Month: September 2008

Due to a personal emergency, I will be delayed from my trip for some time, and even once I get there, I will be very occupied for a few weeks. I am sorry to say that the blog will suffer as I will lose internet until I move abroad. Sorry everyone! I hope to be back soon. Thank you.

This young adult graphic novel was nominated for the Eisner Award for Graphic Album in 1998. It tells of a wizard who is descended from a long line of evil wizards except he’s quite bad at being evil. He reluctantly has to set off on a quest for a magical book otherwise he’ll get kicked out of his castle by other evil wizards. There is a quest, there is romance, there is a squire who wants to be king, and a talking toad. It is a very short and quick read, and while it is a young adult, I think many younger readers would like it. It’s an unconventional sort of fairy tale with touches of humor throughout.

I reviewed all four novels and six short story collections as I heard them on unabridged audiobooks narrated by John Telfer. I started the first book in early July and finished mid September; that is a lot if listening. I enjoyed it for the most part. I really think Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has an ability to entice. Even though I found myself predicting the results of some of the mysteries, I still liked how he delivered Holmes’s deduction and explanation at the end. I grew to really appreciate the Holmes character as the series went on. Though, I must admit the earlier short story collections are the best.

As for the audiobooks, I was pleased with Tefler’s ability to transition between the characters. I’ve only really listened to a handful of audiobook narrators by this point, and I like the medium immensely. Those that are chosen or choose this line of voice acting really are adept to it. Tefler had a variety of accents and voice tones. Though, his American accent and voice is exactly the same every time which is more amusing than anything.

My favourite novel was The Hound of the Baskervilles. My favourite of the short story collections was probably The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes if only because I started to really like Holmes in this collection. I do think that each of the short story collections has at least one notable or interesting case that emphasises the characters or plots.

The reviews in canon and chronological order. Most of the books are reviewed together with another one.

The first three stories of His Last Bow have Conan Doyle’s themes of revenge and vengeance. Other stories include the Case of the Bruce Partington Papers is a complicated, longest of the mysteries with a spy thriller aspect and the Case of the Dying Detective has Holmes acting mad and mean to Watson. This anthology is notable for containing the last chronological story in the Holmes canon. All of the next collection takes place before the events of the last story

The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes is the last of the Holmes canon. It has three stories that are not narrated by Watson, one is third person and two stories narrated by Holmes himself. One of which is a mystery he solves during his retirement in Sussex. Another notable incident in this collection is that Watson gets shot. I’m rather indifferent to this collection more than the others. One can tell that after forty years, Conan Doyle was no longer really into writing Holmes stories.

At the end of this week, I will be moving to London, England for at least one year to do my graduate studies. The blog will change as my life does. My life will have less knitting (will be too poor for yarn), less time for books, and possibly less blogging overall as it usually the case when I am in school. The blog will include posts of London centric things from museums, galleries, parks, shopping, photos, and more. While I do not plan to have Grand European Tour, I will definitely make a requisite trip to Paris in the future so travel posts are ahead.

A big change such as this is hectic and blog updates may be less frequent and content will alter. I hope to blog about the things I have always blogged about especially books, but it is too early to tell how the blog will evolve when I get there. Thank you for reading and commenting.

Busy that I am, I have not been reading very much the last couple of weeks. I will definitely read today. I will finish The Two Towers and The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (thus completing the whole Holmes canon). I will also read a graphic novel a friend recommended to me called The Wizard’s Tale.

The poll is still up on the right side of the page, and while I have decided most of what to take, I am still watching the results eagerly for any “dark horses” to take the lead. Sadly, a lot of the books are heavy and a couple of the top ones will be sacrificed for the sake of me dragging my luggage around the first day. I will be taking a lot of things as it is. This is why I have decided to just read LOTR before going now so I do not have to take the books.

Speaking of Lord of the Rings, it will be easy to finish The Two Towers today because my bookmark indicates that I read more than 1/3 of it six years ago. Yes, it has been on hold that long. That happens rarely, but I start a book and can not complete it due to time, boredom or my own schedule. A couple years ago, I started Little, Big and now own the book, but yet again, I do not know when I will pick it up. Same for Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell which I started this spring. Strange, a lot of the books that I seem to be put on hold are fantasy books.

By the way, there will probably not be a Sunday Salon next week because I am moving overseas next weekend. Likewise, from here on it, there will be fewer SS posts (and maybe posts in general) as I start graduate school. More on that later in the week. I do enjoy the Salon and will miss posting and reading fellow Salonists.

Have a good end of September everyone.

Literary Link:

75 Books Every Woman Should Read – A response list to Esquire’s 75 Books Every Man Should Read. Actually, the list only has 20 books and suggestions are in the comments.

Autumn is starting (here in the US, anyway), and kids are heading back to school–does the changing season change your reading habits? Less time? More? Are you just in the mood for different kinds of books than you were over the summer? – BTT

Sad to say, but when the weather gets cold, I do have less time to read. Mainly because summer has holidays and I have school to start in autumn. Even this week I have barely read a thing because of other hobbies and thoughts of my impending move. I do not think my book tastes change between seasons though, but I definitely have more time to explore nonfiction books in the summer. I wish I could read lots throughout the whole year, but it is true to life that season changes, my reading does as well.

This week, I read and finished Last Orders, The Good Earth, and His Last Bow (review coming soon). Today, I am reading The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien. LOTR was winning by far in the poll from last week so I’ve decided to just read it now before my move because I rather carry the even heavier Don Quixote and Possession with me.

If you have not taken the poll from last week about which books I should take and read from my TBR pile, please do so here or in the column to the right of the screen.

I’ll leave with a meme/survey I found last week among one of the Salonists.

On your nightstand now: I actually do not put books by the nightstand, but current books on the top of the TBR pile include The Tower Towers, The Return of the King, Cannery Row, and also numerous others.

Book you’ve “faked” reading: Actually, when I had English classes in school, I generally read all the books through so I did not fake much. In a rare case or two, I have said I read a book, but really, I skimmed most of it. This happened with Cold Mountain for some reason.

Book you’ve bought for the cover: This happened once, and it was not even that the cover was pretty, but it was good quality. It’s a book I never heard of from an author I’ve never heard of: William – An Englishman by Cecily Hamilton.

Favorite book when you were a child: Peter Pan, Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Pydrain (I read so many of Alexander’s books before the age of 13 and then stopped for some reason), The Arthurian Legends, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Road Dahl’s books.

Book that changed your life: In my childhood Peter Pan, in my teens, Anna Karenina. I think Tolstoy has been a big part of my life.

Favorite line from a book: Going through some of my collection quotations:

Dreaming is not merely an act of communication (or coded communication if you like); it is also an aesthetic activity, a game of the imagination, a game that is a value in itself. Our dreams prove that to imagine–to dream about things that have not happened–is among mankind’s deepest needs. Hereinlies the danger. If dreams were not beautiful, they would quickly be forgotten.
— Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Top five favorite authors: To be rebellious, I am going to name ten since I can never really pick top favourites: Leo Tolstoy, William Shakespeare, Nick Hornby, Neil Gaiman, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, John Steinbeck, E. M. Forster, Philip Pullman, Edith Wharton, and Jane Austen.

Books you recommend as regeneration when people say, “I’m bored by almost all contemporary American writers.”: Oh well, I’m wary of giving book recommendations unless I know the person well and has a high likihood of liking the books. Some American contemporary authors I like are Jeffrey Eugenides, Audrey Niffenegger, Marilynne Robinson, Anthony Bourdain (for travel and food), Bill Bryson (travel and nonfiction), Madeleine L’Engle, and Adam Gopnik. I read a lot more from British authors and their oeuvres.

Book you can’t believe that everyone has not read and loved: Going along the lines of why I’m not big on giving recommendations as whole, I do believe there are books people else loves and others don’t.

Book you are an “evangelist” for: From my reading list, I seem to like my classic books. It’s hard to say really.

Book you most want to read again for the first time: Anna Karenina, Howards End, Pride and Prejudice and on it goes.

Books you wanted to begin again immediately after finishing them: Strangely enough, War and Peace, but I know it’ll be a few more years before I try that again. The rare chicklit book such as when I read Bridget Jones’s Diary (P&P and Persuasion too) for the first time.

Have a good Sunday!

Today is the 7th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I know that not all of you who read are in the U.S., but still, it’s vital that none of us who are decent people forget the scope of disaster that a few, evil people can cause–anywhere in the world. It’s not about religion, it’s not about politics, it’s about the acknowledgment that humans should try to work together, not tear each other apart, even when they disagree.
So, feeling my way to a question here … Terrorists aren’t just movie villains any more. Do real-world catastrophes such as 9/11 (and the bombs in Madrid, and the ones in London, and the war in Darfur, and … really, all the human-driven, mass loss-of-life events) affect what you choose to read? Personally, I used to enjoy reading Tom Clancy, but haven’t been able to stomach his fight-terrorist kinds of books since.
And, does the reality of that kind of heartless, vicious attack–which happen on smaller scales ALL the time–change the way you feel about villains in the books you read? Are they scarier? Or more two-dimensional and cookie-cutter in the face of the things you see on the news? – BTT

It makes things more visceral to me. As I have studied genocide and human rights violations, it has not changed the things I have read. In some cases, I sought these things ought. I read Night and Maus after I came back from Auschwitz. As for comparing real life villains to fictional ones, it depends on the author really. I find books are worlds to themselves. I do not read many spy thrillers or books that are often black and white. Villains are not always an issue, but my enjoyable or appreciation of them depends on the author’s ability to write characters and define them.

Pearl S. Buck’s classic story of family and life in pre-revolutionary China. This did not take as long as I thought, and while sad at times, I liked the book. I think the prose is distinct, the story compelling and honest, and the characters very real. I liked the themes of the novel which explored man’s relation to the earth, changing fortunes, China at the turn of the century, and women’s role in society and family. She writes everything so deftly and without judgment; a very true story teller. On a more personal note, the book touches on something in my own life. I am very familiar with Chinese culture, family, and livelihood. Buck said she wrote about China because it was all she knew. She might have been a foreigner, but there is such an candid and wonderful perspective in her writing. Dare I say it, but this book is very Chinese. It is difficult to describe how she captured the Chinese characters and cultural identity so well. Once again, I found so much honesty in her writing. I liked how she painted the picture of O-Lan and the other women in Chinese society. While I appreciated the writing and the book, I do not think I will continue with the trilogy because I am not particularly attached to the characters beyond this book, and the stories can be rather sad. I would be interested in reading more of Buck’s other stories.

This Booker Prize winning book by Graham Swift tells of four men on a day trip to scatter their friend’s ashes to the sea. The chapters are short and the narratives switches with each chapter. Most are told by Ray, the closest friend of the dead man Jack Dodds. There are numerous flashbacks revealing the lives of all the men and a couple of others in their lives. At first the book reminded me in a slightly of Trainspotting, the writing was colloquial but far more intelligible. They also share the a similar theme of friendship and endurance over time. As I read it, it became much more. The dialogue is quite sharp and well written; Swift has a knack for characterisation. The language and changing perspectives makes it evocative. I sometimes managed to feel the bitterness and the anger that some of the characters do when they narrate. It is very English; all the characters have a working class background and there is something very stylistic and true about the way he writes about their livelihood. If anything, it feels sincere even if real working class Londoners do not all the issues these characters did. I liked the book for the most part, but it got bit depressing the further you went. The flashbacks reveal missed opportunities, unsaid things, wrong choices, bad luck, and estranged relationships. The ending, as with life, is open ended. Not a very uplifting read, but Swift does have a good voice throughout the story.

As with the book, this is not exactly an exciting film, it has a slow languid pace, but is actually decently adapted. I thought the script made the efforts to really weave the plot, narrative switching style and flashbacks really well. As with most British movies, the cast really make it. Michael Caine, Helen Mirren, Bob Hoskins and a few others are in this. I adore Caine and Mirren so it was wonderful seeing them together. Even more delightful was the young versions of their character was played by JJ Feild, another favourite of mine and Kelly Reilly (who was in L’Auberge Espagnole; I still really want to see the sequel to that). Every time I watch a British movie, I play a game of 50 Actors and see what else I’ve seen them in. Anyway, the movie showed the characters in even a better light than in the movie and has a more hopeful tone than even the book. Well adapted.

This week, I have been reading Last Orders by Graham Swift and listening to His Last Bow by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I have not had very much reading time this week so I will spend today doing that. First though, I have a little request for you Salonists.

At the end of this month, I am going to be moving overseas for at least a year. I have been deciding about which books to take and subsequently to read when I move. Since I will not return for awhile, it’s difficult choosing which to take with me and read in my time abroad. While I will be moving to an English speaking and may buy a couple of books and frequent the library, I want to take some books that I own with me, probably around five. Help me out, by choosing the books you think I should take and have not read. I own all the books below and have not read any of them in full. Most of them are paperback. If anything, the poll would serve as the type of books people who visit the blog like. Thank you!

[poll id=”2″]

Have a good week!

Literary Links:

Times Online has Philip Pullman’s Reading List.

7 Writing Habits of Amazing Writers

Planet ebook – Yet another ebook site; this one uses PDF.