Friday, May 29, 2009

Becky: These four make nine.

I've read three Georgette Heyer books:

The Talisman Ring,
Convenient Marriage

And this novel by D.H. Lawrence.

Lady Chatterley's Lover

I'm still working on these books, but it looks like I won't be finishing any of them up in May.

Middlemarch by George Eliot
The Moon is A Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein
Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope

Moving along, Moving along

I didn't finish very many books, lately, but one of them was Ulysses, and so I'm posting my list up.

Ten Days in a Madhouse
Building Jerusalem
Hard Times

Additionally, I've started working on the plays of William Shakespeare. I read King Lear this month.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Infinite Summer

I know that I'm not the only one with Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace on my list. I'm probably also not the only one intimidated by the modern-day behemoth. Well, some folks have started an internet collaboration to read the book over the summer, rather like we have banded together to do for Middlemay. They're calling it Infinite Summer. It starts on June 21 and breaks the book up into about 75 pages a week until around September 21 or so. Just thought some of you might be interested - their web page is and they have a group going on Facebook too. I haven't decided yet if I'm going to participate, but I'm thinking about it...

May Check-In

Project Fill-in-the-Gaps is still going great! I read less books from that category this month, but I tried to lower my reading volume tremendously this month anyway, so that makes sense. Here are my reads for May, with links to the full reviews and a sentence or two about my thoughts (see link for full thoughts):

1. Liza of Lambeth by William Somerset Maugham - The only major Maugham book I hadn't read, this one was okay but definitely not his best. 3 Stars.

2. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn - Excellent book, much better than the majority of Russian lit I've read. Highly recommended. 5 Stars.

3. The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Keatley Snyder - A children's book by one of my favorite children's authors, this one frequently shows up on banned books lists (for no reason, in my opinion). I liked it, but would have liked it better had I read it as a kid. 4 Stars.

4. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher - A heartbreaking and un-put-downable book. Don't start this at 2 in the afternoon. 5 Stars.

5. The Last Man by Mary Shelley - A complete waste of time. There's a reason Mary Shelley was known for Frankenstein instead of this one. I had to abandon this one halfway through. 1 Star.

6. Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton - Beautiful book, and still relevant today. Highly recommended. 4 Stars.

That brings my totals so far to 14 read, 2 abandoned. See you next month!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Alyce, Book Review, *The Godfather, *Mario Puzo

I finished my second book for the challenge - The Godfather by Mario Puzo. Visit my blog to read the full review.

Here's the Cliff's Notes version of my review:

I liked the book but not as much as I liked the movie. There were a couple of sections in the book that didn't appear in the movie and I thought they were not essential to the plot. Those nonessential sections also happen to contain a lot of graphic sex and crude descriptions, so they weren't my favorite.

WONDER BOYS, Michael Chabon

Just finished reading this. It's book #10 for me.

I've *loved* two books by Chabon--THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY, and THE YIDDISH POLICEMEN'S UNION. I loved them so much that despite really not loving two others--GENTLEMEN OF THE ROAD and THE FINAL SOLUTION--I decided to complete the entire Chabon ouevre as part of Fill-in-the-Gaps.

I'm left with not a whole lot to say about Wonder Boys. I'm not going to bother to do a full review over on thebookbook. There is no plot to speak of; it's about a lecherous pot-head middle-aged mid-Western writing professor with writer's block (blech to the premise) and offers a lot of moments of discomfort for those of us who work in publishing. But it's full of beautiful little Chabon-isms. So overall: meh. I didn't love it. But I didn't hate it. And here are some nuggets:
"Like most good first novels it possessed an imperturbable, mistaken confidence that all the shocking incidents and extremes of human behavior it dished up would strike new chords of outrage and amazement in the reader." (249)
(ouch. that one stings.)
"All male friendships are essentially quixotic: they last only so long as each man is willing to polish the shaving-bowl helmet, climb on his donkey, and ride off after the other in pursuit of illusive glory and questionable adventure." (326)
(gents, is it true?)
"It struck me that the chief obstacle to marital contentment was this perpetual gulf between the well-founded, commendable pessimism of women and the sheer dumb animal optimism of men, the latter a force more than any other responsible for the lamentable state of the world."
(applies to my parents, at least.)

Anyone else read it? Wanna chat?

Another one down

BUtterfield 8, John O’Hara (1935)

I feel about John O’Hara the way I feel abut Joan Didion. Every little bit of writing is exemplary. As in, if you want to write in a way that lets the reader’s intelligence work in your favor while offering honest and biting observations, you’d do well to emulate them. But on the whole, the aftertaste is a tad bitter.

Still, a very worthwhile gap-filler because the writing is very good and makes you feel smart for having caught on to the subtle insights, making you think they’re your own.

The “biographical note” to my edition quotes Lionel Trilling:

The work of no other writer tells us so precisely, and with such a sense of the importance of communication, how people look and how they want to look, where they buy their clothes and where they wish they could buy their clothes, how they speak and how they think they ought to speak.

I concur, though I can’t verify the “work of no other writer” bit.

I cite the “biographical note” (not the more entertaining “introduction” by Fran Lebowitz) because I feel it’s missing a potentially interesting tidbit, namely the news story that inspired the novel.* Meaning I’m too lazy to hunt it down my self but not too lazy to read it in the notes to a book I already have on hand.

Oh, well. With the Trilling quote on hand, here’s a quote from the book, picked more or less randomly (i.e., making sure the random element doesn’t give away any important details):

“You mean he’s peculiar?”

“Huh. Peculiar. Listen, darling, do you know why I like you? I do like you. Do you know why? You’re just a plain ordinary everyday man. You think you’re something pretty hot and sophisticated because you’re unfaithful to your wife. Well, I could tell you things about this rotten God damn dirty town that – ugh. I know a man that was almost elected— Well, I guess I better shut up. I know too much for my age. But I like you, Liggett, because you want me the way I want to be wanted, and not with fancy variations. Let’s get out of here, it’s too damn effete.”

Fwiw, the movie starring Elizabeth Taylor is quite good, though tamer than the book.

*If there are any college professors on hand, I’d recommend a syllabus of books inspired by news stories atop of which list would be Lord Jim, I think. – Feel free to add your trivia knowledge in the comments.

Monday, May 25, 2009

iasa *The White Tiger, *Aravind Adiga

The White Tiger is the story of an Indian servant, Balram Halwai, and his rise to 'the social entrepreneur' class through the murder and robbery of his employer. He narrates his own story in letters to Wen Jiabao, the Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China. Over the course of a week we read of his growth from intelligent but uneducated boy, to indentured slave in a tea shop, to the driver of a upper class landlord's son.

I'm not sure why I chose this book for my list. I was unfamiliar with the plot before I began reading, not even perusing the jacket blurbs beforehand. Consequently I had no expectations ahead of time. And yet it seemed entirely predictable, inauthentic, replete with stereotypical characters and situations. All the stalwarts are represented, rich versus poor, the shining star in a pit of darkness, corruption, the hope for a better life. It's not the predictability that bothered me. It was the impression the author was trying to be shocking. There is nothing surprising about murder in abject poverty. No surprise that poverty is widespread. Perhaps making my home in a developing country makes me more aware of these things, but I think not.

Adiga can paint a visual scene, but even in his descriptions of open sewage and rampant homelessness, I feel slighted. They are too neat, merely annoyances not approached as life crushing objects. Having said that, it was not an unpleasant read. The narrative is tight and fast-paced, occasionally humorous. He has something to say but either I am not his intended audience or I am being completely oblivious, or I am grumpy today and there is no pleasing me.

Middlemay 4: Three Love Problems

Hi Everybody! How's the reading going? Status reports, favorite passages?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Matthew, Book Review, *J.G. Ballard, *Crash

I've been alternately sick and busy as of late, but I finally finished another book on my list: Crash by J.G. Ballard.

Reading Crash (1973) reminded me an awful lot of my experience reading William S. Burrough's Naked Lunch, in that both left me with the distinct impression that Dante really lowballed his idea of what hell could be in the Inferno. The book is narrated by one James Ballard, a television advertising producer who gets into a nasty car crash and is subsequently drawn to become part of a group of people for whom car crashes and sexuality are intrinsically linked.

Yes, you read that correctly: Crash involves sex, violence, and car crashes, but mostly various combinations of the three. Don't get me wrong, the novel isn't all just creepy, nightmarish smut -- it also raises plenty of questions concerning our increasing reliance on and relationship with technology, especially the dangers inherent in allowing those technologies to mediate or even replace our relationships with other human beings. Still, you're going to need a strong stomach if you want to read all the way through to the end. Ballard once explained his reasons for writing the book thusly: "I wanted to rub humanity's face in its own vomit and force it to look in the mirror." On that account, I'd say he succeeded.

On another note, I remember seeing Ballard's novel Empire of the Sun on at least one reader's list here. An acquaintance of mine once said that after he finished Crash, he was left wondering what would have to happen to a person to make them write a book like that; after reading Empire of the Sun, he thought, "yeah, that would probably do it." Make of that what you will.

Karen, Book Review, *The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, *Mark Haddon

The Curious Incident of the Dog in clearly the Night-time, by Mark Haddon, absolutely stunned me. It's about a kid with an unspecified (the author has said in interview that it's Aspergers, but it's not mentioned in the book) autism spectrum disorder. He stumbles across the neighbor's dead dog and decides to solve the mystery of who killed the dog. His investigation unearths all sorts of family secrets that just beg for a resolution. The autistic boy, Christopher, narrates the story, and the narration at times took my breath away.

Amazon reviewers have disputed the authenticity and the treatment of the main character, but I found his naive and sage insights into our world magnetic and precise. Once Christopher explained even the most mundane things to me, I would suddenly become convinced that this was the only reasonable way to talk about it. I especially liked his treatment of white lies.

Though I expected The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time to be a challenging read, what with the main character's autism and all, I actually found it to be one of the easiest reads of my life, if you don't count things like the Baby-Sitters Club.

Normally, I don't like any kind of mystery. It's nearly impossible to satisfy me, because if I guess the ending, I feel bored and like I wasn't challenged, and if I don't guess the ending, I think that the writer did a bad job. I'm impossible to please with most mysteries. Even if the book isn't shelved with other mysteries--if it's just some random piece of literary fiction where you're supposed to be shocked that it turns out everyone's life sucks because some old dude molested somebody and you're supposed to feel all emotional and whatever about it--I'm still not crazy about mysteries. I don't think I'm jaded, I just think that I don't like being manipulated, and that's all mysteries seem to be about, in the end. But that's how good The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time was: I didn't guess who killed the dog, and I didn't mind; I was too caught up in enjoying the narrator's voice and in taking the story one page at a time to worry about who killed the dog or to bother with my own ego.

In other words, if you're looking for a book that will take you out of yourself completely, read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.

Amy's Update: *Dark Fire, *Sovereign


I think I'm officially the tortoise of this project. Is anyone else as slow as I am?

I can cross two books off my list: C.J. Sansom's Dark Fire and Sovereign, the second and third books in his historical mystery series set in Henry VIII's England.

Fascinating setting.

Intriguing plots.

Lots of blood and murder.

There is a longer review here.

Next up: The Three Musketeers

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mya *An Old Fashioned Girl* Alcott *Review

Have you ever read a book that makes you feel...good? I mean, just really, really good? And it makes you want to go out and do good things? Be a better person? "An Old Fashioned Girl" is one of those books.

I loved reading this book. While it wasn't a difficult read it was one that definitely made me introspective. The scenes were well drawn, the pacing just right, and the characters rich and believable (for their time period). I'd definitely recommend it.

You can read the full review here: Mya Barrett Blog


First off, I'm not sure this book in particular is listworthy. The book I refer to is The Improv Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Improvising in Comedy, Theatre, and Beyond, by Tom Salinsky and Deborah Frances-White.
Secondly, I'm not sure any book can do the "art" of improv justice.
And that, I guess, is what I'm driving at. How-to books force you to apply what is on the page to life, otherwise, what's the point? But books we read for the sake of reading them get divorced from any relevance or applicability to our lives as we live (or think about) them.

I do recommend filling in a gap by picking up an improv book* or, better yet, taking an improv class. Not only are they fun and stimulate the creative juices, but they also make you interact better with your surroundings by making you a more positive listener and responder.

*But probably not this one because the "ultimate" in the subtitle seems to mean "lengthy and defensive" and, dare I say, "not very well edited."

To end this in a more positive way, the book is very good about pointing out what improv highlights (and what many good performers in other fields do, too), namely the dual audience experience: (a) of the "work" or story itself and (b) of the struggle of putting it together for the audience.
Generally, we have accepted that (b) ought to be minimized, but this book points out that observing (b) can be very entertaining.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Free Online Course on the American Novel

Yale University has posted video recordings of a number of its courses as a free public service. One of the courses is titled "The American Novel Since 1945," taught by Professor Amy Hungerford. The course consists of 25 lectures which you can watch online or download to your PC. Each lecture covers a specific book, so you can watch the whole course, or just the session that pertains to what you are reading now. I've watched about a third of the course so far, and the lectures are very interesting and helpful even if (like me) you have absolutely no academic background in literature.

Here is the link: Click on "class sessions" to see a list and links to the individual titles.

Note that by watching these lectures you are not officially taking the class. There is no credit given (and no homework). You don't have to register; you just click the links and watch the class.

Here is a list of the books discussed in the course. Each one is the subject of at least one 1-hour lecture, some of the them of two or three. Almost all of them are on at least one person's "100 List":

Black Boy by Richard Wright
Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger
Lost in the Funhouse by John Barth
The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
The Human Stain by Philip Roth
The Known World by Edward P. Jones
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Karen, Book Review, *Kerry Reichs, *The Best Day of Someone Else's Life

Let's get the obnoxious name-dropping out of the way straight off. I put The Best Day of Someone Else's Life on my list because I've met the author, Kerry Reichs, a couple of times at DC cocktail parties and I always end up picking her brain about publishing, income as a writer, and her mom's show. I felt obligated to at least read her book if I'm going to constantly talk to her about publishing, as I'm reasonably certain I'll run into her a few more times. It's the polite thing to do, you know? So I read it on the Dulles-LAX leg of my flight to Hawaii.

The premise of The Best Day of Someone Else's Life is that this girl called Vi goes to a whole bunch of weddings over the course of two years and it changes her perspective on marriage. Plot twists, growing up, realizing you were wrong about X,Y, Z, yadda yadda yadda. Only more interesting than that, but I hate summarizing books. Hate. Prefer ranting. Also, summarizing said book is problematic and that is my chief complaint.

It is not Kerry's fault. At least, that's what I'm telling myself. I'm making up a whole narrative in my head so that I can blame the publishers and agents and editors and not the writer. It involves query letters and agents/editors' failure to read closely because her mom is already famous and bad editing decisions because the book was really long, etc, etc.

When I read chick lit, I read it for shits and giggles, so I don't have to work or think at anything. It's formulaic and isn't really about the story. It's about the damned packaging. Maybe I'm wrong, but with War and Peace and Moby Dick on my list, I'm not about to put in the time reading a wide variety of chick lit to prove myself wrong when assuming that I am right makes me so much happier.

Here's what The Best Day of Someone Else's Life's packaging told me:

There would be x number of dresses, dress colors, weddings, embarrassing hook-ups, etc.

Here's what TBDOSEL showed me:

Maybe a quarter of that.

I was terribly annoyed. I was expecting a formulaic "ooo here's the first wedding . . . here's the second blue dress . . . here's hook-up number three . . . this is the thirteenth wedding, so it must be Vi's . . ." and I didn't get any of that. It was like watching a movie and getting up to pee for all the jokes that were in the trailer (which are always the only good jokes), so you leave the theater feeling, um. Empty. Like you didn't get what you paid for.

Lest you think it was a complete disappointment, let me assure you that TBDOSEL did make me ponder the nature of engagements, but I found the overall premise that weddings are overblown fantasies a little trite. I didn't find the narrator to be exceptional enough for me to cheer over her decision to non-conform. The narrator's chief quirks were in perverting movie titles and in ordering three different kinds of drinks at a time. They were quirks that a writer could show, but not quirks that helped me to invest in the narrator's internal rationalizations.

TBDOSEL did leave me with one gem of a question that will follow me through my dating life, I'm sure: Do you want to marry this guy, or do you just want to be picked? So, not a total bust, but definitely a lot of room for improvement, both on Kerry's end and on Avon's end.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bree's 100 List

Below is the beginning of my list. Right now it's a work in progress. I'm trying to create a list of YA, classic and current books

  1. Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
  2. Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
  3. The Lottery - Shirley Jackson
  4. War & Peace - Leo Tolstoy
  5. East of Eden - John Steinbeck - FINISHED 4/11
  6. The Stranger -Albert Camus
  7. The Stories of John Cheever
  8. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
  9. Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson - FINISHED 6/09
  10. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bron te
  11. Inkheart - Cornelia Funke - DID NOT FINISH
  12. Looking for Alaska - John Green
  13. A Room of One’s Own - Virginia Woolf
  14. Briar Rose - Jane Yolen - DID NOT FINISH
  15. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Betty Smith
  16. Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe
  17. A Passage to India - E.M. Forster
  18. Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
  19. The Iliad - Homer - CURRENTLY READING
  20. Frankenstein - Mary Shelley
  21. Gulliver’s Travels - Jonathan Swift
  22. Slaughterhouse Five - Kurt Vonnegut
  23. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian - Sherman Alexie
  24. The Book of Lost Things - John Connolly
  25. A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini
  26. The Giver - Lois Lowry - FINISHED 6/09
  27. Life of Pi
  28. Twilight - Stephanie Meyer
  29. Diary of a Whimpy Kid - Jeff Kinney - FINISHED 10/09
  30. Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
  31. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
  32. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
  33. 1984 - George Orwell
  34. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  35. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
  36. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  37. 100 Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  38. The Diary of Anne Frank - Anne Frank - FINISHED 10/10
  39. A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle - FINISHED 7/09
  40. Short Stories - Kate Chopin
  41. One Good Turn - Kate Atkinson
  42. The Purpose Driven Life - Rick Warren - FINISHED 3/11
  43. Metamorphoses - Ovid
  44. Nineteen Minutes - Jodi Picoult - FINISHED 7/09
  45. The Freedom Writers Diary - FINISHED 6/09
  46. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee - DID NOT FINISH 7/09
  47. The Bible
  48. The Last of the Mohicans - James Fenimore Cooper
  49. Winesburg Ohio - Sherwood Anderson
  50. Summer of My German Soldier - Bette Greene - FINISHED 2/10
  51. The Hiding Place - Corrie ten Boom - DID NOT FINISH - 2/10
  52. Rutka's Notebook
  53. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas - John Boyne - FINISHED 7/09
  54. Monique and the Mango Rains - Kris Holloway
  55. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
  56. Life As We Knew It - Susan Beth Pfeffer - FINISHED 6/09
  57. Love Walked In - Marisa de los Santos
  58. Moon in the Mango Tree - Pamela Ewen
  59. If Today Be Sweet - Thrity Umrigar
  60. Princess Academy - Shannon Hale
  61. Habibi - Naomi Shihab Nye
  62. Romiette and Julio - Sharon Draper - FINISHED 5/09
  63. Gary Paulsen
  64. The Midnighters 1:The Secret Hour - Scott Westerfeld - FINISHED 6/09
  65. The Book Thief - Marcus Zusak - FINISHED 5/09
  66. The Joy Luck Club - Amy Tan
  67. I Capture the Castle - Dodie Smith
  68. Bel Canto - Ann Patchett
  69. Geek Love - Katherine Dunn
  70. Poems by Thomas Hardy
  71. Milkweed - Jerry Spinelli - FINISHED 6/09
  72. The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman - DID NOT FINISH 3/11
  73. The Uncommon Reader - Alan Bennett
  74. The Chocolate War - Robert Cormier
  75. Mudbound - Hilary Jordan
  76. A Year Down Yonder - Richard Peck
  77. The Midwife's Apprentice - Karen Cushman
  78. Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! - Laura Amy Schlitz
  79. The Higher Power of Luckey - Susan Patron
  80. Criss Cross - Lynne Rae Perkins - DID NOT FINISH 6/09
  81. Kira-Kira - Cynthia Kadohata
  82. The Tale of Despereaux -Kate DiCamillo
  83. The Cross of Lead - Avi Crispin
  84. A Single Shard - Linda Sue Park
  85. Bud, Not Buddy - Christopher Paul Curtis
  86. When You Reach Me - Rebecca Stead - Newbery winner 2010
  87. Moon over Manifest - Clare Vanderpool - Newbery winner 2011
  88. Newbery winner 2012
  89. Newbery winner 2013
  90. Newbery winner 2014
  91. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
  92. The Pickwick Papers - Charles Dickens
  93. The Bostonians - James Henry
  94. Breakfast at Tiffany's - Truman Capote
  95. Middlemarch - George Eliot
  96. Passing - Nella Larsen
  97. Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston
  98. Lady Chatterley's Lover - D.H. Lawrence
  99. Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides
  100. Little Women - Louisa May Alcott

Megan - No Progress

I really thought that once I committed to this I would turn into an avid reader. While I think I'm reading more than I have yet this year, I still feel as though I'm not getting through anything.

I started Ulysses but am finding that this one of those books I wish I'd had a class on in college. It's going to be difficult to get through on my own. I'm hoping that this will be one that others will want to read together? I know Middlemay is going on so definitely not right now, but in the future? If there's an interest I will put this one away for a while. I'm so confused...

Mya Review *Anne Bronte* The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

I promise I’ll make this a smaller review than my last one. I’ll post the longer review up on my blog (which I started specifically for this project). First of all, I really enjoyed this book. The message of the story was easy to find and to follow, and I found myself completely wrapped up in the lives of the main and secondary characters. The people and places had full depth and complemented the story in ways so many authors seem to miss.

“The Tenant of Wildfell Hall” is a cautionary tale about hasty marriage, and allowing your heart to overrule your common sense. I can definitely see why this book would have been considered scandalous at the time (and is still slightly shocking today), and many times had the image of a woman sneaking it into her room to read so no one would see her. While Anne is the sister of the seemingly more famous Charlotte Bronte (“Wuthering Heights”), she most definitely carves out a niche of her own with this book. You can find the full review here:

Middlemay 3: Waiting for Death

Hi everyone! Welcome to the third week of our Middlemarch group read.

Please feel inspired to post status reports, favorite quotations, and thoughts and impressions.

If you feel like reading more, I thought I'd do a brief romantic profile of George Eliot this week. (Inspired by my mother, whom I told about Middlemay. She told me that she and my father had read a George Eliot poem at their wedding, and then she asked me if George Eliot was a lesbian. I thought it would be useful to clear up some misconceptions about Eliot's absolutely fascinating personal life.)

The Loves of George Eliot*
Mary Anne Evans was not considered a very beautiful woman, and although she had fallen in love with several men during her twenties, when she was already very active in the literary scene, she had never seen any of those feelings reciprocated. In 1851, when she was 32 years old, she was a spinster. That was the year she met George Lewes, a philosopher whose mind was the perfect complement to hers, and who nurtured and encouraged her work. He was, unfortunately, married, but he believed that marriage was an unfair and sexist institution, and as a result had allowed his wife, Agnes, to carry out an open affair with their neighbor. Even as this affair dragged on and his marriage became less and less viable, Lewes was unable (and possibly unwilling) to divorce Agnes because, by allowing his name to appear as father on the birth certificate of one of the children Agnes had with the neighbor, he was legally complicit in the adultery. George Lewes was raising several of his neighbor's children as well as his own in a house that Mary Anne Evans decided to move into in 1854.

Although they were never legally married, Evans and Lewes acted like husband and wife (and referred to each other as such) for the next 24 years. They were not discreet about their relationship, and as a result, Evans (but not Lewes; there's fair for you) was effectively shut out of Victorian society, and not allowed into "good" houses. They were, however, deeply committed to each other mentally and emotionally, and when Lewes died, Evans went into an intense period of mourning, during which her weight dropped to 80 pounds (or something; I can't remember the exact number).

Then, two years later, Evans did the unthinkable again. In her deep mourning, she had made a friend who was also in mourning, and the two of them became very close consoling each other. This friend, John Cross, was mourning his recently deceased and beloved mother. I should mention he was twenty years Evans's junior. When they got married in 1880, everyone was scandalized all over again.

Evans died only one year later at age 61 of kidney problems and a throat infection. Despite her many acknowledged contributions to English literature, she was denied burial at Westminster Abbey because of her apparently inappropriate quarter-century monogamous relationship with Lewes. But (as I'm slowly learning as I read Middlemarch!) Evans/Eliot left us plenty to think about in terms of romance, society, and women's roles, and I'm glad she had the fortitude to stick by her choices despite what everyone else had to say about it.

*I got all this from Parallel Lives, a great book by Phyllis Rose. If you're into Victorian romances, you'll love it.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold - Steven's Review

My second book for this challenge was truly a "fill in the gap," because I don't recall ever reading a spy novel before. It was enjoyable, but I wouldn't want a steady diet of the genre. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is said to be one of the best, probably because of its unvarnished commentary on the evils of espionage and similar dark deeds in the name of national defense. This is a message told forcefully and convincingly. My full review is here.


Hey everyone, I'm curious - how many of you are on Goodreads (or one of the other book database networks)? Recently, I added a shelf on my Goodreads profile for my 100 Fill-in-the-Gaps books to help me keep better/easier track of my list. I know I've probably connected with some of you on Goodreads, but I wondered if anyone else would like to connect. We can get a whole FitG Goodreads ring together. :) If so, that link up there is to my profile.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sorry about this . . .

I apologise for interupting the current programing of this blog, but . . .

I wanted to let anyone know that is trying to contact/email me for invitations/other reasons in regards to this blog, that i probably won't be able to get back to yeh with invite/response till after the 30th May.

Sadly i'm not going on holidays or anything like that, but to a non-internet zone to study for my lovely jovely exams.

Sorry for any inconvience,



Friday, May 15, 2009

Christel, Book Review, *Wetlands, *Charlotte Roche

Okay, let’s get this one out of the way. I consider myself a feminist and I do agree that women are held up to ridiculous standards of cleanliness and beauty. I dislike shaving, plucking, flossing, moisturizering, but I do it all despite my dislike of forced standards. I would love to read a book which pushes these boundaries and truly explores what it means to be a woman today; however Wetlands is not this book. It is one of the most disgustingly repulsive and unsettling of books. Reading this book is like trying to avoid eye contact with the creepy man at a party who appears to have some sort of monstrous social disease. Yes, you try to quickly extricate yourself from the situation, but still find yourself inexplicably draw to him. There are some (okay, quite a few) scenes that I am too horrified to visualize, let alone recant here, but here is a fairly modest one to give you all an idea of the gross-out level. At one point, Helen (the heroine) decides that it is a great idea to take some sips from a water bottle and then spit all of it back into the bottle, and then offer a glass of this spit-water to one of her nurses. Her motivation…because it is sort of like French kissing the nurse! I believe that Helen has some very serious mental disorders, which is why I feel compelled to question all the “Wetlands is a modern feminist manifesto” reviews. In my opinion, a more likely comparison is a gross-out version of Girl, Interrupted. However, this book does satisfy one of my main “I-sort-of-like-this-book” criteria…it made me feel something; albeit more unhinged than happy. I love reading books which make me feel sad, angry, loving, enlightened, bitter, etc. just as long as they make me feel something other than bored. I can only recommend this book to those with a strong constitution and possibly an even stronger stomach.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Members Update: 60 and counting

Thought i'd let everyone know that we now currently have over 60 (61 to be specific - i just confirmed those last two invites) contributers to this blog!! Yay!

If you're new to the blog, feel free to email me for an invite. Plenty of space for members (39 spaces).

Also, if you've just become a member, we're currently doing a group read about Middlemarch by George Eliot, entitled 'MiddleMay' - feel free to join up and comment :)

P.S. if you recently posted your 100 list, remember to check the '100 book list' section on the right, in case i missed your list.

P.P.S - i want to check also if everyone is happy with the layout/colour scheme of this blog?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Christel's 100

It took me way too long to come up with this list and I know the second I post it I am going to want to retract it. I could have easily listed 200 books or more (in fact, that would have been easier), but I need to be realistic here since I do have a full-time job. Okay, so this list is a mixture of classic, modern, mystery, literary, sci-fi, children's, philosophy, science, etc. (including a frighteningly embarrassing choice, you will see which one I mean). Wish me luck as I try to stick to a goal, which has never been my strength. I think we all know this story; ambitious with the ideas, total crap on the follow through. I've heard that people are more likely to stick with a goal as long as others are watching. I hope this is true. Cheers!

1. The Time Machine H.G. Wells
2. Bram Stoker’s Dracula
3. The Black Hole War by Leonard Susskind
4. Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
5. Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
6. Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
7. Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
8. Thus Spake Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche
9. Changing Places by David Lodge
10. Small World by David Lodge
11. Nice Work by David Lodge
12. The Boat by Nam Le
13. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
14. On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
15. The Republic by Plato
16. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
17. Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian
18. The Twelve Little Cakes by Dominika Dery
19. The Quiet American by Graham Greene
20. Chrysalis by Kim Todd
21. Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman
22. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins
23. My Antonia by Willa Cather
24. March by Geraldine Brooks
25. The Garlic Ballads by Mo Yan
26. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
27. Peony in Love by Lisa See
28. Galatea 2.2 by Richard Powers
29. Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
30. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
31. The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
32. Journey to the End of Night by Celine
33. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
34. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
35. Candide by Voltaire
36. The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
37. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
38. Les Miserable by Victor Hugo
39. The Diary of a Madman by Nikolai Gogol
40. Foundation by Issac Asimov
41. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
42. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
43. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
44. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
45. A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
46. The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
47. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
48. White Heat by Brenda Wineapple
49. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
50. Victoria by Knut Hamsun
51. The Odyssey by Homer
52. Unto This Last and Other Writings by John Ruskin
53. If On a Winter’s Night by Italo Calvino
54. In the name of Salome by Julia Alvarez
55. Motherless Brookyn by Jonathan Lethem
56. Tropic of Cancer Henry Miller
57. Tropic of Capricorn Henry Miller
58. Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
59. Wetlands by Charlotte Roche
60. The Sacred Book of the Werewolf by Victor Pelevin
61. Watership Down by Richard Adams
62. Inheritance by Lan Samantha Chang
63. Gigi by Colette
64. The Stand by Stephen King
65. Plutarch’s Lives
66. Europe Central by William Vollmann
67. The Ordinary Princess by MM Kaye
68. Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
69. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
70. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
71. Seven Daughters and Seven Sons by Barbara Cohen
72. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
73. Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
74. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John Le Carre
75. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
76. 2666 by Roberto Bolano
77. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
78. The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
79. White Teeth by Zadie Smith
80. Love Medicine by Louis Erdrich
81. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver
82. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
83. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
84. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
85. Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers
86. Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers
87. Wicked by Gregory Maguire
88. Passage by Connie Willis
89. The Moor by Laurie King
90. O Jerusalem by Laurie King
91. Justice Hall by Laurie King
92. The Game by Laurie King
93. Locked Rooms by Laurie King
94. The Language of Bees by Laurie King
95. My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
96. The League of Extraordinary gentleman by Alan Moore
97. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
98. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
99. Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey
100. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

iasa Book Review *Heart-Shaped Box

The Heart-Shaped Box is a supernatural debut horror novel by Joe Hill, pseudonym for Joseph Hillstrom King, son of Stephen King. It tells the story of an aging death metal musician, Jude, with a taste for the macabre. When the he receives an opportunity to purchase a haunted suit, complete with ghost, he leaps at the chance. Jude soon discovers the ghost is quite real and he has a score to settle. As with most horror novels, this too is a story of redemption. Jude never doubts that he can rid himself of the ghost, if he can only stay alive long enough to figure out how.

Hill writes a fast paced, action based novel. It is a very visual book, almost cinematic in scope. At times I find that takes away from the creepiness of the story but it is a fine line in presenting the reader with an image detailed enough to be scary but that still allows for personal fears to sneak in and up the heebie jeebie factor. For the most part Hill doesn’t cross that line too often. The back story in neatly woven into the narrative ably aiding the reader in his sympathy for the characters. However like his father, Hill is flummoxed by endings. What begins as a strong story, complicated story is quickly and too neatly tied up. Quite frankly as the reader, one wonders if the ending was stolen from a toddlers fairy tale.

However I enjoyed it and I only got up to lock the door once. Apparently in my head, ghosts can’t operate locks.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Book three DONE: Running with Scissors

While wading through Middlemarch, I took breaks reading another book from my list, Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs. Nutshell: funny, disturbing, disgusting, and I don't believe that this book is entirely the gospel truth. :) 4 of 5 stars. Full review found here on my blog, Corrodentia Weekly, or here on GoodReads.

Jennifer's 100

I started this list back when the project started, so I've already finished two, but had trouble figuring out what the last 40 or so would be...finally got the list finished yesterday. I'm working on Middlemarch with the Middlemay folks here, and I'll try to read others while that's going on. Most of these are a switch from what I normally read - fantasy - so I'll have to change my reading habits a little, which might be a good thing.

In no particular order, my list:

1. Lady Chatterley's Lover, DH Lawrence
2. The Odyssey, Homer
3. The Aeneid
4. The Divine Comedy, Dante
5. Paradise Lost, Milton
6. The Prince, Machiavelli
7. The Complete Works of Shakespeare
8. Middlemarch, George Eliot
9. Pride and Prejudice, Austen
10. Sense and Sensibility, Austen
11. Persuasion, Austen
12. Great Expectations, Dickens
11. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Twain
13. Moll Flanders, Daniel Defoe
14. On the Road, Jack Kerouac
15. The Count of Monte Cristo, Dumas
16. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon
17. American Wife, Curtis Sittenfeld
18. The Witches of Eastwick, John Updike
19. The Centaur, John Updike
20. Sophie's Choice, William Styron
21. Possession, A.S. Byatt
22. Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann
23. The Shipping News, E. Annie Proulx
24. The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer
25. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
26. Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray
27. The Man in the Iron Mask- Alexandre Dumas
28. The Time Machine, H.G. Wells
29. Catch-22- Joseph Heller
30. The Picture of Dorian Gray- Oscar Wilde
31. Wuthering Heights- Charlotte Bronte
32. The Pillars of the Earth- Ken Follett
33. The Little Prince- Antoine de Saint-Exupery
34. Grimm's Fairy Tales
35. Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
36. Portrait of a Lady, Henry James
37. To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis
38. I, Robot - Isaac Asimov
39. The Book of Lost Things - John Connolly
40. The World According to Garp - John Irving
41. The Audacity of Hope, Barack Obama
42. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
43. The Cider House Rules - John Irving
44. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K. Dick
45. Out of Africa - Isak Dineson (Karen Blixen)
46. The Last Temptation of Christ - Nikos Kazantzákis
47. Atonement - Ian McEwan
48. The Reader - Bernhard Schlink
49. Watership Down, Richard Adams
50. The Accidental Tourist, Anne Tyler
51. Orlando, Virginia Woolf
52. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
53. The Neverending Story, Michael Ende
54. Foucault's Pendulum, Umberto Eco
55. The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco
56. The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett
57. Watchmen, Alan Moore
58. The Nine Tailors, Dorothy Sayers
59. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson
60. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Betty Smith
61. Jonathan Livingston Seagull - Richard Bach
62. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
63. Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel
64. The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Victor Hugo
65. Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Marisha Pessel
66. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
67. The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
68. The Natural, Bernard Malamud
69. The Bestseller, Olivia Goldsmith
70. The Decameron, Giovanni Boccaccio
71. The Prydian Chronicles, Lloyd Alexander
72. The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
73. The Dubliners, James Joyce
74. Tom Jones, Henry Fielding
75. Old Man's War, John Scalzi
76. Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Prachett
77. Outlander, Diana Gabaldon
78. The Chronicles of Amber, Robert Zelazny
79. Band of Brothers, Stephen E. Ambrose
80. Biting the Wax Tadpole, Elizabeth Little
81. Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Lynne Truss
82. Ghostwalk, Rebecca Stott
83. Greenmantle, Charles de Lint
84. Spirits in the Wires, Charles de Lint
85. The Absolute Sandman, Vol I&II, Neil Gaiman
86. The Centaur, John Updike
87. The Life of Elizabeth I, Alison Weir
88. The Game of Kings, Dorothy Dunnett
89. The Light Ages, Ian R. MacLeod
90. The Skewed Throne, Joshua Palmatier
91. The Sacred Depths of Nature, Ursula Goodenough
92. The Thief at the End of the World: Rubber, Power, and the Seeds of Empire, Joe Jackson
93. The Colour of Magic, Terry Prachett
94. Mistress Shakespeare, Karen Harper
95. Shakespeare: The World as Stage, Bill Bryson
96. Suite Francaise, Irene Nemirovsky
97. Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie
98. The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
99. The Red House Mystery, A.A. Milne
100. The Moving Toyshop, Edmund Crispin

If I find others I'd like to add, they'll show up here, and you can find my 2009 booklist here, which notes every book I've read so far this year.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Middlemay 2: Old and Young

Hi everybody, and welcome back for the second week of George Eliot's Middlemarch!

Please feel free to post status reports and/or famous lines as well as comments.

Please don't feel beholden to read any further than this line before commenting! But if you'd like further prompting, I put some random stuff up to perhaps inspire/incite. This week, I did a little fussing around reading biographical information about Ms. George Eliot as well as background on the book and its writing. So, in no particular order and without any guise at journalistic integrity, I'm going to post what struck me as interesting trivia (mostly stolen from my Oxford World's Classics edition):

-Middlemarch was published in 1870 and 1871, in single book installments (so 8 separate installments total), usually two months apart. Then, at the end of it all, they issued a "Cheap" (bumper edition). Not unlike several modern-day marketing schemes I've seen (eg "buy this compilation album! There's a secret song!").

-George Eliot didn't become a novelist until she was 37, which is pretty young in the scheme of things, but perhaps not as young when one considers she'd spent her entire adult life as a professional writer. Middlemarch was published when she was 51.

-George Eliot's birth name was Mary Ann Evans. She took the male pen name so she wouldn't be written off as a romance novelist, like most of her fellow female Victorian novelists.

-Eliot was almost entirely self-educated. She didn't have the means to go to the kind of fancy private school she makes fun of Rosamund Vincy for having attended, but she was a strong believer in self-education and self-improvement. By the end of her life, she had taught herself eight languages: aside from English: French, German, Italian, Spanish, Hebrew, Latin, Greek.

-Eliot's writing was (purposely) idea-driven. That's why we get so much about art, science, and religion in every moment of Middlemarch--Eliot cared a lot about her ideas and was very focused on making what she believed come through in her plots.

-Eliot lost faith in God when she was 20. She wasn't the only Victorian questioning faith--British Christianity had reached a strange point during her lifetime where it was assumed one believed in a Christian God as a default, but people were increasingly less confident in this religion. Religion, its place, and its politics are a major concern throught Middlemarch, as in the second book, where we witness (in close detail) the highly political election of a clergy position, and where the question of fitness to lead congregants is secondary to other concerns, like salary and personal relationships.

Ok, I've lost stamina for typing. Turning over the floor!!

-We get a lot of biting commentary on the role of women (often toward some of the things the female characters do and say themselves), but Eliot--although a feminist by practice and by default--did not want to be associated with the feminists of her era, because she didn't agree with some of their philosophies. (NOTE TO SMARTER PEOPLE--this is taken directly from my edition of the book, but there was no further commentary on what philosophies specifically she disagreed with. Anyone know anything about Victorian feminism and/or George Eliot's opinions? I'm fascinated and would love to know more!)

Michelle's List of 100

When I first saw this project, I thought I could easily come up with 100 books for my list. There are so many I've been wanting to read and just haven't gotten around to! Boy, was I wrong. The obvious ones got me to 20 or 30 books. Then I looked at everyone else's lists, quizzed my husband and mom, looked at more lists online, looked at many, many bibliographies...and here's the list I finally came up with:
  1. Amber Chronicles, The, Roger Zelazny
  2. Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman
  3. Animal Farm, George Orwell
  4. Beloved, Toni Morrison
  5. Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott
  6. Breakfast at Tiffany's, Truman Capote
  7. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
  8. Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, The, Junot Diaz
  9. Call of the Wild, The, Jack London
  10. Cannery Row, John Steinbeck
  11. Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
  12. Catcher in the Rye, The, JD Salinger
  13. Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
  14. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
  15. Charlotte’s Web, EB White
  16. Colour of Magic, The, Terry Pratchett
  17. Complete Stories and Poems, The, Edgar Allan Poe
  18. Confederacy of Dunces, A, John Kennedy Toole
  19. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Gregory Maguire
  20. Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, A, Mark Twain
  21. Consider Plebas, Ian M Banks
  22. Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The, Mark Haddon
  23. Diamond Age, The, Neal Stephenson
  24. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Phillip K Dick
  25. Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak
  26. Doomsday Book, Connie Willis
  27. Drowned Hopes, Donald Westlake
  28. Dune, Frank Herbert
  29. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert
  30. Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton
  31. Fable, A, William Faulkner
  32. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
  33. Farewell to Arms, A, Ernest Hemingway
  34. Flatland, Edwin Abbott
  35. Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes
  36. Foucault’s Pendulum, Umberto Eco
  37. Fountainhead, The, Ayn Rand
  38. Good Earth, The, Pearl S Buck
  39. Great Gatsby, The, F Scott Fitzgerald
  40. Gunslinger, The, Stephen King
  41. Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, A, Dave Eggers
  42. Hound of the Baskervilles, The, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  43. House of Seven Gables, The, Nathaniel Hawthorne
  44. House of Spirits, The, Isabel Allende
  45. Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson
  46. Hyperion, Dan Simmons
  47. Innocent Traitor, Allison Weir
  48. Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer
  49. Inventing Memory, Anne Harris
  50. Island of Dr Moreau, The, HG Wells
  51. Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott
  52. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke
  53. Journey to the Center of the Earth, A, Jules Verne
  54. Lake of Dead Languages, The, Carol Goodman
  55. Lamplighter, The, Maria S Cummins
  56. Left Hand of Darkness, The, Ursula K Le Guin
  57. Lost Boys, Orson Scott Card
  58. Maurice, EM Forster
  59. Memory Keeper’s Daughter, The, Kim Edwards
  60. Middlemarch, George Eliot
  61. Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
  62. Mistress Shakespeare, Karen Harper
  63. Mists of Avalon, The, Marion Zimmer Bradley
  64. Moonheart, Charles de Lint
  65. Neuromancer, William Gibson
  66. Next, Michael Crichton
  67. Once and Future King, The, TH White
  68. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Alexander Solzhenitsyn
  69. Orlando, Virginia Woolf
  70. Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood
  71. Other Boleyn Girl, The, Philippa Gregory
  72. Pact, The, Jodi Picoult
  73. Persuasion, Jane Austen
  74. Picture of Dorian Gray, The, Oscar Wilde
  75. Pillars of the Earth, The, Ken Follett
  76. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, A, James Joyce
  77. Prayer for Owen Meany, A, John Irving
  78. Quiet American, The, Graham Greene
  79. Ragtime, EL Doctorow
  80. Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe
  81. Sense of the World, A, Jason Roberts
  82. Shakespeare: The World as Stage, Bill Bryson
  83. Suite Francaise, Irene Nemirovsky
  84. Summerland, Michael Chabon
  85. Tale of Two Cities, A, Charles Dickens
  86. Tempest, The, William Shakespeare
  87. Tenant of Wildfell Hall, The, Anne Bronte
  88. Thousand Splendid Suns, A, Khaled Hosseini
  89. Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson
  90. Three Junes, Julia Glass
  91. Three Musketeers, The, Alexandre Dumas
  92. Time Traveler’s Wife, The, Audrey Nifenegger
  93. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  94. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
  95. Tree Grows in Brooklyn, A, Betty Smith
  96. Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray
  97. Villette, Charlotte Bronte
  98. Winthrop Woman, The, Anya Seton
  99. Wizard of Oz, The, L Frank Baum
  100. Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
Whew. I'm looking forward to making my way through this list. I don't know where to start, though!

Friday, May 8, 2009

iasa - Progress Report, I'm an Eleven Percenter.

I've managed to knock out another six books on my list. I enjoyed them all and there's not a one of these I would not reread. Reviews, such as they are, of the last two can be found at The Book Book.

The High Window by Raymond Chandler
Curtain and The Mysterious Mr. Quinn by Agatha Christie
The Red Thumb Mark By R. Austin Freeman
The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne
The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Rachel: Progress report, *Animal Farm, *Lord of the Flies

I'm two down, in my shortened list of 50, and have just started #3.

I began with Orwell's Animal Farm for one slightly shameful reason: It's short. Very little about this book was a surprise to me; the premise and events and characters were so familiar already, just by pop culture reference, that I almost didn't need to read it at all! But I enjoyed it—I like that kind of social-ills fable, like Ionesco's Rhinoceros or Dunn's Ella Minnow Pea.

Then I felt that of the books on my list, the one that seemed the best next read after Animal Farm was Golding's Lord of the Flies, with its similar theme. I also like adventure/survival stories. I knew the fate of one key character already (Piggy, natch), also thanks to pop culture references, but didn't really know how it would all unfold. One thing surprised me: Given his oddly calm, cold, and self-centered actions at the very start of the story—right after a plane crash, hello—I didn't expect Ralph (whose name I figured was probably pronounced like Ralph Fiennes, not Ralph Macchio) to be so thoughtful, sensitive, or emotional. It was interesting to see him change. I didn't realize, before reading, that Ralph was the main protagonist of the story.

For my book group, which met last night, I read Karen Abbott's Sin in the Second City (not on my list). This non-fiction book portrays the brothels in early 20th-century Chicago, most notably the Everleigh Club, and their downfall at the hands of social activists. A point that struck me during the reading of this book was the steps some women took then toward claiming their own sexuality—although it's a gray area, morally speaking, given all the circumstances. But because of that point, I think the next best read from my list is Chopin's The Awakening. I just read the first few pages last night, but am not far enough into it to comment yet...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Linda's Pitiable Progress - Woe is Me

I'm so in AWE with everyone'e progress. Wow.

I've read only one book from my list so far - THE SECRET HISTORY (Donna Tartt), which I reviewed. MIDDLEMARCH is taking all my 100 effort. I don't think I can do MOBY DICK for awhile - I'll need something slim and quick and light after this Eliot tome.

I AM reading, though. I made a committment at New Year's to read and review a debut book (preferably) published by a small independent press and purchased from an Indy bookseller. I post the review the middle of the month on my blog. Just finished May's selection, so will dig in this weekend with book 3.

Peace, Linda

The Secret Life of Bees

I finished this. Humm. I don't have much else to say.

I appreciate that she's a very talented writer. But somehow I was totally and utterly uninterested in the story. I think I anticipated that, which is why I put off reading it for so long. But I could barely make myself keep reading it. Despite her obviously refined prose and (in theory) interesting story.

It's times like these I worry about my commercial taste, and whether I *should* be an editor...!

Becky: And That Makes Five

I've read a total of five now. New since my last update: The Warden by Anthony Trollope and The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer.

I'm currently working on two more:

Middlemarch by George Eliot


Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Aerin: Status Update

Here is how far I've gotten with Middlemarch:

I bought it.  Yay me!!

Mya *The Fountainhead* Ayn Rand

Okay, so I had to put off reading my Louisa May Alcott book ("An Old Fashion Girl") for several reasons, but was able to snatch the one copy of "The Fountainhead" that my library had. It's a monster of a book! It was very intimidating, staring at the four inch thick spine, wondering if I had the wherewithal to actually finish it, and would I even understand it. Surprisingly, I did enjoy it.

"The Fountainhead" is not nearly as difficult a read as I'd imagined. What struck me from the beginning was the whole idea of passion. Passion for money, passion for architecture, passion for position, passion for women, passion for acclaim, passion for passion's sake. I felt like I was looking down two different paths of the same subject. One man, Howard Roarke, kept his passion close to his chest. He had an honesty that scared people, and a single mindedness that drove others mad. He didn't care that he didn't fit in. He only had one great, driving need: to build structures the way he wanted. And the way he wanted was very different from the way it had "always been done". The other man, Peter Keating, had a passion for recognition, and the fame and money that came with it. He enjoyed creating buildings, yes, but it seemed to be nothing compared to his driving desire to have everything. It was a passion of self: he believed he was the best, and so he deserved to have the best. These two creatures, two sides of the same coin, had a strange love/hate relationship. It was interesting to watch the mirror images of their desires smack into each other, grapple, then pull apart, each time one wearing away just a bit of the other, all the time knowing that one couldn't survive without the other.

The book also had a heavy theme of "new vs. old". The Old Guard who still believed architecture could only be acceptable if it used all the old school thoughts. Roman and Greek, lots of frou-frou, plenty of heavy accents. The New Guy, who believed that the building should honor the world surrounding it, should be a reflection of its purpose, and of possibilities. The old, of course, does its best to smother the new, to break it down, to force it into a mold. They praised their own boy wonder, Keating, who clung to the old ways because he understood that was how to get ahead. When they couldn't break Roarke, they simply tried to destroy him in a systematic fashion. However, there were enough "new guys" to keep the modernisitic Howard Roarke working, even if it wasn't consistent work. It was fascinating to go through these trials with Roarke, to see him struggle, succeed, struggle, fail. Then to see Keating succeed, succeed, succeed, and still be unsatisfied and somehow empty.

I'll only touch on the love affairs, as they are hard to describe, but definitely twined into the story. Volatile, distraught, smothering, the sort of love that can either kill you or save you. You get to see passion reveresed, watching as each man deals with his heart in much the same way as he deals with his architecture. It's fascinating, and very disturbing.

The secondary characters were beautifully created. Even the ones who were only present for a few pages had a life of their own. The ones who were more deeply involved were cannily eased into the stories, and their part in the lives of Roarke and Keating seemed to be predestined, even if the main characters didn't realize it. Personally, I always think that if the secondary characters aren't well drawn, the story won't support itself. In this case, I think Rand could have written entire books about the supporting cast.

The only negative thing I can say is that Rand does seem to prose on and on. Maybe it's because in this day and time our culture is used to news bites, snippets of information, words tied in tight bows with minimal explanations. But I'll admit that there were times when I said, "Okay, I know that Roarke makes people uncomfortable; I don't need to be reminded every other paragraph." I also felt that it didn't take three sentences to describe a man's hair.

However, with that said, I'll tell you that it was definitely worth the read. It's a classic for a reason, and I can see why it was so sensational when first published. It's still sensational today. It's the sort of story that makes you take a long, hard look at yourself, and makes you wonder which person you are: Roarke or Keating. Or if you're maybe a little of both.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Christy : Progress Update

I finished my first book on my list - Bleeding Heart Square by Andrew Taylor. I will follow with a more detailed review later, but I will state that I really enjoyed the book and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a mystery with a dark twist. On to the next book!

Amanda Snow: Update

It's been about a month since I've added my list to the blog, so I thought it would be a nice time for an update!

Out of the 100 books, I've read 4 this past month:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Weiss
One Month to Live by Chris & Kerry Shook

The ones I've already reviewed have links attached.

This is already a lot of fun and definitely helping to get some of those books off my list!

Middlemay 1: Miss Brooke

Hi everybody! How did people do finishing their pages for the first week? Congrats to those who've finished, and to those who haven't, as the Japanese would say, "Gambare!" (Keep fightin'!)

Some pre-reading discussion happened over here, wherein it was revealed that George Eliot was a woman, and also some other fun things.

If you have stuff you want to talk about, please post a comment! For those who like some prompting, activities I would like to suggest for posting inspiration:

1) Declare yourself proudly in the comments if you finished the first book! Or offer your lame understandable excuses if you didn't. (I'm just kidding; it's a pretty tough read, and I'm very sympathetic!

2) Offer up your favorite line (or two) if you have one.

I'm really grateful for this group; don't think I would have had as good a time reading it if I weren't anticipating checking in here today.

(ps I made a "group read" label for this post; hope people like it/agree with it.)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

divide and conquer

A little status check-in. I'm currently reading Middlemarch for Middlemay, but I have some extra reading time (have I mentioned this project has made me into a hyperactive reader?!). I reeeeally don't want to rush ahead with Middlemarch, because I quite enjoyed reading the first book in anticipation of our check-in, and I think if I tried to speed it up or read more of it I would enjoy it less.

But I do have some other monsters on my list. I decided to sit down today and divide a couple of them up into weekly chunks, too.

The first is Gotham, the 1999 Pulitzer prizewinning history of New York City, which clocks in at around 1,300 pages. A friend bought this for me for a birthday on a year that was closer to the book's publication year than the current year we're in. That was a large part of the reason I put this book on my list--I HAD to at least give it a shot. I divided it into 3-chapter chunks, each of which is about 40 pages. Seems manageable, right? My plan is to take it this slowly, take notes where I'm inspired to, and try to absorb as much trivia as possible. I love New York history, and would dearly love to be smarter about it. If I stick to it, I'll be able to finish the book in late October. We'll see.

The second is a history of the Crusades called God's War, by Christopher Tyerman. I was SO excited about this book when it came out back in like 2005 that I shelled out $35 for a hardcover (which, obviously, I've never read). It's 900 pages, and I've divided it into 8 sections based on the table of contents, roughly one for each Crusade and a couple other topics. I've read so much about the Crusades already that I'm not planning on noting this, just reading it as if it were "fun."

Aaaand because all three of these books (Middlemarch, God's War, and Gotham) are too heavy to carry, I'm also reading The Secret Life of Bees. So if I don't check in with any finished books for awhile, you'll know my excuses.

Is anyone else dividing books up like this? Or have you done it in the past? I figured a syllabus got me through stuff in college; all I need is a little organization.

The 100 List

Hey all,

In the past few weeks we've had huge number of people add their lists to the blog.


Anyhoo, I think i've added all the 'lists' in the '100 book list section' but could people let me know if i've forgotten to link anyone's list? I know i've already missed one person's list a while ago and i don't want to leave anyones list out :)

Thank you!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Christy's List

  1. Alcott, Louisa May - Little Woman
  2. Ackroyd, Peter - The Life Of Thomas More
  3. Austen, Jane - Emma
  4. Austen, Jane - Northanger Abbey
  5. Austen, Jane - Pride and Prejudice
  6. Austen, Jane - Sense and Sensibility
  7. Austen, Jane - Mansfield Park
  8. Austen, Jane - Persuasion
  9. Austen, Jane - Lady Susan
  10. Barrie, J. M. - Peter Pan
  11. Bennett, Alan - The Uncommon Reader
  12. Blackmore, R. D. - Lorna Doone
  13. Bowen, Rhys - Her Royal Spyness
  14. Bowen, Rhys - A Royal Pain
  15. Boyle, T. C. - The Road To Wellville
  16. Bronte, Charlotte - Jane Eyre
  17. Bronte, Emily - Wuthering Heights
  18. Bunyan, John - Pilgrim's Progress
  19. Burney, Fanny - Evelina
  20. Capote, Truman - Breakfast At Tiffany's
  21. Cather, Willa - My Antonia
  22. Cather, Willa - O, Pioneers!
  23. Chaucer, Geoffrey - Canterbury Tales
  24. Christie, Agatha - Murder On The Orient Express
  25. Cooper, James Fenimore - Last Of The Mohicans
  26. Dickens, Charles - Bleak House
  27. Doctrow, E. L. - Ragtime
  28. Drabble, Margaret - The Red Queen
  29. Dreiser, Theodore - Sister Carrie
  30. Eliot, George - Middlemarch
  31. Faulkner, William - The Sound And The Fury
  32. Faulkner, William - Absalom! Absalom!
  33. Faulks, Sebastian - Birdsong
  34. Faulks, Sebastian - Human Traces
  35. Faulks, Sebastian - On Green Dolphin Street
  36. Faulks, Sebastian - Engleby
  37. Fitzgerald, F. Scott - Tender Is The Night
  38. Fitzgerald, F. Scott - The Great Gatsby
  39. Flaubert, Gustave - Madame Bovary
  40. Follett, Ken - World Without End
  41. Follett, Ken - The Pillars Of The Earth
  42. Frank, Anne - Anne Frank: The Diary Of A Young Girl
  43. Furnivall, Kate - The Russian Concubine
  44. Gallico, Paul - Mrs. 'Arris Goes To Paris
  45. Gaskell, Elizabeth - North And South
  46. George, Margaret - The Autobiography of Henry VIII
  47. Gibbons, Stella - Cold Comfort Farm
  48. Gilbert, Elizabeth - Eat, Pray, Live
  49. Gregory, Phillipa - The Virgin's Lover
  50. Halprin, Mark - Winter's Tale
  51. Hanff, Helene - 84 Charring Cross Road
  52. Harper, Karen - Mistress Shakespeare
  53. Hawthorne, Nathaniel - The House Of Seven Gables
  54. Hawthorne, Nathaniel - The Scarlet Letter
  55. Hemingway, Ernest - The Sun Also Rises
  56. Heyer, Georgette - Simon The Coldheart
  57. James, Henry - Portrait Of A Lady
  58. James, Henry - The Turn Of The Screw
  59. Joyce, James - Ulysses
  60. Lamb, Wally - She's Come Undone
  61. Lee, Harper - To Kill A Mockingbird
  62. Lessing, Doris - The Golden Notebook
  63. Letts, Billie - Made In The U.S.A.
  64. Levine, Gail Carson - Ella Enchanted
  65. Liss, David - The Whiskey Rebels
  66. Malamud, Bernard - The Assistant
  67. McCullough, Colleen - The Thornbirds
  68. McEwan, Ian - Atonement
  69. Montgomery, L. M. - Anne Of Green Gables
  70. More, Sir Thomas - Utopia
  71. More, Sir Thomas - The History of King Richard III
  72. Nabokov, Vladimir - Lolita
  73. Naslund, Sena Jeter - Ahab's Wife
  74. Penman, Sharon Kay - When Christ And His Saints Slept
  75. Plaidy, Jean - St. Thomas Eve
  76. Plath, Sylvia - The Bell Jar
  77. Porter, Gene Stratton - Freckles
  78. Porter, Gene Stratton - A Girl Of The Limberlost
  79. Porter, Gene Stratton - A Daughter Of The Land
  80. Rhys, Jean - Wild Sargasso Sea
  81. Santmyer, Helen Hoover - And Ladies Of The Club
  82. Scott, Sir Walter - Ivanhoe
  83. Seton, Anya - Katherine
  84. Shaffer, Mary Ann - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society
  85. Smith, Betty - A Tree Grows In Brooklyn
  86. Steinbeck, John - Cannery Row
  87. Sterne, Laurence - Tristram Shandy
  88. Taylor, Andrew - Bleeding Heart Square
  89. Thackery, William M. - Vanity Fair
  90. Tolstoy, Leo - War and Peace
  91. Tolstoy, Leo - Anna Karenina
  92. Twain, Mark - Innocents Abroad
  93. Twain, Mark - The Prince And The Pauper
  94. Verne, Jules - Around The World In Eighty Days
  95. Waugh, Evelyn - Brideshead Revisited
  96. Welty, Eudora - The Optimist's Daughter
  97. West, Nathaniel - Miss Lonelyhearts
  98. West, Rebecca - Harriet Hume
  99. Wharton, Edith - Age Of Innocence
  100. Zusak, Markus - The Book Thief

Middlemarch Book 1 - Discussion

I know we have until the 4th of May. Just curious if anyone had any thoughts on the first book - "Ms. Brooks"?! I just finished the first book today (chapter 12) so I can focus on my notes for an upcoming final exam on Tuesday.

I have to admit I love it. I don't want to give any away for anyone that hasn't finished the first book but I already have my thoughts on what the ending will be. Am I the only person that feels they must predict the ending??

By the way, I must admit I'm surprised that George Eliot was able to capture the true relationship between sisters as if he was a sister himself. Granted our conversations are slightly more contemporary *wink* but still. He had some of the idiosyncrasies down pat. It was weird. I think he knows more about women then most men. hmph!

Oh and did any one else see "twittered" in the book?? haha. So far it is reminding me of Sense and Sensibility a bit. I was a bit thrown off by the change of subject matter in the last two chapters since they weren't directly related to Miss Brooks. But other than that it was an easy read. I heard it gets better??

Anyone else have thoughts? Am I posting prematurely? Should I have waited until the 4th? You can delete this post if it's premature. :)

First 10 down!

Project Fill in the Gaps is going well! Since I started on April 1st, I've knocked 10 books off my list. Here they are, with links to the full reviews and a short sentence or two about what I thought:

1. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen - Not my favorite Austen, but more well-rounded character development than the other books.

2. The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton - This one left me completely bewildered, and I no longer marvel that, until recently, I'd never heard of this classics author.

3. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins - Fabulous book, mystery and intrigue! I can't wait to read more of his.

4. Stardust by Neil Gaiman - My favorite Gaiman book so far, fast and easy to read, far superior to the movie.

5. PEEPS by Scott Westerfeld - Westerfeld continues to impress me. Who knew you could learn so much about biology from a vampire book?

6. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel - A disappointing graphic novel memoire about Bechdel's sexuality and her relationship with her father. I was expecting much more from this, and it didn't deliver for me.

7. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - Don't hate me, but I didn't love this book. It felt too gimicky to me. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good either.

8. Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev - Better than most Russian literature I've read, but still not superb. The second half is much better and faster than the first.

9. I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg - Written along the same lines as The Bell Jar, this one didn't deliver. I could never feel connected with the narrator. The Bell Jar is highly superior.

10. Life of Pi by Yann Martel - My first casualty of the Fill in the Gaps project. I didn't get beyond page 36 of this one. Sorry. It's just not my sort of book. I have a nice copy that I'm giving away here.

So, 10 down, 90 to go, and I'm only a month in! Not bad.

Friday, May 1, 2009

To the barricades, or at least away from war

Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder

(Mother Courage and Her Children)

First performed in Zurich in 1939 for an audience of pacifist and anti-fascist German expatriates, the play is a praise song of sending children to their deaths.
Of course not.
What do you expect from Brecht?
The setting is the 30-Year war (17th Century, Europeans killing each other in order to decide which cut of clerical dress represents a more direct line to God).
The characters are not one-, but two-dimensional. The mother (I first heard of Niobe in this context: look her up and impress your friends!) is also a war-profiteering capitalist; the cook is also a womanizer; the preacher is also a coward; the grown children she loses have less depth: Strong, Honest, and Innocent.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Brecht. And slogans like
Peace is sloppy, only war creates order.
Wherever there are great virtues, it only proves that something is rotten.
Always find a willing audience in me.
There was also a bit where the preacher said that Jesus first multiplied the loaves and the wine and then taught brotherly love because it’s easier to love your neighbor on a full stomach. All classic Brechtian ideas.
A worthwhile read, but it doesn’t oust the Three-Penny Opera as my favorite.