey, food, the plans that couldn't be changed, hell, even sleep; all kept me from reading. And as the week went on, and I hadn't even managed to pick up one book, I think I got a bit overwhelmed. (A lot overwhelmed.) The sight of those stacks, combined with the stacks on my table from the book sale, well.

It was a bit much. All I could do was click on the renew buttons, and only go to the library when I absolutely had to (or I'd lose the books).

Hopefully, I think it's going to be better from here on out. My new book case arrived last night, so I was able to set that up and put all of my book sale books neatly on the shelves, although any sort of actual order is going to have to wait. I just don't have time this week to reorganize them all (which will bug me until I do). I don't have anything due back at the library until early next week, so that does give me some breathing room to read. Sadly, I think Friday is going to be my only night...and I've already bookmarked that night to read "The Year of Wonders" as my book club meeting is on the following Tuesday. (It's Mother's Day weekend, and my mother is spending it with me. I don't think she'll let me ignore her for the whole weekend while I read, although I might try.)

I think the worst thing about being so busy was that I missed reading about what you're reading. (Actually, that's probably a good thing, since all that does is give me more books to put on hold...vicious cycle!) And I missed any mention of Free Comic Book day, which was the 6th. Luckily, one of my errands was to the Comic Stop in Lynnwood, the place where I buy all of my comics. I had "Polly & the Pirates" #4 and #5 to pick up, so I was pleasantly surprised when I was told that not only was it free comic book day, but that I could have one of as many of the free titles as I wanted. (Did I never mention I was a comic book/graphic novel girl? Another post I guess)

In fact, thinking about it, the only things I've really read in the past two weeks have been "Polly" 4 & 5. And my grocery list. Oh, and I can't forget the to-do list.

I'm going to do my best to catch up with all of you (on my sidebar) in the next two days, so sorry if I start bombarding you with comments. I'm also promising myself right now that I will put NOTHING on hold until I read through all the ones I already have.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Sorry, real life is just killing me at the moment; I haven't even had a chance to read anyone's blogs, much less update my own.

I'm so behind.