Sunday, December 30, 2007

some recent reading

I really and truly and trying to get back into blogging regularly. As I mentioned in my last post, I'll be posting my lists of books read in 2007 at the beginning of the new year, in the meantime I thought I'd share a bit of what I have been reading lately.

A Good Yarn by Debbie Macomber
My mom picked up this book from the take-a-book-leave-a-book shelf at a hotel she stayed out while on vacation in Hawaii. It is the sequel to A Shop on Blossom Street, a book I read and enjoyed before I started knitting. These books are really feel-good reads; things always seem to turn out OK in the end. And, sometimes that's exactly the kind of book you need to read. I have to say that I liked this book even more than the first and I am sure it is because I am a knitter now. The narrative focuses on four women who are all involved in a beginner sock knitting class (I started my first sock only 2 days ago - it's going really well, though I think it'll end up pretty baggy). I found Courtney, the teenager, particularly sympathetic and how she was able to deal with her weight problem inspired me to be better about exercising myself.

How I Fell in Love with a Librarian and Lived to Tell about It by Rhett Ellis
Russell and I happened across this book and were intrigued by the title. Russell read it quite a while ago and was not impressed, but he made me hold on to it to read for myself anyway. I picked it up at one point and gave up pretty quickly, but my second attempt was successful. I didn't really care for the book though. I think the author was trying a little too hard to be quirky and I really disliked the ending: the main characters live happily-ever-after, but there is no real resolution to the issue that was keeping them apart.

Maisie Dobbs mysteries by Jacqueline Winspear
I read and reviewed the 4th book in the series, Messenger of Truth (see review), last year and am finally catching up on the earlier episodes in the series in preparation for book 5. This month I've read Maisie Dobbs and Birds of a Feather, and I'm currently reading Pardonable Lies. I really like Maisie as a character (even though her rise from servitude seems a bit implausible) and her adventures in psychological crime-solving. Winspear does a good job of incorporating period detail and through the novels I've learned a good deal about WWI and post-war Britain.

The Silent Raga by Ameen Merchant
I picked up this debut novel last summer at BookExpo Canada. It tells the story of two sisters and the event that splits their family in two. I liked how Merchant juggles the past and present and keeps the reader guessing about exactly how certain things came to pass until close to the end. I also appreciated how he incorporated aspects of South Indian music into the narrative especially since it is such a big part of Janaki's life and character. Overall, I really enjoyed this book, but I will say that the proper Brahmin family disapproving of the marriage of the older sister hit a bit too close to home for me.

Zorro by Isabel Allende
I listened to the unabridged audio version, read by Blair Brown (audio books are great for knitting). I love Allende's writing and young Zorro's story was compelling, though listening to the audio it did seem at times like the book was going on endlessly.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Booking Through Thursday - Highlights

It’s an old question, but a good one... What were your favorite books this year?
List as many as you like - fiction, non-fiction, mystery, romance, science-fiction, business, travel, cookbooks - whatever the category. But, really, we’re all dying to know. What books were the highlight of your reading year in 2007?

In the beginning of the new year I'll be posting my list of books read in 2007 and discussing whether I've met my reading goals, but I am more than happy to "talk" about some of my favorite books from the past year right now.

I'll focus on fiction because that's what I read most.

Best fluffy read
The Royal Treatment by MaryJanice Davidson. I thought this was just a cute, fun read. I liked the alternate history aspect of it and that it didn't take itself too seriously.
My second choice would be the Southern Vampire (Sookie Stackhouse) series by Charlaine Harris. So far I've read Dead Until Dark, Living Dead in Dallas, Club Dead, Dead to the World, and Dead as a Doornail (you can read some comments here). Apparently they are making a television series based on the novels. I'm not sure that I'll want to watch it.

Best new installment in a series
First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde, the 5th book in the Thursday Next series. I love how this book illuminates Thursday's character and explains so much about how she acts in the earlier books. Fforde, and his seemingly boundless imagination, never fails to delight me.
Many a reader would choose Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling for this honor, but not me (you can read my comments on book 7 here).

Best audio
The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani, read by Shohreh Aghdashloo. I loved this book and I thought the audio version was absolutely fantastic (read my review).
My second choice would be The Witch's Boy by Michael Gruber, read by Dennis O'Hare. I thought the book was enchanting and probably would have liked it just as much on paper. I have a hardcover copy on my wishlist.

Best adult fiction
I'm not going to try to pick one favorite. Here are some books that stuck out this year:
- Oracle Night by Paul Auster
- A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
- The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Audrey Niffenegger
- Torch by Cheryl Strayed (I read this one for WestofMars' Debut a Debut contest; read my review)

Best young adult fiction
Same as above.
- His Dark Materials series (The Golden Compass et al) by Philip Pullman (yes, I hadn't read this series before last March)
- LionBoy by Zizou Corder
- Magyk (Septimus Heap, book 1) by Angie Sage (a great start to the series, the other books thus far haven't been quite as good)

I also wanted to highlight some wonderful authors I discovered in 2007:
  • Shannon Hale, author of Goose Girl, Enna Burning, Princess Academy, River Secrets (read my review), Austenland, and The Book of a Thousand Days.

  • Nalo Hopkinson, author of Brown Girl in the Ring, Midnight Robber, The Salt Roads, The New Moon's Arms (read my review), and numerous works of short fiction.
This was a wonderful question. I'm really looking forward to seeing what everyone else has to recommend.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas and Boxing Day Books

I received a lovely bunch of books over the past few days. In fact, I feel like I'm swimming in knitting books - not that that's a bad thing ;)

Some wishlist books for Christmas:
  • Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles by Jeanette Winterson (I've been trying to collect all the books in The Myths series);

  • The Best of Interweave Knits: Our Favorite Designs from the First Ten Years (I think I'm going to use some of my Christmas money to get a subscription to Interweave Knits);

  • Fitted Knits: 25 Designs for the Fashionable Knitter by Stefanie Japel (I particularly like that this book is supposed to show readers how to customize each project to his/her own unique body);

  • Knitspeak: An A to Z Guide to the Language of Knitting Patterns by Andrea Berman Price (my friend Janelle told me that this was a must-have);

  • One-Skein Wonders by Judith Durant (full of patterns that only use one ball/skein of yarn, how very practical); and

  • preordered More Big Girl Knits: 25 Designs Full of Color and Texture for Curvy Women by Jillian Moreno (I'm going to be very happy to get this next spring).
Two more knitting books that Russell picked out all on his own:I also got four books from my Boxing Day exchange partner:
  • The 3rd and 4th books in Rachel Caine's Weather Warden series: Chill Factor and Windfall (now I need book 2 lol);

  • The Royal Pain, the 2nd book in MaryJanice Davidson's Alaskan Royals series (I thought the first book was cute and have had a hard time getting my hands on the other books in the series); and

  • The Love Season by Elin Hilderbrand.
Wishing you all the very best this holiday season...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Booking Through Thursday - And, the Nominees Are...

1. What fiction book (or books) would you nominate to be the best new book published in 2007?
2. What non-fiction book (or books) would you nominate to be the best new book published in 2007?
3. And, do "best of" lists influence your reading?

This post is a day late because when I started to answer this week's questions yesterday I realized that I haven't really read enough 2007 titles to answer the first two questions properly. I've decided to stick with number three.

"Best of" lists don't influence my reading too much. I do like to look at them to see what books made the cut and sometimes I do get ideas from them, but lists ("best of" or not) definitely don't dictate my reading schedule. That seems like such a short answer, but there it is.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

book clubbing in December

Because the Libraries' holiday party was scheduled for today, our book club meeting was rescheduled for Thursday of last week. Voting for our 2008 and 2009 selections is going on right now - so exciting - so expect that list to be posted sometime in the middle of next month (the results of our last round of voting are listed in this post).

In any case, our selection for this month was Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi.
Persepolis is Satrapi's wise, funny, and heartbreaking memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah's regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran's last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country.
I was excited to read the book because I've had Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return (rescued from the bargain bin at a local independent bookstore) on my shelves for a while without a good excuse to pick up the first book.

Persepolis was a relatively quick read, but one that bears re-reading. I really appreciated how Satrapi's drawing style complimented the subject matter (expressive, but spare so as to not overwhelm the actual story she was telling). Probably my favorite part of the book was Marji's relationship with God and how it is depicted.

For some of the people in our book club, this was their first experience with graphic novels. A librarian who specializes in graphic novels was in attendance so he ended up leading the discussion. And, while there is much to discuss in the book itself, we ended up talking mostly about graphic novels in general.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Booking Through Thursday - Catalog

Do you use any of the online book-cataloguing sites, like LibraryThing or Shelfari? Why or why not? (Or... do you have absolutely no idea what I’m talking to?? (grin))
If not an online catalog, do you use any other method to catalog your book collection? Excel spreadsheets, index cards, a notebook, anything?

Yes, I use LibraryThing.

It really is a fun thing to do, "cataloging" your books (especially since you don't actually have to remember your MARC codes to do it). My LT library is definitely still a work in progress. I add new books as they come in, but I haven't been able to get the base collection completely entered yet.

Russell's started entering his books as well. He has his own LT library and gets a huge kick out of being the only person to own a particular book.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Scholastic warehouse sale

So, yesterday after work I got wrangled into going to the Scholastic warehouse sale. I didn't want to go. Last time I went I spent lots of money and our place is overflowing with books as it is. But, I did end up going and I was actually very good. I only bought five books (strangely enough they had computer games, though, and I ended up buying three of those for Russell).

The Artemis Fowl Files by Eoin Colfer.
I've actually read this book (a library copy), but I picked it up in order to complete our collection of Artemis Fowl books.

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale.
After reviewing River Secrets, I really wanted to read more of Hale's fiction so I was tickled to be able to pick up this book yesterday.

The Shadow Thieves by Anne Ursu.
This book, the first installment in a new fantasy series (the Cronus Chronicles), looked so good I just had to pick it up. It was my impulse buy.

Skippyjon Jones by Judith B. Schachner.
With Simi and Maaji at home I couldn't pass up this story of a Siamese kitten with an overactive imagination. I keep seeing it featured (accompanied by a cute plush) in the children's catalogs we've been receiving lately.

Stravaganza: City of Masks, the first book in a YA trilogy by Mary Hoffman.
I've heard good things about this series (good enough to get the books on my BookCrossing wishlist) so I picked up this book just before I reached the check-out counter.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Booking Through Thursday - OOP

Do you have a favourite book, now out of print, that you would like to see become available again?

At first I was racking my mind trying to come up with something to write in response to this week's question - then a lightbulb went off. There is indeed one out-of-print book that I've been trying to get my hands on for quite some time - Arlo and Janis: Bop 'Til You Drop (currently available used for $195). I wouldn't consider it a favorite, but it is definitely a title I wish was still in print.