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avatiakh's 999 challenge

999 Challenge

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Edited: Dec 8, 2009, 12:23pm Top

Looking forward to tackling this challenge as I'm mainly going to list books that I already own and haven't read yet - very motivating I hope.
My categories:

1) Books in Translation
2) Collections: short stories, essays, folktales
3) Bloodfest: Vampires, werewolves, & witches
4) Before My Time: classic children's books that I've always meant to read
5) New Encounters - books by great writers that I should have read by now
6) Next in the series - a very useful category as I'm stalled on quite a few series
7) Memoirs and auto/biographies & other non fiction
8) Good Intentions - books I own but I keep avoiding
9) Favourite Writers

Planned 999 Reading in December:

Queen's Play by Dorothy Dunnett
Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon

Edited: Oct 21, 2009, 9:33pm Top

Books in Translation

1. The Savage Detectives by Robert Bolano, Chile finished 13May
2. See Under Love by David Grossman, Israel finished 29Jan
3. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbary, France finished Jan
4. Beaufort by Ron Leshem, Israel finished 26Apr
5. Moribito by Nahoko Uehashi, Japan - finished 11Jan
6. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, Russia finished 02Aug
7. A Bottle in the Gaza Sea by Valerie Zenatti, France finished 24Mar
8. Wandering Star by Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio, France finished 2Jun
9. One hundred years of solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Colombia finished 18Oct
10. Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset, Norway
11. Friday or the other island by Michel Tournier, France finished 16Jun
12. The Wind of the Khazars by Marek Halter (2003), France finished Jun
I've tried to travel the world a little in this one. I've made a couple of changes here - taken out Wonderful Clouds by Francoise Sagan and put in Wandering Star by 2008 Nobel Prize winner Le Clezio which sounds like a stunning book and just arrived today.
Decided to not read Xingjian Gao's Soul Mountain after reading some reviews I think it will be too heavy for me. I'm replacing it with A Bottle in the Gaza Sea which I read and enjoyed today.

Edited: Dec 4, 2009, 6:01am Top

Collections: Short Stories, Essays, Folktales

1. Dark Alchemy: magical tales from masters of modern fantasy finished 13Aug
2. In fifteen minutes you can say a lot by Greville Texidor finished 02Sep
3. Say you're one of them by Uwem Akpan finished May
4. Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman finished 4May
5. Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon finished 04Dec
6. Italian Folktales by Italo Calvino finished 14Mar
7. The Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley-Holland 04Nov
8. Slouching towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion finished 6May
9. Oxford Book of Hebrew Short Stories ed. Glenda Abramson finished 26Aug
Bonus Reads:
10: Collected Stories Maurice Duggan
11: The thing around your neck by Chimamanda Ngozi finished May
12: The Portable Dorothy Parker
13: A house of air by Penelope Fitzgerald

Edited: Jun 28, 2009, 5:23pm Top

Bloodfest: Vampires, werewolves, & witches

1. The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause finished 10Feb
2. Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer finished 22Feb
3. Daylight by Elizabeth Knox finished 05Apr
4. My swordhand is singing by Marcus Sedgwick finished 14Mar
5. Silver Wolf by Alice Borchardt finished 19Apr
6. Dracula by Bram Stoker 07Apr
7. The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice finished 22Apr
8. Hiding from the Light by Barbara Erskine finished 04Apr
9. Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar finished 29Jun
10. Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer
11. The Kiss of Death by Marcus Sedgewick
12. The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike

I now realise that Silver Wolf is about a shapeshifter rather than a werewolf (I've been confusing my authors, thought Borchadt had written Blood and Chocolate) - I'll keep it on the list 'cause it sounds like a good read. I've added Elizabeth Knox's vampire novel Daylight, and finally found The Silver Kiss so added that in too. Finally found a werewolf book I want to read Lonely Werewolf Girl so added that in at number 10 while I decide which book to take out.

Edited: Aug 7, 2009, 5:58pm Top

Before My Time: classic children's books that I've always meant to read

1. Tom Brown's Schooldays by Thomas Hughes finished 15Jun
2. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson finished24May
3. Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain finished 8Aug
4. Coral Island by R M Ballantyne finished 10Jan
5. A Sound of Chariots by Mollie Hunter finished 27Jan
6. The Land of Green Ginger by Noel Langley finished 5Mar
7. The house of Sixty Fathers by Meindert DeJongfinished26Jan
8. Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome finished 11Apr
9. At the back of the North wind by George MacDonald finished 18 Jul

Edited: Nov 7, 2009, 3:06pm Top

New Encounters - books by great writers that I should have read by now

1. Madam Bovary by Gustave Flaubert finished 28Aug
2. Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf finished 16Mar
3. Ragtime by E L Doctorow finished 7Jul
4. Prime of Miss Brodie by Muriel Spark finished 20Feb
5. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers finished 08Apr
6. Moonstone by Wilkie Collins finished 08Nov
7. Oranges are not the only fruit by Jeanette Winterson finished 08Jan
8. Friday, or the Other Island by Michel Tournier finished 19Jun
9. My Life as a Fake by Peter Carey finished 13Apr
10: The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi finished Jun/Jul
11: Wise Children by Angela Carter
My reference for these books was Penguin's 501 Great Writers. I listened to a podcast discussion about the Prime of Miss Brodie and it sounds most intriguing.

Edited: Dec 8, 2009, 12:26pm Top

Next in the series - a very useful category as I'm stalled on quite a few series

1. Queen's Play by Dorothy Dunnett (Book 2 of the Lymond Chronicles) finished 9Dec
2. The Naked God by Peter F Hamilton (Book 3 of the Nights Dawn Trilogy) finished 07Jan
3. The Kindly Ones by Anthony Powell (Book 6 in A Dance to the Music of Time) finished 06Jun
4. The Girl who played with Fire by Steig Larsson (Book 2 in the Millenium trilogy) finished 17Feb
5. Lamplighter by D M Cornish (Book 2 of the Monster Blood Tattoo series) finished 06Sep
6. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Book 2 in the Hunger Games trilogy) finished 15Oct
7. The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness (Book 2 of The Chaos Trilogy) finished 02Jun
8. Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke (Book 3 of the Inkheart trilogy) finished 19Mar
9. Double Cross by Malorie Blackman (Book 4 in the Noughts and Crosses series) finished 07Jun
10: The girl who kicked the hornets' nest by Steig Larsson (Book 3 in the Millenium trilogy) finished 14Nov
11: The Harsh Cry of the Heron by Lian Hearn (Gillian Rubinstein) (Book 4 of the Otori series) now relegated to the bonus category.
12: The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray (Book 3 of Rebel Angels Trilogy)
13: The Sending by Isobelle Carmody (Book 6 of the Obernewtyn Chronicles) now not due out till March 2010
The first three are a reflection of my current reading, I just discovered Dorothy Dunnett and am really keen to read everything she's written. I had a struggle tracking down the Anthony Powell books but now have the complete set. The rest seem to be YA fiction, all series that I really enjoy. I've edited this list so I can add in the last book in the Obernewtyn Chronicles which is due out September (update: this now won't come out till early 2010).

Edited: Nov 23, 2009, 3:02am Top

Memoirs and auto/biographies & other nonfiction

1. Sebastian Walker, 1942-1991 A Kind of Prospero by Mirabel Cecil finished 03Jan
2. Bright Star: Beatrice Hill Tinsley, astronomer by Christine Cole Catley finished 26Oct
3. The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton finished 18Nov
4. All this and a bookshop too by Dorothy Butler finished 01Aug
5. Castles Burning; a child's life in war by Magda Denes finished 27Jul
6. Beautiful Shadow: a life of Patricia Highsmith by Andrew Wilson finished 6Jul
7. How to Look at a Painting by Justin Paton finished 19Nov
8. Surprised by Joy: the shape of my early life by C. S. Lewis finished 14Feb
9. Tel Aviv: from dream to city by Joachim Schlor finished 31Aug
10. Growing Pains by Wanda Gag
11. Prince of Stories - the many worlds of Neil Gaiman by Hank Wagner
12. D H Lawrence and Italy by DH Lawrence
13. Defence of Madrid: an eyewitness account from the Spanish Civil War by Geoffrey Cox finished July
14. Kiwi Camponeros: New Zealand and the Spanish Civil War edited by Mark Derby finished June
14. Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill finished 23Nov

This category will be a real challenge for me in fact I've already added on '& other non fiction' to keep it within scope. I've added Tel Aviv: from dream to city as the city celebrates its centenary in 2009.
I've also had to bump a couple of books, just a reflection of my reading this year.

Edited: Nov 10, 2009, 6:06am Top

Good Intentions - books I own but I keep avoiding

1. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon finished 06Feb
2. The Secret River by Kate Grenville finished 10Nov
3. The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst finished 7Sep
4. A fine balance by Rohinton Mistry finished 15Apr
5. Behind the scenes at the museum by Kate Atkinson finished 20Jun
6. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly finished 01Mar
7. The Secret History by Donna Tartt finished 10Apr
8. Regeneration by Pat Barker finished 12Sep
9. Potiki by Patricia Grace finished 12Apr
10. The Eye in the Door by Pat Barker
11. The Ghost Road by Pat Barker
I first chose Ghost Road which won the Booker Prize, but as it's Bk 3 of the Regeneration trilogy, I've decided to change to Regeneration and have Bk2&3 as Bonus reads.
After failing to finish Patchett's Bel Canto, I've substituted Charming Billy and now after having Charming Billy totally de-nudged in the Book nudging group I've decided to go for The Secret History which I've been meaning to read for years.

Edited: Dec 8, 2009, 9:24pm Top

Favourite Writers

1. Music of Chance by Paul Auster finished 13May
2. Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon finished Jun
3. Black Box by Amos Oz finished 28Apr
4. Doors open by Ian Rankin finished 24Feb
5. The Ignorance of Blood by Robert Wilson finished 31Jul
6. The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson finished 20Jun
7. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan finished 6Oct
8. The Magician of Hoad by Margaret Mahy finished 15Jan
9. Bloodtide by Melvin Burgess finished 9Feb
10: The Solitaire Mystery by Jostein Gaarder
11: The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie
12: The Complaints by Ian Rankin finished Nov

Nov 18, 2008, 11:04pm Top

Hi avatiakh. If it helps for your "Good Intentions" category, I've read and enjoyed both Behind the Scenes at the Museum (Kate Atkinson is one of my favourite authors) and The Book of Lost Things. I suppose it depends on why you've been avoiding them, though. If you've tried them already and couldn't get through them, my recommendation is not much use to you! However, if it's the case that you keep meaning to get to them but just never do, think of this as a gentle nudge in their direction :-)

Nov 18, 2008, 11:16pm Top

Hi Elee - it's mostly a case of picking them up and starting them - I know they're good reads but I still haven't made time for them. I just have too many books!

Nov 19, 2008, 12:22am Top

You should read The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova if you haven't read it yet !!! It is a brilliant book ....Read it in a day :)

Nov 19, 2008, 1:43am Top

I've read The Historian - yes it's good.

Edited: Nov 19, 2008, 9:31am Top

Hi avatiakh, I'm also reading Inkdeath for my challenge. Maybe we should read it together? Do you know when you might tackle it?

Nov 19, 2008, 10:40am Top

Hello avatiakh, I've got Mrs. Dalloway on my list as well - in the "older than me" category. I picked it from a thread for picking titles from someone else's library. I didn't know much about before. What prompted you to choose it?

Nov 19, 2008, 1:29pm Top

Hi avatiakh - I just finished The Solitaire Mystery last week and really enjoyed it.

You have some great books on your list.

Edited: Nov 19, 2008, 2:18pm Top

Hi Victoria - I'm not sure when I'll read Ink Death yet, but I do have a copy of the book so probably in the first couple of months. Lisa - I put down Mrs Dalloway because I've been wanting to read it since I read The Hours and heard Mrs Dalloway discussed on a podcast Kate's Klassics earlier this year. Hi Karen - I'm looking forward to The Solitaire Mystery, I really enjoyed his The Orange Girl. I'll have to check out all your lists.

Nov 19, 2008, 2:45pm Top

A Fine Balance - brace yourself, that's a ride!

Nov 19, 2008, 8:22pm Top

I like your lists, avatiakh! I see that there's one spot open in your short fiction / essays category. I recommend Pricksongs and Descants by Robert Coover. Dark and inventive and a great demonstration of what can be done with the short story form. He revises Hansel and Gretel, if you're interested in fairy tales.

Nov 19, 2008, 10:58pm Top

I love Huck Finn! But I didn't finish The Historian. It took too long to get to anything interesting, IMO. I like your category next in series. I may change my categories around, as I have no books listed in some of them yet.

Edited: Nov 21, 2008, 5:30am Top

I just looked up Pricksongs and Descants and it seems to be interesting, I can't get hold of it but will put it on my future reading list.
cmbohn - I found 'next in series' to be a useful catergory and easy to fill up.

Dec 29, 2008, 7:44pm Top

I've made a few changes as I've come across books that seem to fit my challenge better. Having just read Bonjour Tristesse I've decided to take Wonderful Clouds out and put in Wandering Star by Jean-Marie Le Clezio in my first category. I'll reserve the right to make changes once the challenge begins but hope not to. I'll be starting with science fiction - The Naked God, it's the last of an epic space opera trilogy that I've been reading recently. I'll also start the biography Sebastian Walker as I've had this book for ages and it should be interesting. I plan to start See Under Love early in the year as comments have been that it's a difficult read.

Dec 30, 2008, 11:02am Top

I love wolves and werewolves, so let me know how those are (do you actually have any werewolf stories on there now?) I see you already have nine books on your list, but consider Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow, which is a book about werewolves written entirely in verse. I haven't read it myself--just heard about it.

Dec 31, 2008, 12:17am Top

#24 I think you are right - my werewolves are not there at all - I've made too many changes. I did have Darren Shan's Wolf Island, but took it out in preference for The Silver Kiss which I just came across in a pile of books I had put aside. This is not one of my usual reading genres - but I do like to try something different from time to time so I'm not really up on any good titles to read. I know that there are werewolves in the Twilight series and I do have one of those books listed - I've only read Twilight so far and hope to read the other 3 books in 09. I'll probably leave my choices as is now as I'm looking forward to reading what I've listed.
I probably need a 10th category - Overflow - books I want to add but no room & probably no reading time.
I will look up Sharp Teeth.

Jan 2, 2009, 5:06pm Top

My favorite Harry Potter Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban has some werewolves.

Jan 2, 2009, 5:11pm Top

Re: your Good Intentions category
The Shadow of the Wind is fantastic. It's one that I kind of dragged my feet on as well, but once I read it, I was hooked. It was slow in some parts, but overall, a fantastic story.

Edited: Jan 2, 2009, 8:08pm Top

#26 Yes, that Harry Potter book is my favourite of them all.
#27 I'm now looking forward to reading The Shadow of the Wind as have recently heard several people say they really enjoyed it.

I've finished my first nonfiction book Sebastian Walker a kind of Prospero and am well into my first epic read The Naked God which is the last of a trilogy so am feeling pretty good 3 days in.

Jan 2, 2009, 8:40pm Top

I have to agree that The Shadow of the Wind is a fantastic book and also say that Behind the Scenes at the Museum is a good book and an easy read.

Jan 4, 2009, 1:21am Top

Wanted to chime in and say that it's great that you're no longer going to avoid Behind the Scenes at the Museum. :) It was my first Atkinson, and I fell in love with her writing (although her recent mysteries are quite different, the intense character study is the same). I also tried to force it on a lot of people and hope you enjoy!

Jan 5, 2009, 1:42am Top

I came across an interesting werewolf book today - Lonely Werewolf Girl so have added it to my Bloodfest category, there's 10 books listed at present but I'll decide later on which one I'll drop from the list.

Edited: Jan 8, 2009, 3:18pm Top

I've finished two more books in the last couple of days. The Naked God was an epic read from my next in series category and was the final book in Peter Hamilton's Night's Dawn scifi trilogy. It's an epic adventure set in the 26th century with a vast array of characters to follow as humankind faces a challenge to their existence as a species and must find the next step in the evolutionary ladder. A very good read but I wasn't totally captivated. 3.5/5

I was surprised not to be so taken with Jeanette Winterson's Oranges are not the only fruit as I had looked forward to reading it based on reviews and recommendations for the book.

Now I'm reading a children's classic Coral Island and have also started Margaret Mahy's Magician of Hoad. I'm also trying to get through a nonchallenge book The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Jan 11, 2009, 6:54pm Top

Another two bite the dust! Coral Island and Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit. I'm posting about the books in my 75 books in 2009 challenge thread - http://www.librarything.com/topic/52019. Currently concentrating on Mahy's Magician of Hoad but I've started CS Lewis' Surprised by Joy and I will also make a start on Italian Folktales.

Jan 12, 2009, 11:58pm Top

Silver Kiss deserves to keep that spot on your list! In fact I would probably enjoy rereading it...

I'm not really a monster girl, but if you need another werewolf, I did enjoy Gillian Bradshaw's The Wolf Hunt.

Jan 16, 2009, 11:22pm Top

Thanks for your note on my 999 Challenge lists. You've given me a couple ideas for my Authors I've Never Read list!

Jan 16, 2009, 11:25pm Top

Oh - and as much as I love classic children's books, I was surprised to see 5 on your list that I hadn't even heard of! I love that aspect of this site. :)

Jan 17, 2009, 6:48am Top

Thanks madhatter. Some of my children's classics aren't truly classics I suppose. I've put in Mollie Hunter because I really really want to read some of her work.

My Bloodfest category is causing me a bit of strife and I haven't read anything yet! I'm now considering Cassandra Clare's City of Bones as I've just noticed that it has both vampires and werewolves in it and I've had the book sitting around for about a year unread. So I now have 11 books in consideration for this category. I think Stephanie Meyer's Eclipse will be bumped.

Jan 29, 2009, 1:21pm Top

6th: Magician of Hoad by Margaret Mahy (Favourite Writers)
7th: The House of Sixty Fathers by Meindert DeJong (Children's Classics)
8th: The Sound of Chariots by Mollie Hunter (Children's Classics)
9th: See Under: Love by David Grossman (Books in translation)
I'll post about all these later today.

Jan 30, 2009, 10:59pm Top

avatiakh, interested to see Michael Chabon on your list of favourite writers. Planning to include him as an author I've never read, so do you have a favourite book?

Jan 30, 2009, 11:29pm Top

Edited: Jan 30, 2009, 11:54pm Top

I second The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

I see you made it through See: Under Love, avatiakh. What did you think of it?

Edited: Jan 31, 2009, 2:03am Top

See Under: Love by David Grossman 1989 translated from Hebrew by Betsy Rosenberg. Grossman is an Israeli novelist and this is his second novel.
The novel is divided into four distinct sections.
The first section is set in the 1950's and is about a child, Momik, whose parents and neighbours are all Holocaust survivors. There is a wall of silence regarding the War and Momik just has glimpses of the mysterious land 'Over There' and the 'Nazi Beast'. Grossman gets right into the psyche of a young child and creates a small masterpiece in this section as Momik battles 'the beast' on his own. This is a brilliant stand-alone piece that gave me enough stamina to endure the next section which is the most challenging section of the book. Here we find Momik, now a flawed adult, still obessed with the Holocaust even to the expense of his marriage. Communing with the sea, Momik seeks the truth of an alternate fate for writer Bruno Schulz who was shot by Nazis, and here Grossman takes us off into a magical world of the ocean, spawning salmon and Momik himself floating in the sea attempting to find this answer to writer Bruno Schulz's alternate life as a fish.
And on to the third section which takes place in a death camp and there are still magical elements at play here. Momik's greatuncle Anshel Wasserman is forced to tell stories, like Scheherazade, to the Camp Commander Obersturmbannfurer Neigel. These stories are based on the characters of a popular children's series he wrote many years earlier that Neigel loved as a child. Momik has a presence as an imaginary onlooker, a chronicler of the events. Grossman is brilliant here subtly weaving Wasserman and his stories around Neigel until Wasserman’s bitter motive becomes clear. The last section uses encyclopedia entries to take the tale of Wasserman, Neigel and the extraordinary tales of the Children of the Heart to its inevitable end.

Overall this book was a reading experience - challenging, complex, rewarding and also very frustrating. The characters of the child Momik, Wasserman and Neigel are memorable. The magical elements of the book almost overwhelm the reader, some of the crazy characters and plots in Wasserman's stories add to your reading perplexity, but why should reading about the Holocaust ever be easy. While the first part of the book brings elements of the Israeli film - The Wooden Gun to mind the later part of the book is more David Lynch with generous sprinklings of Pans Labrynth.
I definitely recommend reading the first section of this book even if you don't feel like tackling the rest. I’ll be reading more books by David Grossman and am especially keen to read his children’s books. I’m also interested in reading some Bruno Schulz. CarlosMcRey has just reviewed one of Schulz’s books on his 999 thread http://www.librarything.com/talktopic.php?topic=49164 #43

Jan 31, 2009, 9:08am Top

>42 avatiakh: - Enjoyed your thoughts on See Under: Love.

Feb 2, 2009, 5:32pm Top

Thanks for putting down your thoughts on See Under: Love!! I'll give it a second chance now that I know it's possible to get through it... :)

Edited: Feb 9, 2009, 5:03am Top

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
I liked this a lot and wonder now why I avoided it for so long as it has been sitting on my bookshelves for over a year. Set in 1950's Barcelona but stepping back in time to the earlier years of the century and the civil war as well. At times I felt that I was even further back in time with the gothic overtones, misty settings and the eerie decaying mansion where much of the action takes place. A young boy becomes obsessed with a forgotten author of yesteryear and as he grows to adulthood he becomes even more immersed in uncovering the truth behind the writer's mysterious past.

Bloodtide by Melvin Burgess
A YA book and one of my favourite reads of the year so far. Two warlord families fighting for many years for control of a dystopian London. Outside the walls are halfhumans - ugly genetic mixes of beast, human and robot. Then Lord Val Volson decides to make peace and offers his daughter Signy, twin to Sigy in marriage to Conor. Will there be peace or betrayal, even the Nordic gods intervene. Based on the Icelandic Volsunga Saga, this is a powerful, brutal, grim story of war, love, revenge, and fantasy. I've wanted to read this for a few months and had to hunt down a copy of the book, Melvin Burgess is one of my favourite writers for older teens. There is a sequel Bloodsong and I'll be reading that fairly soon.

Feb 9, 2009, 5:51pm Top

>45 avatiakh:, Bloodtide sounds intriguing! Yet another one for the TBR pile.

Edited: Feb 10, 2009, 4:38pm Top

The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause 1990
This is an enjoyable read. Klause's first book, a teen vampire novel. Firstly the story switches between the perspectives of Zoe, a 16yr old girl and Simon, a 300 year old youth. Zoe feels isolated from life, her mother is dying, her father is totally distracted and her best friend is moving away. Simon is a lonely vampire hunting a killer. The story doesn't dwell on romantic issues, and the ending is quite inspired. I read her Blood and Chocolate a couple of years ago and liked it, I prefer both these books over the Twilight novels.

I'm now trying really hard to finish Surprised by Joy before I read anything else.

Feb 11, 2009, 3:17pm Top

avatiakh, I read The Ruby in the Smoke, enjoyed it very much, and have just ordered the other 3 books in the Sally Lockhart series. Thanks for the recommendation!

Feb 17, 2009, 11:20am Top

Decided to check out your list because you commented on Esperanza Rising from my list and here goes -
~I have tried to read One Hundred Years of Solitude five times and decided it is just not my kind of novel - good luck to you!
~I own and love The Portable Dorothy Parker although it is not yet listed in my library. I fell in love with her writing when I was in high school and STILL love her after all these years.
~Your Bloodfest category is of great interest to me. I don't read many vampire stories, but Stephenie Meyer is on my list of authors to read because I teach 7th grade. I have read other works by Marcus Sedgwick but not the one on your list; I do like this author. Read Dracula when working on my masters in a course taught by Leslie Fiedler. I should re-read that one. And The Witches of Eastwick is another book in my collection that I'm not sure if I've read it or not. Updike is a favorite author of mine.
~Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is one of my favorite novels. I cannot tell you how many times I've read it - more than 20 - and I've taught it to both high school and college level students.
~Have read and enjoyed the first six books on your First Encounters list.
~LOVE the Inkheart series but will re-read the first two before reading the third one. I'm like that with series; hence, VERY selective about which ones I commit myself to.
~I couldn't get into A Fine Balance when my book group was reading it. May try it again sometime. I also enjoyed The Shadow of the Wind and am rather sad that I passed my copy along through BookCrossing. The Pat Barker trilogy is one of my favorites. You can read The Ghost Road on its own; I think I read it first and then went back and read the trilogy.
~PHEW! Didn't realize how much I had to say. I'll check back again in a month or so. Happy reading!

Feb 21, 2009, 8:46pm Top

Surprised by Joy by CS Lewis
I chose this book because I heard a fascinating lecture podcast about CS Lewis and his life and influences when at Oxford. The lecturer talked about this book where CS Lewis writes down how his early life shaped his later beliefs. I read this over several weeks which makes it harder to pass comment on. An interesting read though I'm still not clear on his move from athiesm to Christianity.
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark. I picked this book after hearing it discussed on a radio programme,Kate's Klassics, which as you can see is also a book. I loved it.
Eclipse by Stehanie Meyer - slowly plodding through this series, only one left now. A chick lit vampire romance for teens. Bella is basically a totally unappealing heroine for me. It's interesting to note the strong morality vibe and anti-feminist thread in the series which I have read about in several critical articles. I'm continuing to read so I can be aware of what appeals to others, especially teen girls.

Feb 21, 2009, 8:55pm Top

#49 Thanks for commenting on so many of my chosen books. I'll check out your thread again. I also don't read that many vampire/werewolf style books, but was introduced to the genre via Darren Shan's Cirque du Freak series for teens. I didn't believe reading about vampires could be such fun. The Twilight series is really not my thing, but I think it's important if you are teaching or recommending books to young people to actually have read the books.

Feb 28, 2009, 5:24pm Top

In message #51 you said, "I think it's important if you are teaching or recommending books to young people to actually have read the books." I agree totally! Are you a teacher or librarian? What grade level(s) do you work with? I'm certified 7-12 English currently teaching 7th.

Edited: Feb 28, 2009, 9:11pm Top

Another two read and both quite enjoyable - Doors Open by Ian Rankin - his first book since Rebus retired, it is a crime novel about an art heist. I liked it, but I did miss Rebus.
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly was great. David has lost his mother and when his father remarries and has a child, David is angry at everyone. His anger leads him to an imaginary land, the crooked man, the woodsman, wolves and other fantastical beings. His quest to find out about the King's book of lost things becomes a race against time. Creepy but addictive reading, I could hardly put the book down. This book had sat on my bookshelves since it first came out in 2007 and I read great reviews about it and had to get it.

Mar 4, 2009, 3:26pm Top

The Land of Green Ginger by Noel Langley, 1966. illustrated by Edward Ardizzone.
A children's classic about the adventures of Prince Abu Ali, the son of Aladdin, and how he wins the hand of the beautiful Silver Bud of Samarkand. Fun with lots of banter between the characters, and also featuring a bumbling boy genie, a resourceful mouse and two hilariously villainous princes - also suitors for Silver Bud's hand. I really enjoyed this and am so glad I finally got round to reading it, after hearing several people mention it as a childhood favourite.

Mar 13, 2009, 7:25am Top

My swordhand is singing looks interesting. I've added it to my TBR. Hope you'll join me for Inkdeath!

Mar 14, 2009, 5:15pm Top

I've finished both Italian Folktales and My Swordhand is Singing and will add reviews here as soon as I can.
I've now finished at least one book in each category which feels great.
Currently reading Inkdeath in tandem with VictoriaPL and also slowly making my way through Mrs Dalloway which is my first Virginia Woolf book.

Mar 15, 2009, 1:09pm Top

Good luck with Mrs. Dalloway. I struggled through it years ago. Then, last year, after seeing the movie The Hours and reading A Room of One's Own I found it much easier to appreciate and even enjoyable.

Mar 16, 2009, 4:32am Top

Thanks for the encouragement - I read The Hours last year and then saw the movie a few months later, one of the reasons I wanted to read Mrs Dalloway. I did struggle at times but mainly as I've been reading several books alongside it. Anyway I'm now finished and can give Inkdeath my full attention. Still need to add reviews for last 3 books I've read.

Mar 19, 2009, 10:19pm Top

Italian Folktales by Italo Calvino (1956) translated by George Martin (1980) Penguin 711pgs
Renown Italian writer Italo Calvino collected hundreds of folktales from all around Italy and then selected 200 tales for retelling in this fabulous collection.
I read this slowly over a period of several weeks, limiting myself to no more than 10 tales every few days interspersed with my other reading. Immersed in countless variations of similar stories I came across strange tellings of many familiar tales such as Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Hansel & Gretel. Cruel fates awaiting the wrongdoers, back-to-life stories, shapeshifting, brides made of pastry, repentant husbands, robbers being robbed, kings, queens, sons & daughters all off to seek their fortunes. Easy to read this is a rich anthology for dipping into.
I had this book on my shelves for a couple of years and am so glad that I made it part of this year's challenge.
The Penguin edition includes a bibliography and 42pgs of Calvino's notes which state for each tale: 1) the particular version and the original compiler's name 2) the place where the tale was collected 3) the narrator's name when known.

My Swordhand is Singing by Marcus Sedgwick (2006) 194pgs
I've been wanting to read something by Marcus Sedgwick for ages and this was a good introduction. I'll definitely be reading more of his work.
Deep in the 17th century Polish forest in the middle of winter, Peter and his father have settled on the outskirts of a small hamlet to work as woodcutters.
Superstitious village talk of a Shadow Queen coupled with unusual deaths of several local men culminate in the ritual death wedding of Peter's friend, Agnes, to one of the newly dead men who had died a bachelor. A local custom that Peter cannot come to terms with, now Agnes must spend 40 days and nights in solitude at the edge of the village. This is a deliciously eerie story based on East European vampire folklore.

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (Wordsworth Classic) 141pgs
Well, I found this quite hard to read as I had it in my handbag and read most of it intermittently over too long a period. When I made an effort to read the last third of the book in a more continuous flow I found it a more gratifying read. Last year I read The hours and had been hankering to read this especially after listening to Kate Camp talk about Mrs Dalloway on Kate's Klassics. I found reading the introduction after I finished helpful and I will be rereading this book at a later date now I see it was Woolf's response to Ulysses & TS Eliot's The Waste Land. I liked the way the stories came and went on the different characters and that walking through London tied them altogether. I saw an Italian movie last week that followed characters that brushed off each other in a similar vein - A Manual for Love.

Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke (2008) 699pgs
I just had to read the final book in the Inkheart trilogy, especially with the upcoming movie which I think has a great cast. The idea of reading people/characters in and out of books is so fantastic, I enjoyed it with Thursday Next and it works really well here too. I love the world that Funke has created, especially her so so villainous villains. This is an exciting story with lots of threads to follow, resolutions to tieup and characters to meet up with and enjoy once again. I liked that while Funke tied up the important parts of the story she left other threads a little loose at the end - allowing the reader to continue to build their own stories in the Inkheart world. This was definitely Mo's story, his persona as the Bluejay and his own true self as a bookbinder came together at the centre of the story.
I enjoyed the quotations at the start of each chapter - lots of them quite contemporary and I'll be following up on the ones that aren't familiar. Brief chapters with lots of action, villains galore, perilous adventures - young readers should love this.

Mar 19, 2009, 10:24pm Top

I'm now going to make a start on The Savage Detectives which is in my Books in Translation category.

Apr 19, 2009, 5:01am Top

Hiding from the light by Barbara Erskine
I quite enjoyed Lady of Hay so thought I'd try another of Erskine's books. An evil power, long submerged, is stirred by the presence of a tv camera crew looking for ghosts from the 17th century witchhunt period in an east coast English village. Fairly gory climax involving possession is perhaps a little overdone but this is entertaining reading of past and present witches, supernatural powers and the role of the Christian church.

Daylight by Elizabeth Knox
Following up my reading of Knox's Dreamhunter duet with her vampire novel Daylight. Set on the French/Italian Riviera the story revolves around a nest of vampires, their current obsessions and history. Brian (Bad) becomes involved when he helps recover a body from a seacave while Jesuit priest Daniel is investigating the miracles performed by a nun during World War 2. Recommended reading.

Dracula by Bram Stoker
A classic gothic adventure story that is thoroughly entertaining and not for the fainthearted.

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
This is an outstanding novel - a depiction of poverty and civil rights in the southern states during the depression years. Story revolves round four diverse lonely characters living in a small town who all find relief confiding their dreams and frustrations to the local deafmute. I much prefered this to Mistry's A Fine Balance.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt
This felt familiar when I started reading it, so maybe i read it when it first came out. Like Engleby and The Talented Mr Ripley, there is a sense of forboding that creates the plot tension - set by the prologue. It's a great story though hard to have sympathy for any of the characters.

Apr 19, 2009, 5:54am Top

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
Potiki by Patricia Grace
My Life as a Fake by Peter Carey
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
The Silver Wolf by Alice Borchardt
I'll add some comments later.

Edited: May 1, 2009, 8:59pm Top

The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice
After reading Interview with a vampire last year I was interested to find out more about Lestat's story. I wasn't that captivated with this, I think I've read too many vampire books lately and only continued to read this one due to a 13 hour flight preceded by a 10 hour delay stranded at the airport in the middle of the night with only this book for entertainment.
I only have one more to read in my Bloodfest category and two contenders - I think I'll go with Lonely Werewolf girl.

edit: category name

Apr 21, 2009, 3:48pm Top

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome, 1929
From my children's classics category.
A timeless classic that I never read as a child, my father and older brother were into sailing so I had enough of it in my own life to be bothered reading about it as well. Memories of endless Sunday afternoons stranded on the sides of remote lakes surrounded by keen yachties make up most of my childhood years. I was not keen to sail in the races. I remember Swallows and Amazons being on tv as well.
I was delighted to finally catch up on this missed classic adventure story - both the eagerness and the caution of the children shine through. I had already come across the wholesome campfire food prepared by the capable Susan in Jane Brocket's Cherry Cake and Gingerbeer: a golden treasury of classic treats.
Set in England's Lake District,two brothers and two sisters are finally allowed to sail to a small lake island and camp on their own for the rest of their holiday - their boat is the 'Swallow'. Two sisters from across the lake turn up in their boat 'Amazon'. They parlay and create a treaty of offense and defense, becoming friendly rivals. There is adventure and mystery alongside bravery, independence and initiative.
Ransome stacks the book with loads of practical details - it is almost a how-to handbook - though of course the locals are just a short sail or row away on the shoreline. Mother provides endless cake and the children get milk, eggs and other supplies from the neighbouring farm each morning.

Apr 21, 2009, 4:01pm Top

My Life as a Fake by Peter Carey
One from my New Encounters category, I hadn't read Peter Carey before. I'll probably read another of his but I didn't really fall for this cautionary tale at all. Another book where none of the characters engaged me, though I did pick up a soft spot for the poisoner. The story travels from London to Malaysia and back in time to Australia. In a chaotic Kuala Lumpur hotel, a poetry editor listens to the 'confessions' of a down and out Australian poet. It's a bit of a tall tale where fact and fiction intertwine and like the editor, the reader has no idea what is true, and who the 'poet' really is.

Apr 21, 2009, 4:56pm Top

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
From my Good Intentions category, I've had this on my tbr pile for a long time. I had read a spoiler a couple of years ago and wanted some distance from that. I''m glad I've read it finally, it is full of unredeeming despair - the poverty and powerlessness of the main characters was heartbreaking. Not one of my personal favourites, just too bleak for me, the balance between hope and despair came down too firmly on the side of despair.

Edited: May 1, 2009, 9:01pm Top

The Silver Wolf by Alice Borchardt
From my Bloodlfest category. I was surprised that this was about werewolves, I had thought it a shapeshifter sort of thing. The setting of Rome in the years after its fall and the politics of the various factions seeking power is interesting. Regeane's moneygrubbing uncle has arranged her marriage to a barbarian with a strategic mountain stronghold in the Alps. Regeane has inherited her betrayed father's Celtic werewolf heritage and she must protect herself and all those she comes to love from the bitter plots against them all. The wolf segments were really well done and I liked the play or blend between wolf and girl - the wolf's memories go back through generations.
I'll probably read another in this series.
Interesting to note that Borchardt is Anne Rice's sister.

edit: category name

Apr 22, 2009, 8:24am Top

It is so good to see someone reading my favourite book from my early years - Swallows and Amazons. My parents bought me this book one Christmas (I still have it) and I fell in love John and Susan and Titty and Roger and their adventures. Imagine my glee when I discovered the local library had the entire series on the shelf!

Apr 23, 2009, 6:16am Top

aviatakh, I've given up on a few Peter Carey's, but enjoyed Oscar and Lucinda and Illywhacker.

Felt much as you did about A Fine Balance.

Apr 24, 2009, 4:48pm Top

Potiki by Patricia Grace
I adored this moving novel that perfectly evokes the spiritual world of New Zealand's Maori people. Addressing the clash between the progress-oriented modern world and timeless Maori values, in a remote seaside location a Maori family living a subsistent lifestyle on ancestral land come up against a developer who wants to build a resort. Firstly Grace builds the story of the family, their dreams and commitment to their lifestyle and ancestors. It is these relationships between the people and their culture which shine so brightly in her writing. I will be reading a lot more of her work, this is one of my favourite reads of the year.

#68 - thanks for your comments, I always have felt guilty about not reading this classic which is the favourite of so many. Have you read Tessa Duder's Night race to Kawau, a New Zealand classic children's book.

#69 pamelad I have Oscar and Lucinda so will probably read it eventually. My tbr book pile here is massive and I keep adding to it. I also have The true history of the Kelly Gang.

I'm currently reading two Israeli novels Beaufort and Black Box and have The Savage Detectives poised to get back into as well.

Apr 24, 2009, 6:02pm Top

I've found several on here to add to my TBR list. Thanks for the recommendations!

Apr 25, 2009, 12:54am Top

I have added Night Race to Kawau to my list!

Apr 26, 2009, 4:57am Top

Beaufort by Ron Leshem
From my Books in Translation category. This Israeli novel is about a group of soldiers stationed at Beaufort, an Israeli outpost in Southern Lebanon and the events in the year leading up to the IDF withdrawal from Lebanon.
I've been wanting to read this since seeing the movie which was very raw and powerful. The book does not disappoint. Leshem has done a superb job of getting to the heart of life under constant fire, the bond that builds between the young men, and dealing with death. Another outstanding read for the year.

Apr 26, 2009, 9:08am Top

I agree that Beaufort was an outstanding book, one that rivals many American novels about war that I've read. I'm glad to see such new Israeli authors as Ron Leshem producing such good fiction. I have not seen the movie so that my impressions of the story itself were based only on the book. Loved the book, although its topic is a rough one.

Another book about war in Israel that I truly love is Adjusting Sights by Haim Sabato. This is a novel about a man in a tanker division during the Yom Kippur war. It's apolitical, uses religious references, but is not a religious "preachy" book. It just takes a hard look at war. If you can get hold of this book, grab it.

Apr 26, 2009, 9:14am Top

By the way, after you finish Black Box, tell kidzdoc what you thought of it. He just read his first book (Rhyming Life and Death ) by Amos Oz and felt it was only lukewarm. I recommended he read A Tale of Love and Darkness, but he asked for a novel I'd recommend. Truthfully, most of the Oz novels I've read were very long ago, far enough in the past that I don't remember their details. I do, however, remember liking Black Box very much. I think that had to do as much with the writing style as well as the story.

Apr 26, 2009, 4:46pm Top

Just swung by this thread to see how you are officially doing on your 999 list. I remember seeing it at the beginning of the year, and thinking I wanted to tackle those TBR's too. I'm doing horribly--just covering it up by continuing to change categories, so have to say I'm IMPRESSED!

Apr 26, 2009, 5:53pm Top

#76 bonniebooks - I just looked at your threads and you seem to be doing ok. I'm enjoying the discipline of reading from my tbr pile for most of this challenge, but if you visit my 75 book challenge you'll see that for every book I read from my tbr pile here, I'm reading another one either borrowed or recently purchased. I'm terrible for getting sidetracked either by wanting to read all the work by a particular author or books from a particular setting or theme.
On this challenge I'll be sticking to my categories and just adjusting some of my book choices as the year advances.
The book nudgers group is good for getting an idea of what to read next from your tbr piles.

Apr 26, 2009, 6:05pm Top

#74,75 squeakyChu - Thanks for your comments. I'll definitely look out for the Haim Sabato book. The Beaufort movie is very good and I recommend you watch it - I was very keen to read the book after seeing the movie but am glad that I let many months elapse between the two as the plot became a little hazy and I was able to enjoy the book on its own merits. I saw Waltz with Bashir recently which is quite different and I wouldn't mind looking at the graphic novel that came from the movie.
I'm about halfway through the Black Box, I also loved A tale of love and darkness. One of my favourite Israeli writers (and I really haven't read that much Israeli fiction) is Shifra Horn.

Apr 29, 2009, 7:26am Top

Black Box by Amos Oz (1987)
From my Favourite Writers category
I enjoy everything I read by Amos Oz and this book is no exception. Set in the 1970s this epistolary novel begins with Ilana writing to her first husband seeking help for their wayward teenage son. Through the course of the book the story of their marriage slowly evolves alongside the changes in their lives and those they love due to this contact.

Apr 29, 2009, 8:07am Top

Madame Bovary is one classic I actually have read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope you like it when you get to it. Mrs. Dalloway is another of my favourites. Out of curiousity, have you read The Hours? Also, Lonely Werewolf Girl is great and wonderful too! Martin Millar is one of my very favourite writers, I've been hoarding his stuff for years. I'm glad Soft Skull is reissuing his stuff and that he's publishing new stuff too! But I digress...

May 4, 2009, 12:21am Top

#80 unaluna - I've read The Hours and now have read Mrs Dalloway but did not do it justice - see post #59. I did start Madame Bovary a couple of years ago but didn't get far before I had to take it back to the library, then got my own copy and haven't read it, so will be reading it over the winter months.
I was excited to find Lonely Werewolf Girl and will probably read it soon, I'm anticipating a fun read there.

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman (2006)
Category 2: Collections
I'm slowly reading my way through all of Gaiman's work and this is a collection of some of his previously published short stories and poems from a variety of sources. Favourites for me were Bitter Grounds - a New Orleans zombie tale, October in the Chair, Other People, Goliath - a Matrix movie tribute, Sunbird and The Monarch of the Glen.
Overall I'd say this was good but not great.

May 10, 2009, 8:43pm Top

Slouching towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion (1993)
I chose this as I have tried a couple of times to read her The year of magical thinking and couldn't get started and felt I should get familiar with her earlier work before I tried again.
This essay collection is from her journalistic work in the 1960s and makes interesting reading. She captures a mood for the time that is off centre and revealing, some of the pieces are personal. I'm now interested enough to try more of her work.

"My only advantage as a reporter is that I am so physically small, so unobtrusive, and so neurotically inarticulate that people tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests. And it always does. That is one last thing to remember: writers are always selling somebody out"

May 13, 2009, 3:34pm Top

The Music of Chance by Paul Auster (1990)
I've been a fan of Paul Auster's writing style since reading his The Book of Illusions, and am slowly working my way through his books. Jim Nash has taken to the open road. After a failed marriage and a sudden inheritance he's given up his job, his young daughter and his home for random road trips across the US. By chance he picks up Jack Pozzi, a beatenup penniless young man, a card player and finds himself warming to the idea of staking him in an ultimate poker game.

The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano (1998) translated ed (2007)
What a monster, I'm so glad to have finished this as it is a big rambling story held together by a small but intriging plot with evasive characters that you almost get your head around but not quite!
In three parts - first is the 1975 diary of a young visceral realist poet in Mexico City ending on New Year's Eve when four people (3 poets and a young prostitute) take off on a road trip to the north with guys with guns in pursuit. Exciting and can't wait to find out what happens but then comes part two where we follow the travels of two of the poets through extended interviews with numerous people whose lives have intercepted theirs over the years from 1974 through 1994. And then on to part three and back to the diary where we finally find out what happened up north.
Epic and ultimately satisfying - I look forward to reading his 2666 in the future.

May 13, 2009, 5:59pm Top

I enjoyed your review of Fragile Things. We seemed to have some of the favorite stories. But I didn't enjoy it as much as I did Coraline or The Graveyard Book.

May 14, 2009, 6:26am Top

#84 Thanks for your comments. I must say that Fragile Things grew on me as I got further in to the book and I ended up really liking it though I agree with you his other work is more enjoyable. VictoriaPL mentioned on her 999 thread that she thought his Smoke and mirrors is a better collection.

May 24, 2009, 3:17am Top

Have reached the halfway point in the challenge finally with 41 books read.
The latest is Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson from my children's classic category which I found a great adventure story. I remember my brothers reading Kidnapped but I never picked it up.
I seem to be reading a lot of nonchallenge books at present due to the number of great reviews I keep coming across on all the challenge threads. Still I'm getting there and have made a start on Wandering Star from my Books in Translation category.

May 28, 2009, 1:55pm Top

Congratulations on reaching the halfway point!

Jun 2, 2009, 5:28pm Top

Wandering Star by Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio (1992)
translated from French (2004) by C. Dickson
Books in Translation category
I wanted to try something by this French writer as he won the Nobel prize for Literature in 2008. The plot sounded interesting - it follows two girls - Esther, a Jewish girl through World War 2, her arrival in Israel, and Nejima, a Palestinian girl who becomes a refugee. Esther is an interesting character, traumatised by war and the loss of her father - she wants and seeks to be alone and takes long and sometimes risky walks - here is where Le Clezio excels, describing her solitude, her reaction to the various landscapes etc. Overall though Esther seems to be a person who life happens to, she doesn't seem able to rise above this. The parallel storyline of Nejima doesn't get the chance to expand and we only share a short part of her journey. These are young people who are victims of conflict, without understanding the 'why', but slowly coming to terms with their new lives and situation. Overall a good read but not outstanding.

Jun 5, 2009, 5:18pm Top

The Kindly Ones by Anthony Powell which is from my Next in Series category. This is book 6 in the 12 book Dance to the Music of Time series. I'll read the rest when I finish my challenge as these are fun to read.
Currently I'm halfway through Double Cross another Next in Series book, and started Chabon's Gentlemen of the Road. I've also started dipping into Collected Stories Maurice Duggan reading a few stories every day or so.

Jun 7, 2009, 5:27am Top

Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon (2007)
fiction, favourite writers category
This was a fun read. Set in the Khazarian Kingdom we follow the fortunes of two 'gentlemen' - the strong giant African, Amran, and his travelling companion, the thin and weedy Frank, Zelikman. Both are Jewish and skilled swordsmen who travel and live the life of the road. Not like anything Chabon usually writes but entertaining and quite hilarious, an adventure to savour.

Double Cross by Malorie Blackman (2008)
YA fiction, next in series category
Book 4 of the Noughts and Crosses quartet & part of my 999 challenge
Another series I've really enjoyed comes to an end. Set in a society that is racially divided between the underclass Noughts (whites) and the upperclass Crosses (blacks), Blackman has created a powerful story of love, betrayal, terrorism, gang wars and death all mixed with the racial tension of the haves and the havenots.

Jun 16, 2009, 3:55am Top

Tom Brown's Schooldays by Thomas Hughes (1857),
Before my time children's classic category
Overall an enjoyable read. Young Tom comes to Rugby Public School for 8 years of schooling.

Jun 26, 2009, 7:35am Top

Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson (1995)
tbr pile category
I really liked the plot construction with this novel, adding the past as a footnote story to each chapter. The book follows the fortunes of Ruby Lennox and her family's story from the end of the 19th century to the 1990s. Each chapter tells of a memorable event in Ruby's life followed with a story from the past that sheds light on the older members of her family.

The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson (2008)
children's fiction
Favourite Writer's category
I really enjoyed this. An attractive story set just as WW2 is about to start. Young Tally wins a scholarship to a progressive boarding school in the country. At first the school's philosophy is almost too different, but Tally soon fits in and begins to love the freedom and friendship it offers. Tally supports the idea of a schooltrip to the central European kingdom of Bergania for a folkdancing festival as she has been captivated by a travelogue feature on Bergania at the local cinema. The King seems so brave standing up to the Nazis and the prince looks interesting too, hiding under his heavily plumed hat.
Ibbotson came to England from Austria when she was a child to escape the threat of Hitler, and she attended a progressive boarding school. These experiences give this delightful fun story lots of insights into a truly free educational experience and also the politics at play at the time. Spanish children - now orphaned refugees of the Civil War are mentioned compassionately. The earnest King who wants to stand up to Hitler, but is a ruler of such a small kingdom, and the issue of monarchy versus a democratic state. The titled refugees from Eastern Europe and Russia that came to London in these times hoping to return but by the war's end the times had moved on from them.

Jun 26, 2009, 10:37am Top

Wow! You've been busy.

Jun 28, 2009, 6:00pm Top

Hi Victoria - I've been making an effort to read my challenge books rather than nonchallenge books that I keep drifting off to. You've been busy too, I've been reading all the threads but not posting for a while.
Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar (2007)
Bloodfest category which I've now completed - my first category complete and I've already got bonus books listed!
This was a thoroughly entertaining read, I didn't want the book to end. For the first few pages I was a bit apprehensive as I thought it might be too silly but a couple more pages and I was hooked into the hilarity that only a dysfunctional werewolf clan like this could produce. Kalix is a young teen werewolf, living on the streets of London, addicted to laudanum, depressed and outlawed from her clan after a brutal fight which severely injured her father, the Thane of the MacRinnalch clan and Master of Werewolves. Hunted down and almost on death's door, she is rescued by two students and the rest of the story is a marvelous interplay between humans, werewolves and the irrepressible Fire Queen and her almost-niece Vex.
My only quibble is the numerous proofing errors through the book.

Edited: Jul 9, 2009, 2:56am Top

Beautiful Shadow: a life of Patricia Highsmith by Andrew Wilson (2003)
The cover shows a photo of a beautiful young women hiding behind her fringe, and this haunting image stayed with me throughout the reading of this biography. One of Highsmith’s later friends suggested that Highsmith was autistic and I would be inclined to agree – her intolerable behavior in social situations, inability to maintain close friendships except through correspondence and her desire for solitude all point towards high performing autism.
In this impressive and detailed biography of an extremely complex person Wilson unearths the creator of psychopathic killer, Ripley, exploring Highsmith’s inner turmoil which resulted in such dark intense work. Wilson has explored the full wealth of diaries, notebooks and letters left behind on Highsmith’s death and humanized this incredibly awkward being. Highsmith lived in self imposed exile in Europe and during her lifetime she never received true recognition for her work in her native USA, but she was always very popular in Europe.
I came to read Highsmith’s Ripley novels after being impressed by John Malkovich’s performance in the film Ripley’s Game. Now I’m tracking down her other books, especially the short stories. I’d also like to reread her favourite writer, Dostoyevsky’s work.

Ragtime by EL Doctorow 1974
fiction: New Encounters category
Penguin Modern Classic
Overall I enjoyed this spin around turn of the century New York. Doctorow creates fictional characters who populate the book alongside real life personalities such as carmaker Henry Ford, financier JP Morgan and illusionist Houdini.

Jul 19, 2009, 10:17pm Top

At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald (1871)
children's classic
This was quite delightful to read though the language is quite fancicful at times. Diamond, a young boy meets with the North Wind and travels to a dreamlike country at her back. On his return he continues with his life helping his family, only seeing the good in everyone and everything, like a golden child. His father is a cab driver and their horse is also called Diamond. The story follows the fortunes of the family.
I read somewhere that this was the first of only two works of fiction to feature the working cab horses of the times, the other being Black Beauty. I've seen many references to George MacDonald from later fantasy writers so really wanted to read one of his books. I enjoyed the fantasy elements of this story and also the social realism of life on the streets of London for the poor and working classes.

Jul 31, 2009, 3:00am Top

Castles Burning: a child's life in war by Magda Denes (1997)
I wanted to read a Holocaust story set in Hungary after visiting there last year, touring the ghetto area and synagogue in Budapest and learning the devastating fate of Hungarian Jewry.
Denes was only 5 years old when WW2 started and she tells her story from a child's point of view which I found quite hard to adapt to at first. I thought she was an unpleasant and annoying narrator but after reading a New York Times review of the book I persevered and grew to admire her chutzpah. This is a very honest account of a young girl's experiences of war - there is humour, flashes of brilliance, bitterness, rebellion and anger.
Just before the war started her father abandoned them and took off with the family wealth to a new life in America so Denes had every right to be resentful and misunderstand a lot of what happened around her. The family survived in hiding, separating and moving constantly around. Part of the book deals with life just after the war - the constant need to find and barter for food, the unbearable sense of loss and separation, Denes' anger and rebellious behaviour as she must come to terms with her brother's disappearance.

Aug 1, 2009, 7:32pm Top

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (1966)
Books in translation
Not sure what I can say about this book though I'm really pleased to have read it and did find it entertaining. It is brimful of chaos, comedy and turmoil. There are magical happenings which are most dark, deathly and mysterious. Satan, in disguise, comes to Moscow along with his cohorts, one of whom is a vodka swilling sharpshooting black cat. There are hidden layers to this story but I found it hard enough just to keep up with the mayhem, destruction and the many Russian names.

Aug 7, 2009, 6:55pm Top

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1885)

This is another children's classic that I've never got round to reading till now and I'm so glad that I finally did. I've been reading this off and on for a few weeks, finding the southern dialect a little difficult to follow, but once I got to meet the rascally conmen, Duke and King, I simply flew through the rest of the book.
Along with runaway slave, Jim, Huck sets out on a raft drifting down the Mississippi and they meet some real characters and have a few adventures on the way. Apart from being a great 'boys own' adventure story, there's powerful descriptions of the Mississippi both at its gentle best and at its stormy worst, along with humour and narrative subtly making clear Twain's anti-slavery and anti-racist views and there are so many great characters and incidents, but the Duke and King chapters were my favourites.
The edition I read in preference to my own rather ratty old paperback came from the library and had lovely colour illustrations by Stephen Kellogg . Rather than an introduction, there was an afterword by Peter Glassman, owner of Books of Wonder, and notes from the illustrator, both of which made interesting reading.
I've now read 9 children's classics which I have been putting off reading for years thanks to the 999 challenge

Aug 8, 2009, 4:13am Top

This was one of my favourite books as a child. I had the combined volumes of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn in a single book and after I had read it once I started again at the beginning and read it again.

I would not bother with the next two books though (both of which I read for the first time this year).

Edited: Aug 9, 2009, 4:30pm Top

I couldn't believe how much trouble Tom put them through at the end!
I've been following your discussion of Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising series over on the 75 book challenge - I read all the books a few years ago and loved to hear about your visit to the actual setting.

Aug 13, 2009, 11:54pm Top

Dark Alchemy: magical tales from masters of modern fantasy edited by Jack Dann (2007)
Collections: short stories
Eighteen fantasy short stories from some of the leading writers in the scifi/fantasy world including Patricia McKillip, Tad Williams, and Gene Wolfe. The collection kicks off with Neil Gaiman's The Witch's Headstone story from The Graveyard Book and finishes with Stonefather, a great story from Orson Scott Card's Mithermages world. Some stories were better than others but it finished on a really high note.

Aug 26, 2009, 1:41am Top

The Oxford Book of Hebrew Short Stories ed. Glenda Abramson

One of a few challenge books I have on the go this month and it felt good to actually finish one. I read this to get a feel for Hebrew literature and Israeli writers in general so I can figure whose novels I'd like to read. From the 32 stories there was only one I didn't finish, it was just too weird and I had several favourites. I'll always read Amos Oz, and his short story 'Strange Fire' was excellent with a bizarre twist, Avraham Yehoshua's 'The Last Commander' about a group of army reservists out in the desert on a 3 week training - I just had to laugh and this was probably the best of all.

Edited: Aug 26, 2009, 1:27pm Top


I've been looking to get this and hadn't made my mind up - I think I'll take the plunge now. Thanks!

PS! Whose was the "too weird" story??? :)

Aug 26, 2009, 5:41pm Top

#104; I'm glad that I persevered with this, it was a bit daunting to begin with but I just read 2 stories each day and that seemed to be just the ticket. The 'weird' story - The Snow by Yehuda Amichai - more the writing style, with no plot - people rolling down hills turning into telegraph poles!
To get started I ditched the intro as I find with a lot of these I get bogged down and never get to the end of them. I also read one story from the front of the book and one from the end and worked my way into the middle of the book - so I was reading an early writer usually setting his work in the shetl followed by a modern writer with a more modern setting.
My only complaint was that I'd liked to have known the year each story was written alongside the writer's bio that preceded each story.

I hope you enjoy it - next year I intend to read much more Israeli fiction.

Aug 26, 2009, 6:17pm Top

"people rolling down hills turning into telegraph poles!" That sound hilarious! :)

I have a bit of a problem with reading a bunch of short stories in a row - I think your solution sounds great, just a couple a day. Plus reading one early and one contemporary is a fantastic idea! Just to really keep them apart.

Aug 26, 2009, 6:38pm Top

I just did a google search on Amichai and will probably give the story another go after reading that he is Israel's greatest poet.
At the time I thought, life's too short, but now that I've finished the book I feel that I can spare the time to read a 10 page story!

Reading 1-2 stories each day has been my new weapon for getting through short story collections this year. It started with Italo Calvino's massive Italian Folktales - I thought I'd never get there but did in a couple of weeks just by setting little goals like that.

This 999 challenge has been really good for making me devise reading strategies rather than never picking up the book in question. I usually set a goal of 10-30 pages minimum per day on the stuffier books, and I always have several different types of books on the go at one time.

Aug 26, 2009, 7:12pm Top

"after reading that he is Israel's greatest poet" :) That's happened to me too! I've put a book down thinking it was a load of hogwash and then someone kind informed me that the writer had won a bunch of prizes and is considered a genius! :)

I initially had a Short Story-category in the 999, but I just had to give it up. I'll have to fit the short story collections I want to read into some other category for the 1010! One or two stories a day or 30 or so pages of a chunkster is the way to go, I think!

Edited: Aug 28, 2009, 10:55am Top

I love short stories, but never have time to fit them into my challenges, it seems. However, the beach (just got back) is great place to read them so I'm now working on McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Chilling Tales edited by Michael Chabon. It's a fun read of bizarre stories. My kind of read.

I have some recommendations (if you haven't read them yet) for avatiakh and bookaholic13.

Read Arafat's Elephant by Jonathan Tel and Apples from the Desert by Savyon Liebrecht (if you haven't already). Those short stories (about Israelis) are so good that you'll finish those books faster than you would a novel. I loved both of them!!

"people rolling down hills turning into telegraph poles!"

Did either of you read David Grossman's book See: Under Love? After struggling through half of this book, it was at a point where a man turned into a fish and swam away, that I just gave up. :(

Do you think this trend is something Freudian? :)

Aug 28, 2009, 12:14pm Top


Thanks Squeaky! I do have both the Tel book and the Liebrecht book and were planning them for the 999, but I just couldn't do it... :( avatiakh's idea to read a couple of stories now and then might be a better way to read for me. I do like short stories, but I noticed that when I sit down to read a whole book of them, I tend to lose my focus.

"turned into a fish and swam away" LOL - I'll have to move that one further to the top in the TBR-pile!! :)

Aug 28, 2009, 4:25pm Top

Thanks for the recommendations squeakychu - I will look them up. I live in New Zealand and we don't get nearly the exposure to Israeli writers here that you would get in the US. Shifra Horn was living here for 6 months of the year for a while, and she might still do for all I know, so her books got into bookstores. Apart from that the odd Amos Oz could turn up and Etgar Keret as he came for a book festival event and wowed everyone.

See Under: Love was one of my 999 challenge reads this year and I did struggle through the 'man into fish' section, though the rest of the book was easier to read. Definitely one of my more challenging reads of the year though.

Currently I'm making my way through a nonfiction social history of Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv from dream to city. A bit dry but interesting. Thought it would be a good book to celebrate 100 years of Tel Aviv.

Aug 28, 2009, 4:54pm Top

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (1857)
While I enjoyed reading this classic, I did not warm to any of the characters, which is the author's intention I expect. It does accurately portray life in provincial France at the time. Beautiful Emma, married to a young doctor of little ambition, finds herself bored and dreams of a more romantic life. Her beauty leads to her seduction by a local landowner, to love affairs and deception. Emma is so deluded that she allows herself to be taken advantage of, living in such a fantasy world that she is really to blame for all the befalls her.

Aug 28, 2009, 5:10pm Top

she is really to blame for all the befalls her.

Really? Hmmmm, what happened to the idea that it takes two to tango? How about the men who got involved with her? Didn't they deserve to be punished as well? I thought the ending to this book was maybe the only one that the author could have used at the time, but it was really melodramatic. I don't think people now would think that she deserved to die!

Aug 28, 2009, 6:49pm Top

Yes, I see your point, I was thinking more of her falling into debt and the problems that led to the suicide. But overall, if she had behaved more like a wife and mother, none of this would have happened. Sure the two lovers both took what they could get, but it was Emma that tried to build the affairs into her warped vision of reality. They didn't 'do' anything wrong except have an affair, they didn't encourage her to borrow the money, they probably didn't have any idea of her financial position. She didn't deserve to die, but she chose that for herself so I'm probably not that sympathetic, I was expecting her to have to turn to a life of prostitution if and when her husband finally turfed her out, but her death precluded that.
The real crim was the draper who set the Bovarys up for ruin.

Aug 29, 2009, 2:02pm Top


I'm with you on Ms. Bovary! What really gets me about her is that she makes all these idiotic choices and then complains and complains when things go wrong, but still makes the same idotic choices! Grr.

To top it off, I studied literature at Uni (both in Sweden and the US) and have managed to get the book assigned not once, not twice, but three times!! So not only do I hate it, but I've read it three times!

I'm not denying its place in the literary canon, because it was groundbreaking at its time, but my is it a pain to read! :)

Aug 30, 2009, 12:06am Top

I don't know, I think about the much more limited choices that women had at the time, so I'm sympathetic not to her behavior, but her desperation after. But I haven't read Madame Bovary in such a long time I probably shouldn't be sharing any opinions of it--or her. :-)

Aug 30, 2009, 11:41am Top


It's not so much the choices she made (although they were stupid), but her incessant whining about the outcomes that always got to me. She always complains about "look what happened to me and now I'm miserable" instead of "look what I did and not I'm miserable." As you may have noticed, I have a particularly strong dislike of Ms. Bovary... :)

In my library, my note on this book borrows a Dorothy Parker-quote (Parker wasn't talking about Madame Bovary, though): "This is not a book to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force." :)

Aug 31, 2009, 2:41am Top

Tel Aviv: from dream to city by Joachim Schlor (1998)
I bought this book after staying in Tel Aviv back in 1999/2000 and wanting to read an indepth book about the city but I only read about 40 pages at the time. After visiting Tel Aviv again last year I added it to my 999 challenge and because Tel Aviv celebrates its centenary this year.Twelve years ago Jerusalem celebrated the 3 thousand year anniversary of King David declaring Jerusalem the capital of his kingdom, so 100 years doesn't seem like that big a deal, but Tel Aviv was the first fully Hebrew city to be established anywhere since biblical times.
This is a social history of Tel Aviv, part of a Topographic series of books which feature new writing about place. 'Topographics....the reversal of travel literature, the books in this series do not depend on a journey to supply a plot. Instead they mingle analysis with anecdote, criticism with original expressive writing, to explore the creative collision between physical space and the human mind.'
Quite a dense read, but ultimately satisfying, Schlor explores the founding of Tel Aviv and its spectacular growth from many angles. He discusses Tel Aviv's place in the Mediterranean, the Levant, the Middle East and in Israel itself and its role as the first Hebrew city. The city grew because of the influx of immigrants from Europe, these people were not like the first aliyas, full of socialist dreams of working the land, but city dwellers wanting to live in a city and Tel Aviv gave them what they wanted.
Tel Aviv always seems to have been a city for young people and that is still one of its main attractions. My husband is from Tel Aviv and I lived, worked and studied Hebrew there many years ago and I've always loved the frenetic charm of the city and all those beautiful bahaus apartment buildings many of which are finally being restored.
I have a few hundred photos of Tel Aviv stored online here: http://s811.photobucket.com/albums/zz32/...

Aug 31, 2009, 2:49am Top

#115 Studying the same book three times - enough to put you off good literature for life!
I had a similar experience with A Passage to India at high school and I really disliked that book.

#116 A quick read of the wikipedia entry on Madame Bovary shows that Emma acted out of character for her times and social class at almost every turn and the author's motive for this was in writing a realist novel rather than a romantic one. So what should we read for an all romantic classic where everything goes well? Not Tess of the d'Urbervilles, maybe Lady Chatterley's Lover though it is a bit modern. Any suggestions?

Edited: Aug 31, 2009, 5:24pm Top


Madame Bovary was almost a joke when I was at Uni - whenever I signed up for a new literature class, it was sure to show up on the syllabus! It was my personal nemesis! :)

I'd say for romantic classic, go for Pride and Prejudice even though it plays with the norms of the time - everything does work out well... :)

Aug 31, 2009, 4:33pm Top

Oh yes, I forgot about Jane Austen when I was writing my post last night, her Sense and Sensibility would fit too.

Aug 31, 2009, 5:27pm Top

It must have been late at night to forget Ms. Austen...! Blasphemy! LOL!

Sep 1, 2009, 6:53pm Top

In fifteen minutes you can say a lot by Greville Texidor (1986)
short stories
This is the complete works of Greville Texidor, who did all her writing while living in New Zealand in the 1940s. She had an interesting life, growing up in London with her mother an artist and part of the Bloomsbury set. Greville and her sister were artists models and then she toured the world as a dancer in a chorus line. After a few years in Argentina, she met her second husband, Werner, a German when living in Spain in the 1930s. Greville & Werner met many times with Spanish poet, Federico García Lorca and she translated his works. They both fought in the militia in the Spanish Civil War. Back to England and by marrying a German national Greville was put in Holloway, and Werner into a camp. Eventually they were released on condition they left the UK and so came out to New Zealand in 1940 where they were treated as enemy aliens and stayed in Northland on a farm. When they were finally allowed to come to Auckland to live they formed relationships with the local writers community and Greville was encouraged to write.

She never fitted into New Zealand society, left for Australia in 1948 and then went back to Spain. Her husband stayed on. Her writing clearly reflects this bad fit with New Zealand society of the 1940s and makes interesting reading. Some of the stories are also set in Spain, and the French Riviera. Her stories are about refugees, pacifists, returning soldiers, propagandists, communists, and the starkness of rural New Zealand life in those times.

I first read about Greville in Kiwi Companeros : New Zealand and the Spanish Civil War by Mark Derby.

I've decided to bump a few of the books I listed back in November for the challenge as new interests come to light this year. So The Portable Dorothy Parker has now bitten the dust and slipped down my tbr pile.

Sep 1, 2009, 7:04pm Top

All this and a bookshop too by Dorothy Butler (2009)
nonfiction memoir
This was a book I looked forward to reading as I used to love visiting The Dorothy Butler Children's Bookshop, have been a devoted Playcentre mother, also been involved for several years in the New Zealand children's literature world and have also visited her home at Karekare Beach.
Following on from There was a time which was about Dorothy Butler's childhood, this book is about her adult life. Here is the story of an ordinary marriage in 1940s New Zealand, the birth of eight children and life on the suburban North Shore in Auckland. But Dorothy's interest and passion for introducing books into the lives of children and fostering a love of reading in the very young was only stimulated by her growing family and Playcentre involvement. Returning to university to study the science of reading, establishing her children's bookshop, for several years this operated from her home, and her tireless promotion of good children's books to schools and early childhood centres and to parents where ever she came across them became her life's work.
Dorothy Butler became an international spokesperson for the bringing together of parents, children and books with the publication of Cushla and her Books, Babies need Books, and Reading begins at Home. The memoir is chockfull of delightful anecdotes, both family oriented and also about the many writers and publishers she has met and befriended.

This is another bump - out of the list goes Growing Pains by Wanda Gag and in comes Dorothy Butler's autobiography which is of more immediate interest to me.

Sep 6, 2009, 1:39pm Top

Lamplighter Book 2 of Monster Blood Tattoo by DM Cornish (2008)
Next in Series
This is a great children's fantasy, Cornish has imagined a wonderful world full of interesting folk and intrigue and monsters. We follow the adventures of orphan Rossamund who after the adventures in book one, finally starts his life as an apprentice lamplighter.
Cornish, an Australian, was originally an illustrator and filled journal after journal with illustrations of his imagined world and the monsters found there. A chance meeting with a publisher led to a book deal and he had to turn his illustrated world into the written word. Each book comes with a glossary, and detailed illustrations.
Book 3 comes out in May next year - can't wait.

Sep 6, 2009, 11:37pm Top

The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
Good Intentions category
This Booker Prize winning book had spent a long time on my tbr pile so I feel very virtuous now that I've finally read it.
It's 1983 and Nick is young, gay and middleclass. While at Oxford he has made several friends from rich and privileged families and now that he is coming to London to do his thesis on Henry James he is offered board at the home of one of these friends. We follow Nick through the next few years of the 1980s as he has his first gay relationships, and his life with the Fedden family. The father, Gerald is a new Tory MP in the Thatcher government. Nick, the son of an antiques dealer, is obsessed with beauty while all around him are people more bent on wealth and power.
A darn good read with a very satisfying ending.
The Line of Beauty was shortlisted alongside Toibin's The Master and David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas. Also longlisted that year was LT 75 book challenge current favourite Cooking with Fernet Branca.

Sep 7, 2009, 4:03am Top

A darn good read with a very satisfying ending.

Maybe the reason I didn't particularly like this book is that I didn't finish it, but I just couldn't make myself do it; the story line and the characters were all just so boring to me. But it also may have been because, as you said, the people around him were bent on wealth and power--and those kinds of people bore and/or annoy me.

Sep 7, 2009, 4:32am Top

I must admit that as I was reading it I felt there was a lot not to like with the emphasis on the gay lifestyle, drugs and politics, but the last 200 pages started to pull all the strings together and the last few chapters were especially good, so overall it did measure up to being a good read. The writing was excellent all the way through.

Sep 7, 2009, 4:32pm Top

The gay lifestyle didn't bother me. In fact, it didn't seem remarkable enough to make it important to the story--not for me anyway. That's partly what I meant about it being boring.

Sep 12, 2009, 4:58pm Top

Regeneration by Pat Barker (1991)
Good Intentions category (my tbr pile)
I originally intended to read The Ghost Road for my challenge but then found out it was the third in a trilogy. I have read some reviews of Regeneration on the LT threads so knew it would be a good read but what a stunning and intelligent novel it is indeed.
Barker takes us into the world of the WW1 soldier suffering mental problems brought on by the stress of war. The story is based on real life Dr Rivers, an anthropologist turned army psychiatrist at a Scottish hospital for officers, Craiglockhart. One of his patients was Siegfried Sassoon, war poet and the book includes the encounters Sassoon has with Wilfred Owen, another war poet. As Rivers tries his best to 'treat' his patients he also struggles with the fact that he is healing them in order that they are going back into the war.

Barker was inspired to write the book by her husband, a neurologist who was familiar with the work and writings of Rivers (1864-1922).

Oct 13, 2009, 6:41pm Top

I've done some substituting in my categories as my 999 challenge has been on a go-slow these past 4 weeks, and so I am moving unread books into bonus reads for each category and putting in books I've read over this year that weren't part of the challenge at the time.

Next in series:
Finished The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness back in June and The Girl who played with fire by Steig Larsson in February.
Currently reading Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.

Favourite Writers:
Finished Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan in October and The Ignorance of Blood by Robert Wilson in July.

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness (2009)
YA scifi Book 2 in Chaos Walking trilogy
The Knife of Never Letting Go was one of my exceptional reads last year in the YA arena. The only problem was the cliffhanger ending, now many months later I was able to dive back into this great story for the next instalment of Todd and Viola's adventures. Needless to say their troubles are not at an end. Can't wait for book 3.

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan (2008)
YA/Adult fiction
Marketed both to adults and older teens in various countries this is an epic folktale retelling of the Snow White and Briar Rose story. There are many layers to this story, Lanagan has taken a simple folktale and spun it out to a richly engaging tale, weaving in a fascinating ageold bear ritual from a Catalonian village. The beginning includes wretched scenes of abuse that are the pivot for the later story - though it is your imagination that adds the details, Lanagan only hints at with words.
Liga, a young woman, bears two daughters and nurtures and nourishes them in an isolated cottage on the edge of a forest in a protected world that she has retreated to, to keep them safe from the cruelties of life.
This is Lanagan's first full length novel, previously she has written award winning YA fantasy short story collections such as Red Spikes.

The Ignorance of Blood by Robert Wilson (2009)
Favourite Writer - Javiar Falcon series
I actually read the final 2 of the 4 books in this brilliantly complex series set in Sevilla. Inspector Jefe Javiar Falcon, the chief of the Seville homicide squad, must find out which group is responsible for a terrorist bombing. It has stirred anti immigrant feeling in the city - but is it the work of a Spanish rightist religious group or was it caused by an Islamic extremist group calling for Islamic control of Andalusia. Falcon's personal story is always an integral part of the plot and now he finds his ex-wife having troubles of her own.
As soon as I finished The Hidden Assassins, I dived straight into the final book - The Ignorance of Blood which brings a brutal Russian mafia turf war into the story.
I've now read and enjoyed 6 of Wilson's books and still have his 4 Bruce Medway books to read. I absolutely loved his A Small Death in Lisbon.

My reading goals curved away from the 999 challenge categories for the past few weeks, mainly distracted by LT recommendations and newly published books. Also, I want to give myself time before the year's end to finish or at least read more of Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles series and finish Anthony Powell's Dance to the Music of Time series.

Oct 13, 2009, 7:09pm Top

New Encounters Category: 501 Great Writers
Friday or The Other Island by Michael Tournier (1967)
translated from French
I didn't realise there was a Robinsonade genre (thankyou wikipedia) as there have been so many books inspired from the original Robinson Crusoe which was published back in 1719. Apparently it is very popular in science fiction (think TV's Lost in Space). Back to my book, I came across it while browsing in a used bookstore and the blurb intrigued me. Robinson Crusoe is one of my memorable childhood reads, I still have the copy which had belonged to my great grandfather and I remember being captivated by this survival adventure, and it probably started my love of reading the classics.
This version is excellent, focusing on modern philosophical ideas and Robinson's continually changing interpretation of being civilised and how he should live his life in reference to the natural world around him. Friday, of course, puts all Robinson's beliefs to the test. There were times when I wanted to kick Robinson for being such a racist, puritanical, obstinate b***d. The ending is delightful.

Edited: Oct 18, 2009, 6:38am Top

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1967)
Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera is one of my favourite books and I have been meaning to read this one, which many consider to be his greatest work for many years. Now let me quote from another reviewer....as much as I looked forward to reading this, I looked forward to ending it even more.." I did not enjoy this read much at all, I spun it out over a few weeks, and found myself reading less and less. It is a highly imagined story of seven generations of a Columbian family that founded a fictional town, Macondo, in a remote region of the country. Magical realism, politics, wars, love, devotion all proceed to glorify then devour this family and town. With an ensemble cast of unlikely characters that just didn't engage me, their lives were too strange, bizarre or plain unlucky.
I enjoyed his Memories of my Melancholy Whores so maybe I just wasn't in the right reading mood for Marquez this time.

Oct 26, 2009, 5:07am Top

Bright Star : Beatrice Hill Tinsley Astronomer by Chrsitine Cole Catley (2006)
Memoirs and auto/biographies & other nonfiction category

I was motivated to read this biography by the fact that both Tinsley (1941-1981) and Cole Catley attended my high school and we had all been members of the same school astronomy club (all in different years of cousre).
Tinsley, a world leader in modern cosmology, died from cancer when she was just 40, a Professor of Astronomy at Yale and in the middle of a truly spectacular career of phenomenal research into the evolution of galaxies. She's considered one of the outstanding scientists of the 20th century and in 1981 the American Astronomical Society established the Beatrice M.Tinsley Prize for outstanding creative contributions to astronomy or astrophysics.
Tinsley's achievements in her short life were little known to the New Zealand public, and Cole Catley was persuaded by Tinsley's family to write this biography after writing the centennial publication for my high school, Springboard for Women which featured an article on Tinsley.

Born in England and after a remarkable childhood in New Zealand, Tinsley married another physicist while studying at university in 1961 but soon discovered the pitfall career-wise of this move. Spouses of academic staff were not permitted to be employed by the university. When both attained scholarships to further study in the USA, they moved to Dallas, Texas where her husband, Brian had secured a position. With assurances that within two years they'd move to a more suitable location where Tinsley could study her PhD in her chosen field of astronomy and have a career, she put up with life as the spouse of an academic. Ten years later, Tinsley was unhappily still stuck in Dallas, her husband safe and secure in his position and not wanting to move. She had managed to achieve her PhD in a record few years by commuting to Austin for part of each week, while juggling childcare for their adopted children. As her thesis "Evolution of Galaxies and its Significance for Cosmology" began to make waves in her field she was offered tenure in various places - but her husband objected and she was forced to cut short her time away from home.
Eventually she left both her husband and children (he would not let her have custody) and for a few short years she had an ideal and blossoming career at Yale.

This was an inspiring story that shed light yet again on the stifling social position of women in those times. Tinsley knew that she was vegetating in Dallas, but considered it was her duty to try to succeed as a wife and mother even though her heart and mind were set on understanding and making sense of the universe. Cole Catley explored these motivations back to her upbringing and the expectations of her parents, both strong forceful people.

While I learnt a little about galaxy evolution, the emphasis in this book is on her life not her work and legacy so now I want to read more on this subject.

Edited: Nov 4, 2009, 6:28am Top

The Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley-Holland (1980)
Collections category
A retelling of 32 Norse myths by a great writer/academic. The legends unfold with their original power, simplicity and passion. Crossley-Holland has included lengthy notes on each myth, and how he adapted the story from original manuscripts, which sources he chose to use and why. This was as interesting as the myths themselves, shedding light on the early written recordings of oral traditions, the early Christian influence on the myths and the different types of story. This was also an introduction to early Nordic culture.
Here are the creation myths, the stories of the exploits of Thor, Odin and shapeshifting trickster Loki. Battles and escapades, drinking bouts and adventures with a full cast of characters from the worlds of the Gods, humans, dwarves and giants.

Nov 4, 2009, 8:52am Top

The Norse Myths looks like a good introduction to the subject. Another one for the wishlist, I think. Thanks.

Nov 7, 2009, 10:41pm Top

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (1868)
New Encounters category

I enjoyed this classic detective mystery immensely. My only complaint, and it held up my reading, was the tiny print size of my Wordsworth Classic edition.
The Moonstone is a fabulous diamond, looted from a shrine and brought back from India by an unscrupulously corrupt army officer. The diamond appears to be cursed, and also sought after by fanatical members of the obscure Indian faith from where it was taken. Fifty years later, the diamond is on show again when young Rachel Verinder receives it as her birthday gift. It's not long before the whole household is in an uproar.
Taken as a series of narratives from various witnesses to the action this is fun to read. I especially enjoyed the devout Miss Clack's attempts to bring her heathen relatives to heel.

Nov 10, 2009, 11:58pm Top

The Secret River by Kate Grenville (2005)
Good Intentions (tbr) category

Wow, this was a terrific five star read. Winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize & Booker Prize Shortlisted. The words just flow, the description of the settings is beautifully done and the harsh story is bravely told.
This is a story of the contact between uneducated, poor colonists, many of whom are former convicts and the aborigine tribe that lived a semi-nomadic foraging life along the Hawkesbury River. Londoner, Will Thornhill has been transported to Sydney to serve life as a convict. Travelling alongside him is his wife and their young child. After earning his freedom, Thornhill dreams of settling on a small piece of fertile land on the banks of the Hawkesbury River. The aborigines have lived for centuries in perfect tune with the land and its bounties, now the clash of cultures begins.
Only 5 books left to go in my 999 challenge.

Edited: Nov 23, 2009, 3:04am Top

The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton (2002)
nonfiction category
Many thanks to Peter for writing such a glowing review of this that I was finally prompted to actually read one of de Botton’s books instead of just thinking about it. What I liked most about this book is how de Botton’s many discussions on various aspects of travel have made me reflect on my own experiences and motives for travel.
De Botton reflects on the reality of a destination versus our anticipation before we depart. How often we have dreamed of a wonderful few days in a place like Paris or Rio, but the reality of our stay is coloured by who we are, how we react, who we travel with, where we stay, our own temperament. The glossy pages of the travel books, brochures give us a dream but not our own reality. Other areas covered include - our motives for travelling; Do we really perceive the beauty we see; Memories; Landscapes and our reaction to them; Our return - how does our trip relate to our everyday life, can we see our familiar world through more observant eyes.
De Botton takes us into the worlds of travellers of years past, and we follow the journeys made by Flaubert to Egypt, Humbolt to South America, and Van Gogh to Provence. Highly recommended for its ability to make you reflect on how and why you travel.

Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill (2009)
nonfiction bonus read
Writer Susan Hill meditates on her year of only reading the books already in her home which she shares with her husband, a Shakespearian scholar. This is a charming book, we follow her from room to room, shelf to shelf as she looks through her collection and discusses the books she finds, there are sets of first editions, battered paperbacks, the unread shelves, the reread corner, the long forgotten, children's books, classics, her bedside companions. She slowly chooses a list of forty books that she feels she could not live without. In amongst all this she shares encounters with writers, literary friendships and mentors from her student days. While her taste is not totally my thing I was utterly captivated.

Follow up reading includes The Paper House by Carlos Maria Dominguez.

How to look at a painting by Justin Paton (2005) 126pgs
nonfiction category
Part of the Ginger series by Awa Press, this won its section in the 2006 New Zealand Montana Book Awards - Lifestyle & Contemporary Culture. Recently a beautiful hardback edition was released so I thought it about time I finally read it, especially as The Art of Travel had touched on art and artists.
Paton, an art curator and previous editor of New Zealand's literary publication Landfall sums up how to look at a painting in very few words - one in fact - you should just 'look'. He then goes on to explain what you'll be able to see if you look closely at a painting. This is an entertaining read, Paton discusses art in layman's terms and inspires you to go out and really look at a painting or two. He never gets too serious and impresses on you that you can enjoy the painting for itself without having to seek out any meaning hidden in the layers of paint, your own reaction is what counts. Highly recommended if you can track it down.
Other titles in the series include: How to watch a bird - (brilliant), How to catch a cricket match (not read but will get to it), How to read a book (not recommended).

Dec 4, 2009, 6:22pm Top

Manhood for Amateurs: the pleasures and regrets of a husband, father, and son by Michael Chabon (2009)
Collections category - essays
I've been looking forward to reading this since The New Yorker published one of the essays on childhood back in July: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/22891
I haven't been disappointed, this is a series of essays where Chabon, one of my favourite writers, muses on the past and present including a delightful chapter on how he and his kids enjoy a geeky fandom for Dr Who. Much more personal than a starch biography, he just jumps in and riffs away.
Also made me remember how much I enjoyed the characters in his Gentlemen of the Road earlier this year.

Only one book left in my challenge - Dorothy Dunnett's Queen's Play which I hope to finish in the next couple of days!!

Edited: Dec 8, 2009, 9:49pm Top

Finished the challenge!!!!!!!!

Queen's Play by Dorothy Dunnett (1964,1992ed)
Bk 2 Lymond Chronicles.
I left this book to the last so I can continue on with the series.
I'll post my thoughts later as I stayed up most of the night to finish this - the plot just got thicker and thicker and I could not put it down, especially knowing the milestone I was achieving by finishing it.

I finished with this one as I want to go on to read the rest of the series, but I might wait for that as I want to tackle Wolf Hall which is also set in Tudor times.

Frances Crawford of Lymond is a fabulous character, styled as a classical hero, he is the younger son of a Scottish noble. I was captivated by the first book which is set in 16th century Scotland where Lymond is at odds with his older brother and needs to prove his innocence against false charges.
In this second book the action moves to France and the court of Henri II, King of France. On request from Mary of Guise, Queen Mother of Scotland, Lymond enters the court under disguise and attempts to uncover the conspirators in a plot to assassinate 8yr old Mary Queen of Scots. Very political with plotting between the various interests of the Irish, the French, Scottish and English gentry at court, it is also an exciting read with lots of high jinks and sword play.
It's interesting to realise how Frenchified a lot of the Scottish nobles had become during these years.

I did some stats - my original list had only 1 library book in it, but I ended up putting 7 more into the lists as my year progressed - that means I knocked 73 books off my tbr pile (though 5 of those I bought during the year!).
Over on the 75 book challenge I'm up for a total of 225 books read so far for the year - so it has been a struggle to get this challenge done with all my reading off list.
Really looking forward to next year's 1010 challenge as I've made my categories more open and also won't be setting my reading list, rather have a selection of books to choose from.

I'll post my favourites from each category later today.

edited to add my review

Dec 8, 2009, 5:09pm Top

Yeah! Congratulations especially for knocking 73 BOOKS (!) off your tbr pile. I'm so inspired! New Year's Resolution, here I come! :-)

Dec 8, 2009, 6:42pm Top

Congratulations!!!! Looking forward to reading your 1010 thread!

Dec 8, 2009, 7:22pm Top

#142 - Yes, but being on LT has meant I've added double that back on to my wishlist!!

Dec 8, 2009, 7:27pm Top

Oh, oh! Lol! Thanks be to wish lists or I would be in the same position! :-)

Dec 8, 2009, 8:03pm Top

A hearty congrats!!

Dec 8, 2009, 9:42pm Top

My Overall favourites:
OK, this has been done on as a sort of quickfire challenge based on my gut feeling at the moment rather than a long drawn out thinking fest:

1) Books in Translation: Beaufort by Ron Leshem (Israel) - can't beat a good story about soldiers
Runners Up: The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano & The Master & Margarita - both destined to confuse and captivate you.
2) Short Stories, Essays & Folktales: Say your'e one of them by Uwem Akpan - this wasn't on my original list but has proven a powerful and memorable read.
Runners Up: Dark Alchemy, Italian Folktales & The Norse Myths
3) Bloodfest: Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar - extremely entertaining romp of a story
Runnersup: Dracula & Elizabeth Knox's Daylight.
4) Children's Classics: House of Sixty Fathers by Meindert de Jong - loved this
Runners Up: Swallows and Amazons & Huckleberry Finn and all the others to be honest
5) New Encounters: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers - loved this one
Runners Up: Friday and the other Island & The Moonstone
6) Next in Series: all of them - why else would I be reading the darn things!!
7) Memoirs & Nonfiction: Beautiful Shadow: a life of Patricia Highsmith by Andrew Wilson - learnt so much about this reclusive writer
Runners Up: How to Look at a Painting & The Art of Travel
8) Good Intentions (my tbr): Potiki by Patricia Grace - made me realise I should be reading more New Zealand fiction.
Runners Up: Regeneration and The Secret River - both excellent
9) Favourite Writers: Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon - enjoyed this one so much
Runners Up: BloodTide by Melvin Burgess & The Ignorance of Blood by Robert Wilson

Dec 8, 2009, 10:49pm Top

Hooray for Beaufort by Ron Leshem!! I so loved that book.

Group: 999 Challenge

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