Saturday, 31 January 2009

Out of Action!

Just a quick note to say my home computer is broken so I'm out of action for a while - hopefully only a week or so. However I'm getting a lot more read!

Monday, 19 January 2009

Short Story Monday: 'Reunion' by John Cheever

This is going to be very short and sweet as I have to spend my evening working (bleurh!). Rather tha reading a short story I listenened to one from The New Yorker's short story podcast (if you click here you can also listen to the short story or even subscribe to the podcasts for free.

'Reunion' is a very short story, lasting only around 7 minutes. The story tells of a young man meeting his father for the first time in three years. His father offers to take him out for dinner. His father's attitude to every person he meets who he considers of a lower status than him is a disgrace, he is rude, ignorant and arrogant obviously feeling power with every person he manages to belittle.
This story is well worth a listen, especially because the man reading it, Richard Ford, has such a lovely voice and intonation. Check it out!

Plus check out my much more prolific short story reading from yesterday here

Sunday, 18 January 2009

The Sunday Salon: Indonesian Short Stories

The latest issue of Words Without Borders (always well worth checking out) includes several short stories by Indonesian women. As I'm having a Sunday filled with marking, housework and reading the heaviest novel I can find I decided that I would dip into these in my breaks between tasks.
Maybe Not Yem by Etik Juwita
In a very plain and undersatate language this short story tells of the journey back to Indonesia by a group of migrant female workers. The narrator sits beside a woman determined to spring fear into her, filling her with tales of crimes migrant workers play onto their wealthy bosses.
The journey portrays the many ways that these women are in a constant battle, everyone is out to rip them off, so by the time they return home to their families the little money they earned working so hard has been tugged and pulled in many directions all for the benefit of others.

In complete contrast to Maybe Not Yem, is The Century Carver
by Oka Rusmini

This story is rich and full of detailed description. The Carver in the story is Kopag, blind for the whole of his life he has been taught the beauty and power of wood. Able to carve beautiful women without ever having seen one he earns his families fortune.
When one day a woman walks into the room and speaks to him, he declares her the most beautiful woman alive, comparing her to the beauty of wood:
"The beauty of this young woman was extraordinary. The indentations of her body and her face resembled those in a piece of timber. She was timber of exquisite beauty. It was odd that other people were unable to see her loveliness, to appreciate the beauty that nature had entrusted to her. Even old Gubreg made no comment when Kopag praised the prettiness of this eighteen-year-old girl. What was wrong with the criteria he had used to judge her beauty?"

His family are shocked and distraught at his choice as externally she is pitifully ugly,without sight his version of beauty is very different from the conventional concept held by the rest of society.

Road to Heaven by Abidah El Khalieqy is the story of a mother's death and life. As the mother dies her appearance cahnges to one of extreme beauty and happiness, a smile creeps over her face, eeryone comments on it, except the father:
"A telephone rang in my heart. "He's jealous, extremely jealous," a disconnected voice said. With the smile of an angel on her lips, my mother looked very young, as if she had returned in time to her age as a young woman, on the day she got married twenty years ago."
As the daughter travels with her mother's body to the final resting place we hear of the brutality her mother felt at her father's hands, brutality caused because the father was jealous of his wife's love of God.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

My Thoughts: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman writes another corker. The Graveyard Book manages to draw you back to the childhood sensation of discovering a new world hidden in the depths of a few hundred pages.
The book is about Nobody Owens (Bod), escaping from murder at the age of one, Bod fines sanctuary in a Graveyard. The Ghosts and The Honour guard provide him with a family and a safe place to grow up, away from those who need to come to finish him off. As Bod grows older his obedience frays and he begins to explore the town around his graveyard placing himself in danger. The danger follows his scent, leading to a climactic ending.

Neil Gaiman managed to create a wonderful sense of place in this novel, the creepy graveyard transforming to become a place of warmth, love and security. The book is classified in our library as Young Adult, but this is a book which deserves to faind many many readers.

The Dream King 2/6
A-Z (Title)
The YA book Challenge 2/12
999 (New Fiction) 5/81
NaJuReMoNoMo 5/5

Stuff Dreams are Made On
Things Mean A Lot

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Library Loot

Eva is hosting Library Loot, an opportunity to flash the books you borrowed from the library this week.
I borrowed 4 and brought 3 for 20pence each. Sounds a bargain but this trip cost loads as I had a £20 fine a the library (eek!)

(This looks a mess as all pictures are coming up as links so I can't fiddle with the sizing and positioning - damn blogspot!
From the top: Days like Today, Ingalls (a bargain buy); The Graveyard Book, Gaiman (Because I love his stuff and for the Dream King and YA challenges); Fun Home: A Tragicomic, Bechdel (In Their Shoes and Graphic Novel Challenge); a graphic novel version of The Master and Margarita (For Olympic ad Graphic novel challenge); Priest, Min-Woo Hyung (my first ever Manga for the Manga challenge); Redemption, Langdale and Still Water Saints, Espinoza (both bargains).

Monday, 12 January 2009

Characters who annoy/frustrate.

Yesterday I finished Siam: Or the Woman Who Shot a Man by Lucy Tuck, before I make this book sound bad, I'll give you the low down. The book is about a young newly married couple, his job is with the Army and he is posted in Thailand helping in the strikes against Vietnam. The wife moves out to live with him. One evening they go to dinner with the president of the Thai Silk Company, a few days later he goes missing. The wife becomes obsessed with the missing man.

My Rant: Firstly I cannot see why the couple are married, he is obsessed with sex, seeming to need in non-stop. She talks and talks despite the fact that he is not interested, and if you had to listen to it you would't be interested either. In the middle of sex she will be telling him about the Thai royal family and during a car crash she decides to repeast all the Thai she had learnt that week!
She also becomes obsessed with a man she met once at a busy dinner, whom she barely spoke to. She obsesses about whether he has been attacked by Lions, kidnapped by communists, or even the Americans. She is basically a wet blanket, far too young to be married and longing for some way to speed up her lonely days.
I kept reading on trying to figure out when this book was going to get better, when she was going to solve the murder and whe she was going to catch her husband in bed with someone else - it never happened.
Anyway it helped with a couple of challenges
NaJuReMoNoMo book 4/5
A-Z (Title)

Friday, 9 January 2009

My Thoughts: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

"Shadow had done three years in prison. He was big enough, and looked don't fuck-with-me enough that his biggest problem was killing time. So he kept himself in shape, and taught himself coin tricks, nd thought a lot about how much he loved his wife."

The moment Shadow is released from prison his life changes, his wife is dead having been killed in a car crash is a compromising position with his best friend, and on the way to her funeral he meets a man who will change his world.

Shadow suddenly becomes the employee of Wednesday half god/half con man. He runs every time this man calls taking him on various jobs across the States, and meeting a number of random gods. In every place he travels he meets gods from each of the countries that Americans originated from, all brought over by the beliefs of migrants and many forgotten by the current breed of Americans.

And that's not all he has to deal with: His undead wife keeps returning asking to be brought to life. Oh, yeah and...

"...all the gods that people have ever imagined are still with us... And that there are new gods out there, gods of computers and telephones and whatever, and that they all seem to think there isn't room for them both in the world. And that some kind of war is kins of likely."

The story of Shadow and of the war of the gods is interspersed with my favorite chapters, those from the past which show the arrival of migrants and gods arriving to the shores of America, my most favorite being the chapter entitled 'Coming to America' about twin African children sold to slave traders and shipped to America, that language just pulls you right in, and you feel like you have stepped into another novel.
999 (Fantasy)
A-Z: Author
The Dream King 1/12
The Genre Challenge 4/10
Fourth Annual NaJuReMoNoMo 3/5
The Chunkster Challege (640 pages) 1/6
Other Reviews worth checking out:
A Striped Armchair
Rhinoa's Ramblings

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Chunkster Chllenge 09

The Chunkster Challenge

*A chunkster is 450 pages or more of ADULT literature (fiction or
nonfiction) Don't complain folks, I read all thousands of pages of the
Twilight series and they were good, but not a challenge.
A chunkster should be a challenge.
*If you read large type
books your book will need to be 525 pages or more I asked around and
the average LT book is 10-15% longer or more so I think that was a fair
*No Audio books in the chunkster. It just doesn't seem
right. Words on paper for this one folks.
* You may start any time after
signing up. You must complete your reads before or on Nov 15th.
Stories and Essay collections will not be counted.
*Books may crossover
with other challenges (see option 4 for a collaborative effort
with TBR challenge)
*Only option 4 requires that you make a set
list of books to complete the challenge
Those are the basics. Here are your
*The Chubby Chunkster - this option is for the reader who
has a large tome or two to read, but really doesn't want to commit to more than
that. 2 books is all you need to finish this challenge.
*Do These Books
Make my Butt Look Big? - this option is for the slightly heavier reader who
wants to commit to 3-5 Chunksters over the next ten
*Mor-book-ly Obese - This is for the truly out of
control chunkster. For this level of challenge you must commit to 6 or
more chunksters OR three tomes of 750 pages or more. You know you want
to.....go on and give in to your cravings.

And lastly, in an
intriguing collaboration with the wildly popular Miz B of
the TBR Challenge we
*Too Big To Ignore Anymore - this option is for
those chunksters on your TBR list. You may select any number
of books over 450 pages but you must LIST THEM to complete the challenge and
they must be on your TBR list as well (honor code folk, I don't have
time to be the challenge police)
Please sign Mr. Linky with the DIRECT LINK
to your blog post about this challenge!

I'm going for option 3 as I think I will easily read 6 if not more chunksters, infact I'm reading one at the moment - The Northern Clemeny, a 750 page brick of a book. I'm not going to list my books I'll just add them as I read them.

Monday, 5 January 2009

My Thoughts: The Tales of the Beedle and the Bard.

Do you ever build books up too much before you get around to reading them and then feel let down?

Now I know that had this book been by a different author, hadn't had a slight link to a series I loved I would have regarded it much more highly.
As with the Harry Potter books I expected to start this and not put it down until the very last word. I expected to feel like a little kid again lost in another world. I expected that this book would remain a favorite.
It was ok.
That's probably unfair. I did enjoy some of the little stories, and they are good little alternative fairy tales and I will keep the book so when I have kids I have some slightly sinister fairy tales for them to read, but this only gets 3 stars out of 5 for me.

Have you read it? What did you think?
A-Z (AUTHOR) (1/26)
999 (Fairy tales) (2/81)
Fourth Annual NaJuReMoNoMo (book 2)

Friday, 2 January 2009

Challenge Addict Alert

I wish people would stop creatig irresistable challenges. The Dream King Challenge is all about my 2008 discovery, Neil Gaiman.

The Rules (Copy and Pasted)
The Dream King Challenge will run from 1 January 2009 - 31 December 2009. You can join at any time during the year.This is a partial list of Neil's works that I've compiled. Use it to help you choose your level of participation.
There are four different levels:
Neophyte: Read one work and watch one movie
Acolyte: Read three works (from three different categories) and watch one movie
Devotee: Read six works (from six different categories) and watch one movie
Zealot: Read twelve works (from at least six different categories) and watch one movie

There will also be mini-challenges (with prizes!) and other fun activities during the year. Re-reads are okay - I'm sure a lot of us have already read a few of Neil's books before. This challenge can (and will!) overlap with other challenges. I would suggest J. Kaye's Young Adult Reading Challenge and Laza's Graphic Novel Challenge. If you'd like to join, leave a comment below or send an email to xjessideex [at] gmail [dot] com. I'll send you an invitation to post on the blog.

I'm going for Devotee, he is on many lists already. This is what I am hoping read:
Comics/Graphic Novels:
Stardust or Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnals


American Gods (I am half way through already)
Anansi Boys

Short Stories:
Smoke and Mirrors

Young Adult:
The Day I swapped Dad for Two Goldfish

Probably Now We Are Sick ( A poetry collection)

And I'll have to find an Audiobook as my last one.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

My Thoughts: Beauty by Robin McKinley

McKinley has taken the classic fairytale Beauty and the Beast and reworked it into her own tale, presenting it to a new audience. I was really worried that this would be a modern take on the fairy tale, in a modern world, but I had nothing to worry about this book is set far enough back in history to contain the magic of a fairytale.
Beauty (an ungainly teenager) is removed from a life of poverty and a loving family when her father one day picks her a rose from the Beasts castle. She has to choose to live with the beast or give her father's life. Like any dutiful daughter it is her freedom which she chooses to forsake.
McKinley's depiction of the Beast's castle is mesmerising, I felt like I was back as a kid again, marvelling at Bedknobs and Broomsticks or Cinderella (can't ever recall having seen Beauty and the Beast - think Disney rereleased it when I was a teen and to cool to be watching stuff like that :rolleyes: The dishes fill themselves, she is dressed and pampered by invisible servants, and the ground of the castle change daily so she is never bored. She also has our fantasy library, more books than you could ever read, and it contains books not yet published, a view of the future she will not live to see.
Yes we all know how this story has to end, and McKinley sticks very close to the story, yet I was still wishing she would go back to him quickly before he faded away.
This may be kids fiction but definately is a must for anyone who loved/loves a happy ending and a fantasy world. Great for 9 year olds but also those of us who wish to escape to a magical world for a few hours. I'll definately be checking out her other books.


Fourth Annual NaJuReMoNoMo 1/5

999 Challenge 2/81

YA fiction 1/12

A-Z Challenge: Title 1/26

Other Reviews worth checking out:

Raidergirl 3
Have you reviewed this? If so pop a link to your review in the comments section

Exploration: Latin American Fiction - Reviews Here!

The aim of this challenge is to read 4 Latin American books between now and the 30th April, if you haven't signed up go here for more info.
And we now have a gorgeous button (above) made by Bethany - thanks so much!
Leave links to your reviews here in the comments section and I'll add them to this post.

Malinche by Laura Esquivel Reviewed by Ex Libris
In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alveraz, Reviewed by Richard

Rescue Challenge starts today! Reviews here

The Rescue Challenge starts today, why not make your new years resolution to read some of those neglected books on your TBR pile (or mountain if your anything like me). You just have to aim to read between 3 - 6 books. Books can count for other challenges. Leave links to your reviews and/or progress in the comments section here - Mr Linky doesn't like me so I can't get that working.
Want to sign up go here