Wednesday, January 31, 2007

New Books!

Originally, I was going to write about Out of Africa. But I'm too tired to do it justice.

I went to the library to pick up Inheritance of Loss and discovered that the library has a little 'book sale' section, where books are 50 cents each or 3/$1. Whoot! I hadn't come prepared to carry a bunch of books home, so I only bought six.

John le Carre's The Tailor of Panama, because I really enjoyed Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I have another one of le Carre's books on my shelf right now, that I picked up at the B&N after-holiday sale. I love his style of spy novel.

Shadow Baby by Alison McGhee, because it look somewhat interesting and I needed a sixth book. It seems as if it's pretty standard contemporary fiction, but that's not a bad thing. Plus, one of my goals is to read more woman authors this year!

On that same note, I picked up Rachel Kadish's From a Sealed Room. I've never read any Jewish fiction, so this'll expand my horizons!

In honor of my international lit goal, I grabbed a collection of short stories by Shusaka Endo called Stained Glass Elegies. I like short stories, and I wish that I owned more.

So, I also went for Ken Kalfus's short story colelction, Pu-239 and Other Russian Fantasies. It's based on the author's four years in Moscow. I studied in Russia for six months last year, so I'm always interested in takes on that confusing country! Plus, it has a pretty cover.

Finally, I snatched up Crowe's Requiem by Mike McCormack, mainly because a review called it "a new fairy tale." I'm always up for a blend of myth and life.

Of course, I can't actually read any of these books right now. I'm beginning to see how TBR stacks are born....

Instead, I'm 1/4 through The Black Book, a little way into Inheritance of Loss, and still slogging through Virginia Woolf. None of these are really satisfying me, however, so I think I'll switch over to my next classic for awhile, Lady Audley's Secret.

Out of Africa was so amazing, I think I've been a bit spoiled.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Wrath of the Righteous

I received a parking ticket today. It's marked as "in a no parking zone, loading zone, or blocking traffic." Here's the thing. My car was in a parking lot, happily sitting between two parallel lines with nothing but asphalt in between.

So, obviously, the security guard (it was on campus) made a mistake. However, thanks to his mistake, I have to take the time out of my schedule to appeal this bogus fine. I don't even know what to write in the appeal, other than that I was in a parking space. Then, if the appeal doesn't work, I have to take the time out to meet with the dean of students to make the silly thing go away.

It'd be one thing if I had parked illegally. But this just came out of the blue. And since it's on campus, the fine automatically goes on my student account. So, I can't just refuse to pay it; instead, I have to make them take it off my bill.


In happier news, I finished Out of Africa. Should be able to review it tomorrow. For now, let's just say that I found the writing beautiful, even if the writer had a different moral compass.

And, in even happier news, I found out that my little bitty public library has a copy of The Inheritance of Loss! It's the next selection of The Written Word's bookclub, and since I'm short of funds, I thought I'd have to skip out on the fun. But, tomorrow I can go and get it. :D I think that tonight I'll begin Pamuk as well....I've held off as long as I could.

Finally, because I love Jane Austen, I took a quiz just to calm the last of my parking ticket anger.

I am Emma Woodhouse!

Take the Quiz here!

Hmmm...not sure how true this one is. But, I certainly would love to find a Mr. Knightley!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Reading Across Borders

Since I'm progressing moderately well on my classics challenge (half way through the third one, with the last two being the shortest in the challenge) and, well, progressing on the chunkster challenge (only a quarter of the way through the first one, although I have read several books over four hundred pages not on the chunkster list), I thought I'd take on another one. Recently, I saw the Reading Across Borders challenge mentioned on Tales From the Reading Room. I was planning to create my own challenge to read more international and translated books, so I'm hopping on the bandwagon.

The general layout is found at Kate's Book Blog. Basically, the goal is to read from regions that you don't usually read from. My typical regions are: the US, the UK and the Commonwealth, and Italy. I know-a huge variety. So, my goal is to read more from: East Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and continental Europe. I've adopted Kate's criteria of at least ten books, at least half of which have been translated. I had one more constraint: the books must be held by my college library (I go to a small liberal arts school, so this is more challenging than it may seem). With all of that in mind, here is my list:

1. The Black Bookby Orhan Pamuk, Turkey, translated. Because I already have it checked out, and it sounds amazing, and I really want to read it!

2. No Longer at Ease by Chinua Achebe, Nigeria, English. I really enjoyed Things Fall Apart, so I'd like to read some more by him. Also, if I get my medical clearance, I'll be going to West Africa w/ the Peace Corps in June. It seems like I should read a bit more about it.

3. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami, Japan, translated. I've heard good things about Murakami, and I keep meaning to read him.

4. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert,France, translated. Despite two years of college French, I have spent virtually no time with French literature (I've read Phantom of the Opera and The Three Muskateers). It seems as if half of what I read references this book, so I'm looking forward to finally reading it.

5. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, Japan, English. Ok, I'm kind of cheating, since even though he's Japanese he went to school in England. But, I've seen a lot of recommendations for him, so that's that.

6. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende, unidentified Latin American country, translated. I 'read' Zorro (audio book) and absolutely adored it. So, I want to go back to the beginning!

7. Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz, Egypt, translated. I read Midag Alley last year, and I didn't see what all the fuss was about. So, I thought that I'd give Mahfouz another chance.

8. The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz, Poland, translated. I've heard good things around the lit blogosphere, so I'd like to give it a shot.

9. Waiting by Ha Jin, China, translated. I was looking for a Chinese book, and saw this recommended on Reading Matters

10. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Latin America (Colombia?), translated. I really enjoyed One Hundred Years of Solitude, and this title seems to get rave reviews amongst blogs I read.

So, that's the list. Hopefully, I'll be able to add more as I have time. Having just discovered Book Traveller's blog, I feel very inspired!

Friday, January 26, 2007

What Book Am I?

You're Siddhartha!

by Hermann Hesse

You simply don't know what to believe, but you're willing to try
anything once. Western values, Eastern values, hedonism and minimalism, you've spent
some time in every camp. But you still don't have any idea what camp you belong in.
This makes you an individualist of the highest order, but also really lonely. It's
time to chill out under a tree. And realize that at least you believe in

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Haven't read Siddhartha: maybe now I'll have to.

Middlemarch (thoughts)

Ah, how to talk of a classic like Middlemarch? I suppose, since I've never taken a lit class in my life, I'll just approach it from my experience.

I happen to love Jane Austen. I feel that George Eliot is like Jane's more serious and studious older sister. They both deal with English countryside society; not the ridiculously wealthy titled folk, but not the poor either. They both tend to focus on marriage and family relationships. They both move through day-to-day life at a pretty slow pace. Nevertheless, they're very different.

But, first a brief synopsis of Middlemarch. It looks at life in the small English town of Middlemarch (a surprise, I know), somewhere in the nineteenth century. It begins by following young girls as they go from single to married: Miss Dorothea Brooke, her sister Celia, and Miss Rosamond Vincy are all married off in their turns during the first part of the book. Miss Brooke marries an older clergyman, Mr. Causabon (I love that name!) and Miss Vincy marries the newly-arrived young doctor, Lydgate. Celia marries one of the gentry of the area; she's only a peripheral character, who exists (imo) in order to represent the *ideal* match. Following this, Eliot examines how Dorothea and Rosamond both become disillusioned in their marriages. The book includes a whole cast of other characters, some of them loveable, some of them hateable, and by the last part of the book, the plot has been thickened with a certain someone's disreputable past. However, most of these events are told through the 'eyes' of Dorothea, Rosamond, and the men connected to them (either through blood, marriage, or love). I will say now, I feel that this book is a great length. My copy was the Norton critical edition, meaning absolutely miniature type, and still weighed in at 578 pages (the Penguin edition is 880). Therefore, you can really settle in with the characters, and get attached, knowing that they're not going to be rudely snatched from you in another hour or two. Lots of cups of tea went into this reading, which is just the way I like it. Also, a great first line: "Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress." This woman can write.

Obviously, I'm leaving a lot out. But you can see how this rather resembles an Austen novel; Rosamond takes a whole part to get married, and there are worries about Lydgate's attachment, and her parents' disapproval. But, whereas Austen tends to end her books at the marriage (in fact, *always* ends them at the marriage or engagement), thereby leaving the reader to imagine the ensuing marital bliss, Eliot actually goes there. I feel that she casts a more realistic look at life; her characters don't have the 'sparkling wit' Austen's are known for. Furthermore, they resign themselves to less-than-perfect situations. Life does not always turn out the way they want it to. Eliot also shows her disapproval of aspects of English society. Austen, when she wishes to show disapproval, uses mockery and draws satirical characters. Eliot tends to just add sermonizing sentences to the novel; her personal voice comes through as very serious. When I read Austen, I can hear a supressed laugh in the narrator's tone; Eliot has more sadness.

And yet, I really enjoyed the book. When I read Austen, I end up wanting to be her herione. With Middlemarch, I ended up seeing that I can overcome the challenges in my personal life. Marriage isn't always fun and games; you have to fight for it, you have to compromise and change habits to make things work. Even so, it's something that normal people can do. They don't have to be as clever as Elizabeth Bennet, as sweet as Jane, as rich as Darcy. They just have to realize the value of having someone else. At least, that's what I took away from it. I highly recommend this book for those moments when you need someone to say 'Buck up, and deal with it' in a gentler manner. By reminding me that life has its downs, Eliot made the ups that much more precious. I am grateful to her for that.

Favorite Passages:

We mortals, men and women, devour many a disappointment between breakfast and dinner-time; keep back the tears and look a little pale about th elips, and in answer to inquiries say, "Oh, nothing!" Pride helps us; and pride is not a bad thing when it only urges us to hide our own hurts-not to hurt others. (41)

Will Ladislaw's smile was delightful, unless you were angry with him beforehand; it was a gush of inward light illuminating the transparent skin as well as the eyes, and playing about every curve and line as if some Ariel were touching them with a new charm, and banishing for ever the traces of moodiness. (142)

"But I have a belief of my own, and it comforts me."
"What is that?" said Will, rather jealous of the belief.
"That by desiring what is perfectly good, even when we don't know quite what it is and canot do what we would, we are part of the divine power against evil-widening the skirts of light and making the struggle with darkness narrower."(270)

With memory set smarting like a reopened wound, a man's past is not simply a dead history, an outworn preparation of the present; it is not a repented error shaken lookse from the life: it is a still quivering part of himself, bringing shudders and bitter flavours andthe tinglings of a merited shame. (425)

(This one requires a bit of preface. Dorothea is flustered about love at the moment and trying not to think about it.)
Here was a weighty subject which, if she could but lay hold of it, would certainly keep her mind steady. Unhappily her mind slipped off it for a whole hour; and at the end she found herself reading sentences twice over with an intense consciousness of many things, but not of any one thing contained in the text. This was hopeless. (555)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Pat on the Back

Still no time to read and/or write a thoughtful review. Why do things always seem to snowball? However, as a break from my gi-normous research project, took another quiz.

Your Vocabulary Score: A+

Congratulations on your multifarious vocabulary!
You must be quite an erudite person.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Neat Article

I found a nice little article about one woman's love of reading:

Here's a sample...

I like bookstores, but libraries are better. Bookstores are about ownership and commitment; libraries are about discovery and free love.

Books are my music, my food, my ticket back to where I once belonged. The English language, with its rolling tones and freedom to improvise, will always be part of who I am - wherever I am.

Friday, January 19, 2007

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

I'm a little over half way done with Middlemarch (my second classics challenge). I'm really enjoying it, but it's not a super-fast read. Pile on all of my homework, and I haven't read any books since my last post.

But since I want to post, I thought I'd talk about authors. First, there are my fvaorites. The ones that I reach for again and again, the ones that I trust. As a military brat, I grew up boomeranging between Texas and England. This has made me a Texan at heart who sometimes spells like a Brit. As I've gotten older, I've realized that most of my favorite authors are also British....or at least of the Commonwealth.

This would include Jane Austen (I've grown up with her, and every time I reread one of her books, I seem to see it in a different way), Salman Rushdie (it's obscene how amazing an author he is), Ian McEwan (does anyone do drama better?) and A.S. Byatt (my newest British discovery, but I'm rapidly working my way through her works). And, of course, my favorite mystery novelists are all British....a mystery novel set in America just doesn't do it for me. I need tea, Oxford (or Oxbridge, if necessary), social classes.

Back in high school, I really enjoyed David Eddings, with his focus on deities, different cultures, and just the grand scheme of things. I haven't read any of his books in a couple of years now, but I know that I could go back to one of his series and be instantly at home. I used to love that style of fantasy, which seemed mythic in scope. So, that's one American to root for.

Speaking of fantasy, my 'grown-up' fantasy author is Neil Gaiman. I wish that I could marry this man, I love the way that he thinks and writes that much. Talk about mythology in literature! I haven't looked at Sandman, but I've read just about all of his regular books (excluding the newest one). And I own them all. And I often give them as gifts to other people.

Jhumpa Lahiri is somewhat of a mix; born British, raised in Rhode Island. Either way, I've enjoyed both of her books and wish that she would come out with a new one. I really want to go to India one day, and I've read a few different authors, but Lahiri's stories stay with me. Also, I find her style incredibly polished and deliberate.

As far as foreign authors, I tend to be hesitant to read translations, unless I know that they're the best out there. Still, I've managed to develop a few trusted friends. I really enjoy Isabelle Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez when I'm looking for a taste of Latin America. Of course, the two have very different styles, so it depends on my mood. Moving to a colder region, I really enjoy Leo Tolstoy and Anton Chekhov (keep in mind, I study Russian in college). Tolstoy just puts you in the world so well; I love really, really long novels, because then I don't have to worry about them ending suddenly. Chekhov's short stories just make me happy; I can read them in Russian as well as English, his prose is so simple, and yet the stories are anything but.

So, that's a whirlwind tour of some of my sagging bookshelves. What are your favorite authors? Especially re: foreign authors, which I'm always on the look out for.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Postern of Fate (thoughts)

I love British detective novels. I truly discovered them my senior year of high school, when I did a term paper on "The Evolution of the British Mystery Novel." Needless to say, I read quite a few of them in order to write the paper, and i've been hooked ever since.

So, when I'm feeling down, or when something's off, I reach for one of my comfort authors: Marsh, Christie, Sayers. This weekend, I reached for Agatha Christie's Postern of Fate. It's a Tommy and Tuupence mystery; usually, I'm a Miss Marple kind of girl, but I really enjoyed By the Pricking of My Thumbs with Tommy and Tuppence, so I decided to give them another go.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed. In Postern, Tommy and Tuppence have moved into a new house. As Tuppence is going through old children's books left by the previous owners, she discovers a message: Mary Jordan did not die naturally. It was one of us. Being Tuppence, she is curious and begins to investigate, pulling Tommy along for the ride. The 'mystery' took place several decades earlier, during WWI and involves betrayal and espionage. I'll leave it at that.

I found the book singularly unsatisfying. Sure, I enjoyed Tommy and Tuppence, but the mystery never drew me in. It isn't one that the reader can guess about the villain (since there aren't any suspects), the clues are vague remembrances that aren't really clues, and the whole 'government top-secret' thing gives it a John le Carre vibe. Don't get me wrong, I like John le Carre, but not when I'm in the mood for a charming British whodunnit. Furthermore, Tommy and Tuppence's dog, Hannibal, plays a role, not only in the plot, but in the dialogue. I, personally, find it incredibly annoying when authors project words onto animals. I find it less annoying when it's the whole point of the series (e.g.-Rita May Brown books), but it feels almost beneath Agatha Christie.

That being said, the book certainly wasn't *bad*, just not up to Christie's usual gold standard. There were a couple passages I particularly enjoyed:

"Only, we've got a terrible lot of books now, and the shelves we had made I don't think are going to be nearly enough. What about your special sanctum? Is there room for more books?"
"No there isn't," said Tommy. "There's not going to be enough for my own."
"Oh dear, of dear," said Tuppence, "that's so like us. Do you think we might have to build an extra room?" (6)

"Ah well-what fun it is, all the things ones used to invent and believe in and play at."(73)

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Opinions Wanted I just wandered over to Wordpress, and noticed that they have free blog hosting as well. (I thought that wordpress charged) So, for those that have experience with both blogger and wordpress, which do you prefer? And why?

P.S.-in case you've read the post before this, no I'm not procrastinating. I've written five more pages since then, bringing me within a page and a half of my necessary quota for this week. So I'm rewarding myself. Yes, I have descended to the depths of bribery.

I'd rather be reading...

Argh. Don't you hate it when you feel guilty for reading for pleasure? I'm a college senior, and at my school we have an 'honors program' for (crazy) seniors who would like to do a year-long independent research project. The project culminates in around a 100-page research paper and an oral defence.

Well, for some reason, I decided that this was a good idea. So here I am in mid-January, embarking on the writing phase of the project. And it's going vvveeerrryyy slowly. I truly enjoyed the research phase during the fall(my school also has three terms, instead of two semesters, so the year's divided a little differently). But now, it's been difficult for me to actually sit down and write, instead of picking up some books from my TBR pile and calling it a day. Regular classes don't induce this kind of guilt-you follow the syllabus, and you're good. But independent study means self-motivation. And that's very difficult with so many exciting books sitting in the corner of my vision, calling to me.

I suppose I should stop procrastinating. Just wondering if anyone else shares these kinds of frustrations!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Oracle Bones (thoughts)

Oracle Bones was my first non-fiction read of the year. And Peter Hessler has set quite a standard!

As a disclaimer, I knew virtually nothing about China before I read this book, so I can't really comment regarding the truthfulness of Hessler's observations. However, those observations are beautifully worded.

Hessler was a Peace Corps volunteer teaching English in China for two years. Then, he returned and became a freelance journalist in Bejing. This book grew out of the people he met and stories he pursued during that phase of his life. Hessler describes the lives of many different 'classes' of Chinese people in Oracle Bones, including some of his former students, members of a persecuted minority, and movie stars. The profiles he offers are loaded with detail, which makes the reader feel like s/he really knows these people. Hessler also provides the larger context of their lives, by giving both a taste of Chinese history (it's pretty surface-based) and a bit of analysis of contemporary Chinese politics and society.

Hessler is one of those people who makes me wish that I was a writer. He makes the book seem effortlessly interesting and informative. Although it was pretty long, about 450 pages, I simply flew through it!

The Moonstone (thoughts)

I finished the first book on my list of classics last night, The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. Firstly, I felt rather silly, because I was definitely under the impression that Wilkie Collins was a woman. I'm not sure why I thought that; Wilkie seems like a girly name (i.e.-Muffin) to me. At least I've realized my mistake!

On to the book. The premise is pretty simple; a very large diamond goes missing. Who stole it and why? The narrative is more complex: there are five actual narrators and extended letters from a couple more. This seems to be the book's strength as well as its downfall. I very much enjoyed the story when it was told me a likeable narrator. However, I didn't enjoy it all with two of the narrators; it was difficult to keep myself going through those sections.

I enjoyed the high-drama of the book, with its beautiful, histronic heiress, love-sick continental, mysterious traveller, the loyal old servant, etc. While I wouldn't call the characters 'fleshed out,' they all portrayed their stereotypes to a T. After all, sometimes stereotypes are refreshing! If you enjoy English literature of this time period (nineteenth century), you'll probably enjoy The Moonstone.

As much as I enjoyed it while I was reading it, I don't think that I'd reread it. In general, I'll happily reread a book over and over, but only if I enjoy the characters. After all, if the plot is the strength, what's the point of rereading it? You already know it! But strong characters, on the other hand, are like old friends: it's fun to drop in on them every once in awhile.

So, I feel that The Moonstone was a satisfactory beginning to the classics challenge. I feel fulfilled for having read it, I enjoyed reading it, and now I can put it aside. lol

Favorite Passages:

There, coming out on us from among the hills, was a bright-eyed young gentleman, dressed in a beautiful fawn-colored suit, with gloves and hat to match, witha rose in his button-hole, and a smile on his face that might have set the Shivering Sand itself smiling at him in return. (28)

"After believing in him as I did, after loving him as I did, after thinking of him by day, and dreaming of him by night-he wonders I didn't charge him with his disgrace the first time we met: "My heart's darling, you are a Thief! My hero whom I love and honour, you have crept into my room under cover of the night, and stolen my Diamond!" That is what I ought to have said. You villain, you mean, mean, mean villain, I would have lost fifty diamonds, rather than see your face lying to me, as I see it lying now!" (389)

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

The Thirteenth Tale (thoughts)

I started The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield on Sunday, and I finished it last night. This is actually my biggest disappointment with the book!

In general, I really like this 'genre': lots of book-loving characters, quite a bit of weird mystery, spooky, almost-gothic settings. So I was really, really looking forward to reading the book. And at this level, it certainly did not disappoint. The atmosphere, the sketchy characters, the bibliophile narrator...all was satisfying. I didn't even guess the twist, which is unusual for me! The book was well written; Sutterfield used her device (story-within-a-story) to build suspence, but didn't leave the reader dangling too much. Furthermore, you could tell that each sentence had been truly thought about, so that the style of writing helped create the story as much as the characters and plot. The characters were alive: I could see them, imagine running into them one day. Well, if I ever found myself wandering the moors. There was also a bit of humor at one point (poking fun at gothic novels), which I found rather refreshing.

That being said, I feel that Setterfield didn't go as far as she could have. It's a very short book. Ok, now that I've looked it's actually 406 pages. But still, it *feels* like a very short book: I wish that Setterfield had fleshed everyone out even more. I fell in love with most of the characters, and the settings, and I really want a sequel with the same narrator.

So, I would definitely recommend this book, but prepare for a somewhat abrupt ending. The book has a pretty neat site where you can read an interview with the author and get a little more information on aspects of the book:

Favorite Passages:

People disappear when they die. Their voice, their laughter, the wamrth of their breath. Their flesh. Eventually their bones. All living memory of them ceases. This is both dreadful and natural. Yet for some there is an exception to this annihilation. For in the books they write they continue to exist. We can rediscover them. Their humor, their tone of voice, their moods. Through the written word they can anger you or make you happy. They can comfort you. They can perplex you. They make you happy. They can alter you. All this, even though they are dead. ...It is a kind of magic. (17)

Every pore in her plain little face was illuiminated. Something shone in her clothes and in her hair. Something radiated from her luggage. Something cast a glow around her person, like a lightbulb. Something made her exotic.

We had no idea what it was. We'd never imagined the like of it before.

We found out later, though.

Hester was clean. Scrubbed and soaped and rinsed and buffed and polished all over. (150)

Monday, January 8, 2007

Chunkster Challenge...

So I just spent an hour trying to determine my list for the Chunkster Challenge. I wanted to do 6 books in 6 months, preferably without Classics overlap, half non-fic. You wouldn't think that would take a lot of effort, would you?

However, I've realised that I read too many chunkster books. I visited *every* other participant's blog, and most of the books that looked really good I had already read. lol I think I was also just in a fussy mood. So, I ended up giving up with only four: the rest will be arranged. I know one of them is going to be some kind of historical fiction; I haven't read any in awhile, and I'm craving the genre.

Here are the four:
Che Guevara by Jon Lee Andersen
Virginia Woolf by Hermione Lee
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
The Forest by Edward Rutherfurd

I'll add the Chunkster button/link to the side later...right now I am internet-ed out.

Classics Challenge!

Here's my list for the Winter's Classics Challenge (hosted by booklog at A Reader's Journal). I'm very excited about this, for several reasons. After all, I'm an Aries, so I always love a good challenge. And I really enjoy classic literature, so this made me search for new ones instead of just rereading old ones. :D

1. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
I've been meaning to read this forever: it's referenced in so many other books that I read!

2. Middlemarch by George Eliot
Another book I've always wanted to read. In fact, I've checked it out from the library a couple times in the past and just never got around to it. But I'm hoping to start a biography of George Eliot next month, and it'd be kind of odd to read the bio without having read any of the real works.

3. Out of Africa by Isak Dineson
This will get me off the European continent for awhile, if not out of the European mindset!

4. Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
Hadn't heard of this book before running across it on A High and Hidden Place's challenge list. I'm always up for a perfectly new author. Furthermore, I haven't really read any Victorian gothic novels before, so between this and The Moonstone, I should have my fill!

5. The Portrait of a Lady or Daisy Miller by Henry James
I'm leaving this choice open, because it'll depend on how much time I have left! I thought that the men probably deserved one author on the list, and this way I'm reading another American as well. As an American who lived half my life in Europe, I've always enjoyed reading James. And yet, I've never gotten around to two of his most famous works!

Sunday, January 7, 2007

The Collector (thoughts)

I received The Collector by John Fowles for Christmas, and I finished reading it last night. I wasn't really sure what to expect going into it; all I knew was that it was described as the 'first modern psychological thriller.'

The basic plot is that a man stalks and kidnaps a young girl. It's set in England, I think sometime in the 50s or 60s. I promise not to give away the ending: I hate it when someone gives away a book!

Anyway, it's written in first person, which isn't something I normally like. About half of the book is written in diary format, which is also something I normally dislike. However, Fowles overcomes that prejudice of mine; really, I can't imagine the book being written any other way. The first part of the book is told from the point of view of the kidnapper: all of his creepy and boring thoughts, a little bit of his history. The second part of the book covers the same time period, but is written by the girl. That's when Fowles really shines: the girl is much more 'intellectual' than her kidnapper, and she spends a lot of time trying to figure out who she is. This probably resonates with me because she's nineteen and I'm twenty, also in school, also wondering about life. Fowles manages to capture that mood exactly; I found myself nodding along with a lot of the pages. The final part of the book is short, just creating the ending(hence, off-limits). I will say, though, that the ending doesn't feel at all abrupt, or like the author wasn't sure what he wanted to say. Instead, it feels as if the entire book had been moving towards the ending, and I was left very satisfied.

I feel that the first half of the book is a little dull; it doesn't seem to pick up, and the kidnapper is a bit whiny. However, the beauty of the second half balances it out. So, if you're going to read The Collector, be prepared to slog through the beginning. It'll be worth it in the end.

Favorite Passages:

The only thing that really matters is feeling and living what you believe-so long as it's something more than belief in your own comfort. ...It's like football. Two sides may want to beat the other, they may even hate each other as sides, but if someone came and told them football is stupid and not worth playing or caring about, then they'd feel together. It's feeling that matters. (143)

And I've always thought of marriage as a sort of young adventure, two people of the same age setting out together, discovering together, growing together. (234)

It's like the day you realize dolls are dolls. I pick up my old self and I see it's silly. A toy I've played with too often. It's a little sad, like an old golliwog at the bottom of the cupboard.
Innocent and used-up and proud and silly. (266)

Friday, January 5, 2007

What Kind of Reader Am I?

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Book Snob
Literate Good Citizen
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Thursday, January 4, 2007

2006 in Review

Now that I'm settled in, I have a bit of time for writing.

Well, 2006 was the first year that I started keeping a record of my reading. Here's what I came up with.

Total Books Read: 105
Fiction: 63
Non-Fiction: 42
Books on CD: 11
Non-English Books: 2
Men Authors: 72
Women Authors: 33

Wow. I always knew that I read more men than women, but I didn't realise how strong the tendency was. I'll try to work on that this year. And now, just because I can, here's a list of all the books I read. The ones in bold are my top 15. If I have the time, I'll start 'back-reviewing' with those.

1. The Prince by Machiavelli(but the translation by de Alvarez)
2. Diplomacy by Henry Kissinger
3. Rise to Globalism by Stephen Ambrose and Douglas Brinkley
4. The Master by Colm Toibin
5. The Dante Club by Mathew Pearl
6. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
7. The Fate of Africa by Martin Meredith
8. The Second Treatise by John Locke
9. Foucoult's Pendulum by Umberto Eco
10. Shame by Salman Rushdie
11. Prep by Curtis Sittenfield
12. The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad
13. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
14. The First Discourse by Jean Jacques Rousseau
15. The Old Regime and the Revolution by Alexis de Tocqueville
16. Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville
17. The Ambler Warning by Robert Ludlum (book on cd)
18. Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman (book on cd)
19. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
20. The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony by Robert Calasso
21. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
22. Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
23. Inside a US Embassy
24. The Village of Waiting by George Packer
25. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
26. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maquire
27. The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie King
28. La Cucina by Lily Prior
29. Midaq Alley by Naguib Mahfouz
30. Ireland by Frank Delany (book on cd)
31. To End a War by Richard Holbrooke
32. The Honorary Consul by Graham Greene
33. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carre
34. Possession by A.S. Byatt
35. The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene
36. Antigone by Jean Aniuolh (in French)
37. Putin's Russia by Lilya Shevtsova
38. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
39. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
40. Spice: The History of a Temptation by Jack Turner
41. The Cold War: A New History by John Gaddis
42. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
43. The Stranger by Albert Camus (in French)
44. Alamut by Judith Tarr
45. The Romanov Prophecy by Steve Berry (book on cd)
46. The Princes of Ireland by Edward Rutherfurd (book on cd)
47. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
48. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
49. In Defense of Globalization by Jagdish Bhagwati
50. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
51. Beloved by Toni Morrison
52. Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie (book on cd)
53. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (book on cd)
54. The Ambassadors by Henry James
55. The Autobiography of Malcom X by Malcolm X
56. City of Falling Angels by John Berendt
57. The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte
58. A Man Lay Dead by Ngaio Marsh
59. Sparrow by Mary Dorris Russell
60. Cosmopolitanism by Kwame Appiah
61. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
62. Operation Solo by John Barron
63. The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco
64. Atonement by Ian McEwan
65. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
66. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
67. Moving Toward Balance by Rodney Yee
68. Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark
69. Hear My Testimony by Maria Teresa Tula
70. Blueprints for a House Divided by Robert McBeth Hayden
71. America at the Crossroads by Francis Fukuyama
72. The Disciplinary Revolution by Philip Gorski
73. Venezuelan Politics in the Chavez Era by Daniel Hellinger and Steve Ellner
74. The Case for Goliath by Michael Mandelbaum
75. Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
76. The Monkey's Paw by Robin Kirk
77. Guests of the Ayatollah by Mark Bowden
78. Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
79. Between Earthquakes and Volcanoes by Carlos M. Vilas and Ted Kuster
80. War and the Rise of the State by Bruce D. Porter
81. Zorro (book on CD) by Isabel Allende
82. Mexican Lives by Judith Adler Hellman
83. Seeing Like a State by James C. Scott
84. Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris
85. The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar
86. Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie
87. The House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III
88. Elephants Can Remember by Agatha Christie
89. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera
90. The Biographer's Tale by A.S. Byatt
91. The Hours by Michael Cunningham
92. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
93. Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
94. By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie
95. The Innocent by Ian MwEwan
96. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
97. Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl
98. The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell
99. Hornet's Nest by Patricia Cornwell
100. Anhila's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje
101. The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs
102. People's History of the US by Howard Zinn
103. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
104. The Matisse Stories by A.S. Byatt
105. A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Resolving that....

In the spirit of the new year, I've developed a few reading resolutions for 2007.

  • Record all books read.
  • Read enough nonfiction to keep my fic:nonfic ratio 3:2.
  • Read ten auto/biographies.
  • Read more African and East Asian lit.
  • Keep this blog up to date.
  • Participate in some online blogging challenges.

Recently, I discovered the book blogging community. Imagine my shock and excitement to find people who love reading as much as I do! Oh joy! So, this blog is my attempt to join that community. I'm looking forward to it. However, right now I have to pack (back to college tomorrow), so for now that's it.