Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

This book is well-known by now, but I'll give you a brief plot summary anyway. Bod (short for Nobody) Owens was raised by ghosts in a graveyard, although he is a living child. His family was murdered when he was barely old enough to toddle out of harms way, but because he was a curious child, he managed to escape the murderer by finding friends among the ghosts. The graveyard he lives in is unused, and is something of a historical site and nature preserve, although no one really goes there. So Bod is left to grow up with the ghosts, and with his guardian, Silas, who is not a ghost, and so can leave the graveyard to find food for Bod. But the man who killed his family, Jack, is still out there, and one day Bod will have to face him, or he may never be able to leave the graveyard.
I really loved this book. It surprised me in a lot of ways. But Neil Gaiman is nothing if not a surprising and adept story-teller. The book was creepy, but I didn't find it quite as creepy as Coraline. The reader begins to accept that the graveyard is a normal place for Bod, so while it could have been made creepy, instead it just seems sort of normal. Although there are still frightening characters, such as the ghouls and the Sleer. Bod was a different sort of character than I expected as well, and the choices that he makes when interacting with people of the world outside the graveyard were surprising, and showed a character with a lot of depth. This would be a great book to read aloud to grade school children, and would be enjoyed by older kids of all ages as well. And I can't help imagining what sort of movie it will make.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wild Highland Magic by Kendra Leigh Castle

Bastian an Morgaine is the last in a line of sorcerers who have been plagued by a curse for the last five generations. Bastian had hoped to be able to rid himself of it, and even though he takes steps to fight the curse, he truly does not have much hope. When he meets Cat, MacInnes werewolf, his life completely changes. Bastian is from the parallel world of Coracin, and Cat is from Earth. Bastian has fled to the MacInnes home in Scotland to recuperate and plan his next move, but his timing is terrible. He is there when all of the far-flung family converges for a reunion, which is what brings Cat, along with her two younger sisters, Poppy and Skye, and her estranged father. Events come to a head as old rivalries are brought up and new dangers surface. And of course there is a good amount of love at first sight (or bite, in this case).
I actually enjoyed this book a lot more than I expected to - I tend to occasionally judge books by their covers, and this one just seemed too typical. Thankfully though, the story was anything but. I also discovered that it is the third book set in the world the author has created. (The covers for the other two books are disturbingly similar to this one.) While reading this book I did not feel like I missed anything, as Castle does a good job of giving background information, but it was obvious that there was more history to the story. The other characters were clearly important to the author, as were their stories, even though they weren't the main protagonists of this book. The romance was lovely - and it's not just Cat and Bastian that get to fall in love, which was nice. The world as Castle has created it works very well, and I look forward to catching up and reading the other two books in this series now.
This book is great for several challenges, but the two important ones are the Romance Reading Challenge and the Love Bites Reading Challenge. The Romance Reading Challenge is pretty self-explanatory. The Love Bites Reading Challenge is similar, but involves paranormal romance. After reading this book, I decided that for the rest of the challenge I am going to read the previous two books in this series. Because this book will be released in May of this year, it is part of the Pub 2009 Challenge. And I am also using it for RYOB 2009 and the New Author Challenge.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

This book was a life-saver during the read-a-thon. It definitely kept me going when my brain was starting to wander, and I myself felt a bit zombie-like. The first line alone makes me giggle every single time I read it:
"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains."
This sentence shows how the whole book is written - much of it is Austen's original text, which Grahame-Smith has added to to make it a horror story. It was very well done, although you could see the difference between the two writers clearly enough (if the fact that one wrote all the zombie parts wasn't clue enough). Austen is still very witty, and while Grahame-Smith tries to keep up with her, he definitely pales in comparison.
I loved the original Pride and Prejudice, so I wasn't really sure what to expect from this book, other than that I really hoped to enjoy it. And I found this book completely entertaining. The level of violence actually surprised me, which sounds stupid, since it is a zombie book ("Now with ultra-violent zombie mayhem!"). But the characters themselves are ridiculously violent. Elizabeth spends most of her time contemplating killing something, whether that be zombies, or someone who has offended her or her family's honor. It is actually very amusing, I was just surprised. One of my favorite things about the book is the discussion questions at the end. Those made me laugh out loud.
I am not sure that I would recommend this book for everyone. I got copies from the library for two male friends of mine, one who has read (and enjoyed) Jane Austen, and one who hasn't. So far the Austen reader hasn't finished the book, but my other friend finished it before I did and loved it. So it's good for zombie-lovers, and for Austen lovers who enjoy zombies, but for Austen lovers alone? I can't say.
I signed up for the Suspense & Thriller Reading Challenge ages ago, and I somehow have not managed to read anything that I think qualifies all year. The goal of the challenge is to read 12 thrillers from a list of thriller sub-genres. There are many sub-genres to choose from, so picking twelve is not difficult. This book fits nicely into the Comic Thriller, described as "a thriller played for laughs, whether through a spoof of the genre or wisecracking interplay between the protagonists." I think this one fits both of those descriptions. It was also just published in 2009, and so qualifies for the Pub 2009 Challenge.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2008, which is why it was in my pile of books to read. I also went to a book club discussion about it.
The book is really difficult for me to describe. It is basically the story of Oscar, a hugely obese "Dominican ghetto-nerd" who is a character you love to root for, but at the same time he is incredibly pathetic and hopeless (and thus frustrating!). Oscar's family is from the Dominican Republic, although he and his sister Lola mostly grow up in New Jersey. Their mother's family did not survive the Trujillo dictatorship, and she herself fled to the United States as a teenager. Most of the story, including the history of the family, is told by Yunior, a sometime-boyfriend of Lola's who tries to help Oscar out of his depression in college. Two of the sections are told by Lola, but she only speaks of her own view of the situation, and she seems to be writing to Yunior, though it is difficult to tell.
What I liked best about this book was the writing - it was so much fun to read, even if it was hard to follow at times. Yunior throws in a ton of Spanish, as well as a tremendous amount of nerd-slang that I found really amusing. Most of it you can figure out from context, because it is certainly not explained for you at all. Yunior's voice is entrancing, in a way that I would not have expected.
As one of the 12 Mini-Challenges that I am doing this year, I went to a book discussion (#10). It was really interesting to discuss this particular book, because it is difficult, and sometimes inaccesible. There were seven of us at the meeting, I think three of whom had not finished the book. We brought up some topics that we thought were interesting, though we did not delve very deeply into any of them. It was more of a sharing of our thoughts, rather than really digging into the book. One thing that we didn't talk about much was the mysticism in the book, the presence of the golden Mongoose and the Man Without a Face. But it was otherwise a good book chat. I also read the book for my 999 Challenge, for which I am reading all prize winners (my list for this one is here). And, not to leave out anything, I am also reading this for the New Author Challenge and the A-Z Challenge.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The 16% Solution by Joel S Moskowitz, JD

The original 16% Solution came out in 1994. I just finished the 2009 edition, which has been updated in many ways. The 16% Solution is about investing in tax lien certificates, which is something that I had never heard of before. Basically it involves buying tax liens from county governments, and then rather than the county earning the interest, you now earn the interest. Only 23 states sell their tax liens in this way, but Moskowitz includes all of this information for you.
The major differences between this edition and the first one is the fact that many counties now do their auctions online, or at least have websites that have very detailed information about the procedure. Moskowitz includes web addresses for all of the relevant counties. He also includes advice that is based on the current economic situation, rather than what the economy looked like back in 1994. The world is a different place now.
At first I was wary of tax liens - I felt that it must be in some way bad for the person whose lien is being sold, the person who has been unable to pay their property taxes. I would hate to participate in a system that made it easier for people to lose their homes because I bought the lien on their unpaid property tax. But in many states, it's actually better for the property owner - at the auction, the person who wins the bid is the one who will take the lien at the lowest rate of interest. Granted, some states seem to make it very easy to foreclose on someone, but I was interested in the states that seemed to be the most fair to the property-holder. All-in-all, this book makes tax lien investing sound like a really good deal. I plan on checking it out when I have the extra money ready to invest. And I will have this book read for when I need it.
I am glad I actually own this book, because then I can hang on to it until I am ready to use the information in it. So of course this counts for the RYOB Challenge. As a non-fiction book, it also gets a Dewey Decimal Number, making it work for the Dewey Decimal Challenge. I mostly tend to read history, so I already have my 900's book. The number for this one is 332.6324, so I actually get a 300's book now. And we can't forget about the Pub 2009 Challenge!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Martel-Harper Challenge - Second Quarter, 2009 - Completed!!

This is the first challenge that I've completed on time in a few months. And I completed it two months early!
The idea of the Martel-Harper Challenge comes from the list of books that Canadian author Yann Martel has sent to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Martel sends him a new book and a letter about his choice every two weeks. The challenge is to read two of the books from the list every quarter. The list is incredibly varied, as you can tell from the books that I have chosen from it. You can find the list, and read more about it at What is Stephen Harper Reading.
The two books that I read for this quarter were The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman and Gilgamesh, a translation by Stephen Mitchell. I had planned on reading Maus for last quarter, and reading the Bhagavad Gita this quarter, but because I didn't get Maus finished in time, the Bhagavad Gita gets pushed back.
These two books were so completely different, I can't really say whether or not I prefer one over the other. They were both books that I have wanted to read for some time, so I am glad that this challenge pushed me to do that finally. And for the next time around I will be sure to read the Bhagavad Gita, and another interesting choice off of this fascinating list.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Muse of Fire by Dan Simmons

This was my final read during the Read-A-Thon, the book I spend the last hour and a half reading. It is novella-sized, just a little over 100 pages, and I wanted something that I could finish during that last stretch. Unfortunately, I forgot that you have to pay attention when you read a book by Dan Simmons, so I found myself re-reading passages that my sleepy brain did not understand the first time through. I did finish it by the end.
Reading Dan Simmons is always interesting - he loves to just drop you into the world that he has created for the story, and you have to read carefully so as to not miss any clues about what is going on. This book is no different. It is narrated by Wilbr, a 20 SEY old man (what is SEY, you ask? not sure, Simmons hardly ever outright explains things like that - if I had been less sleepy, I'm sure I would have figured it out) who is a member of a traveling Shakespeare troupe. They travel the galaxy on their ship, the Muse of Fire, performing for the human slaves on the various worlds that the human race can now be found on. All human are slaves, for the most part. There is no real culture or technology any more. There is religion, and obviously there is Shakespeare, but otherwise the human race exists only as drones working for the higher alien beings. The book begins when the Archons, the race of aliens that supervise the humans, request to see a performance of the troupe. This has never happened before. The group realizes they are being tested somehow, and in some way, the fate of the entire human race now rests in their hands.
One thing that you have to love about Simmons' books is that he loves literature, and so do his characters. Obviously Shakespeare is central to this story, and it is interesting how he juxtaposes the Bard's work with a future culture-less humanity. It makes you wonder how Shakespeare survived for so long in this future as it is. This book is really about the redemptive power of art, or literature, and it was a beautiful, comforting read.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

For those who don't know the plot, Coraline is a little girl who moves into an old house with her mother and father. Her parents certainly cannot be accused of paying too much attention to her, and prefer not to be bothered by her for the most part, as they both work from home. So Coraline must amuse herself. While exploring their new home, she finds a locked door that, when opened, reveals nothing but a brick wall on the other side. But for some reason Coraline is drawn to the door. And after opening it a couple of times on different days, one day she opens it to find a hallway leading somewhere, no more brick wall. Of course she follows it.
On the other side she finds her Other Mother and her Other Father, and all of the characters that live in her building are there, they are simply creepier versions of themselves. And they all have buttons for eyes. Coraline soon comes to realize that the one in charge in this creepy place is the Other Mother - it is she who wants to keep Coraline there forever, and will stop at nothing to fulfill this desire.
I loved this book, which was sort of expected. I saw the movie first, which is not something I usually do, but it did not really spoil anything for me. The two are different from each other, with additional characters being added in the movie, but for the most part the stories are the same. This is a fast-paced, creepy story that would be enjoyed by any older kids, as well as teens and adults. And one thing I have to say about movies made from books by Neil Gaiman - they seem to turn out okay. I have been so horrified by what Hollywood does to some wonderful books (exhibit A - The Golden Compass), but both of the book-to-movie adaptations I've seen have been slightly different from the book, but still very good. I really enjoyed both the book and the movie of Stardust, and the same goes for Coraline.
Coraline was reviewed by Dewey back in October of 2007. I think my favorite thing that she has to say about it is that rather having Dakota Fanning in a movie version, she wanted to see a 1988 Winona Rider. The Unshelved Book Club also did a comic strip about Coraline. It's pretty funny, so I thought I would share it with you. If you would like to see the challenges for Dewey's books and the Unshelved Book Club, you can find them here and here (respectively).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Spin by Robert Charles Wilson

Spin follows the lives of three friends, beginning when they are twelve and thirteen. The story is told by Tyler Dupree, and we follow what is happening to him in his "present" time, at the same time as he is telling us about his past. It makes for some very suspenseful reading.
Tyler's story of his past begins with the night the stars disappear. He is spending the evening with his two closest friends, the twins Jason and Diane. That October night begins what will later be referred to as the Spin. As the human race deals with this strange phenomenon, they make unsettling discoveries about what it means for Earth and its relationship with the rest of the universe. Because they discover that the Spin membrane (as it comes to be called) not only surrounds the Earth and blocks its view of the rest of the universe - it also effectively stops time for Earth. Each year on Earth is now equivalent to something like 100 million years in the universe, meaning that the sun is aging much faster relative to Earth, and within a few decades will destroy the Earth.
The glimpses we are given of the present, while hearing the history of the Spin from Tyler, make certain things in the story clear. But it leaves you wondering so much, so that you can't wait to get to that part of Tyler's history and find out what happened. I really was drawn into this book, and enjoyed it tremendously. Robert Charles Wilson will definitely be an author that I look for from now on.
I read this book for my 999 Challenge, because it won a Hugo Award in 2006. My full list of books to read for the challenge is here. Robert Charles Wilson is also a new author for me, so this is another one for the New Author Challenge. Oh, and this is my second "S" for the Read Your Name Challenge (just J and I to go!).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan

The Worst Hard Time: The Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl was everything that I'd hoped for in a non-fiction title. Egan begins his tale by introducing us to many of the characters who will populate his history: real people who lived through the Dust Bowl in the No-Man's Land of the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles and the southeastern corner of Colorado, with some stories of northeast New Mexico and southern Kansas thrown in as well. The Dust Bowl is not a respecter of state lines.
The chronological story begins with the wheat boom that brought settlers to the plains. Egan tells us how they were lied to to get them to stay, and how they convinced themselves that agriculture could work on the land. It is tremendously sad, reading how the buffalo were destroyed and the Native Americans removed from their lands. Egan then goes on to describe the first changes, the beginning of the drought, when people did not yet know that disaster was coming. This is a profoundly moving book, as we get to know each of the families - you see how they suffer, how they stick through the worst times, or leave in order to save their lives. It's hard to imagine living through something so terrible, but I suppose that we always want to believe that it can't get any worse. This book is highly recommended for anyone who enjoys reading about history.
I picked this book up because it won the National Book Award for Non-Fiction in 2006. I am reading award winners for my 999 Challenge. You can see my whole list here. Timothy Egan is a new author for me, so here's another one for the New Author Challenge.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Gilgamesh translated by Stephen Mitchell

Gilgamesh is the original epic poem, the first written piece of human literature. It is the story of Gilgamesh, King of Uruk, and his struggle with power and against death. I have never managed to read it before, and I picked up this copy, translated by Stephen Mitchell, because that is what is suggested by Yann Martel, in his letter to Stephen Harper on the subject. Yes, that's right, this book is my second read for the second quarter of the Martel-Harper Challenge. (Here is the full list and Martel's explanation.) Martel sends Harper two different copies of Gilgamesh, but I will only be discussing this translation, for now. (Here is the letter that Martel sent along with a copy of the book.)
The introduction that Mitchell provides is a lengthy description of the entire story, and it provided an excellent background for the reading. Yes, it told the entire plot, but I don't feel that Gilgamesh is something that can be spoiled by knowing the plot ahead of time. And once I got into the reading, I was swept up into the story. It really provides a fascinating look at life in ancient Sumeria. Of course, it cannot necessarily be taken as an accurate picture, because it is a story, after all, but simply the descriptions of the gods, and the temples, and the city of "great-walled Uruk" are revealing. Not having read any other translations of this work, I can't really compare it, but I really enjoyed this one, and would recommend it for anyone looking at reading this ancient tale.
This is also the third of the many, many books I plan on reading for the Really Old Classics Challenge. Soon really old classics are all I'll be reading!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Final Read-A-Thon Post!

Here is the final hour meme, now that the read-a-thon is over:
1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
  • that last one was a killer
2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was definitely a good choice
3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
  • nothing comes to mind, a little braindead at the moment - I thought it was great!
4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
  • The meme's were really good, helped summarize how things were going
5. How many books did you read?
  • I finished four, read halfway through two others
6. What were the names of the books you read?
  • The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan
  • Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman
  • Muse of Fire by Dan Simmons
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (halfway)
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith (halfway)
7. Which book did you enjoy most?
  • this is difficult . . . probably Spin, although its hard to say
8. Which did you enjoy least?
  • I can't really settle on one for this, I enjoyed all of my books
9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
  • Have your comments automatically publish!
10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
  • Definitely, and solely as a reader, if I can
Title of book(s) read since last update: Muse of Fire by Dan Simmons
Number of books read since you started: six total, four completed
Pages read since last update: 90
Running total of pages read since you started: 812
Amount of time spent reading since last update: 105 minutes
Running total of time spent reading since you started: 15 hours and 10 minutes

Read-A-Thon Update # 9 and donations

This may or may not be my last update. I'll do a final wrap-up, but I haven't decided if that will be at the end, or some time tomorrow after I've slept. I guess we'll see. I'm still reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It is amusing. I am trying to remember how the younger Bennett sisters were portrayed in the original - in this one they are obnoxious brats, for the most part. I think Grahame-Smith is setting them up to be happily killed off in a zombie plague.
Despite his desire to stay up with me, my husband has gone to bed.
I'm thinking of putting aside the two books I've been reading recently. Neither will be finished tonight. I kind of wanted to finish another one tonight, so I think I'll be reading a book from my pile that was not on my original list for tonight. It is a novella by Dan Simmons that I heard about for the first time last year, and I've been waiting for it ever since. It's called Muse of Fire.
For the hour 23 meme we are talking about charity donations. I decided to donate $5 for every hour I read to ProLiteracy Worldwide. So it will be less than $100 but more than $60. Beyond that we'll know the details at the end!

Title of book(s) read since last update: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Number of books read since you started: five, three finished
Pages read since last update: 82
Running total of pages read since you started: 722
Amount of time spent reading since last update: 100 minutes
Running total of time spent reading since you started: 13 hours and 25 minutes

Read-A-Thon Update # 8

Wow for some reason my brain didn't register that it was practically 1am - maybe I'll actually see the post of the hour when it goes up, rather than 30 - 90 minutes later. I'm really enjoying Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, although I have to say it's easy to see that Seth Grahame-Smith is not nearly as clever of a writer as Jane Austen (not that I was expecting that, but still). It is a fun read, and good for these last hours.

Title of book(s) read since last update: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Number of books read since you started: five, three finished
Pages read since last update: 92
Running total of pages read since you started: 640
Amount of time spent reading since last update: 110 minutes
Running total of time spent reading since you started: 11 hours and 45 minutes
Mini-challenges completed: oh gosh, I may stop keeping track here :P

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Read-A-Thon Update # 7 and Rereading mini-challenge

The headache has been alleviated, thanks to good old-fashioned water. And I am halfway through The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which is good, because I have a book club meeting about it in a week!
I think for one of these updates I'm going to see how many challenges I read books for - maybe my final update, we'll see. 'Cause I'm sure these all count for at least two!
Another update - hubby has said he will stay up with me, though he'll probably be playing video games rather than reading. :) The dog I think is planning on sleeping.
I haven't decided if I'll keep reading The Brief Life etc, or if I will pick up one of my other books. I may be getting into zombie territory, in more ways then one! Okay, I'm sold on my own idea, I will be reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies after this break.
And now for this hour's challenge, from Jessica at the Bluestocking Society (I'm doing option # 2:
give us a list of your top favorite rereads of all time. You know, those books that you can go to time and time again for comfort and escape. (listed here in no particular order, besides the order in which they came into my head.)
  1. The Chronicles of Narnia - I just love these no matter that they messed up the Prince Caspian movie, what can you expect from Hollywood? These are always lovely to sink in to.
  2. The Lord of the Rings trilogy - yes it's clear that fantasy is my favorite escape. I love the story, the world, the language, the characters, everything.
  3. The Handmaid's Tale - for no real reason I can articulate this is my favorite book and I could reread it uncountable times.
  4. Most books by Octavia Butler, but especially the Xenogenesis series and The Parables - lovely, lovely writing and I love her characters - so strong and courageous!
  5. The Belgariad and the Mallorean by David Eddings - like I said, I love fantasy.
I'm limiting myself to five for now - I can already feel my posts getting sillier and my writing looser from fatigue. I may babble forever if I don't stop myself now. And unfortunately I think that means no pictures - sorry!

Title of book(s) read since last update: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Number of books read since you started: four, three finished
Pages read since last update: 88
Running total of pages read since you started: 548 (ack, I'm even starting to lose where I'm keeping this information tallied!)
Amount of time spent reading since last update: 110 minutes
Running total of time spent reading since you started: 9 hours and 55 minutes (ugh . . math)
Mini-challenges completed: Jodie's, Tammie's, Debbie's, Jessica's

Read-A-Thon Update # 6

I began The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao for this last bunch of reading time. So far it's interesting. The writing style is definitely keeping me reading, and I'll probably stick with this one for the next batch as well. I have developed a rather pounding headache, but I think it might be from dehydration. We'll see if we can't fix that problem.
After my last update I also did two mini-challenges - Debbie's and Tammie's. And congratulations to the prize winners from my mini-challenge!

Title of book(s) read since last update: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Number of books read since you started: four, three finished
Pages read since last update: 75
Running total of pages read since you started: 460
Amount of time spent reading since last update: 85 minutes
Running total of time spent reading since you started: 8 hours and 5 minutes
Mini-challenges completed: Jodie's, Debbie's, and Tammie's

Read-A-Thon Update # 5 and mid-event survey

It was so nice to get back to reading after all that work I did on the computer during my cheerleading break. The work was for school, the cheerleading was fun! Since I got back to reading I read the rest of Coraline. I was only about 40 pages in before the read-a-thon started. So that was a nice change. I also ate some pizza, and we got enough to last me the rest of the read-a-thon! Yes!!
So, here are my responses to the mid-event survey:
1. What are you reading right now?
  • I just finished Coraline, which means I finished all of the books I had already begun! Next I think I will be reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

2. How many books have you read so far?

  • three

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

  • oooh, tough one. I have both The Graveyard Book and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies waiting. I think I have to go with Jane Austen and zombies.

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?

  • Well, I had planned on spending part of the day at work, but got sick instead. So, not really, I guess.

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

  • Interruptions from the dog and my husband. :) Usually by giving a little attention things get back to normal.

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

  • How fast it goes by!! Noon came too soon, when I stopped to do schoolwork that I had neglected (instead of going to work). It was great to get back to reading.

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

  • I guess I'm discovering how we really are all spread out all over the globe, so it's not really fair for me to ask that we start later than 12pm GMT . . . :P

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year?

  • I think I would focus on one or the other, not do both, even though I had a legitimate reason for doing both this year.

9. Are you getting tired yet?

  • Oh yeah. I got up at 5am after not being able to fall asleep until midnight-ish. I tried to go to bed early!

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?

  • Pizza! It's a life saver.
Title of book(s) read since last update: Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Number of books read since you started: three
Pages read since last update: 153
Running total of pages read since you started: 385
Amount of time spent reading since last update: 70 minutes
Running total of time spent reading since you started: 6 hours and 40 minutes
Mini-challenges completed: Jodie's
Other participants you’ve visited: everyone who participated in my mini-challenge! Thank you all!!

An Unfortunate Delay in my Return to the Read-A-Thon

Argh . . . I almost finished the schoolwork that has to get done today, but not quite! That's what I get for procrastinating, but it's hard when you're sick!! /whine. Anyways, I should be back to reading in another half hour or so. I will be so thankful to get off the computer!!

And thanks to everyone who participated in my mini-challenge!! You guys are awesome!

Love Your Local Library Mini-Challenge!!

I just love this picture, don't you??
For my time cheerleading I am hosting the Love Your Local Library Mini-challenge. The idea for this challenge was born out of the fact that I had a shift at work at the library today, so I planned on cheering while I was at work. Unfortunately I had to stay home today (weird dizzy spells), but I can still participate as a reader and cheerleader.
I love my local library. I have always been a library-lover, and working at libraries has not dimmed this love in any way. So I am curious about other readers' use of their local libraries. For this challenge, leave a comment and let me know:
  1. What is the name of your local library? What city is it located in?
  2. How often do you go to the library? If you're a regular, do the staff know you?
  3. Do you browse while you're there or just pick up items you have placed on reserve?
  4. What is your favorite thing about your local library?
Here are my answers:
  1. The name of my library is the Crossroads Connection, which is in a local mall. It is located in Bellevue, WA. The closest regional branch, which I would use if I needed more research and browsing is in the neighboring city of Redmond.
  2. I'm at my local library at least once a week, not counting when I work there (I actually am assigned to a whole group of branches, so I am only actually working at Crossroads occasionally). And I can't fairly answer the question about the staff . . . :)
  3. Unfortunately, I almost never browse anymore. It's a sacrifice I have made. I think it comes from putting far too many books on reserve, and being afraid to check out any items that are not already waiting for me. (I have to draw the line somewhere!)
  4. My favorite thing about Crossroads is the location. The Crossroads mall is very much a community place - it is one of the most culturally diverse areas I've ever lived in (and I grew up in Long Beach, CA), and the mall reflects that. The word "mall" does not accurately describe Crossroads - it is not typical in any way. The library reflects this diversity, and even though it is a small browsing collection, it is one of my favorite places both to visit and work.
Your responses don't have to be any where near as lengthy as mine! Just let me know what you think of your library! There will be two prizes given, the Pulitzer Pack from Biblio Brat. Thanks!!
***Edit: I forgot to let you all know you have a few hours to complete this one! Sorry! I appreciate all the responses so far. This will be going until 5pm PST, which I believe is Hour 12. Thanks for participating!

Read-A-Thon Update # 4

Last update before my cheerleading break. I finished Spin five minutes ago. I bet if I thought about it hard enough I could actually predict how many books I could read in the hours ahead. Because I predicted finishing Spin pretty much right on the money. But I don't feel like thinking about it. :P
I think I'll just do a quick update now, since my challenge is starting soon. But I will be posting again after that one starts!! Have fun!!

Title of book(s) read since last update: Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
Number of books read since you started: two
Pages read since last update: 56
Running total of pages read since you started: 232
Amount of time spent reading since last update: 75 minutes
Running total of time spent reading since you started: 5 and a half hours
Mini-challenges completed: Jodie's

Read-A-Thon Update # 3

I will be finishing Spin during my next batch of reading, I think. This will be a longer break then any of the others, but I once I get back to reading, I think I'll finish it before noon (my time - pst).
I guess I missed Brian's cover mini-challenge. It looked like a good one, I'm sad I missed out. Oh well. And I think I won't be participating in the challenges posted since then, up to hour six. They are cool challenges, my brain is just not YouTube-friendly right now, and drawing a comic might take me longer than necessary. I may change my mind by the next update however.

Title of book(s) read since last update: Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
Number of books read since you started: two, one completed
Pages read since last update: 68
Running total of pages read since you started: 176
Amount of time spent reading since last update: 90 minutes
Running total of time spent reading since you started: 3 hours and 15 minutes (doesn't feel that long!!)
Mini-challenges completed: Jodie's

Read-A-Thon Update # 2 and Jodie's mini-challenge

I seem to be having a hard time figuring out what to post. :P Too much coffee and too little sleep already! Since we last spoke I've been reading Spin by Robert Charles Wilson. It's a Hugo award winner, a great page-turner.
And for Jodie's mini-challenge, I chose the book Coraline by Neil Gaiman, which I will be reading later today. Here is the basic idea of the challenge:
Look through the pile and take a picture of the cover you like the best, for whatever reason. It can be the prettiest, the oddest, the brightest... Flip the book over and look at the blurb (or look on the inside of the jacket). Now here's the fun, little kid part - recreate the blurb anyway you want. What I'm looking for is some kind of tableau that expresses the main thrust of the book's plot (which the blurb should hopefully capture).
I always thought that the cover of Coraline was a tad creepy - I think I find Dave McKean's illustrations a tad odd. And the button-eyes thing about the other world that Coraline finds has always creeped me out. So I chose my own button-eyed friends for my tableau, two of which I made myself, one which a friend made for me. (The kind of creepy thing here is the black cat that my friend made for me was a gift for when my cat friend of 17 years passed - so there was a real-world creature that goes along with my other-world button-eyed cat.)
Title of book(s) read since last update: Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
Number of books read since you started: two, one completed
Pages read since last update: 59
Running total of pages read since you started: 108
Amount of time spent reading since last update: 85 minutes
Running total of time spent reading since you started: 165 minutes
Mini-challenges completed: Jodie's
Other participants you’ve visited: none
Prize you’ve won: none

Read-A-Thon Update # 1 and first hour meme

I finished my first book! Of course, it was one I was almost done with anyway, so I sort of cheated. That books was The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan. Other happenings in the first hour:
  • my dog whined so much, I had to take care of him, even though it's hours before he normally gets up
  • I've had two big cups of coffee when I have been drinking none! (I've been weaning myself off of it, but I still love it!)
For the first hour meme, here are my answers:

Where are you reading from today?

  • Bellevue, Washington

3 facts about me …

  1. I am an online student at San Jose State, getting my Masters in Library and Information Science
  2. I just celebrated five years of marriage (April 3rd) and we are currently trying to get pregnant!
  3. In the past few years I have become a big DIY-er, saving more things than I can use in an effort to buy less.

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?

  • Including the ones that I already started, I have seven definite books. I've never done anything like this, so I don't know how many I'll actually get read.

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?

  • No page or book goals really. I just want to read enough to make a small dent in the pile! I do plan on reading for 18 hours though. That's 24 minus my five hour cheerleading break, and an additional hour's worth of breaks, etc.
Title of book(s) read since last update: The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan
Number of books read since you started: one!
Pages read since last update: 49 lol
Running total of pages read since you started: 49
Amount of time spent reading since last update: 80 minutes
Running total of time spent reading since you started: 80 minutes
Mini-challenges completed: none
Other participants you’ve visited: none
Prize you’ve won: none

The Read-A-Thon has begun!!

The Read-A-Thon has officially started, it is 5am where I am. (I'm actually cheating and typing this post up Friday night - yay for scheduling!)
So far I simply plan on getting through as many of my books in my to-read pile as possible. I am reading three books right now, and I expect to finish those during the 24 hours. They are The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan, Spin by Robert Charles Wilson, and Coraline by Neil Gaiman. I will be starting The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz today for sure. Other possible reads are The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, The Living Bread by Thomas Merton, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. I am not ruling out any of the books in my various stacks (there are a few dozen to choose from), but these are the primary candidates.
I will also be cheerleading from noon to 5pm my time. I will be running a mini-challenge during that time as well. I had planned on this break because I was supposed to be at work, but now I think I'm actually calling in sick. I may use the break to do schoolwork, and I think that textbooks are fair game for the read-a-thon as well.
I haven't decided how I will be updating. Probably not hourly, but often enough. Yay! Here we go!!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E Lockhart

Frankie is a sophomore at an expensive New England boarding school called Alabaster. Her father is an Alabaster alum, and he has many happy memories of his times there; in fact all of his closest friends are from high school. So he sends his daughters off to Alabaster, even if in many other ways he is no longer a part of their lives. Frankie's freshman year at Alabaster is spent in relative obscurity, following her older sister who graduates, leaving Frankie on her own for sophomore year. Frankie has changed over the summer however, and now people (mainly senior boys) who never would have noticed her before begin to see her in a new light.
When Frankie starts going out with Matthew, she thinks she couldn't be happier. But Matthew has a secret - he is a member of the secret society, the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. Frankie knows about the Loyal Order because her father can't help bragging about his time with them. She desperately wants Matthew to share with her, but he continues to keep it a secret. And Frankie begins to realize that Matthew does not take her seriously, simply finds her adorable. She is back to being Bunny Rabbit, the hated nickname given to her by her family. Frankie is tired of feeling powerless when she knows she is not. If Matthew won't tell her about the Loyal Order, she'll just take matters into her own hands.
I really don't think that I can explain this book well enough to really get through how terrific it is. I absolutely loved it. It is definitely my favorite teen book, and I would recommend it without reservation to just about anyone, especially teen girls. Frankie never accepts the role that society has laid out for her, although she does think about it. She thinks about how lovely it is to be Matthew's girlfriend, and she wishes that she could just be sweet and simple and not complicate things. But she is not sweet, and she is certainly not simple. Frankie is a fantastic character, and I loved her conflicted-ness. But she still stands up for herself, in a way that shows how smart she is. Lockhart does a good job of not making her the hero of the school, however. Most of the students still don't understand the point behind the pranks, whereas Frankie had hoped to open minds and make change. Most students just find the pranks funny or weird or at least an interesting diversion in their day. For Frankie, it proves to her what she is capable of, and forces others to acknowledge that as well.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Library Loot - April 15, 2009

I have absolutely no excuse for this insanity. Maybe I should blame the people who set up these challenges . . . or maybe I should acknowledge that I signed up for more than I could possibly read. . . . Nah.
So, what does the insanity look like?
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
  • Hominids by Robert J Sawyer
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith (I am excited about this, and I seriously hope it doesn't let me down - I put it on hold for two of my friends as well, so we'll see how they like it)
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (Hopefully I will make it to the book club I signed up for on this one)
  • Empire Falls by Richard Russo
  • The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
  • The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall (this is the first one)
  • Arc of Justice by Kevin Boyle
  • Call of the Highland Moon by Kendra Leigh Castle
  • Muse of Fire by Dan Simmons
  • Epigrams by Martial
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (I just started Coraline today, yay for Neil Gaiman!)
  • Stray Sock Sewing by Daniel (fun crafty stuff)
I didn't feel like typing the challenge or other reason behind every single book. If you're curious, just ask in the comments. Hopefully the Read-A-Thon will help me get through some of this nonsense . . .
If you would like to join library loot, check it out here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Singing by Alison Croggon

The Singing is the fourth book in the series The Book of Pellinor. It is the conclusion I have been waiting for since I read the first three last summer. It did not let me down, which makes me tremendously happy. (I hate it when endings do not live up to the book or series!) As with many endings, however, I was sad to see it, as I truly love the world that has been created, and the characters who live there.
The Book of Pellinor tells the story of Maerad and her brother Hem, how they come to the knowledge that they are fated to save the world. The Nameless One has been spreading his evil over the world, and in The Singing, they come to their only chance to stop him. Getting there is a trial. Book three of this series, The Crow, focuses solely on Hem and his journey - the last we heard of Maerad was in book two. They spend the first half of The Singing simply trying to reach each other, which is nearly impossible in their war-torn world. But of course, as with any good fantasy, the happy ending is there, even if it is different than what you imagined.
Croggon has done a marvelous job in building this world, and I truly love her characters. I think Hem is probably my favorite, along with his crow friend Irc. Maerad is difficult to love, although she is an excellent character - very conflicted and full of life. The supporting characters are also great, making the reader feel as though they are spending time with good friends. This is definitley a fantasy series I would recommend to any lover of the genre.
And on a challenge note - this is my first "S" book for the Read Your Name Challenge.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman

The Complete Maus consists of both Maus I and II, bound together in a hardcover volume. I wanted to read them both together, to get the full story, and I am very glad I did. Maus is the story of Art Spiegelman's father, Vladek, and how he survived the holocaust. In the graphic novel, Jews are drawn as mice, Germans are cats, Poles are pigs, French are frogs, and Americans are dogs. The drawings make the material more unrealistic and yet they also draw us in more to the fact that though it seems unreal, this really happened.
Vladek survived the holocaust mainly through luck, but also by taking advantage of the situations he finds himself in. His wife, Art's mother, also survives, but ends up committing suicide more than 20 years later. The novel is not just about the holocaust, but it also documents Art's efforts to get his father's story. He does not have a very good relationship with his cantakerous father, and the novel shows how he has a difficult time being fair to his story. It gives the work more depth, and makes it that much more real to the reader. So much has already been said about this book, but I had never gotten around to reading it. I am so glad I did, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who has ever considered picking it up.
This book is my first read for the second quarter of the 2009 Martel-Harper Challenge. As I have described in previous posts, this challenge follows the list of books that Canadian author Yann Martel sends to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. In his letter to Harper about this choice, Martel says that we sometimes need to be ripped apart in order to find our own stillness. The story of the holocaust certainly does that, and Maus is an incredible way of telling that story. I am also trying to read some of the books that another book blogger, Dewey, read throughout her book blogging years. This is for the Dewey's Books Challenge. She reviewed Maus back in January of 2006. And of course as a graphic novel it counts for the Graphic Novels Challenge - also the New Author Challenge, as I have never read Art Spiegelman before.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Well-Seasoned Reader Challenge Wrap-Up

Another challenge finished, but finished late. This challenge ran from January 1st through March 31st. The goal of the Well-Seasoned Reader Challenge was to read three books that:
have a food name in the title
be about cooking/eating
have a place name in the title
be about one (or more) person's travel experience
be about a specific culture
be by an author whose ethnicity is other than your own. I chose to read three books with a place name in the title. The three books I chose were The Swallows of Kabul by Yasmin Khadra, The News From Paraguay by Lily Tuck, and Europe Central by William T Vollmann. My favorite of these three was probably Europe Central. I own The Swallows of Kabul, and had wanted to read it for awhile, but it wasn't the best of the three. The News From Paraguay won a National Book Award for Fiction, as did Europe Central, but it was less obvious why. The book was interesting, but definitely not one of the best that I've read.
I enjoyed this challenge, it's original at least. I may or may not participate in such a challenge in the future.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Europe Central by William T Vollmann

Wow. This book was not what I was expecting, but I am glad I picked it up. (I honestly don't know what it was I was expecting, but anyway.) Europe Central won the 2005 National Book Award for fiction, and it is easy to see why. The writing is magnificent - I felt swept away, caught up in the stories. The book itself is difficult to describe. Each chapter is a parable of sorts, and the chapters are paired in a way that illuminates the story. Basically the book is about World War II, focusing on Germany and Russia. There is no main character, except perhaps Europe Central. Each story is told from a sort of omniscient narrator point of view, with the voice sometimes changing in the middle of the story. Like I said, it's hard to describe.
Even though it took me longer to read than I would have thought, I am really glad I invested the time in it. I know almost nothing about WWII, so a lot of what is described I had never known, but I only felt lost during one story (Airlift Idylls - that one completely lost me for a bit). Some of the chapters focus on real people, telling their stories as the author envisions it, people such as Field-Marshal Friedrich Paulus, Kurt Gerstein, Shostakovich, and then sometimes the story is told by someone who seems to be an individual but is really not (those chapters reminded me of And Then We Came to the End, if you've read that). Basically this book would be enjoyed by anyone who can invest the time, who is interested in that time period, or who loves it when an author can use the language so beautifully (even when describing terrible things). Vollmann obviously did a ton of research for this book, and it makes me curious to see what his other books are like.
I picked this book up because it was a National Book Award winner, which I am reading for my 999 Challenge (my list is here). I also read it for the Well-Seasoned Reader Challenge which ended in March, so I obviously didn't get it done quite in time for that challenge, but oh well. The National Book Award Winners have been interesting so far, so I'm excited to continue my list! This book is also my Read Your Name Challenge "E" book.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Library Loot - April 8, 2009

Once again, a killer week at the library. Next week promises to be just as big!

So, we have:
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (for the Victorian Challenge)
  • The Queen's Husband by Jean Plaidy (also for the Victorian Challenge)
  • The Complete Odes and Satires of Horace (Really Old Classics Challenge)
  • Satires by Juvenal (Really Old Classics Challenge)
  • Secondhand Chic by Christa Weil (I picked this one up after flipping through it at the library - I love thrift store shopping, so I'm looking forward to reading this one)
  • The Art of War by Sun Tzu (Really Old Classics Challenge)
  • The Living Bread by Thomas Merton (Spiritually Speaking Challenge)
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh, Stephen Mitchell translation (I took back my other copy of Gilgamesh, as I wanted to check out this edition for the Martel-Harper Challenge)
  • Queen Victoria by Christopher Hibbert (Victorian Challenge)
Whew. I didn't have to return any this week, without having read them I mean, but next week might be a different story.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Dewey's Read-A-Thon

My first ever read-a-thon! I'm super excited. As of right now there are 66 readers signed up, and seven cheerleaders. I am sort of going to be doing both. I'll be reading for the most part, but I have a five-hour shift kind of right in the middle, so I'll be cheerleading during that time. I'm even hosting a mini-challenge, although I haven't heard back from the organizers on that yet. So we'll see how it all goes.
The Read-A-Thon begins at 5am pacific on April 18th. I haven't yet decided how I'll be doing updates, but I may do hourly. Or I might do an update every time I need to take a break, which will not necessarily be hourly. But I guess we'll find out! Check the blog for updates!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

I picked up The Tale of Despereaux because of the movie that came out a few months ago. I didn't see the movie, and I actually heard that it wasn't very good, but I had the book at home anyway. And then I realized that it was on the list for the Unshelved Bookclub. I signed up for a challenge to read three of these books before June, so it works out well. Unshelved is a comic strip about working at a library, and it is right-on most of the time. Here is what the website says about the bookclub: "Every Sunday our characters talk about a book they've read in full-page full-color comic strips. " The comic strip about The Tale of Despereaux is not particularly amusing or insightful, but it does give a fairly decent summary of the plot.
Despereaux is a tiny mouse: the only one of his litter to survive, he was born with his eyes open. This would be enough for his family to find him strange, but his odd behavior continually sets him apart, eventually leading to his banishment. He refuses to learn how to scurry, and when he one day hears beautiful music, he follows the sound and finds the Princess Pea, who he promptly falls in love with. When she is kidnapped, he must face his fears to save her, the way a knight in a fairytale would.
I loved this story, and I definitely plan on having a copy around for myself. This would be a perfect book to read to child, one that they could grow into and read for themselves one day. It has some sadness - the fact that Despereaux is the only one of his litter who lives through their birth; the serving girl Miggery Sow (the name is bad enough), who has been beaten so badly throughout her life that she has gone practically deaf; the Queen who dies of fear of a rat. And even the protagonists are shown as having darkness in their hearts. Despereaux must learn to forgive his family for their part in his banishment, and the Princess must forgive the rat who kidnaps her. The whole story is done so well, however, I am in no way interested in seeing a movie version of it now. It's one of those books that is better read out loud than seen on screen.