Monday, April 28, 2008

book clubbing in April

This month my book club tackled its first classic,
A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

I don't think I'd ever read A Room with a View before (the only Forster I remember reading is A Passage to India). I knew we'd have a good discussion, though, especially after I saw the new film adaption that aired on PBS earlier this month.*

We did indeed have a nice discussion. We talked about the novel as well as the 1985 and 2007 films. We discussed Forster himself, the subtleties and class distinctions in the novel, our feelings about the various characters, the proper pronunciation of "Beebe", and the novel's possible connection to Howards End among other things.

Personally, I enjoyed A Room with a View and I'm thinking of reading more Forster in the relatively near future.

* They changed the ending?! I was shocked and horrified at what they'd do in the name of "modern audiences", but I knew it'd be good discussion fodder.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - Springing

Do your reading habits change in the Spring? Do you read gardening books? Even if you don’t have a garden? More light fiction than during the Winter? Less? Travel books? Light paperbacks you can stick in a knapsack?
Or do you pretty much read the same kinds of things in the Spring as you do the rest of the year?

My reading habits are pretty much the same all year round. I'm sure there may be subtle differences in my choices, but there's nothing specific that I can pin-point to answer this question. In the Spring, however, I have a strong urge to break out my folding chair and go read outside.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Sally Lockhart Trilogy by Philip Pullman
I recently read Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart trilogy: The Ruby in the Smoke, The Shadow in the North, and The Tiger in the Well. The Tin Princess is a related title; I have it on Mt. TBR. Set in Victorian England, the books tell the story of Sally and her various adventures as an independent woman. Chock full of mystery, they offer murder, kidnapping, and an occasionally happy interlude.

The Sally Lockhart books aren't nearly as good as the His Dark Materials books. I'd been told as much and came prepared. I did, however, think The Ruby in the Smoke was a promising start to a series. When I started The Shadow in the North I was disappointed. I didn't like the huge gap between the stories. I wish that Pullman had given his readers a look at Sally's life in those intervening years. While following Sally set up her business and grown into her own woman might not lead to page-turning suspense, it would have been a welcome respite from the gloom and doom of the mysteries as written. The same goes for the gap between books two and three.

Study books by Maria V. Snyder
On another note, while I was away on my mini-vacation I read the first two Study books: Poison Study and Magic Study. They came to be highly recommended and I was not disappointed.

Poison Study is Maria V. Snyder's debut novel and it is fantastic. Set in a fantastical world, it follows Yelena, a young woman who becomes the food taster for a military dictator after being sentenced to death for a murder she did in fact commit. A journey of discovery, Poison Study offers magic, mystery, and suspense (with a side of romance). Best of all, we continue to learn about both the Snyder's fantastical world and Yelena herself in Magic Study.

While the books are on the violent side, one can't help but become completely invested in Yelena and her personal struggles. The third book in the series, Fire Study, is out now and I hope to pick up a copy soon.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - Vocabulary

I’ve always wondered what other people do when they come across a word/phrase that they’ve never heard before. I mean, do they jot it down on paper so they can look it up later, or do they stop reading to look it up on the dictionary/google it or do they just continue reading and forget about the word?

All of the above, actually, but more often than not I'll continue reading with every intention of looking up the word later only to forget.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Chronicles of Narnia

I like audio books. I find them particularly useful for long car trips, knitting, and EAD encoding. They are, however, quite expensive... so when I happened across the Harper Children's Audio Chronicles of Narnia Unabridged Box set ($193 value for $75) at the discount book store for an additional 70% off, I just couldn't resist.

Of course I read all the books when I was a child (long enough ago that I couldn't remember a lot of the details), but I knew this would be a set to keep and that we'd listen to the discs again and again. So far, I haven't been disappointed. In the past few months I've made my way through the first six books (mostly knitting) and have enjoyed every minute.

Thirty-one hours of Narnia performed by a variety of big-name actors.
The Magician's Nephew, read by Kenneth Branagh
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, read by Michael York
The Horse and His Boy, read by Alex Jennings
Prince Caspian, read by Lynn Redgrave
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, read by Derek Jacobi
The Silver Chair, read by Jeremy Northam
The Last Battle, read by Patrick Stewart
The books are available individually, but even at $75 this set is a steal.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Shadow of the Wind

Fiction this month for the student services blog...

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
(translated from the Spanish by Lucia Graves)

Set in post-Spanish Civil War Barcelona, The Shadow of the Wind is the story of Daniel Sempere, the son of a bookseller. On his first trip to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, Daniel discovers a little-known novel the obscure author Julián Carax. The novel (entitled The Shadow of the Wind) speaks to Daniel in a way that no other book has. He longs to read more by Carax, but it seems that a mysterious man has been collecting all extant copies of Carax's works and burning them.

The more Daniel learns of Carax, the more questions remain unanswered. As parallels begin to emerge between Carax's life and his own, Daniel becomes all the more invested in discovering the secrets of Carax and the mysterious book-burner.

A spellbinding page-turner rife with well-drawn characters, The Shadow of the Wind is part mystery, part tragedy, part romance. It is a book about books and a book about life.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - Writing Challenge

- Pick up the nearest book. (I’m sure you must have one nearby.)
- Turn to page 123.
- What is the first sentence on the page?
- The last sentence on the page?
- Now... connect them together (And no, you may not transcribe the entire page of the book–that’s cheating!)

I'm not sure that it's technically the nearest book (bound volumes of Archivaria, anyone?), but I have Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón in my bag. I'll be posting about it tomorrow.

1st full sentence from page 123 -
"We went down to the cabinet and opened the top drawer."

last full sentence from page 123 -
"His suit wouldn't have fetched more than ten pesetas in the Encantes Flea Market, but he made up for it with a gaudy tie of tropical colors."

Connecting -
We went down to the cabinet and opened the top drawer. Inside was the key we were looking for, the key to the closet door. When we finally managed to open the door, we were surprised by what we found. The noises we'd heard were coming from a middle-aged man bound and gagged. He was perched precariously on a stool amid the musty furs. His suit wouldn't have fetched more than ten pesetas in the Encantes Flea Market, but he made up for it with a gaudy tie of tropical colors.

(After reading some of the other posts for today's BTT, I thought I'd better mention that my "connection" has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual story. I was just trying to bring the two sentences together).

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Honey Tongues

Here's a peek at a review that appeared in Library Journal this month. It should have appeared earlier, but the book got lost in the mail the first time around.

Honey Tongues by Helene Uri

As the twenty-fifth anniversary of their sewing circle-turned-supper club nears, journalist Tamara, translator Sara, teacher Eva, and homemaker Liss plan a trip to Copenhagen to celebrate. Helene Uri's second novel (published in Norway in 2002) is a glimpse into the lives of these four urban women in the six months leading up to that fateful trip. Between meal preparation and gossip, readers learn that there is much more to these women than meets the eye.

Uri (a former university professor whose first novel, De Beste Blant Oss, turned a critical eye to Norwegian academe) gets into the minds of her characters, highlighting all that is spiteful, deceitful, and naïve about them, eventually revealing the secrets, lies, and codependencies that have kept them together for all these years. The result is a novel both compelling and horrifying. Kari Dickson's adept translation eases the navigation of the complex psychological landscapes.

Read the review at Library Journal or Barnes and Noble under "editorial reviews".

Thursday, April 03, 2008

More Big Girl Knits

More Big Girl Knits by Jilliam Moreno and Amy Singer (authors of, surprise, surprise, Big Girl Knits) arrived yesterday (preordered by Russell as part of my Christmas present).

It's subtitled "25 designs full of color and texture for curvy women" - I love color, I love texture, and I loved Big Girl Knits so I knew this one would be well received.

I really enjoyed flipping through the patterns. I have to admit that I completely skipped all the frontmatter, so I can’t comment on that.

I think the patterns overall are very good (yes, there were a couple of duds - one in particular that I couldn’t imagine many larger women would even consider wearing); better than the first book, I think. And, there are more than a couple that I’d definitely consider knitting:
- Hot Cocoa Jacket (a textured blazer)
- Goddess Shawl (a gorgeous cabled shawl completely beyond my skill level)
- Cable Love Jacket (a low-cut, tunic-length cardigan with a bit of cable and lace)
- Twisted Pullover (pictured on the front cover; it looks like something I'd buy in the store)
- Pastille (a pullover with lots of pattern, using colors that aren't too different to make it subtle)
- Perfection Wrap (a light, lacey wrap made with Handmaiden Sea Silk)

I’m intrigued by the Modular Spiral Jacket, but I’m not sure that it’d actually look good on me - I almost wish it was pullover instead of a jacket since the edging seems a bit bulky. I also like the halter top with the special bra-hider flap... though I never wear halter tops. And, I can totally picture my sister in the Orange Smoothie Tank (hers would have to be a deep magenta, though).

Personally I don’t mind the inclusion of socks at all. I particularly thought the Twisty-stitch Socks were relevant as they are perfect for those of us with huge calves - though I’m not so crazy about the idea of knitting socks with Cascade 220. (I also kinda like the Indian Summer Socks, but mostly because the pumpkin-colored Fleece Artist yarn is oh-so lovely).

I was less crazy about the bags (do larger women need special handbags?) and the bulky scarf (yes, it proves a point, but a scarf is a scarf).

Booking Through Thursday - Lit-Ra-Chur

I've been skipping the Booking Through Thursday questions quite a bit lately because I haven't been particularly inspired by the questions (and some of them have seemed redundant). In any case, I'm going to make an effort to get back into the meme especially since I haven't been posting as regularly as usual.

- When somebody mentions "literature," what’s the first thing you think of? (Dickens? Tolstoy? Shakespeare?)
- Do you read "literature" (however you define it) for pleasure? Or is it something that you read only when you must?

Well, the answer to question #2 is "yes, I do read literature for pleasure". I was a comparative literature major after all.

As for question #1 - I honestly don't know. There are so many different kinds of literature that there isn't one thing that pops into my mind when I hear the word. Oh, I know... maybe book... :)