Monday, November 30, 2009


I can't believe it!! After 11 weeks of reading I've finally finished Gravity's Rainbow!!

In case anyone was wondering why I hadn't logged in in so long... that's why. And now it's OVER!

I only understood about... 13%. On good days. But I made it to the END.

If anyone has this yet to do on their list, I would strongly recommend reading it with a group. This was one of those situations where NO one understood the whole thing, but since everyone understood different pieces, a conversation was not only interesting but helpful.

I've now finished 19 out of 100 titles. Considering 2009 is almost over, I think I'll be very, very pleased with myself if I finish a 20th by December 31st. That will be a fifth of the list finished in the first of five calendar years! Something about that really appeals to the Type A in me.

Now off to celebrate with some (decidedly non-gaps) epic fantasy rereads.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


"The Girl Who Stopped Swimming" by Joshilyn Jackson
(from back cover)
Laurel Hawthorne hasn't seen a ghost in years, until she wakes to find the ghost of her daughter's friend, Molly, who leads the way to her own body, floating in the Hawthornes' pool. While Laurel built her life in the suburbs, her estranged sister, Thalia, became an actress with a capital A. Molly can't rest until someone learns her secrets, and she has opened a door to the past that Laurel can't close alone. She turns to Thalia, and they set out on a journey that will reveal their family's buried history, the true state of Laurrel's marriage, and what happended to the girl who stopped swimming.

MY THOUGHTS: This is my first book from Joshilyn Jackson, but it won't be my last. I really enjoyed her form of writing. To the point, plus all the little details that make a great story. She interweaves the present with the past flawlessly. So that you don't get lost. I really enjoy the charctrer of Laurel, Thalia, David and Shelby. I did feel sorry for Bet, who is the girl who comes from Delop. And causes all kinds of havioc. If you haven't read this book, put it on your list. It's really good!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Review-A Year In The Merde By Stephen Clarke

I actually remember seeing Clarke's second book (Love in the Merde) on bookshelves and thinking it was a funny title. I choose to read this one first since it's the first book.
The story follows Paul West as he moves to Paris for work and deals with Parisians as an Englishman. I loved how it started as a fish out of water and became how he wound up becoming an expat. He notes lots of differences between Brits and Parisians. But since I'm not an expert on either, I needed a British to American cultural explanation.  I muddled my way through and I think I figured most of it out.
I think my favorite part was when Paul attempts to buy a house in the French countryside. It sounded so romantic and lovely, but he was being played the fool by his boss.
It was a great book. Great read and shows a different side of France than I've read before.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Black and White and Red all over?

Elmo in a tuxedo!
That was Ricky Gervais' joke to introduce his encore act. Hee, hee.
Julie and I went to see him at Carnegie Hall for a delayed anniversary date. And in a sense we got lucky that all the better seats were sold out by the time we decided to do it because the nosebleed section had a better view of the top of Kevin Clash's head.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Review (Of Human Bondage) and reflections

Gah, I've just realised how long it's been since I last checked in here, and how slack I've been about both reading from my list and writing about what I've read. Crossing off my reads from the last couple of months just now, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I'd read a couple from my list by accident -- and then unpleasantly surprised to find that I couldn't remember anything about some of the books on my list or why, back in May, it seemed vital that I read them. I must have had my reasons, though; with luck it'll be more fun than not to rediscover them...

I've read a few books from my list since I last blogged here. The first was Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham. It was a struggle. It was long. Under pressure, I might admit to having skimmed during the third quarter... Oh, look, I think I just have a prejudice against this kind of lengthy, physicaly detailed realism. It lacks the wry humour and absurdity of English Bildungsromans that came before (anything by Dickens, say), and the (similar?) playful absurdity of modernist novels. It's like there was a dry patch around the turn of the century -- meticulously described, carefully written, often autobiographical realism... it just doesn't do much for me. I'll speculate crazily and completely unqualified-ly and say that in my (limited) mental library, Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man has a foot in both camps -- it does a bit of what Maugham does, carefully documenting material details of his childhood memory -- but it's more mindful of strucutre and plot, and more willing to break away and experiment with language and humour.

And that's all I have to say about that. Mostly, this book made me think about other writers whose work I much prefer, even when it's perhaps less carefully, comprehensively done. I suspect this just isn't a period I "get", aesthetically speaking. Sorry, Somerset...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Virginia Woolf's Night and Day (1919)

I just finished Virginia Woolf's Night and Day (1919) when I went out for a walk and relaxing afternoon in the park yesterday. It was a good read. I always like Woolf, though I sometimes take a while to make myself get started on one of her novels. I don't know exactly why this is the case, because I always like her work, but it somehow just works on me that way.

Night and Day is not as widely read as a lot of Woolf's other works (Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, Orlando, etc.). I don't think that is likely to change, but I can say that Night and Day is a book I wouldn't hesitate to recommend. It is, in many ways, more accessible than some of Woolf's other work, but has a lot of the same poetic beauty one can always expect in one of her novels.

The characters in Night and Day are quite engaging. They will infuriate you sometimes, and make you laugh at others, but they will never bore you. Catherine is a lovely protagonist to follow, and watching her mature through the course of the book is fun. William is pompous and fun to laugh at. Ralph is a bit of a mess, always stumbling here and there, seeming to get lost even inside his own thoughts. Mary is a tough, competent woman. And Cassandra is a stereotypical airhead (who turns out to have a little more to her than that, of course).

I had a great time reading Night and Day, and am glad I put it on my Fill in the Gaps list. It motivated me to pick the book up and get started on it. But it didn't take much pushing to get me to finish it. It was too enjoyable a read to need any external pushing.

Two more done. . . slowly

First off, i absolutely loved the Time Travellors wife and gobbled it up over a weekend.

The Time Travellers Wife is a story of the 'real' love between Claire and Henry through time and thier lives. Nicely written, this book leaps back and forth through time but still paints a coherent picture. I loved dipping in and out of this book,experiencing the justipositioning of Claire's youth and Henry's middle age.

This is just a beautifully story, written in an amazing way that grabs you and won't let you go till you've read that sweet ending with a tear soaked face.

So i flew threw this book and felt like i was on a roll, i then picked up Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea Quartet (as its both on this challenge and on my basics challenge list), which has won numerous awards and is seen as one of the key pieces of literature in the fantasy genre.


God, i really wanted to love these books as they've inspired so many of my favourite writers and i had really high hopes for enjoying them (maybe that was part of the problem). Although i can appreciate the plot and story arc of the Earthsea Cycle (i had four books in one), i just didn't connect with the characters or story at all.

I felt completely indifferent!

Strangely, i feel slightly disappointed in myself for not appreciating/connecting with these books, especially when i love reading/writing fantasy - I feel like i've now lost my membership card lol.

I guess i'll just have to put this series to one side and reread at a later date and see how i go.

I'd love to know what other people thought of this series? and if you liked/loved it, what was it about it that appealed?

or if there are other works by Ursula Le Guin which i might redeem myself with? lol.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dana, Mysteries of Pittsburgh- Michael Chabon

A couple of weeks ago, Michael Chabon was at the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver for a reading from his most recent book Manhood for Amateurs. As he read selections from the book, I could see that his prose had grown since this first novel of his, but it still had the ring of truth and beauty found in all of Chabon's works. He is funny, witty and eloquent. He was a wonderful speaker and gave some great writing advice (to be blogged about later). I look forward to reading even more of his work.

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh: A Novel (P.S.) The Mysteries of Pittsburgh: A Novel by Michael Chabon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I am ridiculously jealous that Chabon was able to create a novel so beautiful his first time out of the gate. Mysteries of Pittsburgh is Chabon's debut novel and abounds with his lyrical prose and intriguing characters.

Art Bechstein has graduated from college and is spending the summer following working at a book store and playing with his new found friends. Arthur LeCompte entices Art into a world of interesting people and even more interesting parties. Between Art's new girlfriend Phlox, his increasingly sexual feelings for his friend Art and new friend Clevland's interest in Art's father's mobster ways, Art is lost and confused. This novel is reminiscent of Fitzgerald and a bygone era of sophisticated parties and debauchery.

Chabon's prose is lyrical and striking. His descriptions are always unique and the characters are beautifully written. I am always impressed by his way of viewing the world. The details that he sees are vivid and intriguing. I always turn to Chabon's work when I'm feeling like I need inspiration for my own writing. He has not disappointed me yet.

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