Monday, June 30, 2008

A Book Meme

Because you can never do too many of these, here's a book meme. The usual rules apply:

1) Bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible - I've read enough to constitute it as being read
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte - on my TBR pile
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy - on my TBR pile
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare - read a couple in school, want to read the day
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier - on my TBR pile
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger - on my TBR pile
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot - on my TBR pile
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell - on my TBR pile
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens - on my TBR pile
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh - on my TBR pile
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck - on my TBR pile
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame - on my TBR pile
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis - part-way through them
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen - on my TBR pile
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne - pretty sure I read all the stories when I was younger (so much younger than today)
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins - on my TBR pile
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy - on my TBR pile (started this last year - had to put it aside for a little while)
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding - bit dull
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan - meh
52 Dune - Frank Herbert - on my TBR pile
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons - on my TBR pile
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon - on my TBR pile
57 A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt - on my TBR pile
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy - pretty sure this is on my TBR pile
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding - on my TBR pile
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce - I'm hoping to get to it before I die
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray - on my TBR pile, looking for a nicer copy before I read it
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell - meh
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker - on my TBR pile
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery - undecided whether I want to read this or not; sounds too much like The Alchemist for my liking
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams - on my TBR pile
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole - on my TBR pile
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute - on my TBR pile
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

(I have an awful lot of them on my TBR pile!)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Book News (Old and New)

Here's an article from the beginning of the year regarding Vladimir Nabokov's final and incomplete manuscript that goes by the name of The Original of Laura. Nabokov wanted it destroyed but his son, Dmitri, is trying to decide whether he should honour his father's wishes or get it published anyway. I'm in two minds about it, myself (like my opinion matters!)

And a story pinched from another blog about various items that have been found in books - some interesting stories there!

By the by, I'll be moving out of home soon (got my keys on Monday), and I'm moving into a 3-bedroom place, so I'll be able to do justice to my book collection (present and future) and house them in their very own library. I'm going to buy a stack of bookcases from IKEA - the famous Billy bookcases. Think I'll get 5 bigguns to start with, and we'll see where to go from there. I'm planning on putting in a comfy lounge as well that will double as a sofabed for guests (who of course will be under strict instructions to keep their mitts off my books). The room is pretty small, but it'll do - it's nice and cozy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tuesday Thingers: Discussion Groups

In an effort to post blog entries more often, I'm going to start doing Tuesday Thingers. It started up in May so I'll have to play catch-up again. All the questions refer to LibraryThing - an excellent online book cataloguing system that I've harped on about before.

(From 20 May 2008): Discussion groups. Do you belong to any (besides Early Reviewers)? Approximately how many? Are there any in particular that you participate in more avidly? How often do you check?
Actually I don't belong to the Early Reviewers discussion group. I belong to a few discussion groups on LibraryThing but rarely visit them or post. Too busy with other forums and blogs for that malarkey!

The groups I belong to are the 50 Book Challenge (rough aim to read 50 books a year, which ties in with my own personal goals), Australian LibraryThingers, BCF (based on the Book Club Forum, that I've mentioned before), Books Compared and Science Fiction Fans. Now that I've looked them up to get the links, they're looking pretty good. There's an interesting discussion on comparisons of dystopian literature (that a couple of readers of this blog will appreciate). I really should check in more often - there are probably lots more interesting discussions happening.

Prince Caspian by CS Lewis

Rating: 8/10

Published: 1951
Number of pages: 107

Started: 8 June 2008
Finished: 9 June 2008

Summary (taken from Dymocks website):

King Miraz can only mean trouble for Narnia, and Prince Caspian, his nephew and the rightful heir to the throne, fears for his safety and the future of his country. He blows the Great Horn in desperation, summoning Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy to help with his task - that of saving Narnia.

I enjoyed Prince Caspian a little more than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, perhaps because I now know more about the world of Narnia and the characters within it. A thoroughly enjoyable story, full of magic and adventure. Good stuff!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

BTT: Clubbing

(From 12 June 2008): Have you ever been a member of a book club? How did your group choose (or, if you haven’t been, what do you think is the best way to choose) the next book and who would lead discussion?
Do you feel more or less likely to appreciate books if you are obliged to read them for book groups rather than choosing them of your own free will? Does knowing they are going to be read as part of a group affect the reading experience?
I'm a member of an online Book Club Forum. It's a terrific site full of great people who are very enthusiastic about books. As someone who doesn't have a lot of people in the 'real world' to talk to about books, it's great to be able to jump online any time of day (usually when I'm at work!) or night and talk books with fellow readers. The site is based in the UK, but of course it welcomes members from all over the world.

Every month we can each nominate 2 books to be in the running to be selected for the next month's reading circle. The 3 books that are seconded the most by others are then put into a poll so everyone can vote. It's a really good method that has been working for a long time. We have also done a couple of comparative reading circles where, as the name suggests, we compare 2 books on a similar theme. One such reading circle we did was on vampires, and we read Dracula by Bram Stoker and Carmilla by J Sheridan LeFanu. We don't do the comparative circles anymore though; I think perhaps members had too much other reading to be doing to be able to commit to an extra couple of books. That suits me fine too; I'm happy to participate in the monthly discussion instead.

This month we had a tie for 2 books: Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe and The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling. I've decided to leave Wolfe for now, but I'm reading Kipling as I already had the book on my TBR pile anyway.

One of our mods always starts off the discussion by posting several questions, which we can use answer if we choose. Otherwise we just post our own comments on what we enjoyed (or not) etc. Depending on the book, a lot of discussion can be generated or not too much. Life of Pi was pretty controversial, as I recall. I love when everyone really gets into it, rather than just posting 'I liked this', or 'I didn't like this'.

Whether or not I'm reading a book for a circle doesn't really affect my reading too much. I might perhaps put a little more thought into it and try to remember certain parts to bring up later on, but mostly I just read like I always do - read the story first, then analyse it a little afterwards. I can often appreciate a book more after I've read thorough comments from others - they might pick something up that I didn't notice.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

Rating: 10/10

Published: 1958
Number of pages: 157

Started: 4 June 2008
Finished: 7 June 2008

Summary (taken from blurb):

It's New York in the 1940s, where the martinis flow from cocktail hour till breakfast at Tiffany's. And nice girls don't, except, of course, Holly Golightly. Pursued by Mafia gangsters and playboys millionaires, Holly is a fragile eyeful of tawny hair and turned-up nose, a heart-breaker, a perplexer, a traveller, a tease. She is irrepressibly 'top banana in the shock department', and one of the shining flowers of American fiction.

This edition also contains three stories: 'House of Flowers', 'A Diamond Guitar' and 'A Christmas Memory'.

Truman Capote is fast becoming one of my favourite authors, and Holly Golightly has to be one of the best characters I've had the pleasure of encountering in a book. For such a short story, her quirky character is developed nicely and to great effect. I watched the movie again straight afterwards and thought they did a pretty good job adapting it for the big screen, except the obvious change of the ending (and Mickey Rooney's character in the movie is a little over-the-top and unncessary, I thought).

The three short stories included in the book were also very enjoyable. I particularly enjoyed A Christmas Memory - a very touching story.

Monday, June 16, 2008

I Hereby Christen Thee...

I've changed the name of my blog because I didn't think it sounded pretentious enough. This means that I should probably avoid any further mention of The Baby-Sitter's Club and restrict myself to reading only long and complicated Russian literature. Hmm, maybe I should change it back.

The Fine Book Connoisseur is IN (and currently reading 'The Jungle Book' by Rudyard Kipling).

BTT: Trends

(From 5 June 2008): Have your book-tastes changed over the years? More fiction? Less? Books that are darker and more serious? Lighter and more frivolous? Challenging? Easy? How-to books over novels? Mysteries over Romance?
I read much more fiction these days than non-fiction. In years gone by, I read a great deal of non-fiction books, largely concerning my favourite band, The Beatles. I have roughly 60 books about The Beatles. You wouldn't think there could be that much new information in each one, but there are a lot of different aspects to write about.

I have books by The Beatles themselves, books about them as written by the people who were closest to them, such as (ex-)spouses, (ex-)managers, sisters, record producers, friends etc, and by people who weren't close to them at all! Then there are books concerning the writing of their songs and the production of their albums. I have pictorial books, books detailing where they were and what they were doing on a day-by-day basis and other books solely full of interviews and quotes. I have books concerning bootlegs, the 'Paul is dead' conspiracy, tourist books of Liverpool and London, and books concerning their post-Beatles career. Almost all of them offer something new and interesting.

The Beatles story from beginning to end is truly fascinating and I never get tired of reading about it. That said, I haven't read any books about them for a few years. I've been on such a book-buying binge that I have a ridiculously large number of fiction books waiting to be read and I can't afford to re-read a lot of others that I would like to.

I also used to read a lot of non-fiction regarding all aspects of the paranormal - mostly on UFOs and aliens, but also ghosts and anything else concerning the paranormal. It was a great passion of mine which, sadly, I don't have much time for anymore. I think I've also grown a little more cynical so I'm not as interested as I used to be.

So these days, my reading almost entirely comprises of fiction, with the occasional non-fiction book thrown in, usually in the form of a history book. One day I hope to even it out a little more. I mostly read a lot of classics, which can be heavy-going at times. I never read light and fluffy chick-lit - I have a bit of an aversion to the genre, although I must admit I do have Bridget Jones' Diary on my TBR pile. I try to balance my heavy classics with some light reading though, usually in the form of young adult fiction; there's a lot of great stuff out there. I never really read how-tos, mysteries, or romance, although I suppose a lot of my books have those aspects in them.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Idle Chit Chat

I have so many freaking reviews to write, but I can't seem to find the time to write them. I keep thinking 'I'll do it later - this time would be better spent reading'. Grr...

Maybe it's also because work has been busy lately, and work is where I write most of my reviews (shhh...) If I have time when my work deadline passes this afternoon I'll get onto them.

In the meantime, to keep all my thousands of readers entertained, there's a great blog on cover artwork for books over at Caustic Cover Critic.

There's one post in particular that caught my eye, and that was about...well, read it for yourself here. Very sad pics, especially the one of the abandoned/trashed library. I'm currently reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and have just gotten past a section on Nazi book-burning. What a crying shame to see all those books go to waste.

"Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings." - Almansor - Heinrich Heine

"There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

Friday, June 6, 2008

Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley

Rating: 10/10

Published: 1818
Number of pages: 279

Started: 23 May 2008
Finished: 2 June 2008

Summary (taken from blurb):
Victor Frankenstein is obsessed with the secret of resurrecting the dead. But when he makes a new 'man' out of plundered corpses, his hideous creation fills him with disgust.

Rejected by all humanity, the creature sets out to destroy Frankenstein and everyone he loves. And as the monster gets ever closer to his maker, hunter becomes prey in a lethal chase that carries them to the very end of the earth.

Comments (possible spoilers):
I loved this book. It took me a while to get into it (through no fault of the book's), but once I did I thought it was a terrific read, and not at all what I had expected. I thought the story would dwell a lot more on the creation of the monster itself, but in fact it was more concerned with the consequences of Frankenstein's actions.
Speaking of which, Victor's actions often baffled me (for example, when he turned his back on the monster without trying to find out where he went and without considering what he might have unleashed on the world).

I saw a theatre production of The Phantom of the Opera a few nights ago and I couldn't help but make comparisons between the Phantom and Frankenstein's monster. Both are shunned by the people who created them, and by society as a whole, through no fault of their own. They yearn to be loved by good people but ultimately their unhappiness consumes them and they turn to a life of violence in the misguided hope of getting what they want. I found it interesting that the people who rejected them were good people, but they ultimately suffered greatly because they were unable or unwilling to look beyond the surface of what they were faced with.

They are both truly tragic tales and I found them to be really heart-rending. Some of what Frankenstein's monster said really struck a chord with me, and I sympathsised with him a great deal (well, until he became violent). Very, very highly recommended.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

BTT: What is Reading, Fundamentally?

(From 29 May 2008): 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.
The dictionary defines 'reading' as: 'the action or skill of reading written or printed matter silently or aloud'. I suppose this would disregard other forms of storytelling, such as audiobooks etc, but in this technological age, I am inclined to count it as a form of reading.

If I personally listened to an audio book, I would add it to my 'reading for 2008' list as a book that I had read, but I would have to add somewhere that it was an audiobook, because there's something almost a little fraudulent in saying you've 'read' a book when you actually listened to it. I don't think I could ever really consider it 'read' until I had read it in printed form. But that's just me. I have no problem with other people saying they've 'read' it and leaving it at that.

I've tried listening to audiobooks in the past, but I find it very difficult to concentrate. If I go for a walk, I'll be focusing on things around me and then realise I've missed a good portion of a chapter or two. It's too difficult to go back and find where I was up to, so I usually just give up. Ideally, I would have to listen to an audiobook just sitting down, and not doing anything else - which, to me, defeats the purpose of an audiobook (namely, to listen to a book while getting something else done at the same time!)

As for comics, graphic novels etc, of course it's reading! I read ebooks ocassionally and have absolutely no problem counting them as books. It's still printed matter - it just exists electronically rather than in hard copy.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Tag! I'm It!

I've been tagged by Sarah over at Crescent Moon Reviews (lovely name for a blog!)

Here are my answers:

1. Who is your all-time favourite author, and why?
It would probably have to be Jane Austen. I think she writes the most beautiful prose and lovely stories. I really get sucked in by the romance of each one, even though they do seem to follow the same basic plotline. This may change over time though, as there are several other authors I greatly admire (such as Vladimir Nabokov) but of whose work I may only have read one so far. Perhaps I need to do a little more reading before I establish my favourite author.

2. Who was your first favourite author, and why? Do you still consider him or her among your favorites?
Ann M Martin, author of The Babysitter's Club series. I read those books over and over and over again when I was young. I envied all of their adventures and their close friendships with each other. I still have all of my books, which probably number around 150, although that's not all of the books in the series. I did eventually grow out of them, but if I see the books going cheaply one day, I might buy up the rest to complete my series.

I kind of wish I had a better answer, but I never read the 'classic' children's books when I was young, such as LM Montgomery's Anne... series and Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, etc.

I did (and still do) very much love Roald Dahl, and I also read his books many times over. He had enough of an impact on me that I can still remember the day he died. I have an image of myself walking to the bookcase in my classroom in primary school. I think I probably chose one of his books to read that day.

3. Who’s the most recent addition to your list of favourite authors, and why?
Probably Truman Capote. I've read a couple of his works this year and been blown away by them.

4. If someone asked you who your favourite authors were right now, which authors would first pop out of your mouth? Are there any you’d add on a moment of further reflection?
Jane Austen, Truman Capote, John Marsden (Australian writer of young adult fiction) and Roald Dahl pop into my mind straight away.

On further reflection, I would probably add Arthur C Clarke, Charlotte Bronte, John Banville, Vladimir Nabokov, Jonathan Wylie, JK Rowling, Harper Lee, Charles Dickens, Margaret Atwood, Hunter S Thompson, Alexandre Dumas, Anthony Burgess, Ken Kesey, LM Montgomery, John Wyndham, Jack Kerouac, Bill Bryson...good lord! I better stop there I think!

5. Tagged
Er, I dunno. Tag yourself if you want to take part!