Sunday, January 31, 2010
1. The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
2. Nation by Terry Pratchett
3. Once Upon a Time in the North by Philip Pullman
4. Close Range: Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx
5. Dear Me: Letters to My 16 Year-Old Self
6. Sexing the Cherry by Jeannette Winterson
7. A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro
8. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
9. I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts About Being A Woman by Nora Ephron
10. Persepolis by Marjane Sartapi
11. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
12. Maus by Art Spiegleman
13. Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett
14. Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day by Winifred Watson
15. Invisible by Paul Auster
16. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
17. The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby
18. Wake by Lisa McMann
19. Under the Duvet by Marian Keyes
Some goals for this year were to read more of my own books (success! I read 7 of my own books this month!) and to read more non-fiction (again, YES! I read 7 non-fiction). Progress was made on the Woman Unbound reading challenge, with 5 titles, three of which were non-fiction. I read four books towards the 1% well-read challenge, and two books towards the Terry Pratchett reading challenge. I read my first two graphic novels this month and were pleasantly surprised by both. What's more, even though I've since fallen behind a bit in my reviews, I do have three and a half reviews lined up for the following week, so I don't feel swamped or under pressure just yet. So all in all, a lot of progress for this month.
I remember the focus at the beginning of the month was short stories, which is why I finished The Thing Around Your Neck, Once Upon a Time in the North and Close Range. Then I had a minor panic attack at not finishing the 1% well-read challenge and quickly read three titles off of the 1001 Books To Read Before You Die list (Sexing the Cherry, A Pale View of Hills and The Sun Also Rises, followed by Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day later on in the month). Then things shifted more towards the Women Unbound reading challenge. After that, I had my brilliant plan to read all my library books so I could return them, and the idea was anyway, to not pick up any more books and once again focus on reading some of my own books. The path between books isn't always this clear but I felt like I was reading with more of a purpose this month.
As for reading today, I managed to sneak in Under the Duvet by Marian Keyes under this month's totals by reading the last 100 or so pages late this afternoon. I've also got The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen on the go and Saturday by Ian McEwan, which I'm reading for the 1% well-read challenge. I also hope to finish reading Unless by Carol Shields which I started a few weeks ago but which I abandoned due to more exciting books.
How was January for you in terms of reading? What are you reading at the moment? What do you hope to read in February?
Friday, January 29, 2010
She writes about being ashamed of her neck, finding the right handbag, the amount of time and effort that is placed in maintaining her hair and make-up. She writes about how different parenting styles have changed over the years, she writes about the gradual loss of her eyesight and how that has affected her reading. There are essays about romance, but with a twist - the love of a building, cookbooks over the years, a cabbage strudel she can no longer find. She gives advice. My favourite essay is towards the end, Considering the Alternative, about the death of her best friend. Here, the humour is gone and instead we have a heartbreaking essay about loss.
Read for: 100+ reading challenge, Support Your Local Library, Women Unbound reading Challenge
What's your favourite Nora Eprhon film?
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Which is, that in all the years I've been a library card holder, I have never once left the library with nothing.
It's just impossible. Have you ever done that? Returned your big stack of books and left with .. nothing? I certainly haven't, and despite my well-laid plans, who am I break a lifetime's tradition? Who was I kidding anyway?
Before this morning's trip, however, I did finish two of my own books and started a third. So the whole plan wasn't such a huge failure. I do plan to balance more of my own books with my library books this time. Things won't work otherwise. Anyway, here are the books I ended up with today:
Manga Shakespeare: Hamlet and Manga Shakespeare: King Lear - I've not read either of these plays. And I've always meant to. The library had these in new, and had a few other Shakespeare plays I've never gotten around to, but because I am a picture of self-restraint these days (AHAHA!) I only picked up these two.
Tales of the City and More Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin - I always wondered about these books. I seem to vaguely recall some positive comments about them, then a book I read recently mentioned them. I saw them in the library today and I thought 'here's my chance'
The Comical Tradegy or Tragical Comedy of Mr Punch by Neil Gaimain, illustrations by Dave McKean - never heard of this graphic novel before. I was sort of looking for a Sandman GN, but I couldn't remember where to start and this one looked like a stand-alone. I'm really trying with graphic novels, but I feel like I'm flailing around, unsure of where to start.
Terry Pratchett's The Light Fantastic, the Graphic Novel - You might have noticed my current obsession with Terry Pratchett? In the last 6 weeks, I've read three of his novels, and have checked out a further five novels (Reaper Man, not pictured, leftover library loot) I just can't get enough. Why did nobody tell me before?
The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi - I've read some reviews of Oyeyemi and remembered that my library stocked this one. I'm not as thrilled to read it so I can see myself returning this book shortly. Unless someone convinces me otherwise, of course!
And finally, The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, and Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett - I recently read Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents and absolutely adored it, so I was thrilled to see his other YA novels in my library. I'm hoping it won't be Pratchett overload though.
Here are the books that I picked up in my favourite charity shop's sale:
Marley and Me by Josh Grogan
Notes From A Small Island by Bill Bryson
Property by Valerie Martin
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
At 50p a book I'm not sure I need to give reasons as to why I purchased these books. I'm still wondering why I didn't pick up MORE books at that price.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Four years later and I am incredibly happy with the way things have turned out with this blog. I love the discussions that go on, the friends that I've made, the swapping of book recommendations, the whole sense of community that I feel. I couldn't have done it without all of you supporting me, giving me feedback and nice comments.
So thank you to my followers, thank you to my commenters, thank you to all of my readers. You have truly made the last four years incredibly special.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
I started The Sun Also Rises last summer. I made the mistake of trying to rush into it too quickly. I don't think Hemingway can be rushed, I actually missed a major detail the first time around and had to re-read for things to make sense. The Sun Also Rises focuses on a group of expatriates living in Paris after the destruction caused by WWI, as they drink and sleep around and lead generally purposeless lives. They then head off to Spain and fish and watch the bull-fighting.
At first glance, I thought, why should I care? These people aren't hugely sympathetic characters, drinking their lives away, saying things like 'swell' and 'darling' too often for my tastes. But once I understood more of the characters and had read further into the book I realised that my emotional investment in these people had crept up on me out of nowhere. I'm still surprised.
The main focus of the novel surrounds the main character, Jake Barnes and the woman he loves, Brett Ashley. Because of a wound sustained during WWI, Jake is impotent and though Jake and Brett love each other, this lack of physical consummation means that they are unable to have a relationship together. Instead, Brett flits between men but these relationships lack an emotional connection and soon end. This trip to Spain sees Brett surrounded by Jake, a fiance, and a former lover and things start to heat up when Brett falls for a teenage bull-fighter, Pedro.
All in all, I enjoyed this book. I'll definitely seek out other Hemingway novels. But not in any great hurry, as the endings of his books always seem just that little bit too sad for me.
Read for: 1% well-read challenge, 100+ book challenge.
Have you read this book? What do you think of Ernest Hemingway - love him? hate him? Do you have a favourite Hemingway novel?
Monday, January 25, 2010
In this, his first novel, we are introduced to Etsuko, a woman living in England who is dwelling on the recent suicide of her eldest daughter, Keiko, whilst spending time with her younger daughter, Niki. A dream prompts Etsuko to reminisce about the events that occurred in Japan 20 years earlier when she still lived in Nagasaki, as she is pregnant with Keiko, when she befriended Sachiko and her daughter, Mariko. Sachiko is at the time preparing to leave Japan for America and asks Etsuko for some help.
Etsuko herself seems quite detached and a little cold as a character. And Sachiko is absolutely cringe-worthy - her complete disregard for her daughter's well-being and the extreme neglect is difficult to read. In fact, I was forced to walk away from this book for many months before I returned to it. Ishiguro's writing style is quite sparse and the whole book has quite a melancholy feel to it. The suicide of Etsuko's daughter, Japan after the bombs had dropped during WWII, the mistreatment of Mariko.
And yet, I couldn't quite abandon this book entirely. It isn't entirely clear, but there is a sense towards the end of the book that the similarities between Sachiko and Etsuko are not just mere coincidence and that in fact Sachiko represents Etsuko and how she behaved with her own daughter Keiko so many years ago. I believe Etsuko's memories and dreams of Sachiko are her own ways of handling her guilt towards how she handled events in her daughter's life and how that may have led to Keiko's suicide.
It's not my favourite Ishiguro novel, it's slightly confusing and more than a little disturbing in parts. But I'm not sorry that I've read it.
Books, Time and Silence
Plays With Needles
Read for: 1% well-read challenge, 100+ reading challenge
Sunday, January 24, 2010
a bit calmer. We started the day with N and the boys making delicious
ricotta hotcakes for breakfast before heading out to the toy shop to
treat the boys. We picked up lunch from out and watched Bee Movie
together (I fell asleep).
I've just started Scott Westerfeld's latest, Leviathan, and hope to
get in some reading time this afternoon. I've recently finished
Invisible by Paul Auster and Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day by
Winifred Watson and I'm starting to stress a little that I'm now 8
reviews behind. But that's something to think about another day!
What're you reading today? How has your weekend been?
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Awhile back I read another of Jeanette Winterson's books, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, and thought it was a bit of fun. When I saw Sexing the Cherry in a charity shop last year, I picked it up thinking 'why not?' It's quite a slim book I thought, even if I hate it it's still less than 150 pages. And soon after buying this book, I read a negative review of it. Vivienne over at Serendipity (link to review below) couldn't make it through the book and that really put me off for awhile. And it's worth mentioning here. Reading this book did make me feel uncomfortable in parts, especially as I read so many instances of anti-male writing. I'm all for equal rights, but I don't believe that tearing down one sex in order to raise the other is the right way to go about things.
Despite all of my misgivings with this book, the part I enjoyed the most was the relationship between the Dog-woman and Jordan. They have such a wonderful connection to each other, but they don't really understand how the other feels for them. There's a great scene towards the end where the Dog-woman struggles with her emotions after seeing Jordan after such a long time. And instead of embracing him, telling him how much she missed him and loved him, she says nothing. And they walk down the beach together. It's a really beautiful scene, I wish I'd written it down to share with you here.
This book really did make me think. I was left wondering what it all meant, what was Winterson's purpose in writing this book? I think I touched on some of the main themes, of love and truth and imagination. I think Winterson wanted readers to see the world differently, to see the difference in gender roles and to think of history in a new way. To be imaginative. That's what I got out of reading this book anyway. Sexing the Cherry is not a book for everyone, I don't think. But it's one that I'm glad to have read.
So Many Books
Tales from the Reading Room
A Work in Progress
Read for: 100+ reading challenge, 1% well-read challenge, GLBT reading challenge.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Some of the nice things she did included writing notes and putting them in books in bookstores for future readers to find, cutting out coupons and placing them in stores to help others out, buying a coffee for the person behind her, getting up to make her husband's lunch even though he leaves at 4am, and in a really touching post she wrote about buying the medication for a man who couldn't afford it. She did so many wonderful things in this one month, it was so inspiring to read her blog. There are so many things that can be done, little things that make someone else happy.
Now, she'd like to do it again, but this time with a little help. I've decided to take part and I thought I'd throw the idea out to anyone else in case others are interested. Here is the email that I recieved from Erinn:
Welcome to Project Nice!
I changed the name from Be Nice to a Stranger to Project Nice, because it’s a project and you need to be nice.
You can follow the first Be Nice to a Stranger here http://benicetoastranger.blogspot.com/2009_11_01_archive.html
Goal: Do something nice for someone else and by doing this you will make their day a little better. It doesn’t have to be a stranger, but being nice to someone you will most likely never see or hear from again makes the action a little be more meaningful.
Your Mission: You will need to complete seven nice things in twenty-eight days. You will need to write up your experience. Then ask one friend to do something nice for someone.
1) Doing things you would normally do, does not count. If you normally open up doors for people as you are entering a building, that’s not being nice, its being civilized. The idea is to go a little bit beyond what you would do in your day-to-day life.
2) If you are going to buy something for someone try to keep it below $5 a person., UNLESS a very special circumstance comes up, like when I bought the medication for the elderly man. Being nice to people doesn’t mean you go broke in the process.
3) You can repeat a nice deed I did over the first thirty days but you can only repeat ONE. Six deeds need to be original.
4) Email me your seven nice deeds after you have completed them.
5) Your friend does NOT have to write up the experience, but they do you have to tell you about it. If they do write it up, e-mail it to me with your submission.
6) Please edit your writing before sending it. I am a TERRIBLE editor, awful, just the worst.
7) I would like to publish this in a book and on my blog. If you don’t want your story published in one form or another please let me know. Your personal information will NOT be published, first names and last initial only.
8) You may do MORE than the seven.
9) Actions you did BEFORE the official start date DO count.
Other important information:
Please e-mail you good deeds in one document or cut and paste it into one e-mail.
Please e-mail it to projectnice2.0 (a) gmail (dot) com
Due date is February 28.
Please e-mail projectnice2.0 (a) gmail (dot) com to confirm you are participating, prior to February 1. Once you confirm you are participating I will send you reminders, tips and information.
So, are you with me? Can you think of any simple things everyone could do to spread a little happiness around?
Thursday, January 21, 2010
2000 - This was a big year for me. N came to visit me twice, once in March, once in July. In July, we flew down to Los Angeles where we had interview before the British High Commission who were responsible for issuing me with a visa to move to England. Whilst in LA, we went to Disneyland, where N proposed. It was a very happy day. From there, we flew to Seattle and stayed in this beautiful little bed and breakfast. I turned 18 and N took me out for dinner where I had Indian food for the first time. In early August, I moved to England. N and I rented a flat of our own and planned our wedding, which occurred on 2nd December. We flew to Scotland for our honeymoon. The photo is of me on the morning of my wedding, getting dressed.
2001 - Soon after we were married, we gave up our flat and moved in with my MIL and soon after, my SIL moved in as well. It was a very full house and there were quite a few problems. I had been very depressed since before the wedding with all the changes happening around me (hence not looking quite so happy in that photo!), but I soon found a part-time job in WHSmith. It started off as an afternoon job refilling the shelves of the stationery department but over time, I ended up full-time at the front tills, before finally ending up where I belonged in the book department. Meanwhile, N and I made our first large purchase, which was a large screen TV. If I recall correctly, this was the year I started learning to drive, though I think it'd be at least another year before I passed my test and another few years before I'd actually, you know, drive.
2002 - What I remember most about 2002, is that N and I took a trip to Hawaii. We had originally planned on flying to New York, but after 9/11 we decided we really wanted to go someplace very multi-cultural. Hawaii it was then. It was an amazing trip - the photo is of my dad and me at the end of a luau. I believe that 2002 is the year that I started studying with the Open University. I'd wanted to start studying again for awhile by this point but wasn't sure how to go about it. My first OU course was An Introduction to the Humanities which covered literature, history, art history etc. It was interesting, if not exactly where I wanted to be going. My SIL got married this year. And if I'm not mistaken, 2002 was the year we bought our first house. A little two bedroom terraced house on a busy road. It had a basement that we turned into a games room, with a foosball table and a pool table. One day, N convinced me to go with him into Central London to 'meet up with a friend' instead he surprised me with tickets to an Enrique Iglesias concert!
2003 - 2003 is one of those lost years. I can't quite recall anything for sure about it. I think that was the year that my dad came to stay with us for 3 months. If it was, then this same year I interviewed at Books Etc and was given the job! I was very excited to go work for a proper bookstore. I miss that job at Books Etc. The people I worked with were awesome, I loved looking after the children's department, being surrounded by books and people who love books. Oh! I turned 21 this year. That December, N and I went to Prague on holiday.
2004 - Another lost year. I believe this is when I decided to take my university studies into a different direction. After studying humanities in 2002, I studied literature. I couldn't find much enthusiasm for the course and I wasn't sure a degree in Literature was what I was really after. So instead, I switched over to a first year Law course. It turned out to be very different to what I was expecting.
2005 - For Chinese New Year, this year, we went into London and I was nearly trampled over in a huge crowd in Soho (photo taken before this!). Early in 2005, N and I finally took our trip to New York City that we'd been planning on for so long. What I remember most about NYC is that we bought a lot of things and N wouldn't let me carry anything. I remember this fantastic little boutique we stumbled across by accident. We went down and had a really great conversation with these two friendly women in there who kept asking us really personal questions. We explained that it would be N and my 5th wedding anniversary this year and they both exclaimed 'oh, now all you need is a baby' and we were able to say, 'actually, I'm about 8 weeks pregnant!' And in November, my beautiful Oldest was born. A happy year, 2005.
2006 - This was a very busy year. We decided that our cute little terraced house was not going to be big enough for our emerging family, so we decided to put our house on the market and look around for a larger, family home. At the same time, I was struggling as new mom and wanted to remember all my other hobbies and interests aside from my gorgeous new child, so I started this blog. Fluttering Butterflies has kept me sane these last four years and I don't know what I'd do without it! Meanwhile, we found a house we liked, in a good town with good schools and upped sticks and moved. Around the middle of the year (May) I was admitted to hospital for acute pancreatitis.
2007 - My gorgeous nephew, C was born this year. And I have nothing else written down for this year. How sad is that? I know that Oldest and I were busy that year trying to make new friends in the neighbourhood. Going to toddler groups and coffee group and whatnot. It appears that very little else happened this year. How utterly sad. Briefly going through some of my blog archives, it appears this is the year I really started going for it on the 1001 Books To Read Before You Die list. 3 years later, and I'm still working on it and having a great time. Oh yes, this is the year I was baptised and confirmed into the Catholic church. That'll do.
2008 - My lovely and perfect Littlest was born just days before N's birthday. I took Oldest for his very first haircut. I had contact from my mother for the first time in awhile but it only briefly lasted and I haven't heard from her since early 2008. I had to get used to life as a mother of two, as a family of four.
2009 - Last year, I started my first psychology course with the OU. We took a lovely family holiday to York. I spent an entire month doing something different every day. I'm still studying, still blogging, still reading. We took loads of day trips. We bought ourselves Merlin passes and an annual ticket to the zoo. We played in the garden at went to the park. Life with children...
And that is how I spent the last decade. How did you spend yours? If you create (or have already posted) something like this please let me know! I want to read it!
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Last Night I Dreamed of Peace by Dang Thuy Tram - I actually was looking for a book about a boy soldier, instead I found the section of the library that contained the two Sudan books above and this diary of a woman during the Vietnam war. This year's War Through the Generations reading challenge is focusing on Vietnam. I thought I would try to unofficially participate.
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld - new Scott Westerfeld. I'm amazed my library had this in stock!
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde - Recommended to me by a friend and blog reader! Plus, Fforde's new book Shades of Grey sounds pretty good!
Six Months In Sudan: A Young Doctor in a War-Torn Village by James Maskalyk - another book about Sudan.
Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett - Next in the series of Death books, picked up for the Terry Pratchett Reading Challenge.
The Translator by Daoud Hari - A book about Sudan. After Maw Books did her Reading For Darfur I've been meaning to read books about the situation going on there.
Persepolis by Marjane Sartapi - finished already, review coming soon.
I Feel Bad About My Neck And Other Thoughts About Being a Woman by Nora Ephron - finished. Review soon.
Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day by Winifred Watson - Picked up after watching the movie! Thought the movie was absolutely charming, book must be better! Also, it's included on the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list.
The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima - Picked up after it was mentioned on the Japanese Literature Book Group over at In Spring it is the Dawn.
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert - already finished and mostly enjoyed. Review to follow soon.
Julie and Julia by Julie Powell - I haven't seen the film, but it looks interesting. Maybe I'll have to read it and then watch the film.
Invisible by Paul Auster - Paul Auster is possibly my favourite ever author and this is his latest. Super excited about this one.
The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian - A long time ago I read Midwives by Bohjalian and it was really great. I thought I'd try another one.
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown - In my quest to read more non-fiction, I remembered this book. My old manager at the bookstore where I used to work kept mentioning this book. Being Native-American myself, it's always an interest of mine to read books by or about other Native Americans.
Maus by Art Spiegleman - the book I'm currently reading, and another favourite of book-bloggers.
And finally, here are the books I've acquired recently. Most were book swaps, one was bought new, one was bought from a charity shop.
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters - I had to buy this book. I did start reading it awhile back, but I had to return it before I was finished.
The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby - I've read so many positive reviews about Hornby's essays on reading that I had to try it.
The Master and the Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov - I can't remember who mentioned it now, but this book was mentioned somewhere and it sounded intriguing.
Further Under the Duvet by Marian Keyes - I do love Marian Keyes and after reading some of Nora Ephron's essays, I thought I'd read what Marian has to say about things.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery - Positive reviews by book bloggers!
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card - A fair few people have mentioned how wonderful this book is, so I thought I'd better give it a chance.
A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley - I think I watched the film many years ago but I saw it on a list of possible books for the Women Unbound challenge.
Wake by Lisa McMann - Again with you book bloggers!
Girl Meets Boy by Ali Smith - This book is part of the Myth series, where popular authors (such as Margaret Atwood with The Penelopiad) retell myths. I've never read Ovid or Ali Smith, but why not?
Under the Duvet by Marian Keyes - again with my love of Marian Keyes.
And there we have it. Where do I possibly begin?! What books have you picked up lately?
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Close Range: Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx - Here's another collection of short stories, this time by Annie Proulx. I read The Shipping News a few years ago and loved it. I've read a lot of other book bloggers didn't enjoy it as much as I did, but I found it all to be fascinating despite being a little slow and dry. So I was really looking forward to reading more by Proulx. And I did enjoy this collection. Mostly. I thought the first story of an old man returning to Wyoming after being away for decades to be really interesting and engaging. I felt like Wyoming was a character, and I could picture it all in my head. I then read Brokeback Mountain, the last story of this book, and again, I was blown away. It was beautiful and gritty and I couldn't stop thinking about it. I did enjoy some of the other stories, but not as much as that first story, or the last. Some of the stories had very interesting subjects, such as a detailed account of the rodeo circuit, but I was unable to connect to unlikeable characters and one or two stories I did have to skim through.
Once Upon a Time in the North by Philip Pullman - This is a fun one. It's a short prequel to the His Dark Materials series and details how the charismatic aeronaut Lee Scoresby meets the armoured bear, Iorek Byrnison many years before they meet Lyra. Lee, his daemon Hester and Iorek are some of my absolute favourite characters from the series, so I loved every minute of this. I sped right through it and when I was finished I was only disappointed that there wasn't more. It has kind of a Western feel to it, as Lee Scoresby engages in this shoot-out with an old enemy as he gets involved in some political tension in the Artic. It's filled with cute little illustrations and some satisfying tension. A quick, enjoyable read. But I'd like something meatier next, Mr. Pullman.
Mort by Terry Pratchett - I finished this book last December but somehow it got missed during my last batch of mini-reviews? Mort is the first Terry Pratchett book I finished, and I enjoyed it immensely. It was such a surprise how funny and readable it is. I truly loved the characters. When I finished Mort, I quickly had to track down other Death novels just so I can have some more, please. In this, Mort, a young, clumsy boy finds himself apprenticed to Death. Soon enough, Death is giving Mort more and more responsibility as he goes off to drink and dance and fulfill his own interests. And Mort, poor boy, left to his own devices is making a right mess of things. What a wonderful book. It's witty and clever and subtly funny. I loved it.
And that's it. Have you read any of these books? Or do you have any suggestions for what else I should read? Let me know, please!
Monday, January 18, 2010
I think there are many reasons for this, but some of it has to do with the colder weather. The cold weather has 'forced' me to drive everywhere, where I used to walk. My treadmill broke last year and that stopped me from continuing my running. We had the Christmas period, which saw a rise in the number of chocolates and biscuits I was eating.. and on and on and on. I'd really like to delete this entire paragraph (but I won't) and admit to myself (and to all of you) that: It's all excuses, isn't it?
Last year, for N's birthday, I bought him a Wii Fit. This was at the beginning of our running kick, I believe. Our mutual goal of becoming healthier people, with healthy hearts and bodies. I used the Wii Fit for a little while, always lamenting at the fact that my Mii was slightly plumper than I'd like her to be. I set myself a goal of losing 10 pounds and then forgot all about it. Last week, I used the Wii Fit again. For the first time in 244 days it informed me. In those 244 days, I'd managed, of course, to not meet my original goal of losing 10 pounds. Oh no. Instead I'd gained a further 11 pounds.
So here we are, another year, another decade and I'm not making a resolution. I hate that word, it's so filled with defeat and giving up and failure. Instead, I'm making a life decision. To choose better, healthier foods. To be more active. To teach my children to make these same decisions and to make time together as a family to exercise and have fun. But to do it in such a way that won't induce food-guilt or shame. I'm doing this to lose weight but not necessarily to look better, but to be healthier.
I'll be starting out small. In fact, I've already begun. From today, I'm cutting out those small car journeys and walking to places that I once walked with ease. To the two toddler groups in our neighbourhood, to coffee group. I'd like to begin using the Wii for different work-outs, but to also have some fun doing it. I'd like to run around in a field with my boys, kicking a football. I'd like to stroll around the park and feed the ducks. In time, I'd like to jog in public. Maybe take up swimming again.
I'd like to drink more water, eat more fruit and vegetables. Reduce my intake of chocolate and biscuits and crisps. Snack wisely.
Wish me luck on my journey, I will need it.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Getting everything ready for the following week, finishing off those
jobs leftover from last week. I always appreciate the time I do have
to relax with a book on days like this.
I'm currently reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I'm
enjoying it so far even though some of it comes across to me as
And I've had an excellent reading week. I managed to finish three of
my own books (Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson, A Pale View of
Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro and The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway)
for the 1% well read challenge and was 1/3 of the way through another
book, Unless by Carol Shields, when I picked up a huge number of books
from the library.
I've since cast poor Unless aside and have stormed through a series of
non-fiction books for the Woman Unbound Reading Challenge. I can't
help myelf sometimes when I get new books into the house. It wouldn't
have taken long to finish Unless, but there we go.
This, of course, only seems to apply to library books. I've acquired 5
or 6 books this past week and I'm expecting 5 more in the post this
week, but none of them seem to excite me as much. I wonder why this is.
Happy reading everyone!
Friday, January 15, 2010
Nation is set in a world very similar to our own, on an island in the Pacific Ocean. Mau finds himself alone after a tidal wave wipes out his family and entire village. Together with Daphne, the only survivor of the Sweet Judy and a distant heir to the king, they must rebuild the Nation.
Terry Pratchett has a skill for writing incredible characters. Mau has such strength to him. The passages where he was preparing to bury the dead bodies of everyone he's ever known was heart-wrenching, and I'm tearing up a little even now, just thinking about it. Even though Mau's furious with the gods for what has happened, even though he believes he has no soul anymore, he works tirelessly, endlessly to protect and rebuild as more survivors find their way to the Nation. He and Daphne are always asking the hard questions, never settling for 'because', always seeking knowledge. And Daphne is wonderful. She's smart and strong and I love her transformation in the book away from what's 'proper.'
In such sublte ways, Nation is about what it means to grow up. It's about death and grief and the pursuit of knowledge. It's sort of about faith and colonialism and gender roles. There's also some humour to balance out out the heart-ache. There's a foul-talking parrot, some amusing footnotes about the animals inhabiting the island and some laugh-out-loud funny misunderstandings between Mau and Daphne before they are able to learn each other's languages.
Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog
things mean a lot
Adventures in Reading
nothing of importance
The Boston Bibliophile
Read for: 100+ reading challenge, YA reading challenge, Terry Pratchett Reading Challenge, Support your Local library.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Blogging is all about the community, right? Otherwise we'd all be sitting in our beds handwriting in our journal. I like it when I get feedback from my readers and I'm lucky that quite a few of you do comment regularly. So hello to my regular readers, and a big hello to all of you readers who read my blog and never say hi back. Today is your day. Come out, come out wherever you are.
Talk to me, please! You can tell me anything. A simple 'hi', how long you've been reading my blog, why you've never commented before (or why you do!), your favourite colour, the last book you read, anything! It will definitely put a smile on my face. (so thanks)
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
First, I'd like to complete all the challenges I've set for myself this year. I've had a lot of fun compiling lists for the Women Unbound, GLBT, and Rory Gilmore challenges in particular. Progress on these challenges and other can be found on a link in the sidebar. I'd forgotten to include the 1% well-read challenge, which runs until the end of March. I thought I had four titles to go, turns out I have seven. Wish me luck!
Next, I'd like to read 150 books this year. Last year's goal was 100 and I made to 145, so this only a small stretch for me. It's just about my limit though!
I'd like to read a lot more non-fiction. I'm reading virtually no non-fiction titles these days and that really is a shame. I need to widen the focus of my reading. I've been a little close-minded when it comes to what I will and won't read and this has to change. I'd like to be reading different types of books, ebooks, audio books, graphic novels. Shake things up a bit.
As always, I need to be reading more of my own books. I love my library and will always support them. In 2009, half of my reading material was from libraries and I don't feel like this was change at all. I'd just like that other half to be making room on my bookshelves. That'd be nice.
As for my little blog, I'd like to review better/more. It's very easy for me to not review a book, and I don't want to force myself into reviewing everything I read, but a large majority. No stress about it though, which may mean many mini-reviews until I feel up to proper reviews again. That works for me. We'll work on 'better' reviews another time.
I missed out on another Bloggiesta event, but I've written down quite a few ideas I'd like to implement to improve things around here. ALT images, tabs, tidying things up. This is all included on another list of mine, I won't bore you all with it here.
This should probably be first on my list, but I'd like to be more active in my participation with other bloggers. This includes commenting more, responding better to commenters etc.
I'd like to write some more discussion posts. I used to write more of them than I have been recently. Topics on my mind that I think would apply to some of my readers. Maybe in order to do this I should be asking for guest bloggers? Anyone out there brave enough to send in guest posts for me to use? I'd love it particularly if it related in some way to the themes already on my blog.About reading or blogging. Experiences of an expat. Being a woman, a parent, any difficult situations or decisions? Those thoughts that lay around in your head. I'd love that.
I'd like to take some of the stress out of blogging and write more posts in advance. Guest bloggers would help in that respect, but so would those better written reviews!
And finally, so it's not all work, work, work, I'd like to participate in Dewey's 24 hour read-a-thon in April. It always looks like such fun and I want to be involved!
Just briefly on the personal goals, I'd like to be more present when I'm with my children. More activities together, trips out. I'd like to enjoy myself more together. I need less stress and more fun in my life.
I'd like to stay on top of my coursework again this year. I officially got my results back from last year's course, and I've just sent in my second assignment for this year. It's big stuff going on, and I don't want to be too scared about it. I'm just taking it all one step at a time.
Finally, of course, eat well and do some more exercise. I'd love to start running outdoors. Since my treadmill broke I've been a little heartbroken without my running. Even smaller than full-scale running, I should be walking more of my shorter journeys. I've become lazy since I started driving.
What are your goals for 2010?
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman - Wow, I'm really rubbish at reviewing short story collections. What I find wonderful about Neil Gaiman, is that everything he writes is different but everything is infused with his own brand of awesomeness. Reading each story was a treat, almost everything made me smile. It just made me happy reading Neil Gaiman's words. I also appreciated that the stories were all of varying length. I don't know about you, but I feel weighed down reading short stories where each story is very long. Fragile Things had a nice mix. And best of all, my copy at least, had a fantastic introduction by Neil Gaiman describing the thought processes behind each piece. Wonderful, highly recommended.
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman - Another gem from Neil Gaiman. I wouldn't say this is a sequel as such to American Gods, but the character of Mr Nancy is in both of them. I read American Gods last March or so and really enjoyed it. But Anansi Boys blew me away. There is such weirdness to Neil Gaiman's books. I love that. Fat Charlie doesn't really get on with his dad, as his dad is always embarassing him in one or another - he's the one who nicknamed him 'Fat Charlie' after all. But when his fiancee convinces Fat Charlie to invite his dad to the wedding, Fat Charlie learns not only is his father dead, but he's also the trickster god, Anansi and that Charlie also has a brother, Spider (also a god), whom he's never met. And it only gets weirder and better after that, as Spider enters his life and tries to take it over! Honestly, I just feeling clapping in happiness at Anansi Boys. I love the characters that Neil Gaiman invents, the situations that he puts them in. I love the importance in this book on story-telling and how children are utterly embarassed by their parents. There's funny bits and scary bits and when I was finished with this book I wanted to read it all over again. One not to miss!
What I Was by Meg Rosoff - Oh Meg Rosoff, you write such beautiful books! What I Was is sort of a coming of age story and there's sort of a love story, but not really. Our narrator is a 16 year old school boy in a private school in the 1960s. He's quite unhappy with the whole school situation until he stumbles across another boy, Finn, who's living alone in a hut on a crumbling bit of beach. He really wants what Finn has, complete control and freeom in his life. Together they form a strange little friendship which eventually leads to a heartbreaking end. I do so love Meg Rosoff's writing. She sets the scene brilliantly and I was swept away a bit by the the whole story. I can see how she isn't for everyone, but I'll always be a fan!
Jackdaw Summer by David Almond - David Almond is just brilliant, isn't he? I loved Jackdaw Summer but I'm having a hard time reviewing the book. It's hard to describe how simply David Almond writes, but at the same time he's filling his prose with so much more than words. This story starts as two boys follow as a bird leads them to an abandoned baby during the hot summer. It's a summer in which violence of different varieties seep into these two boys' lives, but mostly about the violence of war. As I was reading this book, I found myself to be quite unsettled by it. I had this terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach, and that's what I love about David Almond: his ability to invoke such strong feelings with his writing.
An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro - This is the last book that I read in 2009. I think with every Ishiguro novel I've read, I probably missed a lot of the subtleties of the book. I didn't always understand the main conflict of the story, but I do so enjoy Ishiguro's style of writing. An Artist of the Floating World is the story of a man, in his retirement, in post-war Japan. He's spending his days out in the garden, or with his two grown-up daughters. He spends a great deal of time reminiscing about his life as an artist during the war years. The friends he had, the choices he has made throughtout his career. A great glimpse into post-war Japan and of a man struggling with his life choices. A beautiful little book.
This book is on the 1001 Books To Read Before You Die list and I have read it for the 1% well-read challenge.
And that's it for today! What I love about these books is that the authors are all included on my list of favourite authors. Kazuo Ishiguro and David Almond sneaked onto the list almost without my knowledge, where as Meg Rosoff and Neil Gaiman have held onto their positions there with some fantastic writing. I've now read all of Rosoff's novels, but I love that I still have books to read by the other three.
Have you read any of these books? What did you think?
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
I'm usually a one-book girl, but this week, I've gone crazy and started reading FOUR books all at once. I'd started reading The Brightest Star In the Sky by Marian Keyes earlier in the week, but the unusual narrator put me off just the teensiest bit. I adore Marian Keyes, but I just didn't get what this weird thing floating through the apartment spying on the occupants is all about.
So I picked up Nation by Terry Pratchett, which I'm already in love with. Who knew I'd become such a Terry Pratchett fan? And after only reading one other book of his? I've been trying to read Nation in bits throughout the day as I'm sort of anxious to get back to it. It's funny and wise and it has such a wonderful main character who has such strength about him. In fact all of the characters are done so well. I applaud you, Terry Pratchett.
But! My copy of Nation has about 400 pages, The Brightest Star in the Sky has about 600 and lengthy books always scare me slightly, so I picked up Close Range: Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx and I figured I could read a short story here and there to feel like I'm making some sort of progress. I've already finished the first story about an old man returning to his home after many years and it swept me away like I hadn't been expecting. The thing that I had forgotten is that my paternal grandmother lived a great deal of her life in Wyoming. I visited her at least once there before she died. As I was reading that first short story I felt like there was this fragile little connection between me and my grandma. Or possibly that I'm losing my mind. Either is likely.
Also, in a wonderful turn of events, N bought me some books for Christmas, one of which is Dear Me: A Letter to My Sixteen-Year-Old Self and one lazy afternoon, I started flicking through it and couldn't stop. I think all of this talk about the end of the decade has made me more prone to nostalgia. Granted, it's been 12 years since I was 16, but 16 is such a big year for most people, isn't it? It was for me. So many major events. When I do finally getting around to reviewing this book, expect to find my own letter to my 16 year old self. I'm writing it in my head already.
If only there were more hours in the day so that I could read all the books I'd like... Wouldn't that be great? Which books are you spending your time with?
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
Total books read: 145
Books read from library: 75
Own books read: 70
Books written by female authors (more than one book by same author counted as one): 82
Books written by male authors: 21
Books read by new-to-me authors: 72
YA/children's books read: 70
Most read authors this year:
Charlaine Harris - 9 titles (Sookie Stackhouse)
Sarah Dessen - 7 titles (a new discovery for me this year!)
Neil Gaiman/Meg Cabot - 4 titles each (yay for favourite authors!)
Instead of creating a list of top reads in 2009, I've gone through the year and chosen my favourite reads of each month. It's different looking at each month and choosing my favourites at the end of the year then it is choosing a favourite of the month after each month. Some books stayed with me longer than I realised.
1. Princess Diaries: Ten Out of Ten by Meg Cabot
2. A Mercy by Toni Morrison
3. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
4. Affinity by Sarah Waters
5. The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
6. The Tales of Beedle the Bard by JK Rowling
7. Airhead by Meg Cabot
8. Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
9 Ten Things I Hate About Me by Randa Abdel-Fattah
10. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
Favourite book of the month? The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
11. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
12. What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt
13. Saffy's Angel by Hilary McKay
14. Regeneration by Pat Barker
15. The Chocolate Run by Dorothy Koomson
16. M Is For Magic by Neil Gaiman
17. The War Poems by Wilfred Owen
18. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
19. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
Favourite book of the month? Tie between Fingersmith by Sarah Waters and What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt
20. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
21. The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan
22. Rumour Has It by Jill Mansell
23. Goodnight, Beautiful by Dorothy Koomson
24. The Eye in the Door by Pat Barker
25. Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella
26. Looking For Alaska by John Green
Favourite book of the month? Looking For Alaska by John Green
27. Marshmallows For Breakfast by Dorothy Koomson
28. Audrey, Wait by Robin Benway
29. After The Wreck, I Picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, and Flew Away by Joyce Carol Oates
30. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
31. Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen
32. Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
33. Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
34. Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones
35. The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
36. Pay It Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Favourite book of the month? Pay It Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde
37. Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
38. Small Island by Andrea Levy
39. Savvy by Ingrid Law
40. Falling Man by Don DeLillo
41. Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr
42. City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
43. Tithe by Holly Black
44. Baby Bonanza by Maureen Child
45. Slow Hands by Leslie Kelly
46. Price of Passion by Susan Napier
47. Irresistable Forces by Brenda Jackson
48. Hide in Plain Sight by Marta Perry
49. Stranded with a Spy by Merline Lovelace
50. Once a Cowboy by Linda Warren
51. Dancing in the Moonlight by Raeanne Thayne
52. Snowbound by Janice Kay Johnson
53. The Bride's Baby by Liz Fielding
54. A Very Special Delivery by Linda Goodnight
55. Speed Dating by Nancy Warren
56. His Lady Mistress by Elizabeth Rolls
57. Homespun Bride by Jillian Hart
58. The Rebel Doctor's Bride by Sarah Morgan
Favourite book of the month? Small Island by Andrea Levy
59. Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
60. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
61. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
62. Suddenly Single by Sheila O'Flanagan
63. Take Two by Danielle Bronson
64. Dreamland by Sarah Dessen
65. Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier (reread)
66. Unsticky by Sarra Manning
67. Let's Get Lost by Sarra Manning
68. Unsticky by Sarra Manning (reread)
69. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (reread)
70. New Moon by Stephanie Meyer (reread)
71. Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer (reread)
72. Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer (reread)
73. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
74. The Girlfriend Curse by Valerie Frankel
75. This Charming Man by Marian Keyes
Favourite of the month? Hard to choose. If I Stay by Gayle Forman, Unsticky by Sarra Manning and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
76. Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
77. The Lottery by Beth Goobie
78. What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones
79. Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me? by Louise Rennison
80. The Savage by David Almond
81. Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers
82. Queen of Babble Gets Hitched by Meg Cabot
83. Are We There Yet? By David Levithan
84. Cracked Up To Be by Courtney Summers
85. City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
86. Fairest by Gail Carson Levine
87. Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
88. Ways To Live Forever by Sally Nicholls
89. Jake's Tower by Elizabeth Laird
90. Stop Pretending by Sonya Sones
91. The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
92. Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
93. Rumble Fish by S.E. Hinton
Favourite of the month? Nothing jumps out at me when deciding this at the end of the year. All good books though!
94. 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
95. City of Ember by Jeanne duPrau
96. Last Chance by Sarah Dessen
97. Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
98. Memoirs of A Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin
99. Cyrano by Geraldine McCaughrean
100. The Valley of the Horses by Jean Auel (re-read)
101. The Mammoth Hunters by Jean Auel (re-read)
102. Unsticky by Sarra Manning (re-read)
103. Holly's Inbox by Holly Denham
104. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B Cooney (re-read)
105. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows
Favourite of the month? Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows
106. Airhead: Being Nikki by Meg Cabot
107. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
108. The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness
109. Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro
110. Holly's Inbox: Scandal in the City by Holly Denham
111. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
112. One Day by David Nicholls
Favourite of the month? One Day by David Nicholls and A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
113. Charlotte's Web by EB White (re-read)
114. The Outsiders by SE Hinton (re-read)
115. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
116. Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
117. I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder
118. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
119. Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris
120. Club Dead by Charlaine Harris
121. Dead To the World by Charlaine Harris
122. Dead As A Doornail by Charlaine Harris
123. Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris
Favourite of the month? Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
124. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
125. The Bride's Farewell by Meg Rosoff
126. All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris
127. From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris
128. Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris
129. The Enemy by Charlie Higson
130. Generation A by Douglas Coupland
131. The Road of the Dead by Kevin Brooks
132. Heaven Can Wait by Cally Taylor
133. The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
134. Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto
135. Evermore by Alyson Noel
136. Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton
137. The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera
138. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin
Favourite of the month? Heaven Can Wait by Cally Taylor and Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
139. Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman
140. The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening by LJ Smith
141. Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
142. What I Was by Meg Rosoff
143. Mort by Terry Pratchett
144. Jackdaw Summer by David Almond
145. An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro
Favourite of the month? Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
And because I haven't written about my December totals, I'll write that briefly here. Two books by Neil Gaiman. Definitely one of my favourite ever authors. I was very disappointed in The Vampire Diaries. I decided against writing a review of it as it would be almost entirely negative. What I Was and Jackdaw Summer were beautifully written. I probably didn't understand the subtleties and layers of An Artist of the Floating World but I certainly enjoyed it very much and Kazuo Ishiguro finds a place on my list of favourite authors. Mort by Terry Pratchett was the big surprise of the month. I did NOT expect to love Mort as much as I did. I found the lack of chapter breaks a little tedious but it will not be the last book I read by Terry Pratchett. I now cringe at all the times I've said that Terry Pratchett is 'not my sort of thing' - in fact, he should be everyone's 'thing'!
Anyway, happy reading in 2010!
Monday, January 04, 2010
Nation by Terry Pratchett - I was quite excited to pick this one up. In fact, Terry Pratchett excites me at the moment. I read Mort in December and LOVED it.
Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie - I've never read anything by Rushdie before. To be honest, it was the cover that attracted me to this book.
The Fire-Eaters by David Almond - David Almond is quickly becoming one of my favourite children's authors. I've only read Jackdaw Summer (review coming soon) and The Savage, but they've both been wonderful!
Close Range by Annie Proulx - I'm slowly getting into short stories. The first book finished in 2010 was a collection of short stories and I quite enjoyed it. So I was on a bit of a hunt for short story collections today. Any you'd like to recommend?
The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker - I can't remember where I've seen this, but this was picked up by a collective book bloggers' influence.
Black Juice by Margo Lanagan - I'd checked this book of short stories out before but hadn't the time to get to them properly.
A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif - I kind of liked the title.
Secret Heart by David Almond - another David Almond! I was going to take out more of his books, but thought I might overdose on them too soon.
The Rings of Saturn by W. G. Sebald - I was vaguely aware of this book possibly being on the 1001 Books To Read Before You Die list and I still have 4 more titles to read to finish the 1% well-read challenge!
Once Upon a Time in the North by Philip Pullman - YAY! I was going to buy this book as my library hadn't had it in since forever, but just as I was going to give up hope, here it is!
Sunday, January 03, 2010
Hello, I am still here. I've missed you all. I will return shortly!