Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Top Ten Things Books Have Made Me Want To Do or Learn About After Reading Them

Happy Top Ten Tuesday over at the Broke and the Bookish!

1. Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Made me want to read The Dream of a Common Language by Adrienne Rich.

2. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Made me want to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which was even better.

3. Don Quixote

Made me want to tilt at windmills =P...more seriously, made me want to travel around Spain.

4. Jane Austen books

Make me want to visit Bath.

5. Little House on the Prairie books

Made me want to pickle and can, make maple syrup candy by dripping hot syrup on snow, and grind wheat in a coffee mill.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Books Finished in June: Part II

33. Pretties by Scott Westerfeld

I read Uglies a while ago, and ran across this at the library. I like the concept of the series--a world where everyone is cosmetically and neurally changed/enhanced--but I can't bring myself to care that much about the characters. I may or may not pick up the rest of the series at some point.

34. Two Years Eight Months and Twenty Eight Nights Salman Rushdie

My favorite Salman Rushdie so far. Also, totally contradicts the assertions of my fiction workshop leader that the intrusive nineteenth century style third-person narrator is dead. "They" are very much alive in Rushdie's book, written from the perspective of the future of tumultuous years in their past (and our future). There are jinn.

35. All the Queen's Players by Jane Feather

Found this in an antiques shop, and they gave it to me for free. It skews more toward romance than historical fiction, but actually an interesting perspective on the Babington plot.I enjoyed it for its view on a slightly less-fictionalized aspect of Elizabeth's reign. Recommended for fans of the Tudors who don't mind some romance.

36. The Silkworm (audiobook) by Robert Galbraith

More intricate plot than the first book, and we get to know Cormoran and Robin even better. I also can't help thinking J.K. Rowling is having her fun mocking old-school white male authors. Overall, showcases her strength of plot and character, though I wasn't as impressed with the language as in the first book.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Top Ten Books Set Outside the U.S.

This is perfect, since I'm about to be traveling out of the country!

1. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

Set primarily in Milton, a fictional city in Derbyshire County in the north of England. Also some appearances in London and a small village in the south of England.

2. Empress Orchid by Anchee Min

Set in late-nineteenth century imperial China, primarily in the Forbidden City.

3. The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni

Set in 1600s Italy; the protagonists travel to a variety of states and cities, though the story starts and centers on their small village.

4. The Lost Girls by Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett, and Amanda Pressner

Set primarily in contemporary South America, Kenya, India, and Australia/New Zealand.

5. The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz

Set (surprise!) in modern-day Paris. I've read it a few times, and it makes me laugh aloud every time.

6. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Set in a (barely) post-Franco Barcelona. I also highly recommend the prequel, The Angel's Game, and sequel, The Prisoner of Heaven.

7. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Set in nineteenth-century Russia, primarily in Moscow and St. Petersburg. I also highly recommend Resurrection, a different story but same time and place.

8. House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

Set in an unnamed South American country. I also recommend Daughter of Fortune, set in Chile and then California.

9. The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen

Set in late-sixteenth-century Spain, primarily Madrid; also, a little bit of Italy, including Florence, in the same time period.

10. Vienna Nocturne by Vivien Shotwell

Set in eighteenth-century Vienna, and a few other locations in Austria and England.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Books Finished in June: Part I

28. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Enjoyed the fast-paced sequel to Cinder and looking forward to reading the rest of the series. I think it really helped that I'd read a short story on Wolf's origins, so I knew about the Lunar Queen's plans to take over the Earth with an army of genetically enhanced wolf-men. Doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but it's a great setup for a scifi version of Red Riding Hood. Scarlet is a much more impetuous, and therefore less relatable, heroine than Cinder (whose story is also continued here, yay!), but I thought Meyer did a good job creating a backstory for her that explains how her fate is entwined with Cinder's. Looking forward to Cress.

29. The Dream of a Common Language by Adrienne Rich

Inspiring, evocative poetry--I would recommend this to every woman, and any other gender as well.

30. Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler (audiobook)

Light and fluffy, like I like my audiobooks. Definitely a YA book, but it was entertaining and different to hear a story where you know the main characters will break up. I thought the voice was really well done, both in terms of the author's "voice," and the voice of the actor who did the reading. I have to admit though that sometimes you just want to slap the main character, and be like, go date your best friend already, it's obvious you're supposed to end up with him.

31. The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit

I'd heard of E. Nesbit, but never got around to reading her as a kid. When I saw this old Puffins classic edition at my local Little Free Library, it caught my eye immediately. Although it's a children's story, I really loved this semi-magical tale. It reminded me of Edward Eager's Half Magic. Highly recommended for children and a fun lazy day read for adults who like a touch of fantasy.

32. The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston

Also found at the Little Free Library! I've wanted to read this for a while, since I'm a big fan of Tripmaster Monkey. Stories about growing up as the child of Chinese immigrants in California. Some of the stories were entertaining (and bittersweet), but didn't like it as much as I wanted to.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts

1. I'm reading Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South. It's like a less sparkling, way more political Pride and Prejudice. Gaskell isn't as witty as Austen, but she was way more willing to tackle the serious issues--and still write a rich work of fiction.

2. The weather is finally just the way I like it. Low 90s, medium humidity. Yes, I know, I'm the only one.

3. Turns out there are all kinds of Pokemon in my home. Who knew.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Thoughts on Curtis Sittenfeld's Eligible

27. Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Curtis Sittenfeld

Initial Thoughts

1. Holy short chapters

2. Cincinnati--how appropriate

3. Sittenfeld's read P&P at least as many times as I have (>I can count) because Austen is in the language even with no obvious parallels.


4. I love Lizzy/Darcy hate sex.

5. Finally, the answer to the real mystery of P&P--what IS the deal with Mary?


6. The most difficult part of updating Pride & Prejudice is the tectonic shift in Western social values. Although many social taboos from Austen's day no longer persist, Sittenfeld triumphantly substitutes the few modern taboos left in a way that requires no suspension of disbelief.

7. I've read all of Sittenfeld's published work, and for the most part, her writing and storytelling continue to mature. Her first book, Prep, still deeply affects me. So, one of my favorite authors updating the work of one of my other favorite authors should have thrilled me. Instead, while I think Sittenfeld did a better update than almost any author living could have done--I want more original work from her.

8. Austen set the bar high, and Eligible doesn't transcend her work. However, it's more than the romantic comedy that often gets compared to Austen--Sittenfeld succeeds not only in time-traveling the P&P cast (splitting a few personalities)  into the 21st century, but in turning truly Austenesque snark on today's culture.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Books Finished in May

23. Paper Towns by John Green

My first John Green book. I wasn't blown out of my mind, but this book does what it's meant to do. Although it's accused of being an archetypal "manic pixie dream girl" story, I think it actually is meant to (and does) split that myth apart. Margo Roth Spiegelman and her crazy adventures is a persona, a paper girl. Instead of feeding into it, Green shows, in a lighthearted way, how dangerous it can be for a young man to put a young woman on a pedestal.

24. The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler (audiobook)

As promised, the story centers around a corgi. This is a deep character study, and also a quirky story, that will hit the spot for those into that sort of thing and predisposed to sympathize with quiet, socially anxious characters (as I certainly am).

25. Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

This had been on my list for a while, and I'm really glad I picked it up. Although many of my friends (and my family) come from immigrant backgrounds, I was not prepared for the sheer destitution of the situation the main character finds herself in. It takes true grit and depth of courage for Kimberly to overcome her poverty, exacerbated by linguistic and cultural barriers, and use her mathematical talent to change her social class. While this is an 'American Dream' type immigrant success story, this shouldn't be the message that anyone in this situation could overcome these odds. Kimberly is clearly a rare exception, and other kids without her extreme talent and determination fall through the cracks.

26. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

Ever since I heard the title of this book, it's been reverberating in my head. It's the last thing Jeanette's mother says to her when she leaves home at sixteen, after explaining that she loves women the way she's supposed to love men. It's the perfect title for this memoir about Winterson's childhood with her larger-than-life adoptive and abusive Pentecostal mother. It's the perfect encapsulation of the way certain people think, when a mind is so trapped by its devotion to to its own version of social convention that it has substituted it for G-d, happiness, and the people right in front of it. The memoir is clearly Winterson's attempt to grapple with that powerful mentality and also look back on the life she has built because of or in spite of it.