Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Weekly Geeks # 19 ...where I reveal my secret shame



Well, it's been a long time since I did a weekly Geeks. I think we are up to #19 - we are, it's here. First, this week, your WG theme is to list your top books published in 2008.

Well, to my secret shame and my Cool Literary Inner Bookworm's disgust, I have not read one book published in 2008 - but wait! There is hope on the horizon....for those of us who compile our reading lists based on last year's best books in different genres, we're always behind. I am willing to take a big risk with.....The Graveyard Book! Sure to be a bestseller, and very likely a most excellent and interesting book to read...I'm saved! It just went on sale today!!!! My CLIB is going away to write angry poetry about me, but I don't care, The Graveyard Book is out! so if I buy it and hurry up and read it, I can still do this week's Weekly Geek! and read a book that I have been waiting for since reading the short story, "October in the Chair", in Fragile Things, which was a story that gave me little chills. That house, and what happened to the boy when he went in? Oh, please let me find the book quickly tomorrow!!

So now you know my secret shame, that I rarely read a book published that year unless it's by a mystery or fantasy series author I am following. I read the good ones published one year, the next year...yes, that means I let others do the work of reading through the piles of books published and sorting out what they think is good! I do have to say, as I said in my last post, that book bloggers are great for getting the word out about good books, no matter when they are published, too. So I am very curious to see which of us book lovers do read the current book lists, and which of us mosey around, picking a book from a decade here, a book from a century there. I'm definitely in the latter group!

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Cool Quiz

Your result for The Perception Personality Image Test...

NFPC - The Artist

Nature, Foreground, Big Picture, and Color


You perceive the world with particular attention to nature. You focus on what's in front of you (the foreground) and how that fits into the larger picture. You are also particularly drawn towards the colors around you. Because of the value you place on nature, you tend to find comfort in more subdued settings and find energy in solitude. You like to deal directly with whatever comes your way without dealing with speculating possibilities or outcomes you can't control. You are in tune with all that is around you and understand your life as part of a larger whole. You are a down-to-earth person who enjoys going with the flow.








The Perception Personality Types:


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Take The Perception Personality Image Test at HelloQuizzy

Book nightmares

Ok, so I was over at Naked Without Books (I love this title! Who doesn't feel naked without a book in her hand??) and Bybee was writing about her recent nightmares that involved books, here. Whew! I'm not the only one having book nightmares then. Because Wednesday morning I woke up from a nightmare that I still can't think too hard about, or I'll have difficulty going to sleep:
I dreamt that I was in a house, with my dream family. We were in a haunted house, and we lived there. The house was a house from both Shirley Jackson's Hill House (Book: The Haunting of Hill House), and the house from The Woman in Black by Susan Hill. **spoiler alert: avert your eyes now: they both have haunted nurseries. **End of Spoiler alert.
In my dream I know the nursery is haunted. The house moves when we aren't looking, things change, and we - my siblings and I - can't be left alone in a room or things happen. There are 4 or 5 of us kids, and our parents. I'm walking down the hall with my mother and we are nearing a bedroom where the other children are, and I'm realizing my parents bedroom isn't even in the same hallway. It is down the hall and over on another corridor. I start saying this is stupid, and they are too far away, and the wall between the corridors should be knocked down, or at least a doorway put in so we can reach their room more quickly. But I have to be speak quietly because the house is listening, whatever malevolent intelligence in the walls and floors that is everywhere and always watching us, it also knows when we are talking about it. There are ghosts in this house too. I wake up as I finish speaking and stand in the doorway of the bedroom. There was no sounds from the nursery yet, but sooner or later I knew we'd hear sounds, and most of the hauntings originated from there.

I woke up feeling very relieved that the knocking/banging sounds hadn't started yet from the nursery, but even in our bedrooms the sense of being watched was everywhere.

Very very creepy dream. And how have your dreams been lately, has RIP3 Challenge been affecting your dreams?

Friday, 26 September 2008

Friday thoughts at the end of September

Samantha at Bookworms and Tea Lovers has thoughts on this month's Bookworms Carnival, about how she finds new authors, here; I like her list of how she finds new authors, and it got me to thinking about finding books and authors. How do we? I've worked in bookstores, both new and used, and so I've seen how books are marketed, how the sales people push certain books forward. I've seen Oprah push reading in general, and then books she likes. Up here in Canada, Heather who owns the Chapters and Indigo book mega-stores, has her picks for the season. But do they affect what I read? No. I turn to magazines - any magazine that has a book corner, I'll look at out of curiousity, but my favourites are of course Locus and Realms of Fantasy for new science fiction and fantasy and horror, and then for mystery, it's really word of mouth, mystery books my mother and I buy each other, and the occasional hyped book in general sales. Yes, I read Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, and it was enjoyable, but nothing new and terrible dialogue. So for me, publishers and the bestseller lists can't usually be trusted to find the really good reads. Best of all, are our blogs, where we discuss the books we love, and why. I have found so many good books here - A Wrinkle in Time, Suite Francaise, The Terror (it was on someone's list last year!), and so many new authors to try, as well authors that have been around for a while now, like AS Byatt,and Salman Rushdie.

I am happy in my book reading now, because I am averaging 6 books a month, which for my busy life, is fantastic. My goal of reading more has been achieved! I'm at 48 books now, which is more than any of each of the last 8 years. I didn't keep a thorough list of what I'd read in 1998 or 1999, so I can't go back further. What reading these books blogs, and discovering all of you has brought me, is a wonderful community of people who live for reading. So you encourage me to read, and make me aware of books I'd never be aware of otherwise. So on this last Friday in September, I'd like to say to each of you, my dear Gentle readers, thank you! For reading, for sharing your love of books on the internet. You know something else? We have proven that books will overcome kindle, e-books, digital/pdf and whatever else they come up with - that books themselves, in their wonderful shape and size, are here to stay. and we are just as good as book reviewers as any official paid reviewer or critic out there - because we care about story.

I suppose that this is a prelude to my one year anniversary next week of being a book blogger! Things I've learned, the joys book blogging has brought me - as well as the time and effort put into my posts, and reading your comments, and circling the globe to catch your thoughts and book reviews. My life is certainly richer for having this blog! Thank you to all of you who come and comment, because I read them all, and appreciate everything you have to say.

Now, on to two final things before my 'other' real life takes over again for the evening! -
Dewey is holding another Read-a-thon, here . I would sooo love to join it, but with two children 5 and under, I'd have to leave the house and rent a hotel room for the 24 hours. While that is a lovely, lovely thought! - it's not practical. So I have to pass again, but I'm thinking of being a cheerleader instead, and maybe read a book or two around the readathon!!! Check it out if you are looking for a way to get yourself reading before the end of the year becomes too busy - unless you're the lucky few who get to read over the holidays, my reading drops dramatically then, and with us being in England for 3 weeks, while I'll be buying lots of books! I'm not sure I will get much read at that time.

Finally, many book bloggers have been reading The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory; Nymeth here
has the latest review of the book. And you know Nymeth and her reviews, it's very good! I gave her a link to a poem written by Sir Thomas Wyatt in the 16th century to her, which, because it's Friday and it's one of my favourite poems, I am going to print here (as well I gave the link to the original site with the poem:

HE LOVER DESPAIRING TO ATTAIN UNTO

HIS LADY'S GRACE RELINQUISHETH THE PURSUIT.

W HOSO list to hunt ? I know where is an
hind !
But as for me, alas ! I may no more,
The vain travail hath wearied me so sore ;
I am of them that furthest come behind.
Yet may I by no means my wearied mind
Draw from the deer ; but as she fleeth afore
Fainting I follow ; I leave off therefore,
Since in a net I seek to hold the wind.
Who list her hunt, I put him out of doubt
As well as I, may spend his time in vain !
And graven with diamonds in letters plain,
There is written her fair neck round about ;
' Noli me tangere ; for C├Žsar's I am,
And wild for to hold, though I seem tame.'


[AJ Notes:
Thought to be about Anne Boleyn, with whom
Wyatt had a relationship before the King
became interested in her.
Noli me tangere, "touch me not." ]

If any of you have watched The Tudors (the current BBC production of Henry 8 and his wives, season 2 is about to begin in Canada) or read the book, or seen the movie that came out this year starring Scarlett Johanssen and Natalie Portman, this poem was written by one of Anne's possible lovers. Reading it brings me closer to that time than anything else does. There is an immediacy to this poem, a directness of his reproach, bitterness, longing - and a glimpse of Anne from across the centuries. I see her like a wild creature, impossible to hold or tame. It's probably the same quality that drew the king to her, and what caused her death in the end. Wyatt does have a bit part in the Tudors, and I can't remember if he is in the movie. I have yet to read the book, which is, of course, on my to-get list!

Have a good reading evening!

Sunday, 21 September 2008

The Terror - Dan Simmons



As you know, when I first began this book, I could barely stop reading it. About half-way through I took a break, it was so intense, and I had been reading it non-stop. When I was ready, I picked it up again, and finished it in 24 hours. Again, I could not put it down! It is that good. I could not stop reading it.

So what was so gripping, you ask? How could a polar expedition to find the Northwest Passage - Franklin's 1845 expedition - be so thrilling an adventure in horror that I was left gasping for air sometimes? Because it is a story that is based in part on real events, and Simmons is a master at recreating prosaic details of life at sea. In this case, they are encased in ice, for almost the entire novel. And for someone like me, who dreads the onslaught of winter, just the idea of being stuck in the arctic where it is colder beyond anything - anywhere - else on earth, an unrelenting cold for 8 months of the year, with snow 10 months of the year - and where they are it only melts on the land so there is always blinding light then - this would be my hell on earth. So from the opening line: 'Captain Crozier comes up on deck to find his ship under attack by celestial ghosts.' to Paragraph 2 beginning: 'The temperature is -50 Fahrenheit and dropping fast.' my attention was caught, spell-bound.

I have to admit that at the beginning, I was desperately afraid this was going to be about polar bears, and for the first 40 pages despite the hypnotic storytelling, I almost put the book down because I wasn't going to read a 700 page novel about polar bears eating people - not scary to someone who every winter hears stories of the polar bears coming down to eat the garbage in Churchill Manitoba, and the bears have to be tranquilized and returned up North - they do eat people, which is real-life horrifying enough. I wanted a supernatural thriller, and the back blurb had led me to believe it was. So, despite my misgivings and because of the amazing storytelling, I presevered, and by page 75 I began to relax. There ARE polar bears, but they are not the threat at all. There is very much a supernatural presence here, and how it is explained is part of the almost unearthly beauty of this book. Because this book is about more than facing the supernatural, it's about survival. Survival in inhuman conditions, with over 100 other men. There - I saw you shiver. You know what I mean. Anything can happen with that many people trapped on two ships for two years, slowly going nowhere, living off what they brought with them.

This is such a satisfying horror novel. The men on the ships are each characters in their own right, whether they get a paragraph or chapters to themselves. The ice and snow and temperatures - the North - is another prominent feature. If you are like me, and dislike winter, then make sure you have plenty of hot things around you. (Hmm, I wonder if this is why I began drinking hot chocolate at night, late last week?)

I have mentioned earlier that this is a gripping read. It is. The tension is stretched taut in this book, so much so that I read long into the night, over meals, whenever I could, skipping whatever wasn't necessary to do - and disliking what I had to do that took me away from reading! - I had to get back as quickly as I could to the story, and the characters. I liked some of them so much - Capt Crozier, Lt Irving were among my favourites - and the revelation of what happens as they lay trapped in the ice is riveting.

Shadowing everything is the realization that this is the voyage that Franklin and his men did not come back from. This book is a blend of fact - the voyage, the ship life, a real-life expedition to the North - and fiction - the creature that is killing them off, the Inuit people who may or may not save them, the fictionalization of many of the characters. Just because the book is based on the expedition does not mean all the characters are real - and unlike many real-life 'memoirs' that have the book community examining veracity vs story, this is a novel,unabashedly so, and the blend of the real with pure imagination makes for an unforgettable horror novel.

I loved it.

There is true terror among these pages, and a growing horror at the fate that befalls the men. The true horror isn't just the supernatural element but also what happens to the crew on two ships - The Erebus and The Terror - over the long 2 years they have been frozen in the ice. By taking a real-life disastrous expedition and adding another darker element to it, the book is a delicious mix of gut-wrenching horror and creepiness. It is a perfect read for this horror challenge, for the lengthening evenings as fall arrives (tomorrow!) and lurking on the horizon, cold and snowy winter.

The real reason to read horror and ghost stories is to discover how contact with fear, in whatever shape it comes in, can be faced and survived. Whether we create the horror from within or without is an ongoing debate for psychologists, which the next book I am going to review in my next post, The Harrowing by Alexandra Sokoloff, also touches on. The experience of reading horror gives us clues in how to survive the experience of facing horror. At least, that's one reason among many for why I enjoy these stories, and why I am loving this challenge so much. The Terror has an extra dimension to the fear, a mythic fear, but to say anymore would be to give it away. Any contact with the mythic changes us, that's what Joseph Campbell said in A Hero With a Thousand Faces, and The Terror is one well-crafted example of contact with the supernatural.

So, that is 3 books out of 4 that I have completely enjoyed so far. This is better than the last 10 years of trying to find a decent ghost story to read!!

I think The Terror is well worth reading. I love it for so much more than the horror. Above all, it is the characters and their awful starvation that I remember most, and the ice and snow surrounding them. And amongst that, the unknowable, terrorizing them, waiting.

I love really good horror stories!!!

Friday, 19 September 2008

Doctor Who is back!!!

*sigh*

He's back. Season 4. Dr Who. It started off slowly, and then built to yet another satisfying conclusion - and only 1 person died in this episode! the cutest little blobs of fat from people too. If only they did look that cute! I want the diet pill - without the final effect, of course! but that's another story.... By the end of this episode, my daughter cried because she has to wait a week until the next one, and I was smiling because the Dr is back, and I think I might like this new companion Donna, despite all my reservations.

*sigh*

On a book note, Holly-Anne asked if she could learn to read soon. I promised her I would sit with her tomorrow and help her copy out a sentence from the Strawberry Shortcake treasury that we have read several times to her now. she knows the alphabet, but can't recognize more than letters yet. It's fascinating to watch her in the process of learning about words, and I can hardly wait until she does see her first word!

I am in the mood for a ghost story, and The Harrowing is next up. I love this RIP3 challenge! all the ghost and horror stories I want for another 5 weeks!!

I hope you, Gentle Reader, are enjoying your cooler autumn nights, curled up with a good book, if not a good ghost story. And failing that, as several readers commented to my post yesterday, curled up watching good television (whatever we consider that to be) is a close second.

Dr Who is back!

television

So, I got sucked into watching the television for the last week. Lost and Battlestar Galactica began playing every night, on Space channel, from the very beginning of the first season, so I made the mistake of watching one, and then the other. For a whole week, I read nothing. Then, I realized what I was doing, and have made myself not watch these shows - I don't need to see either series quite yet again, I've seen them already - and watch only what I'm really interested in. It's so easy to get involved in watching tv. It requires nothing but attention, just sitting there and getting fed by it. I finally wanted to read again, and finished The Terror tonight, a few minutes ago. I will review it tomorrow - it's fantastic, by the way! - but for now, the battle between watching tv and reading continues......

I'm also working my way through Everything's Eventual, and I am having a very disconcerting feeling with each story that I have read it before. I don't remember reading this book! But when I start each story, I suddenly know what it's about, in a vague way. I am enjoying it - The Terror is too big to carry on the bus, so I read Everything's Eventual to and from work and over lunch. Have you had this experience before, opening a book that you think you have never read, and suddenly realizing you have? I just wish I could remember where and when I read it.

I don't hate tv. I have said this often here, that my goal is to watch less of it, and to read more. This being said, I love good tv - what is to me good tv anyway. And tomorrow night is the new Dr Who Season 4. Finally!!! The first episode...we are all counting down in my family, even the youngest children (who get to stay up for it, but fall asleep long before it's finished).

Monday, 8 September 2008

A date with terror.....

I meant to post at least once this weekend, I keep trying to do a Sunday Salon! Which I love the idea of! But my every waking moment, when not baking cookies, doing laundry, cooking or going to the park for my 3 mile walk and playing with the kids, has been spent reading The Terror, by Dan Simmons. I can't stop reading it, and got really cranky with all the other interruptions. I didn't want to talk on the phone, the kids heard "Let Mommy read, please!" a dozen times, and I barely watched television. It was all reading this weekend, when I could.

This book is so good. Once I got past the polar bear bit - really, I thought it was going to be a horror story featuring the polar bear, and I almost didn't get past page 40, I was so disappointed. I kept reading because Dan Simmons is an amazing writer and I had to know what happened to the characters and if they survive this third winter, even if bears got them. Now it's turned out to NOT be about polar bears (though they are there) and I am now spending my time happily in the Arctic, reading about the trapped ships and the nightmare of something supernatural stalking the crews, and the raging storms and ice, so much ice. I'll be back in a bit, but I must go finish the chapter I'm on before bed! Two out three books so far this challenge, this good - (Wolf Moon was a disappointment and more about that another time) - this is so fun! So no Sunday Salon, no meandering book thoughts. I have a date with The Terror.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

The dangers of book blogs and what I learned tonight

Tonight I discovered 8 books to buy:
- over at an adventure in reading (from our own beautiful PEI!), I discovered Wine Bar Food, which normally I wouldn't be interested in. But the way Elizabeth blogs about it, I want this book! Actually, I want to go on the cruise AND buy the book to try the recipes.....

- over at Rhinoa's Ramblings, I discovered - accepted - she is the Queen of Challenges. Look how many she has almost completed! I bow to her, she is my role model. She also has the very cool 100 Things to do in 1001 days, which she is actually doing!

- Nymeth is back from her trip to Brazil, and is catching up on her book reviews. She has convinced me to read On the Road by Jack Kerouac, based on her answers to the mini-review....I quote from her post: 'I think On the Road is one of those love it or hate it books, and I stand firmly on the love it field. It has been one of my favourite books for a long time, and every time I re-read it I find new reasons to love it. I love it not so much for the story, which is a bit all over the place, but for Kerouac's writing, for the energy, for the enthusiasm, for the passion for life, for the earnestness, for the complete lack of cynicism, for the sadness, for the tenderness, for the unapologetic ways in which the characters live their lives, Doesn't that make you want to run out and buy a copy immediately and see some of that passion for yourself? And isn't this one of the main joys of blogging, discovering other people who are as passionate about a book, an author, books in general, reading, as we ourselves are? I know I am always thrilled when I come across someone who loves a book. Of course, someone who loves many books, like we all do, i think are a species unto ourselves - at least my family looks at all my shelves and books and they still gasp! after all these years! The very best books are passionate - even if dry, or witty, or sarcastic, or sweet, or funny, or loving, they are all written with love and passion. So I thank Nymeth for wanting to make me read Jack Kerouac, who I have avoided all my life because everyone was reading him in the 1980's when I first left home. That rebellion thing you know, I avoided the 'popular' books, back then.....
Also, she has made me want to read an economics book, here!
Freakonomics, an actual non-fiction book about money and people and culture.....if there were a persuasive blogger award, she'd get it.

- Chris at Stuff as Dreams are Made Of is back home. Read about his adventures during Gustav, and how he got his books read. I'm so glad he and his family made it through all right. My husband is puzzled about why I talk about my book blogging friends and care even though they are a world away. But we do, and that's what makes our book community so great, and so caring. So when a hurricane - or a snow storm, or drought, or England's record setting rains, hits close to where we know someone lives, we care, and wait, and hope they make it through. And, none of his books got wet or destroyed like they did with Katrina. And Chris has reviewed an author that everyone seems to be talking about, Lois Lowry, here, a book I've never heard about that features spirits and dreams, and yet another book is added to my TBR pile. That is the danger of book blogs!!!

- Over at Dog Ear Diary, Jeane reviewed a book about ravens, and is asking for help in finding a good book by Mercedes Lackey to try. If you know of a really good one, please let her know. This is not to put down any of Lackey's books, but to point out that those of us who commented on her blog found that in general, Mercedes has wonderful ideas and plots, but something about the writing itself doesn't measure up. In this debate, Robin McKinley's Beauty won out over Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey. It certainly does for me. And isn't that the beauty of book blogs, that as well as making connections and friends and learning about ourselves and books and people who read, we can have discussions about books, what we like, what we don't? Most of the time we are not out to hurt an author, or to weigh in against one genre versus another. I think in the book blogging community it's about discovering books, and in this particular post, if one book about the same subject (in this case Beauty and The Beast retellings) is better than another. I also love going to this blog for reviews about books on animals. If you are an animal lover, Jeane reviews at least one a week. Jeane has convinced me to try reading The Mind of the Raven, look at New Kitchen Garden (she says the photos are wonderful) and try to hunt down Notes from the Virginia Gardener, which since I collect gardening and cooking books for cooking and gardening lore, sound really interesting.

In one evening, I have found 8 books to look for!!!

So that's what I learned tonight. And if I didn't visit you tonight, or this week, I am dividing my time between blogging and reading so I can get more reading done! I am determined to read at least 60 books this year (and most bloggers put me to shame, since they are all nearing 100 books read already, but it's not a competition!!) - actually I want to read 80, but I'm trying to be realistic, so 60 is more like it - so I have to ration the hours spent blogging. Otherwise I would spend all my waking hours here.....you all are worth visiting on your blogs, Gentle Readers, and reading and spending time with.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

The Woman in Black - Susan Hill

I'm sitting here chilled to the bone, despite it being a very warm late summer night. I know my heart is pounding, and there were times my mouth went dry, and my skin prickled, and I felt deliciously, awesomely scared while reading this book. It is the slimmest of ghost stories, 160 pages, the first one read for RIP 3, and this first one has been everything I heard it was, and more. It scared me, in the nerve-wracking, skin-tightening way The Haunting of Hill House scares me. I can't read this book alone. In fact, I couldn't read it last night before bed, because I was afraid I wouldn't sleep. And here I am, finished the book tonight, and I'm not sure how I'm going to sleep.

For ghosts, chills, things that go bump in the night, for hair-raising terror, read The Woman in Black by Susan Hill. This is an traditional ghost story, that is a fantastic frightening way to begin RIP 3. The word haunting has taken on a new meaning, with this book. It really is terrifying, especially what the ending signifies. You know I'm not going to tell you the plot! Just - if you are looking for a good ghost story, this is one of the best I've come across. It does start out a little slow, but only because it is setting the atmosphere so very well. I keep going over the book in my mind - I did just finish it - and it is still giving me little chills.

May your first book for this challenge be as (good) frightening!!! This book is a treasure.

I am very glad my kitty was beside me while I read it, and my husband was on the same main floor. I'm very glad my house has people in it tonight. And isn't that the very best way to finish a ghost story, looking over your shoulder and wondering what that noise was?