Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ulysses Wednesday #16

Welcome to Ulysses Wednesday, where I track my progress reading James Joyce's tale of a day in the life of Leopold Bloom.

Status:  I AM FINISHED!  (Sound the chorus)

  Yep I am done!  I finished Molly's chapter/episode in one (long) sitting and though it was challenging I have to say that this part was the most interesting to me.  Molly is a saucy one, and in talking about her various conquests it was difficult to determine who it was she was talking about -- Bloom, Boylan, or someone else.  I would have liked to read more about Molly, as she was definitely a character

  Overall I can't say that I loved Ulysses, or even liked it very much.  It is not a novel that one can simply pick up and read whenever there are a few spare minutes (though apparently it was a popular read for train commuters);  it requires concentration, not to keep up with the plot (which I don't think exists), but rather to keep up with Joyce's style changes and his use of language.  If anyone is stupid  brave enough to try this novel, I'd recommend that you find an annotated edition -- my copy was not and I know I could have benefited from some background information.

  So I'm going to take a break from the weightier classics for now, but in November I will probably begin reading War & Peace which my classics reading group will be discussing in January.  Have any of you read this one?  Am I giving myself enough time to read it?  I haven't decided if I will blog about my progress through this one -- if I do, will anyone join me?

  And by the way, thank you to everyone who have left encouraging comments throughout my slog through Ulysses.  I was doing this for my own satisfaction (ultimately, though, not enjoyment) but it was nice to see that there were people paying attention along the way.

Monday, September 27, 2010

It's Monday -- What are you Reading?

  It's Monday - What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at bookjourney to allow us to share with others in the book-loving cyberworld what is on our reading plates.

  This week I finished the following books:
 bup bup bup bahh  
  • ULYSSES!!!!!!   I finished the d*$n thing.  (watch for final Ulysses Wednesday post this week)
  Books in progress:
  • Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (Yeah, I jumped on the bandwagon.  I couldn't get through The Corrections though so we'll see how this one fares)
  • The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner (a re-read for my non-fiction book group at the library)

  I should probably start Emma by Jane Austen (for my classics book group) this week as well.

  I mentioned last week that I'm taking a French class on Saturdays; I don't know if I mentioned that it is in downtown Chicago.  Anyways, I'm too much of a wussy driver so I take the train (80 minutes of reading time each way!)  and with the schedule I get into the city with some extra time to kill.  I usually stop in at a Starbucks (if I can find one ha ha) but the one I went to had limited seating so I took my coffee and started walking to The Alliance Francaise, planning to just go in early and review (have I mentioned I'm a nerd).  But then I thought "Hey the Newberry Library is just a few more blocks and I can check out their bookstore".  So I did -- and I bought a few books (four to be exact, my name is Suzanne and I'm a bookaholic) and since one of them was one of their "featured" titles I got to pick a wrapped book for free (the bookseller said that they were ARCs and promotional copies they receive from publishers).  It was pretty exciting to get home (who am I kidding, I opened it when I got to my French class) to find out what it was  -- and it was Boardwalk Empire by Nelson Johnson, not a book I've heard about but it is the story (the good and bad of Atlantic City) upon which the new HBO series is based.  Kind of a neat little surprise.

What are you reading this week?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott

  Clara Purdy's life was changed by a car accident.  She wasn't seriously injured, but she took on the responsibility of taking care of the family whose car she hit while making a left turn.  The Gage family -- on their way to Fort McMurray for the father to seek work -- have little more than what is in their car, and an examination at the hospital after the accident reveals that Lorraine Gage, mother of three children, has cancer.

  Good to a Fault is a novel about doing the right thing.  Clara, a single woman who mainly keeps to herself, takes in Lorraine's three children -- Darlene (about eight or nine), Trevor (five) and Pearce (about 10 months at the time of the accident) -- and her lazy mother-in-law while Lorraine is hospitalized for her treatments and while Lorraine's husband has vanished with her late mother's car.    With the help of her saintly neighbor, Mrs. Zenko, her church priest, some extended family members, and Lorraine's brother Darwin, she somehow provides a household for the children to feel comfortable in and to feel like there is more to life than being alone.  It is an enjoyable story, one that made me wonder how far I would go to help out a stranger.

  This is the third book I have completed for the Canadian Book Challenge 4

Friday, September 24, 2010

Book Beginnings on Friday

 Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Becky at Page Turners. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading. If you like, share with everyone why you do, or do not, like the sentence.

 My beginning this week comes from Mini-Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella:

OK.  Don't Panic.  I'm in charge.

 Anyone familiar with the adventures of Rebecca Brandon (nee Bloomwood) knows that if she is in charge then one should definitely panic!  I was disappointed in the last two books in the Shopaholic series, but this one is enjoyable so far.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Room by Emma Donoghue

* WARNING -- there may be some mild spoilers *

  I honestly am at a loss for words to describe this book. 

  Jack is five years old and he lives in Room with his Ma.   Room is a small garden shed where they are being held captive by a man who Jack calls Old Nick (because he comes to Room at night just like Old Saint Nick aka Santa Claus).  Ma has been in Room for seven years and attempts to give Jack a routine and some semblance of a normal childhood, but as this is the only life Jack has ever known, he seems to be quite a happy child.  His relationship to Outside is through the television, where he visits with friends such as Dora the Explorer, and he doesn't "want" for anything he sees since he doesn't not believe any of it is real.

  Then they are rescued (in what is probably now one of my favorite scenes ever) and Ma must readjust to life Outside and Jack must learn about it, without the comforts of Room.  It's unbelievable to read about everything that was necessary -- masks to protect them (especially Jack) from germs they've not been exposed to, and special sunglasses to protect their eyes from the direct sunlight when truly outside are just two examples.  What was truly striking to me was the conflict between Ma's desire to get back her life and her desire to protect Jack, whose exposure to all of these new stimuli was overwhelming and frightening.

  I was a bit leery about reading a novel with such traumatic subject matter, but Room is so well written that even though there were some difficult passages to read (not violent, just heartbreaking) I found it difficult to put the book down. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ulysses Wednesday #15

  Welcome to Ulysses Wednesday, where I track my progress reading James Joyce's tale of a day in the life of Leopold Bloom.

  Status: page 738 of  783

  Just entering into Molly's stream of consciousness.  Funnily enough, I'm sort of looking forward to reading this (remind me when I start screaming about it!) because although Molly has been mentioned here and there throughout the book, I don't know much about her.  And it will be interesting to see how this chapter/episode differs from the others -- perhaps it will be more understandable because it is just Molly's thoughts? (again, remind me of this)


Monday, September 20, 2010

It's Monday - What are you Reading?


  It's Monday - What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at bookjourney to allow us to share with others in the book-loving cyberworld what is on our reading plates.

  I only finished one book this week:  Room by Emma Donoghue.  I'm trying to figure out how to put my thoughts about it into words that make sense.  It is truly a wonderful novel.
  I participated in my first Book Blogger Appreciation Week and had fun.  I found a lot of new blogs to follow, added more books to the never-ending to read list, and learned things that I hope will improve my own blog.

  Books in progress: 
  I've started taking a French class on Saturdays to refresh my very rusty French skills, and ambitiously I took out a few French books from the Centre's library.  I don't know if I'll complete them, but it will be a good challenge.

  What are you reading this week?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Book Blogger Appreciation Week - Future Treasure

    This has been my first year participating in Book Blogger Appreciation Week, and I have enjoyed it very much.  I am still a rookie blogger and have a lot to learn, so the opportunity to look at so many different book blogs has been quite a learning experience.  I've also learned more about genres that I never thought about - through judging an award category and through my blogger interview (with Katie at MundieMoms) - and might step out of my reading comfort zone and try out some new styles.

    Of course my to-read list has also expanded exponentially with all of the recommendations that have been passed along.  It may take until next year's BBAW for me to get through them all!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Book Beginnings on Friday

  Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Becky at Page Turners. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading. If you like, share with everyone why you do, or do not, like the sentence.

  My beginning this week comes from Room by Emma Donoghue:

Today I'm five.

  Such a short sentence, but those three words tell the reader that the narrator of the story is a child.  As I'm almost finished with this truly amazing novel, I can also say that this simplicity is present throughout the book yet it seems that each word is chosen to pack an emotional punch.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ulysses Wednesday #14

Welcome to Ulysses Wednesday, where I track my progress reading James Joyce's tale of a day in the life of Leopold Bloom.

Status: page 700 of 783


  So Bloom and Dedalus were last seen at the off-hours pub, and Bloom is deciding whether or not to take Stephen home with him so that he can sleep it off.  He decides in the positive, but when they arrive at the house poor Poldy realizes that he doesn't have his house key and must break in (lest he awake Molly). 
  The chapter I'm in now is in the style of an interview - a very scientific interview.  It is explaining quite a bit about Bloom, Stephen, and their families, which I wish I read before the rest of the book.  There's also some really weird stuff (weirder stuff, I should say) -- an implied connection between Ireland and Israel, for example, and a strange poem/nursery rhyme that I don't think I'd want to be singing with any children I know:
Little Harry Hughes and his schoolfellows all
Went out for to play ball.
And the very first ball little Harry Hughes played
He drove it o'er  the jew's garden wall.
And the very second ball little Harry Hughes played
He broke the jew's windows all.
Then out there came the jew's daughter
And she all dressed in green.
'Come back, come back, you pretty little boy,
And play your ball again.'
'I can't come back and I won't come back
Without my schoolfellows all,
For if my master he did hear
He'd make it a sorry ball.'
She took him by the lilywhite hand
And led him along the hall
Until she led him to a room
Where none could hear him call.
She took a penknife out of her pocket
And cut off his little head,
And now he'll play his ball no more
For he lies among the dead.
  A treatise against playing ball where you might break something, or an example of anti-Semitism?
  I have about 30 pages left in this chapter (oops - sorry - EPISODE) and then I'm on to Molly's stream of consciousness rant.  I feel I need to read that part all at once, so if I'm able to do that, I might just finish the novel within the week!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Book Blogger Appreciation Week - New Treasure!

  Today's feature of Book Blogger Appreciation Week is new treasure -- swapping interviews with a fellow blogger.  I was paired with Katie, who administers the blog Mundie Moms, a blog focused on YA fiction and especially on author Cassandra Clare.  I was a bit intimidated at first, because I'm not familiar with the types of books discussed on her blog, but browsing it educated me in this genre and gave me some great ideas on how to spice up my own blog.  Alas, our interview had to be conducted via e-mail and not in person, but Katie was a wonderful subject; aside from our love of books and reading we also found another thing we have in common -- we are both aunties to twins (mine are nieces, hers are nephews).

  Anyways, on to the interview:

1) What inspired you to start your blog?

I had been a lead moderator on another large fan site for another book series. I've always been an a bookworm, so I decided to start the Mundie Moms forum and the blog (though the blog didn't go public until about 6 months after the forum was started). I wanted to have a place where I could support Cassandra Clare and a place I could talk about books and support authors, through sharing my reviews, hosting live author chats, interviews and giveaways.

2) Do you review or post about every book you read?

I read a lot more than just YA and kid books, so no, I don't review everything I read. However, I do review almost every book that is sent to me to review for Mundie Moms and Mundie Kids.

3) Your blog is well-done, with various gadgets like animation, video and countdowns. How much time do you spend working on your blog?

Thank you. I'm not a huge animation person. We have Cassie's countdown and then I add a few select book countdowns, but that's it w/ for the countdown. I don't have an animations or hardly any on Mundie Moms, as I feel it gets to be too much other wise. I spend way more time on my blog than I should. I spend a few hours a week on my blog. I'd be scared to give an actual number. lol

4) Your blog focuses largely on Cassandra Clare, an author I'm not familiar with. What can you tell me about her books?

Cassandra's series (The Mortal Instrument and Infernal Devices) are very steam-punk, Victorian Era, paranormal, books with action, romance and snark. She really opens the reader's mind up with her diverse writing and takes you to a world that is both set in the real world and in imagination. Her series deal with the war on good vs as ShadowHunters are there to destroy the demons and keep other paranormals in line. To add more realism to her series, Cassandra throws in the topics of family, romance and self discovery.

5) MundieMoms looks looks like a collaborative blog-what are the benefits/challenges associated with that?

I don't think there are any challenges. If I had too many people helping me run it, than it would be more of a challenge. Sophie and I talk almost daily and having an open communication about the blog is key. I'm also very organized and my daily and monthly calendar for the blog is usually filled up 2-3 months in advance. Without that, I wouldn't be able to function. We have so much going on with our daily memes, author chats, interviews and giveaways, that I need to be on top of what's going on. I've got a great review team, who also help on the blog.

Thank you, Katie, for taking the time to answer my questions.  I'm going to keep following your blog and might even try out a Cassandra Clare novel!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Book Blogger Appreciation Week - My First Treasure

  It's Book Blogger Appreciation Week (for some reason Hallmark doesn't have a card for this yet); a time to celebrate book blogging.  This is my first time participating, but I am looking forward to playing along as much as possible (real job's work schedule permitting).

   Today we are asked to talk about our first treasure -- the first blog we discovered.  The first blog I found was actually an extension of a podcast that I discovered on iTunes -- Books on the Nightstand (multiple BBAW award winners last year, I believe).  Ann and Michael, the creators of BOTNS, have a wonderful conversational style in the podcast and the blog posts associated with each podcast are wonderful resources for the books they discuss and for further information on the podcast's theme.  I have added many books to my own nightstand thanks to this podcast/blog.

  The blog that inspired me to start my own blog is Rebecca Reads.  I am fortunate to know Rebecca "in real life", as she coordinates the Classics Reading Group at our library, and her blog is so well done and true to her affinity for classical literature, that I decided to put my own eclectic tastes to virtual paper and try blogging myself. 

  I hope you check out these great blogs if you haven't already done so.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Everything Is Going to Be Great by Rachel Shukert

  I think I must be getting old -- REALLY old.

  I love reading travel memoirs, especially since I'm not able to as much of my own travelling as I'd like, so I had high hopes about Everything Is Going to Be Great:  An Underfunded and Overexposed European Grand Tour.  A European Grand Tour is on my bucket list, but I don't know when (WHEN) it will happen, so for now I must experience it vicariously through Rachel Shukert.

   Shukert, an aspiring actress (though not an overly ambitious one, in my opinion) has the opportunity to travel to Europe as part of a travelling production of a play in which she has performed in New York.  The thing is, "Europe" only means Vienna and Zurich for the play, and her experience of these cities seems to be limited to sites with alcohol and opportunities for sexual encounters.  Following the play's closing, Shukert heads on to Amsterdam, where she hopes to land a role in a play being produced by two friends; in the meantime, she is forced to earn a living, but still manages the alcohol and sex consumption and for all appearances does not want to grow up.

  And I just didn't find it interesting.  Call me a prude, but the fact that one gets drunk almost nightly and has a different partner at an equivalent rate is not my idea of an interesting trip.  I found Shukert to be incredibly shallow and selfish, and eventually became bored with her tales of woe.  Honey, if I had the opportunity to go to Europe like you did I'd be taking in every last bit of the experience.
  Having said that, though, she did get a book deal out of it .... but unless you're a twenty-something without a direction in life, I don't think this is the ideal book to give you a taste of what Europe has to offer.

Disclosure:  received copy from the publisher, Harper Perennial

Friday, September 10, 2010

Book Beginnings on Friday


  Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Becky at Page Turners. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading. If you like, share with everyone why you do, or do not, like the sentence.

  My beginning this week comes from Gratitude by Joseph Kertes:

Lili crouched behind a wardrobe, dressed in a wedding gown.

  This simple sentence creates a number of questions:  Why is she crouched behind the wardrobe?  Why is she dressed in a wedding gown?  As the novel is set in WWII-era Hungary one can make assumptions of what has happened or is about to happen. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Ulysses Wednesday #13

  Welcome to Ulysses Wednesday, where I track my progress reading James Joyce's tale of a day in the life of Leopold Bloom.

  Status: page 650 of 783

  This week's slow pace is attributed to the fact that I essentially re-read 20-30 pages twice.  Bloom and Stephen are stumbling about in the streets after the bar, at first trying to find transportation but then they end up in an after hours place full of Italian sailors.  One of them remembers Stephen's father, Simon, but Stephen seems to me reluctant to acknowledge the connection.  I get a sense that I should have read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man first because Stephen is playing a larger role in the novel than I thought.

  I still plan on finishing by the end of the month, but I'll need to pick up the pace just a little bit.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise by Julia Stuart


  When I finish the last page of a book such as The Tower, The Zoo and The Tortoise, I feel happy that I spent time with such a wonderful story, but at the same time I'm sad that I have to say good-bye to a such an interesting cast of characters.  

  The novel is set in the Tower of London and the people who keep it operational - they are required to live on the Tower Grounds.  The main character is Balthazar Jones, a Yeoman Warder (aka Beefeater) who is asked by a representative of the Queen to oversee a new Royal Menagerie being established at the Tower.    This provides some distraction to Balthazar, who, with his wife Hebe - an employee at the Lost Property Office of the London Underground - are still dealing (not dealing, really) with the death of their young son Milo.
But all is not bleak in this story, thanks to a very quirky group of supporting characters',  the most notable of whom are Reverend Septimus Drew, who harbors a crush on the Tower Pub's landlady and who in his spare time writes erotic fiction; and Valerie Jennings, Hebe's colleague at the Lost Property Office, who finds herself in a confusing relationship with a ticket collector who frequently brings her objects he's found on the Tube.  Oh, and let's not forget Mrs. Cook, Balthazar & Hebe's 181-year old tortoise.
This novel is a fun look at the Tower of London and the London Underground  - their day-to-day functioning and their colorful histories.  It also has very touching passages about love and loss.  I laughed and cried while reading it, but through it all I smiled.  A very enjoyable book.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

True History of the Kelly Gang

  When I went to Australia in 1989, I spent some time in Melbourne, and one of the places I visited was the Old Melbourne Gaol; there I saw the death mask (plaster mold of the head after death) of Ned Kelly, infamous Australian bushranger (photo here - may be disturbing though).  I didn't know much about him, other than he was an outlaw, but I assumed he was not a nice person.

  Although a fictional account, the True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey paints Kelly in a somewhat different light.  The novel is told in the form of a journal written by Ned Kelly to his infant daughter (whom he never met) describing his life from his boyhood to the final standoff that led to his arrest and eventual execution.  The style of the narrative is conversational and colloquial, and to me it showed Ned Kelly as a man who did what he thought was necessary to protect his family, especially his mother and brother Dan who was part of his gang.

  The descriptions of the Australian frontier are vivid -- the rough lives the settlers had to endure and the lawlessness that prevailed are quite evident and provide background to Ned's story that make this novel seem more real.

  For a non-Aussie like me some of the slang used was a bit confusing, but apart from that I enjoyed this book for its introduction to a colorful piece of Australian history.

  Many thanks to Becky at PageTurners, who generously sent me the book as part of her blogiversary celebration.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Book Beginnings on Friday


  Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Becky at Page Turners. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading. If you like, share with everyone why you do, or do not, like the sentence.

  My beginning this week is from The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise by Julia Stuart:

Standing on the battlements in his pajamas, Balthazar Jones looked out across the Thames where Henry III's polar bear had once fished for salmon while tied to a rope. 

  To me, this gives a sense of the quirkiness of the novel.  I'm about halfway through and enjoying it -- it's definitely quirky, with characters who have very distinct personalities and a historic setting that gives us a peek behind the scenes. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

September's Reading List

For Reading Groups:

For thelittlereader's readalong:

For Review:

I should also be finishing up Ulysses this month!

Add a book or two for The Canadian Book Challenge 4 and a few more off of my ever growing to-read pile (I could say that I won't buy any more books, but I would be lying), and I have a very productive and interesting month ahead of me.  I hope yours is the same!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My 15 minutes of blogger fame!

(well hopefully a bit more than 15 minutes, a half hour would be nice!)

Becky at Page Turners has a great blog featuring a diverse range of books and through her I'm learning about Australian literature.  She runs a weekly feature called Lights, Camera, Blog Action where she highlights other book bloggers; and who should she be featuring this week but - MOI

If you don't already follow this great blog, check it out. 

If you're visiting for the first time from Becky's blog -- welcome!

(and thanks again Becky)

Ulysses Wednesday #12

Welcome to Ulysses Wednesday, where I track my progress reading James Joyce's tale of a day in the life of Leopold Bloom.

Status: page 613 of 783
   Ok, I've FINALLY finished the play within the novel.  Way weird, and when this section started I thought it would be easier to follow.  The ghost of Stephen's mother appears, telling him to repent or face God's wrath; while he cowers.  I really must have what he's having.  Also some conflict between the English military presence and the Irish (with f-bombs a plenty - I can see how 1920s society would have been "scandalized).
   At any rate, it's the home stretch -- three quarters of the way through and I'm still alive to tell about it.  Which is good because (segue) I just heard about another blogger - Isaac at The Tower of Stories - who is beginning a monthly discussion of Ulysses and since he's read it before I am sure that he will a lot more articulate and informative about the book than I've been and I look forward to reading his thoughts.