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!