So, last time I posted about books, I had just started Lev Grossman's The Magicians. I liked it so much, that after finishing it, I read the sequel -- The Magician King. If you have read Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling -- check out these books. They reference the authors I just mentioned in fun ways and are reminiscent of their works. We warned -- these are not for young children. There is lots of drinking, some sex and other grown up things. I'm eagerly awaiting the 3rd book in this trilogy(?).
After that, I stuck with the magic theme and read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. This was an absolutely wonderful book -- a sort of magical love story set primarily in a unusual circus (more sideshow-esque really).
Having seen my first trailer for the Hunger Games movie which is coming out quite soon, I quickly re-read the entire Hunger Games Trilogy. Just as good as the first time. I love these books for their lack of black and white. I think they would be a great read for teens (keep in mind, these have a lot of death in them) -- much better than the Twilight books, which I have also read and found to be anti-feminist in a disturbing way.
Room by Emma Donoghue was next as my library *finally* had it on the shelf. You may have heard about this book which is about a woman who is kidnapped and forced to live (and be a sex slave, basically) in a shed. She has a son during her confinement and it is him -- at 5 years of age -- that narrates the story. This voice was off-putting at first, but I quickly became so enggaed in the story, that I didn't even notice it. Excellent book.
And now, I've started Swamplandia! Which I had hoped would suck me in as Room had, but I'm feeling lukewarm about it after reading about 1/4 of it.
Once the holiday has passed and the cold weather settles in, more of my time seems to be spent snuggled up under a blanket in our old drafty house clutching a good book. This January has been no different, although my choice of reading material is unusual for me -- a bit of non-fiction.
Life, on the Line by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas was a great read -- very inspiring. Achatz, a famous chef and owner of Alinea and Next in Chicago, grew up in the restaurant business and it seems he has spent nearly every moment of his life striving for perfection as a chef. The book includes parts written by his business partner and friend, Nick Kokonas, which is an interesting twist.
Most of the book recounts Achatz's years as a rising star in the culinary world -- which was interesting enough -- but the later part of the book tells how he survived cancer. Since his cancer was mostly in his tongue, he was unable to taste anything for a very long time -- crazy for anyone, but especially for a chef.
Meanwhile, I was finishing up Mieville's Perdido Street Station, which is another of his Bas-Lag books. And while I found the universe quite engaging, and the story moved along nicely, I wasn't able to get lost in it as thoroughly as I did while reading The Scar. Perhaps I could better relate to the female main character in the later book. At any rate, the book was wild and interesting and a good read.
Now I'm on to Lev Grossman's The Magicians which will be ending all too soon for me. Thanks goodness the sequel is already out.
Finished up Hornby's Juliet, Naked. It was pretty good. A super quick, super easy read. I kind of lost interest in the characters toward the end though. Probably not good in such a character driven novel. Ah well.
Then I picked up something a bit more dense -- Mieville's The Scar, which was excellent! I now am eager to read Perdido Street Station, but since I didn't have a copy on hand, I started reading Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle instead (which I've read a number of times, so I know what I'm getting here -- wonderful, wacky stuff full of thinking points.) Anyway, I think that makes 34 books so far this year -- which isn't all that much for me, but I've read some long ones (thank you, George R.R. Martin). I'm already looking forward to some books that are on my 2012 reading list, but since I need to run, more on that later.
I recently finished David Mitchell's Number 9 Dream, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I'm a bit sad though because I have now finished reading all his novels and fear it may be a few years before his next book is published.
Here we have a book that blurs lines between dreams and reality nicely. A young man is on a quest -- wanting to know the identity of his father. Along the way he has some wild adventures, many involving the Yakuza.
I have a feeling this book was inspired a bit my Haruki Murakami -- it had a bit of the feel of his writing, and Mitchell refers to Murakami and his book The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle within the book.
I also read Paulo Coelho The Alchemist -- a quick little read that was enjoyable. I don't know that I'll rush out to buy any of his other books, apparently he has written many, but it was a nice break from some of the longer, heavier stuff I've been reading.
Basically it's a short fable, or fairy tale -- perhaps a take on a parable from the Bible. A boy is on a quest to find treasure and along the way he encounters different people who help and hinder him on his journey. Simple, straightforward, perhaps a little too focused on "God" but a thoughtful tale nonetheless.
Two very different quest novels.
Now I'm onto a guilty pleasure read -- Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby.
I've been spending a lot of time in Westeros, having read the first four books in George R.R. Martin's massive A Song of Fire and Ice series. We're talking over 4000 pages since May. Whew. Before I read the fifth book, I thought I'd take a break and branch out.
Up first was Bohumil Hrabal's Too Loud a Solitude. A thought provoking but strange little book. Absurd, dystopian, comedic -- a story about a book lover who's job it is to destroy books.
Now I'm reading Mitchell's Number 9 Dream. He's one of my favorite authors, and I'm enjoying it quite a bit.
I do not like summer. The heat leaves me pretty miserable and somewhat lethargic, so it seems that I get so much less done during those long hot months. Now that it's cooling down, I'm getting back to the things I love -- baking, cooking, knitting, sewing and such things.
While watching Heroes on my iPad (I'm late to Netflix, but so digging it!), I finished my orange Herbivore. Well, I should say that I finished the knitting. This project desperately needs to be blocked and I don't have blocking wires. Can anyone recommend some good, inexpensive ones?
I also started socks for Maddie (who loves handknit socks -- yeah!) using Wendy's generic toe-up pattern from her first ever knitting book -- Wendy Knits: My Never-Ending Adventures in Yarn which I have owned for ages. In fact, my copy is an arc. I can't believe I hadn't tried it before -- her description of the short row toe was very easy to follow.
Which brings me to another Wendy Knits book:
Wendy Knits Lace: Essential Techniques and Patterns for Irresistible Everyday Lace, which I have had sitting on my desk for a few weeks, right next to my computer because I have wanted to post a review. Let me say that this book is all fancy-like with charts and illustrations and lots of pretty photos of great lace projects. I especially like the Stacy Shawl and I think that if I get brave, I might attempt the Vortex Spiral Shawl. There are also hats, mittens and gloves that would be nice smaller projects.
I think I may have found my vacation reading for this autumn -- Reamde by Neal Stephenson. (Or ReaMdE -- get it?) Although at a hefty 980 pages, I think I'll buy the iBooks version so I don't have to lug a book akin to a couple of bricks halfway across the country.
(27 books so far in 2011 -- one book every 8.8 days.)
I just finished a couple of wonderful books, the first of which was pretty much a sure thing seeing as it was written by David Mitchell. Black Swan Green is, I believe, Mitchell's fourth novel, which surprised me quite a bit. Once again, his trademark style is employed here -- a series of interconnecting short stories which come together to tell the story. However, to me it had the feeling of a first novel, having the feel of an autobiography and being somewhat more traditional than his amazing novel Cloud Atlas.
I have much to say about this book and the progression of his novels, but I fear it would be ridiculously boring to anyone who hasn't read these books. (Ask my husband -- after finishing Black Swan Green I kept blathering on about it for days.)
The next book I read was by a newcomer -- Ernest Cline. His debut novel, Ready Player One, was a ridiculously fun read. If you were an 8-bit gamer, playing too much Atari and spending too many quarters at the arcade, you will love this book! After devouring it, I was left with that sad feeling of wanting more to read by this author, but as it's his first novel and was just published, I fear I have a while to wait. While whining about this, Pete reminded me that Ernest Cline (like George R.R. Martin) is "not your bitch" which is true but unfortunate. (Did you get that reference? If so, I fear that you too are a geek.)
Anyway... I have to say that I am finding something peculiar, which has probably not occurred before due to my relative youth. I suppose there are very few authors who are published before they hit their 40's because suddenly I am reading a bunch of novels by my contemporaries. I was born in 1970 and here are the birthdays of several of the authors I have been reading (and enjoying):
Ernest Cline: 1972
David Mitchell: 1969
China Mieville: 1972
Jo Walton: 1964
I find I am particularly enjoying cultural references in these books which give me a personal connection to the story. Quite interesting.
I love pink Pyrex! Finally, after a rather long summer with very few vintage finds, I had a great thrifting day. First I found the two lovely, pink Gooseberry Pyrex bowls -- at only $3 for the set. This was a steal. I've seen a single bowl go for $20 and a set (of 4) go for $100, so I am very pleased. Not long after that, I found the cute, pink Daisy baking dish (for only 25¢!)
After that, anything was going to be icing on the cake. While I didn't find any more glass, I did grab these Tupperware trays in some amazing 70's colors. Then, near the end of the day, I found a beautiful marble pastry board. These can be pretty pricey so I was happy to find this one for $5 -- plus the lady I bought it from threw in a copy of Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin for free!
The marble slab was a super find because I just checked a book out from the library called Sugar Baby: Confections, Candies, Cakes & Other Delicious Recipes for Cooking with Sugar which is so awesome, that I am going to buy a copy for my cookbook library. In it, she recommends a marble board for use in making many of the candies in the book. Great timing!
Join in sharing your finds at Her Library Adventure!
I've been blogging for 9 years -- 9 years! And I have to tell you that I've "met" a lot of people online -- some good and some bad. (Over the years I've made my peace with the bad -- learning to ignore and delete their comments. It took a while to grow a thick skin though.) And I'm happy to say that things seems to be getting even more friendly around the internets in the last couple of years (or I've learned to avoid the trouble spots!)
Recently a fellow blogger sent me this cool book -- the Fire-King id and value guide. How awesome is that? She saw it at a library sale, thought of me and sent it to me! I thought it was incredibly thoughtful and it re-affirmed my faith in this here blogging community. Thank you, Annie!
And as an aside -- and also to demonstrate how perfect this book was for me -- I bought these vintage Anchor Hocking glass bowls over the weekend at Goodwill. They need a bit more scrubbing, but I'm loving the 1970's colors.
Visit Apron Thrift Girl so see what everyone else found this past weekend!
After reading a couple of books that were a bit disappointing, I was ready for something really good and Jo Walton did not disappoint. Among Others was a wonderfully engaging book that mixed the real with the magical seamlessly giving is a timeless yet modern feel. The main character is a teen obsessed with reading -- specifically sci-fi and fantasy. And since it was set in almost exactly the same time when I was a book obsessed teen, it was like reading a bit of my own biography. Seeing Mor read the same books I devoured at her age was absolutely delightful. I'll be reading more of Walton's books in the future.
Next up was China Mieville's Un Lun Dun which is actually as YA novel, but was shelved in the adult section of our library. Personally I have no problem reading YA lit, so even after discovering this, I decided to read it anyway. It was a pretty good book -- not exceptional, but rather engaging.
I'm in a slump with Mieville right now, having been a bit disappointed by his novel Embassytown which I felt needed more editing. He has great ideas, but needs someone to help him pare things down. I understand that not all writers are great editors, but I think they need to know that about themselves and find someone who can do this very important task for them.
You may think that after my book binge at the beginning of this year, I grew tired of reading... nope!
I started reading the books in George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Fire and Ice" series a while back and have completed the first two books -- A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings. This is no small feat as the books are more than 800 and 1000 pages respectively. However, they are so engaging that I look forward to getting back to the series and jumping into book 3 in the near future.
As an aside, these are the books that made me fall in love with the iBooks app on my iPad. Such large books are a bit much in their paperback form -- heavy, floppy and difficult on my aging eyes. I sampled them on the Kindle app since I own a Kindle and thought it might be nice to switch among my devices, but the iBooks app was easier on the eyes and just worked for me.
Then things got a bit strange -- I started reading Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I did this not at the behest of Oprah, but rather of my husband. He often reads classics in the summertime and thought it was time for some Dickens. Remembering only vaguely that wacky Miss Havisham, I decided to join in so that we could discuss, but quickly grew tired of the book and raced ahead, finishing it as quickly as possible. Don't get me wrong -- Dickens is a great writer and all, but the serialized nature of this book lead him to stray. The sheer number of characters and side plots was exhausting.
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, a steampunk/alternate history concerning the start of WWI, was my latest read. While it took me a while to get into this one, it finished well. I'll probably pick up the second book in this series at some point.
So that makes 21 books in 194 days for an average of a book every 9.2 days. My average is really slipping, but it had to happen considering the length of 3 of these books.
I am in serious love with this cookbook. It's called Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home and although I've owned it for less than a week, I've already made three recipes from it.
While you will dirty quite a few dishes while making these recipes, the process is simple and pretty much fool proof. I had no difficulties whatsoever, and will be trying more flavors form the book in the future.
If you have a home ice cream maker, you really need to check out this book. I've tried a lot of different recipes, and none have resulted in ice cream this good. Heck, better than good -- awesome!
Reading A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin on my iPad. Yes, the book is excellent, but I want to talk a bit about the method of delivery.
Since I read quite a bit, I often get my books from the library which means they are good, old-fashioned, paper books. Advantages: Free, huge selection, tactile. Disadvantages: Longer books are heavy and awkward, some books have a 2 week limit, not all fonts are good for my terrible eyes.
Then there is the Kindle. When I got my Kindle, I loved it! I could embiggen the font, carry lots of books around in a small package and those longer, heavier books were now easy to read. Negative: Costly, Amazon store on Kindle is awful.
Then for my birthday I received the iPad2. (Cue chorus!) At first I was worried that the backlit screen would strain my eyes which would have me running back to the Kindle. After reading a good portion of this very long book night after night, I have to say that my fears were unfounded. The Sepia option, easy contrast adjustment and multitude of fonts and sizes have made it easy to be comfortable reading on the iPad. In fact, I like the iBooks app better than the Kindle app. I think it could use some improvements (I have a tendency to accidentally flip forward several pages every now and again), but overall, it's quite nice.
Speaking of reading, I also finished Ape House by Sara Gruen which was pretty good, but nothig to get excited about.
SInce I've already blathered on for quite a while here, I'll leave the knitting and quilting for another day.
A few books arrived in the mail yesterday, and one in particular has me planning another quilt...
Modern Log Cabin Quilting by Susan Beal has been all over the blogs lately and I simply couldn't resist. I ran out to B&N to grab a copy and -- get this -- they didn't have it. Argh! Why are "local" bookstores going out of business? Because they aren't stocking the books people want.
So, home I went, logged onto Amazon and ordered a copy. It was cheaper ($14 vs. $23) and arrived in only a few days. We already lost our nearest Borders, and I fear B&N is close behind.
About the book... at first glance it looks fantastic. Lots of great info on log cabin quilts up front and the projects are all updated versions of the traditional log cabin quilt. There are even a few smaller projects in the back for those who just want to dabble.
Look for a new quilting project coming soon -- looks like my crafting energy is on its way back!
Holding steady: 17 books in 100 days -- 5.7 days per book.
Book 16 for 2010 was Salman Rushdie's Luka and the Fire of Life. I've had Rushdie on my "to read" list for ages, but I think this might be the first time I've read him -- it won't be the last, however. The book was wonderful! An old time fairy tale bringing together deities from all ages and cultures which lent it an ageless feel, yet superimposed on top of that was a video game construct which brought it right up to date. I was delighted and fascinated by this book and would liken it to something from Gaiman or Pullman.
After that, I wasn't sure what I wanted to read, but I knew it had to be good. On our must recent trip to the library, there, sitting on the shelf, was The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. Maddie and I just started laughing because I have looked for this book every time we have gone to the library for months. I actually had no idea what it was about, but longed to read it for some reason or another.
The book was fantastic! One of those books that you find yourself staying up long past your bedtime to read. Just one more chapter! The premise is bizarre and would lead you to believe that the book is nonsensical, but there is something here in her writing that is wonderful and engaging. I highly recommend this book!
Looking back on the first 100 days of 2011, I'd have to say that I've read quite a few excellent books. I hope I can keep up the momentum for the remainder of the year.
Well, I've made it two days so far! I've listed 6 books and two DS games over at Amazon and a bunch of stamps and ink pads over at my Etsy shop. Let's see if I can keep the momentum going. I really need to photograph a bunch of vintage kitchen stuff that I want to sell and that is going to be a lot more time consuming. Here's hoping day #3 is as productive!
Well, my average is really slipping now -- I'm up to a book every 5.9 days (15 books read in 2011). Life has intervened and there was little time for reading these last couple weeks.
This novel was another winner -- once again old school sci-fi. This time the characters head out to a distant planet in another solar system, light-years away, looking for the aliens they encountered in the first books.
Next up, I'm going in a completely different direction and reading Rushdie's latest.
2011 average: A book every 5.2 days (14 books read)
After reading the massive The Passage, I was ready for a few quick reads. First up was Joe Haldeman's Marsbound which was a wonderful little old school sci-fi novel. Fun and easy, it includes space travel, Mars colonization, aliens and even a dashing space captain. I'm looking forward to reading Haldeman's follow-up novel -- Starbound.
It was almost as if I was destined to read Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell which I finished yesterday. I saw that it was made into a film that was nominated for an Academy Award, then my niece mentioned the film to me, and my husband told me he picked up the book at a library sale a while back. While I read it quite quickly, I'm not sure how I feel about Woodrell's style. At times I felt almost lost as he had Ree, the main character, running from place to place searching for her father. There is brutality and tragedy in this story of poverty in the hills of the Ozarks, but also some lovely moments and perhaps a less complicated plot (with fewer characters) would have sufficed here. I am interested in seeing how this translated to film.
Wow, I feel like I should get a badge or something for finishing this book becasue it is massive! Yes, I finally finished The Passage by Justin Cronin, which took me just over two weeks to read, thus blowing my average for 2011. I've now read 12 books, and am averaging a book every 5.4 days.
The book was epic, although the majority of its 766 pages cover a relatively short period of time -- a couple of years maybe. I'm not sure how to classify this book as it incorporates aspects of horror, sci-fi, fantasy and thriller genres. I thought there was a nice balance and the plot, as well as the interesting characters, kept things moving.
If you've heard that this is a vampire novel, and this has kept it off your reading list, cast your pre-conceived notions aside. Much of the novel is concerned with a small group of survivors and while there is definitely a post-apocalyptic vibe here, there was a lot more happening.
I think this book is worth a read, and I would recommend it. Just give it a chance -- making it through to the sections concerning the colonists is rewarding. And if you get hooked like I did, there is more to come. Supposedly this is going to be a trilogy (which I can totally see -- the ending practically makes you hungry for more) with the next book due out in 2012.
2011 average: A book every 4.4 days (11 books read)
I read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle because my 10 year old daughter told me that I should, and I was at that weak point between books when I always feel a bit desperate. In fact, I'm usually only between books for mere minutes, if not seconds, and rarely will go to sleep before at least reading the first few pages of the "next" book. If I don't have a stockpile of books in waiting, I feel a bit frantic and will wander around the house going from bookcase to bookcase muttering about how "there is nothing to read in this house!" to which my loving family merely shake their heads.
But I digress.
Maddie handed me this book at an opportune moment and I jumped on it. She had read A Wrinkle in Time and A Wind in the Door a little over a year ago and loved them, and while I faintly remember reading them in my youth, I had no recollection of their subject matter.
Let me just say, it's one weird book. While traditional themes appear (missing parent, need for belonging, etc.), this is sci-fi in the weirdest sense with strange creatures, time-space travel and evil to battle. I'm not sure if I liked it as much as my daughter, but it was worth a second read as an adult.
Next up was The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and I'm pretty sure my opinion of the book will not be very popular. I've heard so much praise for this book by so many people, that perhaps I had expectations that could not be met.
The Help is set in Jackson, Mississippi in the 60's during the civil rights movement and concerns a group of black maids and wealthy (or wealthy-ish) white women who employ them to take care of their homes and children. The characters here are flat and don't develop as the book progresses. The author makes it very clear which characters are good and which are the villains -- there are no shades of grey.
In my opinion, the book is much too simple. There were a few little secrets that she used to keep you interested and reading, and the characters who were given voices were all quite likable. Therefore, the book was quite readable and engaging, but I felt like there was no depth.
Next up is another book that has gotten a lot of hype -- Justin Cronin's The Passage.
2011 average: A book every 4.2 days (9 books read)
Just finished two books from the TOB that I mentioned in my last book post. First up was Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart, who also wrote Absurdistan which was a bit of a hit a few years ago. In fact, I wonder if this book wasn't rushed -- taken to market quickly in order to capture some of the prior books fame. It wasn't a bad book, but it could have used some serious editing -- an all too common problem in this day and age. It's a near future story of an old man (read 40) in the digital, youth driven age where all human interaction seems to have shrunk to twitter-like commentary on data spewing personal electronic devices. I see what he was trying to do here, but I didn't love his execution of the concepts.
Then last night I finished Bloodroot by Amy Greene, which I pretty much loved. It's a generation spanning novel about people living in the Appalachian Mountains. The story switches voices -- weaving in and out from one character and generation to another. The pacing was very nice, the writing was sparse enough to match the story and the characters were engaging. I highly recommend this debut novel and look forward to seeing what Greene will write next.
2011 average: A book every 3.3 days (7 books read)
Over the weekend I read a couple of books. First was Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day, which I had thrifted at some point in the past -- most likely at either Goodwill or the used bookstore (The Book Market at 2368 Plainfield Road in Crest Hill). If you haven't heard of this book, which was turned into a movie some time ago, you may of hear of Ishiguro's other big seller -- Never Let Me Go which was more recently made into a film that got some hype this past year.
The Remains of the Day can perhaps be called a love story of a sort -- an interesting study of a butler who has outlived his profession. The story is composed mostly of recollections from the butler as he looks back on his life and his service to his former employer. A compelling read that I thoroughly enjoyed.
I came across Marcy Dermansky's Bad Marie via the TOB -- the Morning News has a Tournament of Books each Spring in which they pit 16 books against one another and have various literary critics, writers, etc. comment on and choose the winners. I have to say that I probably never would have chosen to read this book as I hadn't even heard of it prior to seeing the TOB list, but it was a wonderful read which I devoured in about 1 day. The protagonist here is a recently released convict, imprisoned for running off with her young lover after he robbed a bank. This is just one in an incredibly long list of her missteps, which eventually land her in Paris and then Mexico as she fumbles along. I wanted to hate her, but didn't for some unknown reason -- perhaps because she seemed more like a child to me than an adult.
Now reading Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart which also happens to be on the TOB list. I started this one last night when I was quite tired and didn't feel myself immediately drawn into the story. Today will make or break it for me.
In my opinion, Solar was not one of McEwan's best work. While readable, I felt it was more of a character sketch of a loathsome man, made buffoonish to the point where you still have a bit of feeling for him. However, by the end of the book I was anticipating his demise -- almost hoping he would die -- so perhaps not buffoonish enough.
I found Bear's Hull Zero Three more interesting and thought provoking. He does an amazing job of keeping you in the dark while moving along the action, doling out information in small parcels that keep you wanting more. It's not a casual read, and yet I devoured it in about 3 days because I couldn't set it down. Now I appear to be bookless for the next few minutes, but I'm certain I'll pick something up and start reading before the day is out.
Books #2 & #3 of 2011 -- Chris Cleave's Little Bee and China Mieville's The City & The City. The first a story of a fateful meeting on a Nigerian beach, the second an alternate history/sci-fi tale concerning two (or perhaps, three?) cities that occupy the same space. Both wonderful and very different.
So far I'm averaging a book every 4 days in 2011, and while I'm sure this pace can't keep up throughout the year, I do feel like I'm breaking the hold the internet has on me.
Up next... Ian McEwan's Solar.
2010 was a weak year for me reading-wise. I read somewhere around 32 books and many of them were re-reads (at least 6, maybe more). So this year I'm going to be better about searching out good books and focusing on reading more and internet-ing less.
Toward this goal, I have already devoured one book -- Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl which won a ton of awards, including the Hugo and Nebula. It's a timely tale of the future as it could be if genetic alterations go awry. Really compelling reading which sucks you in.
Other books on my list for 2011:
I'm sure there are more on my list, but this is a pretty good start. Anyone have any suggestions for me?
Recently I was sent a review copy of Melissa Leapman's Mastering Color Knitting and I can honestly say that no other knitting books that I've seen lately have made me want to swatch more than this book. It is filled with charts, tips and even projects that make you want to take out all the colorful yarn you can find and knit.
Being the crazy on again, off again knitter that I have become, this book actually inspired me to pull out the yarn I bought way back in 2004 for a Dale of Norway sweater for Pete.
Believe it or not, I've almost finished the bottom band! For those interested in details, this is Besseggen from book #121. And thank goodness for Mastering Color Knitting because I forgot how to catch my floats and of course this book tells you how to do that and a whole lot more.
I enjoyed Kent Haruf's Eventide so much, that I decided to read The Tie That Binds -- the only other Haruf book I hadn't yet read. I'm sad to say that I've now read all 4 of his novels, and I'm left wanting more from this amazing author.
This is his first novel, and I feel the style is not as refined in his later works -- not quite as spare and frugal with words. Yet he managed to suck me into the lives of these characters just the same. I can't recommend this novel, or any of his others for that matter, highly enough.
And now for a change of pace -- how about a little YA Sci-Fi, or rather post-apocalyptic thriller -- Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games. Not a difficult read by any means, I found this book to be fast-paced and quite enjoyable (in a brutal sort of way). In some respects, the book reminded me a bit of certain Margaret Atwood novels.
The two other books by Mitchell that I have read both employed a style more akin to linked short stories than cohesive novels, but in de Zoet he turns to the more traditional form of the historical novel. Now I'm a big fan of historical novels, so this really worked for me (although perhaps not for all, as Mitchell did not make the Booker shortlist this time around).
The story is set on Dejima, a trading island off the shore of Nagasaki, and involves the members of the Dutch East India Company. It's a fascinating fictionalization of a period and place little known. I highly recommend this book -- but beware, it is not a quick read!
After such a heavy book, I turned to some beautiful, sparse writing from one of my favorite authors -- Kent Haruf. Eventide is set in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado and picks up, in a manner, where Plainsong left off. Haruf mesmerizes, throwing you into the lives of his characters which are so real and face such real problems, that you almost feel that you know them once the book is finished.
Haruf is a treasure, and not highly acclaimed enough in my opinion. Please give his books a try, I don't think you will be disspaointed.
And now for something entirely different -- Breakfast of Champions by my all time favorite writer -- Kurt Vonnegut. This book can really only be explained as dizzying. While the main story follows Dwayne Hoover's descent into madness, Kilgore Trout, the author, or Vonnegut's alter ego, is along for the ride -- or perhaps he's the one driving. It's all rather crazy and meta and wild -- plus Vonnegut's illustrations are sprinkled throughout. A fun, yet complex read.
Three books by three amazing authors. I have no idea what to read next, but I'm not sure it can possibly top these books.
2. What are you reading right now?
David Mitchell's latest -- The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet which is excellent.
3. What books do you have on request at the library?
Galileo's Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson
4. Bad book habit?
Buying -- bringing home -- too many :)
5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
Lots of cookbooks and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
6. Do you have an e-reader?
I do -- a Kindle
7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
Usually one at a time
8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
No, I've been an avid reader since I was very young and still am.
9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?)
I will give up on a book if I dislike it. I did finish Wolf Hall which was a bit of a struggle for me.
10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
I'm not sure I've read anything that has blown me away yet this year.
11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
Not sure I have a comfort zone, but I do tend to read a lot of fiction, so I suppose the few times a year I read non-fiction would have to qualify.
12. What is your reading comfort zone?
See 11 above.
13. Can you read on the bus?
If I took the bus -- sure. I read everywhere and anytime. I used to read while walking to work!
14. Favorite place to read?
Bed when everyone else is asleep.
15. What is your policy on book lending?
I'm happy to lend out most books and Pete, Maddie and I read a lot of each others books.
16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
No! I love my books and couldn't imagine doing such a thing. A Pokemon card (something we seem to have laying around *everywhere*) will nicely mark a page.
17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
I used to write in my books when I was in school and writing papers for my English Lit classes. Now I don't.
18. Not even with text books?
Sure -- I write in textbooks and highlight them too -- although I haven't taken a class in almost a decade.
19. What is your favorite language to read in?
English -- although I thoroughly enjoy translation and loved my Old English classes in college. I even enjoyed doing translations in Latin class in HS.
20. What makes you love a book?
If it has a good plot, intriguing characters, tells a story as well as makes a point and keeps me up until all hours of the night reading, then it's a good book. If it teaches me something at the same time -- even better!
21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
I review all the books that I read on my blog (or as many as I can remember). So if I liked it, I'll let people know.
22. Favorite genre?
Different genres for different moods. Sometimes I want to read historical fiction, sometimes sci-fi, even good old fashioned classics.
23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)
If I wanted to read it, I would :)
Wow. I don't read a lot of biographies and I can't recall any that stood out right now.
25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
I don't recall reading any. I think that for the most part they are trash.
26. Favorite cookbook?
Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything. I use this cookbook *all the time*! I can't stress this enough -- this is an *awesome* cookbook!
27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
Wow -- maybe The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. Powerful.
28. Favorite reading snack?
Ice water? I don't really snack and read, but I do like to stay hydrated :)
29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
I read so few "hyped" books, that I can't recall this situation.
30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
Well, there are lots of critics out there and usually some of them like a book and some don't, so I'm thinking my answer should be -- often and rarely.
31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
I don't mind it at all. If you read my blog, and specifically my book reviews, you probably know what kind of books I enjoy and that puts things in context. At any rate, it is just my opinion of a book -- I don't trash an author personally.
32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?
I've tried learning Spanish, Japanese, French and German, but only picked up a bit of each. I suppose I would most like to read German so I could read my aunt and my cousin's books -- Rudi Dutschke. Wir hatten ein barbarisches, schönes Leben. and Spuren meines Vaters. respectively.
33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
I can't say that I've ever been intimidated by a book.
34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
I've never been too nervous to begin a book. Heck, it's just a book!
35. Favorite Poet?
T.S. Eliot, although I remember reading and enjoying Hart Crane in college.
36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
Probably about 10 -- mostly cookbooks
37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?
Maybe about 25-50% of the time. I grab things I think I'll like and either run out of time or end up not liking them.
38. Favorite fictional character?
Lyra from Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy perhaps.
39. Favorite fictional villain?
Not really into books that have villans per se. Voldemort? Although I don't "like" him.
40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
Something light and easy -- maybe something I've read before and enjoyed.
41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
Well, I'm sure I read *something* every day, but if we are talking books -- probably a day or two at most.
42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
I usually post them on the blog. I can't recall a particular book at the moment.
43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
Not a whole heck of a lot.
44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
The Lord of the Rings movies were pretty great.
45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
I love Vigo, but I thought The Road was a *much* better book.
46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
I'm pretty frugal so I'm sure it was under $100.
47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
Pretty much never. I don't even like to read the book jacket flaps first.
48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
A lack of progression in the plot or characters that I could care less about.
49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
I would love to, but I don't. There are books piled, stacked, shelved and boxed in pretty much every room in our house. Pete sometimes tries to organize them, but it is a never ending battle.
50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
If I loved the book, I keep it since I'm a re-reader. If it was just meh -- I'll sell it, give it away or recycle it.
51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
I usually avoid anything on the bestseller list. I've read a few bestsellers that have been positively awful.
52. Name a book that made you angry.
At the book? At the ideas presented in the book? Hmmmm... I avoid books by people like Ann Coulter and Sarah Palin, thus avoiding anger issues.
53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
I rarely pick up a book thinking -- I don't like this, but I'm going to read it anyway. There are too many books I want to read.
54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt
55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
YA stuff like the Harry Potter books
First let me just say that last weekend was not a very good thrifting weekend, however, I did find this great Jamie Oliver cookbook called Jamie's Kitchen for only $1. I'm a sucker for beautiful cookbooks and this one is that, but it also has some great, doable recipes. In fact, last night I made a pasta recipe from it using my own homegrown Amish Paste tomatoes and it was easy, quick and super delicious.
So, what I'm trying to say, is that what my thrifting lacked in quantity, it made up for in quality.
I also have to mention the awesome Italian Tomato Press I picked up yesterday (and used last night to make the pasta sauce!) Last year I spent way too much time peeling and seeding plum tomatoes by hand. A task which I did not enjoy in the least. This nifty gadget separates the seeds and skin from the tomatoes and spits each out into it's own bowl. *So* much easier! And it was very easy to clean the press which is a plus. Great investment for me for sure.
Okay, singing the praises of the tomato press totally makes me think about the other awesome kitchen gadget I bought this year -- a gadget I love and am so happy I purchased -- the Oxo Corn Stripper. Maddie has braces and this has made life much easier! Quick, easy, so much less messy than cutting sweet corn off the cob with a knife -- plus the thing is very easy to clean.
Yes, I have a sickness. I am completely unable to resist a good kitchen tool. What are your favorite kitchen gadgets?
While my lack of book posts might lead you to believe otherwise, I have been reading quite a bit this summer.
As of my last book report I was just beginning to read David Mitchell's Ghostwritten which was his debut novel -- if you want to call it that. In fact, it is more of a collection of linked short stories each with their own setting and style, but as the stories unfold, so do the connections between the characters. I enjoyed reading this almost as much as Cloud Atlas which was written in a similar, uniquely Mitchell style. Now I need to find a copy of Number9Dream.
WWW: Watch is the second book in Robert J. Sawyer's latest trilogy. Here we have a further exploration into the results of a sentience growing out of the world wide web. Thought provoking and entertaining -- I'm looking forward to the third and final book which I believe is expected out next year.
Antarctica was everything I expected from award winning author Kim Stanley Robinson and then some. Here we have a compelling story mixed with historical content as well as passages which take you into the beautiful yet desolate landscape that is Antarctica. Not a quick read by any means, but if you are a Robinson fan you have likely made it through the Mars trilogy, so I'm sure you are up for the challenge.
Interestingly, Robinson actually went to many of the places he writes about in this book through the NSF's Antarctic Artists and Writers' Program. Who knew such a thing really existed?
Next I started Anthropology of an American Girl by Hilary Thayer Hamann, but I just wasn't feeling it. It wasn't a bad book, and I was flying through it, but the timing wasn't right. I wanted something light and easy, so I turned to comfort reading -- in this case a book about comfort food...
William Alexander's 52 Loaves: One Man's Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust is a ridiculously easy read. Conversational in tone, it might remind you of reading your favorite food blog as you read about the author's sometimes comical attempts at finding the magic formula for recreating a loaf of bread he sampled just once, years before.
I'm nearly through the book and enjoying it quite well. As a novice bread baker myself, I find it both informative (although not quite as much as I had hoped) and inspiring. Just the palate cleanser I needed.
Okay, maybe it's just me, but I think this is one nice looking ebook reader. I guess I should have seen it coming with the Kindle 2 price drop, but I didn't. Glad to see Amazon is stepping up with this new Graphite Kindle DX. I was afraid they would lay down and die in the wake of the iPad -- being relegated to becoming a mere app.
You may have already heard the news -- the Kindle is now only $189. I have one and love it, so I thought I would let you know -- just in case you've been depriving yourself because it was too pricey.
I've been reading quite a bit lately, but have fallen behind in my book log entries. So here are the last three I have finished:
William Trevor's The Story of Lucy Gault is a tale of isolation and guilt. Lucy makes a rash decision in her youth and suffers for it for the remainder of her life. The setting here reminds me of the setting of his Love and Summer, which was haunting and beautiful. Truly a wonderful writer.
Robert J. Sawyer has begun writing a new trilogy about the awakening of the consciousness of the internet and the first book in this series is titled WWW: Wake. The ideas here are quite interesting and his main character was likable enough to engage me in the story completely. Some of the jumps he takes are a bit hard to swallow, which would temporarily pull me out of the story, but all in all, a fascinating read. The second book -- WWW: Watch -- has recently been released and I'm sure I'll be reading it soon.
And just 2 nights ago I finished Yann Martel's Beatrice and Virgil -- a strange, yet engrossing novel that explores the ways writers can write about the Holocaust in an age when most survivors are gone. A weird little book with a main character who seems to be Martel in disguise, I was sucked into the story, but don't feel it was entirely successful in delivering its message. (And I'm still holding a bit of a grudge against Martel for the ending of Life of Pi.)
Several years ago, the Scottish publishing company Canongate Books had a brilliant idea to get together a whole lot of incredible writers and have each of them write a book that would retell a myth of their choosing. In the past month, I've read two from the series and I'm ready for more.
I started the series with two of my favorite authors -- the first being Philip Pullman who wrote the His Dark Materials Trilogy. You may have heard of the book he wrote for the Myths series, simply because the title is somewhat provocative -- The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. Now when I first heard about this book, my excitement was difficult to contain. I've read everything he had written and couldn't wait for more. At the same time, I watched as the press sensationalized what I figured would be much less controversial than it at first appeared.
So what is this book about the "Scoundrel Christ"? Simply put, it is a novel, a work of fiction, in which it is imagined that Jesus had a twin brother who was the catalyst for his success as a prophet and leader of a new religion. It is a story about the seed that becomes the myth -- a story about the birth of the story. Yes, it's about Jesus, so the baggage is there and certain people will ban this book. All the controversy aside, the book is quite good and a very interesting read.
Then I read The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus by Margaret Atwood, of whom I am obviously a fan, having read three of her books in the last several months. She brings wit and spunk to the tale of Penelope, Odysseus' faithful wife. A great re-imagining based on a mix of fact and fiction, Atwood entertains and informs -- one again touching on the idea of story while adding in a good does of feminism.
I think the next book from the myths series that I would like to read is Karen Armstrong's A Short History of Myth which was actually the first book in the series.
I haven't had much time for crafty things, but I have been busy. Here are are few of the things that have been keeping my attention:
I've been reading Barbara Kingsolver's Pigs in Heaven and enjoying it thoroughly. Although it took a while for me to get engaged in the story, I'm now completely caught up in the lives of Taylor, Turtle, and all the other wonderful characters Kingsolver has created.
I've been playing a number of video games, including the new and highly addictive Picross 3D for Nintendo DS. If you love puzzles, this is a must have.
And of course I've been anticipating the LOST series finale. Sad but excited to see how it all ends.
I love my Kindle. Lately I've been playing around with my it a bit more and I've discovered some great functionality, and some fun hidden features. I thought this might be of use to other Kindle owners, so here are some goodies:
Tips and Tricks for your Amazon Kindle:
Do you know any Kindle tips? I'd love to hear them!
And when I say I don't like him, I mean his novels. I don't say this lightly, I've given him two chances now -- most recently reading 130 pages of The Infinities. It started out okay, the characters seemed somewhat interesting and even a bit quirky. The themes were developing nicely and I had hope that a plot might appear at some point. Then the gods started arriving, and the damnable expository passages that I dread so much virtually took over the novel.
A while back I tried reading his award winning book -- The Sea -- and didn't get very far. I'm all for beautiful writing, but there has to be something else there -- a story to move the action forward. His books read more like essays than novels, and leave me wanting.
...attending Easter egg hunts.
... playing video games -- namely Pokemon HeartGold as my daughter is a Pokemon fanatic -- seriously. Name a Pokemon and she know all its stats. Plus lots of Wii Fit Plus since our vacation is coming up and I want to be able to eat any goodies I desire without any guilt.
... learning more Python -- most fun I've had with a programming language in ages. May make a little GUI knitting counter for fun.
... battling pain. I had a few good weeks and thought maybe I was miraculously cured -- HA! Advil and the heating pad are once again my friends.
... drinking coffee -- hot one day and iced the next, because our weather is crazy here. 40's today = hot coffee.
Ian McEwan -- one of my favorite living authors -- has a new novel that was release just this week. It's called Solar and I can't wait to read it!
Last night I finished reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel -- an historical novel set in Henry VIII's kingdom in the 16th century.
Mantel casts Thomas Cromwell as the main character, giving us a chance to view the king, his wives and his courtiers from a perspective that is unique. Cromwell is lowborn, but rises to the second highest position in England -- an outsider, surely, but with a view to the inside. The characters are accessible -- including the king who appears as a mere mortal despite his position and power.
I must admit, I had a difficult time getting into the book -- the style is a bit different and without any knowledge of British history from this time period, I was lost. Gradually I was sucked into the lives of the characters and I read the last half of the book in a fraction of the time that it took me to read the first chapters.
This book has won the 2009 Man Booker Prize and I believe it is well deserved. If you like historical fiction, give this book a read -- just prepare to give it some time, as it might take you a while to adjust to Mantel's unique writing style.
A couple weeks ago I finished reading The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, which I was prompted to read by my niece who recently read and loved it. Actually, I read this book about 15 years ago and had almost entirely forgotten it, but my Atwood binge near the end of last year has me turning to some of her older stuff once again.
What can I say? If you read and loved her more recent novels such as The Year of the Flood and Oryx and Crake, which I most certainly did, you'll thoroughly enjoy this book. It's a look at a dystopian near future in which religion is used to take over the US and women are made subservient. In fact, as I was reading this prescient book, I saw a lot of crazy things that reminded me of the state of the US today.
There is so much more I could say about her ideas put forth in this book -- they struck a chord with me -- but I suggest that you give it a read. It's very much worth your time.
Next up was Fools of Fortune by William Trevor, another author I have recently read. This book came to me via Pete, who always reads Irish writers in March and has become a fan of William Trevor. While I loved Love and Summer which I read a few months ago, I was not as impressed with this novel. While I found the characters and story intriguing, there were some oddities of plot that pulled me out of the universe he created, thus lessening my enjoyment. I will be reading more Trevor in the future, most likely starting with The Story of Lucy Gault.
Right now I'm reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel which has won both the Man Booker and National Book Critics Circle awards. I had a hard time getting into the action (perhaps due to my lack of knowledge in the area of British history) but things are moving along now and I'm starting to enjoy it quite a bit.