Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Sigh, didn't quite make it for this one (goal to read 6 books total), but I did fit in a few books. I read:
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne
Highlights: Winnie the Pooh and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
Lowlights: I didn't care for I Am Legend as much as I expected.
Short Story Challenge
The goal was to read 10 short stories or 5-10 short story collections or combination in 2008. I think I did pretty well, although I always feel like I should take more time to read short stories. Onward in 2009!
Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman (collection)
The Overcoat by Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol (story)
Araby by James Joyce (story)
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (collection)
Eminent Domain by Dan O'Brien (collection)
Down to a Sunless Sea by Mathias B. Freese (collection)
I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon by Philip K. Dick (collection)
Highlights: I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon is a collection that sticks with you. Smoke and Mirrors was also very awesome.
Lowlights: None, really, except I wish I'd read more short stories.
Graphic Novel Challenge
Yeah, nailed this one. The goal was to read 3 graphic novels in 6 months.
Sandman: World's End by Neil Gaiman
The Absolute Sandman Volume 1 by Neil Gaiman
Maus I & II by Art Spiegelman
Watchmen by Alan Moore
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol 1 by Alan Moore
Highlights: I pretty much loved all of the graphic novels I read.
Young Adult Reading Challenge
The goal was to read 12 YA novels in 2008, and I think I got this one covered.
Feed by M.T. Anderson
House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
The Messenger by Lois Lowry
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
Seeing Redd by Frank Beddor
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Breakout by Paul Fleischman
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation Volume 1: The Pox Party by M. T. Anderson
Uglies by Scott Westerfield
Magic or Madness by Justine Larbalestier
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
New Moon by Stephanie Meyer
Highlights: I more than doubled the required number of books.
Lowlights: Meh, I liked all of the ones I read in some form or another.
My Year of Reading Dangerously
The goal was to read 12 books in challenging categories in 2008, 1 per month. I read 7 out of the 12 required books.
January: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
February: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (African American)
March: Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood (Atwood for Atwood's sake)
April: Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney (Poetry)
May: The Watermelon King by Daniel Wallace (Southern)
July: Breakout by Paul Fleischman (adolescent)
August: Maus I & II by Art Spiegelman (Graphic Novel, Pulitzer winner)
Highlights: I found that I really enjoyed Beowulf, and I have come to enjoy Atwood more than I ever expected.
Lowlights:I did pick up Lolita, The Chocolate War, and The Human Stain, but sadly, no luck finishing.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Reason for Reading: The Hell of It
The Last Colony is another kickass entry into the Old Man's War series. Okay, so there are plotlines that aren't followed up on, and I still felt like I didn't know some of the characters as well as I wanted to. But like Old Man's War, I didn't care. Because, like I said, it kicked ass.
This book follows up on Jane Sagan and John Perry who have managed to survive life in the army and have now retired to life as the administrators of a backwoods colony. They have an adopted stepdaughter, Zoe, who comes along with a pair of hive-mind aliens who consider her to be like a deity.
Life changes, though, when John and Jane are offered the chance to establish a new colony ominously named Roanoke (history must not have been John's strong point or he probably wouldn't have taken the job). Anyhow. They work at establishing the colony, when the pieces start fitting into place... John begins to suspect that they are pawns in an enormous intergalactic war.
The Last Colony moves along at a brisk pace, and I enjoyed the further adventures of John and Jane. Zoe, despite being their daughter, didn't really recieve star billing, but I happen to know that Scalzi wrote a YA novel retelling the events of this story from Zoe's perspective, so I'll be picking that one up eventually.
Recommended (especially for the upcoming scifi experience)
Monday, December 29, 2008
So here are my reflections on 2008, the year of my blogginess, about what blogging has meant to me:
Constantly expanding my reading choices. Prior to this year, I had never read Neil Gaiman, or a graphic novel, or Orson Scott Card, and I had never received Advanced Reader Copies. I had never sat down and put into writing my thoughts on the books that I was reading, or attempted to track my reading in any way. I tended to buy or check out a book from the library, read it, and return it. Then I wouldn't read anything until the next time I was at the library or bookstore. So far, I've read 83 books this year (still time to squeak in a few more before the end of the year). Although I love reading, I haven't ever read with such determination and purpose.
Making awesome bloggy friends. It never occurred to me before that I could consider someone I had never met a friend, but I am quite sure that some of my bloggy buddies and I have more in common than I do with some of my IRL friends, because of a shared passion for books and writing. Speaking of, it was the wonderful Chris who kept asking me about nanowrimo, and debi who kept writing these encouraging, inspiring little comments about my writing, which led to....
More writing. I thought I would have a writing blog at first (although I had no idea what a writing blog would consist of), but it didn't really end up that way. I always liked writing, but I wasn't actually, y'know, writing. Blogging got me into the habit of writing every day. And then I tried posting a short story here and there. And I then I heard about nanowrimo. And then I actually signed up and spent a month doing nothing but trying to bang out 50,000 words of my first ever novel. Which I would have never attempted if I had not started blogging. So there you are. Of course, with the time I devote to writing, I have that much less time to blog, but one can only balance so many things in life, no? In any case, I have become quite disciplined about what I spent my non-work hours on doing, so that I can feed my hobbies and actually spend time with my husband and puppy.
With that in mind, I ask you, what has blogging brought into your life?
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Reason for Reading: Turkey coma on T-Day
I enjoyed Hosseini's previous book, The Kite Runner so much that I was absolutely afraid to read this book for fear my expectations were too high and I would hate it.
As it turned out, my fears were unfounded. This book bears similarities stylistically and thematically to The Kite Runner, but it is just as good, if not better. It follows the very different lives of Mariam and Laila, who through very different life circumstances end up married to Rasheed, a shoemaker. Mariam is the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy businessman in Kabul, and a yearning to be fully accepted by her father leads to a distintigration of the familiar, if poor life she has been living. She winds up being married off to Rasheed, but marriage gives her little happiness. For many years, she endures life, until Laila comes into their household. Rasheed and Mariam have been estranged for many years now, but still Mariam protests the idea of another wife being brought in to the house. But Mariam and Laila strike up an unlikely friendship that will sustain them through some of the darkest hours of life in Afganistan.
Hosseini does an excellent job of writing characters that the reader will identify with and care about. Mariam's life is a very unhappy one, so we really root for her when Laila comes into her life and things begin to look up for her. Rasheed, who abuses both his wives horribly, is a monster, pure and simple, but he isn't a caricature or one-note stereotype. He's charming when he wants to be, his favoritism wavers and his tempers are erratic.
All of this is set across the backdrop of the tumultous real history of Afganistan. As when I read The Kite Runner, I felt as if I understood the history of Afganistan so much better than if I had read an article in Newsweek. By reading about what people went through day in and day out as first one political party took control and then another, I can tell you a lot more about what's going on over there right now.
Each political upheaval had its own horrors, but the description of life under the Taliban was especially hard to read. Women were not allowed to walk the streets without a male escort. Because of the intense poverty, Laila is forced to leave her daughter in an orphanage. She is only allowed to visit on the whim of Rasheed, when he will consent to accompany her. I kept waiting for these women to escape their brutal treatment, but how does a person escape when they can't even cross the street?
Although its been over a month since I actually read this book, it has stuck in my mind. It is quick. Thought-provoking. Well-written. Highly recommended.
Blue Archipelago, Rhinoa, Dewey, Wendy, Out of the Blue, Maw Books, The Inside Cover, Thoughts of Joy, Florinda (Did I miss you? Let me know!)
Friday, December 26, 2008
I had been wanting a few books about writing, so I got Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint, another book from the same series Dialog, and the 2009 Novel and Short Story Writer's Market. I also stumbled across a verse novel, The Apprentice's Masterpiece (is that the right term for a regular novel in verse form?) set in Medieval Spain, so I'm snagging that as research for my current novel. I think it will go down a little easier than the massive books I've been using so far.
And I am so looking forward to the second Octavian Nothing book. I LOVED the first one, and I may have to buy it eventually to match up with this second book. I want. to. read. right. now.
Other awesome books I received are:
The Road by Cormac McCarthy (for the 2009 Sci Fi Experience)
Tigerheart by Peter David
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
On Beauty by Zadie Smith
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks (I'm not a big Nicholas Sparks reader, so we'll see how this one goes).
My husband got a model ship for Christmas, so our living room all of a sudden has a much classier look to it. And between the two of us, we got a number of much needed new CDs (music collection was getting old). So an all-around good haul. And it was a nice day in general. My mother-in-law traveled from Madison to visit us, and we all celebrated with my parents and siblings. And I have practically all next week off of work. It doesn't get much better.
What loot did you get for Christmas?
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Five more entries for blogging about it on your blog and letting me know you did. So eleven potential entries, and I'll make the deadline January 12th, just because.
Friday, December 19, 2008
I think the smile is the creepiest part, actually, because it clashes so horribly with those freaky-button eyes.
If you've read (or heard about) Coraline, you will know what the button eyes are all about. If not, hie thyself to thy library and check it out before the movie is closer and the lines are too long.
Or you can just check out this website. And button your own eyes.
Reason for Reading: IRL Bookclub
In Mirror, Mirror, Gregory Maguire transports the story of Snow White to 1500s Italy. Spanish ex-patriot Vicente de Nevada and his daughter Bianca ( Bianca=white, de Nevada=snowy mountain) live a quiet life in a rural manor in Tuscany. Their life is turned upside down when the (in)famous Borgias visit. Intoxicated on their own glory, Cesare Borgia sends de Nevada off on an almost certainly hopeless search for an ancient biblical relic that may or may not exist.
This leaves Bianca in the care of the treacherous Lucrezia Borgia, without which, this novel would have been dreadfully dull. To recap your history lessons, Cesare and Lucrezia were children of Pope Alexander VI, and rumors still persist today of their skill with poisons, their ruthless political ambitions, adultery, and incest.
Bianca is sent away into the woods to be killed, but as in the story, she is rescued of sorts, by dwarves. In this case, they begin as creatures made of stone, hardly sentient, but something about the human child they have rescued awakens them into a more human-like existance.
Bianca can hardly be called a main character in this book, as she is asleep or dying half of the time, but Lucrezia was a well-developed and entertaining character. Through her flashbacks, we gain insight into what the childhood of an incestuous daughter of the pope might have been like, her motivations, her evolution from the most powerful courtier in Italy to just another player when the political winds shifted. I literally got chills at the ultimate ending that Maguire plotted for Lucrezia.
When I finished this book, I felt that it did not add up to much, but I whizzed right through the short chapters and enjoyed the ride so much I didn't really mind. Maguire shifts the perspective from the dwarves to Lucrezia and back to a narrator without much in the way of transition, but I didn't find it hard to follow. Wicked, arguably Maguire's best-known book left me cold, but I found this one light, enjoyable, and worth reading. Those who enjoy historical fiction and fairy-tale retellings will really enjoy this book.
Mostly Fiction, Review of Books
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
When my boss says I'm looking tired and its from reading Twilight all night, d'ya mind taking the blame for me? I just couldn't resist tearing open the package you sent me in the mail, and then when I saw it was Twilight, I opened the cover, just to glance it over. I had so many things I needed to do, but then I started reading.
And reading. And although I received it just last night, I'm hoping to finish it up tonight.
Although you are staying anonymous, I hope you do stop by here, so that I can say a big THANK YOU. I was going to take a picture of myself, reading the book, but I look too disheveled from staying up reading. So you'll have to imagine me, falling asleep over my already well-loved copy of Twilight.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Then my weekend was definitely nerdier than yours.
Here are some of the members of the Klingon Imperial Players, schmoozing after the play. I'm not sure what one gets paid these days to travel from Qo'noS, (the Klingon homeworld) to present cultural plays here on earth, but they seemed happy to teach everyone here more about Klingon culture and beliefs.
For example, Scrooge, or Scuje's fault lays not in the love of money, but in cowardliness. All his life Scuje avoided the chance to become a warrior and defend his family's name. So on the eve of the Feast of the Long Night, he is visited by the Spirit of Kahless Past, Present and Future to teach him how to be an honorable Klingon. In the course of the evening, he revisits happy memories at Fezivig's, meeting the love of his life, Bel, and the shameful time he rigged the pain sticks to not work during the Rite of Ascension. His trick was found out and he was not honorable enough to admit it. At last, after seeing his whole life laid out before him, he decides to live an honorable life, fighting to defend his family's honor in the Feast of the Long Night. "And it was said of him that he knew how to keep the Feast of the Long Night, if any man alive possessed the knowledge."
In this picture, you can see Tiny Tim, or as he is known in Klingon, Tim-hom. He only wanted to became a great warrior, and pass the Rite of Ascension. But with his weak body, he would need intensive training to get past the pain sticks.
I really think the bat'leth tucked under his arm in place of a crutch was a nice touch. Tim-hom was actually auctioned off at the end of the play. I'm not going to lie, the thought of having a miniature Klingon doll in my house creeps me out. But you know. Someone did pay $100 for him.
As a side note, I use Firefox for my internet browser. It has a basic spell checker. The spell-checker has no issues, surprisingly, with the word Klingon. klingon, on the other hand, it underlines in the nasty red. When I tested Word, it's far more advanced spell-checker did not recognize Klingon or klingon. Hmmm... pondering who writes computer code for Firefox...
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Reason for Reading: Graphic Novels Challenge
After the events of Dracula, a disgraced Mina Harker has set herself up with a new task - recruiting various Victorian "heroes" for a league who's aim is a bit unclear at first. They know that they are working for for a mysterious man named M. Mina is sure that M is Mylecroft Holmes, the brother of Sherlock, but other members of the League are less certain that the purpose of their adventures is so noble.
Despite how horrid the movie based on this graphic novel was, this is a worthwhile read. There are lots of inside references I didn't get (I clearly haven't read enough Victorian literature), but it was interesting to speculate on what would happen with a league composed of the Invisible Man, Captain Nemo, Allan Quartermain, Mina Harker, Dr. Jekyll.
In this steampunk vision of Victorian England, there are airships, blimps, evil warlords, and secret conspiracies to rule England. It is a unique and interesting vision, and I enjoyed the read, although it didn't quite have the heft of the previous graphic novels I have read this year. The more you know about the Victorian reads referenced within, the more you'll enjoy it.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
This Week's BTT Question is:
1. Do you get to read as much as you WANT to read?
(I’m guessing #1 is an easy question for everyone?)
2. If you had (magically) more time to read–what would you read? Something educational? Classic? Comfort Reading? Escapism? Magazines?
- Heck no. There was a short time in my life when I was done with college and didn't have anything else to fill the time, but then I found book blogging, and I can definitely say I never have enough time to read all of the books I want. I don't even have enough time to read the books I have at home in my TBR pile.
- If I had all the time in the world to read, I would read whatever book darn well looked good at the moment. I would totally read more sci fi (I love sci fi, but I haven't been getting enough of it), more YA, more recommendations that I get from other bloggers. I would definitely not being reading anything educational. Ha!
Reason for Reading: In Their Shoes Reading Challenge
Hurry Down Sunshine, according to the dust cover "tells the story of the extraordinary summer when, at the age of fifteen, Michael Greenberg's daughter was struck mad."
It starts when Sally is struck with a vision on the streets of Greenwich that ultimately leads to her being brought home by the police, and soon it becomes obvious the only choice left is a psychiatric ward.
This is the story of the sweltering summer that Sally spends there, and the effect on Greenberg, his wife, Sally's mother, brother and grandmother. How do you convince a family member who has not witnessed your daughter's crack up that she really does belong in the psychiatric ward? What do you say when medications have thrown her so off balance she can't concentrate? When she tells everyone you've locked her up?
Greenberg's memoir is lyrical and honest. He describes the confusion, the frustration of dealing with a mental illness. The desire to believe they are not really sick, the haunting question of whether or not you are somehow to blame, wanting, so desperately for your loved one to be lucid again.
"Tell me what I'm doing here," she says, puzzled and child-like, her eyes as black as malachite, magnified and sharp."
"You're here to feel well again."
"I've never felt better. I'm perfectly fine."
"You haven't been acting fine."
"Everyone's acting, Father. You most of all."
"Sally, you're sick." I hear the flat insistence in my voice.
"Sick. Mmm. Does it make you safer to think of me that way?"
"We just want you to be well again."
"Your father doesn't mean that you're not yourself right now," says Robin. "He means, you're here, in the hospital to... recover."
Sally seizes the word. "Recover," she repeats. "But what have I lost? Or am I someone you want to cover up again. Someone you want to put a lid on." Her voice hardens: the dreaded inquisitorial tone. "You've always wanted to lock me up, Father. Now you've succeeded. You must be very satisfied with yourself."
Greenberg writes without sentimentality, or excessive emotion. He doesn't have to, the simple facts of what happened, the dialogue tell us how difficult the experience was. My only regret is that the novel ended before I was quite ready. In my eagerness to read, I felt that it was abrupt, although he did give a bit of a postscript to explain what Sally had done since the summer he describes in the book. Still, this one is highly recommended.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I was too overwhelmed to sit and take in the new design, I did note that a few couples I know have gotten engaged recently. This leaves me wondering what happened to good old phone calls of "AHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! HE PROPOSED!!!!" ??
Of course, this all leads to the important question of the Facebook era: When did facebook take the place of actually telling your friends about the important events in your life? Even a mass email seems more personal than just happening to see online that a particular friend is engaged or preggo or just ate a whole box of milkduds or whatever else big is going on in their lives.
I know, I know, facebook is great for catching up with old friends. But is it really? I was pretty iffy about facebook for quite a while. It was getting to the point if I got another invitation from someone I barely know to join their entourage or become the top friend of my former roommate's ex-best-friend, I was going to quit facebook for good. And finally someone I couldn't even remember meeting sent me the fatal invite to join a zombie war. It was the straw that broke the camel's back. I. Quit. Facebook. Okay, I didn't actually delete my profile yet. But that's coming, when I get around to it.
The people I actually do care to hear from have managed, somehow or another to get in touch with me and vice versa in the past few months without facebook. And the ones I don't care about? Well, I've been doing fine without being spammed by updates about their life.
I have been finding that I have more than enough to keep up on when I attempt to follow an insane number of book blogs because of the amazing bloggers out there with fabulous blogs. (My Google Reader gives a groan).
And there is of course writing, and reading, and occassionally getting my lazy butt to the gym. Really, between all of that, it's incredible that my husband gets any attention from me at all.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
I don't remember where I first ran across Dewey's blog, but as soon as I saw her Weekly Geeks challenge, I knew it was going to be a fun one. I have sporadically participated, and met quite a few other bloggers that way. Which was what Dewey was all about... introducing bloggers to each other.
I also participated in the Graphic Novels challenge this year, which was AWESOME. I had never read any graphic novels prior to her challenge, and I've enjoyed all of the ones I've selected so far. I always enjoyed Dewey's reviews, and I would particularly look to see which graphic novels she recommended. She never steered me wrong.
I'm happy to see that a number of people have stepped up to take on the many challenges and projects Dewey worked on. There's been a discussion going on at Book Blogs, and it is clear from how many people have been posting there and around the net that Dewey touched a lot of people's lives.
How did you know Dewey, and how did she affect your reading?
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
I never had the privilege of meeting Dewey in real life, but she was such an amazing blogger and community builder. I never could figure out how she managed to not only read all of the books she read, but organize the myriad of activities, memes, and challenges that she managed. Last night as I was trying to process the news, I thought about everything she had initiated, and I was completely blown away. I have always been a little in awe of her blog, it was just the "cool place" to hang out.
A big hug to all you other bloggers who knew and loved Dewey's blog, and my sincerest sympathies to her family.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Reason for Reading: The Hell of It
As I mentioned previously, Old Man's War is a great way to procrastinate while attempting to tap out a nanonovel. I started it one evening and finished it by the next morning. Not many books these days make me stay up late and miss my precious sleep, but I literally couldn't stop turning pages.
I was first introduced to John Scalzi via his random and hilarious blog, Whatever. After following it for an embarassingly long time, I realized I might actually enjoy his books.
Old Man's War is set in a future where humans are finally out colonizing space, but the competition for real estate is fierce (location, location, location, baby). Turns out there are plenty of other alien species willing to fight for prime property. The Colonial Defense Forces, which controls colonization, has kept Earth ignorant of much of what is occurring, but they do recruit soldiers. The only catch? You have to be 75 to join.
So on his seventy-fifth birthday, John Perry does two things. First he visits his wife's grave and then he joins the army, without a clear idea of where the next few years would take him, except that he'll be cut-off from returning to or contacting earth. Permanently. If he can survive his term, he'll be given a homestead on one of the colony worlds. The important words being if he can survive.
One of the blurbs on the back cover described this as "Starship Troopers without the lectures... The Forever War with better sex." I second that opinion. Old Man's War is quick paced, action-packed, and still manages to be thoughtful amidst the explosions. I was hooked in immediately by the question of how, exactly, seventy-five-year-olds were going to be soldiers. John Perry doesn't know exactly (at all really) what he's getting into, so we follow along as he learns quickly what a CDF soldier is all about.
The book isn't without it's flaws. Some of the secondary characters blurred into one another, all spouting clever witticisms that started to sound alike. But since when has science fiction been about characterization? This is old school sci fi, where we care about action and ideas. Neither of which are lacking here. Battle scenes are quick and hard-hitting. The technology is beyond cool and the weird mystery that John stumbles upon will keep you reading, like me, until the middle of the night.
Highly recommended, especially if you are a Heinlein fan.
Stainless Steel Droppings, Renay