Friday, October 26, 2007

Address Change

I've been thinking about switching over the wordpress for awhile, and so I've been playing around with it. I think I've finally got it in decent working order, although I'll probably keep playing with it for awhile!

Anyway, come on over to A Striped Armchair, v.2 to find out my latest obsession. Also, please update your bookmarks and links: See you there!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Feeling Better

Thanks everyone for the kind comments! I'll be answering them all individually a bit later (computer troubles). I pushed through the feeling this morning by turning to Jane Austen for comfort. :) Then, this afternoon I went to the library!

I realised I was in a YA mood, so that's the majority of this trip's stash: The Looking Glass Wars, Twilight, Ironside, The Wee Free Men, and Wicked Lovely. I also grabbed some challenge read: Sandman, Vol. I for the Reading the Author Challenge, The Master and Commander and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle for the upcoming Nautical Challenge. :)

I plan to just bury myself in books for a little while, hehe. Panic attacks are silly!

Feeling Overwhelmed

You know those moments when you suddenly realise how many great books there are out there? And that there's no way you'll ever be able to read all of them?

That realisation just came crashing down on me.

How do y'all deal with that?

Monday, October 22, 2007

So Many Books, So Little Time (thoughts)

Before I talk about the book, just wanted to announce that Shannon over at Just Another Musing won the second draw! She went with Tithe, so I'll draw another winner shortly. :) Gotta love the read-a-thon! Now, on to a book I read before the read-a-thon, and that I've been meaning to review. :D

I devoured So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson in the night it got in, and when I finally turned the last page, I felt completely satisfied. Sara Nelson and I have only two things in common: we're women, and we love books. But that's part of what makes reading this book so fun; I could see how our joint hobby played out in a very different kind of life. Nelson discusses how events in her life influenced her reading choices and vice versa. Her mix of informal book reviews and personal anecdotes actually felt like reading a great book blog. Soothing, funny, enjoyable...Nelson reminded me that I'm not alone in my reading obsession. If I had found this book before the blogging community, I'm sure it would've blown my mind to find a kindred spirit. As it is, I was just glad to be able to read a whole year's worth of reading experience without bothering with my laptop! Everyone who enjoys reading book blogs will probably enjoy this book!

Favourite Passages

...the busier I've gotten over the years-the more family and work activities, the more friends to keep up with, the more duties of adulthood and parenthood, the more, well life-the more, not the less, I've read, (6)

Reading's ability to beam you up to a different world is a good part of the reason people like me do it in the first place, because dollar for dollar, hour per hour, it's the most expedient way to get from our proscribed little "here" to an imagined, intriguing "there." Part time machine, part Concorde, part ejection seat, books are our salvation. (12)

Explaining the moment of connection between a reader and a book to someone who's never experienced it is like trying to describe sex to a virgin. A friend of mine says that when he meets a book he loves, he starts to shake involuntarily. For me, the feeling comes in a rush: I'm readingalong and suddenly a word or phrase or scene enlarges before my eyes and soon everything around me is just so much fuzzy background. The phone can ring, toast can burn, the child can call out, but to me, they're all in a distant dream. The book-this beautiful creature in my hands!-is everything I've ever wanted, as unexpected and inevitable as love. (33)

I may have come late to passaionte reading, but I caught on pretty early that a book can be the perfect shield against potentially piercing situations. Not only is reading a distraction during difficult times...but it's a highly socially respectable means of social avoidance. You can't tell an obnoxious seatmate on a plane, for example, taht his obstreperous pontificating about the virtues of saccharin over NutraSweet is driving you batty, but you can tell him you're in the middle of
A Tale of Two Cities and you simply must get back to it. (39)

Allowing yourself to stop reading a book-at page 25, 50, or even, less frequently, a few chapters from the end-is a rite of passage in a reader's life, the literary equivalent of a bar mitzvah or a communiion, the moment at which you can look at yourself and announce: Today I' am an adult. I can make my own decisions. (55)

And in every case, the sun came up the day after I bagged these books. There was no quiz in the morning, no Reading Police at my door. Not the mention that the books themselves went on to greatness and comfortable spots on the bestseller lists. (57)

The idea, I guess, is to turn a book into a media event, but this is a strategy that has major backfire potential. For me-as, I believe for a lot of readers-when a book gets overhyped, we get mad. We're a funny, cliquish group, we book people, and sometimes we resist liking-or even resist opening-the very thing everybody tells us we're supposed to like. (61)

An occasional disagreement over a book's merit should not be a big deal to normal people, but the people I love-and the person I am-are not normal; we're book people. TO us, disagreeing about something we read is as shocking and disruptive as, say, deciding that we hate each other's husbands. (67)

I believe that an unreturned book beween friends is like a deb unpaid. It can linger, fester, throb like a sore wound. THe best preventative medicine is the simplest: Return All Books. (70)

What draws a particular reader to a particular story can be completely idiosyncratic....Reading is highly personal and often revealing. Readers have superstitious preferences and irrational dislikes. (115)

You can't eat pizza while reading
The House of Mirth....You have to have long stretches of uninterrupted time to read The House of Mirth. You also have to have quiet. A long, rainy weekend afternoon would work. So would a couple of luxuriously sleepless nights in a well-appointed, comfortable bed. (117)

One of the good things about having a partner who is just a tiny bit oblivious to the links between reading and life is that he doesn't take particular note that the two books you've brought on your three-week family vacation are
Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary. (141)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Final Read-a-Thon Post

Whew. I got a lot of sleep since the last post. :) This was a ton of fun, and I highly recommend that everyone who can clear their schedules next year participate! Although I loved the reading, and the prizes, my favourite part was the community building that went on. :D

The first winner of my prize drawing is 3M, so she gets first pick of the books. Once she's picked, I'll draw the next winner!

Here's Dewey's final survey.

1. Which hour was most daunting for you? Hour Sixteen...I experienced a serious energy slump and felt really loopy. Fortunately, the hot chocolate perked me back up.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? The Kitchen Boy, Marked, Tithe, Gods in Alabama

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? I enjoyed this one a lot; I didn't really think anything was lacking!

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? I loved the mini-challenges and the cheerleaders. It all went very smoothly!

5. How many books did you read? 7, plus parts of two more (2,014 pages)

6. What were the names of the books you read? I completed: Tithe by Holly Black, The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander, The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie, Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson, Marked by P.C. and Kristin Cast, The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith, The Children of Green Knowe by L.M. Boston I read from: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett and Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrless

7. Which book did you enjoy most? Three Way Tie: Marked, The Kitchen Boy, The Children of Green Knowe

8. Which did you enjoy least? The Sunday Philosophy Club

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? I wasn't a cheerleader. :)

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? If I can, I'd love to participate in next year's read-a-thon. I'd probably be a reader again!

And then there were fourteen...

*this is a sticky, it'll be changed as people go to bed or get up*

Well, I really like trying to visit every reader at least once every other hour. But, I was sick of weeding through the long blogroll. So here're the people who have updated in the last three-ish hours or sooner...

Newest additions: Joy Story, So Many Books,Bonnie's Books New additions:SMS Reviews (I didn't see Callista's posts beneath her stickies. Bad Eva!), Nothing of Importance (Debi's back from her nap!), Jason Erik Lundberg (who's decided to keep reading!) Original List: So Many Books, So Little Time, Read From A to Z, Life, Dog's Eye View, Becky's Books, Bebo Author, One More Chapter, A Patchwork of Books, Dewey (of course! our fearless leader), and me!

(this should be helpful for the current mini-challenge over at Deweys)

Hour Twenty-Four

Mugs of Hot Tea: 4
Mugs of Hot Chocolate: 2
Glasses of Iced Tea: 3
Cans of Diet Pepsi: 1

Reading over 2,000 pages in 24 hours: Priceless!

Wrap Up Time!

Pages Read (cum.): 2014
Books Completed: 7 (Tithe by Holly Black, The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander, The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie, Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson, Marked by P.C. and Kristin Cast, The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith, The Children of Green Knowe by L.M. Boston)
Books Partially Completed: 1 (Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett)
Stories Read: 2 ("The Death of a Government Clerk" and "The Sly Little Boy" by Anton Chekhov)
Mini-Challenges Participated In: 15

That works out to about 84 pages an hour, which certainly isn't bad. Especially since I also managed to visit every active reader at least once every other hour. :) I had a ton of fun with this whole experience, and I feel very indebted to Dewey for running the whole thing and to the cheerleaders who came out and supported me (both official and unofficial). On twenty-three posts, I've had 77 comments not made by me! That's a whole lot of comments for one day. :D

So, I'd like to give back a little. First off, I'll be sending two bookmooch points Dewey's way (gotta love the new booksmooches); it's a drop in the bucket compared to all of the work she's done, but hopefully she'll appreciate it! Alternatively, Dewey, you can pick two of these books that I read over the last twenty-four hours: Tithe, Marked, The Kitchen Boy, Gods in Alabama. Next, I'm planning on having four drawings: one for each of the above books (or a bookmooch point, if Dewey wants one or two of them). Everyone will be entered however many times they've commented on the my read-a-thon posts (not including this one). I figure first draw will get first pick, etc. I'll do the drawing either late today or tomorrow!

And that's all, folks. :)

Hour Twenty-Three

I think I'm read out. I haven't laughed out loud once yet at Good Omens, which is unheard of. However, I did love rereading Green Knowe-I think everyone should read it at least once! My only goal for the last hour is to break 2000 pages. Originally, I wanted to finish Good Omens as well, but that's not going to happen! Honestly, my perkiness has run away; I'm utterly exhausted. I only got about three hours of sleep Friday night, and I've calculated that of the last forty-eight hours, I've been awake thirty-six of them. Whew. Only one post left to go!

Books Read (this hour): The Children of Green Knowe by L.M. Boston, Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Pages Read (cum.): 1942
Books Completed: 7 (Tithe by Holly Black, The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander, The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie, Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson, Marked by P.C. and Kristin Cast, The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith, The Children of Green Knowe by L.M. Boston)
Stories Read: 2 ("The Death of a Government Clerk" and "The Sly Little Boy" by Anton Chekhov)
Mini-Challenges Participated In: 15

Hour Twenty-Two

Time flies! I abandoned the Chesterton on seeing the small print, and instead I went with L.M. Boston's The Children of Green Knowe, by far one of my favourite childhood books. I reread it every couple years, and it's always just magical! I'm about two-thirds of the way through it, and I really want to get back to it.

So here's my mini-challenge offering:

Books Read (this hour): The Children of Green Knowe by L.M. Boston
Pages Read (cum.): 1838
Books Completed: 6 (Tithe by Holly Black, The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander, The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie, Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson, Marked by P.C. and Kristin Cast, The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith)
Stories Read: 2 ("The Death of a Government Clerk" and "The Sly Little Boy" by Anton Chekhov)
Mini-Challenges Participated In: 15

Hour Twenty-One

We're so close now that we can taste it. :) This has been a really productive reading hour for me; I just decided I wanted to finish The Sunday Philosophy Club, and I did! While I'm happy for that, I did sacrifice visiting blogs, which makes me unhappy. So this hour I'm visiting everyone still up again. :) Then I'm thinking about breaking out some Chesterton, and hopefully finishing up with Good Omens.

Mini Challenge:
Joy Story is clashing swords with that Spanish hero Don Quixote. ;) Love the haiku!
Jason Lundberg is breaking out another graphic novel, which looks quite interesting.

ETA: I won another one of the drawings! Dewey is being generous enough to offer future books. :)

Books Read (this hour): The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith
Pages Read (cum.): 1731
Books Completed: 6 (Tithe by Holly Black, The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander, The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie, Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson, Marked by P.C. and Kristin Cast, The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith)
Stories Read: 2 ("The Death of a Government Clerk" and "The Sly Little Boy" by Anton Chekhov)
Mini-Challenges Participated In: 14

Hour Twenty

At this point, I'd say that we all just kick ass. :) Even if we're grumpy, or only reading 2 pages an hour, or can't type to save our lives. Go readers! The cheerleaders are also kicking some serious ass...they're spending their time making us feel more special! And doing such a good job of it! Go cheerleaders!

I've spent the last hour reading the first book in Alexander McCall Smith's newest detective series, The Sunday Philosophy Club. It revolves around Isabel Dalhousie (love her name), an early forties-something single intellectual living in Edinburgh. So far, her niece (Cat, early twenties) and housekeeper (Grace, late forties) have been the most important supporting characters. It's a nice, soothing read; Isabel has cooked a mushroom risotto ("Cooking in a temper required caution with the pepper, as one might put far too much in and ruin a risotto in sheer pique."), sang duets with an ex-flame of her niece's (which I find endlessly amusing), and of course solved some crossword puzzles. I'm enjoying it!

Now for this hour's mini-challenge: a haiku based on one of the characters...

precocious vampire-
be careful!

Based on the main character from Marked. Cut me some slack-I've been up forever!
ETA: I'm an idiot. I thought haikus wre 3-5-3, but they're 5-7-5. Oy. How about...
Zooey-though you are
quite a precocious vampire,
you must still take care.

Books Read (this hour): The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith
Pages Read (cum.): 1595
Books Completed: 5 (Tithe by Holly Black, The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander, The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie, Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson, Marked by P.C. and Kristin Cast)
Stories Read: 2 ("The Death of a Government Clerk" and "The Sly Little Boy" by Anton Chekhov)
Mini-Challenges Participated In: 13

Hour Ninteen

I'm doing this one really early so that I can go get lost in The Sunday Philosophy Club. :) This hour, I finished Marked. Then, I went and ran around blog-hopping. You can see how I felt about Marked down in hour eighteen.

Alison over at So Many Books, So Little Time has finished Pretties, and it helped bring the excitment back! Now, she's off snacking on popcorn. Yummy. :)

Claire at Bebo Author is reading Twilight, but finding it difficult to settle down over her break. Not to mention she's cold. :( Let's all send good vibes her way!

Books Read (this hour): Marked by P.C. and Kristin Cast
Pages Read (cum.): 1495
Books Completed: 5 (Tithe by Holly Black, The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander, The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie, Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson, Marked by P.C. and Kristin Cast)
Stories Read: 2 ("The Death of a Government Clerk" and "The Sly Little Boy" by Anton Chekhov)
Mini-Challenges Participated In: 12

Hour Eighteen

This is a late update, because I simply couldn't stop reading Marked. Technically, I didn't finish it until Hour Nineteen, but I'm still going to talk about it here. It had a lot of Wiccan elements in it, which amused me (not because Wicca is funny, but the idea of Wiccan vampires certainly is). I could've done without some of the pop culture references, but those tended to become more scarce in the second half of the book. Of course, it leaves at an utter cliffhanger, so now I have to go get the second one (Betrayed)! Let's see...well, I'd definitely recommend this one to everyone who's trying to stay awake in the tail end of a 24 hour read-a-thon. :) Other than that, it's kind of like Harry Potter + vampire + Wicca/pagan. For me, the coolest part is that the main character is part Cherokee and really connects with her roots. If any and all of that appeals to you, and you enjoy/don't mind YA style, I say go for it!

Books Read (this hour): Marked by P.C. and Kristin Cast
Pages Read (cum.): 1383
Books Completed: 4 (Tithe by Holly Black, The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander, The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie, Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson)
Stories Read: 2 ("The Death of a Government Clerk" and "The Sly Little Boy" by Anton Chekhov)
Mini-Challenges Participated In: 11

Hour Seventeen

Wow! I'm completely and utterly sucked in by the world of Marked. There are definitely some things I would change about it stylistically, but I award it an A+ for keeping me awake. :)

With that, I'm getting back to it. Just wanted to check in so that y'all knew I was still awake. :D (oh-and the hot chocolate worked wonders!)

Books Read (this hour): Marked by P.C. and Kristin Cast
Pages Read (cum.): 1247
Books Completed: 4 (Tithe by Holly Black, The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander, The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie, Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson)
Stories Read: 2 ("The Death of a Government Clerk" and "The Sly Little Boy" by Anton Chekhov)
Mini-Challenges Participated In: 11

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Hour Sixteen

Two-thirds there. We can do this, people! This hour, I definitely experienced a slump. Between looking at the blogs, picking my prize books (I won the mini-challenge!), and suddenly realising how exhausted I was, there wasn't much time for actual reading. I was feeling kind of low, so I decided to make the ultimate late-night pick-me-up...

home-made hot chocolate! Yay! I also decided to break out my other YA novel, Marked by P.C. and Kristin Cast. I don't need heavy reading right now! Hopefully the next couple hours will fly by. :D

Mini-Challenge for this hour was to visit blogs. 3M (who has been around to all of us readers tons of times, leaving uplifting comments, rather like a cheerleader herself!) decided to take a break from Stephen King and go with an Alexander McCall Smith Precious Rambotse mystery, Tears of the Giraffe. My mom loves this series, and I have a different McCall Smith (The Sunday Philosophy Club) waiting on deck. Meanwhile, L-Squared (I wonder if Dewey was attracted to numbers this hour?) is moving through Dracula. More importantly, imo, she might have lost a snake! Uh-oh...

Books Read (this hour): Marked by P.C. and Kristin Cast
Pages Read (cum.): 1190
Books Completed: 4 (Tithe by Holly Black, The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander, The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie, Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson)
Stories Read: 2 ("The Death of a Government Clerk" and "The Sly Little Boy" by Anton Chekhov)
Mini-Challenges Participated In: 11

Hour Fifteen

This hour I spent immersed in Russian. I read a bit of Pushkin, a bit of Akhmatova, and then I settled down to a couple of Chekhov's short stories. I love Chekhov: I think his talent is incredible, for one thing, and for another he writes in quite simple Russian, so it's easier for me to figure out what's going on. :) This was to complete Sara's mini-challenge, and I'm happy that she challenged me! I read the stories aloud, and just enjoyed the 'foreign-ness' of it all. :D Here's the front and back covers of the Chekhov collection I have (it's the collection "The Lady with the Little Dog"). Fun factoid about Russian books: the table of contents is in the back, instead of the front.

I'm not sure what I'll move on to next...but I'm going to try to stay up all 24 hours, so I do know I'll be drinking lots of caffeine!

Books Read (this hour): "The Death of a Government Clerk" and "The Sly Little Boy" by Anton Chekhov (but in Russian)
Pages Read (cum.): 1180
Books Completed: 4 (Tithe by Holly Black, The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander, The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie, Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson)
Stories Read: 2 ("The Death of a Government Clerk" and "The Sly Little Boy" by Anton Chekhov)
Mini-Challenges Participated In: 10

Hour Fourteen

I'm absolutely loving the mini-challenges! Wow-these cheerleaders are super-inventive. :) This hour, I'm supposed to decide what I would serve at a book group meeting to discuss one of the books I've been reading. I just finished Gods in Alabama (and it was a great read!), but I also really want to talk about Russian food, so I'm going to do two version!

First, let's say we're meeting for Gods in Alabama, a book about the South. Since we're talking about finger food, I'd probably serve fried chicken and cornbread with sweet sun tea and some kind of pie for dessert. :) Glorious! For The Kitchen Boy, I'd serve black tea with guest's choice of sugar, lemon, and raspberry preserves, along with blinchiki. Blinchiki are a food made out of blini (the Russian version of crepes)-the difference is that blini are flat while blinchiki are stuffed with yummy fillings (I'd offer an apple filling or a ricotta cheese/yogurt/sugar/currants mix-those were my host mom's specialities). There'd definitely be candy as well; Russians have a hardcore sweet tooth, and Russian adults eat candy with the abandon of American kids. Of course, if we could upgrade it to an actual meal, I'd make borscht (I have a delicious recipe), and serve it with huge dollops of sour cream, fresh dill, and black bread. Hmmmm...borscht.

Well, now that I've made myself hungry, lol, I'm going to take a little break from the fast reading I've been doing, and try out Sara's mini-challenge. I'll be reading some of Chekhov's short stories in Russian, so my pages/hr average is about to drop substantially. ;)

Books Read (this hour): Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson
Pages Read (cum.): 1170
Books Completed: 4 (Tithe by Holly Black, The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander, The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie, Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson)
Mini-Challenges Participated In: 9

Hour Thirteen

No mini-challenge this hour, which is probably good, since I'm quite caught up in Jackson's book! I love the South (it kinda reminds me of Russia, in that I love it and hate it at the same time, lol), and thanks to Maggie's Southern Reading Challenge earlier this year, I realised how much I enjoy the genre. I saw this book reviewed a few times back then, and then I went to B&N and found it on clearance. Yay! I plan to finish this one by 9, and then start on Sara's mini-challenge of reading in another language. Girding my loins, as they say! (at least, I think that's what they say) Oh-I've also passed the 1,000 page mark! Very exciting. :) And Blogger still isn't letting me post pictures, which is less than exciting. Those tacos were cute, lol, and I had plans for some other pictures as the night progresses. I'll just hope it fixes itself soon. :)

Books Read (this hour): Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson
Pages Read (cum.): 1036
Books Completed: 3 (Tithe by Holly Black, The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander, The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie)
Mini-Challenges Participated In: 8

Hour Twelve

Half-Time alert! This week's half-time entertainment? A picture of Eva's dinner...
(Note: picture pending...Blogger isn't letting me upload pics :( )
two tacos loaded with beans, cheese, yummy salsa from a Mexican restaurant, and homemade guacamole (my guacamole has been responsible for converting several former guac-haters). Simple, but fast. I'm a taco fiend, maybe from living in San Antonio (home of the original Taco Cabanas) for so long. I probably have at least one taco six days a week!

Additional entertainment provided by Dewey's meme...

1. What are you reading right now? Godsin Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson

2. How many books have you read so far? 3

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? good question! probably Marked or Good Omens...maybe The Wisdom of Father Brown

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? I don't have kids, but I do live with my parents and baby niece (I'm the nanny). I just stressed that I would be reading all day, and they've been really good about it so far.

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? Just a few, and they were fun ones (like my sister bringing my niece in to attack me w/ lamb chops kitchen mitts). I looked at them as welcome breaks! My biggest interruption from reading has been checking out all the blogs. :)

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? Just how much it feels like a little community; I've gotten a ton of comments on my posts, and I've left a ton of comments as well. It really feels special. :) That, and how fast the hours are flying by!

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Not so far!

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? So far, nothing really.

9. Are you getting tired yet? Nope! (I've been trying to drink caffeine regularly every couple of hours)

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered? Well, the starting things off with a YA novel seemed very helpful, but other than that not much. :)

Well, as you might have noticed from the meme, I have put Lud-in-the-Mist aside for the moment. It's delightful, but I'm not in the right mood for it. So, this hour I grabbed Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson. I'm a little over 50 pages in and enjoying it!

Books Read (this hour): Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson
Pages Read (cum.): 957
Books Completed: 3 (Tithe by Holly Black, The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander, The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie)
Mini-Challenges Participated In: 8

Hour Eleven

Wow! The read-a-thon is almost half over. I didn't get to do much of any reading this hour (about ten pages), between catching up w/ other readers, making tea, and then going for a walk like Dewey suggested. I took my baby niece and my dog and went up to the mailbox. And guess what was waiting there for me?! Two bookmooches and a box of books (they're free in exchange for me reviewing them at Curled Up). If this isn't a pick me up, I don't know what is!

And with that, I'm going to get back to my reading. :D

Books Read (this hour): Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrless
Pages Read (cum.): 895
Books Completed: 3 (Tithe by Holly Black, The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander, The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie)
Mini-Challenges Participated In: 7

Hours Seven-Ten

Whew! So, B&N was quite nice (a think of a change of scenery is always good). While at the store, I read through the Agatha Christie (hour seven: 62 pages, hour eight: 85 pages, hour nine: 74 pages) and then began Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrless (hour ten: 54 pages). I enjoyed the Christie, although I don't think it's one of her best. So far, Lud-in-the-Mist is really, really good. The style is very fairy-tale like (it's recommended by Neil Gaiman), so it's quite soothing. It's for adults, however! A nice change of pace; more the kind of book that settle into slowly than a fast read.

Here are two mini-challenges I missed while I was away.

Jessica started the read-a-thon this afternoon. So far, she's enjoying Murakami's Norwegian Wood; I read this book earlier this year and loved it! Alison is in the Pretties and feeling a little tired. Fortunately, her son is there to make her S'Mores! Deb just cracked open The Case of the Missing Books, which is a mystery that I've heard decidely mixed reviews about. Can't wait to see what she thinks!

The other one is to write a letter to an author. Here's mine to Robert Alexander.
Dear Mr. Alexander,
Thank you so much for writing
The Kitchen Boy. Reading it brought me back to my time studying abroad in Russia, which was very precious for me. You're obviously a very talented writer, and you're equally obviously in love with that crazy, contradictory, beautiful country. I see that you studided in Leningrad; St. Petersburg was my first introduction to Russia, and I think that it's the most beautiful city I've ever seen (and thatn includes Paris and Venice!). I hope that you write many more books set in historical Russia, since I'm much more interested in the pre-Soviet Union era of the country. Reading your book was a true joy.
Books Read (these hours): Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrless, The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie
Pages Read (cum.): 887
Books Completed: 3 (Tithe by Holly Black, The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander, The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie)
Mini-Challenges Participated In: 6

Hour Six

Whew-so I 'officially' finished my second book this hour (to see my full thoughts on it, check out Hour Five). Then, I decided I was in the mood for an Agatha Christie. I had just grabbed it randomly off my library's shelves, and it turned out to be one of the Ariadna Oliver mysteries (although she's more a bit player). It has a great opening paragraph:
The Espresso machine behind my shoulder hissed like an angry snake. The noise it made had a sinister, not to say deveilish, suggestion about it. Perhaps, I reflected, most of our contemporary noises carry that implication. The intimidating angry scream of jet planes as they flash across the sky, the slow menacing rumble of a tube train approaching through its tunnel; the heavy road transport that shakes the very foundations of your house...even the minor domestic noises of today, beneficial in action though they may be, yet carry a kind of alert. The dishwashers, the refrigerators, the pressure cookers, the whining vacuum cleaners. "Be careful," they all seem to say. "I am a genie harnessed to your service, but if your control of me fails..."
The mini-challenge for this hour is to do 'reader advisory.' I'll go with the three books I've spent time with today.
Tithe by Holly Black: I think teens who likes faeries/fantasy would eat this book up, and adults who aren't phased by the more obvious YA aspects to the book will probably enjoy it as well. It reminds me a little bit of I Once Was a Teenage Fairy, since they're both YA and fantasy oriented, with main characters who experience rather troubled homelifes. The urban fantasy aspect of the book is reminiscent of Charles de Lint, but it's not on the same level. Urban fantasy and YA are both genres new to me, so I can't think of any more connections (maybe Stephanie Meyer's vampire series, which sounds YA and urban fantasy-ish, but I haven't read any).
The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander: people who enjoy historical fiction should jump all over this one, as well as those interested in pre-USSR Russia (you can tell the author put a lot of research into it). It's pretty bare-bones at 226 pages, so don't expect a lush romance (a la Diana Gabaldon) or a decades-spanning epic (a la The Crimson and the White). At heart, this is a story about people, the choices they make, and how they deal with those choices. Readers who enjoyed Atonment by Ian McEwan will probably really like this one, and vice versa.
The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie: I'm not too far into this one, but it seems to me that mystery readers in general have their 'type.' My type happens to my British mysteries; if readers like Agatha Christie and are looking for similar authors, I'd highly recommend Ngaio Marsh and Dorothy Sayers. If they're looking for well-written, tightly-plotted mysteries in general, I'd toss in Ellis Peters. But if they find Christie a little too plot-driven, and want more focus on characters and why people do the things they do, I'd happily send them towards Laurie King's Mary Russell series or P.D. James. (Told you I was a British mystery buff; although King is American, her series is mostly set in England)

I leave you with that, and I may not be around for the next couple hours. I'd like to go to Barnes & Noble and read there for a little change of scenery, and it'd be too much of a hassle to bring my laptop. On the other hand, it's Saturday, so it might just be crazy crowded there. But don't worry about me if you don't hear from me for two or three hours; after that, I'll definitely be back with even more reading to report!

Books Read (this hour): The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander, The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie
Pages Read (cum.): 612
Books Completed: 2 (Tithe by Holly Black, The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander)
Mini-Challenges Participated In: 4

Hour Five

I'm updating early this hour, because I'm about to lose myself in an Agatha Christie. :) I've finished The Kitchen Boy, but I had to read into this hour to do it, so I'll actually count it in my Hour Six post (does that make sense?). I partly expected the twist, partly not. The writing was so lush; now I'm going to have to track down Rasputin's Daughter. Hehe-while I was in Russia, I bought "Rasputin" tea (mainly because there was a creepy picture of him), so I'll have to break that out as well! I think most people would enjoy The Kitchen Boy: it's a slim read that immediately plunges you into another world. The author makes sure to provide translations when he sprinkles in Russian words (and, of course, the words aren't in Cyrillic, but transliterated into our alphabet); however, some people might be annoyed by being unsure how to pronounce the Russian. Or, this could just be a pet peeve of mine when I'm reading books set in other countries and don't get a pronunciation guide. :) Still, it comes highly recommended! No mini-challenge this hour, but I did break for lunch.

Yummy-homemade Welsh Rarebit soup w/ Pumpernickel Croutons (I'm a crouton fanatic; I made these from store-bought Pumpernickel bread). The dark bread was very Russian feeling! And, of course, ice tea to keep me caffeinated. :D

So far, I'm really loving how community-like this read-a-thon feels. I try to go to at least a few blogs every hour (I've made it through the blogroll one and a half times), and that seems to be pretty common amongst all the readers. Of course, the cheerleaders are just awesome! What a fun way to spend a Saturday. :D

Books Read (this hour): The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander
Pages Read (cum.): 537
Books Completed: 1 (Tithe by Holly Black)
Mini-Challenges Participated In: 3

Hour Four

Really? Have I already done four hours of reading? Time sure does fly! It feels like just a moment ago I was cracking open the first page. :)

I spend all of this hour with The Kitchen Boy, which is proving to be immensely satisfying. I'm over half way done with it, and I smell a twist or two coming! We'll have to see though. ;)

The mini-challenge for this hour is running for the entire read-a-thon, which is good because it's a big one (w/ a big prize of $20 at Amazon)-read for one hour in a language that isn't your native tongue. I have books in French and Russian, so I'll definitely be participating (right now I'm leaning towards my Chekhov short stories or my little book of Tolstoy collections), but I'm not up for it right now. I'm not bilingual, and written Russian (esp. pre-USSR lit) is quite different from spoken Russian, so it takes a bit of concentration. Should be worth it, though!

Books Read (this hour): The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander
Pages Read (cum.): 458
Books Completed: 1 (Tithe by Holly Black)
Mini-Challenges Participated In: 3

Hour Three

First off, so that everyone realises why I went through Tithe so quickly, here's a random page shot. Note the gloriously large text and the rather square pages. I don't usually read that quickly.

This hour, I finished up Tithe; I'm uncertain as to whether to award it three or four stars. Parts of it were very good, other parts not so much. Overall, I'd recommend it for people who enjoy urban fantasy, and don't mind a somewhat clunky writing style and teens who engage in sketchy behavior (lol-like sixteen-year-olds smoking and hooking up). After I was done with that, I decided I wanted a complete change of pace, so I went with The Kitchen Boy, a historical novel by Robert Alexander set in Russia when it was becoming the USSR. It recounts the last days of the Russian royal family's lives. So far, I'm in love with Alexander's style. He captures the Russian tone really well; also, since I speak Russian, I adore the Russian words and phrases he scatters around. I can hear various Russians I knew speaking them. I can already tell I'm going to be sad when this one ends (it's barely 200 pages)!

Finally, here's a really neat mini-challenge over at Taylor the Teacher. I opened my book, and the first words I saw were "Russia's black ingratitude." I'm not a writer, but I'm supposed to write a few lines about that (what a heavy phrase!) So here I go:

I can't always understand
Russia's black ingratitude for what it's become.
When it rose, out of the ashes of communism,
didn't we capitalists take it under its wing?
And if that led to the oligarchs, who spend Russia's wealth buying football teams, and a falling life expectancy, and dissatisfied youth,
then they must still be commies.

(Note: just in case it isn't clear, this was *ironic*; I'm bashing neoliberalism, not Russia or communism...just wanted to cover my bases)

Books Read: Tithe by Holly Black, The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander
Pages Read (cum.): 379
Books Completed: 1
Mini-Challenges Participated In: 3

Hour Two

I'm sooo close to being done with Tithe, but the high-paced plotting has slowed down a little. So, I wanted to do my blogging break early this hour, and I think I'm going to go get some more caffeine (last night I didn't get too much sleep; probably not a good way to prepare for a 24 hour challenge!)

First off, this hour Dewey has challenged everyone to visit Becky and Athena this hour. I'm not sure if Becky's still doing the readathon (no posts up about it), but she is signing up for a Hometown Challenge. It sounds really neat, but since I don't have a hometown (Air Force brat), I'll be skipping it! Athena's in the middle of the latest Thursday Next book (First Among Sequels), which I'm totally jealous of. I've read the first two in the series, and if Fforde keeps improving, I'm sure 3-5 are great as well!

Now, for some stats.

Books Read" Tithe by Holly Black
Pages Read (cum.): 257
Books Completed: 0
Mini-Challenges Participated In: 2

Hour One

Whew-Tithe was definitely a good chocie to start off with; I'm racing through it. An interesting plot, plus big type and small pages make me feel like I'm really achieving something! At first, I was turned off by the writing style (not as polished as I would've liked), but once I relaxed I found myself enjoying the story enough to overlook it. Now I want to get back to it, so without further ado,

Books Read: Tithe by Holly Black
Pages Read: 132
Books Completed: 0
Mini-Challenges Participated In: 1

ETA: From now on, I'll check Dewey's blog *before* my own post. She has a neat mini-challenge up, and the book I'm reading is set in New Jersey (well, and faerieland, lol). Five interesting facts (via Wikipedia):
1. The Swedes and Dutch were first to settle the area.
2. Washington wintered there twice during the Revolution.
3. There are about 8.7 people living in NJ, creating a population density of 1,175/sq mile (the highest in the nation!).
4. A lot of oil refineries are there-6 major ones that process about 728,000 barrels a day.
5. Same-sex couples can have civil unions in New Jersey (as of Feb 2007).

Friday, October 19, 2007

Hour Zero

I'm so excited! Almost enough that I don't notice how early it is. Whew. 7 on a Saturday. But, I'm prepared. Here's my breakfast of (reading) champions: a huge cup of sweet, milky Early Grey and a buttered everything bagel.

I'm dressed for comfort; big Old Navy sweatpants that I stole from an ex-boyfriend three years ago and a sleeping cami. And here is the bookpile...

I've decided to begin with Tithe, a YA Urban Fantasy novel. It seems like it'd be a pretty easy, and fun, read, so I good way to ease into the morning (did I mention it's 7 AM here?!).

Shout out to all my fellow Readers, and the super-kind Cheerleaders, and the super-amazing Dewey for planning and hosting this whole thing. Here's to a glorious day of reading for us all!

I'm Ba-ack!

I haven't posted for a whole week; that certainly hasn't happened in awhile! I was sick until around Tuesdayish, and then my sister got into town on Wednesday. It's been pretty busy around here.

However, I'm back just in time to remind everyone about Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon. It's tomorrow, but you still have a little bit of time to sign up. There are going to be a ton of prizes, if you need any more incentive to read. I'm still participating (stay tuned for pictures of the books I've been stockpiling for this challenge), so that means that tomorrow I'll provide enough reading material to make up for a week's worth of silence.

Then, it turns out that my niece is going to be out of town for a week, beginning Sunday night. That means, basically, a week of paid vacation! So much reading time! I'm very, very excited.

Well, I'm off to visit the other participants and cheerleaders for the Read-a-Thon. It's good to be back. :)

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Good, the Bad, and...

I'm too tired to write in real paragraphs, so here's what's going on in my head this Friday:

The Good: inspired by Chris' mention of the book review siteCurled Up with a Good Book, that offers free books in exchange for reviews, I submitted a sample. Today, I received an e-mail asking me to pick out a few books that they'll send my way!

The Bad: just a few books? The list was really, really long, and there were a ton of good ones on there. Finally, I narrowed it down to six (3 fic, 3 non-fic) that all sound enjoyable.

The Ugly: now, I have to (im)patiently wait for the books to arrive.

Well, that one's mainly good I suppose. :)

The Good: since the weather is more fall-like, I've been drinking lots of hot tea and making soup!

The Bad: since the weather is more fall-like, I have an icky cold.

The Ugly: I got my nose pierced two weeks ago. And now I have a cold. I'll leave the rest up to you!

And with that, I'm off to finish the last twenty pages of So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson. I received in the mail today after bookmooching it, and I've simply devoured it. Good book + hot tea + comfy bed = the cold isn't as bad as it could be.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Five Five-Stars

October is turning into a crazy-busy month, and I'm not really sure why. I missed my Fast Food Nation Tuesday yesterday; sorry-look for it next week! In the meantime, my 'to-be-discussed' pile has gotten out of control. Looking at it depresses me, and I've decided that there's only one way to feel in control again. Here's a whirlwind tour of the books I've read recently that rated five stars. There's a variety of genres here, so hopefully you'll find something that sounds good!

True Notebooks by Mark Salzman

This is a true account of the author's first year of teaching a creative writing course at a juvenile hall in LA. Included are many works by the kids, and for me this book really changed my perspective on somethings. Like the author, in the beginning I expected the kids in juve would be violent, bitter, and certainly not interested in creative writing. However, I quickly discovered that the kids were just that-kids, who had definitely gotten into the wrong crowd. Most of them knew it however, and they used the writing class as a way to try to figure out what they were going to do with their lives, either if they got out or if they were sentenced. Most of the kids Salzman taught were in for murder, so he sees several of them sent into the adult system. Salzman is a remarkable writer; he brings the reader along on his own journey, so that in the beginning, the reader sees the stereotypes of the inmates and the guards. Only through the evolution of the book does the reader realise that these stereotypes don't really hold true. Salzman is also a very funny writer. The way he ended up teaching a class at juve was that his friend (Duane), who was already a teacher, invited him to come observe for a day. Salzman was unsure, so he listed the pros and cons.
Reasons Not to Visit Duane's Writing Class at Juvenile Hall
-students all gangbangers; feel unqualified to evaluate poems about AK-47s
-still angry about getting mugged in 1978
-still angry about having my apartment robbed in 1986
-still angry about my wife's car being stolen in 1992
-wish we could title L.A. County and shake it until everybody with a shaved head and tattoos falls into the ocean
-feel uncomfortable around teenagers

Reasons to Visit Duane's Class at Juvenile Hall
-have never seen the inside of a jail
-pretended to be enthusiastic when Duane mentioned it
Salzman's willingness to be completely honest makes for compulsive reading; I read this in two sittings. I'll be looking for Iron and Silk, Salzman's account of two years teaching English in China. I highly, highly recommend this book to everyone. I only have a couple of quotes here, but that's because most of the books works as a whole, and it'd be silly to quote three pages. :)

Favourite Passages
Sister Janet Harris was nearly seventy years old but looked two or three decades younger. She had a lovely smile and a pleasing voice-I wanted to like her right away-but the fact that she was a nun and that she worked in a prison made me wary. I couldn't help thinking of the film Dead Man Walking, which I disliked in spite of not having seen it. (22)

I asked Patrick what made someone else an "enemy"; what were the gangs really fighting over?
"Nothing at all," he answered immediately. "It's exactly like a video game, where you're just racking up points and trying to end up with a higher score than anybody else. That's your rep. The fact that it's dangerous only makes it a hundred times more fun. An enemy is anynoe who's playing against you." (111)

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Yep-I found my other Banned Books Read! Turns out I put it in the big bag that I keep all the library books I've already read in. I'm smart sometimes. I'm glad that I found it, though, because I definitely wanted to finish it. This is a short novel written as the diary or observations of eleven-year-old Esperanza (and don't get her started on her name!). She discusses the people in her life, especially all of her nieghbours on Mango Street, as well as some key incidents. There isn't much of a plot to this one, but I revelled in the writing style. There's something very innocent in its straightforwardness that's just addictive. Take a look:
Sally is the girl with eyes like Egypt and nylons the color of smoke. The boys at school think she's beautiful because her hair is shiny black like raven feathers and when she laughs, she flicks her hair back like a satin shawl over her shoulders and laughs. Her father says to be this beautiful is trouble. They are very strict in his religion. They are not supposed to dance. He remembers his ssters and is sad. Then she can't go out. Sally I mean.
I'm in awe of Cisnero's ability; her prose has a startling, almost luminous quality to it. What a wonderful book to spend an afternoon getting lost in!

The Stolen Child by Keith Donahue

This book was everything I had hoped for and more. I read it for the Unread Author Challenge. It begins with a little boy in America being stolen; while a changeling takes his place in the real world, the boy becomes a faery in the forest. From then on, the chapters alternate as both the changeling and the boy react to new environments and begin to grow. The book spans between twenty and thirty years, and the story telling is breathtaking. I just wish that this wasn't Donahue's first novel; I want to be able to wrap myself up in his writing! In fact, I purposely slowed down my reading for this book to try to make it last. The very first page draws you in, and it doesn't let up until the end!

Favourite Passages
Don't call me a fairy. We don't like to be called fairies anymore. Once upon a time, fairy was a perfectly acceptable catchall for a variety of creatures, but now it has taken on too many associations. Etymologically speaking, a fairy is something quite particular, related in kind to the naids, or water nymphs, and while of the genus, we are sui generis. The word fairy is drawn from fay (Old French fee), which itself comes from Latin Fata, the goddess of fate. The fay lived in groups called the faerie, between the heavenly and earthly realms. (1)

Racking my brain to find a way to get through to them, I recalled other occasions when I had encountered something in the forest as helpless and dangerous as these two human children. (8)

Speck lifted her head skyward to gather in the shadow of wings beating through the air. When they had all landed, the blackbirds fanned out their tails as they paraded to the wild raspberries, hopping to a tangle of shoots to gorge themselves. The glen echoed with their chatter. She reached around my back and put her hand on my far shoulder, then rested her head against mine. The sunlight danced in patterns on the grown thron by leaves blowing in the breeze. (186)

"I wonder what it is like to hold a baby in my arms, feel like a grown-up woman instead of sticks and bones. I remember my mother, so soft in unexpected places-rounder, fuller, deeper. Stronger than you'd expect by looking." (186)

When the chance arose over those next few years, Speck and I would steal away to sleep in the relative peace and luxury beneath the library. We threw ourselves into our books and papers. We read the Greeks in translation, Clytemnestra in her grief, Antigone's honor in a thing coating of earth. Grendel prowling the bleak Danish night. The pilgrims of Canterbury and lives on the road. Maxims of Pope, the rich clot of humanity in all Shakespeare, Milton's angels and aurochs, Guliver big, little, wahoo. Wild ecstasies of Keats. Shelly's Frankenstein. Rip Van Winkle sleeping it off. Speck insisted on Austen, Eliot, Emerson, Thoreau, the Brontes, Alcott, Nesbitt, Rossetti, both Brownings, and especially Alice down the rabiit hole. We worked our way right up to the present age, chewing through the books like a pair of silverfish. (205)

Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde

This is the second book in the Thursday Next series (appropriate, since I read it for the 2nds Challenge., and I'm so glad that I gave The Eyre Affair (the first one) a second chance. This one is way, way better than The Eyre Affair! Thursday Next travels between even more books, Miss Havisham is a main character, and all of my favourites from the first book are back. :) This is the best kind of brain candy imaginable; it's like eating candy that's healthy for you! Everyone who enjoys books should give this series a try; if the first one scares you off, because it feels too sci-fi ish (that's what happened to me), give this one a try before writing off the series. Fforde doesn't have to spend as much time world building in this one, which gives him more time to create a ripping good read!

A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel

Imani recommended this one to me awhile ago, and I happened to have it on my shelves (I remember buying it for only a few bucks in a bargain pile). Manguel (who seems to have had a pretty cool life) traces reading through the ages, and touches on what many great Western thinkers had to say about the act. The book is a remarkable synthesis of personal anecdotes and extensive research (there're quite a few endnotes). Chapters have names like "The Missing First Page," "Being Read To," "Reading within Walls," and "The Translator as Reader." It's a pleasure to see someone who loves reading explore his passion. The other great thing about this book is that there are lots of pictures scattered throughout the text, which is unusual and neat. Also, the chapter lengths are just about perfect for leisurely reading; most of the chapters feel likes self-contained essays anyway. Oh, and my version (paperback, ISBN0670843024) came with a really neat little poster called "The Reader's Timeline." I think anyone who loves reading will love this book. If you don't believe me, check out the massive amount of quotes below.

Favourite Passages
I also read according to what I thought a book was supposed to be (labelled by the author, by the publisher, by another reader). At twelve I read Chekhov's The Hunt in a series of detective novels and, believing Chekhov to be a Russian thriller writer, then read "Lady with a Lapdog" as if it had been composed by a rival of Conan Doyle's-and enjoyed it, even though I thought the mystery rather thin. (14)

In that sitting-room, under a Piranesi engraving of circular Roman ruins, I read Kipling, Stevenson, Henry James, several entries of the Brockhaus German encyclopedia, verses of Marino, of Enrique Banchs, of Beine...I had not read many of these authors before, so the ritual was a curious one. I would discover a text by reading it out loud, while borges used his ears as other readers use their eyes, to scan the page for a word, for a sentence, for a paragraph that would confirm a memory. (17)

Reading, then, is not an automatic process of capturing text in the way photosensitive paper captures light, but a bewildering, labyrinthine, common and yet personal process of reconstruction. Whether reading is independent from, for instance, listening, whether it is a single distinctive set of psychological processes or consists of a great variety of such processes, researchers don't yet know, but many believe that its complexity may be as great as thinking itself. (39)

The medieval scholars relied on their own memory of books they had read, whose pages they could conjure up like living ghosts....Eventually the scholars of the Renaissance, improving on Aquinas' method, suggested the mental construction of architectural models-palaces, theatres, cities, the realms of heaven and hall-in which to lodge whatever they wished to remember. These models were highly elaborate constructions, erected in the mind over time and made sturdy through use, and proved for centuries to be immensely efficient. (61)

I would settle down (at night, but also often during the day, since frequent bouts of asthma kept me trapped in my bed for weeks) and, propped up high against the pillows, listen to my nurse read Grimms' terrifying fairy-tales. Sometimes her voice put me to sleep; sometimes, on the contrary, it made me feverish with excitement, and I urged her on ino rder to find out, more quickly than the author had intended, what happened in the story. But most of the time I simply enjoyed the luxurious sensation of being carried away by the words, and felt, in a very physical sense, that I was actually travelling somewhere wonderfully remote, to a place that I hardly dared glimpse on the secret last page of the book. (110)

[The creator of the Penguin book series] went to see the buyer for the vast Woolworth general store chain, a Mr. Clifford Prescott, who demured; the idea of selling books like any other merchandise, together with sets of socks and tins of tea, seemed to him somehow ludicrous. By chance, at that very moment Mrs. Prescott entered her husband's office. Askw ath she thogh, she responded enthusiastically. Why not, she asked. Why should books not be treated as everyday objexts, as necessary and as available as socks and tea? (144)

Whether we first choose the book and then an appropriate corner, or first find the corner and then decide what book will fit the corner's mood, there is no doubt that the act of reading in time requires a corresponding act of reading in place, and the relationship between the two is inextricable. There are books I read in armchairs, and there are books I read at desks; there are books I read in subways, on streetcars and on buses. I find that books read in trains have something of the quality of books read in armchairs, perhaps because in both I can easily abstract myself from my surroundings. (151)

Reading in bed is a self-centered act, immobile, free from ordinary social conventions, invisible to the world, and one that, because it takes place between the sheets, in the realm of lust and sinful idleness, has something of the thrill of things forbidden. (153)

Rooms, corridors, bookcases, shelves, filing cards and computerized catalogues assume that the subjects on which our thoughts dwell are actual entities, and through this assumption a certain book may be lent a particular tone and value. Filed under Fiction, Jonathan Swift's
Gulliver's Travels is a humorous novel of adventure; under Sociology, a satirical study of England in the eighteenth century; under Children's Literature, an entertaining fable about dwarfs and giants and talking horses; under Fantasy, a precursor of science fiction; under Travel, an imaginary voyage; under Classics, a part of the Western literary canon. Categories are exclusive; reading is not-or should not be. Whatever classifications have been chosen, every library tyrannizes the act of reading, and forces the reader-the curious reader, the alert reader-to rescue the book from the category to which it has been condemned. (199)

A cousin of mine from Buenos Aires was deeply aware that books could function as a badge, a sign of alliance, and always chose a book to take on her travels with the same care with which she chose her handbag. (214)

But I know that the main reason I hold onto this ever-increasing hoard is a sort of voluptuous greed. I enjoy the sight of my crowded bookshelves, full of more or less familiary names. I delight in knowing that I'm surrounded by a sort of inventory of my life, with intimations of my future. I like discovering, in almost forgotten volumes, traces of the reader I once was-scribbles, bus tickets, scraps of paper with mysterious names and numbers, the occasional date and place on the book's flyleaf which take me back to a certain cafe, a distant hotel room, a faraway summer so long ago. (238)

The act of reading establishes an intimate, physical relationship in which all the senses have a part: the eyes drawing the words from the page, the ears echoing the sounds og being read, the nose inhaling the familiar scent of paper, glue, ink, cardboard, or leather, the touch caressing the rough or soft page, the smooth or hard binding; even the taste, at times, when reader's fingers are lifted to the tongue... (244)

We know that we are reading even while suspending disbelief; we know why we read even when we don't know how, holding in our mind at the same time, as it were, the illusionary text and the act of reading. We read to find the end, for the story's sake. We read not to reach it, for the sake of the reading itself. We read searchingly, like trackers, oblivious of our surroundings. We read distractedly, skipping pages. We read contemptuously, admiringly, negligently, angrily, passionalte, enviously, longingly. We read in gusts of sudden pleasure, without knowing that brought the pleasure along....We read in slow, long motions, as if drifting in space, weightless. We read full of prejudice, malignantly. We read generously, making excuses for the text, filling gaps, mending faults. Amd somewtimes, when the stars are kind, we read with an intake of breath, with a shudder, as if someone or something had "walked over our grave", as if a memory had suddenly been rescued from a place deep within us-the recognition os something we never knew was there, or of something we vaguely falt as a licker or a shadow, whose ghostly form rises and passes back into us before we can see what it is, leaving us older and wiser. (303)

Monday, October 8, 2007

Short Story Sunday (maybe in Asia?) and a Tiny Challenge

I'm a day late again; I completely blanked that yesterday was Sunday! However, since I was stuck in bed/on the couch with a cold, I ended up finishing Witches' Brew today. That leaves me with five stories to discuss, so I'll be brief.

I was very hesitant going into "The Birds" by Daphne du Marier, since I'm not a fan of the movie, but it ended up to be great. Nothing like the movie and a lot more sinister. It tells the story of what a country man does to try to protect his family when all of the birds in England mysteriously begin attacking people. Highly recommended!

On the other hand, Mary Elizabeth Counselman's "Night Court" left me cold. One night, a reckless driver gets into yet another crash and finds himself summoned to a court conducted by victims of car accidents. It was way too preachy for me to enjoy. And I saw the 'twist' a mile away.

After that, I had a real treat with "The Lovely House" by Shirley Jackson. A young girl goes to visit her friend in a big old house. But things take an odd turn or two. The ending doesn't wrap everything up; Jackson leaves that up to the reader, which I really appreciate. I'm thinking I really need to read more by Shirley Jackson (I've also read "The Lottery").

"Kindling Point" by Marcia Muller (one of the editors of the anthology, which I find sketchy) felt like an assignment for a college writing class. Take that as you will, but I found it a bit too simplistic and juvenile to enjoy. A woman in an old Victorian finds out that her daughter is talking to ghosts through a Ouijia (sp?) board; the ghosts' story seems to be eerily reflective of the present day.

And the final story was Joyce Carol Oates' "The Bingo Master." This story was very powerful, however it didn't have the slightest element of horror or supernatural or spookiness. So, I'm not sure why it's in the collection, but I'm glad I read it. I don't really want to share a plot summary, since it's the kind of writing that draws much of its power from the unfolding.

There you have it, a whirlwind tour of the last part of Witches' Brew. I'm glad I found this anthology, but I find it was of mixed quality; either the stories were incredible or bad, nothing in between.

Now for the little, bitty challenge (don't look at me that way). Literate Kitten is hosting a horror short story challenge. She's listed her top ten spooky stories and is challenging participants to read just one of them during the month of October. Also, she'd like it if participants provided their own list of ten horror tales. A lot of her selections sound very good, but I've decided to commit myself to "The Monkey's Paw." I'll also be reading another of her picks (the Isak Dinesen) as part of one of my R.I.P. II books. Makes me more excited to read it! I'm not sure if I can come up with ten good creepy stories, but I'll try...

"The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allen Poe. I found this incredibly creepy, and I'm pretty sure it gave me nightmares for quite awhile.

The Birds" by Daphne du Marier. You can tell I didn't read a lot of horror short stories before the R.I.P. II challenge!

"The Lovely House" by Shirley Jackson (see above)

"Riding the Bullet" by Stephen King. I think King is scarier in short story form than novel form, and a lot of the stories in Everything's Eventual were creepy. This one has stayed with me, though.

""Snow, Glass, Apples" by Neil Gaiman. Oh my gosh-this is easily one of the creepiest stories I've ever read. It actually made the hair on my arms stand up.

"The Thing in the Wood" by A.S. Byatt. Also a very spooky tale, one that I still remember vividly after six years.

And, um, that's all I'm coming up with right now. I don't have much experience with short stories. However, my next trip to the library should help change that; I'll be coming home with the ss collections by Joyce Carol Oates, John Saul, Peter Straub, Dean Koontz, and the Oxford Book of Gothic Tales. Yay for ghost stories in October!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen (thoughts)

I have waited far too long to discuss my first read for the Outmoded Authors challenge: Elizabeth Bowen's The Last September. This relatively domestic book is set in 1920s Anglo-Ireland, and the writing is quietly, unobtrusively beautiful. It follows one Anglo-Irish family, especially Lois. Lois is in her late teens or early twenties, and still trying to find herself. The various cast of characters that wander in and out of Lois' life cause her to examine her own values and goals.

The book's strength is its cast of memorable characters who all seemed to reflect my own hidden fears or desires. The other strength is that Bowen leaves something up to the reader. She's willing to hold back a little, requiring you to fill in a few of the blanks.

This book was a pleasure to read, rather like a contemporary Jane Austen (and I don't make that comparison lightly). I will definitely be hunting down more of Bowen's work, and I hope that they're all this good! I highly recommend me this to everyone who likes domestic fiction and good writing.

Favourite Passages

A thought that fifty years hence she might well, is she wished, be sitting here on the steps, with or without rheumatism-having penetrated thirty years deeper ahead into time that they could-gave her a feeling of mysteriousness and destination. And she was fitted for this by being twice as complex as their generation-for she must be: double as many people having gone to the making of her. (36)

He had seemed annoyed at her being young when he wasn't. She could not hope to explain that her youth seemed to her also rather theatrical and that she was only young in that way because grown-up people expected it. She had never refused a role. She could not forgo that intensification, that kindling of her personality at being consiered very happy and reckless even if she were not. She could not hope to assure him she was not enjoying anything he had missed, that she was now onconvinced and anxious but intended to be quite certain, by the time she was his age, that she had once been happy. (40)

Laurence achieved this escape by sitting always with a social alert expression between two groups; when one tried to claim him he could affect to be engaged by the other. (54)

Lois was forced to state that there
was a man in the Rutlands, a Gerland Lesworth, whom she had found affecting. She supposed there was no question as to his being intrigued; people seemed to notice. So Viola wrote back, she must hear all about him, should have heard before; her Lol was really the final Sphinx. She wanted to know, to see, to hear him, even to smell him-because all the nicest men did smell, didn't they, indefinitely but divinely. (69-70)

"Gerald is so matter-of-fact. Nothing could make him a tragedy." (91)

"Hugo, how
could you let her get so wet!"
"My dear, I am not an umbrella." (129)

The mill startled them all, staring light-eyed, ghoulishly, round a bend of the valley. Lois had to come hurrying up to explain how it frightened her. In fact, she wouldn't for worlds go into it but liked going as near as she dated. It was a fear she didn't wat to get over, a kind of deliciousness. (178)

Visitors took form gradually in his household, coming out of a haze of rumour, and seemed but lightly, pleasantly superimposed on the vital pattern till a departure tore great shreds from the season's texture. (200)

Impressed by the strangeness, by this pressure of emergency, Lois plaited her hair in two plaits instead of one and felt herself a different woman. (274)

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Playing Catch-Up

These last few days have been pure craziness; barely any time for me to drink a cup of tea and read a book, much less time to flop into my armchair here and write a post. So, here's what I would have posted about in the last few days, if I'd had the time.

+The latest edition of Estella's Revenge is up! My favourites this time were the interview with the owner of The Sleuth of Bakerstreet, "The Unknown" (about one woman's realisation that she should pursue an MLIS-something I've been thinking about a lot lately), "Sure I Know the Queen" (which discusses first lines, and offers some for the reader's enjoyment), and "From the Bookshop" (a review). All of the articles were a lot of fun, and my TBR list is ever-longer from the great books discussed. Hop on over!

+Danielle pointed out in a comment on my previous post that Perez-Reverte didn't write The Shadow of the Wind. I was thinking of The Club Dumas and mixed up the titles! I'll be fixing this in the original post as well, but thought I'd point it out here. Poor Carlos Ruiz Zafon got short thrift-he's the truth author of The Shadow of the Wind.

+Submissions are open for the latest Book Carnival. As this one is all about spooky books, I'm sure most of us can find a post to submit! Dewey has the indepth info up over at her blog.

+Finally, Banned Books Week! I'm only half way through The House on Mango Street, as it has disappeared (don't tell the library). However, I did read The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier. I must say, I didn't enjoy it all that much. I found it to be an incredibly depressing view of human nature. But that's ok-I still read a banned book! The writing itself was good at least, and I didn't want to put it down while I was reading it. I was enjoying The House on Mango Street quite a bit until it disappeared, so I hope I can finish that one up.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Feeding the Addiction

I really, really need to take the link to Novel Challenges out of my blogroll. For those of you who haven't visited, Wendy posts about every reading challenge she comes across. I believe this makes her a pusher. And here's my latest hit:

the Seafaring Challenge. There are several reasons I'm joining this one:
+the button is just gorgeous, and I want it on my blog
+I never read nautical books, so it'll expand my horizons
+it has a really, really cool set up
+it runs from November to December, so it's after the R.I.P. II challenge and
+it gives me an excuse to use the word "swashbuckling," which has to be one my favourite words ever.

And now, for the book pool:
My library has many of the Master and Commander series (by Patrick O'Brian), so I'll definitely be reading the first of those. My library also has a handy-dandy reference book: Harbors and High Seas, which is an atlas for the series. Since I'm new to this genre, it should be helpful.

I also bookmooched The Nautical Chart by Arturo Perez-Reverte. I wasn't as entranced by The Shadow of the Wind as a lot of people seemed to be, but I did enjoy it. I want to give Perez-Reverte another chance to wow me!

I'm also eyeing my library's copy of Treasure Island, which sounds like a lot of fun! One of those classics I never read, and who can resist pirates? These three would earn me the rank of Commodore (see? I told you it was a neat setup)

If I want to go for Admiral, I have to squeeze in one more book. Fortunately, Danielle (a true ocean afficianado) has provided a great list of possibilities. From that list, I really like Birds of Prey by Wilbur Smith, and my library has a copy of it! Plus, Smith is South African. Along with the Spanish Perez-Reverte, this helps the challenge have a great international flavour. I might even go for the Super Special Admirality rank (kidding-I made that one up) and read The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi. Susan made it sound so appealing, and once again my library has a copy.

One of her 'extras' is Beat to Quarters by C.S. Forester, which is the first (publication-wise) of the Hornblower series. This series looks really good, but unfortunately this one isn't available at the library or bookmooch. :( My library does have the first (chronologically-wise) of the series, but I think it'd be neat to read them in the published order. We'll see.

There ends my list of swashbuckling heroes and dire ne'er-do-wells. Who else is willing to walk the plank? Argh. (hehe-I love this challenge already)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Fast Food Nation (Chp 2)

I almost forgot what day it is! That's right: Tuesday, aka Fast Food Nation day. As stated previously, the book has ten chapters, an introduction, an epilogue, and an afterword, so this feature will go into December. I'm hoping to make the posts a center for thoughtful discussion about the issue, but if that doesn't happen at least I know I'm getting the word out. :) Oh, and to read previous posts on the book, just click on the "fast food nation" tag at the end of this one.

Last week, I promised that this post would get people's blood boiling. Let's see if I can make good on that promise

Chp 2: Notes

+"Walt Disney and Roy Kroc [the guy who made McDonald's a nationwide franchise. -Eva] were masterful salesmen. They perfected the art of selling things to children. And their success led many others to aim marketing efforts at kids, turning America's youngest consumers into a demographic group that is now avidly studied, analyzed, and targeted by the world's largest corporations." (33-4)

+Kroc donated $250K to Nixon's reelection fund in return for presidential support of a bill allowing companies to pay sixteen and seventeen year olds 20% less than minimum wage. Not only did Nixon oblige, he also "permitted McDonald's to raise the price of its Quarter Pounders, despite mandatory wage and price controls restricting other fast food chains." (37)

+"[Kroc] liked to tell people that he was really in show business, not the restaurant business. Promoting McDonald's to children was a clever, pragmatic decision. "A child who loves our TV commercials," Kroc explained, "and brings her grandparents to a McDonald's gives us two more customers." (41)

+"Twenty-five years ago, only a handful of American companies directed their marketing at children-Disney, McDonald's, candy makers, toy makers, manufacturers of breakfast cereal. TOday children are being targeted by phone companies, oil companies, and automobile copmanies, as well as clothing stores and restaurant chains. The explosion in children's advertising occurred during the 1980s. Many working parents, feeling guilty about spending less time with their kids, started spending more money on them. One marketing expert has called the 1980s "the decade of the child consumer." After largely ignoring children for years, Madison Avenue began to scrutinize and pursue them. Major ad agencies now have children's divisions, and a variety of marketing firms focus solely on kids." (42-3)

+"The bulk of the advertising directed at children today as an immediate goal. "It's not just getting the kids to whine," one marketer explained in Selling to Kids, "it's giving them a specific reason to ask for the product." Years ago sociologist Vance Packard described children as "surrogate salesmen" who had to persuade other people, usually their parents, to buy what they wanted. Marketers now use different terms to explain the intended response to their ads-such as "leverage", "the nudge factor," "pester power." The aim of most children's advertising is straightforward: get kids to nag their parents and nag them well." (43)

+"Today's market researchers not only conduct surveys of children in shopping malls, they also organize focus groups for kids as young as two or three. They analyse children's artwork, hire children to run focus groups, stage slumber parties and then question children into the night." (44)

+In the late 80s, the Federal Trade Commission tried to ban TV advertising for kids under eight, arguing that they couldn't make informed decisions and were being exploited. However, lobbyists from the TV, advertising, and toys killed it. (46)

+Some stats: average American kids spend 21 hrs/wk watching TV (equals 1.5 months/yr), the only thing they do more other than school is sleep, see 30,000+ commericials. 25% of kids 2-5 have a TV in their bedroom.

+" food chains are now gaining access to the last advertising-free outposts of American life. In 1993 District 11 in Colorado Springs started a nationwide trend, becoming the first public school distrct in the US to place ads for Burger King in its hallways and on the sides of its school buses....For $12K, a company got five school-bus ads, hallway ads in all fifty-two of the district's schools, ads in their school newspapers, a stadium banner, ads over the stadium's public address system during games, and free tickets to high school sporting events." (51)

+"The nation's three major beverage manufactureres are now spending large sums to increase the amount of soda that American children consume...Eight-year-olds are considered ideal customers; they have about sixty-five years of purchasing in front of them. "Entering the schools makes perfect sense," the trade journal concluded." (53-4)

+"...sodas provide empty calories and have replaced far more nutrious beverages in the American diet. Excessive soda consumption in children can lead to calcium deficiencies and a greater likelihood of bone fragmentation." (54)

+"Soft-drink consumption is now common among American toddlers. About one-fifth of the nation's one and two year olds now drink soda...."Pepsi, Dr Pepper and Seven-Up encouraged feeding soft drinks to babies by liscensing their logos to a major maker of baby bottles..." A 1997 study published in the Journal of Dentistry for Children found that many infants were indeed being fed soda in those bottles." (54)

+"The spiraling cost of textbooks has led thousands of American school districts to use corporate-sponsoed teaching materials. A 1998 study of these teaching materials by the Consumers Union found that 80 percent were biased, providing students with incomplete or slanted information that favored the sponsor's products and views. Proctor & Gamble's Decision Earth program taught that clear-cut logging was actually good for the environment; teaching aids distributed by the Exxon Environmental Foundation said that fossil fuels created few environmental problems and that alternative sources of energy were too expensive; a study guide sponsored by the Americna Coal Foundation dismissed fears of a greenouse effect, claiming that "the earth could benefit rather than be harmed by increased carbon dioxide."" (55)

+"The money that these corporations spend on their "educational" materials is fully tax-deductable." (56)

+"The American School Food Service Association estimates that about 30 percent of the public high schools in the US offer branded fast food. Elementary schools in Fort Collins, CO, now serve food from Pizza Hut, McDonald's, and Subway on special lunch days." (56)

Chp 2: Thoughts

If you're not screaming mad by the end of reading those notes, then I don't think you'll be ruffled by anything. For me, it's almost enough to make me not want to have kids! Of course, I know that I can try to raise them as aware consumers, and of course send them off with packed lunches to try to avoid fast food in elementary school (!), but it'll take some strong swimming to go against this tide. I wonder what kind of parents let their little kids participate in the focus groups Schlosser mentions ad agencies run; would you have your son or daughter go to a sleep over with adults? Kind of weird, imo. I cannot believe that corporations can not only create biased textbooks, but do it for free! Meanwhile, public schools are facing such a budget crisis they create advertising packages. There's something very wrong with that picture.

You'll note that my thoughts aren't very coherent this week. Basically, I think it's wrong, immoral, and should be illegal. These companies take kids and treat them as money-making machines. So sad.

I can't wait to see y'alls reactions to this, so even if you don't normally comment, please share any experiences/opinions about this one. So many of you are parents, which would be an interesting view.