Thursday, December 31, 2009

thanks for making me fall behind, Santa

Thanks to the library and my fickle reading appetite, I was never really on track for the 100 in 5 years.
But now I got a little Santa setback in my stockings.
In case you're wondering what non-list reading looms (though some are definitely list-worthy):
James Crumley, The Last Good Kiss (already devoured. so much fun)
John Lanchester, Mr Phillips (ditto, though a little slower. also more thought-provoking)
Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby
Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems, vol. 2
Jonathan Bernstein, Knickers in a Twist: A Dictionary of British Slang
Joseph von Eichendorff, Gedichte
Rudolf Eberhard, ed., Fritze Bollmann wollte angeln

Happy New Year, everyone!

THE WOMAN WARRIOR, Maxine Hong Kingston

Yay! Squeezed one more in before 2009 ends. My review is here. Anyone else read this one?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Lucky Number 13

The 13th book I finished on my list was a really good one, making me think 13 might just be my lucky number. I finished reading oino sakai's poetry chapbook Ancient Skies this morning.

oino sakai is a pretty big name in a field that is, honestly, fairly small — speculative poetry. It is a pity that there is not a bigger readership of this niche genre, because there are some fine poets writing speculative poems. oino sakai's specialty is scifaiku. His work is always marked by excellence in both parent genres, science fiction and haiku, and I count him one of the poets I am learning from in order to improve my own work. His poetry is truly masterful.

The little volume Ancient Skies is packed with some huge works — not huge in length (of course), but in significance. oino sakai does a wonderful job, over and over again, of capturing that "a-ha moment" that is so central to good haiku. And throughout the range of poems in the collection, he is true to the description on the title page of the book: "A haiku is a captured moment in time. A scifaiku is a captured moment in a possible future." Ancient Skies looks into so many possible futures and draws them near to us, moment by moment.

The first section of the book is filled with haiku, more than 60 in total. In the second section, oino sakai showcases other poetic forms derived from traditional Japanese poetry (such as the tanka and haibun), as well as experimental forms such as the zip, the stellarenga, and the Fib. There are a good number of poems across a wide range of forms, and it makes for very fun reading.

Ancient Skies was published by Sam's Dot Publishing, and is available through the Genre Mall.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys

I just finished Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys, the 12th title I've completed from my Fill in the Gaps list. (Yes, I know... I am very far behind many of the readers here!)

I really enjoyed the book. Gaiman is always good for a fun read (I've got several of his novels on my list — more than any other author, I think). He's funny and he's smart, and that gives his humor a level of depth and his more profound thoughts a rather light touch. Over all, the effect is wonderful.

The story begins with Fat Charlie and his embarrassment over his father. And aren't all of us mortified with embarrassment by our parents? Well, Fat Charlie is just like us in that regard... with the added layer being that his dad is a minor deity, the trickster god of West African and Caribbean traditional folklore.

I love how the folklore weaves into this story. It's Rudyard Kipling without all the trappings of colonialism. It's fun to enter into a tradition other than the one I was brought up in, and yet to have it brought near to the experiences of my own world. That is what Gaiman does so effectively in this novel.

Fat Charlie doesn't start out as a very sympathetic character, for me, but something about the story still managed to suck me in. It is a page turner. For me, I think it is Gaiman's writing (fantastic!) and humor (hilarious!) that kept me turning the pages, even though Fat Charlie didn't immediately strike a chord with me. Anyway, whatever kept me interested, the characters all began to grown on me, the more I read, and made it so I didn't quite want the story to end.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Amanda's End of the Year Update

At some point, I lost track of which months I checked in, so I decided to just wait until the end of the year to give a final tally. I doubt there's anything left on my list that I'll be reading in the next 19 days, so I'll just give my stats now.

My full FitG list is here.

So far, I've read 32 of my 100 books, and started to read but abandoned 4. They are as follows (with links to my reviews):

Alexie – The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian
Asher – Thirteen Reasons Why
Austen – Mansfield Park
Bechdel – Fun Home
Black – Tithe
Bradbury – Fahrenheit 451
Burnett – The Secret Garden
Caletti – Wild Roses
Cather – Death Comes for the Archbishop
Chesterton – The Man Who Was Thursday
Collins – Woman in White
Forster – A Passage to India
Gaiman – The Graveyard Book
Gaiman – Stardust
Greenberg – I Never Promised You a Rose Garden
Hanff – 84, Charing Cross Road
Johnson – Suite Scarlett
Maugham – Liza of Lambeth
McEwan – Atonement
Nabokov – Ada, or Ardor
Paton – Cry, the Beloved Country
Pratchett – The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents
Snyder – The Witches of Worm
Solzhenitsyn – One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Steinbeck – East of Eden
Tammet – Born on a Blue Day
Turgenev – Fathers and Sons
Westerfeld – The Last Days
Westerfeld – PEEPS
Westerfeld – So Yesterday
Woolf – A Room of One’s Own
Zusak – The Book Thief

Bronte, C. – Villette
Doctorow – Little Brother
Martel – Life of Pi
Shelley – The Last Man

My stats for the full FitG list look like this:

-Classics/Modern: about 50-50%
-YA: about 25%
-Fiction/Nonfiction: 94/6%
-By women/men: about 33/67%
-Translations and World Lit: aprox 25%

Stats for what I've read (including the 4 abandoned books):

-Classics/Modern: 50-50%
-YA: about 42%
-Fiction/Nonfiction: 86/14%
-By women/men: 36/64%
-Translations and World Lit: 11%

What this says to me is that I've been reading a lot of YA, more nonfiction than I expected, and less translations and world lit.

Also of this list, I liked 14 books, disliked 12 (including the 4 I abandoned), and was pretty neutral about 10. Not bad for a gaps list, I don't think!

I'm looking forward to knocking out another chunk of these in 2010!

Friday, December 11, 2009

No Humbug

A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens (1843)

I’m guessing you all know the story and have probably seen it in various adaptations but might not have read it yet. I hadn’t either; good thing we have this list.

Every time I read Dickens, I regret that I don’t have more time to read him more, and I feel bad whenever my attention drifts because, as far as I can tell, all of his passages are rewarding if you only pay attention.

The guy just seems to love to churn our words, but more than merely churn, he makes them bubble and froth. This is from the last part of A Christmas Carol:

He was checked in his transports by the churches ringing out the lustiest peals he had ever heard. Clash, clang, hammer, ding, dong, bell. Bell, dong, ding, hammer, clang, clash! Oh, glorious, glorious!

Running to the window, he opened it, and put out his head. No fog, no mist; clear, bright, jovial, stirring, cold; cold, piping for the blood to dance to; Golden sunlight; Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells. Oh, glorious. Glorious!

Recently, my kids and I saw the new animated film version of this story. Though I think that Scrooge was miscast and that the Ghosts ought to have been played/voiced by different people, I was impressed by how creepy the movie was and how much it honored the ghost story as a scary visitation from the beyond and not just as a means for time travel. Thinking about the Present (as a gift as well as a point in time) in its relation to the other times is, after all, the point:

Oh cold, cold, rigid, dreadful Death, set up thine altar here, and dress it with such terrors as thou hast at thy command: for this is thy dominion! But of the loved, revered, and honoured head, thou canst not turn one hair to thy dread purposes, or make one feature odious. It is not that the hand is heavy and will fall down when released; it is not that the heart and pulse are still; but that the hand WAS open, generous, and true; the heart brave, warm, and tender; and the pulse a man’s. Strike, Shadow, strike! And see his good deeds springing from the wound, to sow the world with life immortal!

Bite Me! by Melissa Francis

AJ Ashe isn't your typical seventeen-year-old vampire—as if there is such a thing! She's stuck in the middle of a huge fight between her two BFFs. Her ex-boyfriend—whom she's still totally in love with, by the way—is now her stepbrother. A former classmate—who, um, she may or may not have turned into a vampire—is stalking her. And now, apparently, the fate of humankind lies in her little undead hands. What ever happened to the good old days, when all a vampire girl had to worry about was the occasional zit and hiding her taste for blood?

Melissa Francis

My thoughts:

I've never been one for YA, so I figured I'd use this list to dabble in it some. If you can't tell, I'm shamefully avoiding all those classics on my list. I particularly have never been one for a book such as Bite Me! by Melissa Francis. One of the main conflicts in the story is that the main character's mother ends up married to the boyfriend's father. Ew! It's just so wrong. They are forced to break up because they are now step brother and sister.

Other than the step brother and sister conflict, it was an okay read. Melissa Francis is funny and that carried the book for me. Even so, it took me a while to finish it and I won't be rereading, but passing it on to my teen step daughter.

Also you should check out the author's website. It's an awesome one.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Linda P Review-The Rest Falls Away by Colleen Gleason


In every generation, a Gardella is called to accept the family legacy of vampire slaying, and this time, Victoria Gardella Grantworth is chosen, on the eve of her debut, to carry the stake. But as she moves between the crush of ballrooms and dangerous, moonlit streets, Victoria's heart is torn between London's most eligible bachelor, the Marquess of Rockley, and her enigmatic ally, Sebastian Vioget. And when she comes face to face with the most powerful vampire in history, Victoria must ultimately make the choice between duty and love. 

Victoria is like a Victorian Buffy! She is strong and funny.  Victoria is supposed to be lady like but her destiny is to slay vampires. She struggles between her duty as a slayer and society which expects her to be a debutant. I really enjoyed sparring between Victoria and Max. I look forward to learning more about the two of them in future books. 
The writing was fun and fast paced. The characters were engaging and fairly well thought out (Victoria's mom's friends were pretty flat but who really cared about them). And toward the end it got sexy! Highly recommended.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Wilde and Crazy Guy

Oscar Wilde
The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898)
De Profundis (1897)

If I were overly harsh, I'd say that the true crime Oscar Wilde was guilty of wasn't "somdomizing" (as his accuser, the Marquess of Queensberry wrote) a young man (the Marquess' son, Lord Alfred Douglas), but that he couldn't self-edit in gaol ("jail" to us - and Reading is pronounced "redding," but you knew that).
In other words, these two works are a bit unfocused and meandering. It appears that Wilde meant to edit De Profundis for publication, but the ballad is as it stands, a bit odd in its relation of form to content. The ballad is a ballad without real plot - which is, I guess, what prison life was for Wilde. The plot was an internal one of self-forgiveness and learning the redemptive power of tears.
De Profundis puts it better, but it takes a long time to get to the wonderful passages about Sorrow:

Behind Joy and Laughter there may be a temperament, coarse, hard and callous. But behind Sorrow there is always Sorrow.

Pleasure for the beautiful body, but Pain for the beautiful Soul.

and the analysis of Christ as artist:

He realised in the entire sphere of human relations that imaginative sympathy which in the sphere of Art is the sole secret of creation.

[...] Christ is the most supreme of Individualists. [...] one only realises one's soul by getting rid of all alien passions, all acquired culture, and all external possessions be they good or evil.

But all this is wrapped in long diatribes on the sins of the addressee of the eighty-plus-tightly-written-page letter, Lord Alfred Douglas. All I can say after having read about all of this kid's selfish and nasty behaviour is, Dang, he must have been really hot.

(To sum up: I'm glad I read them, but I only recommend the middle part of De Profundis. You're better off with the Happy Prince stories, the plays, or The Picture of Dorian Gray, which I will probably reread soon even though it's not on my list, making me fall even further behind.)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Becky's Progress: 28 completed

I'm thinking that 28 will be the number that I close out 2009 with. I can't really see me completing anymore before January 1! New to the list:

Trollope, Anthony. The Way We Live Now
Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse-Five.
Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men.
Gaskell, Elizabeth. Cranford.
Gaskell, Elizabeth. Mary Barton.
Pratchett, Terry. Nation.

Previous titles read since April:

Almond, David. Skellig.
Anderson, M.T. Feed.
Choldenko, Gennifer. Al Capone Does My Shirts
Dessen, Sarah. Someone Like You.
Eliot, George. Middlemarch.
Farmer, Nancy. The House of the Scorpion.
Flewelling, Lynn. The Bone Doll's Twin.
Heinlein, Robert A. The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.
Heyer, Georgette. The Convenient Marriage.
Heyer, Georgette.The Corinthian.
Heyer, Georgette. Frederica.
Heyer, Georgette. The Grand Sophy*
Heyer, Georgette. The Talisman Ring.
Lawrence, D.H. Lady Chatterley's Lover.*
Lester, Julius. To Be A Slave.
Orczy, Baroness. The Scarlet Pimpernel
Pearce, Philippa. Tom's Midnight Garden.
Plum-Ucci, Carol. The Body of Christopher Creed.
Scalzi, John. Old Man's War.
Trollope, Anthony. Barchester Towers.
Trollope, Anthony. The Warden.
Von Ziegesar, Cecily. Gossip Girl (Book one)

Friday, December 4, 2009


It's been a little while since I've been on here, so here is a brief catchup!

Lady Chatterley's Lover - DH Lawrence

I don't know what I was expecting when I picked this one up. I knew about the banning and the controversy obviously, and now that I've read it I can understand why. Definitely ahead of its time. For the most part, I didn't find ANY of the characters that likeable, and parts of the story dragged a bit, but I'm glad I read it.

Breakfast at Tiffany's - Truman Capote

I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH! Holly Golightly is definitely one of my favourite fictional characters of all time, and Truman Capote is now one of my favourite authors.

Lolita - Vladamir Nabokov

This one was a surprise. I thought I was going to hate this book with a passion, but the more I read it the more I liked it. Everyone in the book is despicable in one way or another, and in the end I didn't see Humbert Humbert as the outrageous creep I thought I would.

A Fraction of the Whole - Steve Toltz

Man this was heavy. It was funny, but there was a whole lot of pontificating going on, which was a bit of a struggle. I enjoyed it a lot.


Jeeves and the Tie That Binds

(Much Obliged, Jeeves in the U.K.)

P.G. Wodehouse (1971)

Okay, so maybe Pelham Grenville wasn’t on top of his game anymore at ninety years of age (P.G. lived from 1881 to 1975). But Jeeves is f. no matter what the circs.

If you haven’t read a Wodehouse yet I recommend you begin with Right Ho, Jeeves (1934), though I’m sure whoever does the recommending will recommend the first Wodehouse he or she read. His humor is of a somewhat formulaic type – but the formulae are original to him and executed exquisitely. You won’t regret picking one up.

(For those of you who have read Wodehouse, here are some characters to bring smiles to your faces: Aunt Dahlia, Anatole, Stinker Pinker, Madeline Bassett, Market Snodsbury, the Junior Ganymede Society. Old friends all, no?)

Not posted in a while

I shall make up for it soon. I got sidetracked in my reading, the highlight of which was The Interrogative Mood: A Novel? by Padgett Powell. Worth the money and the while.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Linda P Review-From Hell by Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell Review:The mad, shaggy genius of the comics world dips deeply into the well of history and pulls up a cup filled with blood in From Hell. Alan Moore did a couple of Ph.D.'s worth of research into the Whitechapel murders for this copiously annotated collection of the independently published series. The web of facts, opinion, hearsay, and imaginative invention draws the reader in from the first page. Eddie Campbell's scratchy ink drawings evoke a dark and dirty Victorian London and help to humanize characters that have been caricatured into obscurity for decades. Moore, having decided that the evidence best fits the theory of a Masonic conspiracy to cover up a scandal involving Victoria's grandson, goes to work telling the story with relish from the point of view of the victims, the chief inspector, and the killer--the Queen's physician. His characterization is just as vibrant as Campbell's; even the minor characters feel fully real. Looking more deeply than most, the author finds in the "great work" of the Ripper a ritual magic working intended to give birth to the 20th century in all its horrid glory. Maps, characters, and settings are all as accurate as possible, and while the reader might not ultimately agree with Moore and Campbell's thesis, From Hell is still a great work of literature. --Rob Lightner

 If From Hell was the first Alan Moore book I ever read, I don't think I would ever read another one of his books. He did a lot of research about London and its society during the time of Jack the Ripper. I definitely got the flavor of London in the Victorian era. But it's long and slow with little pay off. If you are looking to learn about Jack the Ripper you will but not so much about the actual murders (they are more of a side story). You'll learn a lot about London and the Freemasons. 

It's great literature. It's dense and confusing at times. At the end of the edition I read there were more maps, pictures and additional reading.  It's not easy reading. The drawings are scratchy and tough to interpret at times. It takes time to digest what's going on. 

Since I've read The Watchmen before I read From Hell, I can understand that Moore can be wordy. His books are a commentary on society. They are stories within stories. There is more than just what you think the story is about. 

I would recommend From Hell if you are a fan of Alan Moore, love learning more about Victorian London, and have a lot of patience. My husband tried to read it and gave up.