Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tuesday Thingers: Tags

(From 10 June 2008): Do you tag? How do you tag? How do you feel about tagging - do you think it would be better to have standardized tags, like libraries have standardized subject headings, or do you like the individualized nature of tagging? What are your top 5 tags and what do they say about your collection or your reading habits?
I absolutely tag. I find it very handy, especially when checking the size of my TBR pile or looking for a certain genre of book. I much prefer having individual tags - everybody likes to tag their books according to their own needs/wants, so why make it standardised?

My top 5 tags are:

'on goodreads' (563): this is just a tag I added to my books after joining another book cataloguing website called Goodreads. I was having trouble trying to identify which books I had yet to add to Goodreads, so I painstakingly went through all the lists (no easy task when Goodreads alphabetises books differently to LibraryThing) and added this tag once I was certain the book was also listed in my Goodreads account. I plan on removing it one day - after I'm certain all of my books are catalogued in both places.

'read' (431): pretty self-explanatory. This is the number of books I own that I have actually read.

'to be read' (326): again, self explanatory. The number of books I own but have yet to read. Thanks goodness this number is smaller than my 'read' pile!

'children' (250): apparently I have 250 books aimed at younger readers. Probably just over half of those would be my Baby-Sitters Club books. I really should change this tag to 'young adult'. It sounds much more dignified that way.

'second-hand' (248): the number of books I've bought second-hand. With a book addiction like mine, you can't afford to buy brand new books all the time!

I just have to mention the next 2 tags: 'classic' (170 - pretty self-explanatory) and 'bought 2007' (169). Yikes! I bought 169 books last year! As opposed to 52 so far this year. I'm trying to behave this year in an effort to get my TBR pile down.

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl

Rating: 6/10

Published: 1973
Number of pages: 137

Started: 4 July 2008
Finished: 7 July 2008

Summary (taken from blurb):

Charlie has won the chocolate factory, and sails off in his strange new means of transport to take possession. But somehow the elevator goes into orbit and Charlie, Mr Wonka, and all the grandparents have to save themselves and three gallant astronauts from a mob of vicious space monsters.

Another enjoyable read by Roald Dahl, but nowhere near as good as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. My edition has been illustrated by Faith Jacques, and while the illustrations are nice, it's just not the same as having it done by Quentin Blake. Surprisingly, I found this had a definite impact on my enjoyment of the story. That said, there were some humorous parts (including the stuff that was politically incorrect and which I probably shouldn't have laughed at), and overall it was a decent read. Not one of Dahl's best, but worth a read nevertheless.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Classic First Lines Part 4

47) They embraced each other as tightly as two-flavor entwined string cheese, the orange probably being a bland Cheddar and the white, Mozzarella.

48) Her mouth was set with pearls adorned with elastic rubies and tuned with minstrel lays, while her bulbous nose gracefully concealed its umbrage, and her eyes imparted a cross-eyed, but radiant glow to the azure of the sky

49) As she gingerly reached for the constipated gorilla's suppository.

50) Nicolette let the silk blouse fall from her shoulders, wrapped her left leg around John and deftly cut some cheese.

51) He smelled of pork. Rotting pork, in fact, and lots of it.

52) This time he was prepared for the alien probe, having just finished a seventh bean burrito, a case of Bud, and four packs of Pop Rocks

53) The graphic crime-scene photo was not pretty, mainly beause of the shutter speed,

54) Desiree, the first female ape to go up in space, winked at me slyly and pouted her thick, rubbery lips unmistakably - the first of many such advances during what would prove to be the longest, and most memorable, space voyage of my career.

55) Lashed with duct tape to the side of his stolen hovercraft, her head lolling in the breeze...

56) He fell off the wagon like a frozen turkey from a Goodwill Helicopter.

57) No one knew of Alicia's troubles, because they'd learned to tune her out.

58) Colin slammed the spritely Vauxhall Vixen into a lower gear as he screamed through the roundabout heading toward the familiar pink rowhouse in Puking-On-The-Wold.

59) And so rosy-fingered Dawn awakened him, first with light counterclockwise strokes, then with gentle kneading, and finally with relentless ticklings that made him rue ever buying her finger paint.

60) Borson crushed a Coke can powerfully with one hand and turned slowly to face the source of the ridicule.

61) He blasted the creature from Xilth, as one pops the head off a zit, except of on a much larger scale.

62) "Forgetttabowwwtit" intoned Arnold gutturally,

63) Olive was waiting on the couch, with only a smile and a cucumber sandwich.

64) "Wear something uncomplicated-I'm in no mood for a struggle tonight,"he drawled.

65) Though flanked by two swarthy state troopers, Paula found her gaze drawn to the chubby saxophonist.

66) Along greasy, paving-stones slick from the sputum of the sky, he wearily trudged up the hill from the cemetery where his wife, sister, brother, and three children were all buried, blissfully unaware of the catastrophe that was soon to devastate his life

Monday, July 21, 2008

BTT: Doomsday

(From 10 July 2008): What would you do if, all of a sudden, your favourite source of books was unavailable?
I have plenty of shops around me for reading material. I'd be disappointed if a favourite shop closed down, but ultimately I'd just move on to other shops. I like to spread my business around anyway.

(From 17 July 2008): Do you buy books while on vacation/holiday? Do you have favourite bookstores that you only get to visit while away on a trip? What/Where are they?
I absolutely buy books on holidays. When I visited England several years back I came back with quite a few books on The Beatles (hard to find over here). I also bought a book from Hay-on-Wye. I know, just one book from a town full of bookshops? Unfortunately I only had a few precious hours to spend there and at that stage my luggage had already doubled.

When I went down south on holidays last year, I drove home via Australia's own small 'book town' in the Southern Highlands, and called into a bookshop based in a large barn in the country near Berrima called Berkelouw Books (pics here). A lovely bookshop.

There are also several wonderful bookshops in the Blue Mountains town of Katoomba, my favourite being Mr Pickwicks, a 3-level shops that deals in secondhand and antiquarian books.

Otherwise, whenever I'm on holidays I'll call into any bookshop I see (mostly secondhand; the chain stores are all the same). I love discovering new bookshops. I recently visited a shop in a tiny country town that was quite a nice surprise - it had the best range of Australian history books I've ever seen. I picked up a few good buys there, and I'm sure I'll visit it again next time I'm in the area.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Classic First Lines Part 3

31) It was a dark night on Pluto, a planet nobody had ever taken seriously before.

33) As she pulled Chloe's unmistakable prosthetic arm from under the bed, she knew she'd been played for a fool.

34) Grandpa was belly down in the meadow , taking a close-up of a cow-pie, when lightning struck.

35) The corpse had been shredded, as usual, with coffee beans to throw off the police dogs.

36) Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle compressed by a Thigh Master

37) I'd always wondered what it was like to wake up naked in a dumpster...

38) The chubby-faced cherub of a niece was stopped abruptly, like a pancake, by the sliding door she had failed to notice, and slid to the floor in a motionless heap.

39) Hoping his lunch hour would provide time for a romp and a digestive biscuit...

40) His thoughts, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a tumble dryer,

41) My underwear stuck to my backside like an All-Pro cornerback to a rookie wide receiver as I browsed through the seed catalog that had mistakenly found its way into my mailbox."

42) Her hair as dark as new tires, her eyes flashing like bright hubcaps, she was driven -fueled by a single accelerant- the man, Alf Romeo.

43) To escape the grizzly, all Gordon had to do was outdistance his chubby hiking partner, Fred.

44) 'Time to leave the Fluffy Forest,' said Susan, as she was smashed on crack.

45) On reflection, Angela perceived that her relationship with Tom had always been rocky like the way a squashed toilet roll that goes bumpity bumpity in it's holder,

46) Mud squished up between the toes like cappuccino-colored bog-ooze.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Tuesday Thingers: Why LibraryThing?

(From 3 June 2008): Why did you choose to open and maintain an LT account? Do you/did you use other online cataloging/social networking sites, like GoodReads or Shelfari? Do you use more than one? Are they different or do they serve different purposes?
I chose LibraryThing for the simple reason that I wanted to keep a listing of all my books online and this seemed like a good option. I catalogued 200 books, which is the limit for a free account, and then decided that I liked it enough to purchase a lifetime account - a highly unusual move for me because I've never paid money to a website before.

I also have an account with GoodReads, which I keep pretty up-to-date. I enjoy catching up with various discussion groups there (for some reason I don't do the same with LibraryThing), but I don't like that you can't edit the details of your books. On LibraryThing, all of my books have been neatly edited so they're consistent in terms of capitalisation and the wording of series names etc. On GoodReads, you just have to accept the default, and the selection of covers isn't as good as LibraryThing.

I tried Shelfari for a while but didn't like the layout and the fact that many of my books didn't have covers, so I eventually deleted my account.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Classic First Lines Part 2

16) Lidie Meaks was a medium-sized, elegant figure, wearing a neatly fitted travelling dress of black alpaca, her raven black hair, copious both in length and volume and figured like a deep river rippled by the wind was parted in the centre and combed smoothly down, ornamenting her pink temples with a flowing tracery that passed round to its modillion windings on a graceful time.

17) The sea raged, the wind howled, and the sand was just plain irritated.

18) We stumbled numbly, dragging behind us the frozen dead corpse of our friend, Bartholomew, whom the hardened permafrost of the tundra had resisted our burying.

19) If it weren't for the knee-high sewage lapping at his dress pants and the confused terrorist spraying automatic gunfire over his head, Johnson could see little reason to change his mind about the wisdom of registering at a two-star hotel.

20) The Prince stood, wondering how her supple lips would feel against his own and contemplated how bad Sleeping Beauty's morning breath would be after one hundred years.

21) The butler did it. Sorry!! I've given the ending away - I couldn't help myself.

22) The thunder sounded like a thin sheet of metal being shaken backstage

23) Thockmorton knew if he were ever to break wind in the echo chamber, he would never hear the end of it.

24) The newest Lady Turnpot descended, her creamy bosom rising and falling like a temperamental souffle.

25) The sun rose over the Canada geese, feathered rumps mooning the day.

26) She gratefully popped the glass orb back in place with a soft sucking sound.

27) The moment he laid eyes on inmate #472825994, he became a prisoner of love.

28) As the blue screen froze, Capt Kirk vowed never to use a Microsoft system again.

29) The blood dripped from his nose like hot grease from a roasting bratwurst pierced with a fork, except that grease isn't red and the blood wasn't that hot and it wasn't a fork that poked him in the nose.

30) This is a story of twin Siamese kittens, or, more specifically, of their shared appendage; it is a tail of two kitties.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Classic First Lines Part 1

Got this off a forum I'm on. Some good stuff here - I'm sure these books would be very interesting to read in full!

1) Sex with Isaac had been like an experiment wherein she had accidentally mixed ammonia and bleach, burned her eyebrows off, lost all sense of smell for weeks, and never saw the family cat again.

2) McMurphy hit the pavement running like a paper bag filled with vegetable soup.

3) Had she known Duncan was a psychopath who would seduce, then brutally murder her, she wouldn't have bought that screwdriver.

4) Ralph looked over at the rumpled form of Lila sleeping next to him in bed and wondered idly why making love with her made him feel as though his body had been pounded by heavy surf.

5) In these uncertain times, one must think of others' viewpoints, and always remember that a crowded elevator smells different to a midget.

6) The scent of sweat from the horse's buttock wafted into his left nostril, past the fine cilia of his nose, through the nasal cavity and into the dark damp depths of his single emphysemic lung.

7) Stanley looked quite bored and somewhat detached, but then penguins often do.

8) The potted palm made a feeble attempt at photosynthesis with the naked 25 watt bulb that hung from the cracked plaster of my low-rent office on a less-than-desirable (unless you were vermin) stretch of Pico.

9) He wanted to hold her forever, but he knew evntually that he'd have to take a whizz.

10) Her breasts were like ripe strawberries, but much bigger, a completely different colour, not as bumpy, and without the little green things on top.

11) The sun rose over the horizon like a great big radioactive baby's head,

12) He slumped wearily onto the couch like a sack of **** slung over the shoulder of a warehouse worker.

13) I'm sorry but you still have 873 pages to go.

14) He snapped my bra like a Concord taking off, and I was unhooked for love.

15) The alien was eager to ravage her, unlike Ted, who wanted to take it slow, having come of the heels of a nasty divorce.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

BTT: Definition and Holidays

(From 26 June 2008): What, in your opinion, is the definition of a “reader”? A person who indiscriminately reads everything in sight? A person who reads BOOKS? A person who reads, period, no matter what it is? … Or, more specific? Like the specific person who’s reading something you wrote?
I think a 'reader' refers to anyone who loves reading books. Simple as that. (I feel like I've answered this question before. There seems to be a lot of questions that pop up on BTT that are similar to others that have already been posted.)

(From 3 July 2008): It’s a holiday weekend here in the U.S., so let’s keep today’s question simple–What are you reading? Anything special? Any particularly juicy summer reading?
It's all right for some! I love (read: hate) these questions that assume everyone lives in the same time zone/hemisphere/country etc. At any rate, whether or not there are holidays happening (in my own country), they don't really affect my reading. I'm currently reading The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield and enjoying it a fair bit. Speaking of which, it's now lunch time and I have some reading to do :)

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

Rating: 5/10

Published: 1894-1895
Number of pages: 383

Started: 16 June 2008
Finished: 3 July 2008

Summary (taken from blurb):

A naked baby is abandoned deep in the jungle and is taken in by a she-wolf to be raised as one of her own. Soon Mowgli the man-cub becomes a wise and feared hunter, learning the Law of the jungle from Baloo the bear, and the skills of the hunt from mighty Bagheera, the black panther, and Kaa, the stealthy rock python.

At once an outsider in these wilds and a unique bridge between the species that inhabit them, Mowgli evolves in the shadow of a dramatic mortal encounter that is fated to take place between himself and Shere Khan, the man-eating Bengal tiger under whose fiery gaze the whole jungle trembles with fear.

The characters and stories that comprise Kipling's Jungle Books are a microcosm of life as he saw it, but like most great literature, Kipling's words speak to us on many levels, blending fantasy and philosophy in a work that continues to delight generation after generation of adults and children alike.

For a book of children's stories, The Jungle Book certainly took me a long time to read! I can't quite put my finger on what was wrong with the stories; perhaps I just wasn't in the mood for them. The style of writing was OK but there was nothing exceptional or even slightly above average that pulled me into the stories and made me want to pick up the book at every available opportunity. I didn't really enjoy the poems that began and ended every story, either.

The stories in both Jungle Books focus on different animals (not all from the jungle), which was interesting, and some of the characters, such as Mowgli, Bagheera, Baloo and Kaa appeared in multiple stories.

There's not much else to add, I'm afraid. I highly doubt I'll ever read it again. It was a bit of a slog and I was glad to be done with it!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Tuesday Thingers: Cataloguing

(From 27 May 2008): How many books do you have cataloged in your LibraryThing account? How do you decide what to include - everything you have, everything you've read - and are there things you leave off?
I have 758 books catalogued in LibraryThing. This makes up the vast bulk of my collection. As far as I'm aware, there are only a few books that I haven't catalogued yet, and they're ones that I couldn't find through LT. I'll be packing up all my books to move house next week, and as I do so I'll hopefully have time to check that each one has been catalogued in LT, GoodReads and in my separate Excel spreadsheet. If I run out of time, I'll just have to check them off after I unpack at the other end!

I try to catalogue everything I have, and I've also included a few ebooks I've read over the past year or two, and a couple of books I've borrowed. According to my tags, 11 of the 758 books are ebooks, which means I most likely read them on my iPod and I don't own hard copies at all. Also according to my tags, 3 of the books were borrowed (2 from my brother and 1 from a library), although I have since obtained my own hard copy of one of those books.

I've thought about creating another LT account to list all my ebooks, but that would cost more money and take me forever to complete. I'll probably just catalogue them in another spreadsheet instead (actually I've already started; it's a mammoth task). As I read more ebooks I'll add them to my regular account, just for the sake of keeping a record of how many books I read each year.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

BTT: Flavour

(From 19 June 2008): Think about your favourite authors, your favourite books...what is it about them that makes you love them above all the other authors you’ve read? What is it about those books and authors that makes them resonate with you in ways that other, perfectly good books and authors do not?
The thing that resonates most with me is a beautiful writing style. Something that is lyrical and just flows straight off the page and straight into my heart. Those books are a real joy to read. This is one reason why Jane Austen and Vladimir Nabokov are among my favourite authors.

I also enjoy reading about characters that are real; where the author isn't worried about showing all their faults. It helps if I can relate to them personally, but it's not necessary and certainly isn't the case with a lot of my favourite books. I just need characters that I care about and can connect with on some level. If a character is impersonal or cliched and not developed properly, it's very off-putting.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Rating: 10/10

Published: 2005
Number of pages: 584

Started: 10 June 2008
Finished: 16 June 2008

Summary (taken from blurb):

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier. And will become busier still.

By her brother's graveside, Liesel's life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger's Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery.

So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever there are books to be found.

But these are dangerous times. When Liesel's foster family hides a Jewish fist-fighter in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up, and closed down.

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

What a beautiful piece of work. One of those books that tugs at the heartstrings and reminds you why you love reading so much: for the chance to come across a gem like this every now and then.

The characterisation is brilliant. The characters are so real - they're unique, flawed and beautiful, and I came to love every single one of them. The narration by Death and all the little asides that came with it is very well done. And it's interesting how Zusak uses Death to tell us what is going to happen, but manages to do so without lessening the impact of the story in any way.

I could rave about the characters until the cows come home, but I'll try to restrict myself to a few short points. Liesel is a beautifully charming young girl, and her foster father, Hans Hubermann, is such a wonderful person - the type you wish you knew in real life. I enjoyed the infrequent but invaluable insights into Rosa Hubermann's real character and my heart broke for Rudy over and over throughout the entire book. Max Vandenburg's artwork also lent a lot to the book - much more insight is given into his character through his stories and art, all of which was very touching.

I haven't read a lot in the way of WWII literature so I don't have much to compare The Book Thief to, but I love that Zusak gives the reader a German perspective of what was happening in their lives.

This is one of the most powerful books I have read in a while and has definitely been added to my list of absolute favourites. A brilliant and very emotional read (I recommend having a lot of tissues handy). Having shamelessly gushed over this book, all that is left to say is that I very highly recommended it!