Tag Archives: Goodreads

Readathon Hour 10: progress report

It was a slow, lazy afternoon. My sofa gets lots of sun and I slipped off into my first readathon nap. This in no way was related to my second book, The Detective and the Woman: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes, as it was a terrific read, lots of suspense, and has me hankering to read author Amy Thomas’ next one!

IMG_3018Apart from reading and napping, I snacked. My advance prep on this front was excellent. After lunch I had a Sweet and Salty Caramel Drumstick. In not terribly quick succession: a Coke, a small bowl of mixed nuts, a couple of Nanaimo bars, and a bowl of strawberries. I’ve been on a sugar fast for some time so I went a little wild. I’ve also been pushing ice water which, as we all know, washes excessive calories out of the system.

I’m going to take a shower and change into some pants-less loungewear. (I’m currently wearing sweatpants and a tunic, but with all this snacking sun, I’m feeling the need for a caftan.)

Next up will be What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund. This one should be a quickie as it’s fairly image-intensive. But it’s been on my to-read list for a long time. It’s also part of the Goodreads challenge I’m currently participating in (as are all my readathon books this time ’round.)

Reading internationally

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My book club has a no-stress December meeting, where rather than reading a book and discussing it, we each bring a book to share with the group, something that we’ve read that we loved and that we want to introduce others to.

One year it was completely open. Last year, it was a favorite novel. At our last meeting this year (for which I was absent), there was discussion around sharing an international book (that is, a book not set in North America or the UK).

Today, one of our members posted this video about the pleasures of reading internationally.

In one of the Goodreads groups I belong to, there is an international challenge that runs each year. Points are awarded for each country from which you read (one book per country) with bonus points for non-fiction books, books by an author born in the country, and books originally written in the non-english language of the country (if applicable.) Also, countries are awarded points based on the UNESCO count of how many books are published each year in that country.

My list so far (links are to Goodreads):

USA: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Switzerland: Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

England: Crome Yellow by Aldous Huxley

Scotland: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

Norway: My Struggle: Book 1 by Karl Ove Knausgård

India: The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

Vietnam: The Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb

Spain: The Vacationers by Emma Straub

Canada: Bone & Bread by Saleema Nawaz

Australia: True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey

South Africa: Summertime by J.M. Coetzee

France: How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits by Anne Berest

Egypt: Baking Cupcakes in Egypt by Elizabeth MacLean

When I do this next year, I’d like to work harder on reading voices from each country, rather that North American or British authors writing novels set there (although this is permitted in the challenge.) And some of my reading didn’t qualify because 3/4 of the book must take place in the country, so two books by Ruth Ozeki that are partly set in Japan and have a very Japanese sensibility (My Year of Meats and A Tale for the Time Being) didn’t fulfill that rule.

 

Reading list for November

book loveI’ve got three must-read books this month.

I’d also kind of like to join in the Bookish read of Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs if I can get it from the library in time.

I’m just finishing up Bad Behavior, a group of short stories by Mary Gaitskill that are kind of annoying me, but possibly because they were written in the 80s and are mainly about depressed young women in New York or Chicago having unhappy sex. Sort of a downer Sex and the City.

Books, books, books.

I’m just coming down off of a 3 month reading challenge at Goodreads, and am pretty happy with how it went. I read 19 books, all of at least 250 pages and a couple over 600.

As I’ve described before, the challenge proscribes a set of tasks for which you much read books to fulfill. Example:

20.5 Let Freedom Ring!
Multiple countries celebrate their independence during the months of July, August and September. Choose one book about a country’s struggle for independence or which is set during a revolution (Les Miserables, Madame Trousseau).

These challenges take place twice a year and they get me out of my reading rut, and to try new genres and topics. I read some non-fiction (e.g., arctic explorer Andree, astronomical measurement in the 18th century), old classics (The Grapes of Wrath, Tender is the Night), and I managed to fit my real-life book club books into a couple of tasks (Wolf Hall, The Dinner). These tasks also take me out of my comfort zone as they’re often not easy reads, and so once the challenge is over I’m back to going through my carefully curated to-read lists of things that I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy.

The same Goodreads group has a variety of monthly activities, one of which is “Short Stuff”. This month, they are reading and discussing the short stories of Edgar Allan Poe and I’ve decided to read one story per day for the month. I managed to grab Great Short Works of Edgar Allan Poe from the library (in ebook format) so I can read these in bed before I go to sleep. I need to take Poe in short doses because I find the writing quite intense, requiring dictionary (regular and translation) lookups and the old “parse the sentence after reading it three times” exercise. I think it may get easier as I get used to his style.  So far, I’ve read Mezengerstein (Oct 1) and Loss of Breath (Oct 2).

While searching for an epistolary novel for one of the tasks last month, I came across e Squared by Matt Beaumont, a humorous tale that takes place in a new-age ad agency, told in a series of emails, texts, and blog posts. I didn’t have time to read it for the challenge but it arrived from the library a few days ago so I’m halfway through that. I’m currently listening to Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes, a sort of fictionalized biography-mystery about, well, Gustave Flaubert’s parrot.

Later this month, I’ll be re-reading The Dinner by Herman Koch as it’s our October book club read. I saw the film based on the novel at TIFF 2013 and wanted to read the book prior to the screening. Sadly, my aging brain tends to forget what I read, so I’ll need to go through this one again. I’m also moderating the club meeting this month so I’ll be doing a little research about the author and the book.

What’s up next? Just loaded an audiobook of Nassim Taleb‘s  Anti-Fragile: Things that Gain from Disorder onto my iPhone after Alex recommended this author. Taleb is a controversial writer and academic in the area of statistics and risk management and takes a number of contrarian stances on standard statistical practice. I’ll also be getting back to clearing my bookshelves by reading and passing on from my collection.

So, what are you reading these days? I love comments. Click and post.

[Disclaimer: Links to books go to amazon.ca. I am an amazon affiliate and get a tiny commission (pennies) if you buy a book. No pressure. At all.]

Reading update

Courtesy: thegraphicsfairy.com

What a beautiful long weekend we’re having in Toronto! My younger son and husband were off to Montreal to move the former into his new-to-him apartment. So it’s been relaxing with plenty of time to read.

In Audio

I listened to Fay Weldon’s Habits of the House. My Goodreads review:

This novel set in an upper-class British household in 1899 has it all: love, lust, financial problems, socialist daughter, philandering men, loud Americans, upstairs-downstairs issues. Full of humour and commentary on the mores and habits of the time, Weldon has produced an fast-paced tale that will appeal to anyone who enjoys period literature. Bonus: it’s the first of a trilogy entitled “Love and Inheritance”. I will definitely pick up subsequent books in the series.

I’m currently finishing up an audio version of the wonderful Miriam Toews‘ novel The Flying Troutmans. In this tale, teen and pre-teen siblings Jordan and Thebes are cared for by their aunt, who has been estranged from the family, while their mother is ill. A cross-continent road-trip ensues. Toews is such a star at dialog, and to my ear, gets the banter just right.

Reading

I very much enjoyed Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, which I picked up to read for a Goodreads challenge. This is exactly what I like about these sorts of things: participants were charged with reading two books set in the Dirty 30s and so I downloaded this one onto my Kobo. Next up in this part of the challenge will be The Grapes of Wrath.

Another challenge was to read a book set in a country that is predominantly Muslim, so in preparation for our upcoming trip to Turkey, I downloaded The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael  Lukas. Set in 1877 in Constanta (now in Romania) and Istanbul, it’s the story of a young girl with a special gift. Saying much more would require spoilers, but suffice it to say that this is a very enjoyable, quick read.

Currently, I’m simply mad about Nell Freudenberger’s The Newlyweds. An American man meets a Bengali woman online, they marry, and she moves to Rochester NY. Written in the voice of the bride, Amina, it’s quick paced, funny, and poignant.  Hard to put down. I’m about a third of the way in and will likely finish it up today.

So that’s my reading life.

*Bathing Beauty image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy.

It’s Monday … what are you reading?

it's monday

I just finished up a second read of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking for my book club that met yesterday. I originally read it a year or so ago and, and as introvert married to an extrovert, it made a huge impact on my personal life. Our book club is made up of mostly introverts, with one who wasn’t sure. If you’re an introvert, married to one, or parenting one, it’s a highly recommended read.

I’m close to the end of Andrew Pyper‘s The Killing Circle. The book club read Pyper’s The Demonologist last month with a kind of “meh” reaction. I’m finding this one better, although I”m not really a fan of the supernatural thriller. I’ll post a review when I’m finished.  Next up in paper is Timothy Findley’s Spadework.

I’m also listening to the audiobook of Chasing Venus: The Race to Measure the Heavens by Andrea Wulf. I originally picked it up to fulfill a part of a reading challenge I’m participating in over at Goodreads, as I’m not a huge fan of non-fiction history books, but it’s quite exciting. It details the attempt to measure the size of the solar system based on the collection of data regarding the transit of Venus past the sun on June 6, 1761. This exercise required astronomers, professional and amateur to travel to and take measurements from locations around the world, specifically relating to the timing of this phenomenon. If you’re interested in navigation, history of science, or astronomy, this fast-paced book may be for you. Next up in audiobook format is a collection of short stories by Haruki Murakami from 1995 called The Elephant Vanishes.

What’s on your night table, or in your bag, or next to your sofa?

Review: Cockroach by Rawi Hage

CockroachCockroach by Rawi Hage

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hage’s writing never fails to seduce. His protagonist is not particularly appealing in the usual way, but I began to care for him even as he stumbles through life, seemingly unable to have normal relationships with those around him. Much of the novel takes place in a Montreal winter and our immigrant cockroach avoids the sun, stumbles along the frigid streets, bumming cigarettes and food, and stealing. He is (I believe) unnamed in the novel.

So why did I care?

Because there is some damaged core to this character. A childhood of violence and hunger in his homeland. A suicide attempt for which he is receiving free psychiatric out-patient care. Cockroach expresses his love for those around him in sometimes (very) inappropriate ways, yet we understand him, and want the best for him.

This is not a pretty story. But it is reality for those who live on the margins. Hage has captured these lives in previous novels and hits it out of the park with this one.

View all my reviews

Review: “Up and Down” by Terry Fallis

Up and DownUp and Down by Terry Fallis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A thoroughly enjoyable read, Fallis’ third novel hits the hot spots. Canadiana, Sherlock Holmes, feisty elderly female bush pilot, public relations, and the International Space Station are all part of this fast-paced work that kept me engaged right to the end. It lost a star for predictability, but even though I knew where it was going, it was a fun ride nevertheless. His rather broad humour is not for everyone, but i found it didn’t quite cross the line into slapstick (although it comes close a couple of times.)

View all my reviews

The Bootmakers of Toronto will be hosting Fallis for a gathering on September 21. I hope to be there.

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Summer Reading

There’s a new Goodreads summer reading challenge coming up at the Bookish group. These are tough challenges and I’ll be starting on my second one since I joined. Some of the basic requirements are that books must be at least 250 pages long and can be nothing remotely smelling of Young Adult or …sniff… junk. (And I am not in any way implying that these are synonymous, although there is some overlap.)

The challenge involves reading tasks (as I think I’ve explained before) that are worth different point rewards. Bonus points are also involved. The tasks were just announced and I’ve started my planning. The actual reading must happen between July 1 and September 30, 2013, but challenge groupies get planning well in advance. I admit to staying up until 3:30 this morning searching for books (when I should have been reading my book club selection due tomorrow….).

Summer is one of my favorite times to read, and I have fit a number of my must-read books into the challenge parameters. For example, we’ll be reading Wolf Hall for book club so it’s there. I’ve got a couple of novels set in Turkey as I’ll be in Istanbul for a week in August. I received Arlene Dickinson’s book Persuasion for Christmas a year and a half ago and very much want to read it, so it’s on the pile.

If you enjoy Goodreads and like to discover new and sometimes challenging books, consider joining the Bookish group. If you’re a Bookish member and planning to join the challenge, feel free to use my spreadsheet. Otherwise, have a look at what I will be (trying) to read this summer.

Reality check: this is something of a fantasy list. I only read half the books I planned for in the last challenge, but at least I’m never scrambling for ideas.

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