Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Carl V has just announced his Rip III challenge which aims to "share the love of eerie, creepy, things-that-go-bump-in-the-night literature". As I love classic horror I cannot resist. I really appreciate that fact that Carl provides the option of only reading one book (Peril the Third) so that I can join in the fun without over committing myself. Hopefully I will have time for more than one. We will see. I also like the idea of a pool of books to chose from because even if I don't read more than one now, it will be a great resource when I am in the mood for something that goes bump in the night. Here is my pool of possible reads which I fully expect will increase as time goes by.

Tales of Moonlight and Rain by Akinari Ueda
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
Best Ghost Stories by Algernon Blackwood
Three Impostors and Other Stories by Arthur Machen
Casting the Runes and Other Ghost Stories by M.R. James

I will definitely read Tales of Moonlight and Rain as it is sitting enticingly on my coffee table for the Japanese Literature Challenge and I am really looking forward to it. House of Leaves I read when if first came out and I have been meaning to re-read it as the creepy House keeps poping into my head. Machen and Blackwood both influenced Lovecraft, one of my favorites, and I have been meaning to read more of them. M.R. James is one of my favorite ghost story writers and I still haven't read all of his work. I am sure that I will think of or find more to add to this list. I am really looking forward to reading other participants' pools and reviews!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Reading slumps

So, what do YOU do when you find yourself in a reading slump? How do you get out of it? Do you keep trying different books until you find one that draws you in? Do you just give in to the slump until it passes, and do something other than reading for a time? Do you ask for help? And, if you ask for help, what great (or, not so great) advice have you been given on how to get out of the slump?

Thank goodness I rarely get in a reading slump but I know exactly what you mean when you finish a book and don’t know what your in the mood to pick up next. When I do get in a slump I try one of the following: read a magazine (usually Bookmarks); surf the internet (usually book blogs); read a short story or two by some of my favorite authors such as Borges or Lovecraft or Poe; or read a really trashy page turner. If I am not in the mood to read at all, I don’t read. Reading is what I do for fun and if it isn’t fun then I have plenty other hobbies to keep me occupied.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Whether you usually read off of your own book pile or from the library shelves NOW, chances are you started off with trips to the library. (There’s no way my parents could otherwise have kept up with my book habit when I was 10.) So … What is your earliest memory of a library? Who took you? Do you have you any funny/odd memories of the library?

As a child I don’t remember using a library. The school library was a place for classes and meetings but the actual books were quite limited and I don’t ever remember checking any out. The public library was very limited and I only recall going once with a school trip. As a child my source for books were mainly book fairs plus my dad bought me series that I liked such as Nancy Drew and Laura Ingalls Wilder. My favorite source for books were “borrowing” or swiping those belonging to my older sister such as all the Ian Fleming books, Coffee, Tea or Me (a wildly trashy and inappropriate book for a young child about airline stewardess), Shirley McClain books and books about aliens and the lost city of Atlantis. My taste in books have radically changed since then but the sense that reading was exciting and sort of illicit has stuck with me.

I didn’t really discover libraries until I was an adult living in the states and now I am back in a location with no real libraries. Thank god for internet shopping! I do love reading about libraries. A very interesting read is Library: An Unquiet History by Matthew Battles. One of my favorite stories about a library is by Borges called the Library of Babel which is here. Although not a warm and cozy sort of library that you would want to spend time in, it is certainly memorable.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Books about Books

I love books about books and found these good suggestions to add to my wish list:

Speaking of Books and A Passion for Books by Harold Rabinowitz.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Favorite Bookstores

What's your favorite bookstore? Is it an online store or a bricks-and-mortar store? How often do you go book shopping? Is your favorite bookstore (or bookstores) listed as a favorite in LT? Do you attend events at local bookstores? Do you use LT to find events?

Well Marie at the Boston Bibliophile sure brings back memories with this question and her response! I spent many years living in Boston and enjoyed the Harvard Coop but my favorite book store was Waterstones in a fabulous Romanesque Revival building on the corner of Newbury Street and Exeter which originally was built as a Spiritualist Church. It was everything a book store should be, great selection in a beautiful setting and a wonderful place to spend the day. Unfortunately it is long gone. I also enjoyed the Avenue Victor Hugo Bookstore which is also now gone although it retains an online presence. (Check out its bitter but interesting, “Twelve reasons for the death of small and independent book stores”, scroll down the page a bit). Boston was a great city for antiquarian book stores which were fun to poke around in but I must admit I rarely purchased anything. Boston is also home to my all time favorite book event, the Boston Antiquarian Book Fair where I would drool over not only the interesting and rare books but the amazing fore-edge painting and extravagant book bindings. Once again, never bought anything but I loved looking.

The bookstore that I am most fond of however is the Barnes & Noble in Walpole, MA because I was part of the management team that opened that store. It was quite an experience. Whenever I am back in the area I always go and visit. It is looking older and tired and everyone that I knew is long gone but it still holds a special place in my heart.

Now I live in a location that has no bookstores and no useful library so all of my shopping is online. I use aubible.com for audio books, ebooks.com and others for ebooks and Barnes & Noble.com for paper books. I must admit that I use Amazon to look for books and read all the reviews but I actually purchase the books from B&N because the shipping works much better for me than with Amazon, the price is great since I am a member, plus I get airline miles. I guess I am in the process of selecting books almost everyday that I surf the internet but I don’t actually place an order more than a couple times a month. I haven’t found LT very helpful for finding book stores or book events.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

BTT - Other Worlds

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?

I cannot think of any books I would like to live in but I certainly would like to visit some for a short while. The Groan castle in Gormenghast from Titus Groan by Meryvn Peake as long as I was a member of the Groan family. In fact I would like to stay in the twin sisters’ rooms so I have access to the Room of Roots and can have tea parties on the giant tree that grows horizontally out of the side of castle. Macondo from 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The New York of Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin. Any of Tom Robbins books.

I certainly would not want to live at the Colorado horse ranch from God of Animals or the world of I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. Some of the places that I definitely don’t want to live would be absolutely fascinating for really really short visits such as the House from the House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski, the ruins in Antarctica from the Mouth of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft.

I would trust Gabriele Garcia Marquez to write my life because it would be beautifully written with a hint of magic and wonder. I would be very tempted to see what my life would be like written by Franz Kafka or Luis Borges, two of my favorite authors. It would be filed with the unexpected but I am afraid that it would not turn out well for me and while I don’t generally read happy ending books, if its my life I want it to be happy.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Musing Mondays #3: Why Join Reading Challenges?

I just discovered Musing Mondays through Tuesday Thingers so while I am obviously a day late, I loved the topic so wanted to add my two cents worth. The question is: Why do people join in on reading challenges… what’s so appealing about them?

I was asking myself that very same question back in April and as a result decided to try Carl V’s Once Upon a Time II as my first challenge. I enjoyed many aspects of it. I enjoyed reading everybody else’s reviews although I never did get through them all as there were a total of 476 reviews posted. It was good for me to have some incentive to go ahead and post reviews and make comment’s on other people’s blogs as I have a tendency to lurk. I discovered lots of interesting blogs with similar interests and found some books to add to my wish list.

What I didn’t like was that I found it stressful and I resented the fact that I needed to read the next book for the challenge instead of reading whatever struck my fancy. I was also surprised by how many young adult books were included in the reviews. While I can appreciate that young adult books may be well written and other adults enjoy them, they are simply something that doesn’t interest me.

I concluded that I don’t read fast enough to do a challenge consisting of five books in two months and still leave myself time to read my book club books as well as a few simply for fun. I also concluded that I needed to be more discerning when picking the topic of the challenge. Fantasy is not an area that I normally read and I thought it would be good to branch out and indeed I found some great books that I had never thought of as fantasy that I loved. But I think that if it was a topic that really interested me I would have enjoyed it more.

With the end of that challenge in June I said that I was not going to start any other challenge anytime soon. See Once Upon A Time wrap up post. But then I discovered Belleza’s second Japanese Literature Challenge. That is a topic that really interests me and it only requires three books over a six month time period so I gave in a joined up and am really looking forward to it. The review site is here.

I note that many others have commented that they enjoy challenges because it reduces their TBR piles. It certainly does not reduce mine. For the last challenge I intended to read three books that I already owned but ended up only reading one that I had and buying five new ones. For the Japanese challenge I intend to read one that I own but all of the others that are on my list as possible reads I would have to buy. If I am going to commit to the challenge I want to be reading the best books that I can find for it and besides, what a great excuse for buying books - I simply had to!!

I also noted that others mentioned that they enjoyed the challenge aspect of it. My work is all about meeting rigid deadlines and I don’t have any desire to try and push myself to read more in my leisure time. My natural inclination is to read as much as I can in the time I have available and adding stress to it just takes the pleasure out of it.

I am in awe of people that participate in multiple challenges at a time as well as people that read a huge number of books but that is something that I simply cannot do. The verdict on reading challenges is still out for me but I will give an update when I finish the Japanese Reading Challenge after January 30, 2009.

God of Animals

by Aryn Kyle

Set on a broken down horse farm in Colorado, this is a coming of age story of a twelve year old girl, Alice, and her very dysfunctional family. I cannot say that I enjoyed reading this book but I still thought is was very well done. I didn’t enjoy it simply because of the cruelty to the horses that was portrayed. As a young child I discovered that stories with animals often involved the death of an animal and I refused to read animal stories or watch animal movies. I generally still adhere to that policy. I read this book because it was the selection for my book group. One of the reasons that I enjoy my book group is that it gets me to read things that I wouldn’t ordinarily read on my own which I believe is a good thing. This book certainly was reading outside of my comfort zone.

Despite my discomfort, I found the characters very engaging and I was anxious to see how their stories played out. There is the mother that never comes down from her bedroom. The handsome but distant father who is chasing after his dreams and trying to keep the ranch afloat. The missing older sister who always won all the blue ribbons in the horse shows and attracted lucrative clients to the stable who ran off with a rodeo cowboy. The grandparents that show up in their RV and in a whirlwind of activity get things going in the right direction for the family and then just as suddenly depart. The catfish, the wealthy ladies who board their extremely expensive horses at the stable, who mostly sip cocktails and gossip instead of actually ride. Patty Jo who tries to distance herself from the catfish and is more interested in the handsome father. And last but not least, Polly a drowned girl from Alice’s class and the English teacher that becomes Alice’s confidant in late night phone marathons. With this odd cast of characters Alice is trying to do the best she can to grow up and take care of her family with absolutely no help or guidance from any adults in her life.

While some in my book group found the story depressing and didn’t like any of the characters, I thought the author’s portrayal of the characters, while not sympathetic, rang true. It is not a happily every after story but I suspect that it is more true to life than we would like to think. I enjoyed the author’s use of language and found the plot and characters extremely well done. This was the author’s first novel and I would be interested to read her future works if she doesn’t include any animals.

Tuesday Thingers

What other weekly memes or round robins do you participate in? Is this the only one? Why Tuesday Thingers and not some other weekly Tuesday meme? Or do you do more than one?

In addition to Tuesday Thingers I sometimes participate in Booking Through Thursday and Weekly Geeks although I am not very consistent. I only participate if I have the time and find the question interesting. I like Booking Through Thursday and Tuesday Thingers because they are book focused and in addition to the interesting questions it is a good way to find other bloggers that have similar interests. I occasionally participate in Weekly Geeks because I am new to blogging and I am trying to be more of a participant than a lurker, which is my natural tendency.

I recently discovered a new one, It’s Tuesday, Where are You, which asks where is reading taking you today? The question is always the same but the answers are always different. Reading is such a great way to experience something different without even leaving your home be it inside a virtual reality game, in outer space, in Antarctica, in Cromwell’s England, in the Emperor of China’s Court or in Colorado on a horse ranch. I really enjoy seeing where reading has taken other readers.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Halting State

by Charles Stross

After the Once Upon a Time II challenge I was in the mood for some sci fi. I had read such great things about this book (like Carl V's review) that I had to check it out. This thriller takes place in 2018 in the independent republic of Scotland where a bank robbery by a band of orcs with a dragon for backup has taken place inside of Avalon Four, a MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game). It is told in the 2nd person through the narratives of Sue, a police officer, Elaine, a forensic accountant and Jack, a game programmer that just happens to have the exact skill set as Avalon Four's missing programmer.

While I have never played computer games and could not follow all the lingo, I found the whole premise very interesting. The technology seemed to be a reasonable extrapolation of where we might be in ten years and the pervasiveness of information technology in everyday life seemed dead on. I found myself caught up in the plot and having to remind myself that the portrayal of the police’s big brother ability to track a person’s every movement was really very scary. I also found the idea interesting that innocent games, Spooks in the book, could be used by intelligence agencies or others to have the participants unwittingly involved in far more than a game without them even suspecting.

While I know that some who have read the book did not like the second person style, I had no issue with it. While I didn’t find that the second person was essential to the book, as in Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, once I read that it was the narrative used in most role playing games, I thought it was a fun touch.

One of my favorite scenes in the book is when you first meet Elaine, the forensic accountant, who on her time off is involved in sword fighting but enhanced with virtual reality to add elaborate costumes and an appropriate setting. Through out the book I was hoping that Elaine was going to have the opportunity to really wield that sword and cause some havoc. While she did get to use it at a pivotal point in the book, it was very anticlimactic and disappointing. Of course I was happy that two of the three main characters were strong women so it was just a minor quibble. Over all though I enjoyed the book and will definitely check out some others by Charles Stross.