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Showing posts from November, 2013

2014 TBR Pile Challenge

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Adam at Roof Beam Reader is hosting his traditional TBR Pile Challenge again !  He has more stringent rules than the Mount TBR Challenge, so I like to do both because they are different.  Adam says: The Goal: To finally read 12 books from your “to be read” pile (within 12 months). Specifics: 1. Each of these 12 books must have been on your bookshelf or “To Be Read” list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2013 or later ( any book published in the year 2012 or earlier qualifies, as long as it has been on your TBR pile – I WILL be checking publication dates ). Caveat: Two (2) alternates are allowed, just in case one or two of the books end up in the “can’t get through” pile. 2. To be eligible, you must sign-up with Mr. Linky below – link to your list (so create it ahead of time!) and add updated links to each book’s review. Books must be read and must be reviewed (doesn’t have to be too fancy) in order to count as comp

Beware of Pity

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Beware of Pity , by Stefan Zweig In 1913, a young Austrian officer visits a wealthy man's home.  During the evening's entertainment, he accidentally makes a faux pas by asking the host's pretty young daughter to dance, not realizing that she lost the use of her legs in an illness.  His efforts to make up for hurting her feelings draw him further into the family, but he is unequipped to cope with their desperation for healing and the emotional blackmail they exert upon him.  Although he loves them, he cannot fix them, but he also can't refrain from trying. I really enjoyed this novel, which I took quite slowly--and that was a good thing.

The Pink Sari Revolution

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The Pink Sari Revolution: A Tale of Women and Power in India , by Amana Fontanella-Khan Uttar Pradesh, in the north of India, has long been known as lawless and corrupt.  The thug-run goverment--called the Goonda Raj--operates protection rackets, victimizes ordinary citizens, and has the police in its pockets (which is usual; Indian police are paid almost nothing, and so the only people who enter law enforcement do so with the expectation of making a living from bribery, which as you can imagine efficiently undermines what police are supposed to do). In addition, endemic poverty and lack of education keep everyone down, most especially women. Sampat Pal is a perfectly ordinary woman in Uttar Pradesh, except that she seems to have been born with an enormous amount of chutzpah.  She has been standing up for herself and others her whole life, and now she has a group of women called the Gulabi Gang--they wear bright pink saris and use group tactics to fight injustice and domestic vio

The Greatcoat

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The cover was the best part. The Greatcoat, by Helen Dunmore I'd heard this was a great spooky ghost story, and I got it through ILL.  Although I enjoyed it, I'm not sure it was worth using an ILL on (I only get 12/year from the public library).  I hadn't realized that it is really a novella--it's very short indeed.  And somehow I hadn't realized what the main point of the story was. Isabel and Philip are newlyweds in 1954, adjusting to married life in a new Yorkshire village.  Philip is working hard at his new position as the village doctor, and is rarely home, while Isabel is having great difficulty adjusting, and hates their tiny rented flat.  It's so cold at night that when she finds an old RAF greatcoat stuffed far back in a cupboard, she uses it as an extra blanket--and then the owner of the coat starts visiting her.  It's not long before she is re-enacting the events of 10 years before and forgetting her own life. It was all right, but not

Kim

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Kim , by Rudyard Kipling I made my daughter read Kim as part of her history this year (which features a whole lot of British Empire material), and once she was done I read it too.  I avoided Kim when I was a teen myself, mostly because it had the world's most boring cover, all yellow and dusty-looking.  (If you come from Bakersfield, a drought-stricken landscape book cover does not look exotic or attractive.)  If I'd known it was about India and spying and lamas, I would have snapped it up--well, maybe, since I also had an aversion to historical fiction. Kim's father was an Irish soldier, but both mother and father died soon after his birth, and so Kim has grown up on the streets of Lahore, ignorant of his parentage.  He becomes a sort of apprentice and caretaker of a wandering Buddhist monk, a very learned lama--and he also undertakes some secret message-passing on the road.  Once Kim is noticed by a British officer, he is brought into the "Great Game" of es

The Arthurian Literature Reading Challenge 2014

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The legends and stories of King Arthur and his knights have been popular for over a thousand years, and during that time the stories have changed and developed into a tangle of related tales with wild offshoots all over the place.    Arthur himself may or may not have really existed, but if he did, he wouldn't have been anything like the king in the stories we know now.  Instead, Arthur has served as a figure to which we can pin our ideas about loyalty, love, and duty; the total lack of historical fact lets us embroider as we please and remake him in whatever guise we prefer. I'd like to spend some time in 2014 reading the old Arthurian material and seeing how it developed over the years into different stories.  I need company, so I hope some of you will join me in an Arthurian reading challenge! The rules: Challenge will run from January 1 -- December 31, 2014. Sign-ups are open until November 30, 2014.  To sign up, grab the button, write a post,

Airbrushed Nation

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I think it's supposed to be creepy? Airbrushed Nation: the Lure and Loathing of Women's Magazines , by Jennifer Nelson This has been my car book for a little while now--the book that lives in the car and keeps me occupied at odd moments of waiting for something.  It's perfect as a car book, because although it's supposed to be analytical, it's also written a whole lot like a magazine, with short sections and a whole lot of those annoying little pull-out boxes with quotations inside. Jennifer Nelson has a lot of experience in the world of women's magazines, and here she takes them apart for us to inspect.  She has lots of very interesting information about issues like: how the advertising is arranged, with a particular product placed right next to an article about the same thing how every single image is heavily altered (images are "aspirational," not realistic) why celebrities are now on every cover, every month, and how that's managed

Long-Awaited Reads Month 2014

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I missed this event last year, but I think I need to join up for January 2014!  Ana at Things Mean a Lot explains: Some of you might remember that last January, Iris and I hosted a blogging event called Long-Awaited Reads Month . We originally came up with it as a plan to cope with the January blues, but because these things are more fun when shared, we decided to open it to the whole of the Internet. Long-Awaited Reads Month 2013 was a huge success — I spent it devouring Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series and finishing Jo Walton’s Small Change trilogy, and the result was the most satisfying reading month I’ve had all year — so we’re bringing it back in 2014. As we explained last year , the rules are very simple and the event is meant to be completely relaxed. Here’s what you have to do: Read books you’ve been excited to read for a long time but never seem to get to in January. You can do this exclusively for the whole month (my approach), you can do it for

Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2014

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Joining Bev's Mount TBR Challenge is a tradition by now, so I'll be joining up again for next year.  Bev says:   Challenge Levels:   Pike's Peak : Read 12 books from your TBR pile/s Mount Blanc : Read 24 books from your TBR pile/s Mt. Vancouver : Read 36 books from your TBR pile/s Mt. Ararat : Read 48 books from your TBR piles/s Mt. Kilimanjaro : Read 60 books from your TBR pile/s El Toro : Read 75 books from your TBR pile/s Mt. Everest : Read 100 books from your TBR pile/s Mount Olympus (Mars) : Read 150+ books from your TBR pile/s And the rules: *Once you choose your challenge level, you are locked in for at least that many books. If you find that you're on a mountain-climbing roll and want to tackle a taller mountain, then you are certainly welcome to upgrade.  All books counted for lower mountains may carry over towards the new peak. *Challenge runs from January 1 to December 31, 2014. *You may sign up anytime from now until November 30th, 2014. *Books

Vintage Science Fiction Month

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I found a new annual event to love!  Check out the annual Vintage Science Fiction Not-A-Challenge , hosted by Redhead at The Little Red Reviewer, which is a January event and also has an awesome fantastic button.  I'd be tempted to sign up just to get that badge!  Redhead says: It’s almost December. you know what that means? that means it’s almost January.  And we all know what that means!  January means the return of Vintage Science Fiction month ! Shiny new stuff is well, shiny and new, and we all love it.   But what came before it?  Your favorite author happened to mention they were inspired by the writing of Jack Vance or H.P. Lovecraft or Andre Norton or James Blish? Aren’t you curious about how your favorite authors put their own spin on the dying earth and chthonic horrors?  To get a little philosophical, by knowing where I came from, I can better see where I stand, and better see where we’ve yet to go.  This January, let’s find out. As in past years,

The Pre-Printing Press Challenge

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Elena Gwynne at All Booked Up has got a challenge for the likes of me!  She is hosting a Pre-Printing Press Challenge for 2014.   Elena says: I've seen a lot of challenges for reading romances, fiction, award winning books and many more. Challenges on various themes (King Arthur etc.) and challenges to fit certain criteria, such as the What's In A Name Challenge. What I haven't seen is a challenge for reading books that pre-date the Printing Press. There's so many good pieces of writing that fit in this category (and I'm not asking you to read them in the original language unless you want to). So, for my first reading challenge, the pre-printing press challenge, I'm asking people to give these ancient and medieval books a try. I started running this challenge back in 2009 and ran it again in 2010 . Since then, I haven't run it, but I'm going to give it another try this year. The rules of the Pre-Printing Press Challenge: All books m

The Count of Monte Cristo

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The Count of Monte Cristo , by Alexandre Dumas I finished the readalong!  Wow, this was a much better book than I had expected.  I'm not that big a fan of the Three Musketeers , you see, and I really had very little idea of the plot. So, as everyone else in the world besides me knows, Edmond Dantés is a young man with everything to look forward to.  He is an excellent sailor with a good career ahead of him and he's about to marry his true love.  But!  Edmond is betrayed and framed by three envious rivals.  Arrested at his own betrothal feast, he is thrown into the dreaded Chateau D'If without trial or sentence.  During his long years of imprisonment, he meets an old priest who teaches him and tells him about a fabulous treasure hidden on the uninhabited rocky island of Monte Cristo.  Edmond becomes determined to escape, find the treasure, and exact his revenge on the people who ruined his life. Wow, this is an exciting book.  It's all over the place with plotti

And the Spin Number is...

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10!  I will therefore be reading Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd , which is a happy thing--it's been waiting for me for a while and I need a kick to start, but I actually do want to read it.  If you've never given the Spin a try, I hope you will next time.  It's a fun way to pick your next book. Piles of reading got you down?  Try the SPIN to wake you up!

Bible and Sword

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Bible and Sword: England and Palestine from the Bronze Age to Balfour, by Barbara Tuchman I've been meaning to read this book for years.  I should have read it long ago; it's really good.  It's also not very easy to find in libraries and used bookstores in my experience, so good luck.  You can buy it new, though. This is Barbara Tuchman's first published history book (I'm pretty sure), published in 1957--only about 10 years after Israel was established as a country, and she really doesn't try to go there.  She sticks to the Balfour declaration (the UK's 1917 statement of support for turning Palestine into a state for the Jewish people) and how it happened.  If you look at it without knowing any history, it seems a pretty stunning idea, so how on earth did that happen? Tuchman's answer starts far back in time, with the Roman Empire and Joseph of Arimathea, and continues through the establishment of Christianity in Britain, the Crusades, and lots mo

The Fall of Arthur

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The Fall of Arthur, by J. R. R. Tolkien (Question for you at the end, so be sure to read it!) J. R. R. Tolkien seems to have had a penchant for unfinished projects, and this is one of them, newly edited and annotated by the untiring pen of Christopher Tolkien.  Looking at the number of amazing unfinished stories and poems he wrote, I think we should all be grateful to C. S. Lewis for pressuring him to finish the Lord of the Rings. This  is an incredible thing--Tolkien was writing the story of King Arthur's doom, the final tale of Mordred's treachery and the battle at Camlann--and he was doing it in the Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse form that Beowulf was written in,, only of course in (somewhat) modern English.  I'm sure he could have written it IN Old English, but luckily he didn't go quite that far.  The whole thing  really does read (to my untrained eye) about as much like the real thing as modern English can be.  It's got all the atmosphere and flavor.  

The Rosemary Tree

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The Rosemary Tree , by Elizabeth Goudge I have all these books I want to post about, and really there are a couple of others that should come first, but I want to return Rosemary Tree to the library today, since it's an ILL.  So here we go. Some time ago, some blogger (who it was I no longer know) put The Rosemary Tree on a list of her own personal life-changing books.  I really like Elizabeth Goudge a lot, and I had not heard of this title, so I put it on my wishlist and eventually got around to ILLing it.  It reminds me very much of the Eliot chronicles, being a story with a lot of different people, all connected. We have John and Daphne, a married couple who need to connect better, their three daughters (each with her own story), the girls' school teachers, Daphne's former fiance (fresh out of prison), a great-aunt who lives on a small estate, and John's old nanny.  All of their stories intertwine to produce a really lovely novel about second chances that upli

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

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Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, by Helen Simonson My mom gave this to me a while ago, I think.  It was very popular for a while a year or two ago but I haven't seen it mentioned lately.  As usual, I am far behind the times and only now catching up. Major Pettigrew is the last of a dying breed--the old-fashioned English army man.  As a child, he lived in Lahore before Partition.  He is a great believer in duty, honor, and restraint, and his love for his small corner of the English countryside is unbounded (but quiet).  But now...his brother has died unexpectedly, his son is distressingly shallow and distant, and even his village is threatened with development.  Major Pettigrew's growing friendship with Mrs. Ali, the widow who runs the corner shop, is the focus and comfort of his life, but absolutely no one approves. It's nice to see a novel that features a romance between older people (as happens in real life all the time, not so much in books).  Mrs. Ali is my favo

Another Classics Club Fun Thing

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As long as we're talking about the Classics Club, check out their project for next year: Twelve Months of Classic Literature 2014 .  Each month will have a theme, and members are encouraged to write articles as well as read books:   This is a reading OR writing project. If you lack time to read about a topic for a month but would like to write about it (whether you’re an expert or not) that’s certainly encouraged. Research-based posts, free-writing, emotion-based “I love this topic” journal entries, lists – all are welcome and encouraged. Some of you may be experts (or experts in progress) on some of the selected topics. Your input is highly encouraged and appreciated! Others are new to literature. For you and the experts, exploration is encouraged. January : William Shakespeare (or his contemporaries. Elizabethan England, etc) February : Harlem Renaissance / African-American Literature. March :  Feminist Literature / Persophone / Virago Literature   April : Tr

Classics Club Spin #4

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It's time for another Classics Club Spin!   The rules are just the same as the prior 3 times, so I won't repeat them again; if you're new to the Spin then you should go look and join the club.  (You will be assimilated.  Resistance to reading classic literature is useless.) Five books that are really kind of scary to contemplate. 1  Confucius, China, 551-479 BCE. The Analects . 2  Mark Mathabane, Kaffir Boy . 3  Gunter Grass, The Tin Drum 4  Thomas Mann, Germany, 1924. The Magic Mountain .  5  Venerable Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Four that...(think up something random)....oh, start with a vowel. 6  Anton Chekhov, Russia, 1898. Uncle Vanya 7  VS Naipul, Trinidad, 1979 . A Bend in the River .  8  “Our Town,” Thornton Wilder 9  Carl Sandburg, 1940 , Abraham Lincoln: The War Years   Five books that I can't wait to read! 10  Thomas Hardy, England, Far From the Madding Crowd 11  Isak Dinesen, Winter's Tales . (appropriat

Holy Disorders

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Holy Disorders , by Edmund Crispin This is the second Gervase Fen mystery, and it is really pretty good.  It is very funny, and also, at the same time, a solid mystery with some icky things going on. Geoffrey Vintner, an organist and composer, is summoned (by Fen) to the tiny country village of Tolnbridge to substitute for the organist, who has been attacked.   He is warned to be careful, but who would try to assassinate a substitute church organist?  Several people, as it turns out, and Geoffrey is forced to realize that there must be a well-organized group of criminals after him. At Tolnbridge, more than one person connected with the church has been murdered.  Black magic is in evidence, but so is espionage.  Geoffrey and Gervase Fen have a bewildering mystery to untangle--inbetween Fen's insect-collecting excursions. A lot of the good stuff here is in the funny style.  For example, Geoffrey is attacked in a sporting goods shop and a melee ensues, featuring footballs and

The Doll

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The Doll, by Bolesław Prus A few months ago I decided to make The Doll my main October read.  I've been looking forward to it for a while, and it did not disappoint.  Now that it's been nearly two weeks since I read it, I hope I can still say some good things! Bolesław Prus (IRL Aleksander Głowacki) 1847-1912, was a Polish journalist and novelist.  From what I can tell, he is still one of the great 19th century Polish names, and The Doll is widely read.  There is actually very little about a doll in the novel; Prus would have liked to call it Three Generations to highlight the main theme.  Instead, this is a story of Polish society.   Stuck between decadent, useless aristocrats who waste money, and a huge population of hard-working people who are live so close to the edge that minor disasters are enough to ruin lives, Poland cannot seem to progress.  The three men of the story (well two mainly, plus a minor one) are of three generations. All are idealists, but against

Classics Club November Meme

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This month's Classics Club question says: A meme rewind: Pick a classic someone else in the club has read from our big review list . Link to their review and offer a quote from their post describing their reaction to the book. What about their post makes you excited to read that classic in particular? I went looking for reviews for books that I am kind of putting off reading.  You know how when something has been on your pile long enough, it starts to look unappealing just for having sat there too long.   I settled on Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd , which I have successfully been avoiding for about 18 months now, and found that Helen of She Reads Novels has written up an excellent review (that avoids spoilers!).  Helen really did rekindle my interest in this book, and her last paragraph was even funny--quite a feat when discussing Hardy: Of all the Hardy novels that I’ve read, with the possible exception of Under the Greenwood Tree , this is the most past

A Sail to the Past Reading Challenge

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I am surveying the possible challenges for next year, and for the most part I am undecided so far, but when I saw Fanda's history challenge I knew I would have to join right away.  Also, I love the image!  And it even matches my blog design.  So here it is, my signup post.  Fanda says: **What books to pick?** 1. Pick one or more History books written by historian(s) —must be pure non-fiction; historical fiction is not allowed. 2. It has to be a work through investigation and researches , and not only collecting and listing historical data. 3. Biography is permitted, but not Autobiography , as I think autobiography lacks the objectivity of a history. 4. I’m not an expert in this area (history), so you are more than welcome to correct or add something if I’m wrong. 5. Frankly speaking, I don’t read many histories yet (and that’s why I’m creating this challenge), so I might not be the right person to consult with, about whether this or that is a pure history or not. Fo

Attachments

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The much nicer UK cover Attachments , by Rainbow Rowell I read a review of this by Hanna at Booking in Heels the other day and thought it sounded interesting, so I put it on hold at the library.  And I did enjoy it quite a bit--it's a fun, cute read (not too cute), and a romance, but not sloshy or overly steamy.  About the level of romance that I like, in fact. The premise is a tricky one.  It's 1999, and Lincoln gets a job at a newspaper that is finally letting all employees have email and Internet access.  It's Lincoln's job to monitor the emails and enforce rules about off-color jokes, gambling, and too much personal email.  Meanwhile, the other half of the novel is epistolary;  Jennifer and Beth are employees who email each other a lot with everyday chat about their lives, and it gets flagged for checking.  As Lincoln reviews their correspondence, he develops a crush on one of the women.  He knows perfectly well that it is creepy to read the email of someon

The Crying of Lot 49

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The Crying of Lot 49 , by Thomas Pynchon I never would have thought of myself as someone who liked any modern literature at all, if not for the Modern American Novel class I took (under duress, because the class I wanted was full and I needed one of them to graduate) in my senior year in college.  And somewhat to my surprise, I really liked some of the books we read.  The Crying of Lot 49 was hands-down my favorite.  Recently on a Classics Club discussion, someone commented that they had read it and not liked it one bit, which made me want to read it again to see how I liked it this time. Oedipa Maas is surprised to find that she has been named executor of the will of a former boyfriend.  Pierce Inveriarty was a real-estate gazillionaire, and he's left her in charge.  As Oedipa tries to make sense of Inveriarty's estate, she starts to notice hints and clues of a strange underground conspiracy, a shadow postal service that descends from a secret rival of the Thurn und Tax

In Genuine Cowgirl Fashion

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In Genuine Cowgirl Fashion: The Life and Ride of "Two-Gun" Nan Aspinwall, by Mary Higginbotham This must be one of my more obscure titles, and probably needs an explanation.  "Two-Gun Nan" was a cowgirl in Western-style shows from about 1905-1929--like Annie Oakley, but later on.  She would do fancy riding and lariat tricks, and of course lots of trick shooting.  My grandmother used to have a framed show poster hanging in her house, because Nan was a cousin of some kind to her stepfather.  Nan Aspinwall is practically unknown now, but she was quite a celebrity in her day, especially because of a publicity stunt-- In 1910, Nan rode by herself on horseback from San Francisco to New York City.  She was the first woman to make the trip on her own.  I have a copy of a newspaper story about it from a San Francisco paper somewhere around here, and I've been kind of interested in her for a long time. I was quite surprised, though, when I came across this book on

Books I Was Scared Of

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One year ago, the Classics Club meme asked what books I was most scared of.   I posted this photo, and talked about how I am nervous of huge long books, especially French ones, and also Russian.  And Thomas Hardy. To my surprise, when I saw this photo again the other day, I realized that I have read--or am reading, in the case of Monte Cristo --every book on that pile this year, except Far From the Madding Crowd (the shortest!)--I'll have to try to read that by Christmas so I can tell myself I accomplished something. So I am feeling pretty good!