August 28, 2008

BTT: Story Time

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Booking Through Thursday

If you’re anything like me, one of your favorite reasons to read is for the story. Not for the character development and interaction. Not because of the descriptive, emotive powers of the writer. Not because of deep, literary meaning hidden beneath layers of metaphor. (Even though those are all good things.) No … it’s because you want to know what happens next?

Or, um, is it just me?


Um, well, not exactly. I love me a good story but I can love a book with no story and everything else. Take Breakfast at Tiffany's. There is really no story. It's a character sketch of an unusual and complicated woman. The writing is extraordinary. But is there a plot? Not really. And that's okay. One of my favorite authors, Carol Shields, used very little plot in her stories as well.

Then there are books where you should hate the story, like Lolita. Pedophile kidnaps tween; let's see what happens. Yuck! But despite this, I ended up loving this book because of the language. I wish the stories had been different, but whatcha gonna do?

Of course, I can turn off my brain and read just for the story with nothing else. The Da Vinci Code wasn't the greatest writing ever set down on paper but there was plenty of story. I was exhausted from all the running from place to place in that one.

A not so great book is one where the author can't make up his/her mind. Just when you think the story is going to go somewhere, things just stop happening and the author tries to throw in a bunch of metaphors. I'm thinking of a recent novel which I will not name. I will forget the name (hint, hint).

So I guess I'd say that I read different books for different reasons.

August 26, 2008

BBAW Award Nominations

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Got a favorite book blog? (*hint hint*) Nominate them for an award during Book Blogger Appreciation Week hosted by My Friend Amy. There's a butt load of categories:

Best General Book Blog
Best Kidlit Blog
Best Christian/Inspirational Fiction Blog
Best Literary Fiction Blog
Best Book Club Blog
Best Romance Blog
Best Thrillers/Mystery/Suspense Blog
Best Non-fiction Blog
Best Young Adult Lit Blog
Best Book/Publishing Industry Blog
Best Challenge Host
Best Community Builder
Best Cookbook Blog
Best History/Historical Fiction Blog
Best Design
Most Chatty
Most Concise
Most Eclectic Taste
Best Name for a Blog
Best Published Author Blog
Best Book published in 2008
Best Meme/Carnival/Event
Most Extravagant Giveaways
Best Book Community site

You have until Aug 31 to make your picks. See Amy's blog to find out how. This will be tough for me!

Wordless: Gooseberry Crunch

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My Mom gave me a pile of gooseberries. I had no idea what to do with them. After a Google search, I found this recipe. It's pretty good but very tart.

August 25, 2008

RIP III Challenge

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Hurray! It's that time again. Carl is gearing up for the R(eaders) I(mbibing) P(eril) Challenge for the third year. I really look forward to it because I love autumn and enjoy a good (safe) scare. An atmospheric book is great for a dark and stormy night. Here's my list:


Peril the First (4 books):
*Coraline Neil Gaiman
*I Am Legend Richard Matheson
*The Lace Reader Brunona Barry
*Heart Shaped Box Joe Hill

And for extra credit, I plan on getting My Cousin Rachel by Daphne DuMaurier from the library. I had such a good experience last year with DuMaurier during the challenge that I'm anxious to read more.

So are you up for it too?

PS-Like my ghost? If you crochet, I have the pattern in my Etsy shop ;)

August 20, 2008

Jane Eyre's Daughter: Review

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In Elizabeth Newark's Jane Eyre's Daughter, the famous parents leave for the West Indies while their daughter Janet attends finishing school. With school behind her and no sign of her parents' return, Janet and her companion, Laura, move in with her guardian, Colonel Dent. Dent's an older man whose idea of womanliness does not match Janet's. While exerting her independence she finds herself falling for Dent's mysterious secretary, Roderick Landless and fending off the advances of Sir Hugo, tenant of Thornfield.

When I began reading Jane Eyre's Daughter I had to remind myself that Newark is not a Bronte. In fact, the book is quite different from Jane Eyre and it's being associated with that work is more of a hindrance than an asset. First, much of the first few chapters could have been cut. Chances are if you are reading this book then you have read Jane Eyre, if not***drop this book and read Jane Eyre at once!***. I didn't see the need to rehash the lives of Jane and Edward. It was needless backstory. There was a lot of telling and not showing why Janet felt unloved by her mother. Which brings me to how I felt about that: I couldn't reconcile the Jane Eyre who loved Adele and had such tender feelings towards children with the cold mother portrayed here. It's Newark's Jane, I suppose, but she treads on dangerous ground and lovers of Jane are apt to be critical. Speaking of parental relationships... There are plenty of women in love with Mr Rochester, his daughter should not be one of them. Her feelings about him were just creepy and every time it was mentioned I found it intrusive and jarring. Luckily, as the novel progresses this comes up less and less.

Despite a rocky start, this was an enjoyable book to read. I was happy that Newark gave Janet her own personality and not just a Jane Eyre wannabe. Janet's love of riding and fashion are what I'd expect from a wealthy, educated girl of her time. Her character is also what I'd imagine a girl with such unconventional parents to be. She is an independent and strong protagonist with a good head on her shoulders. The cast of characters was a nice touch. I loved them all, Laura, Annie, Albert, Roderick, even the creepy siblings. The plot is perfect for a Gothic romance: stormy weather, secrets, forbidden love, even though I sometimes felt like my favorite book was being pilfered for plot devices (midnight laughter, collisions on dark lanes). That's nothing new though. The action and pacing were perfect. I stayed up until 2 am just to finish it. The writing and attention to detail were spot on; in fact, I'd love to see what Newark can do without using famous literary characters in her novel. Jane Eyre's Daughter is a book that can stand on it's own as a fun piece of romantic fiction. Nice job!

Recommended

Available from Sourcebooks, September 2008

Wordless: Hiking in the Highlands

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I love hiking on trails around the island. Last week, we took a drive up to the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. We drove around for a bit then decided to walk the Jack Pine Loop next to Black Brook Beach. The sky was gray and the wind was up. Most of the trail was exposed granite where only Reindeer Moss and lichens grew. It was so quiet I thought we'd see a bear or moose for sure but we didn't. Glad we didn't! Here are some favorite shots.

Squeaker Hole

View from the top

August 17, 2008

Breakfast at Tiffany's: A Review

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In the novella Breakfast at Tiffany's a phone call from an old friend prompts a writer to reminisce about Holly Golightly, a unique woman who lived in his building during WWII.

After seeing the movie, I couldn't help comparing the two. First, Holly is much more brash than the character Audrey Hepburn plays. She's ahead of her time. Her thoughts on lesbianism would have shocked movie goers in the early 60's. Also, the movie played up a romance between the writer and Holly. I never felt that there were romantic feelings between them while reading the book.

Holly is a complex character. She's brutally honest yet she's a liar, or as one character calls her, a phony but a real phony. She's loyal but will stab a friend in the back to have her way. I found myself charmed yet frustrated by this girl, much like the writer did. She surrounds herself with friends but keeps everyone at a distance. No one really knows her; who she is or where she came from. Her morals are questionable. Is she a prostitute? Maybe but by her own definition, no. But she does use men- older, richer men- to survive. Men who give her 'powder room money'.

Truman Capote's writing is beautiful, lyrical. It's a joy to read even though there is so much ugliness in this story. It's never really dark. That's real artistry.

Here's an interesting footnote: Capote wanted Marilyn Monroe for the part of Holly. I find it hard to imagine anyone else but Hepburn as Holly. She looked so good in the costumes.

Note: This was a library copy from 1958. The cover had been replaced and someone must have spilled a whole cup of tea on it and then tried to cover it up with some cheap perfume. Despite being gross, it added to the reading experience. It seemed appropriate for Holly.

Highly Recommended

August 16, 2008

My Friend Amy: Book Blogger Appreciation Week September 15-19

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This sounds like a fun event! Click the link to find out more:

My Friend Amy: Book Blogger Appreciation Week September 15-19

August 14, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Not a Fan

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You, um, may have noticed that the Olympics are going on right now, so that’s the genesis of this week’s question, in two parts:

First:

  • Do you or have you ever read books about the Olympics? About sports in general?
  • Fictional ones? Or non-fiction? Or both?

And, Second:

  • Do you consider yourself a sports fan?
  • Because, of course, if you’re a rabid fan and read about sports constantly, there’s a logic there; if you hate sports and never read anything sports-related, that, too … but you don’t have to love sports to enjoy a good sports story.
  • (Or a good sports movie, for that matter. Feel free to expand this into a discussion about “Friday Night Lights” or “The Natural” or whatever…)
This might get me in trouble but I hate sports. I enjoy playing Wii Sports but that's all. Now we have 2 weeks of the Olympics on TV. I'll get lots of reading done. As for sports movies, I can't stand those 'inspirational' football (they all seem to be football) or baseball or whatever ones. It's not curing cancer.

Books about sports I'll avoid like the plague. I did read a book about a boxer last year (Lachlan of the Bad Heart) but it wasn't really about boxing. That's as close as it gets.

August 10, 2008

First Among Sequels: Review

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It's practically impossible to explain the Thursday Next series to anyone. Believe me, I tried to explain it to my husband. I ended up telling him, "It's like Monty Python where all the characters seem to know what's going on. You don't but it's funny anyway." Yeah, it's like that.

Thursday works underground as a Literary Detective. Her latest assignment is to break in a couple of new recruits: Thursday 1-4 from the poorly written Thursday Next series (the one with all the sex and violence) and Thursday 5 from The Great Samuel Pepys Fiasco (the touchy feely one). Thursday finds working with her alter egos to be more than she can handle. In the real world, Thursday must convince her lazy son Friday to join the ChronoGuard before time rolls up on us, all while battling demons and laying carpet.

Right. Don't think too hard about it. Just have fun.

I've only read The Eyre Affair so I was a bit lost at first. It didn't take long until I was immersed in First Among Sequels. Some authors can take an interesting idea and make a huge mess and disappoint the reader. Jasper Fforde is not one of them. The idea that books are living things and need to be maintained is already a good one. Add a gutsy heroine and a lot of imagination and the idea becomes a great one. Fforde understands bookworms. Book humour is sprinkled throughout. I enjoyed every page of First Among Sequels and can't wait for Thursday to continue her adventures. I'm going to hunt down the other books and read them before that though!

August 7, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Another World

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Suggested by Miko

Are there any particular worlds in books where you’d like to live?

Or where you certainly would NOT want to live?

What about authors? If you were a character, who would you trust to write your life?

(This came to me when reviewing a Jonathan Carroll book - I’m not sure I’d like to live in the worlds of his books.)

I'm sure many people will say they want to live in magical places but that's not for me. Too much peril. I don't want to be eaten by a dragon or turned into a pumpkin. I prefer the world of Austen. Balls, visiting friends, and long walks in the country. Sounds good to me. Plus, if I was the heroine, I'd always end up with the perfect man. One who doesn't leave dirty underwear on the floor. So maybe I'd have to put up with an annoying relative or two and there are always money issues in Austenland but nothing I can't handle.

I would not want to be in any dystopian novel, like The Handmaid's Tale or Fahrenheit 451. No, no, no.

As for writing my life story, definitely not Stephen King (no rabid dogs or horrifying aliens please) or Margaret Atwood (gloom, gloom, gloom). I think I'd like Carol Shields to do it. She was so good at making the ordinary extraordinary. And I'm pretty ordinary but I think she could liven it up.

August 5, 2008

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Another interesting post from Bookcrazy on the article I posted about yesterday. I left this comment. I felt I had to post it here as well:

I posted about this yesterday and my reaction was on the annoyed side. As you say, the idea that bloggers just link to professional reviews is in her imagination. I think many bloggers didn’t like being lumped into this category.

I’ve read the article a few times now. There is some useful information there but I don’t believe bloggers will consider themselves professional (unless we start getting paid). Our reviews will continue to be personal because blogs are personal. I’m about to use a cliched expression but it’s apples and oranges. I’m not a professional and never pretended to be. I’m just a reader with an opinion.

I think the idea of the Professional Book Review Blog is a good one. I can’t have a discussion with a newspaper. I believe most bloggers started because they could express their opinions on the books they read. We don’t just want to read a review. We want to comment, to discuss. That’s the society we’ve become. Newspapers have to get with the times.


While all this talk is about the disappearance of book reviewers from newspapers, I wonder how are the newspapers doing. Are they losing subscribers because of technology? Is this just the evolution of reading?

August 4, 2008

Just When I Think I'm Out...

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After Friday's Great Blogger Fiasco, I was seriously considering packing things up here at book-a-rama. It really is time consuming and I'm finding that I'm not accomplishing as much as I was BB (Before Blog). I wasn't planning giving it up altogether but cutting back quite a bit. Then I read this Will Blogs Save Books and changed my mind. Nothing like getting riled up to get me back in.

Ms Warren couldn't have visited the blogs I have. There are too many to list here. I have about 100 in my Google Reader. All talented writers in their own right. I'd trust their opinions over a review in the newspaper any day. Warren seems to believe that bloggers just link to other reviews:

The book bloggers ferret out the most interesting reviews for us and sometimes provide incredibly cogent commentary on them--but they consistently rely on print book review sections to get the conversation going.

Huh? I've rarely seen that on the blogs I read.

Warren's other beef was the personal aspect of the book blog. Too many 'I's. I find that I like this about book blogs. I feel that you have run into a friend who can't wait to tell me about this great book they've just read. What is wrong with that? I want opinion. Will I like this book? Is it entertaining? Thought provoking? This is what I want to know.

Lisa at Minds Alive On the Shelves has a wonderful comment on this article. Please read it.

So, what do you think? Are you a book blogger? What do you think of blogging? Is it a lot of work for you? Do you take it seriously or is it just a hobby?

August 1, 2008

I'm back!

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Look at that! They let me back in. I don't know what the heck happened but that had me worried.

I was locked by the spam 'bot. I would have had my blog deleted in 20 days. Isn't that nuts? I guess they figured it out.