Posts Tagged ‘reading’

ARC Reading Challenge

June 12, 2008

SoManyPreciousBooksSoLittleTime is hosting an ARC reading challenge. I’ve never actually participated in a blog challenge before and I have a bunch of ARCs that need to be read, so I might as well participate!

The challenge:

1-3 ARCs, pick at least one to read and review

4-6 ARCs, pick two to read and review

7-9 ARCs, pick 3

10+ ARCs, pick at least 4.

I debated whether to only include ARCs that have yet to be released, all ARCs I have, or all books I’ve been sent to review. I think I’m going to go with all ARCs I have, although the ones that haven’t been released yet probably have priority anyway.

Here’s what I’ve got (although I think more are on their way):

  1. Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi
  2. Water Keep by J. Scott Savage
  3. The Spirit of the Place by Samuel Shem
  4. The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
  5. The Glimmer Palace by Beatrice Colon
  6. Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
  7. The Air We Breathe by Andrea Barrett
  8. The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton
  9. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
  10. White Mary by Kira Salak

The last one is only theoretically coming, but I’m sure even if it doesn’t I’ll end up with at least one more ARC by September. Honestly, I’m hoping at I’ll have all of these (at least other than 6, 7, and 9) read by mid-September, because most of them were sent to me to review and I don’t want to get way past the release date. “Water Keep,” in particular I really have to read, as I’m participating in the blog tour. All that being said, here’s my list of ‘must reads’:

  1. The Spirit of the Place
  2. Water Keep
  3. The Lace Reader
  4. The Glimmer Palace

These are chosen based on how long I’ve had them/how strong I feel my obligation to get them reviewed is.

SMILE! You’re on Bibliophile Camera!

June 11, 2008

I just had an experience that made me smile.

I was just sitting here at my desk when a high school kid walked by.  I’m guessing he had just been to the library about a block away because he had a book in his hand.  He wasn’t just carrying it, though, he had his nose pressed into it like there was nothing in the world but him and the book.

This is the first time I’ve seen any evidence of the kids from this high school reading, they’re usually much more interesting in SCREAMING! cuss words at each other or throwing a hackey sack back and forth across a crowded street.  Seeing this kid reading as if his life depended on it made me happy.
It must be an epidemic!  Another group of kids just walked past me that included two girls huddled together pointing things out to each other in a book.  I may have to see if this library is brainwashing kids or something, and then volunteer to help.

Springtime on Mars – Book Review and Blog Tour Stop

June 9, 2008

Springtime on Mars: Short Stories” by Susan Woodring

I received “Springtime on Mars” as part of a blog tour for Susan Woodring.  This book of short stories was released at the end of February by Press 53, a small, independent press whose goal is to showcase exemplary literary fiction, poetry, and nonfiction and whose website admonishes you to “Literate Yourself” (a motto I love, by the way).  “Springtime on Mars” is proof that small publishers like Press 53 can put out works which can compete in quality with offerings from the major publishing houses.

I was amazed with the variety of stories told in “Springtime.”  All of the stories are set approximately between the 1950s and the 1970s and deal with life in middle-income middle America.  Some stories are told in first person, others in third, some from the perspective of children, other from adult perspectives.  Yet somehow all of the stories seem to have their own, authentic personality, no two sounding alike.

The slight exception to that rule is the couple that is the focus of two stories.  We see them first a married couple with two children, then later are taken back to the early days of their marriage, which provides a greater depth and background for the original story.  The decision to tell Marianne and Joe’s story out of chronological order lends complexity to the characters that the reader is left to discover for his or herself, upon realizing that this couple’s future has already been revealed to her or him.

I am not generally a fan of short stories, I often cannot stay interested in a set of characters I know will only be around for 20 pages or so.  However, “Springtime on Mars” kept me wanting to see what characters Woodring was going to introduce next.  I was more invested in “Springtime on Mars” than I have been with any collection of short stories since “Interpreter of Maladies.”  The subjects, and even the writing styles, of the two books are very different, but the heart is the same.  I would recommend “Springtime on Mars” to fans of short stories as well as to those who would like to give short stories a try.

You can see a guest post by Susan about using short story collections for book clubs here, and an interview with her here.

Buy “Springtime on Mars” from Amazon


June 7, 2008

Dewey is hosting a 24-hour Readathon on June 28th, 2008, beginning at 9 am Pacific Standard Time.  People can sponsor the readers, giving X dollars for each hour (or hundred pages, or whatever, I’m sure) read.  The proceeds will be going to Reading is Fundamental

I’m contemplating doing this.  The timing is really bad for me, but I really want to do it anyway.  The evening before the read-athon I will be returning from an 8-day work event and my wedding takes place exactly 2 weeks later.  On the other hand, with my wedding coming up two weeks later, this might be my last big chance to read until the plane to Mexico for the honeymoon.  Plus, it could allow me to get some books read and reviews written that can be set to post at various times while I’m gone so that my blog doesn’t just go dark that whole time.   Hmm, when I think of it like that, it might just be a GOOD idea!

More readers and cheerleaders are still needed, so hop on over and sign up, or let me know if you’d be interested in ‘sponsoring’ me. 

Author Meme and Catch Up

June 6, 2008

Towards the end of my contest, I was essentially rationing my posts.  I didn’t want the contest to end too soon, and I didn’t want to get stuck where I COULDN’T do Sunday Salon or Tuesday Thingers because that would be the 100th post.  Because of that, I put off doing the memes I was tagged for.  Both Lisa from “Alive on the Shelves” and Carey from “The Tome Traveller” tagged me for the author meme.  I cannot find the comment, but someone also tagged me for the 6 random things meme.  Since I’ve already done that, here’s a link if you want to see it again.

Author Meme:
1. Who’s your all-time favorite author, and why?

John Steinbeck.  No question.  He is the author of two out of the five books on the “Read These or Never Talk to Me Again” (opens a word document) portion of my book list (opens as a Word document).  The books are “East of Eden” and “Grapes of Wrath,” by the way.

2. Who was your first favorite author, and why?

Again, there is no question.  It was definitely Dr. Seuss.  “Green Eggs and Ham,” “The Cat in the Hat,” and my all time favorite (which nobody has ever heard of)….”The Butter Battle Book.”  Imagine my surprise as a history- and politics-loving high schooler when I picked up “The Butter Battle Book” again and realized it was thinly disguised commentary on the Cold War and the arms race, dressed up with fun rhymes!  Talk about a book that works at a lot of levels!

3. Who’s the most recent addition to your list of favorite authors, and why?

Margaret Atwood and Margaret George.  I’ve only read one of Atwood’s books, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” but I LOVED it.  I’ve read two by George at this point (including “Memoirs of Cleopatra“)

4. If someone asked you who your favorite authors were right now, which authors would first pop out of your mouth? Are there any you’d add on a moment of further reflection?
Steinbeck, Atwood, Jean Plaidy.

Andrew Davidson and Doug Dorst may be there if they can keep up their good work.  Perhaps Jeffrey Eugenides too, because I really loved Middlesex.

I’m not going to tag anyone, because I think that most people already did it while I was procrastinating.  If you haven’t and you want to, though, feel free!

BTT – Reading Trends

June 5, 2008

Have your book-tastes changed over the years? More fiction? Less? Books that are darker and more serious? Lighter and more frivolous? Challenging? Easy? How-to books over novels? Mysteries over Romance?

My reading tastes have changed a fair amount, although I don’t always realize it as it tends to happen gradually.  One major change is that I have cut out those ultra-prolific writers who churn out the same story over and over with slight variations.  In high school I was a huge fan of both John Grisham and Mary Higgins Clark.  I read everything that both of them wrote.  Now, though, I’m not sure you could induce me to return.  There are so many fantastic authors telling fantastic stories that are not simply variations on the same theme.

Having this blog has also helped me even out my reading.  For a couple of years there I was reading almost exclusively historical fiction, primarily set in England and largely dealing with the Tudors.  Lots of Jean Plaidy and Philippa Gregory.  I didn’t want my blog to be pigeon-holed as just an historical fiction blog, though, so I’ve re-broadened my horizons a bit.  Lots more memoirs than before, I’m finally getting into short stories.  Plus, I have been trying to read more books realistically set around the world for my Read Around the World challenge to myself.  This, in addition with LibraryThing recommendations, has made me a more well-rounded reader.

Sunday Salon – Rolling Along

June 1, 2008

It is an absolutely gorgeous day here outside of Chicago.  This is quite lucky, as our church met outside this morning.  We don’t have our own building yet and generally meet in a local high school.  However, this weekend said high school is having their graduation, so instead we met at the gazebo in the little town center.  Brian and I decided that today would be a good day to try to ride our bikes down to the service.  It was between 30 and 45 minutes down there, we had church, everyone hung out for a bit on the lawn, Brian and I rode up to lunch and sat outdoors, rode over to the bike shop to pick up more accessories, and finally rode home (found short cut that only took just over 20 minutes).  Suffice as to say, I’m a bit sunburned and have not gotten a lot of reading done.

This week was a book club week for me, which are always fun.  Our book this month was “Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugenides.  Those of us who read it really quite enjoyed it (you can see my review here).  Our wine for the night was Albarino which is a white from Spain.  I must say, I thought better of the book than of the wine.  Of course, I’m more of a red wine girl.  If it is too hot for red wine, I’d generally prefer a mojito or a daquiri to a glass of white wine.  It was a good time overall, however.  We aren’t able to meet in June, so we’re going to read “The Double Bind” together with “The Great Gatsby” and discuss them both in July. 

The other good thing about book club is the extra time it gives me.  I work in Chicago, and all of the girls in my book/wine club actually live in the city, as I used to do.  Brian and I live a way out in the Chicago suburbs.  If I were to drive home after work and before book club, I’d have just enough time to get comfortable enough that I would never want to leave again.  So instead, I generally either babysit for a friend so she can go out, or I sit at my office when everyone’s gone and just read.  This month was a ‘just read’ sort of month.  I sat at my desk for about three hours and just read.  I finished up “Have I got a Guy for You” (review here) and started a “The Leper Compound,” which was sent to me by Literary Ventures Fund.  I’m also working on an ARC of “Alive in Necropolis,” which is not at all the sort of book I would normally read, but I am enjoying it so far.  the plot has something to do with vengeful ghosts, although that hasn’t become a huge part of the action yet. 

Well, Saloners, I’m off to do some work around the house so I can do some more reading tonight!  Make sure to check out my big contest, there are only a couple more days to enter.  I will likely announce winners either Tuesday or Wednesday.  You can win ANY book I have reviewed so far. 

BTT – Reading Fundamentals

May 29, 2008

BTT LogoWhat is reading, anyway? Novels, comics, graphic novels, manga, e-books, audiobooks — which of these is reading these days? Are they all reading? Only some of them? What are your personal qualifications for something to be “reading” — why? If something isn’t reading, why not? Does it matter? Does it impact your desire to sample a source if you find out a premise you liked the sound of is in a format you don’t consider to be reading? Share your personal definition of reading, and how you came to have that stance.

Although these are not all things that I like to read, they are all reading. Personally, I stick to novels and non-fiction physical books, as well as whatever audio books I can get for free on Librivox. That doesn’t mean, however, that things like graphic novels are not reading. Heck it says ‘novel’ right in the name! I certainly would not want to argue that “Persepolis” is not really reading.

If you had asked me this question 4 years ago, I might have come up with a different answer. “Comic books?” I might have sneered at you, “comic books aren’t really reading.” That changed when I taught 2nd grade in a high-crime, low-income area on the South Side of Chicago. Most of my kids were non-readers. As in they were barely able to read. Motivating them was often difficult as well. Many of their parents were too busy trying to feed and clothe their families to read on their own or with their children. Many of the parents were probably illiterate, or had very low levels of literacy, because they were failed by the same neighborhood school when they were growing up. TV was the babysitter, and kids tended to be more worried about navigating their way safely around their neighborhood than about reading and math. They needed to learn how to survive in their environment, who had time for school?

In this environment, I was desperate to get my kids to learn, and even more desperate to get them to love learning, reading in particular. The name of the game was finding ANYTHING that interested and engaged them. We had “DEAR” (Drop Everything And Read) time in the mornings, during which many of the kids would simply stare blankly at their books as I made my way around the room to try to read with all 25 of them. When some of my boys brought in comic books that enthralled them and kept them reading intently all through “DEAR” time, and even sneaking peaks during the day, do you think I counted that as reading?

Of course I did! With pleasure! If they are engaged enough to push themselves through comic books that sometimes were slightly too difficult, that meant that they were honing their reading skills. Once they had greater command of language, they were more likely to want to pick up other books in the library that before had been too difficult. They were also finally able to read the instructions on worksheets for other subjects, thus boosting their overall achievement.

If there are words, it is reading. Anything you can read, even cereal boxes, can be a stepping stone. I hope that comic books become the gateway drug of choice leading millions of children to a life-long book addiction.

Note: BTTer’s, check out my big giveaway to celebrate my upcoming 100th post!

Mesmirized Reading

May 26, 2008

Post 88:

Have you ever had a book that actually FORCED you to read it? More than persuaded, more than compelled, but grabbed you by the collar and forced your face into its pages?

That is what Andrew Davidson’s first novel “The Gargoyle” is currently doing to me. Honestly, I’m surprised the book allowed me to come and write this post. I’m only 20 pages into “The Gargoyle,” but the first chapter had me absolutely mesmirized. This is all the more amazing, because I do not think I would typically be able to get very far in a book where the first chapter dealt, fairly graphically, with the narrator’s car crash and terrible burns, not to mention flashbacks to a horrific childhood. However, something about Davidson’s writing that immediately drew me in. The one thing I was able to do to break away from the narrative was to repeatedly stare at the back cover. Each time, I expected to read about Davidson’s 25 other award winning books, each time it was simply “‘The Gargoyle’ is his first book.” I’m still not sure I believe it.

I think this book will be big when it comes out this August.

What books have forced you to read them?

NPR Summer Reading List

May 23, 2008

Post 85:

I was listening to NPR‘s Morning Edition on the way into work today and I caught a segment where some independent book sellers were giving their picks for a summer reading list, and I thought I would share it with all of you. Below are some of the ones I found most interesting:

My Mistress’ Sparrow is Dead edited by Jeffrey Eugenides

By placing James Joyce next to Denis Johnson, Chekov next to Grace Paley, Nabokov next to Lorrie Moore and Stuart Dybek next to Miranda July, Jeffrey Eugenides makes familiar voices fresh and new and invites us to read authors we might not have picked up otherwise. He edits like a fan, not a scholar, and isn’t afraid to pick favorites, which is exactly what makes this a book you’ll want to keep forever and give to all your friends.

See on LibraryThing – Buy on Amazon: My Mistress’s Sparrow Is Dead: Great Love Stories, from Chekhov to Munro

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Set in 1946, on a failing farm in the Mississippi Delta, Mudbound is narrated by six characters who trade brutal prejudices and curse the circumstance that determine their fates. Struggling to raise her children on a mucky, isolated farm with her pragmatic husband and his sour, bigoted father, city-bred Laura McAllan welcomes the unexpected arrival of her charming young brother-in-law Jamie. But when Jamie forms a tentative friendship with the soldier son of the black sharecroppers on the McAllans’ land, the hateful precepts of the Jim Crow South draw the story to its inexorable conclusions. I’ve heard a lot about this book, it is supposed to be absolutely fantastic

See on LibraryThing – Buy on Amazon: Mudbound

What Happened to Anna K. by Irina Reyn

Irina Reyn’s deft debut novel dusts off Tolstoy’s great 19th-century romantic heroine and re-imagines her as a complex — yet still dreamy-eyed — modern woman of today.

All the elements of Tolstoy’s moralistic epic are evident, transplanted to New York, particularly to the Russian émigré community in Queens: Anna enters a bland marriage to an older man (a regulation Russian businessman); she develops a passion for an enthralling lover (David, a would-be writer); and there is even a suggestion of a train station — naturally, Penn Station.

Yet this novel is no more a strict homage than a pale modernization; Moscow-born and Brooklyn-based Reyn creates in Anna a fully formed character, whose dreams and realities clash like the two cities that make Reyn such an observant, wry writer.

See on LibraryThing – Buy on Amazon: What Happened to Anna K.: A Novel

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows

London, 1946. Juliet Ashton, having published a collection of quaint wartime newspaper columns, is searching for her next, more proper subject when a letter arrives from the small island of Guernsey off the English Channel.

The correspondent explains he has come into possession of a book of hers, and an exchange of letters begins. As they banter about books and life, Julia is soon exchanging letters with other islanders, too. What might continue like an amiable BBC comedy turns more serious as the islanders reveal the origins of their unique literary society.

See on LibraryThingBuy on Amazon

You can read excerpts of all of these and the rest of the books on the NPR website. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to try to pick all of these up!