Thursday, January 31, 2008
This week’s question is suggested by (blogless) JMutford:
Sometimes I find eccentric characters quirky and fun, other times I find them too unbelievable and annoying. What are some of the more outrageous characters you’ve read, and how do you feel about them?
Some might call me eccentric. I am, after all, the book lady. I am the queen of non sequiturs, and I like to eat my individual pizza with a fork, starting in the middle of the circle and work my way outward. Eccentric characters are often quirky, sometimes funny, and almost always interesting. Whether a background character or the main character, the eccentric character is often hard to forget.
This past year I came across several eccentric characters who particularly caught my attention. There was the wealthy Margaret Hughes from Stephanie Kallos' Broken For You. In the beginning of the novel, she is living alone in a mansion, surrounded by her collection of valuable antiques. She decides to open her door to a complete stranger, which in turn leads to her taking in a full house of interesting characters.
A book that is full of eccentricities of just about every kind is Joseph Heller's Catch-22 . I do not think one character escapes the label in Heller's novel. The lead character, Yossarian, will do anything to avoid fighting and believes that everyone is out to kill him. My favorite character in the novel, however, is Orr, stuffing apples into his cheeks and always crash landing into the sea.
Then there is Roger Mifflin, reader and bookseller extraordinaire, whose relentless passion for books makes him unforgettable in The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley. And what about Grandma Mazur of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum fame? Her penchant for peering into the coffins of the dead, even at closed coffin funeral services, lands her in trouble constantly.
Each of these characters caused me to shake my head in wonder, laugh out loud on occasion, and make room for them in my heart. In some ways, I could relate to them, whether through their eccentricities or their experiences. Rarely do I find an eccentric character annoying, unless that character is ill-fitted for the story being told. Nor do I always especially like every eccentric character I come across. An eccentric villain will most likely not make my best friends in literature list. And yet, I am able to appreciate the eccentricities and the quirks of such characters more often than not. They are an integral part of the story they inhabit, and the book would not be the same without them.
Going along with the theme of eccentricities, Heather of A Creative Journal tagged me for the 7 Oddball Things About Me Meme and I thought this would be the perfect time to play along.
1. I tend to keep my emotions close to my vest. Most people cannot read how I am feeling in any given situation just by looking at me. Just the same, I tear up easily when it comes to movies, books, songs, and TV.
2. I dream frequently and vividly.
3. I am a pessimist just as often as I am an optimist. Most often I like to think I am a realist.
4. I prefer directions be written down word for word rather than be given a map when traveling somewhere to which I am unfamiliar.
5. I am afraid of getting lost, and so I sometimes like to visit an unfamiliar place before I actually have to be there just to be sure I know where I am going.
6. I have been a dog person longer than I have considered myself both a cat and dog person.
7. I am allergic to cats, but I don't care.
Care to share something a little eccentric about yourself? If so, consider yourself tagged!
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Suspense/Thriller; 338 pgs
Rating: (Good +)
First Sentence: I have never wanted to kill anyone as much as I wanted to kill the son of a bitch in front of me right now.
Reason for Reading: This is a Curled Up With A Good Book selection. I actually requested this one quite a while ago, not realizing it was part of the Atticus Kodiak series. Because the books tie so closely together, with one exception, I decided it might be a good idea to start from the beginning and work my way through the series.
Comments: Author Greg Rucka has come a long way since he first wrote and published Keeper, the first novel in the Atticus Kodiak series. Atticus Kodiak is a bodyguard who hires out his protection services, often taking on cases that put his life and those of his team in great peril. No matter the circumstances, Atticus is dedicated to his job and protecting his principal, the person who hired his services. He would put his own life on the line in order to keep his principal alive. Patriot Acts is the sixth novel in the series, a series that is best read in order, each book building on the one before it.
Patriot Acts begins where the fifth novel in the series, Critical Space, left off, with the death of one of the world's most feared assassins. Already wanted for a murder he did not commit, Atticus' only recourse is to go on the run to sort everything out. The safe house where Atticus, his team and the person he had been protecting have been hiding is compromised and no one is safe as the bullets begin to fly.
Having lost all of his friends in one way or another, Atticus only has Alena Cizkova, known to the authorities as Drama, to turn to. She is a cold-blooded killer and is being targeted by the same people who are after him. In order to clear Atticus' name and save both of their lives, the two must put their heads together and plan; but first, they need to uncover the identity of the person that is out to get them. The more Atticus learns, the more he realizes just how high the stakes are and the more dangerous the chase becomes. From the East Coast to Eastern Europe and from the West Coast into the heart of America, Patriot Acts takes the reader all over the map.
Atticus Kodiak, named after a character from Lee Harper’s To Kill a Mockingbird, has the skills of an assassin and the heart of a protector, but when those closest to him are threatened no rules apply. Atticus knows that he may have to step over the line of killing to save a life to murdering someone in cold blood, and this weighs on his conscience.
Alena, on the other hand, wants nothing more than to lead a quiet life and to retire from being a killer-for-hire. She thought her heart cold, but as time passes, she learns that she is more human than she realized. She worries about losing that as the race for her life accelerates, and she is suddenly thrust back into her old role again. The author captures all of this as the story unfolds at break neck speed, adding a vulnerability to the characters who might otherwise seem too hard and tough.
Greg Rucka spins a wild tale that is not only captivating, but is emotionally charged as well. Intense and action packed from the very first page, Patriot Acts takes the reader on a roller coaster ride of suspense and intrigue. Originally published on Curled Up With a Good Book. © Wendy Runyon, 2008
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Finder by Greg Rucka
Bantam Books, 1997
Suspense/Thriller; 320 pgs
After his last assignment, bodyguard Atticus Kodiak has lost his way. Barely scraping by, he’s working as a bouncer as an S&M club in New York. One night he happens to see a former charge of his being approached by a dangerous looking man. The club is no place for a 15 year old and Atticus quickly steps in to intervene. He suddenly finds himself embroiled in a bitter custody battle, blackmail scheme and up against some of the most elite former British military officers around. Atticus will do anything to protect Erika Wyatt, even if it costs him his life.
Finder was a much more enjoyable thriller than it’s predecessor, Keeper. It seemed more polished and the story was much more exciting. Atticus proves yet again he is not a man who can be easily kept down, although I do have to wonder how he keeps up his stamina even after taking so many physical blows.
Smoker by Greg Rucka
Ballatine Books, 2006
Crime Fiction S/T; 395 pgs
Atticus Kodiak does not want charity from the father of the woman he has been seeing, but when the principal requests that he take the job, Atticus reluctantly says yes. It starts out as a simple baby-sitting gig: Atticus and a team of Sentinel Guards are to protect a wealthy man from the family of his former girlfriend. Everything is not what it seems, however, and Atticus quickly discovers that he has not only been played, but he is also drawn into something much more sinister and dangerous. One of the most dangerous assassins is targeting Atticus’ latest assignment.
The third installment in the series is the best yet. There is a part of me that is turned off by all the testosterone in the Atticus Kodiak series, but the books certainly do not lack in the suspense department. Smoker proved to be an entertaining and fun reading experience. Atticus continues to try and build up his reputation, blaming himself for past mistakes even though in truth, he had little control over what had gone wrong. As the series progresses, he is a much more human and real character and less of an action figure, although there is still plenty of that to go around. Readers see more of Natalie Trent, one of the strong female protagonists of the series that you do not want to mess with, in this novel.
Critical Space by Greg Rucka
Bantam Book, 2001
Crime Fiction S/T; 490 pgs*
In Critical Space, business could not be better for Kodiak Atticus and his team of Protective Service Agents, otherwise known as bodyguards. After a successful and well publicized save of an important principal, the team has attracted the attention of the rich and famous, and babysitting movie stars and the like seem to be the order of the day. Suddenly, however, Atticus’ world is turned upside down when he is drawn into the web of one of the most dangerous assassins, one he tangled with before and nearly lost his life to. This time, the assassin needs his help for the assassin’s life is on the line and the killer-for-hire knows there is no one more loyal and skilled at his job than Atticus.
Atticus has more of an edge towards the end of this novel, having gone through quite a bit. While at the core he maintains the same values and ideals, he has changed and is not quite the man he once was. He’s more of a threat to those who step in his way. A part of me likes this new side of Atticus, but I also worry at the direction he is going.
Critical Space is fast-paced and at times chilling. Greg Rucka puts his characters in the frying pan and no one is safe. The series takes a serious turn in this novel and is no longer just a suspense thriller series about a bodyguard protecting his principal. Critical Space takes it up a notch introducing government espionage and conspiracy.
*First Chunkster Challenge 2008 Selection
Monday, January 28, 2008
Ballatine Books, 2006
Crime Fiction S/T; 395 pgs
Rating: (Very Good)
First Sentence: “What I really want to do is direct.”
Reason for Reading: Richard Montanari caught my attention with The Rosary Girls three years ago, and I was eager to read another one of his books. This seemed like good bedtime reading in between War and Peace and Breathless in Bombay.
Comments: There comes a moment in every crime novel when everything falls into place and I know. Sometimes is happens sooner than at other times, but it is rare when a book takes me by complete surprise. I do not intentionally set out to solve the crime on my own, however, it is the direction my mind automatically takes as soon as I begin reading a crime fiction novel. Of course, there are occasions where the author introduces the killer or villain right off the bat and his or her identity is not a mystery. The motive and the chase then become the mystery. I will let you decide which category this particular book falls into.
Detective Kevin Byrne is recovering from a near fatal head injury and is not sure he wants to return to the force. However, when he learns that the killer who almost took his life is out pending an appeal, he figures the best place for him to be is back in the trenches of the Philadelphia Police Department’s homicide unit. His timing could not be more perfect.
Detective Byrne, his partner Detective Jessica Balzano, and FBI agent Terry Cahill are assigned to discover whether or not they have a new murder to investigate. A popular horror movie had been spliced and what appeared to be a real life murder scene inserted at a crucial point in the film. With little to go on, the two detectives have their work cut out for them. One murder leads to another, each proving to be more gruesome than the one before. The detectives are determined to find the common thread between the murders in order to stop the killer in his tracks. The investigation takes the police into the underbelly of pornography and the glitzy world of a Hollywood movie.
Like with The Rosary Girls, Robert Montanari has swept me off his feet with this thrilling novel full of suspense and intrigue. Jessica Balzano has grown up a lot since she first joined the homicide team and it shows in The Skin Gods. She is competent and strong and not afraid to kick ass when necessary. She is loyal to her partner and dedicated to her job. Her partner, Kevin Byrne, is a little worse for wear. He has been through a lot and it shows. He is a papa bear who will protect those who he loves at any cost, including risking his own good name and possibly his life.
The Skin Gods had me on the edge of my seat with my hand over my mouth right up until the end. I am looking forward to reading the author's next book, Merciless.
Visit Richard Montanari's official website for more information about the author and his books.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
3:00 p.m. After enjoying a leisurely lunch and movie, I am ready to settle in for the afternoon and start on Tokyo Year Zero. I had hoped to get to it earlier in the week, but my reading time was next to nil most of the week. Too much other stuff going on, I am afraid. Note to self: make more reading time during the week.
Before I go, I thought I would share a little bookish office chat with you.
- Talk in the office turned again to installing a television set in the breakroom. Someone was quick to point out, "Oh no! Wendy and Candy like to read in there!" Out of an office with over 50 people, it is nice to know that two of us can have such an influence. I actually have nothing against having a television set up in the breakroom, although it would be distracting if something I wanted to watch was on. And if it got too loud and the weather was cooperating (meaning not too hot out), I could always go sit in my car during my lunch break and read.
- The backseat of my car is actually quite comfortable for lunch time reading.
- A half hour lunch break is not very much time to settle into a book. When given the choice though of a longer lunch or leave early, I choose to leave early.
- One of the most common questions I am asked during my lunch break at the office is, "What are you reading?" I always have to consider who is asking me that question before answering. Some people really do not care and are just trying to be polite, but those who show a genuine interest may spark off an interesting discussion, and you know how much I enjoy talking about books.
- I have this bad habit of mentioning that the book was better when my workmates are discussing movies they have recently seen (if in fact I have read the book and seen the movie in question). Most of the time, they had no idea that the movie in question was based on a book nor do they particularly care. It is one of my annoying tics.
- I especially take pleasure in doing the above with one particular coworker of mine who hates to read. He believes reading is a waste of time, not to mention mind numbing. Truth be told, I think he would benefit greatly from reading. Especially when it comes to the work he's supposed to be reviewing as part of his job.
- I am the go to person in the office for book recommendations and knowing what might be age appropriate for younger reading audiences. It is not so much that I've read or know about every book out there, but thanks to all of you, I often can offer up a suggestion in most book related conversations.
- My boss is a reader. You may remember that she is the one who loaned me a copy of Alice Sebold's Almost Moon but refused to tell me whether she liked it or not, afraid it would influence my own opinion of the book. I loaned her a copy of Me & Emma by Elizabeth Flock a couple of months ago, which she recently returned. She loved it just as I knew she would.
- My boss sometimes will ask me if I want to borrow a book and then will pause and say, "Oh, you have too much to read already, don't you? Never mind." If only she knew just how much.
- I like it when people return books I've loaned out to them. I wish though that people were more careful about the condition they return the book in. Me & Emma was brand new when I handed it over. It definitely looked used upon its return. Wear and tear on a book is expected, I know, but just after one reading? And a book that doesn't belong to you? I know. I have high expectations.
- There are some coworkers who are on my black list and will never read another book I own. They can buy their own copy or steal someone else's.
- Two women I work with, however, can borrow any book they like from me.
- Candy is an avid reader herself and we often exchange books. She has good taste.
- The other is Debra. When I first loaned her Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild, she warned me that she is a slow reader. I told her not to worry, that I was in no hurry to get the book back. She has had the book since before the holidays and just about every time she seems me, she gives me an update, apologizes for taking so long (which really isn't necessary, but still thoughtful), and promises she'll get it back to me just as soon as she is done.
- Debra also told me that the book will be just like new when it is returned to me because she knows how much she hates it when things she loans out are returned in worse condition than they went out in.
- Reading was not always so popular in my office. I have been able to watch the planted seed bloom into beautiful blossoms over the last three years. People who never would have thought to read for pleasure are now doing so. I love it! (For the record, it had nothing to do with me.)
Friday, January 25, 2008
Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews?
This question proved harder than some of the other ones. I have finally settled on Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind. I still do not know what all the fuss is about over the movie now that I have finally seen it, and I imagine that has quelled some of my interest in ever reading the book.
If you could bring 3 characters to life for a social event, who would they be and what would you do?
I can think of any number of characters I would love to bring together and hobnob with. This time around, my selected characters are gathering together for a book club meeting. What better way to spend an afternoon than discussing books? Please come join Elizabeth Bennet, Margaret Lea, Roger Mifflin, and me if you are free!
(This is borrowed from the Thursday Next series.) You are told you can't die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for a while, eventually you realize that it's past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave?
My first choice falls in the nonfiction category, which automatically disqualifies it. I have read some boring novels in my time and I obviously survived. I, Tutus: Book Two: Citizen of Rome by Don Phillips maybe. It is the sequel to another book I have read, which, while it did have its good points, I still had to drag myself through most of it.
Come on, we've all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted that you've read, when in fact you've been nowhere near it?
If the question above is taken at face value, I can honestly answer no. If you take out the last part of the question, that I have been nowhere near the book, well, then it's an entirely different matter.
I was assigned to read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley during a college literature course, and I lost interest in it pretty quickly. For the first and last time in my college career, I failed to complete a required reading assignment. I carried on as if I had read it during the discussions and exams that term, earned a decent grade, and have yet to try reading the book again although I would like to give it another try someday.
Has there been a book that you really thought you had read, only to realize when you read a review or go to "reread" it that you haven't?
No, I cannot think of any titles off hand where this has been an issue.
You're interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who's not a big reader). What's the first book you'd recommend and why? (Go ahead and personalize the VIP if it helps.)
A trick that sometimes works for me is to find out what type of movies the person enjoys watching or perhaps the person has a particular hobby or interest that might give me some ideas of where to start.
A good fairy comes along and grants you one wish: You will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with?
My first thought is Russian--all those wonderful novels that I would be able to read in their native tongue. However, for more practical reasons, I think I would most likely choose Spanish in the end. I have not spent much time exploring literature written originally in Spanish, however, I am sure there are quite a few gems out there.
A mischievous fairy comes and says you must choose one book you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can reread other books as well). Which book would you pick?
I rarely reread books, and while there are many I would not mind returning to again someday, I worry that I would grow bored if I read the same book year after year for the rest of my life. One book I have reread and am sure I will read again someday is Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. That is a story I have yet to grow tired of.
I know that the book blogging community and its various challenges have pushed my reading borders. What's one bookish thing you discovered from book blogging?
I have been introduced to many new books and authors that I had never heard of before. There are probably even a few I would not have considered had a fellow blogger not offered especially alluring insight into the books that I would miss at quick glance of cover and synopsis.
That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now she's granting you your dream library. Describe it. Is everything leatherbound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few authors have inscribed some of the books? Go ahead -- let your imagination run free!
Ignoring the practicality of lugging all of my books upstairs, I have often mentioned to my husband that I would like to build a second story onto our house. The second story would be the home library. Maybe a spiral staircase leading up to the second floor from our living room. A little bathroom off to the side. Wall to wall bookshelves filled with books, those that have been read and those I have yet to read. They certainly will not be books for decoration only. There would be a love seat, perhaps, or a couple of comfortable armchairs. I would move the home office into the library as well, where both my husband and I can set up our computers and spend hours reading, gaming, or blog hopping. There would be a big window facing the street, which would include spots for both the dog and cat to lounge at their leisure, keeping us company.
Anyone who has not yet participated in the meme, please do give it a try!
1. Spending time with my family (husband, cat and dog) makes me happy.
2. I would like a pay raise, please.
3. Fresh chilled pineapple slices taste SO good!
4. Friday is my favorite day of the week because half of the time it means the weekend is ahead of me and for the other half, the weekend is already here.
5. My other half is my best feature.
6. We could learn so much from my cat.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to the rain, some cuddling on the couch, and reading late into the night; tomorrow my plans include cleaning the house; and Sunday, I want to do nothing but read!
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Sunday, January 20, 2008
I do love a good thriller, the kind that take me on a fast paced roller coaster ride. The best of writers, regardless of book type, can sweep me into their fantasy and suspend my disbelief with hardly any effort at all. Richard Montanari is one of those authors.
I have found over the years that the longer I can devote to a book in the beginning, the more likely I am to immerse myself in the story and lives of the characters sooner and more completely. That is not to say it doesn't happen otherwise. It certainly does, but it takes longer for me to lose myself in a book if I am only am able to read in short spurts. Life, such that it is, does not always allow for leisurely hours of reading all in one breath, especially during the week. I make do with the reading time I can get and treasure every moment of it.
David Peace's Tokyo Year Zero is sitting right here on my desk. I have been eying it occasionally and am looking forward to finally diving in. I am not sure it is a good thing to be looking forward to the next book while in the middle of another (or at the beginning of, as the case may be). Still, it is something I do periodically and not necessarily because I am not enjoying what I am reading. With so many books surrounding me, all books I want to read, each one proves to be quite the temptation. I have to remind myself sometimes to stop and smell the roses, so to speak. Each book will have its day. And each book deserves to be savored and enjoyed, not rushed through just to get on to the next book. The authors put a lot of hard work into writing, and I want to give them their due time for their effort and talent.
No new books acquired this past week. Probably for the best. That, however, is not to say that my wish list did not grow a bit.
Finished Reading: Critical Space and Patriot Acts by Greg Rucka
Currently Reading: Merciless by Richard Montanari & War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Where Am I? Philadelphia. I am revisiting a crime scene, getting the lay of the land, and hoping to find some clue to a grisly winter murder.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
What kind of soap is in your shower right now?
Irish Spring and several different kinds of Bath and Body Works shower gels (White Tea and Ginger, Country Apple, Dancing Waters, and Freshwater Cucumber).
Do you have any watermelon in your refrigerator?
What would you change about your living room?
Just about everything. I need new couches; I would like to paint the walls, reorganize the CD's and DVD's, and add a new cabinet for them because we really need the extra storage space. We have all the bookcases the room will hold.
Are the dishes in your dishwasher clean or dirty?
I honestly do not know. Probably dirty. We haven't used a lot of dishes lately.
What is in your fridge?
Hardly anything, last I looked.
White or wheat bread?
Definitely multi-grain or wheat. I am not a fan of white bread unless it's sour dough or Italian.
What is on top of your refrigerator?
Dust bunnies. A couple of tins we sometimes use to store the dog and cat food in.
What color or design is on your shower curtain?
It's a green marble design.
How many plants are in your home?
Two fake plants. Live plants and I do not get along.
Is your bed made right now?
No. Anjin is sleeping in it. When no one is in bed, my husband usually makes it since he's the last one up.
Comet or Soft Scrub?
Is your closet organized?
That depends on what your definition of organized is.
Can you describe your flashlight?
I sure can. It's black, big and quite heavy. We've got a couple of little ones as well and a wind up radio/light for when there are no more batteries or power. It's yellow.
Do you drink out of glass or plastic most of the time at home?
A jar. I cannot quite remember where the idea came from, but my husband decided he wanted to get rid of the glasses and plastic cups and switch to jars several years ago.
Do you have iced tea made in a pitcher right now?
No. I do not actually drink tea, but sometimes Anjin will have some made up for himself.
If you have a garage, is it cluttered?
We have quite a few boxes stored in there. We can still fit our two cars inside, and so the clutter is probably minimal compared to most people we know or are related to.
Curtains or blinds?
Blinds for the moment. I want to switch to curtains because our blinds have seen better days, and we cannot afford the type of blinds I would want to get.
How many pillows do you sleep with?
Do you sleep with any lights on at night?
How often do you vacuum?
Some would say not often enough while others might think I vacuum quite frequently.
Standard toothbrush or electric?
Either. Right now I am using a standard, but I prefer electric.
What color is your toothbrush?
Yellow and purple. It's not a very pretty toothbrush.
Do you have a welcome mat on your front porch?
We do have a mat on our front stoop, but I do not think it says welcome.
What is in your oven right now?
Is there anything under your bed?
Seasonal clothes, blankets and towels.
Chore you hate doing the most?
What retro items are in your home?
None that I can think of.
Do you have a separate room that you use as an office?
Yes. My husband and I use one of the spare bedrooms as our joint office, or what we more commonly refer to as the computer room.
How many mirrors are in your home?
Golly, I don't know. The closets in the bedrooms all have mirror surfaces. I have a vanity mirror over my dresser. And I am sure I have a few hand held mirrors, some I do not even known about.
What color are your walls?
What does your home smell like right now?
Favorite candle scent?
I do not really have a favorite scent, but I do like scented candles.
What kind of pickles (if any) are in your refrigerator right now?
No pickles. We do not especially like pickles around here.
What color is your favorite Bible?
Hmm. We have multiple Bibles in the house, but none are favorites.
Ever been on your roof?
Do you own a stereo?
Yes, but we never use it.
How many TVs do you have?
Three technically. Although four if you want to count my husband's computer, which can double as a TV. The living room TV is really the only one we ever watch. The little one in the spare bedroom is hooked up to the cable, but we do not ever watch it. It used to be used for recording TV programs when we had another one being recorded on the main TV. That's not an issue anymore. There's also a television set in the sun room, which is not hooked up to anything other than an outlet, so watching TV on it is pretty impossible. It was once designated as the gaming TV, although no one ever uses it anymore.
How many house phones?
Four. Two corded phones and two cordless.
Do you have a housekeeper?
Oh, yes! That would be me.
What style do you decorate in?
No style. We have a lot of hand me downs and they are rather mixed in style.
Do you like solid colors or prints in furniture?
I've only ever had solid colors, but that's not necessarily by choice. I would prefer what looks good to me and that could go either way.
Is there a smoke detector in your home?
Yes, there is.
In case of fire, what are the items in your house which you’d grab if you only could make one quick trip?
Given that my husband and the animals are safe, I would grab my computer.
Anjin actually wrote a book review! Well, two. Check out his thoughts about T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton and My Boring-Ass Life by Kevin Smith.
I bestow the following awards on all of my faithful readers and to those whose blogs I frequent. You are my blog friends and true blessings. You definitely deserve a big kiss for all you do! Thank you.
BookGal from Books, Memes, and Musings was sweet enough to declare me a blessing. I appreciate it very much, and I can truly say that BookGal is a blessing to have around as well. Thank you, BookGal!
RaiderGirl from An Adventure in Reading bestowed on me the Mwah Award. How great is that? Mwah, right back at you, RaiderGirl!
So, the point (and I do have one) to this post is motivated by my desire to hand some of that love and kindness back around to those who have been so very, very, very good to me in this blog world. My hope is that those who receive this award will pass it on to those who have been very, very, very good to them as well. It's a big kiss, of the chaste platonic kind, from me to you with the underlying "thanks" message implied. I really do appreciate your support and your friendship and yes, your comments . . . Mwah!
The ever generous Alice from Hello, My Name Is Alice and Melody from Melody's Reading Corner honored me with the Blog Friend Forever Award. Thank you so much, Ladies!
Thursday, January 17, 2008
1. The last compliment I got was from a coworker; she said I had beautiful green eyes.
2. I'm reading Merciless by Richard Montanari and War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.
3. I woke up today and thought just another 9 minutes of sleep, please!
4. Why does it never fail that when I plan to leave work early, I end up staying past my regular time to leave?
5. The last thing I ate was a bag of baby carrots.
6. January is going by faster than I anticipated.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to catching up on my blog hopping, taking in an episode of Dexter (Season One), and staying up later than I probably should considering how tired I am; tomorrow my plans include enjoying the good weather and Sunday, I want to treat like Saturday since Monday is a work holiday!
This week’s question is suggested by Puss Reboots:
How much do reviews (good and bad) affect your choice of reading? If you see a bad review of a book you wanted to read, do you still read it? If you see a good review of a book you’re sure you won’t like, do you change your mind and give the book a try?A coworker of mine had a tube of the most delicious smelling lotion. I had to have some for myself. I searched and hunted with no success and finally resorted to searching for it online. I was ecstatic to find it. Not all of the customer reviews were favorable, unfortunately, and they gave me pause for thought. I hate sticky or oily feeling lotion. And then there was the comment that the scent does not linger long. What to do? I ordered the lotion and even though it is not the most soothing during this windy season when the skin on my hands is cracking dry and even though it is a bit oily on my skin and the scent fades fast, I still like it. It was worth it. At least this once.
The thing is, I gave it a try. The reviews offered me a more realistic impression of the product, and so my expectations were not quite as high as they might have been otherwise. Negative book reviews work a lot like that for me as well. If I intend to read a book, a negative review will not likely turn me away from the book completely. I may push it off a little longer, but I learned long ago that just because one person does not like a book, doesn't necessarily mean I will not like it either. If anything, a negative review often prepares me ahead of time. I am better able to select the right time and place to read a book, know which of my moods is most fitting, and maybe the review will help lower my expectations so that when I do read the book, I end up enjoying it more than I might have otherwise.
If I am on the fence about a particular book, a review, positive or negative, can make all the difference. Depending on the negative review, I might decide against reading a book, while on the other hand, if the review is good, I will definitely add it to my collection. The key, of course, being that the subject matter of the book interests me. Just because Jo Ellen loved that technical manual on how to put together your own pencil sharpener, it does not mean I will care to read it. Occasionally too, many positive reviews will turn me off of a book I am on the fence about. I may decide to read the book anyway, but it will be with some reluctance (Water for Elephants, for example) However, if it is a book I am dying to read, positive reviews will increase my desire to read the book.
Blog book reviews have proven to be a great source for recommendations, whether they are books I hope to someday read or ones I had never heard of before. There have been a few books I have added to my wish list that were given mixed reviews, and while the reviewers may not have been blown away by the books, I still think they sound interesting enough to try. Reviews by fellow readers do have some influence over my choice in reading materials, but they do not have the final say in the matter. I do.
And for the record, it should be a crime to create such yummy smelling lotions. It really should. Someone might forget the lotion is not edible.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
St. Martin’s Griffin, 2008 (ARE)
Fiction (short stories); 306 pgs
Rating: 4 Stars (Very Good)
First Sentence: Mataprasad Mahadev, fifty-three, dark, and fiercely mustached, was in a thoughtful mood as he sat legged in dhoti and chappals on the floor of the luggage compartment of the Churchgate-bound local.
Reason for Reading: India is one of many countries I enjoy reading about and so I was immediately drawn to this book when it was offered for review through Library Thing’s Early Review program. This also fits in with the Short Story Challenge, and is my first selection of short stories counting towards that.
Comments: Author Murzban F. Shroff attempts to capture the dichotomy of Bombay, both the beauty and the ugliness, and he succeeds. Fourteen short stories offer a glimpse into the cultures and lives of every day people in Bombay, from the rich to the working class to the poor.
Often my biggest complaint about short stories is reaching the end and wondering, "That's it?" That was not the case with Murzban F. Shroff's collection of stories. Each story stood on solid ground, the characters well developed in their complexities and lifestyles and the stories quickly and effectively established. There was not one story that I did not like, each a stand out in its own way. The fourteen stories that made up the collection were varied, some dark and sad while others more hopeful. Each of them was about the struggles of survival in a city where people flocked to for a better life and fought to survive in at the darkest of times.
Among my favorites was the story of Chacha Sawari and his horse Badshah in The Queen Guards Her Own. Chacha was a man who took pride in his work and loved his horse. He did not have much in the later years of his life, and yet he made the best of it, always looking out for Badshah. Even amidst the poverty and prejudice of the wealthy, Chacha remained hopeful. Then there was the story, The Great Divide, about an elderly woman and her husband who had taken in a servant. A recent rash of murders of elderly by their servants set Mrs. Mullafiroze on edge and she feared for her own life and that of her husband. A Different Behl and This House of Mine demonstrated the depth of good friendships while Jamal Hoddi's Revenge showed a man with nothing to lose in his darkest hour. There was a story of love lost in Traffic, and love found in Breathless in Bombay, the final story of the book.
Murzban did not hesitate to paint a colorful picture of Bombay throughout his stories, including the warts of the disparity between the poor and the wealthy, prejudice, the clash of tradition and progress, as well as the corruption and greed. And yet, woven within the stories was also hope, the love of family and the power of friendship and community. Breathless in Bombay took me right onto the streets of Bombay and into the lives of the various characters.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
The more pressing reason, however, is that I have other reading commitments I am trying to fulfill. My energy and motivations are divided, and since War and Peace is a long term project, it is the one that ultimately gets set aside. At least for now.
I actually spent most of yesterday reading. I was quite engrossed in a thriller, playing a game of cat and mouse with a rather clever assassin. It did not take me long to get through Greg Rucka's Smoker. Today I am settling in for another round with the same assassin, although a different book, this one called Critical Space. I have been slowly working my way up to the latest book in the series, which I am very overdue in reviewing for Curled Up With A Good Book. If anything, I feel most guilty that I have fallen behind in my reviewing obligations, and so I am working to catch up as best I can.
I prefer to read series books in order, watching the progression of the characters and the back stories as they evolve from one book to the next. Sometimes it does not work out that way, however, and I find myself reading a book out of order. Usually it turns out that it is okay. Most books in the types of series I read can stand on their own when it comes right down to it. When I first requested Greg Rucka's latest novel, I had not done enough careful research. I knew it was part of a series. What I did not know, however, was that the book I selected to read and review is tied closely to the book that came before it--and if you want to get technical, the book before that one as well. Because I hate jumping into something in the middle, or even at the end, I decided to start from the beginning and work my way forward.
As a result, War and Peace and many of the books I would like to get to for the various reading challenges I am participating in this year have fallen by the wayside. I am pretty sure I can count Critical Space as a chunkster, and so I will have at least filled one reading challenge requirement this month. Even with these self-imposed obligations, I am quite enjoying the reading I have fit in so far this year. I only wish I had more time to spend actually reading.
On another note, the bookstores beckoned to me this past week, and as much as I tried to resist I was not very successful. With an entire room of my house devoted to books waiting to be read, you would think I would be satisfied with the lot I have collected. Still, the books I have yet to get my hands on call to me. On the plus side, gift cards and discounted remainders make an easy excuse to go book shopping and take away a little of the guilt I may feel towards the books I already have piling up. I spent very little of my own hard earned money this past week in book purchases, but brought home way too many books just the same. All are new-to-me authors with the exception of Elizabeth Flock.
Recent Additions to my TBR Collection:
I'm Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti - recommended by Kimbofo
March by Geraldine Brooks
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra
The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco (actually Anjin's purchase, but it still goes on my TBR list)
The Cry of the Dove by Fadir Faqir
Everything Must Go by Elizabeth Flock
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
The Mission Song by John Le Carre
The Last Life by Claire Messud
Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst
18 Seconds by George D. Shuman
Last Breath by George D. Shuman - recommended by Kris
When One Man Dies by Dave White
I hope you all have a great week. Happy reading!
Friday, January 11, 2008
1. My favorite song of 2007 was Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol (I think it was actually released in 2006, but it was my 2007 song come the end of the year).
2. I'm most tempted by the bookstore that happens to be on my way to wherever I may be going at any given time.
3. Today I want time to stretch as long as it can so I can enjoy the day to its fullest (can you tell it is my day off today?).
4. The last thing I took a picture of was my cat climbing up my husband's shorts (he wasn't wearing them at the time).
5. You and I have memories that we hold dear and near to our hearts as well as those we wish we could flush down the toilet and forget ever took place.
6. The most recent movie I’ve seen that I really enjoyed was Atonement.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to fast food, veging in front of my computer and blog hopping while my husband goes on his Friday night raid, and then perhaps curling up with a book before drifting off to sleep; tomorrow my plans include taking down the Christmas tree, putting away all the boxes of Christmas decorations that never got opened, and pulling out of my TBR room all of my challenge books for the year (which I cannot believe I have not done yet!) and Sunday, I want to finish up the laundry, get it a little more reading, and watch the second episode of this season's The Wire.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
1. How did you come across your favorite author(s)? Recommended by a friend? Stumbled across at a bookstore? A book given to you as a gift?
2. Was it love at first sight? Or did the love affair evolve over a long acquaintance?
Let me just get this off my chest. I do not believe in love at first sight. Attraction or lust at first sight, sure, but not love. I am just more practical that way, I guess. I may come across a book that's cover draws me to it, but what makes me actually read the book depends on what it is actually about. A snazzy cover does not make a good book all on its very own.
Being that I am not monogamous when it comes to books, much less authors, I have more than one favorite author. And while none of them came to me by love at first sight, they all have found their way into my life by various other means: a random stroll through the bookstore, a recommendation from a friend or a review I came across one day, or perhaps even a gift from a friend or family member. Sometimes it is only a matter of lines before I suspect I may be falling in love and other times a friendship develops, which slowly over time evolves into something more.
More often than not, I am one of those readers who likes to do a little research before I decide to go out on a first date with an author. I may read a little blurb in a magazine about a particular book, see mention of the name on one of my online reading groups or come across a review on a blog. Maybe a coworker or friend is reading the book. Sometimes that little bit is enough to land the book on my wish list. Other times, I keep an eye out for other opinions and thoughts on a book before making up my mind. Occasionally we flirt at the bookstore for awhile before I finally decide it is time.
When I do fall in love with an author, I tend to fall hard, wanting to read everything that author has ever written. I scoop up as many books as I can find or at least add them to my wish list. Unfortunately for the the authors, because my love affairs are many, it is quite common for the books to pile up and remain unread for awhile. Sometimes I find it difficult to pick up that second or third book. I know it will be a special treat, an unforgettable experience, and I want it to be just right. I want to take my time and not rush. The author's work is something to be savored. Yet there are also times when I cannot help but devour an author's work right away.
There is no rhyme or reason to my madness, really. It just is.
Sunday, January 06, 2008
Today is a perfect day for reading. I can hear the rain falling outside, the sky is gray and the air clean. I am warm and toasty inside and will soon be settling in again with my book for a bit of quality reading time, something that I can never get enough of.
It never fails that by the end of the week, I feel a little disappointed that I did not get in as much reading time as I like. This past week was no different. I should not feel that way though since I actually found myself cracking open Murzban F. Shroff's Breathless in Bombay at work on Wednesday and Thursday as the mornings and afternoons dragged on. Business was exceptionally slow. Not that I am complaining, or at least not much. I never begrudge the opportunity to read, but I do find myself feeling guilty that I am being paid for doing something other than work. Friday the office was back to normal, not even time for a lunch break much less peeking inside my book. I was relieved when the work day ended, looking forward to an evening of reading, which as it turned out, was not to be.
I am a one book at a time woman. Once I begin a book, I tend to be carried away with what I am reading and have no interest in stepping into another book until the first is finished. It is just the way I am. Every once in awhile, when I tackle a longer book or certain nonfiction books, I break out of my usual habit and will attempt multiple books at once. Never more more two. Since I decided to embark on a Russian literature adventure the beginning of this year, reading War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, I decided to break my usual routine and juggle three books at once. Why three, I am not sure. It just seemed like the thing to do in the moment. War and Peace and Richard Montanari's The Skin Gods, both hardbound books, seem better left at home, while the slim trade paperback copy of short stories by Murzban F. Shroff was more fitting for traveling to work and back.
It has worked out well. Sort of. Reading a short story here at the office has proven to be perfect. It was not quite as distracting as trying to read a full length novel,with all the interruptions that were bound to take place. It was also nice to be able to finish a full story in the span of half an hour, my lunch break, rather than worry about going over time because I had to find a good stopping place. It helped too that I am quite enjoying Murzban F. Shroff's stories. He is a good writer, painting Bombay in all sorts of colors, capturing the mood and tone of the diverse city and its people.
I have always found I sleep better if I can read a little before dozing off. Because my eyelids were already beginning to struggle to stay open by the time I was heading off to bed the past few days, I decided War and Peace might be a little too ambitious. And so I settled in with The Skin Gods, a crime novel about a movie loving serial killer. That proved to be the best choice as it immediately woke me up enough to fit in a couple or more chapters before I would finally be ready to call it a night. Richard Montanari does a great job at setting the stage for a thrilling and intriguing novel. It's easy to lose myself in his writing and grow attached to his protagonists.
War and Peace, my big winter project, sat on the table next to the cat bed (which the dog is curled up in) by my home computer all week. I did not want to lug it to work with me and it did not seem appropriate to try and read it when I was half asleep at night. It was not until this weekend that I finally was able to open to the first page. Its moment had finally come. I am not too far along in it, but already I have been swept up in Tolstoy's tale.
The weekends are the most difficult for reading multiple books at once, I must say. Which do I pick up? This morning, I am dying to get back to Byrne and Balzano to see how their investigation is coming along and if the killer will strike again, and yet a short story might be just the thing before Anjin, who had a late night raiding with his guild, wakes up. I would not mind spending a little time in Bombay to start the day. Oh, but War and Peace, is calling to me as well. Anna Pavlovna is saying goodbye to her guests. All sound good, I wish I had three heads, so that I could read all three at once. That might actually come in handy at work too . . .
I had hoped to be finished with one or two books by now. Normally I would be. Reading multiple books, I guess, will draw out my reading in the long run. I am not sure I will make a habit of reading so many at once. I am always amazed when I see people are reading five or more all at one time.
On the movie front, Atonement finally opened up here in town, and I dragged Anjin to the theater to see it. The theater was packed, mostly an older crowd. It was a beautiful movie and reminded me of what it was about the book I loved so much, and also of what I did not like (which was not much, fortunately).
Recent additions to my TBR Collection:
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson - All this talk about the movie and the story, I finally caved in and decided I might want to read the book.
Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon - Okay, so not really my book. It is my husband's recent addition to our house and one I would like to read. Therefore, it counts as part of my TBR collection.
Matrimony by Joshua Henkin - Much to my glee, this arrived in Friday's mail and what should I find inside, but a note from the author himself! I won a copy of this book through a contest run by Dewey at The Hidden Side of a Leaf. Many thanks to both Dewey and Josh!
Mention of David Simon reminded me. Tonight is the first episode of the final season of The Wire on HBO, only the best police drama ever written. This will be the first time Anjin and I watch the show live, having watched all four of the previous seasons on DVD.
I hope you all have a wonderful week and happy reading!
Friday, January 04, 2008
2. Spending a rainy afternoon reading is what I daydream about most.
3. My TBR room is a temple.
4. I would like to have more time for reading in my life.
5. I love to have lots of books around the house.
6. A good book makes me smile.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to watching another episode of Dexter (1st season) and then snuggling into bed early with my book, tomorrow my plans include waiting for the plumber, reading, and if weather and time permit, dragging my husband to see Atonement (in fact, forget the plumber, let's just go see the movie) and Sunday, I want to spend some much needed quality time with my book (and see Atonement if we didn't see it on Saturday)!
Thursday, January 03, 2008
Last week we talked about the books you liked best from 2007. So this week, what with it being a new year, and all, we’re looking forward….
What new books are you looking forward to most in 2008? Something new being published this year? Something you got as a gift for the holidays? Anything in particular that you’re planning to read in 2008 that you’re looking forward to? A classic, or maybe a best-seller from 2007 that you’re waiting to appear in paperback?I hate shopping, especially for shoes. I am very picky about shoes. I demand comfort right from the start. None of this breaking in nonsense which has never worked for me. If I could wear tennis shoes to work, I would have it made, but I work in a professional setting and so that is a big no no. I hate grocery shopping too. I do not like to cook. That is my husband's domain. Grocery stores make me almost as grumpy as kitchens do. Clothes shopping is not really any fun either. I get frustrated easily, trying on clothes that don't quite fit my odd shape.
About the only shopping I do enjoy is visiting a bookstore or a stationary shop, and occasionally a Bath and Body Works store if there is a good sale. I can spend hours browsing through the items and fill a cart up (if they had them, which they don't, but they should, at least for me) if I had the money and inclination.
What was I supposed to be talking about again? Oh, yeah! New books I am looking forward to. The big catch with any new books I may want is when I actually will be reading them. It is not uncommon for books that join my TBR collection to end up waiting awhile before their turn comes. After all, I am trying to read older books first.
There are plenty of books coming out that will catch my fancy, some of which I may decide I must have now and others I will think about a little longer. A list of all those that might interest me could be quite long, and so you are out of luck if you expect me to offer that one up to you. Mostly, I prefer to wait for the paperback versions to come out unless I know I can get a better deal on the hardback (a sale or Zooba perhaps), and so many of the books that may be coming out for the first time this year will get a glance from me, I'll make a note, and be on the look out in a year or two for the paperback copy.
Some of the authors with books coming out this year (at least those I am aware of) that have me taking notice (not necessarily to buy in hardback) include:
Karen E. Olson
T. Jefferson Parker
There are several books on my wish list that I am anxiously awaiting in paperback form this year as well. Just off the top of my head I can only think of two, but I am sure there are quite a few:
The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani
I have already dipped into one of my Christmas presents, the new translation of War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. My husband also gave me a copy of Arnaldur Iridadason's Voices, which I cannot wait to read this year as well. Neither were published this year, but both are on my must read list.
I am most looking forward to diving head first into my already existing TBR collection, specifically the books that made my challenge lists this year (see sidebar on left). Many of those have been in my TBR collection for awhile now, some old, some new, all very much deserving their chance to take me into their pages for a spin, and each one I am very much looking forward to reading.
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
- To qualify, the book must be 450 pages regular type or 750 pages large text.
- You must read at least 4 chunksters. Ideal for reading one per quarter, but not mandatory. You could read all four in one month if you feel up to it.
- The Challenge will run Jan 7th, 2008 - Dec 20th, 2008, but any chunkster started after Jan 1 qualifies. And thank goodness because I really want to count War and Peace.
- Prizes will be offered once a quarter. Think small and fun, not big and chunky.
- Share your reviews.
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
And yet, I still set goals that begin on New Year's Day. Or, rather I set reading goals. January 1st is a natural starting place for these sorts of things. If the calendar began on another day and ended somewhere else, I imagine many of us would shift in that direction. I considered last night creating my own year. Maybe January 21st to December 21st, just to be different. I would leave a few free days in between just for the heck of it. I am too much of a traditionalist for that, I suppose, and so onward I march.
First to the good stuff! Thank you to all who participated in my little Guess My Favorite 2007 Book Contest. I wish I could offer all of you who played along a prize, but unfortunately I think the plumber might expect to be paid. The lucky winner gets her choice of one of my top 10 books that I read for 2007.
Jaimie from Bell Literary Reflections
My reading was overtaken by reading challenges last year and will be influenced by them again this year. While I am tackling less challenges this year, I am taking on more long-term challenges, ones that extend over the course of the entire year. I wonder if this will make any difference. I think what made last year's challenges so easy to work my way through was the variety and the short deadlines, which leads to a quick turnover rate. I was only involved in three year long challenges, and two of those were very flexible.
I like a certain amount of routine, I admit, but I also like change. I get bored quickly if things remain too constant. While the basic outline of routine can remain the same for comfort's sake, what fills the routine needs to fluctuate. Otherwise I lose interest, grow weary and get restless. Fortunately, the books themselves will be the change agent, each one taking me to new destinations and surrounding me by new literary friends. I am confident this will be enough to carry me through the next year. It will be a challenge all its own just the same.
Along with the the reading challenges, I am taking on another project the beginning of this year. No, that is completely the wrong attitude to have. It is not so much a project but a journey I have been wanting to take for quite some time. I began last year by reading Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, and this year, I will be reading War and Peace. I am not alone in my endeavor and am quite grateful for the opportunity to share this experience with others with a similar goal.
I am looking forward to seeing what magic and adventure this new year of reading will hold for me as well as for all of you. I hope to see you along the reading trail!