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Books 37-70 of 2010

This is ridiculous, if I can't post more often, I almost don't deserve a books read post. I'll put it all behind an lj-cut. Read more...Collapse )

Books 26-36 of 2010

26. The City and the City by China Mieville (312 pgs)
I'd been wanting to read something by Mieville forever. My first surprise was that China was a man. My second was that this was a crime novel combined with speculative fiction. I'm not sure that combo worked (but I tend not to enjoy crime novels in general, Larsson excluded). I read lately that he wrote it for his mother who loves crime novels, so I guess I can look past it and definitely try something else he has written. I was fascinated by the idea of these two cities that exist in the same place and the people living in them are trained not to see the other one, lest they have to deal with Breach.

27. Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro (304 pgs)
I'm on a big short story kick this year. The first few stories in this set are the kind where Something Bad Happens, which always feels forced to me. I prefer the stories where events are more subtle and unexpected, or at least the characters are. It is almost harder to write subtle than dramatic, and Munro does manage to accomplish this in stories like Face, which is probably my favorite of the set.

28. That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo (261 pgs)
You know, I really do love Russo. He can take a plot that would otherwise be mundane and bring the characters to life. I find myself enjoying his novels even when I could care less about the subject matter. I loved this one and its exploration of long-term marriage, and family.

29. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri (333 pgs)
More stories. Lahiri continues to be one of my favorite authors, so much so that I put off reading this book for a while when it first came out. She is a master of short story writing, and her characters are rooted in India (Bengali, Calcutta usually) but living in the northeastern United States.

30. Selected Poems by Mark Strand (152 pgs)
I read almost everything by Strand last year, but this anthology had some I was unfamiliar with. It includes some of my favorites, published the year he was selected as the Poet Laureate, now 20 years ago! I loved Eating Poetry with the foot-stamping librarian, The Room, Lines for Winter, and of course - The Remains and Coming to This, two of my favorites.

31. Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening by Louise Riotte (224 pgs)
This book was in such high demand at the library, I had to wait six weeks to check out a copy. It is an interesting philosophy of which plants do well together, and which plants you should plant far away from everything else (fennel does not love anything, apparently). It is hard to give the book a rating without having tested out its advice, but I plan to put dill where I harvested radishes, and next year will try some of their suggestions to keep cabbages healthy. A lot of things love tomatoes, it seems, including basil and carrots.

32. Queen of a Rainy Country: Poems by Linda Pastan (77 pgs)
This is a book of poems reflecting the poet's life. My favorite was Par Avion. I read half of them in the drive-thru at Starbucks this morning.

33. Where the God of Love Hangs Out by Amy Bloom (201 pgs)
I was a little bothered that two of the stories were in the last book of stories I read by Bloom, and that seemed a little unnecessary in 200 pages, but this is a good volume if you are new to her.

I loved, LOVED, the stories of William and Clare. They are the epitome of what I love about Bloom. Her characters are so human and imperfect.

34. PM/AM: New and Selected Poems by Linda Pastan (112 pgs)
Most of Pastan's poems, at least in this volume, are about mundane life, but from time to time she truly does find something incredibly insightful to say. And who says poetry can't be about mundane things too?

My favorites were We Come to Silence, Dido's Farewell, Waiting for my Life, and What We Want.

35. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (374 pgs)
Really great, fast-paced, interesting young characters, impossible death-game situation in a post-apocalyptic former USA. I should have just bought it instead of waiting months to get it from the library, and I can't wait to read the next in the series.

36. Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It: Stories by Maile Meloy (219 pgs)
There are interesting threads going throughout these stories, like lonely people and black ice. I loved the pairing of the last two stories - The Children and O Tannenbaum - demonstrating the "both ways" concept.

Books 14-24 of 2010

14. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (359 pgs)
I had read several places that Bacigalupi was a lot like William Gibson, and I can see why those people drew the comparison, but I don't agree. To me, despite the interesting settings and scenarios Gibson writes, what draws me in are his characters with their strengths and quirky flaws. What makes Gibson great is where Bacigalupi flounders - there is no main character in this novel. You follow a series of characters throughout the book and although they are on opposing sides (sometimes in surprising ways) the writing doesn't engender any sort of loyalty to any of them.

I almost quit reading it twice, but the Windup Girl herself made an appearance at the end of chapter 3 and then again around pg 100. These were the most interesting spots, and I was eager to see what happened with her, and that kept me reading. The story does become less disjointed as the characters' stories start becoming intertwined. The ending was surprising in a good way, and I almost hope for a sequel, like maybe that was the stride he wanted to hit.

15. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John LeCarre' (379 pgs)
This book is definitely a product of its time, when the spy game was an old boy's network, where manners almost mattered more than your alliances. Smiley is trying to find who the Soviet mole in the British "Circus," all the while dealing with the betrayal of his wife on a more personal level.

The second half of this book is far more entertaining than the second.

16. Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby (406 pgs)
Like most Hornby, a good story, quick read, I won't remember it a month from now.

17. The Annotated Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott (239 pgs)
As a person who wished she'd gone past Calculus in math, and has even been known to read biographies of mathematicians, this was a great read. The annotated version is better than the original - so many little things explained and context added for more of it.

"What can it be to run against a Woman, except absolute and immediate destruction?"

"To be self-contended is to be vile and ignorant ... to aspire is better than to be blindly and impotently happy."

18. Black Mountain College: Experiment in Art ed. by Vincent Katz (328 pgs)
A beautiful, heavy book chronicling the story of Black Mountain College from several different perspectives. The Brody chapter on music had the best information on the early 1950s and the music created by Lou Harrison and John Cage that I've found anywhere.

19. The Arts at Black Mountain College by Mary Emma Harris (315 pgs)
A great capture of the history of the college. I'd like to add this to my personal collection.

20. A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You by Amy Bloom (163 pgs)
Possibly the best short stories I've read - there is an amazing partnering of interesting situations and knowing the internal life of the characters. Touching and reflective.

21. A Palpable Elysium by Jonathan Williams (175 pgs)
A beautiful book of portraits, accompanied by anecdotes, poetry, and memories the author/photographer has from meeting the artists, poets, and composers he features in the pages. Most of them are connected to him in some way, most from the era when he was at Black Mountain College through the ten years afterwards. I had seen this book at the Black Mountain College Museum and was struck by it then, and enjoyed reading it more closely. The portraits, though, are the thing.

22. The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman (325 pgs)
Definitely not my favorite Hoffman so far. The themes are similar - women in the same family who are connected in strange ways, women who make bad decisions with men but are saved through somewhat magical ways, and sadness. But the story of the sisters seems to drag on, and the interesting parts (Madame Cohen and her story, Paris, and the grandmother Natalia) are minor in the scheme of things.

This could have been a lot tighter. I'm currently trying to find a recipe for Honesty Cake.

23. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (274 pgs)
"Intelligence and education that hasn't been tempered by human affection isn't worth a damn."

A cautionary tale from the 60s of what happens when you Mess With Science, told through the diary of Charlie who has an operation to improve his intelligence.

24. Away by Amy Bloom (240 pgs)
This story was unique, surprising, and the main character of Lillian Leyb was interesting and unpredictable. The ending threw me off a bit, but I liked how even as Lillian left different characters behind, Bloom would fill us in on their stories and endings.

I now have all of the rest of Bloom's work on my to-read list, and am still slogging through 2666.

Miserly but excited

I feel myself drawn back into LiveJournal. I don't write many letters or even e-mails for that matter these days, and lack a space for long narrative. To me, writing a longish post about how I feel about something or even what I've been up to lately is like putting on a comfy sweater.

I've been a bit dodgy about phone communication lately. I don't even have a reason! But my sister julioinka has called me, what, five times in the last month, and I've never called her back. Sorry. Another person I'm avoiding is the woman who is the new president of the campus womens club that I ran last year. Seriously, can't she just send me an e-mail? Talking to her is excruciating. I think it is because she is an only child and never had any children - she doesn't have a sense of other people having other time priorities than her or needing conversations to be less than an hour. I dread interacting with her. *Hides in her hole* So that one makes sense, but I don't dread my sister, but still don't feel like talking on the phone. Hmm... (Wow, looking back at some of my latest entries, don't I sound like a miser!)

I have to give a paper at the music librarian conference. I proposed a pretty broad topic about finding nuggets of music research in historical newspapers, and had a topic all picked out that I just wasn't feeling. I procrastinated and procrastinated and agonized because I felt like I was not telling anyone anything they didn't know. So I picked something completely obscure, and now my presentation will be about navigating the black hole of newspapers, ie: the non-digital non-indexed world. I'm spending all day in Asheville tomorrow doing this kind of research so I can talk about it. And in case it isn't coming across, I'm super excited about it. I wish the conference wasn't all the way in San Diego. It is going to take me an entire day to get there and an entire day to get back!

Books 1-13 of 2010

1. The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt (675 pgs)
One of the books shortlisted for the 2009 Booker prize, this is an enchanting story of a children's book author (fairy tales, really), her family, and people connected to them as secrets unravel and they live through the England of the end of the Victorian period through World War I. I loved the history, the art, the social and intellectual movements that were wound throughout.

2. Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow (208 pgs)
A quick read, not that unbelievable.

You can download it for free here. I read it along with the Sword and Laser Book Club.

3. The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson (503 pgs)
I don't usually read crime novels but Larsson is just the best. His characters are interesting, particularly Blomkvist and Salander, and it was a relief to get back to their stories in this second book. Salander finally faces some of the stuff from her past that I wasn't sure we'd want to hear about, and there were a few moments where I exclaimed out loud from a surprise in the narrative.

4. 100 Essential Modern Poems by Women ed. by Joseph Parisi and Kathleen Welton (282 pgs)
I enjoyed this anthology - I read a few unknown (to me) poems from poets I knew, and was introduced to several I'd never heard of. Two of them and I share strange connections - one was in the same graduate program I was in at the same university, exactly 50 years before me (folklore at IU), and one lived on a random mountain in Australia that I spent a weekend at during high school. The one I hadn't heard of that I was most intrigued by was Mina Loy, who is great fun to read out loud. I appreciated the work done by the anthologist, who in addition to writing an interesting introduction, provided a narrative for each poet that included the best anthologies and biographies of each poet, since his hope was that the anthology would only want you to read more.

5. Twilight of the Superheroes: Stories by Deborah Eisenberg (225 pgs)
My frustration with these stories comes from feeling, as a reader, that I simply was not clever enough to understand the subtext in at least half of them. I wanted so much to know what was going on but I just wasn't getting enough information. Several were clearly influenced by the events of 9/11. I saw this on a list of some of the best books of the decade (2000-2009) but I'm not sure I'd recommend these stories.

6. How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer (226 pgs)
Touching, sometimes horrifying, usually portraits of children in startling situations with realistic responses.

7. Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage: Stories by Alice Munro (323 pgs)
Some of these were touching, but I will particularly remember Nettles. I do think a more appropriate name for the book would be Aging, Sickness, and Death. :)

8. Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene (242 pgs)
Funnier than I expected, and hard not to love an accidental secret agent.

9. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin (286 pgs)
Great book about a planet where people are genderless and the unexpected is of utmost value, from the point of view of a human man. I read this for a book club I am in.

10. An Equal Music by Vikram Seth (484 pgs)
This book, about a violinist in a string quartet and a lost love, was so touching to me. I'm not sure if it is because of my music background, or the descriptions, but I will remember it for a long time.

11. Point Omega by Don DeLillo (117 pgs)
This had some great moments, but I really think it would have been so much better fleshed out into a longer novel.

12. The Glass Room by Simon Mawer (405 pgs)
This was shortlisted for the Booker prize in 2009. I found it to be entrancing, particularly the first section focusing on Viktor and Liesel. The setting was interesting, you don't hear a lot about Czechoslovakia. Some of the most interesting elements could have been pursued for a more interesting story - the relationship between Liesel and the architect, Hana and women, and so on. It was a bit sentimental and a bit repetitive, but I still liked it.

13. The Lost Lunar Baedeker by Mina Loy (236 pgs)
I learned about Mina Loy when I read The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker; she was a complete unknown to me before that. And I love her, how her words are so intentional and meaningful. My favorite work of hers will always be Songs to Joannes.

Cross Posted from Facebook

Dear Collective Wisdom,

I need advice! I know a lot of you out there are spectacular gardeners, and I feel slightly lost.

Pretty soon, I will have five raised beds in my yard. Two in partial shade, for flowers and for herbs, and three in direct sunlight. The three in direct sunlight are 4 ft x 8 ft and have 2.5 ft around so they can be accessed easily.

Here's what I'm thinking. Any reason not to go this direction?

Direct Sunlight #1 - Tomatoes, a pepper, squash, zucchini
Direct Sunlight #2 - Greens! Lettuce, spinach, kale, green beans.
Direct Sunlight #3 - Melons, cucumbers (desperate to find lemon cucumber, hope I can grow it here, a flavor from childhood).

The Square Foot Gardening site that David sent me (thank you!) uses a mix of 1/3 blended compost, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 coarse vermiculite to fill the beds. The Clemson extension site says to work in a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic material such as compost, ground bark, leaves or manures. Adding an additional source of nitrogen will help the organic material break down. What would you do (or are these the same?) P.S. what is vermiculite?

Where would you purchase soil/compost/peat moss where it could be delivered? If we buy bags it will be multiple trips.

Both sites say to interplant vegetables instead of grouping them by type like I want to do aesthetically. Is this really that important? Are there any magical pairings of vegetables the way that you want to group some livestock together but not others?

What grows really well here in the south?

Would you start with seeds or seedlings? For either answer, where do you like to buy? Is there a good place to find heirloom seeds locally?

Both sites also said that raised beds stay warmer so I can plant earlier. When is earlier? Now?

If your advice makes my garden do really well, prepare to be fed with chocolate zucchini cake and salsa.


Books 115-130 of 2009 (December Reads)

Somehow I neglected to post my last books of the year! #123-128 were read on my foggy vacation where I ended up with much more time to read than I had originally planned for. Thank goodness for cruise ship libraries!

115. The Achievement of Theodore Roethke by William J. Martz (86 pgs)
"An inability or an unwillingness to participate in the act of wishing can be a formidable barrier in responding to Roethke."
"He teaches us how to feel."

116. The Waking: Poems 1933-1953 by Theodore Roethke (120 pgs)
117. The Far Field by Theodore Roethke (95 pgs)
My favorite Roethke poems include Dolor, The Long Waters, The Moment, and The Abyss. I definitely agree with Martz's assessment - these are feeling poems.

118. Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro (221 pgs)
All stories about musicians trying to make a living in Europe. Not that great, but a quick read.

119. The Fermata by Nicholson Baker (303 pgs)
I'm beginning to sense that Baker is one of the more obsessive writers around. When he writes a book putting the obsessiveness to use about the destruction of print resources, it is interesting and somewhat tolerable (Double Fold). When it is about poetry, it is charming, and as a reader it pushed me towards a poetry reading binge that has yet to wane(The Anthologist). I didn't care for it so much in this book, and I honestly don't want to go into much detail about why. I think in the world of Baker, this is one I would skip.

120. The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker (135 pgs)
Ah, postmodern lit, where an entire book can take place in the mind of an office worker as he rides the escalator. Can you write an entire chapter about shoelaces? How about several! With the usual Baker obsessiveness, this time with footnotes. :)

121. Collected Poems: 1923-53 by Louise Bogan (127 pgs)

122. Vox by Nicholson Baker (165 pgs)
Loved this book, reminded me of Before Sunrise (that movie about two strangers who meet on the train and spend the night talking in Vienna).

123. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (566 pgs)
I picked this book to read on a cruise with my in-laws during the holidays, and could not have anticipated as many connections to my own life as I found. The characters made me laugh and they all seemed rather familiar. I'm not sure I'd read it twice, but the first time through, it was a gem.

124. The Sea by John Banville (195 pgs)
I read this on a cruise, but it is really more about a man mourning his wife (and life) than it is about the sea. More than having much of a plot, it is a descriptive reflection on his life and his memories of living by the sea. Melancholic and immersive.

125. The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner (345 pgs)
A lovely light read, travel writing about the various places deemed happiest in the world, plus one very unhappy place. It was interesting to read different perspectives of unhappiness, and confirmed my desire to go to Iceland!

126. Rebecca by Daphne du Marnier (416 pgs)
I found this book in a cruise ship library when I was trapped at sea. I probably would have read it eventually otherwise because it ends up on a lot of lists, but gothic tales of mysterious dead wives and big bleak mansions aren't usually my thing. It was a quick read, and I am not sure I envy the second Mrs. de Winter for her impossible situation.

127. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith (319 pgs)
I was adamantly not going to read this book! I hate zombies. I thought the adaptation of Pride and Prejudice to include zombies could only be terrible. But then I was trapped on a cruise ship with few selections, and I have to admit to giggling through most of it. Part of it is the illustrations - I mean, you really need a visual to really grasp the Bennet sisters using Chinese martial arts tactics to kill zombies, as well as zombies doing such things as scooping out the brains of the kitche...more I was adamantly not going to read this book! I hate zombies. I thought the adaptation of Pride and Prejudice to include zombies could only be terrible. But then I was trapped on a cruise ship with few selections, and I have to admit to giggling through most of it. Part of it is the illustrations - I mean, you really need a visual to really grasp the Bennet sisters using Chinese martial arts tactics to kill zombies, as well as zombies doing such things as scooping out the brains of the kitchen staff at Mr. Bingley's home. But more entertaining were the plot twists zombies afforded. Maybe the real reason Elizabeth turned down Mr. Collins was not merely because she did not love him, but because she knew her real purpose was to kill zombies. Clearly.

Officially, I'm still not a fan of this trend of rewriting literature to include supernatural beings, but I am finding it harder to resist.

128. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz (352 pgs)
I found myself completely immersed in this book, from its interesting characters (who doesn't love overweight science fiction geeks?) and setting to how it spans various generations of a Dominican family that might be cursed. The voice pulled me in, the use of Tolkien and Dune made me laugh, and the story made me stay. I hope to see more from Díaz in the future, and what a great first novel!

129. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (535 pgs)
"Only the librarian has received the secret...."

A tale of monk factions, mysterious murders in a monastery, and libraries. Kind of like a slow-moving Dan Brown novel. ;)

130. Angel Time by Anne Rice (274 pgs)
Funny to read a book right after The Name of the Rose where a good half of it was set in the exact same year, with more monks!

It seems to be, at heart, a story of redemption. An interesting exercise in what would happen if your guardian angel recruited you for a mission. :)

Books 98-114 of 2009 (November reads)

98. Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans by Louis Armstrong (240 pgs)
Louis Armstrong's personal tale of growing up in New Orleans. A quick read, and full of interesting tidbits!

99. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (406 pgs)
A rather gothic tale of two sets of twins. Elspeth has died in London, leaving her flat to the twin daughters of her twin sister in Chicago. Hauntings, mysteries, and a man with ocd make up most of the story. There were some touching moments, particularly between Elspeth and Robert, but like most readers, I didn't find this to be nearly as endearing as the Time Traveler's Wife.

100. Stealing Buddha's Dinner by Bich Minh Nguyen (256 pgs)
A Vietnamese refugee and her childhood story, told largely through the cravings of American processed food.

101. Ooga-Booga by Frederick Seidel (101 pgs)
Reflective, a bit repetitive in theme. The occasional rhyming is a bit hard to know what to do with. My favorite poem was "Violin," but maybe I was looking for optimism.

102. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (270 pgs)
Olive is difficult, moody, and opinionated; also observant, direct, and caring in her own way. Strout presents her through a variety of lenses in a grouping of short stories, all directly or indirectly tied to the character of Olive Kitteridge. I can't decide if I liked it or not. It isn't heartwarming, but feels rather genuine, which might be refreshing.

103. The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker (243 pgs)
I'm carrying this book around in my head these days, seeing poetry everywhere I look and thinking in rhyme. A great love letter to poetry, especially the rhyming kind, and an interesting character of the poet Paul Chowder who just needs to finish the introduction to an anthology of rhyming poems.

104. Rivers to the Sea by Sara Teasdale (148 pgs)
I feel like such a sap when I read Teasdale. While her poetry is simple in structure and often very short (some are only one stanza), and they tend to rhyme, they are full of longing and sentimentality. This set comes with the poem that is rumored to be the one she wrote after her past love killed himself ("I Shall Not Care"). My favorites were Spring, From the Woolworth Tower, I Am Not Yours, and A Cry; I didn't care much for the second of the five sections. Her poems seem familiar, but I don't think I've read her before. I think that is more a reflection of the simplicity and feeling of loss or sadness.

105. Dark of the Moon by Sara Teasdale (94 pgs)
Teasdale is definitely older and more introspective in this volume (compared to Rivers to the Sea). These poems are more about nature, her inner life, and what she was contributing and experiencing. She's lost some of the wistfulness for love, and seems to have replaced it with a general longing for life in general.

106. Stars Tonight by Sara Teasdale (49 pgs)
A compilation of more child-appropriate poems.

107. Strange Victory by Sara Teasdale (37 pgs)
A small collection of poems, as far as I can tell, from around the time of when Teasdale's former love committed suicide. Death is a common theme, as well as loss.

"No one worth possessing
Can be quite possessed."

108. The Magicians by Lev Grossman (402 pgs)
I admit to getting this book because I thought the cover was beautiful.

To me this seems like two books, or three, that the author just couldn't decide between writing - one was a grown-up Harry Potter type story, if magic school were at the college level. But he raced through telling that part to get to the magical land part, which to me was even less satisfying than the story about Brakebills College.

I never thought I would say this, because allegedly I hate reading fantasy series, but this would have been better spread out so more time could have been taken with each stage

109. Collected Poems of Sara Teasdale (311 pgs)
I was glad to have found the smaller bound volumes of Teasdale's poems, because several were excluded from this collection, and one was one of my favorites ("Spring" from Rivers to the Sea). There aren't any explanations for the exclusions other than that they were based on conversations she had with friends.

I tend to like her shorter, rhyming, sentimental poems than her longer, affected sonnets and tributes to mythological figures.

110. The Answering Voice ed. by Sara Teasdale (131 pgs)
This captures what women poets were writing about love around the time that Teasdale compiled these poems. Some standards, some poets who were new to me. Read from a brittle copy in the library that was missing some pages and parts of others.

111. Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper by Nicholson Baker (370 pgs)
"The library has gone astray partly because we trusted the librarians so completely." Read more...Collapse )

112. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (209 pgs)
I've had this on my to-read pile for a while, and I'm not all together certain I haven't read it before. The setting is interesting (cold weather islands are a favorite of mine) but it is more about what goes on INSIDE the house as the family talks about going to the lighthouse.

113. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami (180 pgs)
A quick read about running and writing, nice to read at the end of another successful National Novel Writing Month. :)

114. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (296 pgs)
I really had to mull over this one before writing anything about it. To so many people it appears to be a love story, but I really take issue with that - this is a dark, twisted story really, with a lot of mental anguish for everyone except the main character. I am starting to take issue with the typical Murakami protagonist - they seem so bewildered about the world around them, particularly about women but people in general, and the only relationships they have are those that fall into their lives. I hate people who float around and let things happen TO them.

In this novel it seems somehow worse. Surely there is something Toru can do, but maybe Nagasawa is right when he says Toru only knows to think about himself. The ending, and several moments throughout the story, really made me sick to my stomach. I need to take a break from him for a while, I think.

Books 90-97 of 2009

90. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown (528 pgs)
A quick, fast-paced read, this time set over the course of one day in Washington D.C. The best review I read was on Powells.com - check that to see Brown's formula.

While I agree with the critics, I can't say that his pattern is distasteful to me, rather it is the very definition of what I look for in a mindless, quick read, and that is what I was in the mood for! A personal connection that made me laugh - any time I've been asked what my strengths are, I always say that I can create order from chaos. Maybe I should become a Mason.... Ordo ab chao.

91. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (325 pgs)
My basic problem with this books is that I just don't understand why anyone would ever want to portray themselves as less intelligent than they are. Why not surprise people and spend your energy elsewhere? But that is the motivation of the two main characters in this book - a 54 year old concierge in Paris, who doesn't want the people living in the apartments to think she has "airs," and a 12 year old who dumbs herself down in intentional ways but criticizes her sister for doing the same.

I hated the ending. I think it was a cop-out. I really enjoyed the character of the Japanese businessman, and his relationship both with Renee and Paloma.

92. The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (434 pgs)
Since Oryx and Crake was one of my favorite Atwood novels, I was happy to read another book intertwined with that world and characters. This one focuses more on the religion of a group called The Gardeners, who are planning for the waterless flood.

"Nothing wrecks your nails like a lethal pandemic plague."

93. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (405 pgs)
I read this on my way to and from New Orleans, perfect because it is set there. Hilarious, quick read. The characters are so unlikable that it is easy to grow quite fond of them before they are done making a royal mess of their lives.

94. Balthazar by Lawrence Durrell (250 pgs)
This is the second book in Durrell's Alexandria Quartet, and I can't imagine reading it without reading Justine first. Even having read Justine not too long ago, I kept feeling a need to go back and re-read to try to fit Balthazar into the context of the first novel. Interesting, new angles and information, and a demonstration of how perspective changes a story!

95. The Tent by Margaret Atwood (158 pgs)
Pieces of super short fiction. Not very memorable as far as Atwood goes, but I felt like I saw sparks of the author in there.

96. The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham (246 pgs)
I know this is supposed to be a novel about love, redemption, and growth, but to me it was a case study on how choices for women were severely limited. It really just made me angry, not to mention the racist depiction of every Chinese character. I'd skip it.

97. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley (876 pgs)
Technically a re-read, for the Sword and Laser Book Club. Epic, feminist, old-religions retelling of Arthurian legend.


*tap tap* Ahem. Is this thing on?

So today, in an exercise or maybe just an example of my lameness, I am skipping the work halloween party. It happens during lunch, so I don't even have to come back to work or go to someone's house to go, and yet I'm still not going!

Why? Well, I never figured out a costume. One person declared Harry Potter theme, and I was thinking Molly Weasley or Professor Tralawney, but couldn't find the elements for the costumes without spending money I didn't want to spend. Then another person declared it duct tape themed, and I thought of ways I could combine the themes but ultimately I just didn't care enough. My little sister sews costumes for halloween for herself, and I think she just got all those genes.

Then last night I couldn't bring myself to care enough to make anything for it (its a lunch). I was all fired up to make candy corn but then didn't have all the ingredients and it kind of just derailed me. I grumped around for a while until N- told me that I didn't need to feel guilty about it, it wasn't that big of a deal.

I told one co-worker about not going and got the typical response - as if I'm committing some kind of social faux pas. When I said to someone yesterday I wasn't sure I'd go, there was the usual blinking of eyes and surprised look, "Why wouldn't you?" kind of thing. And I don't know what it is, but I've skipped this particular party the last two years. I don't have any moral issues with Halloween, and I love fall, and I even like most of my co-workers. I just don't care!

Why would I rather sit at home then go to a party? Meh.

All I feel is meh.


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July 2010



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