• Books

    Outlander

    This book is 627 pages long, but I listened to the audiobook. It was narrated and read by Davina Porter; unabridged and 32 hours and 30 minutes long on 28 discs. I have been acquiring audiobooks for knitting purposes, and I had heard about this one in particular from Audiobook Knitters group on Ravelry. I am very glad I did listen to the audiobook. Though it took me a bit to adjust to the narrator, I was continually engaged with the story and the characters by her narration and the evident good storytelling.

    I only knew a little bit about the story going in. I usually just jump into book, only vaguely knowing what they are about. It is better that way because then I can judge and interpret the story as the author presents it. For Outlander, I knew that it was a historical romance of sorts. It was violent in parts which is appropriate for the era, but it was darker than I thought it would be especially at the end. The book surprised me with its flawed but interesting characters, dark moments, and its ability to be engaging while being very long. It is incredibly well researched; I learned a lot about the time period, Scotland and clans while reading it. Diana Gabaldon was apparently a scientist and professor before becoming a writer which explains how in depth the book and research is.

    At the beginning of the audiobook, it was not easy to warm to Davina Porter’s voice because the majority of the characters are male and I felt I was listening to a one woman play rather than muti-character story. I was impatient and wanted to read the books, but then I got more use to her voice and the characters. She is an excellent narrator. Her delivery at parts makes me smile, and I admire her choice in reading styles. It must have taken weeks to make this audiobook, and I’m aware she has done the others in the series as well. I would really like to listen to her narration more. Her British voice is the voice of Claire in my mind. I can see her so much more clearly with Ms Porter’s vocal interpretation. It is unlikely that I will listen to the others in the series because the books are all long, each ranging from 33-47 hours. I’d prefer to read it if that were the case. I’m too impatient for resolution. Abridged versions are not an option as I prefer unabridged, and I’m aware those are read by another narrator.

    In conclusion, now I have another series to follow. I will review as I go along, and I am looking forward to the other books.

  • Books

    Booking Through Thursday – What is reading, fundmentally?

    What is reading, anyway? Novels, comics, graphic novels, manga, e-books, audiobooks — which of these is reading these days? Are they all reading? Only some of them? What are your personal qualifications for something to be “reading” — why? If something isn’t reading, why not? Does it matter? Does it impact your desire to sample a source if you find out a premise you liked the sound of is in a format you don’t consider to be reading? Share your personal definition of reading, and how you came to have that stance. – BTT

    Up until recently, I did not consider audiobooks as actual books that I read, but I realized that I “read” a lot of audiobooks last year, and they now count as reading to me. I even spend more time with audiobooks than I do with books because I read text faster. Now that I do listen to more audiobooks, listening to the stories and the information is reading in a way. For a long time, I considered reading solely things I read with my eyes in text. I consider e-books reading though I do not read them often. I also constitute graphic novels, comics, and manga reading because you are involved in a engaged in a story or learning something. I have a fairly broad definition of reading it seems. Outside of this broad definition, I guess other things aren’t reading. Though, I won’t go around telling people that reading the ingredient list off food products is “reading” (though I do this a lot as I read everything). It does not matter. I don’t think it is the definition of what reading is that limits my choices for material so much as my personal preferences for material. I know what kind of books I like to read from audiobooks to novels to graphic novels/ comics, and the different types within those frames.

  • Knitting & Crafting

    Squirrel and Oak Mittens

    Project 73/365 - Squirrel and Oak

    I first started this project with the recommended 3.25mm needle, but since I was using a worsted weight rather than the recommended DK, it was way too tight. I moved up to 3.75mm, but it still is tighter than most mittens. Oh well, I can wear it and they are warm due to the lopi. I do like stranded projects, and I would be willing to do these mittens again with the MC as a light colour as the pattern calls for.

    Squirrel and Oak Mittens, started April 26, 2008, finished May 18, 2008 Ravelry Project Page
    Pattern: Squirrel and Oak Mittens by Adrian Bizilia. Ravelry Pattern Page
    Yarn: Ístex Létt-Lopi (100% Icelandic Wool 50g/109 yds) – less than one skein of Ash and Chestnut
    Needles: #5/3.75mm 40″/100cm circulars.
    Modifications: Change in yarn weight, needles, and dark colour MC.
    Cost of Project: $20 for yarn and needles
    Would I knit it again? Yes, but with original DK yarn weight. Also, normal light coloured MC.

  • Books

    New Moon and Eclipse

    The second and third book in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga. So far, my favourite is still the first book though I did like Eclipse and the ending of New Moon. I read both of these on my laptop which is the first time I’ve read such complete novels on the computer. If it were any other books, I would be adverse to try it. These books were short and not too intense for the eyes. There are major spoilers under the cut.

  • Books

    Sunday Salon: Book Lists

    This week, I read and started quite a few books. Right now, I officially have three books going, but at some point in the week, I had five. I read Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth early in the week. I started listening the Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell audiobook, but decided to stop because of technical difficulties. I’m going to continue that in text book form. I decided to listen to the Outlander audiobook. I really like it. I’m on disc 9 out of 28. I probably would have gotten even further by now if I hadn’t started reading the Twilight series on thursday. Fluffy, entertaining books; I finished New Moon on Friday and Eclipse yesterday. The spoilery review for the sequels is going up tomorrow. By the way, I still have not made progress to Gilead. I am falling behind on my challenge readings even though I read two of them this week. I still have more to do.

    The New York Times has an article called “Volumes to go Before you Die” by William Grimes on Prof. Peter Boxall’s 1001 Books to Read Before You Die. It’s interesting to note that Boxall intended for the list to be controversial, and when I first the saw the list, I was puzzled by the inclusion of several books for some authors and only a couple for others. Many bookworms do react rather argumentatively by the exclusion of their favourites and inclusion of some others. Obviously, book lists and being considered well read are subjective. It is just a suggestions list after all; nothing is definitive.

    I have no intention of reading every book on the list. It is true that I am part of a reading challenge that encourages it, and I have been tracking what I have read on the list for more than a year now. It’s just that even with my proclivity for long, classic, and literary books, I have certain prejudices too. There are some authors I’m a bit adverse to reading again or reading so much of. I do like crossing off the books I have read, but I usually pick the books based on other recommendations so it’s a wonderful bonus if it’s on the list. Though Grimes’s experiment of picking three books to see how they would affect him was interesting. I would like to try it because there are at least a few books and authors in the list I have never heard of and seem to be very underrated. This game does sound amusing though:

    In his novel “Changing Places,” David Lodge — not on the list — introduces a game called Humiliation. Players earn points by admitting to a famous work that they have not read. The greater the work, the higher the point score. An obnoxious American academic, competing with a group of colleagues, finally gets the hang of the game and plays his trump card: “Hamlet.” He wins the game but is then denied tenure.

    If only I have enough bookish friends to play such a ridiculous and subjective game. Well, I have not read Ulysses, Moby Dick, a lot of Dickens, Sense and Sensibility, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the Aeneid, and Aesop’s Fables. Though as someone who does not work in book-related fields and was never an English or Lit. major, I have no one to impress or anyone to make me feel embarassed except myself.

    Have a lovely last week of May.

    Literary Links:

    Amazon Book Map

    Five classics written under influence

    20 Unusually Brilliant Bookcase and Bookshelf Designs

    Bookseller’s Selections for Summer Afternoons (NPR)

  • Books

    The Classics Challenge 2008

    The challenge runs from July 1, 2008 to December 31, 2008. The challenge is to read five classics, and there is a bonus round of reading a modern classic suggested by other participants. For the sake of clarity, I am going to define classic as books before World War II with a bit of leeway for any book before 1970. Since I already read and own a lot of classics, this should not be too difficult. Here are possible selections I may read:

    • Summer by Edith Wharton
    • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
    • Death In Venice by Thomas Man
    • North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
    • Random Harvest by James Hilton
    • Plays by Anton Chekhov
    • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
    • Tess of the D’Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy
    • The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
    • Bleakhouse by Charles Dickens
    • Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
    • Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence
    • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
    • Don Quixote by Cervantes

    I am not going to read all of these, but I have found it impossible to determine when I will read which book.

    As for my selection for modern books that will be classics. I think a few have already been mentioned by other participants, and many just seem obvious. Here are a few that I’ve thought of just now (which may be amended later):

    • The Princess Bride by William Golding
    • His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullaman
    • Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
    • The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman
    • The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams
    • The Giver by Lois Lowry
    • Life of Pi by Yann Martel

    That is a lot of series, but those things tend to last well.

  • Books

    Twilight

    I was aware that this book was popular, but I did not know how so nor did I know what the series was about until my friend showed me the trailer for the movie slated for December 2008. The more I learned about the series, the more I intrigued I became and convinced I would like it. The book’s paperback version is 475 pages, but I finished it in only a few hours. The fast pace of the book is driven largely by its dialogue driven and suspenseful content. Things happen very quickly, and it really is not hard at all to see why this book is so immensely popular especially for females. It has the air of chicklit about it, but better because it is fantasy romance. I don’t read many modern romance centred novels, but I know many popular and classic fantasy series do not have the central, compelling relationship of Edward/Bella. Their relationship is a classic story of forbidden love except he’s a vampire and they are teenagers in love for the first time. I think Meyer is adept at writing a teen girl’s feelings and attraction. While the book is not that full of twisted plots or self-absorbed by its own mythology, it is really good book to escape with.

    This book is fun. Sure the characters (e.g. Edward) are sometimes too perfect, and there is nothing truly distinct about the writing or prose. It has that ability to take you on a ride with Bella in her romance and adventures with these vampires. The relationship is so physically tenuous due to him being a blood sucker, and the fact these are YA books written by a devout Mormon makes the sexual tension rather high in these books. It adds onto the suspense and the fascination with their relationship in the books. The escapist nature of the books makes it immensely rereadable. I say this as someone who does not really re read often or who loves the vampires subgenres. As for the characters, I liked them all for the most part. I give Bella a lot of slack for talking about Edward’s beauty every other page while being self-deprecating. She is 17 after all. It is impossible to dislike Edward; he has been designed to be the perfect romantic and courageous leading immortal male. I also liked the other Cullens (vampires) and will look forward to getting to know them more. In fact, I have already started New Moon, the second in the series.

    As for the movie, the LA Times has a great article and behind the scenes clip of the movie. It really is going to be one my most anticipated films of 2008. The buzz around it is crazy enough; doubtlessly, they will adapt the sequels.

  • Books,  Movies

    Booking Through Thursday – Books vs. Movies

    Books and films both tell stories, but what we want from a book can be different from what we want from a movie. Is this true for you? If so, what’s the difference between a book and a movie? – BTT

    I believe there is a difference. I enjoy both mediums immensely, and for similar reasons actually. Both allow me to escape and be involved with characters and story. I watch many types of movies save for the ones that intend to scare me because I rather read scary stories than watch scary movies. Same with thrillers. I don’t read many thrillers either. Though, I am much more forgiving of popular films (blockbusters, action movies) than popular books (such as thrillers, and certain other top selling authors). In the times when I am not in the mood to read, I watch a film, usually a light one such as a comedy or an action movie. It really does require less thought, but I am still thoroughly entertained. Sometimes more so because I find I veer towards books that are literary or classics and educational. I still watch documentary and I love art house films which can be avant garde, foreign, and probing just as much as a book.

  • Books

    Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth

    This is the story of a lonely, awkward man who meets his father for the first time over Thanksgiving weekend. There are also a series of flashbacks to the childhood of Jimmy’s grandfather who also had an alienated relationship with his father. While the artwork and the symbolism is well crafted, I am unsure if I actually like this work. I appreciate it, and the last panels of the ending were hopeful, but for much of the novel, I did not feel invested in Jimmy or the story. I can understand why this is such an acclaimed and influential work. It’s a sad story that is told well through the well crafted imagery.

  • Movies

    Lust, Caution

    I saw the uncensored NC-17 version. I have not seen the 17 min of cut sex scenes which is apparently circulating around the internet.  First off, I adore Ang Lee’s work. He is awesome at setting up a shot, and I think he may be my favourite Asian director ever. as he is able to reunite the East meets West. I like Wong Kar Wai too, but Lee has the ability to still capture me with his shots and storytelling. The sex scenes did not disturb me as much as I thought they would. Watching the movie, you wonder why Wong (played by the beautiful Tang Wei) is so committed to this undercover. Another observant blogger noted the character’s desire for fiction and to feel. It is indeed true that she only seems to really let go emotionally when acting on stage or escaping to the movies. Maybe it was because I recently saw All About my Mother, but it really did make me think of All About Eve, and those actresses who play actresses. It is such a difficult role to play, and just as with Eve, you get some of the real her, but not all of it. The performances were excellent in the film. Tony Leung is talented. Even though for most of the scenes in the film, he reminds me of Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List. I still feel pathos for the screwed up traitor because it’s Tony Leung. Wong Kar Wai once said that TL was like Jimmy Stewart due to his honest and nice babyface. That comparison has always stuck with me because TL is like Stewart; I’ve even seen him in his comedic TV days. It’s unnerving to watch him play such an intense and disturbing character.

    There are also so many themes in this film. The art design is impeccable making it feel very authentic, and there seem to be many themes of the historical and political tensions running at the time both Communist and Nationalist. I liked Lee’s use of mirrors and reflections, and the moments when Wong is in a shot as if on a stage. An interesting film, and I hope AL goes back to doing more Asian films.

  • Books

    Sunday Salon: Escapism

    This week, I finished Hungry Planet and The Best American Comics 2006. My review for Count of Monte Cristo was posted this week as well.

    Today, I am reading Gilead. I have found it hard to read this because I think the prose and the style, and something about the narrator and protagonist are so reflective of my own self. It’s hitting a bit too close to home, and it’s a bit solemn and serious as a result. These days, I am more in need of books that help me escape or ones not so self-confrontational.

    Though, this has often been the case with books and me. I am escapist. I love to immersed completely in well crafted stories and characters. Books have always been there for me to pass the time, to enrich, to teach, but most of all, for me to get away.

    Maybe that is why I love epic and long novels. A friend and I were discussing this because neither of us really read short stories (aside from the ones by authors we truly love). With epic books, I find myself so attached to the characters and the story that it is sometimes a bit sad when it is over. I guess I admire writers with the ability to write well on a linguistic and stylistic level as well on a story and character level. When I use to write creatively, I never managed to finish any of the novels I started. My penchant for classics runs along this vein as they tend to be long, winding and with somewhat archaic prose. I’m generally someone with a low attention span, but for some reason, I always try to stick with the books I start and keep going to the end no matter how boring.

    Now for other books I will be reading this week and in the near future, I am trying to finish Gilead. I want to start The Tempest by Shakespeare. Also, a nonfiction book probably Best American Travel Writing 2007. I still have so many books to read for challenges (Crime and Punishment, Beloved, The God of Small Things) and my friend’s The Name of the Rose to start. Still too many books, and I even did some library weeding this week. Ah, better more choices than no choices.

    Literary Links:

    100-Must Read Books: The Essential Man’s Library – Has some typical book list fair (Hemingway, Fitzgerald), with a few questionable items (How To Win Friends And Influence People), and a couple interesting ones (Kierkargaard, Thoreau).

    Books to film 2008: 10 Books You Should Read Before Seeing the Movie – Hey, I love a good adaptation. I will be reading a couple of things for this year’s films.

    10 Books That Screwed Up the World

    Book Rabbit – Another book cataloging and interaction site. This one allows connection through actual photos of the books you own.

  • Books,  Food

    Hungry Planet

    The concept of the book was to go to more than two dozen countries, visiting several families and taking photos of their food life. It is the size of large coffee table book and has many photos taken by Peter Menzel with accompanying articles on the families written by his wife Faith D’Alusio. The book is cultural, historical, a cook book, and a book of international affairs just as much as it is book of photographs. It has stats about each of the countries: life expectancies, meat consumption, the prevalence of MacDonald’s, cigarette consumption, obesity, and so forth.

    I read a lot of books about food. It has always been an interest of mine. I love it in many ways as it shapes cultures, history, time, economies, lives, science, and so much war. I would very much like to one day work in a job about or relating to food issues from nutrition to developmental programs to the overall importance of food production now. This book touches on food in so many ways. People often underestimate the vast change that happens in food and to our lives. It is especially important to understand what food to us is right now with rising food costs and food riots.

    The introduction states that the book is not out to be political or judgmental of food choices, but as a documentary in the way food is changing. For better and more often, for the worse. Food (like land) has always been somehow political, but this showcases how important it is for us to be aware of the issues. This book looks at globalisation, conflict, drought, and climate change as a result. I recommend this book for insightful reading about different and changing lifestyles and as a look at our planet.