Monday, November 1, 2010

babbling to a close...

Pretty darn sure I'm not alone in being surprised and a bit dismayed that RIP the Fifth is already behind us. You know, the way times flies by so damn quickly is not a new phenomenon, yet it still pretty much throws me for a loop several times a year. Seriously--can someone please, please, please tell me how it got to be November already?!!

Anyway, RIP is now behind us. Except that it's not. :)  Because I'm not ready to shut down the mysterious, creepy reading train yet. Not to mention the fact that we haven't yet watched The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Shocking as it may be, I actually did read enough books to fulfill Peril the First, which I'd signed up for. I also read a nice handful of short stories and watched a few movies. Where I really dropped the ball was in actually talking about them. :P (I've actually come up with a label--I think I'm what you could call a "haphazard blogger.")

***Books Read
* The Tales of E.T.A. Hoffmann edited by Leonard J. Kent and Elizabeth C. Knight
* Black Hole by Charles Burns
* Wicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials by Stephanie Hemphill
* Amphigorey by Edward Gorey
* The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant
* Half-Minute Horrors edited by Susan Rich

***Short Stories Read
* "October in the Chair" by Neil Gaiman
* "Dip in the Pool" by Roald Dahl
* "The Smoking Room" by Shirley Jackson
* "The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar A. Poe
* "William Wilson" by Edgar A. Poe
* "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar A. Poe
* "The Black Cat" by Edgar A. Poe
* "The Pit and the Pendulum" by Edgar A. Poe
* "The Purloined Letter" by Edgar A. Poe
* "The Oval Portrait" by Edgar A. Poe
* "Ghost Market" by Greg van Eekhout

***Movies Watched
* Psycho
* Frenzy
* The Birds
* Halloween

I'm glad I don't have to pick favorites, because I'm not sure I could. I read some really great books...and yet every single one of them was so very different from each of the others.

We ended up deciding to save the last two stories in Half-Minute Horrors for last night. So after a somewhat blustery night of trick-or-treating, we gathered round the kitchen table, nibbled on some sweet potato cupcakes, and finished up this positively wonderful book! I have to say--some of the stories in this book just blew me away! While I'm not a writer, I have to imagine that it can't be an easy feat to pull off a truly creepy little tale in so few words. And yet so many of these authors managed to do it so well. Love. This. Book.

This weekend also saw me finishing up The Vanishing of Katharina Linden. I'm sort of at a loss as to how to describe this book. Essentially, it's a mystery, I suppose. Though I had the main gist of the mystery figured out fairly early (I assume it's supposed to be that way), that didn't detract from the book in the slightest. I loved this book for so many reasons: 10-year-old Pia, from whose viewpoint we hear the story, is so very likable in her "ordinariness" (I sort of hate to say that, as I don't believe that any child, or any person for that matter, is truly "ordinary," but I can't quite figure out how to say what I mean)...the setting, a small town in Germany that feels so much as if it lives in the past (there were honestly times when I felt as if I were physically jerked back to the present with a mention of Teletubbies or Spiderman or a Barbie Princess costume--and these reminders left me sort of unsettled, but unsettled in a way that was absolutely perfect for the story)...the old "ghost-like" stories within the story, eerie stories that not only added to the feel of the book, but that also played a part in how the overall story itself unfolded...the humor that felt so very natural despite the fact that this was not a humorous sort of book. (And in case I later want a more coherent version of why I loved this book so much, I'm going to stick in this link to Carl's review--it was his review that led me to read this book in the first place.)

I am so very grateful to Carl for more than just his awesome reviews, however. RIP is simply an experience I can no longer imagine my life without. And I loved having the whole gang participating this year (and we all managed to finish at least four books for the challenge, with the exception of Gray who read 3 RIP-appropriate ones). But most of all, it goes without saying but I want to say it anyway--I'm grateful to Carl for his friendship. Carl, I do hope you realize how truly wonderful you are!!! And thank you so much for another fabulous reading challenge experience!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

i give up

Not blogging. Just telling myself that I can blog in any sort of organized fashion. Or that I can do much of anything in any sort of organized fashion for that matter.

A thought occurred to me this morning--maybe the ability to follow through with plans diminishes with number of living, breathing beings that inhabit one's home. Baker pretty much knocked the last three days kerfluey. And today, the boys both woke up sick, which means that many of those things that I was hoping to get done today will not get done. Anyway, this idea of mine quickly had to be discarded when I thought about all those people with six kids, three dogs, four cats, and a horse who still manage to accomplish all they set out to do in an organized manner. So yeah, I'm back to the original theory--I need a new brain.

But with Baker peacefully napping, Gray wrapped up in his blanket reading, and Max lying quietly on the couch watching a movie, I think I can at least sneak in this one thing I'd hoped to do today--update my acquisitions and blame. All but the bottom book in this stack were bought in one evening (nearly two weeks ago) in the used section of B&N.

*The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. I rarely hit the used book stores with anything specific in mind, because that generally leads to disappointment. But I'd just read Heather's review of The Little Stranger and I just *had* to get my hands on it. You know that feeling--that pure physical craving. Honestly, I assumed I would end up leaving the used section disappointed...and have to pick it up new. Let me tell you, when I saw it sitting there on the shelf...oh yes, happy squeal. I would have happily walked out of the store with that book alone. POINT FOR HEATHER.

*Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters. Of course, I didn't walk out of the store with that book alone. This book was sitting right there with The Little Stranger, and there was just no way I was leaving it behind. So, yeah, I now have four of Water's books, and haven't read a single one of them. *sigh* I am soooo much better at acquiring than I am at actually reading.

*The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. To be perfectly honest, though I'd heard of this on occasion in the past, I really had no clue whatsoever what it was about. For some reason, even with a lack of knowledge, it scared me. Until Ana's review. After reading that, I knew this was a definite must-read! (It was also a reminder of how ridiculous it is to be afraid of books I don't know anything one should need a reminder of something so basic.) POINT FOR ANA.

*The Private War of Mrs. Packard: The Dramatic Story of a Nineteenth-Century Feminist by Barbara Sapinsley. This totally sounds like a book that I should be blaming Ana for, doesn't it? :D  But truth is I'd never heard of it before. Here's a bit of the blurb from the back:
Nineteenth-century Illinois housewife Elizabeth Packard's troubles began when she took public exception to the rigid views of her Calvinist minister husband, Theophilus. Announcing that since his wife "persistently refused my will or must be that she is insane," Rev. Packard took advantage of the Illinois law that allowed a husband to have a wife committed to an insane asylum on his own whim (and the ever-ready consent of the admitting doctor). Released a few years later through the efforts of her son, and later found sane in a sensational jury trial, Packard spent the rest of her life lobbying to change the laws under which she was institutionalized...."
Sounds like it might be quite good, doesn't it? (And Ana, if it is as good as it sounds, I'm sending it on to you after I're so bad for my bookshelves that sometimes you need a little extra "punishment"!)

Okay, I'm going to cut this short (just too many interruptions). The next four books--New News Out of Africa: Uncovering Africa's Renaissance by Charlayne Hunter-Gault, They Would Never Hurt a Fly: War Criminals on Trial in the Hague by Slavenka Drakulic, Mukiwa: A Whilte Boy in Africa by Peter Godwin, and The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan--well they all just sounded good. No points.

And in one of those last but not least situations, we've got Witch Craft: Wicked Accessories, Creepy-Cute Toys, Magical Treats, and More compiled by Margaret McGuire and Alicia Kachmar. Chris saved himself from sucking up a point for this one by not telling me that it existed before so very sweetly buying it for me. :P  Thank you again, my dear! :D

Thursday, October 14, 2010

another long can I hold out?

Well, yesterday was pretty much a reading dud. Most of my time spent with the written word was with a textbook. Not that it was horrible, by any means. But well, it was typical textbook.

Did squeeze in two chapters of The Vanishing of Katharina Linden. One of the chapters was a story told within the story. I'm not far into the book yet, only at page 40-something, but thus far I am really, really enjoying it! Odd little tidbit--it's the third book in a row told from a child's viewpoint (first the Alice books, then Room, now this one). If I had to guess at this point, I'd say that when I finish The Vanishing of Katharina Linden I will probably like it more than the Alice books and less than Room (but then Room is going to be a very hard book to beat). But who knows...there's a lot of story left to be told. :)


So, I didn't get much reading done...but that didn't stop me from desperately wanting to sign up for another reading challenge. *sigh* I fear I'm starting to slide down that slippery slope again...down to the pits of challenge overload. Not that I'm in bad shape right now, it's just that the urges are building, getting stronger all the time...

I stumbled across the latest temptation at Bellezza's...she was looking for recommendations for her list for the Read-a-Myth Challenge. I want to join this challenge sooooooo badly. And I probably will. I've got the justification all worked out in my mind. See, I'm pretty much myth-ignorant. But Gray has fallen in love with mythology. So of course, it would be wonderful to participate in this challenge together, right?!! That's why I joined Once Upon a Time the first year--because Annie loved fantasy, and I was totally unfamiliar with it, so we joined together...and wow, I fell in love! Not such a stretch to think the same thing could happen with mythology, is it?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

back to that reading journal style...

Spent time in three different books yesterday. Unfortunately the book I spent the most time with, a book I've been slowly working on for the past couple weeks, was India: A History by John Keay. And I've decided to abandon it. Not because I think it's a "bad" book. It's just not what I was hoping for. I picked it up because we're currently focusing on ancient Indian civilizations in our world history class. It's not that the writing was incomprehensible, even for someone as ignorant as I about the subject, but it was a bit dense for our purposes. And it does assume a knowledge base broader than what either Annie or I have going in, so I was finding myself needing to go look things up fairly regularly just to understand what he was talking about. We're using a lecture series and textbook already, and I was hoping for something a bit more "fun" as supplemental material. This just doesn't fit the bill.

After I have a bit more background on the history of the Indian subcontinent, I may just go pick this book back up. Then again, with so many books I'm dying to read, it may just languish on the shelves indefinitely. Far too many books do that around here.


One of the good things about deciding to abandon India was that I finally picked up Empires of the Indus by Alice Albania. I'd read the preface in the bookstore the day I bought it, so I was able to dive right in with chapter 1. And YES!!! *This* is the book I was looking for! Written in a down-to-earth, almost conversational style. Yet so chock-full of information. I'm ashamed to admit how pitifully little knowledge I have about the history of this area of the world. But in one chapter alone, I feel I've learned so much. While I haven't read far enough to know for sure, I believe that she's going to be talking about history in a non-chronological fashion as she travels the river.  She has history intertwined with the real lives of people today. For example, in the first chapter, she talks about the lives of sewer cleaners in Karachi and manages to turn it into a brief history of the Partition. It was fascinating and heartbreaking all at the same time. And as this part of the region's history is still so recent, she was able to find and share the stories of people who had actually lived it.

A line that may forever haunt me: "She ministered to the semi-dead--the refugees who arrived without clothes, without food, without limbs..."


And finally, we all gathered together for another round of Half-Minute Horrors. This book is just so fun! I have to admit that I was afraid it was going to be "too tame." But it definitely is not!!! In fact, a few of the stories have left me with crossed fingers that I'm not going to be woken up during the night with little boys' nightmares. Last night's favorites included "Death Rides a Pink Bicycle" by Stacey Godenir (an author I'm not at all familiar with) and "Inventory" by Jonathan Lethem (funny in a gruesome sort of way) and "I'm Not Afraid" by Dan Gutman (which we all loved, though it was particularly relevant for Gray :D ).

Our next round will be our last, as there's only three stories left. I'll be so sad to have it come to an end...we've been stretching it out as best we could. But you know, I think it might just be the kind of book we could pull out each year and enjoy all over again. Not sure if we'll start another "whole family" book for Halloween after we finish this one or not...but I'm kinda thinking it would be mighty fun to read Bradbury's The Halloween Tree aloud...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

ever so fickle

Yep, that's me. Seriously, I don't even know why I have this blog. I really don't.

Actually, when I started this new blog, it was a fresh start, with a new way of doing things. I had zero intention of even trying to do my pathetic version of a "review." Nope, I just wanted a place where I could record my daily observations on what I was reading. And that's how I started out.

Then as a few of my dear friends started reading it, well, I felt sort of stupid. I mean, who the hell wants to read that kind of rambly blathering. So I started going back towards the way I used to blog about books. Not exactly reviews, but something closer anyway.

Yeah, well here's the thing...I suck at writing "reviews." And I *hate* even trying! Yep, I hate it. I'm not insightful. And I'm not eloquent. And I never will be.

 But see, I still do love reading! And I love talking about what I'm reading. And I really want to go back to the way it was when I started this blog--where I just recorded what I'd read that day and what I thought about it.

I know that's not the kind of thing that anyone else will get much from. Really, I get that. So here's where I beg you not to feel like you have to read my blog out of any sense of obligation or anything of that sort!!!!!!!!!! I promise, promise, promise that I will not take it personally--I will not assume you don't like me as a person--I will not stop reading your blog!!!!

So yeah, this is one of many changes I'm making just for me.

See you at your blog, okay?

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll.

It's not exactly that I had high expectations for this book/these books. More like I had high hopes. Hell, I knew there was a chance I wouldn't even like them. Ah, but those hopes...yeah, I really, really, really wanted to be utterly charmed and enchanted.

Didn't happen.

Sort of reflexively, I told myself that I might have fallen in love had I read them first as a child. But you know, I really don't think that's the case.

And it's not that I disliked these books at all. I didn't. I just didn't love them. Still, I am glad that I *finally* got around to reading them. Seriously, I wonder how many days one can make it through without running into some sort of Alice allusion. Just knowing that I will better understand those allusions alone makes it worth the time I spent reading it. I also really enjoyed all the word play...something I wasn't really expecting, but found sort of fun.

Pretty sure I won't be rereading it though. Unless it's with one of the boys, I guess. Now Alice in Sunderland by Bryan Talbot...that I'd love to reread one of these days. :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

and a new round begins...

As if I needed further proof of my inability to keep things organized, I just realized this morning that the last round of The Blame Game came to an end a few days back. And for the first time in the 2 1/2 years I've been doing The Blame Game, Ana didn't win. And how sad is it that she *made* me buy 20 frickin' books, and that wasn't enough to pull off the win?!! Yes, because Chris was even more evil--he *forced* me to buy 22 books!!! Anyway, Chris, I shall be in touch with you about your punishment soon. ;)

And now I shall start a new round of shirking responsibility. :D  The name taking starts now runs through the end of January 2011. (Yikes!!! How can 2011 even being entering into things yet?!!)

*Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino. This is one of those books that I neither have to accept responsibility for myself nor do I have to put the blame on someone else. This is simply a book I need to pick up for Annie's lit class. And I must admit, it scares the crap out of me.

*Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley. Carl actually just escaped by the skin of his teeth getting three points for these Priestley books. I had all three in the cart, but mustered up a great deal of restraint at the last minute and just bought the first one. You've no idea how tempted I am to set aside the book the boys and I are currently reading, and start this one instead (but I won't). POINT FOR CARL.

*The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant. This book might just have my favorite cover of the year. But it wasn't the cover that ultimately made me pick this one up from the was Carl's review that simply made it sound irresistible! POINT FOR CARL.

*The Hunter's Moon by O.R. Melling. The story of how this one came into my possession is a bit convoluted--suffice it to say that my daughter is a sweetheart and the ultimate blame goes to Heather.  Yep, I can see this one on next year's Once Upon a Time list already. :)  POINT FOR HEATHER.

*Koko Be Good by Jen Wang. Crap. I can't figure out a way to blame anyone else for this one. I guess I could sort of blame Rich, but that's sort of counter-productive. I came across this graphic novel in the bookstore one day. Sad thing is, while I remember sitting down and starting to read it, I don't have a freakin' clue what's it's about. But I liked it enough to add it to the wish list. Anyway, Rich ended up ordering it used for me. Pretty sure it was one of those times when he really wanted to order himself a book, and figured if he bought me one along with it, he wouldn't have to feel so guilty. ;)

*My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me edited by Kate Bernheimer. Undeniably Ana's fault. Seriously, what the hell did she expect when she went posting this on her tumblr?!! It was preordered on the spot! POINT FOR ANA.

*Empires of the Indus: The Story of a River by Alice Albinia. Another one I'm deflecting responsibility for by claiming school use. Just one of those serendipitous finds. I'd never heard of this book until I saw it in the bookstore yesterday. But it just so happens that Annie and I are about to start on the ancient civilizations of the Indian subcontinent...and this book sounded like it would be a really nice addition. From the sounds of it, it's part history/part travelogue. I read the introduction in the store and was immediately taken with her respectful attitude towards both the river itself and towards the people who live in the river valley now and who lived there over the past many, many hundreds of years. Anyway, I'm really looking forward to this book, though I've no earthly idea how I'm going to fit it in.

And thus begins another round...

Friday, October 1, 2010

YA-D2 begins

 Several weeks ago...

Grab-life-and-go-for-it me: WooHoo...Darren's hosting his YA dystopia challenge again!!! I am not going to pass up the chance to join this year!!! :D

Old-stick-in-the-mud me: Hey, wait a minute there! You're not supposed to be joining any challenges!!! I know damn well you won't be saying "no" to RIP as it is. Despite the fact that when we moved over here, we decided to give up reading challenges altogether.

Grab-life-and-go-for-it me: *sigh* You're right. Sorry I let myself be tempted. *pout*

Over the past month-ish, as we began slowly adding our books to Library Thing...

Grab-life-and-go-for-it me: Look at this--yet another book I'm tagging with "YA" and "dystopia" know, if I signed up for Darren's challenge, I wouldn't even have to leave this house to find the books I need.

Old-stick-in-the-mud me: If that's your only criteria, we'd be signed up for what? Oh, a few hundred challenges perhaps?

Grab-life-and-go-for-it me: I didn't say it was my only criteria, you old crab. *makes faces behind Old-stick-in-the-mud me* (Which obviously, is no easy feat.)

Earlier this week...

Grab-life-and-go-for-it me: Just a few days left before YAD2 starts. You know I've been completely unable to put it out of mind. I really think I ought to just sign up so I can stop obsessing about it, don't you?

Old-stick-in-the-mud me: Nice try. But come on...think about how overwhelmed we've been lately. Crying over everything we can't done. Feeling like jerks because our friends are relegated to "free, fun time." Problem being that we are sorely lacking in that particular category of time. And now you want to add something else to our plate?!! Grow up, would you?!!

Grab-life-and-go-for-it me: *walks away sulking*

Last evening...

Grab-life-and-go-for-it me: Screw you, Old-stick! I'm going to join whether you like it or not. Who the hell cares if I fail anyway? No one, that's who. This is just for fun. Fun! Remember fun? Oh sorry, I forgot you're allergic. Well tough--this will make me happy, you old just keep your trap shut and deal.

Old-stick-in-the-mud me: But... *falls silent*

YES!!! The victory goes to Grab-life!!!

 And while it may seem mighty cruel to kick Old-stick while she's down, I'm going for Level 3. I refuse to be intimidated by the idea of failure! (After all, I'm pretty used to it, and it hasn't killed me yet.) Level 3 requires reading 5 books between October 1st (today) and December 19th. (And yes, I'm laughing at myself even as I type this.)

And here is a list of possibles I wrote down after a quick look at the shelves:

*Feed by M.T. Anderson
*Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
*The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
*Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
*Hole in the Sky by Pete Hautman
*The Hollow People by Brian Keaney
*Shade's Children by Garth Nix
*How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
*After by Francine Prose
*The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
*The Bar Code Tattoo by Suzanne Weyn
*The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
*Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

And now I better hurry up and hit "publish" before Old-Stick wakes up...