Thursday, 30 July 2009

Challenge Update

A-Z Challenge (Authors) 16/27
A-Z Challenge (Titles) 16/27
In Their Shoes 4/4 COMPLETE
The Dream King 2/12
1% Well Read Challenge 6/13
Orbis Terrarum 16/12 COMPLETE
The Genre Challenge 8/10
The Decades Challenge 4/10
The Carribean Challenge 0/6
My Year of Reading Dangerously 2/12
The World Citizen Challenge 0/3
Y.A Challenge 15/12 COMPLETED
Deweys Book Reading Challenge 0/6
100 Shots of Short 53/100
The 2009 Pub Challenge 2/9
Themed Challenge 2/4
999 Challenge 50/81
Book Awards 3 0/5
2nd Canadian Challenge 1/13 ABANDONING - WILL NEVER COMPLETE
Latin American Challenge 4/4 COMPLETE
The Rescue Challenge 0/6
The Graphic Novel Challenge 10/12
Manga Challenge 1/4
War Through the Generations: WWII 3/5
Lost in Translation 8/6 COMPLETE
Notable Challenge 3/6
What's in a Name? 5/6
The Well Seasoned Reader 3/3 COMPLETED!
The Chunkster Challenge8/6 COMPLETE
The Guardian 100 novels 3/10
Banned Book Challege 1/4
Once Upon a Time III Challenge 5/5 COMPLETE
Herding Cats 0/2
Its the End of the World 2/4
100 Books Project 0/100
Non-Fiction 5 3/5
Beckys Mini Challenge - Scott Westerfeld 0/2 Steinbacek 0/2 Defoe 0/2

My Thoughts: The Swarm by Frank Schatzing

I've just finished this mamouth book, its taken all week! The Swarm is a 900 (fairly small text) sci-fi, end of the world novel - not my normal type of read.
The novel starts with a series of small boating accidents, then shoals of jellyfish invading the coast, then Whales battling ships and then the discovery of a mysterious hydrate eating worm. Taking us across the world we see the sea turn around and attack human kind, the events start of small - a few missing fishermen then esculate to tsunami's and plate shifts.
As it becomes clear that the events aren't just coincidences and that a war is taking place in the sea scientists from across the world come together to try and figure out what is happening.
I put off starting this novel for a few weeks because of its hefty size but when I got started I was pulled along by all the individual stories which start the novel running parrallel to each other. I reckon they could cut out a good 200 pages, some of the science explanations went on to long and although I understood the basic premise much of it went over my head. Also the religious element was overdone, American CIA agents the president were way too assured that God would save them as they where the better race. I'm also sure some American citizens would feel that they were criticised unfairly. The ending had a preachy feel to it and the barely disguised criticism of the Bush presidency wasn't needed - we've heard it all before. Having said all that it was a good read - although I'm not sure it deserved its position on the 1001 BTRBYD list.
Anyone else read this? What did you think?

999 (1001)
Lost in Translation
The Chunkster Challenge
End of the World
1001 BTBYD
1% Well Read Challenge

Japanese Literature Challenge III

Dolce Bellezza is hosting her third Japanese Reading Challenge. I participated last year reading:
1. The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea, Mishma ***
2. Goodbye Tsugumi, Yoshimoto ****
3. Hardboiled/Hardluck ***
I also started Out and hated it despite everyone elses love of it.

Bellezza says of the challenge:
The day has arrived, the day for beginning the Japanese Literature Challenge 3! I’m so excited because it is my great joy to read Japanese literature and share the experience with those of you who wish to read it as well.

This year, all you have to do is read one work of Japanese origin. It can be literature of course, but don’t feel confined to that. You may choose to read poetry, biographies, short stories or even manga. If you are willing to read one such piece, you’ve met the challenge. If you read more, all the better.

I have set the time frame between July 30, 2009 and January 30, 2010.

I have a Review Site set up for us here, where we can leave links to the reviews on our own blogs and see what other people have read.

I have prizes! I’ve been collecting them for several months, and I might whet your appetite with a brief sampling of the list here:

a Moleskine Japanese format notebook, with two Japanese pencils and a Japanese eraser
a copy of Murakami’s book South of the Border, West of The Sun
a brochure from the Art Institute of Chicago’s special exhibit on Japanese screens, with a magnet and box of screen cards
a cell phone charm, and makie stickers made of 24 karat gold, imported from Japan
two copies of Yakuza Moon by Tendo
a copy of Eat Sleep Sit by Nanomura
and more surprises to come!

I'm hoping for a few better reads this year. I have one book containing two Murakami novels:A Wild Sheep Chase and Dance Dance Dance , which has been turking on mount tbr for too long. I'd also like to discover a few new Japanese authors - I seem to read Murakami, Mishma or Yoshimoto and no one else. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Orbis Terrarum Short Story Mini Challenge: Finishing Europe

visited 7 states (3.11%)
Create your own visited map of The World or Like this? try: Google Chat Bot
I've got into a bit of a rut with this so thought I needed to give myself a push and finish Europe so I can get to Africa, I have a lovely looking collection of North African stories sitting ready to be read.

After having been to France, Germany, Poland and Prague I now need to head in the direction of Africa.

First stop Austria:
Country Doctor by Franz Kafka
The local Doctor is called out to an emergency in the middle of a freeing snowy night, going outside he discovers his own horse has died from the cold. He sends out the maid to search for another horse, although no locals will lend a horse the maid brings back a stranger with a horse led carriage. What does the stranger want in return? The maid.
The story then grows strange with the doctor rushing off to the patient and everyone waiting for the diagnosis. I'll let you read it to discover how it ends - you'll find a free online copy if you click the title.

Next stop Italy:
We're taking a different route this time and reading an Italian fairytale, 'Parsley Girl' taken from Angela Carter's Book of Fairy Tales.

In the middle of the winter a woman has cravings for Parsley, none can be found any where except in the Holy Sisters' Garden. She first went and took a sprig, and then some more or the third visit she took a whole handful, it was then that she was approached by a nun who said:
' "Take all the parsley you want, but when you've had your baby you must call him Parsley-Boy if he's a boy or Parsley-Girl if she's a girl, and when your baby grows up you must give it to us. That is the price of your parsley." '
The mother thought nothing of this until one day the girl was snatched from the garden and taken by the 'nuns' to make a casserole.
The main ingredient of the casserole? Parsley-girl. The nuns were witches in disguise. As with all good fairytales the spritly child finds a way to overcome the witches and become the hero of the tale.

A quick pit-stop in France:
Take from the same fairytale anthology is the French version of 'Little Red Riding Hood.'
The traditional fairytales originally were told by adults for adults, they are bawdy and far more violent than the Disneyfied version that we know today. This version of Little Red follows that story we know till the end when Little Red takes off her clothes and jumps into bed next to the wolf disguised as her gradmother. After all the 'What big .... you have...' lines the Wolf 'threw himself upon Little Red Riding Hood and gobbled her up too.'

The final destination, Spain:
Another fairytale this is one that I found by doing a Google search The Water of Life.
Two brothers and their sisters decide to better their lives by building a palace. After a party to celebrate their beautiful palace a young man tells them the the palace is missing something: the water of life, a beautiful tree and a singing bird and the only way to get these things is to go up the mountain.
The eldest sets off leaving a knife behind which will shine if he is well and be covered in blood if he is not. Half way up the mountain he meets a giant and asks for directions, he is told:
'Many have passed by seeking those treasures, but none have ever come back; and you will never come back either, unless you mark my words. Follow this path, and when you reach the mountain you will find it covered with stones. Do not stop to look at them, but keep on your way. As you go you will hear scoffs and laughs behind you; it will be the stones that mock. Do not heed them; above all, do not turn round. If you do you will become as one of them. Walk straight on till you get to the top, and then take all you wish for.'
The next day the knife is bloody. The next brother decides to go and rescue his brother, but he befalls the same fate. Finally the sister decided to take her chance on the moutain and she is much more successful having followed the giants orders.

This challenge is still open for people to join, if you fancy reading 10 short stories from 10 different coutries come and sign up here

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

My Thoughts: Mudbound by Hliary Jordan

I finally got around to my first Southern book for the 2009 Southern Reading Challenge, I've only got a few weeks letf to read the other two!

Mudbound has been reviewed a lot in the blogsphere, so I 'm probably repeating what you've heard before with this review, so I'll keep it short.
Laura marries Henry unaware that he plans to spend his life as a farmer. When he buys land and a farm without her knowing her whole life is turned upside down. They settle on to the mud-bath of a farm alongside her cantankerous, racist father-in-law and the brother-in-law that she loves. Problems arise when her fathers racism is agitated.

I loved the way that this novel has different chapters narrated by different characters, not only does it give you different perspectives on the events but also you hear the different voices of each character.
I finished this in two sittings, looking forward to more from this author.

The Southern Reading Challenge
A-Z (Author)
999 (New Fiction)

p.s I started and abandoned Cold Mountain - so will be finding an alternative Southern book to read.

Friday, 24 July 2009

My Thoughts: New Moon by Stephanie Meyer

I know... I'm way behind everyone else...

I read Twilight last year and loved it, going out and buying the next books all at once, but they kept getting put to the bottom of the pile as other books were bookrings, due back to the library or had to be read for challenges. I was in a bit of a reading slump this week so I grabbed New Moon as I knew the pace would pull me out.
In the second book, Bella is still madly in love with the Vegtarian Vampire Edward, but he forces him to leave her knowing his very existence was putting her in danger. Thinking he no longer loved her, she barely lives unable to pull herslf out of a deep depression.
Until, that is she starts hanging around with Jacob. With him she can laugh and almost be herself again. She also realises that putting herself in danger makes her feel alive again - alive because it brings back Edwards voice.
As with any good vampire story, a chase begins and there is blood and gore, but it's pretty tame in this one.

As with the first book I was immediately immersed in Bella's world. The dreamy language and the horrific pain of first love and loss clawed me in.
I will get to the next book in the next few weeks as I'd love to finish the series before I go back to school.

2009 YA Book Challenge
Chunkster Challenge

Other YA reads worth checking out:
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Beauty by Robin McKinley
What I Was by Meg Rosoff

Monday, 20 July 2009

My Thoughts: The Long Way Down by Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor

Having previously read The Long Way Round where this pair motorbiked from the UK overland to New York I was egar to get this book as soon as it came out, and so I did. A christmas present back in 2007 yet I've only just read it (I haven't read any of the other books I recieved that year or any of the ones I recieved this year - despite wanting to read them all!).
In the Long Way Down the pair motorbike from Scotland, through Europe and then through Africa right o Cape town. The book is told from both of the men's perspectives, each talking about their experiences and emotions of both riding and the sights, history and people that they meet.
Having read this I'm now itching to get out and find out more about Africa, its somewhere I'd love to go and teach for a month or so (China and Canada are on my list too). Its good to read a book that highlights the problems but also presents a positive picture from those haunting images I remember of Ethiopia from my childhood.

Non-fiction 5
999 (tbr pile)

Thursday, 16 July 2009

My Thoughts: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

I finished listening to this audiobook late last night, the book is read by Mandy Siegfried who has the most fantstic voice I could listen to her reading the back of a cereal packet.
Speak is a YA novel, the main character is struggling in her new school as her old friends have all abandoned her. It is rumoured that she called the cops to a teenage party, noone knows the real reason she picked up the phone and dial 911.
At the new school she is largely abandoned, her grades fall and she starts playing traunt. She also falls out with her parents as they cannot understand the change that has come over their daughter.
Read it! Or better yet listen to it.

YA 2009

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Summer reading

Over the last few weeks I've been daydreaming about all the freetime I will have in the next few weeks and how I'm going to enjoy using it to attack mount tbr. I have 6 and a half weeks off, I'm getting paid to do some extra school work and doing a bit of tutoring but generally I'll be pottering around, 2 of my best friends are travelling so I'll have way too much time on my hands.

So, in the book geekiness that is common to many book bloggers (i hope), I have been making a pool of books at the foot of my stairs, and I thought I'd share it with you.

To finish:
The Piano
Dr. Johnson and the Extraordinary Story of the Book that Defined the World
, Hitchings
A Long Way Down, Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman

The Pile:
Bitter Fruit, Achmat Dangor
Out of Africa, Karen Blixen
My Name is Red, Orhan Pamuk
A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters, Barnes
First They Killed my Father, Loung Ung
The Radetzky March, Joseph Roth
The Emigrants, WG Sebald
Koroko, Soseki
We, Zamiatin
Z for Zachariah
The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga
The 19th Wife, David Ebershoff
Whole of a Morning Sky, Nichols
The Caliban Shore, Stephen Taylor
Love, Toni Morrison
Cry, The Beloved Country
A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
Nation, Terry Pratchett
Lost in a Good Book, Jasper Fforde
A Year in Green Tea and TukTuks
Magic Seeds, V.S Naipaul
A Few Short Notes on Tropical Butterflies, John Murray
Tuk Tuk to the Road
The Swarm
, Frank Schatzing
Water Music, TC Boyle
Assassins Apprentice, Robin Hobb
Sardines and Oranges: Stories from North Africa
Fear and Trembling, Amelie Nothomb
Mudbound, Hillary Jorday
The Secret Life of Words, Henry Hitchings

As I said this is a pool rather than a list, I'd be happy if I read two-thirds of the pile.
The house rabbit, Alba only managed to nibble the side of a bookmark - she's looking pretty grumpy now temtation has been move to a safe place

Sunday, 12 July 2009

The Sunday Salon: Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd

One more week of school left before the holidays start - lets hope that this week my patience goes back up to its normal high level, the kids were made last week, swine flu arrived in school and the teachers were all on a short fuse.
This week I have to be observed teaching my weakest class, last week they became unbearable - they scwabble, answer back and cry at the slightest thing. I've also taught them all of the curriculum so have no idea what I will be teaching them in 13hours! Wednesday I'm off to a theme park with 300+ kids lets hope the weather improves!

I had a lazy afternoon finishing Siobhan Dowd's Bog Child, a book I was asked to read as the resisdent YA/Childrens book reader in the department - we're looking for new books to teach, I made my recommendations and then was given this to consider.
The Republic of Ireland is at a pinnacle moment in its history, bombs are going of and the political prisioners are on a hunger strike.
18 year old Fergus' brother is in prison on political charges, his mum is praying for his release and his safety, his Dad is busy drinking the town on the edge of the border is in turmoil as more and more of its young men are caught up in the troubles. Fergus has a lot going on, he is in the middle of his A Level exams and then while digging illegally on the other side of the border he discovers the Bog Child, Mel. Her body has been preserved by the marshy ground. Cora and her mother tun up to determine Mel's origins and the cause of her death and love errupts for Fergus.
I loved this novel, there does seem to be way too much going on in this boys life though, I'm not sure how he managess to stay sane. Alongside the story of Fergus Mel's voice creeps through into his sub-conscious and we discover more and more about her life.
This book just like Dowd's A Swift Pure Cry is well worth a read for both adults and teenagers.

YA 2009
Orbis Terrarum
999 (New Fiction)

Saturday, 11 July 2009

My Thoughts: Being Emily by Anne Donovan

Being Emily is a novel about love, growing up and family. Fiona starts off as the quiet child in a busy family, a child with an obsession about Emily Bronte who just doesn't quite fit in with her busy family. As she gets older she moves off to a new school and widens her interests to include art. When her mother dies she is left in charge of the family home while her dad tries to kill his pain with whiskey.
Jas, her boyfriend is her only escape until she meets his older brother. After that her life spirals in many different directions.
Set in Scotland this novel has a warm feel,the dialect is recreated producing the feel of a northern family. This novel, although not my normal type of read is warm and secure, something I'd happily lend to the older girls in my classes. It explore love and family without over romanticising or demonising them like many books do.
A good Sunday afternoon read.

Monday, 6 July 2009

My Thoughts: The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera

After saying yesterday that my reading had slowed down I polished of The Whale Rider in an hour last night. This kids book focuses on Maori New Zealanders, living between the traditions of their cultures and the fast paced world around them.
Kahu came into the world a girl, a fact that greatly disappointed her grandfather, he desired a male grandchild to keep the Maori language and beliefs alive with the new generations. Kahu, desperate for her grandfather's attention sneaks into the lessons he gives deliving cultural knowledge and langauge to the local boys. Despite being always under his feet her grandfather doesn't see the power Kahu inside her until fate intervenes and she is forced to act.
A great read for kids, made me want to learn more about the Maori culture
A-Z (Author)
999 (YA)
Young Adults 2009
Orbis Terrarum

Sunday, 5 July 2009

The Sunday Salon: Heart Shaped Box

I'm not sure what's happening with my reading at the moment, but I seem to be slowing down dramatically, which was not helped by working 2 extra shifts in a pub this weekend. Hopefully things will be back on track next week.
I spent last night at a local festival, loads of live mucis, a storytelling tent, live oral poets (who were amazing), face painting, a silent disco and much more. It was a great evening, finishing off the night dancing to a The Specials coverband.
The weather here has been amazing all week, although too hot at night to sleep comfortably.

I've somehow managed to draw out reading Heart Shaped Box over the whole week, and this is a book which would normally require a evening or twos reading.
Heart-Shaped Box isn't my normal type of read but I heard great things about it in the blogging world and thought I'd give it a try. When my Mum read it and said it made her scared, I laughed, no book has scared me since I was a kid, but this one left me unsettled on many occassions.
Heart Shaped Box features a rock star, a goth and a hypnotising ghost. The ghost is the step-father of the rock star's ex, a girl with many problems who was found dead in the bath. Through a plan the rockstar purchases a ghost for a laugh not knowing the trouble it will cause him. Suddenly he is acting at the ghosts will, and trying his hardest to fight against this force.
It certainly isn't well written but I was hooked in within a few pages.
The Genre Challenge (Horror)
999 (New Fiction)