Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Week of Missed Thursdays (3)

If you’re anything like me, one of your favorite reasons to read is for the story. Not for the character development and interaction. Not because of the descriptive, emotive powers of the writer. Not because of deep, literary meaning hidden beneath layers of metaphor. (Even though those are all good things.) No... it’s because you want to know what happens next?
Or, um, is it just me?
(from August 28)

In many cases, yes, part of the joy of reading is the story and finding out what happens. There are, of course, many books in which nothing much happens and they too can be enjoyable reads as long as there's something else there.

Different books I like for different reasons. I also think that in general we come to books with certain expectations which vary depending on the genre of the book, whether we've read the author before, what we've read in reviews or heard about from friends, etc. If I come to a book expecting more than just an interesting story, I'm liable to be disappointed if it fails to engage me on other level. Similarly if I come to a book expecting not much more than an interesting story, I can be disappointed if the story's lacking and there isn't something else to tip the scales.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Week of Missed Thursdays (2)

Whether you usually read off of your own book pile or from the library shelves NOW, chances are you started off with trips to the library. So... What is your earliest memory of a library? Who took you? Do you have you any funny/odd memories of the library? (from August 21)

I'm not sure of my earliest library memory, but I can relate my most vivid early library memory. In kindergarten we had a field trip to the library to go get our first library cards. Of course I'd been to the library before with my mom, but this was a special trip, an event even. I remember anticipating the trip and being extremely excited about the prospect of my own library card. I don't remember much about the trip itself except getting handed my first library card... card stock with a little metal piece (that had an ID number or something on it) and my name.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Week of Missed Thursdays (1)

I know that I haven't been a very good blogger lately. I've been posting infrequently and I haven't done a Booking-through-Thursday post since July. In hopes of getting myself back on track, I've decided to dedicate this week to catching up a bit (and hopefully reinvigorating myself in the process). Each day this week I'll be answering one of the Booking-through-Thursday questions that I skipped this summer and maybe if I'm really on-top-of-it I'll even include a couple of other posts in the mix.

Autumn is starting (here in the US, anyway), and kids are heading back to school–does the changing season change your reading habits? Less time? More? Are you just in the mood for different kinds of books than you were over the summer? (from September 18)

Autumn inevitably increases the desire to curl up on the sofa with a cup of coffee/tea/hot cocoa and a good book. In that way, I think the season generally encourages reading.

I'm not sure that it changes the types of books I read though. There are certain kinds of books that I associate with summer--books that are set in vacation areas or have summer as a prevailing theme--and those definitely move out of favor as the weather cools. It may be that I read more mysteries in the fall and winter (though that's just a guess) because they are books that I like to read while cuddled up safely at home.

I think I'll cheat a bit and just list here the books I read in September, October, and November in the last two years (I started keeping track in 2006).

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Fall 2006 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
186. The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella
185. To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
184. Geisha by Liza Dalby
183. The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster
182. Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
181. Local Girls by Alice Hoffman
180. Goddess for Hire by Sonia Singh
179. Grim Tuesday by Garth Nix
178. All for Love by Dan Jacobson
177. Emerald Enigma by C.J. Westwick
176. Hideous Kinky by Esther Freud
175. Miss Understanding by Stephanie Lessing
174. Artistic Licence by Katie Fforde
173. The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult
172. Skylark Farm by Antonia Arslan
171. Artistic Licence by by Vivienne LaFay
170. At Risk by Stella Rimington
169. Song Quest by Katherine Roberts
168. Journey across Tibet by Sorrel Wilby
167. Killing Time by Caleb Carr
166. Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto
165. The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith
164. The Samurai by Shuaku Endo
163. Margarettown by Gabrielle Zevin
162. Touching Darkness by Scott Westerfled
161. The Dark Bride by Laura Restrepo
160. The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
159. By the Time You Read This by Giles Blunt
158. A Lover in Palestine by Selim Nassib
157. Hexwood by Diana Wynne Jones
156. Varjak Paw by SF Said
155. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
154. The Secret Hour by Scott Westerfeld
153. Son of the Mob by Gordon Korman
152. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
151. The Egyptian by Mika Waltari
150. Fat Kid Rules the World by KL Going
149. Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie Tolan
148. Mister Monday by Garth Nix
147. The Whole World Over by Julia Glass
146. Anonymous Lawyer by Jeremy Blachman
145. The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster
144. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
143. The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones
142. Thirty-three Swoons by Martha Cooley
141. Shopgirl by Steve Martin
140. Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith
139. The Nymphos of Rocky Flats by Mario Acevedo
138. Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear
137. Melancholy by Jon Fosse
136. Undead and Unemployed by MaryJanice Davidson
135. Missing Mom by Joyce Carol Oates
134. Undead and Unwed by MaryJanice Davidson
133. The Last Fine Time by Verlyn Klinkenborg
132. The Blue Taxi by N.S. Koeenings
131. The Man of my Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld
130. Lying in Bed by M.J. Rose
129. Max and the Cats by Moacyr Scliar
128. Fordlandia by Eduardo Sguiglia
127. Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu
126. Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith
125. Vinegar Hill by A. Manette Ansay
124. The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
123. Sweet Magnolia by Norma Jarrett
122. Blood Money by Thomas Perry
121. Vanishing Act by Thomas Perry

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Fall 2007 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Note: I didn't separate August from September in my 2007 list so a few of the earlier numbers may be August reads.
168. March by Geraldine Brooks
167. Friends, Lovers, and Chocolate by Alexander McCall Smith
166. The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue
165. The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis
164. How I Fell in Love with a Librarian and Lived to Tell about it by Rhett Ellis
163. 2nd Chance by James Patterson
162. Bedtime, Playtime by Black, Kerce, King
161. Murder Most Frothy by Cleo Coyle
160. Latte Trouble by Cleo Coyle
159. 1st to Die by James Patterson
158. Through the Grinder by Cleo Coyle
157. LionBoy by Zizou Corder
156. Piratica by Tanith Lee
155. The Sword in the Grotto by Angie Sage
154. My Haunted House by Angie Sage
153. Coming Round the Mountain by Tabitha Flyte
152. Flipped by Wendelin van Draanen
151. My Father's Secret War by Lucinda Franks
150. Embers by Sandor Marai
149. The Poet and the Murderer by Simon Worall
148. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
147. In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar
146. Disco for the Departed by Colin Cotterill
145. Glass Houses by Rachel Caine
144. Thirty-three Teeth by Colin Cotterill
143. Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard by Kiran Desai
142. The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill
141. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
140. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
139. Labyrinth by Kate Mosse
138. A Killer Stitch by Maggie Sefton
137. A Deadly Yarn by Maggie Sefton
136. Needled to Death by Maggie Sefton
135. Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris
134. The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith
133. Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris
132. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
131. The Spy Wore Red by Aline, Countess of Romanones
130. The Wise Woman by Philippa Gregory
129. Club Dead by Charlaine Harris
128. The Last Cavalier by Alexandre Dumas
127. Until I Find You by John Irving
126. Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris
125. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
124. On What Grounds by Cleo Coyle
123. Knit One, Kill Two by Maggie Sefton
122. The Royal Treatment by MaryJanice Davidson
121. Kingdom of the Golden Dragon by Isabel Allende

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

book clubbing (August-September)

My book club met today and I realized that things have been so crazy this summer that I'd forgotten to post about last month's book. Better late than never...

August: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Meg Murry, her little brother Charles Wallace, and their mother are having a midnight snack on a dark and stormy night when an unearthly stranger appears at their door. She claims to have been blown off course, and goes on to tell them that there is such a thing as a "tesseract," which, if you didn't know, is a wrinkle in time.
Meg's father had been experimenting with time-travel when he suddenly disappeared. Will Meg, Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin outwit the forces of evil as they search through space for their father?

Most of us who had read this book before hadn't read it since we were children. Personally I'd forgotten everything about the book except that it was written by Madeleine L'Engle so reading it again was really rediscovering it. We talked quite a bit about the book as it related to its time, speculating how different it would be if it had been written today.

September: 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

The true story of the 20-year correspondence between Helene Hanff, an American writer living in New York, and Frank Doel, the Manager of Messrs Marks and Co., a bookshop in London's Charing Cross Road. The story is told through the pair's letters.

This book received mixed reviews: some thought it charming, others thought it dull. It was short, but because it was told through correspondence the story itself wasn't particularly meaty. In general, we wished to know more about the books Hanff was ordering/reading and what happened to some of the other bookshop employees.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Ethel & Ernest

Ethel & Ernest by Raymond Briggs

Ethel & Ernest: A True Story is a graphic novel that relates the story of the author’s parents from their first meeting in 1928 to their deaths in 1971. Winner of the British Book Awards’ Best Illustrated Book of the Year for 1999, Ethel & Ernest is a touching memorial. It is also an interesting social history, showing how one working-class family confronted the Great Depression, World War II, and the great social and technological changes during this time period.

Read more on the Student Services blog...

Monday, September 08, 2008

Three Musketeers

Three Musketeers by Marcelo Birmajer
translated from the Spanish by Sharon Wood

Despite his fear of becoming his newspaper's token Jewish affairs correspondent, apathetic reporter Javier Mossen is strong-armed into interviewing expatriate Elias Traúm, who is visiting from Israel for the first time in 20 years. When Traúm is kidnapped from the Buenos Aires airport before Mossen's eyes, the unwanted assignment takes on a whole new meaning. Mossen becomes invested in both ensuring Traúm's safety and the story Traúm has to tell. Darkly comic and unapologetic, the novel subtly explores the political reality of Argentina's past and what it means to be a good Jew. Narrated by the sex-obsessed Mossen, this is the tale of Traúm's short visit to Argentina and the legacy of his role as one of the tres mosqueteiros, a group of precocious young radicals, two of whom joined the Montoneros during the Dirty War. It is also the story of Mossen's struggle to reclaim control of his life.

I was particularly taken by this passage:
"Nobody knows who he is, and as such the best thing is to proceed cautiously through life and not get our hopes up too much. Maybe paradise is simply the place where we will be handed a leaflet telling us clearly who we are, what we wanted and why we couldn't have it" (4).

Read the full review in Library Journal or at Barnes & Noble (click on "editorial reviews").

Three Bags Full

Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story by Leonie Swann

A witty philosophical murder mystery with a charming twist: the crack detectives are sheep determined to discover who killed their beloved shepherd.

On a hillside near the cozy Irish village of Glennkill, the members of the flock gather around their shepherd, George, whose body lies pinned to the ground with a spade. George has cared for the sheep, reading them a plethora of books every night. The daily exposure to literature has made them far savvier about the workings of the human mind than your average sheep. Led by Miss Maple, the smartest sheep in Glennkill (and possibly the world), they set out to find George's killer.

The A-team of investigators includes Othello, the "bad-boy" black ram; Mopple the Whale, a merino who eats a lot and remembers everything; and Zora, a pensive black-faced ewe with a weakness for abysses. Joined by other members of the richly talented flock, they engage in nightlong discussions about the crime and wild metaphysical speculations, and they embark on reconnaissance missions into the village, where they encounter some likely suspects. Ther's Ham, the terrifying butcher; Rebecca, a village newcomer with a secret and a scheme; Gabriel, the shady shepherd of a very odd flock; and Father Will, a sinister priest. Along the way, the sheep confront their own all-too-human struggles with guilt, misdeeds, and unrequited love.

I hadn't heard of this book before I visited some friends that had a copy. They hadn't read it yet, but they thought I'd like it so they let me borrow it. Of course right after that I saw the book in a bookstore in the Las Vegas McCarran Int'l Airport (it seems I always misjudge the amount of reading material I'll need on any trip I take; that time I ended up buying a copy of The Tenderness of Wolves).

In any case, this weekend I finished the book. I really liked it, but I've been having difficulty trying to figure out how to describe the book.

Leonie Swann does a great job imagining the ovine perspective (and creating a large cast of characters, each of whom manages to have a distinct personality). The book is funny, but it's not a comedy. The humor comes in how the sheep (mis)interpret the humans around them. In that way the book is brilliant, but it's hard to give any decent examples because nothing works nearly as well out of the full context of the novel.