Sunday, December 19, 2010

Reading Plans for 2011

My big project in 2011 will be Reading Between the Wars and today I went through my bookcase looking for books that will fit the challenge. Here is a list of titles I own that were published during the interwar years:

The Age of Innocence - Edith Wharton (1920)
Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier (1938)
Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf (1925)
The Last September - Elizabeth Bowen (1929)
Light in August - William Faulkner (1932)
Death Comes for the Archbishop - Willa Cather (1927)
Out of Africa - Isak Dinesen (1937)
The Rector's Daughter - F.M. Mayor (1924)
To the Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf (1927)
A Room of One's Own - Virginia Woolf (1929)
The Day of the Locust - Nathanael West (1939)
Weeds -Edith Summers Kelly (1923)
The Good Earth - Pearl Buck (1931)
Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston (1937)
This Side of Paradise - F. Scott Fitzgerald (1920)
A Farewell to Arms - Ernest Hemingway (1929)
Goodbye to All That - Robert Graves (1929)
Voyage in the Dark - Jean Rhys (1934)
The Moon and Sixpence - Somerset Maugham (1919)
After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie - Jean Rhys (1930)
Invitation to the Waltz - Rosamond Lehmann (1932)
Grand Hotel - Vicki Baum (1930)

Have you read any of these? Any that you passionately love/violently hate? 

It's been interesting reading about other bloggers plans for 2011 ~ it seems the major trend is to read what you already own and cut down on the amount of challenges. 

I'm definitely going to be reading more of my own books this next year and try to resist purchasing any new titles until a make a dent in my TBR list. I really like the plan that Karen from Books and Chocolate is going to institute and may follow something similar myself.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

An Invitation for the New Year

I'm inviting all book bloggers to join me in the new year at Reading Between the Wars, a new group blog devoted to the literature and history of the Interwar years. Inspired by the readers at Our Mutual Read, I want to share my curiosity and new found interest in the years between the wars, 1918-1939, with other book bloggers. Head on over and check out the blog ~ if you're interested in participating, please don't hesitate in contacting me. The new year is almost here!

Book Blogger Hop

This week's hop question is:

"What do you consider most important in a story: the plot or the characters?"

The perfect book has an intriguing plot and well-drawn characters, but if I have to choose I pick characters. I like interior, domestic fiction where the characters are believable and where the reader feels a sense of identification with at least one character or can feel sympathy for them. Life is about people and relationships and I like that to be mirrored in the novels I read. However, I do occasionally enjoy a purely plot-driven novel like Whiteout by Ken Follett.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


It is nine days til Christmas and the only reading I have been doing lately is craft tutorials on the internet. And I have to say it is pretty dang good reading! I am so grateful that in today's world, I can learn how to do/make just about anything I can think of from the comfort of my own home. It is amazing the vast stores of knowledge at my fingertips. I am just completely blown away at the moment by the overwhelming miracle of it all. Let me tell you what I am making courtesy of the internet and the kind people who share their skills via the internet: dolls, doll shoes, a doll capelet, a teddy bear, felt tea party food, a cake stand, a two tiered dessert tray, bath soap paint, bird softies, wreath ornaments, headbands, fabric flowers, wilted satin flowers, and bath salts. Not to mention all the great Christmas recipes I got online. I am so grateful that I can read.

"Every man who knows how to read has it in his power to magnify himself, to multiply the ways in which he exists, to make his life full, significant and interesting." -Aldous Huxley

Merry Christmas! Remember that to be able to read is a beautiful gift!

Random Notes

  • I'm in the midst of reading two books at the moment - The Blue Hour, a biography of Jean Rhys by Lillian Pizzichini and Days of Grace, a debut novel by Catherine Hall.
  • I may have more reading time come February when my work schedule will probably shift to a 9/80 schedule. I'll work 5 nine-hour days one week, 3 the next, plus an eight-hour day, then have a day off. So I'd have a day off in the middle of the week every other week. Yay! A whole day to read, run errands, etc. I don't mind working nine-hour days to have an extra day off.
  • I think I'm deeming 2011 "The Year of Selfish Reading". I'm going to read whatever I want, whenever I want. I don't want to join any challenges, unless they suit my mood, or set ridiculous reading goals for myself. My Booker challenge I started back in September has fallen on its face. I do want to participate in the Persephone Virago Reading Week in January and I've also signed up for the Classics Circuit, but that is all for now.
  • I was going to do a post revealing my favorite books of 2010, but I don't have any! 2010 was not the best year of reading for me. I didn't read very much and I didn't read what I really wanted to read. So, no favorite books from me this year.
  • Happy Birthday to Jane Austen!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Back in October I tried to read The Haunting of Hill House and was severely bothered by the outdated feel and dialogue. I gave up after about 20 pages. I decided to give Shirley Jackson another try with We Have Always Lived in the Castle and am so glad I did. This quirky, macabre novel was a pleasure to read and contemplate.
Merricat (Mary Katherine) Blackwood, her sister Constance and their Uncle Julian live a routine, reclusive life in a big house on the outskirts of a hostile village. Years before, Constance had been acquitted of murdering the rest of the Blackwood family and now they are ostracized, hated and feared by the villagers. Merricat narrates the novel and from the beginning we know that she is not your typical eighteen-year-old. Her behavior and opinions are childish and she relies on superstition to predict events and protect her family. The plot eerily creeps along with Merricat telling of the arrival of a long-lost cousin and the escalation of fear among the villagers that leads to a chilling ending.
Jackson masterfully produces a unique and creative story by using restrained language and a matter-of-fact tone. Her characters are all mentally crippled in one way or another, but she doesn't judge them - she just lets the facts speak for themselves. I appreciated this aspect of her writing. I also enjoyed her subtle sense of humor, a trait that is surprising in such a bizarre novel. This is definitely a book that will stick with me for a while.

Don't Take My Word For it:

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Grueling Day

The library system I work for recently decided to interfile all adult fiction. We currently have fiction separated by genre; science fiction, westerns, mystery and paperback romances are each shelved separately from "straight fiction". Today, four of the librarians (including me) began the process of combining all of the genres into alphabetical order by author's last name. We worked backward in the alphabet for four straight hours and only got to the P's! When we opened the library at 1 all of our tables were covered with books and the stacks were a confusing jumble. I am definitely going to need a long soak in a hot bath tonight to soothe my aching muscles!
My question to all of you regular library users out in the blogosphere is: do you prefer adult fiction to be separated by genre or do you like everything mixed together?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Matched by Ally Condie

Cassia Reyes lives in a future Society that controls every aspect of a person's life; where they live, when they eat, what work they do and, most important, who they marry. At her Matching ceremony Cassia is pleasantly surprised to be Matched with her best friend Xander, yet when she later views his profile at home another boy's picture pops up in his place. Why is a picture of Ky Markham, a neighbor Cassia barely knows, also showing up as her match? An Official from the Society explains that it was just a mistake, but Cassia is intrigued and starts to befriend Ky. The inevitable happens and Cassia falls in love with him, but doesn't have a choice in who she marries as the choice has been made for her. Though, at first, she outwardly accepts the Society's decision, inwardly she longs for Ky and eventually these feelings lead her to defy the Society in her quest to be with him.
I didn't think I would like Matched as I am so done with YA dystopian novels that feature a love triangle, but it surprised me. It is thoughtfully written and the slower pacing is perfect for building the developing relationship between Cassia and Ky. Cassia is a believable character, not inherently rebellious or courageous, but led to question in a quiet way. Her two love interests are more alike than they are different and are well-drawn. It is not hard to see why she would love them both. The ending is slightly disorganized and left me a tad deflated, but at least there's not a dramatic cliffhanger, though there will be a book #2. Reading reviews on Goodreads, I gather that Condie's world is very close to The Giver by Lois Lowry, so it's not entirely original, but what is these days in YA lit? Matched isn't perfect, but I think it's a cut above a lot of the YA dystopian novels currently being published.

Other Reviews:

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Literary Blog Hop

I'm participating in my first Literary Blog Hop which is hosted by The Blue Bookcase.

This week's question:

What is one of your literary pet peeves?  Is there something that writers do that really sets your teeth on edge?  Be specific, and give examples if you can.

I really resent when authors manipulate a reader just to elicit an emotional reaction. This is why I hate Jodi Picoult - she twists her plots in unnatural ways in order to create a major impact on the reader, no matter if it doesn't really jibe with the rest of the story. I feel this is dishonest and unfair. I know there are readers who love to be shocked and I am okay with it too, as long as it is legitimate. What about you? What is your literary pet peeve?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein

Peggy Orenstein sets out to examine the effects of Princess culture on today's girls in this well-researched, balanced, and wryly humorous book. She began this project when she noticed that most of the little girls in her daughter's class were princess mad, specifically, Disney princess mad. This book appealed to me because, like Orenstein, I've often wondered what the long-term results of exposure to the girlie-girl cult will have on women. So many girls are given such mixed views on the nature of femininity and sexuality that there is bound to be fall-out as Orenstein shows us with her chapter on "real" Disney princesses Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus. There are also chapters discussing beauty pageants, Barbie and other toys for girls, superheroes, fairy tales and social networking. Every aspect of the insidious message that marketers are peddling to girls is covered and dissected. Orenstein's honesty in admitting her own ambivalent feelings and inconsistent enforcement of her beliefs with her own daughter, Daisy, reflects the views of most parents. Many of the parents Orenstein interviewed expressed their desire for their daughters to feel beautiful and attractive, yet they didn't want their girls to feel that that is all they are good for. What is the solution? Orenstein does not offer one here. She cites research and provides examples of what might work, but, really, this cultural message is so entrenched in our society that there is no easy solution to be had. Each parent has to face the issue in their own way, and some parents, of course, don't see it as an issue at all. If you are interested in the way that girls are raised, this thought-provoking book will provide reflection on what you can do to combat the negative effects of our image and brand conscious society.

I received this ARC courtesy of HarperCollins through NetGalley. This book will be released on January 25, 2011.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys

When Simon at Stuck in a Book invited readers to join him in reading novellas this weekend I thought I knew exactly what I would choose. The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne-Jewett came immediately to mind, but when Saturday rolled around I wasn't in the mood for it and decided to read Good Morning, Midnight instead.
At 158 pages this slim volume relates the story of Sophia Jansen, a woman approaching middle age. Set in 1930's Paris, we follow Sophia, or Sasha as she has renamed herself, through two weeks in the City of Light. Considered an outcast, Sasha has rejected convention for a life of abandonment and hustling for money. At odds with her family back in England she is frequently depressed and has become an alcoholic. Told in the first person, Sasha rambles along through her days, providing the reader with flashbacks into her youth and giving us insight into her psyche. The narrative is immediate, personal and painful to read. Sasha is paranoid, mistrustful and obsessed with her appearance in an almost phobic way. When she meets a young gigolo all of her fears meld into a mess of self-hatred and despair.

This novella reminded me of The House of Mirth. Sasha's plight is similar to that of Lily Bart; they're both aging, single,forced to behave against their natures to survive and have limited "decent" options available beyond marriage and motherhood. Though similar in story, in style this book is light years away from Wharton. Rhys uses sharp, assertive language, her pacing is chaotic and her sentences stumble across the page. I have read Wide Sargasso Sea, but don't remember it very well so I was unaccustomed to Rhys's writing. After reading Good Morning, Midnight I want to definitely read more of her works as I find her writing to be like a cold bucket of water thrown in your face ~ bracing, eye-opening and heart-stopping. 

On a side-note ~ if you decide to read this and don't know French have Google translator at the ready as there are many important passages that are written in French.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Book Blogger Hop

The Book Blogger Hop is sponsored by Crazy for Books. It's a weekly opportunity for bloggers to discover new book blogs and connect with other readers. 

This week's question:  
"What very popular and hyped book in the blogosphere did you NOT enjoy and how did you feel about posting your review?"

For me that book was The Hours by Michael Cunningham. I had read mountains of praise for it and was eager to experience it for myself, but I was let down. It didn't meet my expectations, but I did like some things about it so I wasn't hesitant to post my review.

What book has let you down?

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

On a foggy London evening Arthur Kipps, a young solicitor, is commissioned by his boss to attend the funeral of and then settle the papers of a client called Mrs. Drablow. He travels to her small town on the moors and meets with strange looks and fearful stares when he reveals to the townspeople why he is there. At the funeral he notices a skeletal, wasted woman dressed all in black at the back of the church and he also later sees her in the cemetery of Eel Marsh House, Mrs. Drablow's isolated marshland home. Strange sights, sounds and events soon conspire to propel Arthur from the home and he determines he'll never return. Who is the woman in black and what did Arthur actually experience at Eel Marsh House?
This ghost story set in the early part of the 20th century, is told in first-person from Arthur's viewpoint as he relates this life changing experience to be read after his death.The writing is fabulously descriptive and Hill is an expert at creating a menacing, threatening atmosphere throughout the novella. I don't scare easily, but there were a few scenes that raised goose bumps. The characters are sympathetic and believable and their trepidation is palpable. This supernatural tale is a model of its kind and is the perfect book if you prefer atmosphere over gore.

Also reviewed today at:
Park Benches & Bookends

Thursday, December 2, 2010


I am only just beginning book 4 of this 5 book series, but I must say I am enjoying it. AND it is wonderful to read such a clean book series. I was reading the Abby Cooper: Psychic Eye series and it was pretty clean for an adult mystery series with a romantic side, but compared to Fablehaven it feels rated R! The concept of magical creature preserves is appealing and the writing is fast paced and exciting.

That being said, I am happy to be posting on Cousins Read again!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I'm Back

I didn't enjoy blogging on my own so I am back to Cousins Read! I missed the communal aspect of a shared blog and I really missed my cousins. I am looking forward to continuing our blog into its fifth year. I'm glad to be back!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Fond Farewell

Anbolyn is now hosting her own blog. Please visit her at A World in Themselves.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

This was my book club book for October, but I've taken a while to post about it because I'm having a hard time writing about it. I've heard for many years how wonderful this book is and so I was anticipating an amazing read. Though I admired it and thought it was mentally stimulating, I was a tad let down. It's written by Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and neurologist who was incarcerated in four different concentration camps during World War II. The first half of the book gives an account of his experiences and observation of life in a camp and how this experience effects human behavior. The second half of the book talks about his theories of psychology and how we can apply them to our lives. I feel almost blasphemous saying this, but I thought the book, especially the second half, was boring! I did glean some wheat from the chaff, but overall I didn't really enjoy reading this.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Booker Monday 10/18/10

I'm about half-way through Heat and Dust. It is a very easy, enjoyable, yet complex read. 

Here are some quotes from the author, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala:

"[India] is not a place that one can pick up and put down again as if nothing had happened. In a way it's not so much a country as an experience, and whether it turns out to be a good or bad one depends, I suppose, on oneself." 

"It was very easy to be a writer," Jhabvala says of her life as a housewife. "I'd think what to eat for the day, then tell the cook. I didn't like interruptions, but it didn't bother me having children around. It makes it easier when nothing's expected of you; you're just doing your 'hobby'." 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My Kindle

I've had my Kindle for almost three weeks now and I'm very pleased with it. I like reading on it - the screen is glare-free and clear and I am glad to be able to adjust the font as I am growing blind and need a larger font these days. It is so amazing to have 30 books on one slim little device that fits in your purse with ease. I have downloaded quite a few classics that I've always wanted to read - they are free if published pre-1923 - and have gotten pretty far along in Middlemarch. I see myself finishing it before the end of the year! The brilliance, for me, of reading thick classics on the Kindle is that you have no sense of how much text you have left to read. The Kindle does give page numbers and a percentage of how far along you are, but I am able to block that out and just enjoy the story. Therefore, I don't feel daunted with the length of the book and give up out of frustration as I tend to do with print novels. It took me a few months to decide to buy the Kindle and I am glad I purchased it. It is an ingenious little machine that might put me out of a job one day, but we can't stop progress can we?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz

At work we've embarked on a little project to read 8-10 books that are candidates for the Caldecott, Newbery and Printz prizes, which are awarded by the American Library Association in January. The Night Fairy is one of the books that is on our Newbery list.
This is a charming and simple tale of a night fairy named Flory who is forced to become a day fairy when her wings are damaged. She encounters animals and birds she normally wouldn't meet, such as squirrels and hummingbirds, and embarks on several dangerous adventures that test her fortitude and lead her to adapt her lifestyle to her new situation. She is a sassy little creature and though not fearless, she stands up for herself despite her trepidation. I really liked that the author worked facts about animals and the natural world into the story and I also enjoyed the flowing, yet simple, language and the direct dialogue. Though I'm not sure it will win the Newbery award, it will probably win over the hearts of many young girls who are enchanted with fairies.

Other reviews:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Booker Monday

I had to start a different Booker book this week as The Siege of Krishnapur had a hold on it at the library(can you imagine?) and we only have one copy in the system. I had to relinquish it. So, I started Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. This novel won the Booker Prize in 1975, and like The Siege of Krishnapur, is set in India. By the way, the Man Booker Prize for 2010 will be awarded tomorrow.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Booker Monday

I'm still reading The Siege of Krishnapur. I'm about partway through and the sepoys have attacked the English. There's lots of descriptions of how to fire a cannon and men getting their heads blown off with muskets. It is beautifully written and subtly humorous.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The House of Dead Maids by Clare B. Dunkle

I saw this book in a publisher's catalog back in June and have been eagerly awaiting it ever since. The House of Dead Maids is, as it says on the cover, "the chilling prelude to Wuthering Heights". It mixes reality with fiction by having as its two main characters, Tabby Aykroyd, the real-life maid to the Bronte children and Himself, the boy we come to know as Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights.
Tabby is living in an orphanage when she is commissioned to be a maid by a Miss Winters and taken to live at Seldom House. Expecting to be waiting on Miss Winters, she is perplexed when her only occupation becomes keeping the cook company in the kitchen. She's forbidden from doing anything else until she learns she is to be the companion to a child, "the Master", who will arrive any day. When the Master arrives with a Mr. Ketch, she learns that he is not the true master of the house and doesn't even have a name. She refers to him as Himself in her mind and sets about trying to tame the wild gypsy child. In the evenings they are visited by the ghost of a dead girl and Tabby begins to suspect that something is very, very wrong at Seldom House. As time passes Tabby and Himself discover disturbing evidence of a secret ritual that their presence is crucial to completing. 
Dark and gothic, this novel had me turning its delicious pages with satisfaction. I love all things Victorian and gothic and I was not disappointed by this little gem. As an explanation to the history of Heathcliff it was adequate, but as a novel unto itself it was fantastic.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Booker Monday

I decided about a month ago to read all of the Booker Prize winners that we own at the library. I started reading The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell while I was in Springerville, but just haven't been able to finish. So I've decided that every Monday the only thing I'm going to read is my current Booker book. The Siege of Krishnapur was the fifth winner of this prize in 1973.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Room by Emma Donoghue

Room is on the short list for the Man Booker Prize which will be announced on October 12. I usually have trouble with the books nominated for the Booker as a lot of the time they seem completely inaccessible, although last year I read and loved two of the nominated books, The Children's Book and The Little Stranger. I can't say I loved Room, but it was definitely worth reading.
Ma was 19 when she was kidnapped and imprisoned by Old Nick. It's seven years later and she is surviving in an 11 x 11 room with her five-year-old son Jack. The novel is told from Jack's unique viewpoint, and we learn of their daily routines and efforts to break up the day and live a fulfilling existence. Jack sleeps in the wardrobe, as Ma doesn't want Old Nick having any interactions with her son. When Ma learns that Old Nick has been laid off she fears that he'll lose his house and will have to dispose of his captives. She proceeds to hatch an escape plan and uses Jack to rescue them. The last 2/3 of the novel depict their struggles living in the world and how they each have to find their own way of coping with their new lives. I loved the character of Jack and was constantly tickled by his observations. His interactions with his well-meaning relatives were painful and frustrating to read about, but his grandma was the key for him in learning to navigate "outside". Ma's struggles mainly take place off-stage, but we share Jack's fears for her and his longing to be reunited. Room is a cleverly written novel about a very serious subject. Readers will find Jack to be a fantastic narrator.

Other Reviews:
Farm Lane Books Blog
Savidge Reads

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen

Woods Runner is a short, yet powerful tale of one boy's race to rescue his parents, who are prisoners of the British during the Revolutionary War. Samuel lives with his parents in the forests of Pennsylvania where they live a peaceful life with several other villagers. Samuel is relied upon by the village to provide meat for them and has become an expert woods runner and hunter. One day while he is out hunting, tragedy strikes; his village is burned down and his parents are taken captive by British soldiers. Hot on their trail, Samuel is determined to save them. Along the way he encounters injury and savagery and unexpectedly becomes the guardian of a little girl named Annie. The tale follows Samuel all the way to New York City, where thousands of prisoners are living in dismal conditions. Interspersed with facts about the Revolutionary War and how people lived during this time period, I found Woods Runner to be fascinating and suspenseful. I would recommend this for fifth grade and up.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

I read this novel for my September book club meeting. Set during World War II and the 1980's, it moves back and forth relating the story of Henry, a Chinese boy who lives in Seattle. In 1942, just after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Henry is a sixth grader who attends a predominately white prep school. Bullied and ostracized by his classmates, he is often mistaken for a Japanese student, until his father makes him wear an "I am Chinese" button on his coat. He works in the school cafeteria during lunch and one day a new student, Keiko, joins him. Keiko is Japanese and Henry is wary of befriending her because of his father's intense hatred for Japan. However, they quickly form a relationship and become fast friends. The novel then tells the story of Keiko's forced imprisonment in an interment camp in Idaho and Henry's desire to maintain their friendship while she is gone. We also learn of Henry's broken relationship with his parents, especially his father, because of his love for Keiko and his refusal to go to China to attend school. A heartbreaking tale of lost love and unfulfilled desires, it does have a somewhat sweet ending. It is truly bittersweet. I enjoyed reading about the experience of immigrants in Seattle during the '40's and I was pleased to realize that it is entirely clean with no swearing or sex.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Beastologist: Flight of the Phoenix by R.L. LaFevers

Nate Fludd is a 10-year-old orphan whose parents perished in an airship accident in the Arctic. Sent to live with his adventurous Aunt Phil, Nate learns that he comes from a line of beastologists. His family has studied supposedly mythical creatues such as basilisks and gremlins for generations. Shortly after arriving he and Aunt Phil embark on a trip to Arabia to witness the birth of a new Phoenix. Featuring strong character development and high adventure this new series would be perfect for third and fourth graders who like fantasy mixed with danger. Book two is The Basilisk's Lair.

Monday, August 9, 2010

It's Over

Well, I've already given up on my plan as discussed two days ago. I can't do plans! I just have to accept that I am a reading spaz and make the best of it. I prefer being led from book to book and reading whatever strikes my fancy. I checked out 4 junior fiction books today and am looking forward to escaping into children's lit for a few days. I tried. I failed. Oh well.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A New Plan

Even after trying to take control of my reading life, it is still a mess! So, I have formulated a new plan. I will only have 6 books on my plate at a time. These are the categories: 1 new YA, 1 classic YA, 1 new JF, 1 adult fiction, 1 adult NF and 1 church book. I can't start something new in a category until I've finished (or abandoned) the current one. I've revamped the sidebar to show what I'm reading now. I really need to stick with this plan because I am reading a lot and not finishing anything. I feel like I'm spinning my wheels.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Reevaluting My Reading

For a few months now, I've felt that I need to be more careful when choosing reading material. I am very much saddened by the amount of profanity, casual sex, violence and overall moral decay in most of today's literature. Recently, I was reading In the Woods by Tana French. By most standards it is a pretty tame murder mystery, but every time I picked it up I felt sick to my stomach and just KNEW I shouldn't be reading it. I finally decided to stop after I was about half-way through. The level of profanity in the novel was unacceptable and unnecessary.
A few days ago I watched a talk on the BYU channel given by the Young Women General Presidency at this year's Women's Conference. Titled "A Return to Virtue", Sister Dalton, Sister Dibb and Sister Cook presented a powerful case for LDS women to be examples of virtue to the world. Sister Dalton's talk, especially, really made me think about the movies, tv shows, music and books that I ingest. For the most part, I avoid movies and tv shows that are not virtuous, but since I live for books, I do end up reading far too many novels that don't meet my standards. I usually justify this as necessary for my job, but I don't really need to read all of the most popular novels. Just to know what they're about is enough, I believe.
This is all a round about way of saying that I am going to raise my standards for reading material from now on. I know I will miss out on a lot of "trendy" novels and, to be honest, it will be a sacrifice for me. Most of my life, I've read whatever I wanted. Now, I feel I must read books that will help me, or at least won't damage, my goal of being a virtuous woman. Will you join me in this endeavor?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Taking a Break

I've decided to take a break from reading young adult novels. I need maturity and no dystopian, future world, post-apocalyptic nonsense for a while! I'm craving good, solidly written, lyrical novels that I can somewhat relate to. I've also once again resolved to not buy any more books from Barnes & Noble. So, I'm taking advantage of BookMooch and recently put 500 books on my wishlist! I'll be reading whatever free books come my way from them. It will be very random and will probably expand my reading horizons. This week I received The Road by Cormac McCarthy, Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende, A Ship Made of Paper by Scott Spencer and Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. I have 18 more books coming my way. Now my only problem is where to put all of them! I'll post my recent Savers finds later this week.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Grave Series

I just read the first three books in the Grave Series by Charlaine Harris. I like them better than the Sookie Stackhouse books in some ways, and less in others. It seemed kind of like the same book three times in a lot of ways. It talks about how they like to get in, do the job, then get out, but three cases in a row they get stuck there until the case gets solved. It always goes on and on about their reluctance and how they want to get out of town. But, they were much cleaner than the Sookie Stackhouse books. Only the third one was a bit graphic. I would like to read the fourth one if I can get a hold of it. Sorry this is a short review. I know both Niesa and Anbo have read these so I didn't see much need for synopsis, just my opinion. And I am in a bad mood today so I probably would not be able to say anything good anyway.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Quote I Like

"Books speak even when they stand unopened on the shelf. If you would know a man or woman, look at their books, not their software." - Annie Proulx

 What does it say when you go to visit someone at their home and discover that they have no books?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Must Stop

I must stop buying/checking out new books! I went through a pile of books last night that I have recently bought and realized I haven't read any of them. It is madness. Every day I come home with a sackful of books from the library that I have no time to read and only a passing interest in. What is my problem? I have decided that I am returning all of the books that I have checked out from the library (except for 3 that I have started reading) and I am only reading the books that I own from now on. AND I will not buy any more books for the rest of the year! I think I can do it. I will be reading a lot of classics, but that is good. I bought them because I wanted to read them someday and someday is here.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

I finally finished Catching Fire! I won't do a synopsis because I know everyone has read it already. My thoughts on it? I found it very hard to get into. The first third of the book was incredibly ho-hum for me. However, I persevered and was glad that the action picked up and it became a page-turner. Of course, the ending was torturous and I am pleased that I waited until now to read it because I only have two months to wait for Mockingjay! I don't think I could have stood waiting a whole year to find out what happens.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

This highly touted British fantasy novel is an inventive and engrossing adventure. Set in a future world where "Protocol" is in effect (nothing can be automated, no machines allowed), the tale centers on two characters who live in drastically different environments. Claudia is betrothed to the prince of the land, Caspar, yet she is feisty, rebellious and intelligent and has no interest in marrying the doltish prince. Her tutor, Jared, is a Sapient, a group of intelligent inventors. Jared has taught her about science and machines and she is closer to him than she is to her father, the Warden, whom she is always trying to subvert. When she breaks into her father's office and discovers a crystal key, she makes contact with Finn, a young man who lives in Incarceron, the prison her father oversees. Finn has lived in Incarceron since he can remember and is on the run from his former gang with another Sapient, Gildas, his oathbrother, Keiro, and Attia, a former slave. Finn has also discovered a crystal key and through this can communicate with Claudia. The bulk of the novel details the efforts of Finn and his friends to escape from Incarceron and of Claudia's desperate attempts to evade her impending marriage and help Finn. A true page-turner, the reader is compelled to learn if Finn and Claudia escape from their respective imprisonments. Despite a few episodes of sloppy writing and confusing plotting, this novel is a gem. The sequel is only available in the UK at the moment and I can't wait for it's US release.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

When I Was 19 - February

February 3, 1993 – Summer by Edith Wharton
February 9, 1993 – The Miracle at St. Bruno’s Abbey by Phillippa Carr
February 11, 1993 – Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie
February 22, 1993 – The Awakening by Kate Chopin
February 16, 1994 – Light a Penny Candle by Maeve Binchy
February 13, 1995 – Bearing Witness: Sexual Harassment and Beyond- Every Woman’s Story by Celia Morris
February 9, 1996 – Old Glory: An American Voyage by Jonathan Raban
February 10, 1996 – The Best American Short Stories of 1995 edited by Jane Smiley

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

This lovely book is a quiet and understated look at the immigrant experience. The author uses wonderfully minimal language and a humble tone to tell the engrossing story of Eilis Lacey, a young Irish woman who is sent to live in Brooklyn in the 1950s. There are no job opportunities for Eilis in her small Irish town, so her older sister Rose, who wants a better life for Eilis, works with a visiting priest from America, Father Fludd, to find Eilis a job and a place to lodge in Brooklyn.
When Eilis arrives in America she finds herself living in a boarding house run by Mrs. Kehoe, another Irish immigrant. Suffering terrible bouts of homesickness, she dutifully goes to her job at Bartocci’s department store and attends classes in bookkeeping at Brooklyn College. The routine of her life stems the sadness that overtakes her, but the routine is broken when she meets Tony, an Italian plumber, at a dance. Experiencing her first relationship, Eilis finds happiness, but events in Ireland soon draw her back to her homeland. Will she stay with her family in Ireland or return to the land that has molded her into a confident, capable woman?
Toibin is a master of drawing the reader into Eilis’ world, whether it’s the slow pace of her life in Ireland or the heat, bustle and noise of Brooklyn.
His writing style is straightforward and pristine, uncluttered of useless description or unnecessary commentary. For instance, the departure scenes (when Eilis leaves Ireland) are unusual for the way they’re written. Toibin doesn’t write about the good-byes between Eilis and her family members – they are skipped over. I found it disconcerting at first, as I’m not used to this type of sparseness, but I can see that this strategy was more effective that gushing accounts of crying and sadness. Over the course of the novel I came to love Toibin’s style.
As for characterization – it is fabulously nuanced and layered. No character is all good or all bad and their actions can’t be predicted. Eilis is a well-rounded and fascinating character and Toibin does a marvelous job of depicting her shifting and fluctuating thoughts and opinions. Tony, Eilis’ boyfriend, is one of my favorite characters in the novel and I loved discovering his character as it is slowly unfolded for Eilis as well as for the reader.
I could go on for quite a while about this amazing book. It would be the perfect novel to discuss with someone (hint, hint). I absolutely loved everything about it and will definitely read more of Colm Toibin.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Big Read Audio CDs

The Big Read is a countrywide program funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. It is similar to the One Book, One Community event where a community reads the same book and comes together to discuss it. Each Big Read book has an accompanying radio program and I recently discovered that my library has these programs on CD. At only around 30 minutes each, the programs contain excerpts from the book (read by a celebrity), comments from scholars and authors, a brief bio of the author and appropriate musical selections. This week I listened to the programs on The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and My Antonia and today I started A Farewell to Arms. I love listening to these! It is fascinating to hear about the backgrounds of these famous novels and to hear about the lives of their authors and what events influenced them and in turn influenced their work. It feels like I am back in college in my literature classes. I feel energized and excited by literature after listening. So far, I’ve really enjoyed the program on My Antonia the best – it was very moving. I did cry. And now I must read My Antonia all over again! If you get a chance to hear any of these programs, do. They’re really quite wonderful. You can listen to all of them on the NEA website.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The White Garden by Stephanie Barron

Think of a lazy Saturday afternoon when you don’t have much going on. You start flipping through the tv channels and come across that hit movie from a couple of years ago that you never saw in the theater, but now, as you have nothing else to do, you lie down on the couch to watch, for what you know will be two hours of mediocrity, filled with stereotypical characters, impossible situations, yet which will provide you with a few genuine laughs and semi-suspenseful moments. The White Garden by Stephanie Barron is the literary equivalent of that movie.
Jo Bellamy is a 30-something gardener who’s been commissioned to recreate the famous white garden originally cultivated by Vita Sackville-West. A few months before she leaves for England to study the garden her beloved grandfather Jock commits suicide. In a crazy twist of fate, her grandfather’s death is connected to Sissinghurst, the home of V S-W and to the supposed suicide of Virginia Woolf, V S-W’s one-time lover. While in England, Jo unenthusiastically researches the garden. She also starts digging around to find out information about Jock’s time at Sissinghurst and happens upon a forgotten fragment of a diary written by Virginia Woolf. Enter Jo’s employer who is scheming to bed her, a sexy Sotheby’s employee, a beautiful, yet cruel English professor, and a madcap race ensues to discover the truth about Virginia Woolf and her death.
Like that afternoon film, this is extremely enjoyable in the moment, yet it is ultimately unsatisfying. I did truly enjoy the characterization, but the plot is so unbelievable that it had me gnashing my teeth. And as always when portraying real people in a fictional setting the author gambles on the result being believable, which in this case was only slightly successful. Read this if you are looking for an interesting take on Virginia Woolf, her husband Leonard, and the rest of the Bloomsbury set, or if you want a fast and amusing way to spend an afternoon.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Cousins Read Has Moved!

We've moved house - you can now find us here. Please update your RSS reader with our new address!

Friday, January 22, 2010

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

When You Reach Me won the Newbery award on Monday. On Wednesday evening I was fortunate enough to read this lovely and engrossing novel.
It's the 1970's and Miranda Sinclair is twelve, a single child of a single mother, living in NYC. When the book opens she is perplexed by her best friend Sal's abandonment of their friendship. However, it doesn't get her down for long and she quickly becomes friends with two classmates, Annemarie and Colin. Miranda's contentment is suddenly disrupted when she begins receiving mysterious notes from someone in the future, someone who predicts events in Miranda's life before they happen. While the reader tries to puzzle out who these notes are from, the plot moves along with Miranda's adventures. Throughout, she keeps her fears about the notes hidden, until an unexpected ending reveals all.
Miranda is a wonderful character; fearless yet cautious, respectful, but a tad rebellious, a normal girl who experiences an extraordinary event. The other characters in the novel are also wonderfully real and believable. There are many themes introduced in the book and there are lots of issues to discuss with any child who reads this. The chapters are short and it's written in a straightforward style, perfect for reluctant readers. The time travel aspect should interest readers who might not otherwise be enticed by this story. A true gem, this is fully deserving of the Newbery award.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Hours by Michael Cunningham

Many book bloggers have mentioned this novel as being brilliant, so I decided to read this Pulitzer winner over the weekend. My feelings were mixed. I can't say that this was an enjoyable read because the suffering of the various characters is rendered so realistically that it was painful to read, but the writing is very luminous and wonderful to read.

The book contains the stories of 3 different characters; Virginia Woolf in 1923, Mrs. Dalloway in the '90s, and Laura Brown in 1949. Each narrative details a day in the life of each woman much as the novel Mrs. Dalloway, written by Virginia Woolf, does. Though I have yet to read Mrs. Dalloway, I gather that the writing style is also quite similar - a stream of consciousness style that slips over and around the thoughts of the characters as they go about their day. Each character faces death in this novel and there doesn't seem to be any joy at all to look forward to or past happiness to dwell on. I found the whole thing horribly depressing! The best part, in more ways than one, was the ending. The author allows a small glimmer of hopefulness to scuttle through the cracks. Why do people love this novel so much? It must be the writing. I thought it was unbearably ambiguous and too full of despair for my liking and, aside from the Virginia Woolf character, I really had no sympathy for anyone else in the novel. Reading this wasn't a complete waste of time, but it wasn't an experience that I would want to repeat.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays

"Oryx had been a younger child, often pushed to the side, but suddenly she was made much of and given better food than usual, and a special blue jacket, because the other village women were helping out and they wanted her to look pretty and healthy. Children who were ugly or deformed, or who were not bright or couldn't talk very well - such children went for less, or might not be sold at all."
- from Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Saturday, January 16, 2010

When I Was 19 - January

A few weeks ago, my dad reminded me that I had some boxes in my parents' storage closet that had been left there when I moved to Austin - almost 10 years ago! I brought two of the boxes home with me and, while rummaging through, found a reading log I kept from the age of 19 through 22. Some of the books I remember quite well and some I have absolutely no recollection of ever reading. I thought it might be amusing to list those books here on our blog. So, here is what I read in the month of January from 1993-1996.

January 4, 1993 - Italian Days by Barbara Grizzuti Harrison
January 12, 1993 The Radiant Way by Margaret Drabble
January 3, 1994 - In the Shadow of the Crown by Jean Plaidy
January 5, 1994 - Coming Home Crazy: An Alphabet of China by Bill Holm
January 19, 1994 - The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World ed. by Peter Clayton
January 6, 1995 - Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen ( my only reading of this novel - maybe it's time to read it again?)
January 20, 1995 - The Firm by John Grisham
January 21, 1995 - The Pelican Brief by John Grisham (I remember having absolutely nothing to read at this time and so I turned in desperation to these books owned by my dad)
January 19, 1996 - Alicia: My Story by Alicia Appleman (no recollection - who is Alicia?)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Remarkable Creatues by Tracy Chevalier

As soon as I read the premise of Remarkable Creatures a few months ago, I knew it was a book for me. Set in the early 19th century, this novel revolves around the lives of two very different women who are brought together through their love of hunting fossils. I've always had an interest in and fascination for fossils and love reading about geology. 

Mary Anning is a young girl who's family makes the majority of their living by finding and selling fossils in the seaside town of Lyme Regis. Elizabeth Philpot is one of three spinster sisters who are sent to live in Lyme Regis when their brother marries. Elizabeth, looking for something to occupy her time, takes to the beach to look for fossils and there befriends Mary. As the years progress and Mary discovers more and more important fossils, including ichthyosaurus and plesiosaurus, her world opens up to embrace scholars from around the country who come to meet and learn from her. Elizabeth lingers on the fringes of Mary's ambitions, protecting her and rescuing her family from various disasters. Soon, however, one of Mary's scholars comes between them and their friendship is torn, perhaps never to be repaired. Told in first-person by Mary and Elizabeth in alternating chapters, we get a sense of each character's thoughts and experiences apart from each other. Elizabeth's voice is much stronger than Mary's and, I felt, more authentic. I found myself enjoying the chapters told in Elizabeth's voice and being jarred when Mary's chapters arrived. I did find Mary to be a fascinating character, however, and was intrigued to discover that both she and Elizabeth really existed. This novel is based on true facts and people, which I should have known as I think Chevalier often uses history as the basis for her novels. Anyhow, I wasn't blown away by this book - it was merely pleasant. I wasn't convinced that their friendship was as important to either of them as the author makes it out to be and I really think Mary's voice was off.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

  • Grab your current read.

  • Let the book fall open to a random page.

  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

  • "Upstairs in my room I sat for a few minutes, allowing my head to catch up with what my heart had already decided. Then I drew the curtains to dim the room, and arranged cushions under my bedclothes so that anyone peeking in would think they were seeing my sleeping form." 
    From Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

    Sunday, January 10, 2010

    Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

    Another paranormal teen romance, Beautiful Creatures, is a cut above the rest. With a Southern Gothic flavor and a male narrator, this novel had more to interest me than the average supernatural thriller.
    Ethan Wate, our narrator, is sixteen and has lived in Gatlin, South Carolina his whole life. Gatlin is everyone's stereotype of the small Southern town; Civil War obsessed, sports obsessed, conservative, with a hint of voodoo underlying it all. It's the first day of school and Ethan wakes from a strange dream about a gorgeous, green-eyed girl who is in some kind of trouble. Later that day he meets the new girl in town, Lena Duchannes, and recognizes her from his dream. The plot then follows the budding relationship between Lena and Ethan and his discovery of the sinister dark side of his hometown. Lena is not accepted by the majority of townspeople and Ethan chooses to turn his back on them and bond with Lena, who he learns has a secret. On her sixteenth birthday she'll participate in an incredible ceremony that will determine the path the rest of her life will take. I won't say more, but it involves a choice between light and dark. The chapters count down the days until her birthday and follow Ethan's and Lena's efforts to extrapolate her from this ritual. Essentially a classic tale of the struggle between good and evil, with a sweet romance thrown in, Beautiful Creatures is chock full of side-plots that enliven the novel and engaging characters that enhance its Southern flavor (including a character called Marian who is a librarian). My only irritation with the novel was that the authors tried to cram almost too much into this book and it therefore was much too long. I think it could have been chopped by about 100 pages and been just as effective. Also, the ending bordered on the ridiculous and nearly ruined the entire book for me. The writing was not as well-constructed as in the bulk of the book and it was almost  laughable at times. Overall, I enjoyed this novel and I found it to be extremely readable. I'm not surprised that it ended up on several "Best Books of 2009" lists.

    Thursday, January 7, 2010

    Talking About Detective Fiction by P.D. James

    I used to be a mad inhaler of all British mystery novels. I loved Ruth Rendell, Peter Robinson, Ian Rankin, and P.D. James especially. For a couple of years now, though, I've really cut down on the amount of mysteries I read, but I will always read the latest P.D. James. The woman is a master of the genre and a wonderful writer. This latest non-fiction book by Baroness James is a short history and discussion of the detective novel that she wrote to raise funds for the Bodleian Library in Oxford. The first half of the book summarizes the history of detective writing (the first true detective novel: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins), and details the importance of the Golden Age of mysteries to the development of the genre. Her discussion of the four big female names of the Golden Age - Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayres, Margery Allingham, and Ngaio Marsh - is very enlightening and spurs me to want to read more about these ladies. The second half of the book discusses the elements of the detective novel including setting and viewpoint and the future of detective fiction. This half is not as strong as the first and it seems that James really enjoyed writing about the historical aspect of mysteries and didn't really care much for writing about the current state of the genre. However, she does provide some tidbits about her own writing and style that are interesting. For instance, she doesn't know how to use a computer and still writes all of her novels by hand. Despite the letdown of the second half of this book, I found it an engaging way to spend my time at the car dealership waiting for my oil to be changed. I don't think it will rekindle my love of reading mysteries, but it did provide some nostalgic reflection, 

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010

    My Only Reading Challenge This Year

    Reading challenges really don't work for me. I NEVER manage to stick to them. I am a spastic reader and must go where my whims take me. That is why I am so happy that I've found a reading challenge to join that is not too rigid and that I am sure I can complete. I've joined the 2010 Pub Challenge. All that's required is to read 10 adult fiction or non-fiction books throughout the year that are published in 2010. Last year I had a goal of reading more new books and started out strong. I think I did pretty well. I believe that it is important for librarians to read new books to be able to discuss with patrons the hot books of the moment and to suggest titles when asked for recommendations. So, this challenge is a good one all around! Read more about the challenge here.

    Sunday, January 3, 2010

    Reading Resolutions for 2009

    I do have some reading resolutions for 2009. I'll list them according to priority.

    1. Read my scriptures every day and STUDY them at least 2 days a week.
    2. Re-read Love and Logic Magic for ages 2 through 6. Sarah is running me ragged these days and I'm just tired of yelling and being a grouch.
    3. I also would like to read more of the books I already own before I buy anymore!

    I think 3 is plenty considering I've made so many other resolutions this year! The overall purpose of my goals is to waste less time reading empty calorie books. This does not include such masterpieces as The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but you know the kind of books I'm talking about.

    Happy New Year!

    Happy New Year, everyone! Do you have any reading resolutions for 2010?

    I have a few:

    I want to start the year by reading the latest biography of Louisa May Alcott.
    2. I want to buy fewer books and read the ones I already own.
    3. I'd like to read more!
    4. Finish Middlemarch sometime in the first half of the year.
    5. Read more young adult fiction.

    6. Continue reading Victorian fiction.
    7. Read a few more non-fiction books than I did la
    st year.

    To start 2010 I went on a book buying spree. This is what I came home with:

    To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
    Mrs. Dalloway
    by Virginia Woolf
    Barchester Towers
    by Anthony Trollope

    The Warden by Anthony Trollope
    The Duke's Children by Anthony Trollope
    Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
    Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
    Adam Bede by George Eliot
    The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

    Let the reading commence! I hope everyone has a wonderful reading year!