Saturday, March 24, 2012

Update + Review

La la la la la. I just realized that I have 13 months before my 5 years are up. And I've read 14 books (ok, 14.5, but that .5 is Atlas Shrugged, so that should count for like, 6 or something). So, we all know what I'll be doing in the next 13 months, right? BUT! When I was looking at my list to see what I had left to read, I saw a book that I had actually already read! So, Midnight on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie I was most excited because this was the first Kindle book that I checked out from the library, on the day that OverDrive became Kindle compatible. My full review is here, but here's the relevant bit: I like the twist on the contained environment, but you don't get a sense of the claustrophobia that must have been there-- train cars stuck in snow with murder? There should have been more tension, but that's not Christie's style. What I find most ingenious about Christie's work isn't how her detectives solve the crimes but rather in ingenuity of her criminals. Poirot just kinda sits back and thinks through details only he's noticed. But the real genius of Christie is how intricate the murder plots are.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Blogger tells me I haven't posted here since the start of bad! Back then I was hauling myself through Midnight's Children, which in the end I really enjoyed. I'm looking forward to reading more Salman Rushdie one of these days.

Between then and now I've crossed a couple of other books off my list. The Stone Diaries, by Carol Shields, I really enjoyed. It's the fictionalised autobiography of an ordinary Canadian woman, it's beautifully written. The Gathering, by Anne Enright I wasn't too wild about - it's the story of the ups and downs of an Irish family. I finished it feeling mildly irritated.

Then over Christmas I read Anna Karenina, which I probably would have enjoyed more if I hadn't read The Master and Margerita right before it. (Sidenote: that book is a new favourite. It's so wonderfully depraved!) Having said that though, l did like it. It's a great epic saga, and all of the characters are wonderfully flawed. Really, they all are. At one point or another I hated every single character in this book, but as collective group they're all okay :)

So that's where I'm at right now - 42 down, 58 to go! I'm thinking about possibly tackling Gone With the Wind next, although I might just resort to my tried and true method of a random number generator.

Also, I've decided to stop putting it off so I'm writing this now so you all can remind me - I'm going to read Ulysses this year EVEN IF IT KILLS ME WHICH IT PROBABLY WILL! I'm determined.

PS - I seem to be much better at updating my Goodreads account, so in case I disappear for another eight months, I might be here.

PPS - Moonrat, I just finished reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

13% down, 87% to go....

Maybe I shouldn't have titled my post that way - it's fairly demoralizing. Well, here are the 10 books I have read :) (in no particular order):

1) Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy - an interesting book that I would read again. The now-deceased author was best friends with author Ann Patchett. I'm a fan of Patchett's - when I read her book, Truth & Beauty, which was about her friendship w/Grealy, I had to read this book as well.

2) The Book Thief by Mark Zusak - the title alone had me. I liked it enough to recommend it to a friend who enjoys books set in Europe during WWII.

3) The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers - I'm currently in the middle of this one, so the jury is out, folks! I've read so many promising things about it that I'll be sad if I don't enjoy it.

4) City of Thieves by David Benioff - I loved this book. It's another WWII story. It's brutal, difficult to read at times and hilariously funny. I finished it and thought it's bound to become a classic.

5) The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean - ANOTHER WWII story. Sense a theme here? I enjoyed this book for its originality and because I learned much about the Hermitage Museum's art and history.

6) Hyper-chondriac by Brian Frazer - another book I'd like to read again. This was a hilarious memoir with a lot of practical information about medical treatment.

7) Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt - remember when everyone and their brother was reading this book? I was late to the party (I often resist trends), but I have to say I enjoyed this memoir enough to purchase his following 2 books in this trifecta of memoirs.

8) Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer - I used to work at a bookstore and all of the "kids" I worked with L.O.V.E.D this book. Their love bordered on obsession, actually. This reason, coupled with the fact that I am a fan of the author, Jon Krakauer (adored his book Into Thin Air), ensured that my expectations were enormous. I was a bit let-down. Chris McCandless' story IS compelling, interesting and sad...I just didn't love the book.

9) Empire Falls by Richard Russo - this book won the Pulitzer Prize in 2002. Again, I had ginormous expectations. The book was good. It just wasn't as good as I expected it to be.

10) A Disorder Peculiar to the Country by Ken Kalfus - the description on the back of this book made me snatch it up and purchase it immediately. I loved how original, yet dark, this story appeared to be. Well, it was original and dark. For me, however, it took a turn into the absurd and never returned.

11) Still Alice by Lisa Genova - this is a moving and heartbreaking novel about early onset Alzheimer's Disease. The author has a PhD in Neuroscience, so she knows her topic well.

12) Little Bee by Chris Cleave - it seems people either love this book or hate it. I fall into the "meh" category. I am second-guessing myself because I was sick when I read it. I've saved it for a possible 2nd read some day in the future. We'll see if that day every comes.

13) Barrel Fever by David Sedaris - I consider myself a Sedaris fan. This book - essays, of course - fell short for me. Not his best work.

That's all, folks! I'm going to attempt to read more often and read more of the books on my list. Otherwise, this list is going to take me 20 years to complete.

One other note: I hadn't reviewed my list in a very long time. When I looked it over recently, I was not surprised to see that I had been overly ambitious when I created it. I included several trilogies (as one selection), and I also included numerous HUGE tomes. Ugh. Will I ever learn?

Hope everyone is doing well and enjoying their picks.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

HRO's 100 Oranges

This is the list of 100 books I plan to read for the "Fill in the Gaps: 100 Books Project." All of the titles are taken from the Orange Prize for Fiction lists. (Thus the reason I'm calling it 100 Oranges.)

About the abbreviations: W=Winner; SL=Shortlist; LL=Longlist; NW=New Writers Award


  1. 26a by Diana Evans (2005 NW/W)
  2. Afterwards by Rachel Seiffert (2005 LL)
  3. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (1997 SL)
  4. Annabel by Kathleen Winters (2011 SL)
  5. Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk (2007 SL)
  6. The Autograph Man by Zadie Smith (2003 SL)
  7. The Birth of Love by Joanna Kavenna (2009 LL)
  8. Black Mamba Boy by Nadifa Mohamed (2010 LL)
  9. Blonde Roots by Bernadine Evaristo (2009 LL)
  10. The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan (2001 LL)
  11. The Book of Colour by Julia Blackburn (1996 SL)
  12. The Book of Fires by Jane Borodale (2010 NW/SL)
  13. The Boy Next Door by Irene Sabatini (2010 NW/W)
  14. Buddha Da by Anne Donovan (2003 SL)
  15. Case Histories by Kate Atkinson (2005 LL)
  16. The Colour by Rose Tremain (2004 SL)
  17. The Dancers Dancing by Eilis Ni Dhuibhne (2000 SL)
  18. The Dark Room by Rachel Seiffert (2002 LL)
  19. Disobedience by Naomi Alderman (2006 LL; 2006 NW/W)
  20. The Dream Life of Sukhanov by Olga Grushin (2006 NW/SL)
  21. The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas (2008 LL)
  22. An Equal Stillness by Francesca Kay (2009 NW/W)
  23. Evening is the Whole Day by Preeta Samarasan (2009 LL)
  24. The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates (2005 LL)
  25. Fasting, Feasting by Anita Desai (2000 LL)
  26. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (2002 SL)
  27. Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris (2002 LL)
  28. The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews (2009 LL)
  29. Fox Girl by Nora Okja Keller (2003 LL)
  30. Fred and Edie by Jill Dawson (2001 SL)
  31. Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels (1997 W)
  32. Gilgamesh by Joan London (2004 LL)
  33. Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold (2009 LL)
  34. Gut Symmetries by Jeannette Winterson (1997 LL)
  35. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adichie (2007 W)
  36. Heliogoland by Shena Mackay (2003 SL)
  37. Hen’s Teeth by Manda Scott (1997 SL)
  38. The Hiding Place by Trezza Azzopardi (2001 LL)
  39. Homestead by Rosina Lippi (2001 SL)
  40. Hotel World by Ali Smith (2001 SL)
  41. House of Orphans by Helen Dunmore (2006 LL)
  42. The Hunter by Julia Leigh (2000 LL)
  43. I Was Amelia Earhart by Jane Mendelsohn (1997 SL)
  44. Ice Road by Gillian Slovo (2004 SL)
  45. The Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville (2001 W)
  46. If I Told You Once by Judith Budnitz (2000 SL)
  47. Inglorious by Joanna Kavenna (2008 NW/W)
  48. Island - Jane Rogers (2000 LL)
  49. Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg (2012 LL)
  50. Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch (2011 LL)
  51. La Cucina by Lily Prior (2002 LL)
  52. Larry’s Party by Carol Shields (1998 W)
  53. The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt (2001 LL)
  54. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (2010 LL)
  55. The Lizard Cage by Karen Connely (2007 NW/W)
  56. Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill (2008 SL)
  57. The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna (2011 SL)
  58. Miles from Nowhere by Nami Mun (2009 NW/SL)
  59. Molly Fox’s Birthday by Deirdre Madden (2009 SL)
  60. Mother of Pearl by Mary Morissy (1996 LL)
  61. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (2012 LL)
  62. The Night Watch by Sarah Waters (2006 SL)
  63. The Observations by Jane Harris (2007 SL)
  64. On Beauty by Zadie Smith (2006 W)
  65. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (2004 SL)
  66. The Outcast by Sadie Jones (2008 SL)
  67. Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding (2012 LL)
  68. The Personal History of Rachel Dupree by Ann Weisgarber (2009 LL; 2009 NW/SL)
  69. Poppy Shakespeare by Clare Allen (2007 LL; 2007 NW/SL)
  70. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Adichie (2004 SL)
  71. The Remedy by Michelle Lovric (2005 LL)
  72. The Road Home by Rose Tremain (2008 W)
  73. The Road to Wanting by Wendy Law-Yone (2011 LL)
  74. Scottsboro by Ellen Feldman (2009 SL)
  75. The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue (2012 LL)
  76. A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian by Marina Lewycka (2005 SL)
  77. The Siege by Helen Dunmore (2002 SL)
  78. Small Island by Andrea Levy (2004 W)
  79. So I Am Glad by A.L. Kennedy (1996 LL)
  80. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (2012 LL)
  81. Sorry by Gail Jones (2008 LL)
  82. A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore (1996 W)
  83. The Submission by Amy Waldman (2012 LL)
  84. Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (2011 LL)
  85. This is How by M.J. Hyland (2010 LL)
  86. Tides of War by Stella Tillyard (2012 LL)
  87. The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht (2011 W)
  88. The Translation of the Bones by Francesca Kay (2012 LL)
  89. Twisted Heart by Rebecca Gowers (2010 LL)
  90. Unless by Carol Shields (2003 SL)
  91. The Vintners Luck by Elizabeth Knox (1999 LL)
  92. A Visit from Voltaire by Dinah Lee Kung (2004 LL)
  93. War Crimes for the Home by Liz Jensen (2003 LL)
  94. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (2005 W)
  95. What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn (2007 LL)
  96. When I Lived in Modern Times by Linda Grant (2000 W)
  97. White Ghost Girls by Alice Greenway (2006 LL)
  98. White Teeth by Zadie Smith (2000 SL)
  99. The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey (2009 SL)
  100. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (2010 SL)

Start date: March 15, 2012

Some housekeeping

Hey Ladies and Gents,

It's been a while, but I've gotten a few emails asking for updates on link information on the site (e.g. blog roll, 100 list etc). I know I've fallen behind on the book cover review links/author links etc - and hope to remedy this in the future.

At the moment though I want to update member info, so I'd really appreciate it if people could leave comment below or email me if they notice (a) their name isn't on 100 list drop down menu or/and (b) blog is not mentioned on the blog roll.

If this is the case - leave me your name (as it appears here), link to your 100 list/blog and I'll sort it out.

Thanks Everyone and hope all is going well with life and the challenge :)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What Are Your Favourite Books?

I have been a little lax in reading books from my list over the past thirteen or twelve months.  When I tried to get back in the swing of things, I remembered why that was the case.  I simply can't find some of these titles.  Whilst I expected some difficulty finding a few, I had no idea so many of them would hard for me to get.  I have tried interlibrary loan, several times, skimmed stacks of garage sale books, and called everyone I know who owns a book on the off chance someone had a copy down the back of the sofa.
Buying books is not an option for me right now, so I have decided I must replace some of the titles from my original list.  I am going to start with ten, but that number may go as high as thirty.  So I am asking you all for your recommendations, any genre welcome.

Help me Obi-Wan, you are my only hope.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Darlene's Review: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Hi, everyone!

I am on the board! I just completed the 1st book on my list. I know, I know...not much to cheer about but I'm happy to stroke just one off the list :)

Here is the link to my review of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon:

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Palladian by Elizabeth Taylor

Cassandra Dashwood, at the age of eighteen is quiet, bookish and, dare I say, a little dull. And, after her father’s recent death, she is alone in the world.

Fortunately Mrs. Turner, her former headmistress, takes an interest in Cassandra, and finds her a post: Marion Vanbrugh is a widower with a young daughter, Sophy, and he needs a governess.

It was so, so easy for Cassandra to cast herself and Jane Eyre and Marion as Mr Rochester.But reality would prove to be a little different.

Marion was as quiet, bookish and dull as Cassandra. And he was weighed down by his family; an elderly aunt, who kept house quite ineffectually; a cousin, pregnant by her lover, not her husband; another cousin, who was charming but quite directionless; and Violet, his wife who had died but still had a presence.

And they all lived together, their lives stagnating in a crumbling mansion.

It was fortunate that Sophy was charming, and that her father took a great interest in his daughter and her governess …

This is a story with echoes of other authors: Jane Austen in the heroine’s name, and in more besides; Charlotte Bronte in the heroine’s position; Ivy Compton-Burnett in some of the dialogue and relationships; Daphne Du Maurier in the presence, and untold story, of Marion’s wife; Molly Keane in the crumbling mansion; Thomas Hardy in some of the darker moments; and maybe even more that have passed me by when I was caught up …

Not a satire, not a pastiche, but something rather different, and rather more interesting. Something I can’t quite explain.

A dark tale, but the darkness is offset by wry humor and dry wit.

Events unfold slowly, but every sentence brings a new insight, or a new development. There are small, subtle changes, and there is one sudden, tragic, utterly real event that will change everything.

Everything is driven by the characters; characters I found difficult to like, but they were pinpointed so accurately that I was always fascinated. Because I understood their situations, their inner lives, their motivations, and what made each of them unique.

And there is a nicely drawn love song threaded through. Though there will not be happy endings for all …

Palladian is a strangely intriguing novel – just as good as I had hoped but not at all what I had expected.