Friday, January 29, 2010

Anna Karenina

Although I enjoyed the first third of this book, I wound up very disappointed. Considering his opening line:
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
maybe Tolstoy should have titled the book "Unhappy Families", then he wouldn't have set me up to expect Anna to have something to do with the novel. Instead, she seemed to appear whenever Tolstoy realized he'd forgotten about her.

Tolstoy spent more time developing the character Konstantin Levin, who comes across as a Mary Sue type character, used to discourse on Tolstoy's personal views about politics and religion. At one point in the story, Vronsky serves the same purpose for a discussion on art.

The book itself contains very little conflict. Every fight is resolved without the reader witnessing how it came about, even if the scene played out in the moment. In the middle of a tense scene, he'd skew sideways and philosophize about religion or socialism, neither of which advanced the story.

And I'm still trying to figure out how someone smiles ironically because his characters did it almost every time they spoke to someone. Good thing he told me, because I missed all the irony.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

As I Like It

William Shakespeare

As You Like It (1599)

It turns out, not so much.
I guess I'm just not much of a fan of the fantasy world of Arden, and the plot device of romantic partners masquerading as someone else and testing or proving a love. Or, in this case, the Yentl move of cross-dressing and wooing nevertheless.
I also remember not liking A Midsummer Night's Dream that much. But, hey, I still read 'em.
I'd love to get behind some of the stuff and it's probably fun to perform. (The Kenneth Branagh movie, though. Hm.)
Anyway, on a positive note, I'll leave with this, by Celia:

O wonderful, wonderful, and most wonderful wonderful! And yet again wonderful, and after that, out of all whooping!

(Dang, that man could write!)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Rubicon

For the past two weeks I've been reading this book nightly. The Rubicon is a hard book to categorise - although it is historical non fiction (has footnotes and all), Tom Holland tells the History of the Roman Republic in a compelling storytelling manner. The Rubicon (the first of Tom Hollands Historical books) can be summed up as 'Truth is stranger than fiction' or should i say 'Truth is more entertaining than fiction'.

In the first year of my undergrad degree, i did a year of 'Ancient civilisations' which focused on Rome and Greece. In all the books I've read on the subject of Rome, I think The Rubicon does an excellent job of telling the story of Rome - like a panoramic picture of its beginnings to the end - without too much (or overwhelming) detail to bog down the reader. This, i think, is the key to the success of this book - you don't have to be a scholar to comprehend and read this, and it isn't too clustered with details or differing academic opinions to leave you confused. Tom holland makes assumptions based on facts (lets you know he has) and gets back to the juicy details of the story.

Definitely this book though isn't a hero worship of Caesar or Augustus but gives a warts and all view of the political horizon of Rome, and of course (as he says in his preface) focuses beyond the typical 'main players' and shows the reasoning behind it all. My only fault is that there isn't a huge focus on the most epic moments (which almost feel anti-climatic) like Caesars murder or Antony and Cleopatra's suicides. He mentions them and moves on. However it should be noted that Tom Holland makes the point in the preface that this is a book about 'Rome and its people' and i think deliberately underplays the 'most known' parts so as not to swamp the message.

So to sum up, buy this book and read it! Even if history is not your cuppa, this is a exciting read! Can't wait to pick up his other two: Persian Fire and Millenium.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Linda P Review *The Triumph Of Deborah *Eva Etzioni-Halevy


The richly imagined tale of Deborah, the courageous Biblical warrior who saved her people from certain destruction

In ancient Israel, war is looming. Deborah, a highly respected leader, has coerced the warrior Barak into launching a strike against the neighboring Canaanites. Against all odds he succeeds, returning triumphantly with Asherah and Nogah, daughters of the Canaanite King, as his prisoners. But military victory is only the beginning of the turmoil, as a complex love triangle develops between Barak and the two princesses.

Deborah, recently cast off by her husband, develops a surprising affinity for Barak. Yet she struggles to rebuild her existence on her own terms, while also groping her way toward the greatest triumph of her life.

Filled with brilliantly vivid historical detail, The Triumph of Deborah is the absorbing and riveting tale of one of the most beloved figures in the Old Testament, and a tribute to feminine strength and independence.

I mostly choose to read this book in the hopes that it would be as good as The Red Tent. Sadly it was not but it as still very enjoyable.
I knew nothing about Deborah before reading this book. But after reading the book and this short article on Wikipedia. I feel know a little more about her story. But the book does not focus only on Deborah. We also learn about Barak and the women in his life. It kind of felt like a biblical Harlequin romance novel. He loves her, she loves someone else, someone else loves him. It was difficult to keep people partners straight sometimes. But the story was engaging. Recommend for those who enjoy biblical fiction and romance.

Matthew, Book Review, *Paul Auster, *Collected Prose, *Lord Berners, *First Childhood, *A Distant Prospect

My health has kept me absent from this blog as of late, and I've got another surgery coming up so I'll be returning to absentia in the near future, but in the meantime I'm going to take care of all the reviews that've been waiting patiently for me to get around to writing them.

Collected Prose (2003) by Paul Auster is just that, a collection of the author's various nonfiction works. Two of the these, The Invention of Solitude and Hand to Mouth, have been published previously as individual books and are still widely available, but the rest of the collection is comprised of shorter works culled from a variety of sources that are harder to find. As in most collections, the works included are of varying quality and the shorter works tend towards essays on French writers and loosely organized lists of stray thoughts and anecdotes, but on the whole I found the collection reasonably interesting and enjoyable.

The Invention of Solitude (1982) focuses on the author's father, then recently deceased. Through a mixture of autobiography, biography, and philosophical rumination, Auster explores how his father's family and past shaped him into the person he became, and how his father's influence in turn shaped the person Auster himself became. The narrative falls apart towards the end as Auster's peregrinations through various abstract lines of thought begin to push everything else to the periphery, but that seems to happen more out of a reluctance to stop writing the work than any loss of focus on his part. As he explains earlier in the text,
In spite of the excuses I have made for myself, I understand what is happening. The closer I come to the end of what I am able to say, the more reluctant I am to say anything. I want to postpone the moment of ending, and in this way delude myself into thinking that I have only just begun, that the better part of my story still lies ahead. No matter how useless these words might seem to be, they have nevertheless stood between me and a silence that continues to terrify me. When I step into this silence, it will mean that my father has vanished forever.

Hand to Mouth (1997) is an account of Auster's early years as a writer and the struggles he endured as a result of his decision to make his living solely through writing. Granted, there are a great many times I found myself wanting to shout GET A DAY JOB YOU DOOF at the page, but aside from that urge I found the work to be an engaging, sobering look at the economic realities of pursuing a career as a professional writer. There's also a brief, hilarious interlude in which he tries unsuccessfully to sell a baseball card game of his own invention to various game manufacturers. (When Hand to Mouth was printed in hardback, several pages in the middle of the book were dedicated to color reproductions of every card for the game, which I suppose was his way of finally getting the damn thing published.)

When I first started reading Lord Berners' autobiography First Childhood (1934) and its sequel A Distant Prospect (1945), I wasn't sure I was going to like it terribly much. Most of the first chapter or so is comprised of descriptions of the opulence of his family and ancestral home, but after he gets done telling the reader just how rich his family is (and then telling the reader again, and again, and...) Berners settles into a fun, light narrative. First Childhood follows his life from birth up through his first four years at a boarding school, and A Distant Prospect picks up from there and follows Berners through his time as a student at Eton where he first began to indulge his interest in the arts and music in particular. I know that probably sounds like thin gruel for one book, let alone two, but the narrative is helped along by Berners' knack for understated humor:
At Eton the method of teaching the Classics was very much the same as it had been at Elmley. That is to say, no effort was spared to make them as uninteresting and unprofitable as possible. It is to be presumed that the school authorities, in making the Classics the principal item of their curriculum, had some edifying purpose in view, but if they thought that the study of pagan modes of thought was going to be useful to young Christians, it looked as if the masters thought otherwise and were bent on diverting the attention of their pupils to questions of syntax. In their hands Homer became tedious, Horace commonplace and Greek Tragedy a grammatical Inferno; and they contrived that the works were studied in so piecemeal a fashion that it was quite impossible to understand what they were about.

And I bet you thought your high school teachers were bad.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Book Review - Water Music + Status Update

Hi Everyone,

I've been away, sucked into that drug of a book Infinite Jest, (which I have still not finished, and now must go back and start over). I've put it aside now awhile in order to get back on my FITG list.

I just finished Water Music by T.C. Boyle and I liked it quite a lot. Recommendations go out to the rest of you who like fast moving stories, adventure in Africa, and totally deranged plot twists. It was a great read and assuming I don't get hit by the proverbial bus anytime in the near future, won't be my last encounter with Mr. Boyle. Any author who makes a bushpig say: “snark snark” has a firm place on my Authors-To-Read-More-Of list.

My full review is at my blog.

I've also finished: The House of Spirits (Isabel Allende), On Beauty (Zadie Smith), The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao (Junot Diaz), The Spanish Bow (Andromeda Ramano-Lax), and most recently The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon (Tom Spanbauer - swoon) but not written reviews yet, so they don't quite count according to my (personal) rules.

Emily, I see you have been busy! The site is looking greater than ever! Thanks for all your work.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

Charles Dickens

In the Book Club Of My Mind, I often play the game of whom I might cast in which role if I were to make a movie of the book I’m reading.* In this case I’m not even sure who’d get top billing, so I checked out imdb and noticed that Sydney Carton seems to get it almost unanimously, save for the odd exception of Dr. Manette.

Obviously a movie has to emphasize individuals and personal relationships.

The novel, however, seems to emphasize the force of History (to be grand) or the Mob (to be bitter) and every character is in relationship to it, as are the two titular cities.

For those of you who have read it, I’ll just remind you of the names. Dr. Manette, Mr. Lorry, Lucie Manette, Sydney Carton, Charles Darnay (Evremonde), Mr. Cruncher, the Defarges, Miss Pross, Stryver, and other more minor characters. Right? None of them carry the action, per se.

Great book, great final scene. Of course much depends on strange coincidences, but who isn’t willing to accept some of these in exchange for the fine writing.

(That said, Dickens isn’t the best subway reading, so I’ve had to spend quite a few end-of-chapter moments standing on the platform after getting off the train just to make sure I got the gist of the chapter I was on.)

My favorite melancholic line is by Mr. Jarvis Lorry, talking about his youth, “when […] my faults were not confirmed in me.”

The quote in context:

Sydney turned his eyes again upon the fire, and, after a silence of a few moments, said:

“I should like to ask you: -- Does your childhood seem far off? Do the days when you sat at your mother’s knee, seem days of very long ago?”

Responding to his softened manner, Mr. Lorry [who admitted to being 78 years old] answered:

“Twenty years back, yes; at this time of my life, no. For, as I draw closer and closer to the end, I travel in the circle, nearer and nearer to the beginning. It seems to be one of the kind smoothings and preparings of the way. My heart is touched now, by many remembrances that had long fallen asleep, of my pretty young mother (and I so old!), and by many associations of the days when what we call the World was not so real with me, and my faults were not confirmed in me.”

* For what it’s worth, my usually jokey suggestion of Keanu Reeves in the main role is not too bad here, since the character needs some otherworldly distance. And that actress who plays Lizzy’s older sister in the newer Pride and Prejudice (I looked it up: Rosamund Pike) would be a good Lucie. Dr. Manette? Peter O’Toole. And my dear Mr. Lorry, not sure yet. Oh: Ed Asner.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sweeney Todd and the String of Pearls

Before posting my review of the most recent book I've read for the Fill in the Gaps list, I thought I'd include some information that might be of interest to readers/reviewers here. I am the book reviews editor at Sloth Jockey, an online literary journal. If you would like some of the reviews of the books on your Fill in the Gaps list to appear there, you can contact me, and I'd be happy to include them at the site. Here's the call for submissions I usually post at other sites:

Sloth Jockey, an online literary magazine, is open for submissions. Please view the guidelines page and send your poems, stories, flash fiction, essays, art, and music in for consideration. Sloth Jockey also reviews books regularly. If you'd like your book or magazine to be reviewed at the site, or if you would like to submit a review of a book or magazine, please see the guidelines page. Sloth Jockey is not yet a paying market, but the editors are working toward that.

Right. So, on to my review of Sweeney Todd and the String of Pearls.

The 2007 play written by Yuri Rasovsky is based on the old story in the Sweeney Todd penny dreadful. It's wicked and funny, and more than a little twisted. This is the older version of the story, slightly different from the one filmed in 2007 starring Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, based on the 1979 Stephen Sondheim musical). In this version, Todd is just wicked and greedy, rather than a man tormented after his wife and child were ruthlessly torn from him by a powerful, evil man. Unlike the villain in the musical and movie, this Sweeney Todd isn't driven by a need for revenge, but by a desire to line his pockets with the wealth carried on the person of one customer after another.

The dialogue in the text is really funny, and the way the story moves along is full of twists and turns that make it a lot of fun to read. I can imagine watching this on the stage — it would be a real riot!

If you like the stage at all, and like reading a good play, Sweeney Todd and the String of Pearls is one worth picking up.

I also finished another title on my list recently, House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones, and posted my response at one of my other blogs.

Same goes for Brighton Rock.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Book Review By Laura: The Ghost Sea by Ferenc Máté

I bet most of you are like, huh? Well, I found this book for $6 at Nepenthe and loved the idea about reading of adventure on the high seas, since I live right by one. Billed as " The Heart of Darkness. Will take you into a lost world." And, it did. But, I didn't love it. What I did love was the distinctive voice and point of view of the narrative. Very nautical, full of rich Kwakiutl history steeped in their language and customs with a little Italian thrown in. You'd think I'd be thrilled. Where did the book not meet my expectations? Plot. And some flat characters. Needed a little more passion in the characters in my opinion and a little less passion for the particular details of sailing a ketch. I enjoyed this book because it pulled me into a world I didn’t know much about and also had a few twists and turns I didn’t expect. It’s the first book I read where the characters all die and the reader continues to follow them in their afterlife in the end [and the end doesn’t go on forever]. The ending was very provocative. If you'd like to read more about Ghost Sea, you can check out my review here.

Favorite Quote of the book: OK, I had a hard time picking just one. The book had some very poetic moments:

“The strait blew a gale right in our teeth, blew the words we uttered right back down our throats.”

“Are there fences on the sea?” he asked. “Or borders among the stars?”

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Posting Guidelines

Some simple guidelines for this blog (so things can be kept orderly etc.)

#1 In your first post on this blog (which will more than likely be your 100 list) - Please in the label/tag section of your post - put your NAME only. This sets up a topic/catelogue for all your future posts. You don't have to put 100 list etc. just your name.

For eg. click on image

#2 After you post your 100booklist, you will probably post updates/progress reports and book reviews etc. If you have book review, about the book that you're discussing here, thats on another site, you can link it if you like. Its nice though to discuss your thoughts on the blog here, and then link to your review.

#3 Once you've started posting, please always stick your NAME in the label box, the *author, *nameofthebooks, and then if you like year of publication, and thoughts on the book.

For eg. click the image

#4 Remember to have fun :)

Challenge Rules

So, i thought clarification about the rules of this challenge would be useful. Remember these are just guidelines so you can play around with the challenge yourself.

So here are some guidelines:

#1 Pick approx. 100 books which you have always meant to read but haven't gotten round to yet, books you've bought that are still sitting on the book case or those 'good intentions' educate thyself books which your old teacher recommended to you ages ago. Make up the list. Then email me at for an invite. Then post your list (please check out posting guidelines before you do)

#2Give yourself 25% lee way for your list, in other words if you complete 75% or more of your list, then you've definitely succeeded in this challenge!

#3 Allow five years to complete the challenge. Starting from when you post your list up here on the blog

#4 These rules are 'guidelines' if you want to read 20 books in 2 years or 2 books in 20years - please feel free. This challenge is about self-improvement, the only prize at the end of the challenge is knowing you've completed it (and made some nice friends during its progress). So feel free to mix it up if you want.

Hope this has helped, if you have any more questions/queries, email me

Toodles Emily

House Keeping Update

Ok i've the 100 list done (please check to see if your name/list is there). I may have missed one/two so let me know via comment or email - Thanks :)

Currently snowed in at home so i'm going to be working on this blog today, so if you have any bookreview blogs you want to add (you have to be FITG member) or link to your blog (members blogroll) then leave a comment here or email me.

I'm going to be posting a 'rules' post and a 'how to post' post too, i've gotten a few emails about what the challenge is all about etc. so i thought with this new template it would be handier to have links on the nav bar.

Toodles for now


Friday, January 8, 2010

Book Review by Aimee: Of Bees and Mist, by Erick Setiawan

You know those books where after you've finished them, you just sit, a little stunned and a lot awed? Yep, this is one of those books.

Of Bees and Mist, despite its front cover commentary and its back cover blurb, is less a story of fairytale and more a psychological exploration of family curses. Meridia is trapped in a household where magic dominates - the mist arrives to carry her father from her mother every day, though Meridia knows not where or to who it leads. When finally a Prince Charming comes along for Meridia, she falls deeply. Her parents, offering little passion for the occasion, but a sizable dowry, release Meridia into the strong and capable arms of her future husband's family. But Meridia soon despairs when she learns her marriage is not an escape from the mist that haunted her childhood, but rather a trading of that mist, for a swarm of unforgiving, ever-droning bees.

This is super-duper fiction - generous with the magical realism, slightly more generous with home truths. From the beginning you'll be happy with the quality of the writing, but it won't be until pages 100-150 that you'll settle further into the corner of your couch, and allow the fierce droning of the bees and the sweetly-perfumed tendrils of the oncoming mist to completely transport you. The setting is exotic but you can't pin it down to a particular culture - the people and places could be from anywhere and any time. But the careful mix of the old and the new keep the place from becoming neither too boringly familiar nor too aesthetically alien.

Similarly, this book could have easily drowned itself in overly lyrical language, but the sentences are, for the most part, surprisingly self-assured. Any minor irritations I had in word choice or length of scene were soothed by the superior quality of the overall work.

So, what about the characters? Brilliantly emotive. In the cultural family hierarchy, it is the men who are the expected head of the household, but there is no doubt that the women of this story are the warrior goddesses exhibiting true strength, determined to win against their opponents, manipulative and selfless in equal measure, the possessors of the greatest love that turns to the darkest hate.

Give me the woman who hasn't balked at a mother-in-law's particular 'suggestion' on how to clean her house, treat her man, raise her children- even if only in the most secret corners of her honest mind - and I won't give her this book to read. She doesn't deserve it - her life is already perfect! But if you've ever been interested how family members can undermine and overpower and twist and turn other family members for their own's a tasty pot of strong personalities indeed.

And as for the central personality - despite her flaws and miscalculations, a reader's empathy for Meridia never wavers - she is a heroine carrying herself with a clever mind and an elegant dignity all through her big mistakes and her little victories. I'm so amazed at the attention the author gives to the inner workings of the female mind in this story. Meridia is a fascinating character in and of herself, but then again, so is her chillingly-distant mother Ravenna, as is the grotesquely cruel Eva, Meridia's mother-in-law intent on bringing Meridia to her knees. Eva's weapon of choice? Words. In the form of bees. Boasting in the corridors, manipulative whispers and untrue gossip hung on the end of well-intentioned ears, must-be-kept secrets sent buzzing through the corridors and spilling out onto the streets. Wowsers.

I could go on for a fair bit more about this book, exploring its colourful themes and its epic quality... but I think perhaps it might be nicer for the reader to go fossicking and discover Of Bees and Mist's strange beauty all for themselves. Maybe then someone can answer the burning question: i.e. why hasn't this won a literary award yet?!

Though not for absolutely everyone, lovers of magic realism in the tradition of Gabriel Garcia Marquez will appreciate the book's 'exotic' quality, and those who enjoy the 'real-life' drama of spitting words and malicious acts of women protecting their territory will also tear through this family saga. Either way it's a safe bet you've never read a novel quite like this before...

Such a spunky yet elegant, commanding read - I am most suitably impressed, and kind of crushing on your writing right now, Mr Setiawan. Hope you don't mind.

Received: For Review.

Other Opinions:

Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
the celebrity cafe
The Washington Post Book Review
I'm Booking It
Literary Lotus
Book Chatter
Words on Words by Maggie Stiefvater
Huntington News

[Please let me know if you have reviewed this book so I can add it to the list above!]

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Linda Frear's 100 Books List

Thanks to Emily for the invite to post here. It is such a cool idea to have a place where we can peek at other's lists, track progress and comment on the books we read. I'm much better with public accountability, too.

Here is my list of books. Criteria for choosing? Mostly books I hear about and think omg, I should have (can’t believe I’ve never) read that. Bonus–some of these books are already on my current TBR pile. I've crossed off books I completed after I started. I have until April 2014 as my end date. I figure that's lots of time, the zombie apocalypse should have occurred by then.

1. Crime & Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
2. War & Peace, Leo Tolstoy
3. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
4. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Michael Chabon
5. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce
6. A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
7. The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch
8. Fall On Your Knees, Ann-Marie MacDonald
9. The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss
10. Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
11. Catch 22, Joseph Heller
12. Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
13. Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck (I can’t believe I put this on my list)
14. Anna Kerenina, Leo Tolstoy
15. The Book of Negros, Lawrence Hill
16. The Memory Keepers Daughter, Kim Edwards
17. Little Brother, Cory Doctorow
18. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
19. A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemmingway
20. On the Road, Jack Jack Kerouac
21. The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
22. Ulysses, James Joyce
23. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote
24. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
25. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
26. The Odyssey, Homer
27. The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
28. Beloved, Toni Morrison
29. Don Quixote, Miguel D Cervantes
30. Dr. Zhivago, Boris Pasternak
31. Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie
32. The Wonder Spot, Melissa Bank
33. The Red Tent, Anita Diamant
34. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, David Wroblewski
35. The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield
36. Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold
37. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith
38. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Phillip K. Dick
39. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley (may have read it when young, but can’t remember)
40. Let the Right One In, John A Lindqvist
41. Suite Francaise, Irene Nemirovsky
42. In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
43. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
44. The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
45. Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D.H. Lawrence
46. Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
47. Women in Love, D.H. Lawrence
48. Far From the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Victor Hugo
50. Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
51. The English Patient, Michael Michael Ondaatje
52. The Winter of Our Discontent, Susa Shillinglaw
53. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
54. A Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Jules Verne
55. Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh
56. Haunting of Hill House, Laura Miller
57. For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemmingway
58. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Jamie Ford
59. Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes
60. The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri
61. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
62. The Stranger, Albert Camus
63. Atonement, Ian McEwan
64. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
65. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
66. The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides
67. Smilla’s Sense of Snow, Peter Høeg
68. Possession, A.S. Byatt
69. Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
70. Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel
71. The Black Dahlia, James Ellroy
72. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe
73. The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
74. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
75. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
76. The French Lieutenant’s Woman, John Fowles
77. 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke
78. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark
79. I, Robot, Isaac Asimov
80. Cry, the Beloved Country, Alan Paton
81. The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
82. The Thin Man, Dashiell Hammett
83. A Passage to India, E.M. Forster
84. The Invisible Man, H.G. Wells
85. The Island of Dr. Moreau, H.G. Wells
86. The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James
87. Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There, Lewis Carroll
88. The House of the Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne
89. Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray
90. The Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas
91. Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott
92. Unless, Carol Shields
93. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
94. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields
95. The Temple of My Familiar, Alice Walker
96. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving
97. The World According to Garp, John Irving
98. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
99. The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton
100. Night and Day, Virginia Woolf

Laura Elliott's List

When I grew up, I thought my dad was James Bond. He worked as a hydroelectric engineer in far away places with strange names. Places most people wouldn't travel, like jungles with headhunters. Which explains my fascination with travel and storytelling. However, for reasons much too long to go into here [speed reading classes, math and science ruling my high school life, etc] I didn't read as a child. I only discovered reading, especially reading aloud, when I had my own children. [Do check out The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease from your local library, changed my life once upon a time...] Long story short, I have many gaps to fill! In compiling my list, three things were very important too me. Although I wanted to focus on "the classics," as I have much catching up to do in my reading, it was also important to me to read from different time periods hoping to include current titles in the YA genre, the type of stories I write. I also wanted to balance my list in terms of male and female authors. This was hard to do. There are so many more male authors. My list includes 40 female and 60 male authors. And lastly, I wanted to read as much magical realism as I could because I found out this year that I write these types of stories and hadn't "realized" this before. So, here's my list. I'm so excited. It took me so long to compile my list that I actually finished a book, The Ghost Sea, while writing it!

Adams, Douglas, A Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy [1979]
Alcott, Louisa May, Little Women, [1868]
Allende, Isabelle, The House Of The Spirits [1982]
Angel Asturias, Miguel, El Señor Presidente [1946]

Baum, L. Frank, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz [1900]
Barrie, J. M., Peter Pan [1904]
Bloom, Judy, Then Again Maybe I Won’t [1971]
Bradley, Marion Zimmer, The Mists of Avalon [1982]
Brontë, Charlotte, Jane Eyre [1847]
Burgess, Anthony, A Clockwork Orange [1956]
Burnett, Frances Hodgson, The Secret Garden [1911]

Camus, Albert, The Stranger [1942]
Campbell, Joseph, The Hero With A Thousand Faces [1949]
Carpentier, Alejo, The Kingdom of the World [1949]
Carver, Raymond, Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? [1976]
Cather, Willa Sibert, My Anotonia [1918]
Checkov, Anton, Collected Stories [1882-1904]
Chandler, Raymond, The Big Sleep [1939]
Clifford, Mary Louis and Clifford, J. Candace, Women Who Kept The Lights: An Illustrated History of Female Lighthouse Keepers [1993]
Coelho, Paulo, The Alchemist, [1988]
Collins, Suzanne, The Hunger Games [2008]

Dahl, Roald, Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory [1964]
Dana, Richard Henry Jr., Two Years Before The Mast [1840]
Dicamillo, Kate, The Tale of Despereaux [2004]
De Cervantes, Miguel, Don Quixote [1605]
de Andrade, Mário, Macunaíma [1928]
Dickens, Charles, A Christmas Carol [1843]
Dickens, Charles, David Copperfield [1850]
Dumas, Alexandre, The Three Musketeers [1844]
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor, The Brothers Karamazov [1880]
Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes [1892]

Eliot, George, Middlemarch [1972]

Faulkner, William, As I Lay Dying [1930]
Fitzgerald, F. Scott, The Great Gatsby [1925]
Foster Wallace, David Infinite Jest [1996]
Frank, Anne, The Diary of Anne Frank [1947]
Freeman, Mary E. Wilkins, A Humble Romance and Other Stories [1887]

García Márquez, Gabriel, One Hundred Years Of Solitude [1967]

Haddawy, Husain [translator]; Mahdi Muhsin [editor], The Arabian Nights [9th Century]
Heller, Joseph, Catch-22 [1961]
Hemingway, Ernest, For Whom The Bell Tolls [1940]
Hinton, S.E. , The Outsiders [1977]
Huxley, Aldus, Brave New World [1932]

Irving, Washington, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories [1917]

Jackson, Shirley, The Haunting of Hill House [1959]

Kafka, Franz, The Metamorphosis [1915]
Kerouac, Jack, On The Road [1957]
Kipling, Rudyard, Just So Stories [1902]
Kingsolver, Barbara, Animal Dreams [1991]
Kostova, Elizabeth, The Historian [2005]
Kundera, Milan, The Unbearable Lightness of Being [1984]

Lawrence, D.H. , Lady Chatterley's Lover [1928]
Lee, Harper, To Kill A Mockingbird [1960]
Lessing, Doris, The Golden Notebook [1962]
Lia Block, Francesca, Weetzie Bat [2004]
Lisle, Janet Taylor, Afternoon of the Elves [1991]
Loos, Anita, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes [1925]

Máté, Ferenc, Ghost Sea [2006]
McCullers, Carson, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter [1940]
Meyer, Stephanie, Eclipse [2007]
Meyer, Stephanie, Breaking Dawn [2008]
Miller, Henry, Tropic of Cancer [1934]
Milton, John, Paradise Lost [1667]
Morrison, Toni, Beloved [1987]
Muir, John, Meditations of John Muir [1900]
Munro, Alice, Friend of My Youth [1990]

Nabokov, Vladimir, Lolita [1955]
Niffenegger, Audrey, The Time Traveler’s Wife [2003]

O’Conner, Flannery, A Good Man is Hard to Find [1955]

Paterson, Katherine, Bridge to Terabithia [2005]
Patchett, Ann, Bel Canto [2001]
Picoult, Jodi, Keeping Faith [1999]
Plath, Sylvia [Victoria Lucas], The Bell Jar [1963]
Poe, Edgar Allen, The Cask of Amontillado [1846]
Prose, Francine, Reading Like A Writer [2006]
Proulx, Annie E., The Shipping News [1993]

Quinlin, Michael P. [Editor], Classic Irish Stories [2005]

Rulfo, Juan, Pedro Paramo [1955]

Sagan, Francoise, A Certain Smile [1956]
Stalcup, Ann, On The Homefront: Growing Up in Wartime England [1998]
Shakespeare, William [retold by Bruce Coville] Hamlet [1600]
Silko, Leslie Marmon, The Almanac of the Dead [1992]
Sparks, Nicholas, The Last Song [2009]
Stein, Gertrude, Three Lives [1909]
Steinbeck, John, Grapes of Wrath [1939]
Steinbeck, John, Of Mice and Men [1937]
Stevenson, Robert Louis, Treasure Island [1883]
Stevenson, Robert Louis, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde [1886]
Stoker, Bram, Dracula [1897]

Tan, Amy, The Joy Luck Club [1989]
Tolstoy, Leo, War and Peace [1869]
Twain, Mark, Tom Sawyer [1876]
Twain, Mark, The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County [1867]

Updike, John, Rabbit, Run [1960]
Urquhart, Jane, Away [1993]
Uslar-Pietri, Arturo, Las Lanzas Coloradas [1931]

Wells, H.G., The War of the Worlds [1898]
Wilde, Oscar, The Importance of Being Earnest [1895]
Wroblewski, David, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle [2008]

Young, William Paul, The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity [2007]

I just can't wait to read these books. It's so exciting to have a plan to finally read the books I've always wanted to read. I've been enjoying the reviews here and look forward to reading your thoughts on the books on your lists. Well, time to go put a pot of water on and get to it...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

On The Road - Jack Kerouac

Everybody's probably familiar with this story by now? Criss-crossing America looking for the great American Dream?

I was all set to love it. It sounded exactly my cup of tea. I REALLY didn't expect to dislike it as much as I did. It was such a struggle to finish, I just got so bored with it. I didn't find any of the characters particularly likeable, and all in all I'm going to consider it a victory that I finished it.

(Apologies if this is your favourite book. If it is, I'd love to hear why, because I'm missing something.)


Hi everyone,

Just a small update, in the next few days i'm going to be playing around with the template on the blog (just in case you click on here and get a shock) - AND i'll finally start seriously updating the 100list etc. and other things that i've been neglecting lately (sorry!).

Remember if you want to be included on the members blogroll (on the sidebar) - email me at with your name and blog link

On other news . . .

We have over 70 authors now (71 to be exact)! YaY!

And Corra (a recent member) has given the blog an award - the One Lovely Blog Award! So thanks Corra for that :)

According to the rules, we've to link back to Corra (done!), then pass the award on to ten blogs we've recently discovered, letting them each know we chose them.

Well this is a community blog so i think that it might be nice if people wanted to leave a comment about a blog they've recently discovered and liked? and if they wanted - they could contact said blog etc.

Might be a nice way of getting to know some other bloggers too

Now back to our usual programming :)

The White Earth - Andrew McGahan

William is only eight years old when he sees the mushroom cloud of smoke on the horizon, and at first he doesn't understand what it means. Only in the rush of cars and people to his farmhouse in the Darling Downs does he realise that his father has been killed.

After the funeral, William and his unstable mother accept the charity of a great-uncle he never knew existed and go to live at Kuran House. William soon realises however, that his invitation to the station was not an act of charity: his uncle, after finally obtaining what he had worked for his whole life, needs someone to ensure that his legacy at Kuran House continues on. However, he is not going to just hand over the station to William. First he must prove himself.

The book is set against the backdrop of the Mabo ruling in 1992, when the Australian government recognised that the Aboriginal people had owned the land prior to white settlement, and still had a claim on it. William's Uncle John is a member of the Australian Independence League, essentially an organisation to protect the interests of white farmers, but in the book is taken over by white pride zealots. While William enjoys the camaraderie of the League, he soon begins to question its motives and its arguement.

I'd never heard of The White Earthuntil I started looking for books to put on my list, but I'm so glad I did. I was pretty little when the Mabo ruling was made, so it was interesting to be able to view it from this angle. There is also something very Dickensian about the story, with the hermit uncle living in a dilapidated old farmhouse and the general feel of the story.

I definitely recommend it, it's a fantastic read.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

I've been slacking in keeping tally on here, so this is me catching up, starting with The Remains of the Day

James Stevens, the aging butler of a once grand house, has a world view confined to the realm of his profession. When the opportunity arises to take a trip across 1950s England to visit a former work colleague Stevens reflects on the nature of his job, his former employer Lord Darlington, and the woman whom he is about to visit.

This book is one of the most understated books I've ever read, and its way one of the most melancholic. The story of his devotion to the job, while his father lay dying upstairs is one good example. Steven's quiet pride in his ability to continue his job while his father lay dying upstairs was just so very sad, as was the way in which he not only defended Lord Darlington but spoke of his 'honour' at being in a position of service to great world events.

In the end Stevens realises that his quest for dignity has cost him a life of love and fulfillment, which was the saddest moment of all. But, like a true butler, he drives back to the house to face his most pressing concern - how to react when his new American boss banters with him.

I loved this book. It's so quiet and elegant, and although you probably wouldn't think it there are some truly funny moments in there. I definitely recommend it.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Linda P Review-Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

The tale chronicles a Confederate army deserter's search for home and love in the last days of the Civil War.
Much has been made of the story's homage to The Odyssey, the origins of which are found in an oral tradition. One can't help but hear echoes of Homer when listening to Frazier's soft, deliberate voice give life to his lyrical writing and to his understated, yet convincing rendering of the overwhelming events of war. Both Frazier's prose and reading are leisurely, recalling a slow foot pace. His delivery is uniquely suited to Innman's arduous, adventure-filled walk toward home and to the possibility of a reunion with Ada, the woman he loves. The author's reading does equal justice to Ada, who is being transformed by her struggle for survival on her father's farm. There is precious little dialogue, and Frazier makes no effort at acting out the characters.

I choose to read Cold Mountain because I enjoyed the movie so much. Since I read the book after seeing the movie, I'm comparing the two. The movie follows the movie very closely. Some changes but follows the book pretty faithfully.
Frazier's prose is beautiful. He describes wonderful encounters (like when Ada says goodbye to Inman before the war) and sad events (Sara's encounter with the Federals) with the same loving tone. I got sucked into the world of Cold Mountain quickly and enjoyed my stay.


"The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

I so loved this book! I want to move to Guernsey! I have had this book on my TBR list for quite awhile. One of the ladies in my library book club was talking about it and highly recommended it. But every time I went to take it out, it was gone. Very poplar book at our library.
I was so hoping this book was about real people. But of course it wasn't, but I can dream about Juliet, Dawsey, Sidney, Isola and all the members of the Society. I started this book at midnight January 1 and read it off and on all day. I finished it this morning. I didn't want it to end, but of course it did. My review is at my book blog, Just Books.

My list has been changing and evolving over this past year. I have taken a few off and added a few. I hope that's OK.

Carry On, Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse

A nice, quick, satisfying one to knock off the list--all light fluffy slapstick humor, and also a coup for me since it's my first taste of Wodehouse and thereby a real Gaps filler! My report is here.

I very much enjoyed the read, and am glad I have been exposed to Jeeves and Wodehouse. I'm not sure I need to read any others, but who knows. I know there are some real Wodehouse adherents who find him addictive--any in these parts?