Monday, September 28, 2009

No cooking equals book buying

What happens when you don't put the chicken strips in the refrigerator to defrost and don't put the peas in the crockpot to cook while you're at work and the only other option for dinner is spaghetti with jarred sauce? Well, in my home, you end up talking yourselves into going out to pickup some Chinese food. Of course, you also decide to go to the one Chinese food place that is in the same strip as a Half Price Books. No one wants to just sit in the restaurant and wait on the food to be prepared, right? After all, the time will pass much faster in the bookstore than in the restaurant, especially when you find books that you have to have.

I only bought one book tonight: The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimimanda Ngozie Adiche. There was no way that I could leave it sitting on the shelf unbought. It just came out in June! I absolutely fell in love with Adiche's writing when I read her novel Half of a Yellow Sun. I still need to read her first novel Purple Hibiscus too. This new book is a collection of short stories, so it might get read sooner than later. I can read one here and there and not have to worry about remembering where I left off.

Well, the Cowboys have won, and I can go to bed and read now. Later!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Really Good Weekend & Some Reading

Even though the Astros lost badly when I saw them last night for the last time this season, I still had a really good weekend. I enjoyed a yummy Mexican food dinner and margaritas with Valerie and a good friend of ours on Friday night. Afterward we went to a bar for a couple of more drinks.

Yesterday, Valerie and I went to a members preview of a new exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. The Moon is an interesting exhibit that combines art with science. My favorite item in the exhibit was a painting by one of my favorite painters: Blue Luna by Kenneth Noland--I wanted to include a photo of it, but I can't find one online. I will definitely go back and see the exhibit again. I want to see A Trip to the Moon, a silent film, the first science fiction film. It's based on two novels, one by Jules Verne and one by H.G. Wells. We watched about five minutes of it, but I want to go back and watch the whole thing. (I have one big complaint about this exhibit. It is organized around the phases of the moon, but it is not laid out in a way to easily follow the phases.)

After the museum, we went to the sorry Astros games. :-( But after the game, we had a nice dinner with another friend and did a bit of people watching in downtown Houston.

Today, I mostly spent the afternoon finishing The Little Stranger. I thought the book was very good. I see why this book is a Booker prize finalist. Waters is doing so much more with this novel than simply creating an entertaining haunted house story. Because one of the main characters is named Roderick, I really feel like I should re-read Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher." Also, I need to think about The Little Stranger for a day or two before I write at length about it.

Now, what's next to read? I have to read The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf for my book club, but I'm going to start at least one other book too. I really want to read 2666, but it's so long that I think I will wait a bit to read it. Besides I'm already reading a very long book at work, Moby Dick. I also have been thinking about reading another P.D. James mystery, but Valerie's great pleasure in reading Sarah Vowell has made me really want to read something by her. So, I think I will start The Wordy Shipmates soon.

Friday, September 18, 2009

BBAW Day 5 - The Present and the Future of Breathing Space

For this final day of BBAW, I have two assignments:
  1. In 50 words or less, tell what I love best about my blog.
  2. In 50 words or less, identify goals/changes that I foresee for my blog.
What I love best
I love that this blog gives me a chance to write about the books I read. I can write reviews of whole books or simply write about a what a passage/book makes me think about. And I love that my posts are archived, so that if I want to refer to them again, I can do it.

Well, I now own my own domain name (Thanks, Valerie!), and I would like to migrate my blog to that space and try to create a multi-faceted site. I'm not sure what other facets I will add, but I would definitely like to personalize the look of my blog, even if I simply change the banner. I would also like to blog more regularly and maybe create some recurring blog features.

I've really enjoyed being a part of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, and I look forward to reading the blogs that I have discovered this week.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

BBAW Day 4 - A Memorable Book Recommendation

Today's assignment is to write about a book that I read about on a book blog and that after reading it, I fell in love with it. I have to admit that I couldn't immediately think of a book. Thank goodness for LibraryThing! I went to my library and went through the titles there and as soon as I saw Mutual Life and Casualty, I knew I had to write about it.

In the fall of 2005, I discovered this book on The LitBlog Co-op, which was a site that highlighted contemporary fiction from unknown authors and smaller presses. Unfortunately, this site is no longer active, but some of the bloggers who participated in this site are still active on their own blogs.

Mutual Life and Casualty by Elizabeth Poliner is a novel in short stories that tells of the lives of the Kahn sisters and their mother during the late 70s. Before I go any further, I have to admit that I loved the title of the book and the cover. But once I read The Happy Booker's recommendation of the book, I had to have it. I think I even ordered it from Amazon because I couldn't find it in a store here. I didn't write a long post about it then, but the book really resonated with me, and I still think about it on occasion. I think that I connected with these stories because I grew up at that time and witnessed the changing lives of women as they fought for equality. However, I think the stories would be interesting even to people who don't have the same background as I do. Because this is a book of short stories, I don't find myself recommending it very much, but I should. As a matter of fact, I think I might have to re-read this book soon. :-)

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Meme for BBAW

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack?
I love snack food, but I'm really not a big snacker while I read.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
I used to mark books up all the time, and I'm not sure when/why I stopped doing it. I've tried folding page corners to remind myself of the location of sentences/images/events that I want to remember, but I don't feel as satisfied with that method as I was when I marked up books. I think I will have to start reading with a pencil handy again.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open?
I LOVE bookmarks! In 2002, I went on my second tour of Europe, and I decided that I would buy bookmarks as souvenirs. I'm not usually a big souvenir buyer, but I liked the idea of bookmarks because they are rather inexpensive, easily portable, and useful. So I became a bookmark collector. Often when I start a new book, I will try to find an appropriate bookmark to use. Very silly, I know, but I can't help myself.

Fiction, Non-fiction, or both?
I am a fiction reader who only occasionally reads non-fiction.

Hard copy or audiobooks?
Hard copy! However, I used to commute for an hour one-way, and I did listen to some audiobooks. It's hard for me to call listening to audiobooks reading. I just don't get the same pleasure or satisfaction out of listening to books as I do reading a hard copy.

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point?
It depends. During the week, my main time for reading is when I go to bed. I always try to read to the ends of chapters, but sometimes I just can't stay awake to finish. If I'm close, I might nod off a few times before I give up and put my book down for the night. Most of the time, I can put a book down at any point, but I like to at least finish the last paragraph on a page even if it's continued on the next page or get to a break on the page, if there is one.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?
If I can get a good idea of meaning using the context of the word, I won't bother looking it up. Otherwise, it depends on when/where I'm reading. Lying in bed, I would not look up a word. Sitting some place with a computer/cell phone handy/dictionary handy, I would be more likely to look it up immediately.

What are you currently reading?
At home, I'm reading The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. At work, I'm reading Moby Dick.

What is the last book you bought?
The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf. I just bought this on Sunday after my book club met and selected this book for our next read.

Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time?
I used to be a one-book-at-a-time person unless I was re-reading something that I was teaching. Now that I'm a librarian, I do often have more than one book going at a time. Sometimes it's an adult book and a young adult book, but for the past couple of years, I've found myself often reading two adult books, one for me and one for book club, and one young adult book for work. Sometimes I might even have a short story book or, rarely, a non-fiction book going.

Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read?
My favorite time to read is first thing in the morning, sitting in the chair by the living room window and drinking a cup or two or three of coffee.

Do you prefer series books or stand alone books?
I really have never been a series book reader, not even when I was a kid. I don't really like sequels/series movies either. Over the years, as a high school English teacher and now a librarian, I have tried some childrens/young adult series that my students were reading and loving. I read and loved the first Harry Potter, but I've never felt compelled to read the others in the series, although I do sometimes think that I should. I read Twilight and did not fall in love with it, and I know that I will never read any of the other books in the series. Last spring, I read Hunger Games and fell in love with Katniss, the protagonist, and I couldn't wait for September 1 to get Catching Fire, the second book in the series, which I liked just as much as the first one, and now I am anxiously awaiting the next book.

Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?
A couple of books that I know that I've recommended to lots of people are Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides and Possession by A.S. Byatt. My favorite authors are Margaret Atwood and Toni Morrison, and I often recommend them. After reading a second book of stories by Alice Munro this summer, I have become a real fan of her work and will start recommending her. For people who like mysteries, I recommend P.D. James and lately, the Stieg Larsson books.

How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?)
I wish my books were organized, but I just haven't gone to the trouble of doing it yet. I do have all my signed books grouped together. Maybe next summer, I'll spend some time organizing, but I'm not making any promises.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Introducing Valerie from Life is a Patchwork Quilt

Participants in Book Blogger Appreciation Week were paired up to interview each other. My interview partner is Valerie, a blogger in Colorado who also quilts. Her blog Life is a Patchwork Quilt includes posts about quilting and her life but mostly she posts about books. When I was notified that we would be interview partners, I checked out her blog and was happy to see that we had a lot of books in common. As a liberal Texan, I love that when she posted about Steinbeck's Travels with Charley that she pointed out a comment he made about Texans and secession threats--such an embarrassing truth about some Texans, including our current governor, even today.

Her blog has an extra feature that I never even thought about creating, but I wish I had. She has a Books page, which is essentially an alphabetical index of the books that she has reviewed or mentioned in reviews. The titles in the list are linked to her posts. What a great feature! Her list includes a good mix of fiction and nonfiction books. Her reviews are always interesting and helpful to readers. I definitely want to read Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy after reading what she thinks about it.

Here's my interview with her:

Why/when did you start blogging?
I started blogging In January 2008, and at that time it was a general blog that covered family events, my art quilt projects, some recipes I'd try out, and about books I read. Eventually I blogged less about family (I found facebook to be a better place for updates). I tried to do a seperate blog about food and recipes, but it was too much work. Quilt-related posts enced up being too far apart. So it seems like I ended up mostly blogging about books!

What are your favorite books/authors?
Oh, there are so many I like! It's hard for me to say whether I have favorite authors, because I tend not to read authors that churn out several books. I have several books by Edith Wharton but it's been a long time since I last read one of her works. I also have, and enjoyed, several by T.C. Boyle. I love "A Suitable Boy" by Vikram Seth, and I wish more people would read it, but I think the size scares most people off!

Do you do reading challenges?
Only a couple at a time. I know some people love doing them, but enforced deadlines are hard for me!

Do you read more than one book at a time?
Oh, yes. Usually 3-4, but they are different types: one book might be a short story collection, one might be on poetry, one would be a novel, and one non-fiction book.

Is there any kind of book that you won't read?
I say "never say never", but generally I don't read romance, science fiction, fantasy, or true crime.

Do you review books for publishers? Library Thing?
I'm a member of Library Thing, but in the year or so that I've been a member, have only received five books to review. I'm very picky about which books I request; I do not want to have an endless list of ARCs I need to read. As for books from publishers, so far it has been just a couple; and again, I'd be very choosy about which books I accept. I've also recently had a lucky streak recently and have won a few books through blog give-aways, but again I only enter the ones where I have a real interest in the book.

Do you participate in any kind of rewards program like Amazon's? (I'm not sure what it's called.)
I do have an Amazon Associates account, and I try to remember to link titles to amazon, but it's really more for the reader's conveinence because I've made zero profit from it :-)!

Do you mostly borrow books from the library, or are they purchased (and of those purchased, are they primarily new or used?)
I purchase my books--many are used--because I have a hard time trying to meet library due date deadlines (even with renewals).

Are your TBRs mostly on a list, or collected and waiting to be read?
I have both a list, and an ever-growing pile of TBR books. One reason why it's been growing is because our local library has had a lot of good books for sale-- paperbacks 25 cents, hardbacks 50 cents. This is currently a half-price sale; soon it will go back to 50 cents for paperbacks and a dollar for hardbacks. I found a pristine hard-cover copy of "What is the What" by Dave Eggers there for only 50 cents. Still waiting to be read!

What are your earliest memories of reading, and do you remember what book(s)?
I've been reading since I was about two years old, but my earliest memories are the "Little House" books by Laura Ingalls Wilder; I don't remember myself reading picture books (if I ever really did).

I hope you will go to Life is a Patchwork Quilt and look around. If you're a Texan, make sure that you check out her post about Steinbeck's Travels with Charley. While you're there, you can read her interview with me too. :-)

Monday, September 14, 2009

It's Book Blogger Appreciation Week

Welcome to Book Blogger Appreciation Week. This is my first time to participate, and I am very excited. Tomorrow, I will post my interview with Valerie of Life is a Patchwork Quilt, and she will post her interview with me on her blog.

Here is our assignment for today:
What book blogs mean something to you? Who are your most trusted sources for recommendations, your greatest help, the blogger you turn to for a laugh or to vent? Whose writing do you admire or who introduced you to a whole new genre you didn’t know about?
Some of favorites book blogs are:
  • A Work in Progress - Danielle is a great blogger. She posts regularly about the multiple books that she is always reading. She reads a lot of British mysteries and both American and British classics. When she reads nonfiction, it seems like her choices are related to the fiction that she reads. Her posts are always interesting.
  • Classical Bookworm - Sylvia's blog is about the arts and humanities rather than simply books. I share her love of classics. Many of her posts are accompanied with interesting and relevant images. There's always something interesting on her site.
  • So Many Books - Like me, Stefanie works in a library. Mostly, she blogs about literature, but she also has been blogging about her readings in her library science courses. I really enjoy reading her posts.
  • Stainless Steel Droppings - Carl's blog has the best art/images on it of all the blogs that I read. He mostly blogs about fantasy and science fiction books, which I don't read very much, but I love reading his posts and seeing the art and images.
Check out all of these book blogs. Also, be sure to come back tomorrow and read my interview with Valerie of Life is a Patchwork Quilt.

Happy Book Blogger Appreciation Week!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

A Weekend of Reading

Valerie will be in class all weekend, so I will have the days to myself. Since it is Labor Day weekend, I'm going to try to do as little labor as possible even though I do have a short list of household chores to do. I plan to spend the weekend reading as much as possible and squeezing in a couple of episodes of Masterpiece Mystery that I have DVR'd recently.

I finished reading The Professor and the Madman this morning with my first cup and a half of coffee. I'm not a big nonfiction fan, but I was glad when it was chosen for our book club. While I was reading it, I complained about it being kind of slow. It definitely moved faster toward the end. In the end, I found it interesting but not very exciting to read. I marked a few passages and might post about them later. I need to start posting about books as I read them rather than waiting until I finish. Too often, once I've finished a book, I don't want to go back and relive it in order to write a proper book review post. Usually, I'm more interested in looking forward than looking back, which is what I'm about to do.

Books on my weekend reading list
  • The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters - One night last week I gave in to my book lust and read almost twenty pages of this, and I was hooked. I'm quite proud of myself for resisting the temptation to give up on The Professor and the Madman and move on completely. A couple of years ago, I read Waters' The Night Watch, and I've wanted to read something else of hers ever since. I bought this book very soon after it was released, but I kept putting other books in front of it. Hopefully, it will live up to all the good reviews that I have read about it. I think it probably should since it has been longlisted for this year's Man Booker Prize. This book is over 400 pages, so I won't be able to finish it this weekend, but I do plan to get deep into it.
  • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins - This is a young adult book, the second in a trilogy which began with the much-lauded Hunger Games. I loved Hunger Games and am very excited to see how Collins continues the story of Katniss, one of the best girl characters that I have ever seen. This book came out on September 1, and I picked up three copies for my library, which isn't open to students for check out until after this holiday weekend. It's a good think too because I wanted to read it and so did my principal and her secretary. Hopefully, we will all finish it this weekend because I know students are anxiously awaiting this book's availability.
  • Baby Be-Bop by Francesca Lia Block - Another YA book. When I scanned all my books this week for inventory, I came across this short novel. I didn't even realize that it was part of my school library's collection. The book is about a young man who is trying to come to terms with being gay. I really only heard paid attention to this book because a Christian group has sued to be allowed to burn the copy that is available in the West Bend, Wisconsin library. I decided that I should read it. Since it's just over 100 pages, I shouldn't have any trouble getting it read this weekend.
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville - I'm a slow reader and know that I would never be able to read this 500-page book in a long weekend, but I do intend to use a 40% off coupon from Borders to purchase a copy so that I can start feeding my obsession about reading it. Valerie said the other night that it was like I was Captain Ahab. Yeah, I had thought about that already.
So, now it's just after noon and I need to pick a book to take with me to read while I have a pedicure and get out of the house for a while. Later. :-)