ravenous.reader's 100 books in 2010

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ravenous.reader's 100 books in 2010

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1SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Dec 31, 2009, 5:46pm

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2SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Nov 1, 2010, 1:41am

Welcome!

These are my 2010 book-type goals:
a.) Read 100 books (obviously);
b.) Review and rate what I've read;
c.) Even up the fiction/non-fiction disparity;
d.) Refrain from buying any new books until done with my TBR's (this may be sometime in 2012.) (Obviously, school books are exempt, and books useful but not required for school may slip through without too much guilt);
e.) Cut down on the re-reads.

Here's the plan- There will be an abbreviated monthly numbered list of books read, then a concluding summary of number of books read, pages read, breakdown of male/female authors, fiction/non-fiction, owned/borrowed/(bought!). That post will be updated throughout the month. I then plan to do individual summaries/ratings/reviews of each book in an individual post. I might even get fancy and learn how to post pictures and links!

New plan! Or at least addendum to the previous: As I don't enjoy scrolling to the bottom to add stuff, and anyone reading might be similarly inconvenienced, I'm implementing fancy-pants links. Clicking on the name of the month below will take you to that month's reading list, scrolling from there will get you to reviews of, comments on, or random musings inspired by the books listed.

January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November

3SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Mar 31, 2010, 5:23pm

January 2010

1. The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins Book 1, Victorian Sensation Fiction
2. Sexing the Cherry, Jeanette Winterson
3. Since You Went Away:World War II Letters from American Women on the Home Front, Judy Barrett Litoff and David C. Smith
4. Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, Gregory Maguire
5. Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman
6. Daphne, Justine Picardie
7. Tomato Rhapsody, Adam Schell
8. The Year of the Flood, Margaret Atwood
9. Quieter than Sleep: A Modern Mystery of Emily Dickinson, Joanne Dobson
10. The Northbury Papers, Joanne Dobson
11. The Raven and the Nightingale, Joanne Dobson
12. Cold and Pure and Very Dead, Joanne Dobson
13. Winterwood: A Novel, Patrick McCabe
14. The Cinderella Deal, Jennifer Crusie
15. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen Book 1, Development of the Novel
16. A Short History of Women, Kate Walbert
17. A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Madeleine L'Engle
18. Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris
19. The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Agatha Christie
20. A Wind in the Door, Madeline L'Engle
21. East Lynne, Ellen Wood Book 2, Victorian Sensation Fiction
22. When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to Present, Gail Collins

Monthly Totals:
Books read: 22
Pages read: 7491
Author demographics: 7 male/16 female
Book demograhics: 19 fiction/3 nonfiction
Book origins: 15 owned, 1 bought for fun, 1 bought for school, 5 borrowed from library
Rereads: 9, 2 for the first time in the decade, 1 required for school

In February I hope to work on increasing my nonfiction reads and work on my TBR rather than visit the library so often. I'm proud of the number I read in January, but several were YA or genre fiction. I also would like to bump up the classic quotient.

Skip to next month (February)

4SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Jan 24, 2010, 8:42am

1. The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins

Book 1, Victorian Sensation Fiction
Truthfully, I enjoyed this much more than I expected. I'm enrolled in a class this coming semester in which we are examining works of Victorian Sensation Literature-- this one is the only one on the syllabus that I already owned, so I thought I'd get a jump on the semester. This is truly a page turner-- I found myself repeatedly deciding to finish just one more chapter before going to sleep. Definitely the most engaging 19th century book I've read in a long time. (Obviously, I didn't start this one today. I started it on the 30th of December, but since I read more than half of it today, I counted it for 2010.)

Male author, fiction, owned, 623 pgs

5SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Jan 28, 2010, 3:14am

2. Sexing the Cherry, Jeanette Winterson

I read my first Winterson, (Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit) several years ago. It was lent to me with several other "fluff" books--I expected it to be fluffy as well. Obviously, I was mistaken. Great book. I read The Passion for a class this semester, and bought Sexing the Cherry at the same time. There is something about Winterson's language- you get caught up in it, finish the book, and then feel like you should really start over again immediately, as you've missed so much. It isn't dense, precisely, perhaps layered would be a better term. She always seems to evoke a dreaminess.

In Sexing the Cherry, I particularly enjoyed the stories of the lives of the Dancing Princesses after the marriage en masse. She uses the contrast between reality and imagination, the interior and external life, and fluid or discrepant timelines to completely unsettle the reader's expectations.

Female author, fiction, owned, 192 pgs

6loriephillips
Jan 1, 2010, 2:48am

#4 It's good to know that The Woman in White is a good read. I've got it on the TBR pile to read sometime this year. Thanks for the recommendation!

7BookLizard
Jan 1, 2010, 3:02am

4> I'll be interested in seeing what else you read for that class. I read The Woman in White last year and enjoyed it, although it was pretty long. I read Lady Audley's Secret in college and would love to read something else similar from that time period.

8judylou
Jan 1, 2010, 4:49am

Off to a good start! I also have The woman in white on the TBR tower, but for some reason it has never really appealed to me. Perhaps I will give it another try soon.

9SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Jan 2, 2010, 6:42am

loriephillips and judylou- definitely give TWiW a try. It looked rather tedious to me--I only bought it because I'd just watched Northanger Abbey on BBC and thought I should read this as representative of that genre in a non-satirical way-- but of course, I never actually felt like reading it. It really is good- I generally have to divide up Dickens (who I've most frequently heard Wilkie Collins compared to) over a number of days-- I must read such-and-such number of pages a day-- but I had to make myself put TWiW down to finally sleep. It doesn't drag, the language isn't too archaic, and plenty of thrills and chills.

10SouthernBluestocking
Jan 2, 2010, 6:48am

7: BookLizard- We actually are starting out the semester with Lady Audley's Secret, which I've not yet begun, although I have a copy on reserve at the local Barnes & Noble. We're following that with another M.E. Braddon: Aurora Floyd. Then The Woman in White, The New Magdalen (also by Wilkie Collins), Griffeth Gaunt, by Charles Reade, and East Lynne by Ellen Wood.

Let me know if you decide to try any of them-- I have to read them all by the middle of March, (and come up with some sort of paper that I can present at an academic conference) so I'd love to talk if you're reading!

11BookLizard
Jan 2, 2010, 3:46am

Aurora Floyd sounds good, but it's a bit long. The New Magdalen is a more reasonable in length. I found Griffith Gaunt online and read the first chapter which was amusing. I don't know if I could stand to read the whole book online though and it's hard to find a print copy. I'd have to get it through inter-library loan.

Let me know when exactly you're going to read them so I can plan my library requests accordingly. LOL

12SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Feb 1, 2010, 4:05pm

3. Since You Went Away: World War II Letters from American Women on the Home Front, Judy Barrett Litoff and David C. Smith

This book is a collection of letters from women to sweethearts and husbands stationed abroad. It’s heartbreaking—and inspiring. Women who, up to this time, have not had to worry about keeping the car operational or balancing the budget are writing their husbands about the midnight shift they took at such-and-such production factory or the extra income they are managing to save by renting the living room out as an extra bedroom. Most of them talk about budgetary difficulties. All of them talk about fighting loneliness. (This is what had me sniffling.) Many of the letters end with memories of times shared—and it is very clear that those memories are all that make the present tolerable.

Although most of the couples were divided by draft or enlistment, one set of letters is from an American citizen of Japanese descent to her husband in a detainment camp. These letters are especially interesting to compare to the inflammatory letters of a wife who is working at a confinement camp as a nurse.

The authors introduce each couple, tell how and where they met, how long they had been dating/engaged/married when the war intervened. Then the letters are given in chronological order, then a concluding paragraph about the couple (they married three weeks after… had so many children, retired in this location, have so many grandchildren, etc.)

I’ll read this book again and, I’m sure, refer to it in future academic pursuits. It is so interesting to read what women were actually thinking (or at least talking) about during this time--there are little hints of changes to come in gendered divisions of labor and home life which are fascinating to trace.

Male and female authors, non-fiction, owned, 296 pgs

13SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Mar 6, 2010, 10:26pm

4. Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, Gregory Maguire
**re-read**


I’ve read this a number of times, but there is so much going on that I never can seem to get a hold on what it is about. Obviously, Oz and Glinda and Elphaba and Nanny and Nessa Rose. Animals and animals, magic and religion, nilhism, fate, pawns and racism, as well as social circles and servant classes and the dangers of getting what you wish for.

I'm giving a paper about this book (through the lens of Judith Halberstam's In a Queer Time and Place:Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives) at the end of March, so will likely read this book more than once this year.

At the moment I'm looking at Elphaba as a complicated subjective position holder... she is initially and instantly "othered" with just about every invective that the Tin Woodman, the Lion and the Scarecrow can throw at her: she is mad, she is a witch, she is a lesbian, she is an hermaphrodite, she is male, she is castrati... so many aspersions on her supposed non-normative sexuality that, rather than examining that sexuality, (I'm really not interested in "out"ing Elphaba, that seems rather boring. And judgmental) right now I'm interested in looking at how those accusations are used to trivialize and Other her.

More to follow. Perhaps.

Male author, fiction, owned, 519 pgs

14SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Jan 28, 2010, 3:15am

5. Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman ****1/2

Loved, loved, loved this book. Focuses on Fat Charlie, the son of Mr. Nancy, one of the sideline characters in American Gods (which was one of my favorite new-to-me books of last year.) A read-it-in-one-sitting, stay-up-till-three then enthusiastically push it on friends type book.

Fat Charlie's life is rather sadly predictable until his fiance insists he invite his father to the wedding. Instead of issuing an invitation, he is soon attending his father's funeral, where he learns that -so far- he hasn't learned anything. His father, the old ladies next door, his fiance, his reflection, himself--nothing is quite what he had thought.

Male author, fiction, owned, 384 pgs

15SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Jan 17, 2010, 5:50pm

6. Daphne, Justine Picardie ***

Daphne du Maurier is one of my favorite authors; I've read Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel, Rule Brittania, and The Flight of the Falcon more times than I can count. Her portrayal of Cornwall has always fascinated me-- the setting and atmosphere in her novels is as necessary as any of the action. When I read a review of Daphne, an imagined biography of du Maurier, I immediately added it to my library list.

Picardie begins the story when Daphne's career is winding down. Numerous family problems continually distract her from the biography of Branwell Bronte that she hopes will validate his (and her) career. For this arduous task, she enlists the help of J. A. Symmington, an aging scholar who believes the association with the celebrated author will save his career from disgrace.

A modern-day subplot loosely links the research du Maurier and Symmington are engaged in with the research topic of the slowly progressing dissertation of a young, second wife of a recently- divorced professor.

I loved the parts about Daphne, liked the parts about Symmington, but could have done without the rather self-conscious tribute to Rebecca set in modern academia.

Female author, fiction, library, 399 pgs
edited to add picture

16SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Jan 17, 2010, 7:04pm

7. Tomato Rhapsody: A Fable of Love, Lust & Forbidden Fruit, Adam Schell

This is the story of Davido and Mari, tomatoes and olives and tomato sauce and pizza, 16th century Tuscany, fools and dukes, puppets, poisons, and rhyming peasants, well-endowed donkeys and drunken saints. Primarily, though, this is a story about love: romantic love, familial love, love of god, love of country. And always, love of good food.

Highly recommended, but make sure you have good tomatoes, cheese, bread and wine in the house when you read.

Male author, fiction, library, 338 pgs
edited to add picture

17wookiebender
Jan 10, 2010, 3:02am

I just laughed tea out of my nose at that book title.

18divinenanny
Jan 11, 2010, 9:42am

Good to hear you loved both American Gods and Anansi Boys as they are pretty high on my wishlist too. I just discovered Gailman myself, so I feel there is this whole new world out there to discover :D

How did you like Wicked? As it is a reread I am assuming you like it, but I have heard some not so good comments about it on the boards...

19SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Jan 17, 2010, 7:03pm

8. The Year of the Flood, Margaret Atwood

I'd been meaning to read this for a while, and succumbed to the lure of the beautiful cover on my most-recent library trip. (My poor TBR pile...)

I've not yet read a book by Atwood that hasn't been amazing, thought-provoking, babble-about-it-incessantly good. This one is certainly not an exception. Knowing it was a dystopian novel, I kind of half-expected it to be similar to- or at least reminiscent of- The Handmaid's Tale. It isn't. The Handmaid's Tale is the future ruled by excessive religion; The Year of the Flood is a future in which over-consumption has not been checked, diseases run rampant, and science and medicine are no more trustworthy than the latest comic book.

A pandemic has killed almost everyone on the planet. Two women, sequestered during the worst of the infection, have survived. Their memories tell of the world just before the plague and their experiences describe the world of the survivors.

They had both been members of "God's Gardeners", a group whose beliefs blended religion and science and, as a reaction to the dangers and corruptions of society, have separated themselves from the common population, growing food on the rooftops, protecting all species of life, learning about now-extinct flora and fauna.

This book apparently deals with many of the same characters and situations as Oryx and Crake, (which I wasn't aware of and haven't yet read) but stands alone effectively.

Good book- not my favorite Atwood by any stretch of the imagination-- either The Handmaid's Tale, The Blind Assassin, or The Penelopiad deserve that appellation, but quite good.

Female author, fiction, library, 431 pgs

20SouthernBluestocking
Jan 13, 2010, 3:40pm

(17 wookiebender)

I know! I love the title. It was a totally random pick-up at the library (it was on one of the end caps) but well worth the time.

21SouthernBluestocking
Jan 13, 2010, 3:53pm

(18 divinenanny)

Gaiman is great- I really love all of his novels that I've read so far... Fragile Things (a collection of short stories) is also really good, but a little darker. (I was listening to it on cd on a long commute at night and it about scared the pants off of me.) Look for Good Omens if you haven't read that one yet- he wrote it with Terry Pratchett- one of my favorites.

As to Wicked- I have bookworm friends who love it-- and some (who love to read) that just couldn't get through it. Those that don't like it seem to be primarily put off by the amount of detail- there are a lot of political interworkings between the different areas of Oz. Honestly, though, it isn't a difficult read. There are lots of layers (dreams that aren't actually explained until the third book, things that you thought you understood but didn't...) but the first book, Wicked, stands alone very well.

Have you read any other Gregory Maguire books? I've not yet read anything by him that I haven't loved. My favorite is Lost-- Jacob Marley (A Christmas Carol) makes an appearance. Good for reading on a long, quiet night in the middle of the winter.

22SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Jan 17, 2010, 7:03pm

9. Quieter Than Sleep: A Modern Mystery of Emily Dickinson, Joanne Dobson

**re-read**
After an absolutely horrendous first week of the semester, I needed a retreat to the extremely familiar world of Dobson's Enfield College.

This is the first of Dobson's series of academic mysteries. Her protagonist, Karen Pelletier, is an approaching-forty literature professor who is nursing a "badly bruised" heart as she attempts to settle into her first year at the prestigious Enfield College. At the Christmas holiday party, the modern lit prof that had been monopolizing her evening comes tumbling out of the (coat) closet... literally falls on top of Karen with his tie wrapped tightly around his throat.

Dobson, a lit prof at Fordham, is so well-informed about both the academic world of which she writes and the academic subjects the characters discuss that these books stand up to repeated re-reads.

Female author, fiction, owned, 303 pgs

23SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Jan 17, 2010, 7:02pm

10.The Northbury Papers, Joanne Dobson

**re-read**
So much for cutting down on the re-reads. In my defense, eight hours of reading feminist theory (this semester is apparently really heavy on the reading homework) made a retreat to familiar territory absolutely necessary. (I consider myself absolutely and ardently feminist... but the in-fighting! makes me tense and twitchy.)

In her second novel, Dobson follows her protagonist, Karen Pelletier, as she becomes involved in the murder of an elderly descendant of Victorian sensation/sentimental fiction.

I love Dobson's portrayal of academia: the theorist with the bruise-colored makeup and multiple tattoos, the entitled student body, the conflict between the promoters of the canon and the supporters of the previously "other"ed, the short-sighted dismissal of women's writing and interests.

Female author, fiction, owned, 333 pgs

24wookiebender
Jan 17, 2010, 1:11am

Oh, they sound like fun! Damnit, my wishlist just grew again. Ack.

25SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Jan 17, 2010, 1:48am

11. The Raven and the Nightingale, Joanne Dobson

**re-read**
This, too, is a re-read. I have a bad habit of getting sucked into a series and then wanting to revisit it in its entirety. I've given up on reading anything from my TBR list until I've finished the rest of these.

Professor Pelletier is continuing with her work as an educator and the head of The Northbury Center for Women's Literature. As such, she receives the papers of a poetess who was reputed to have committed suicide after her relationship with E. A. Poe went south. A favorite student begins acting very irrationally, a poetess's diaries go missing, an acclaimed colleague is murdered... and Lieutenant Piotrowski thinks Dr. Pelletier can help.

Female author, fiction, owned, 300 pgs

26SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Jan 24, 2010, 8:43am

12. Cold and Pure and Very Dead, Joanne Dobson

**re-read**
At the end of an interview, a journalist asks Dr. Pelletier to pick the best book of the 20th century. Rather than going with a canonical answer, she gives the title of a scandalous, but little known, novel from the 1950's.

Oblivion Falls was the story of a poor girl's seduction, fall, pregnancy, abortion, and death. The book is rumored to have been based on actual occurrences; the author mysteriously disappeared completely shortly after it's publication.

As a result of the article, the book becomes a word-of-mouth sensation. A reclusive goat farmer is arrested after the same journalist ends up dead on her property; Dr. Pelletier feels responsible as her off-hand comment seemed to spark the entire thing.

Female author, fiction, owned, 286 pgs

27SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Jan 31, 2010, 5:55pm

13. Winterwood: A Novel, Patrick McCabe
*audiobook
Incredibly creepy--of course, listening to a well-done suspenseful audio books makes me much more nervous than reading it myself does. I think it is about pace, letting the atmosphere build... something I often neglect in my rush to find out what happen next.

Redmond Hatch is a 40-something journalist at the start of this novel, who has just been assigned to research a small town in Ireland, near where he grew up. He forms an unlikely friendship with one of the old men of the mountain, spending weekends away from his home in Dublin with his new wife and baby daughter. The old man of the mountain becomes more and more present--and then intrusive--in Redmond's mind as he watches, and causes, the disintegration of his life.

Seriously. Creepy as hell.

Male author, fiction, library, 240 pgs
Audio book, read by Gerry O'Brien

28SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Jan 31, 2010, 7:09pm

14. The Cinderella Deal, Jennifer Crusie

Professor Linc Blaise's interview went very well... until they asked him about his wife. Seeing their disappointment at his negative response, he invents a fiancee, and then attempts to convince his quirky downstairs neighbor to temporarily play the role.

Daisy Flattery quit her teaching job four years ago to paint and tell stories, but has met with limited success. Desperate for rent money--and for inspiration--she agrees to Linc's plan.

I know, it sounds like fluff. Pure popcorn for the brain. Well, it is- but it is JENNIFER CRUISE fluff, which means the characters (however stock they seem in this quick blurb) are just a little off-kilter: the women are independent, funny and have strong support systems (and are never mincing twits) and the men love them for the brains and the quirk- not (or at least in addition to) their heaving beasts. ;) I love her female characters because, no matter who walks out, after a few chocolate bars, and a boozy gab fest, they are SO going to be all right.

(Honestly, this is a re-release of one of her earlier books, and some of her later books are better. I loved it, but might have cut it some slack because I love the rest of her books. If new to Jennifer Crusie, I'd suggest one of the two she wrote with Bob Mayer: Agnes and the Hitman or Don't Look Down. Her other collaborations were a bit disappointing (I didn't even keep them) but other than that, you can't miss.)

Female author, fiction, bought (!), 278 pgs

29SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Jan 24, 2010, 8:37pm

15. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

Book 1, Development of the Novel
I've not read this since I was sixteen, and even then it wasn't a favorite. In the Austen canon Persuasion has always been my favorite, with Sense and Sensibility falling hard on its heels. (Then, of course, I found Wuthering Heights and Austen in general was demoted to less frequent revisiting.)

I have no spanking-new brilliant insights into this novel, but as it was for one of my college courses, I'll try to collect my thoughts. I missed a lot of the humor in this novel when reading it as a teenager, which may have caused me to underrate it. The narrator's tone is particularly cutting, giving some of the statements that I'd misread as straightforward quite a different twist.

When I was teaching this novel in Puerto Rico, one of my high school senior students (who, in retrospect, I REALLY think stole her paper from somewhere) wrote on the use of eyes and sight in this book, which--regardless of possible plagiarism on her part--is a very interesting idea. If you equate/conflate the eyes with sight, Darcy's comments on Elizabeth's eyes (the clearness of, the brightness of) become more *ahem* insightful.

One of my profs had an interesting insight into Mrs. Bennet's character. We were discussing Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Women, particularly her argument that a woman without education will, once the initial flush of attraction wears off, be (paraphrase ahead) utterly horrid. I mentioned Mrs. Bennet's character as a literary representation of this idea. My prof pointed out that a good marriage was really the only possibility for the Bennet sisters. We are told in the novel that Mr. Bennet hasn't been saving money for them, the property is entailed, and without the marriages that Mrs. Bennet is so mocked for pursuing, she and her daughters will be penniless when Mr. Bennet dies. Of course, I knew this--this is discussed in the novel-- but it had never dawned on me that perhaps, with all her fluttering and squawking, she is doing more for her daughters than Mr. Bennet who simply can't be bothered. Something to think about, anyway.

(I've been pondering this point, and I think I gave Mr. Bennet too little recognition--he DOES go to visit Mr. Bingley, and pretty quickly too, he just teases the family. He puts himself out to be agreeable to Bingley and Darcy when they come calling towards the end of the novel. Of course, he also ignored Elizabeth's advice on the reigning in of Kitty... no conclusion to be found in this post, merely more musings.)

Female author, fiction, owned, 334 pgs

30SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Feb 12, 2010, 1:42am

16. A Short History of Women, Kate Walbert

I don't often find a book as perfect for my reading mood as this. A Short History of Women is a novel in short stories about the women in several generations of one family. The matriarch starves herself for women's suffrage in 1914... leaving two orphaned children. An elderly woman divorces her husband of fifty years after considering it since consciousness raising groups in the 70's. An elderly professor contemplates the shape and direction of her life on VJ Day. The questions posed by the women are unanswerable but universal: how to be an individual and a mother, when to make a change and when to appreciate the status quo, how to be a mother, a daughter, a wife, a widow, a friend.

I've been reading When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present, by Gail Collins. I'm assigned approximately 100 pages of reading on feminism a night for school. While I often NEED to relax and read something else, I find it difficult to turn my brain so completely from what I am studying to what is fun reading. As kind of a middle step (fiction framed by feminism? perhaps I've found my calling:)...) this did the trick. Great subject, great writing. Fabulous book.

Female author, fiction, library, 237 pgs

31jfetting
Jan 27, 2010, 4:32pm

I've been wanting to read the Walbert book for ages. Now I want to read it more.

32SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Feb 12, 2010, 1:42am

17. A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Madeleine L'Engle

I loved this book since I was about 12, so this is more of a paean than a review. A friend and I were talking about this book over breakfast the other day, and I had a very vivid (forgotten till now) memory of standing in the kitchen when I was young, proclaiming to the cutlery: In this fateful hour/I place all heaven with its power...

Meg Murray O'Keefe is home for Thanksgiving. Calvin, now her husband, is in England giving a paper, but his mother has surprisingly agreed to come. The President calls Dr. Murray to give him a heads up about the latest threat of global annhiliation: a South American dictator plans to use his nuclear weapons. Mrs. O'Keefe expects Charles Wallace to know what to do with a rune she learned from her grandmother and a unicorn appears to help Charles Wallace prevent the coming catastrophy. They travel to several Whens while staying in the same Where (the star-watching rock in the Murray's back yard), guiding past events to create a different outcome in the present.

The primary issue I have with the book is a somewhat subliminal threat of eugenics. Charles Wallace's contributions in the past were to ensure that the South American dictator, Mad Dog Branzillo, is a descendant of the blue-eyed, true-hearted Madoc, not his evil brother, Gwydyr. A belief that morality is controlled by DNA is somewhat problematic, as promoting a desired family line is a short step from preventing an undesirable one. I don't think that is the argument that L'Engle is making, but I would have been a bit happier (on the adult re-read) with an increased demonstration of personal agency. But still, I love this book.

Female author, fiction, owned, 278 pgs

33ronincats
Jan 28, 2010, 3:35am

Just found you and have to star your thread. Anyone who loves Good Omens and Anansi Boys is my kind of reader! Not to mention Austen and Madeleine L'Engle.

34SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Jan 29, 2010, 12:04am

18. Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris
*audiobook

I was given the box set of all of Sedaris' books on CD for my birthday, and I've been listening to them on my hour-long commute to school. I tried them on my ipod, but I kept laughing in public, which seems to make people wonder if you are, you know, a bit off. I still laugh, but at least only people at stop lights can see me--and if you've ever watched all of the odd things people do at stop lights, you'll understand why that possiblity isn't quite so daunting.

Me Talk Pretty One Day is a series of essays which deal with Sedaris' life before he moves to Normandy and then trying to learn the language. Absolutely hilarious. If you haven't read Sedaris, do.

Male author, non-fiction, owned, 272 pgs

35jfetting
Jan 29, 2010, 2:51pm

Is A Swiftly Tilting Planet the third one? The one where Charles Wallace goes through history? I do love those books.

36SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Jan 29, 2010, 3:14pm

(35, jfetting)
Yes, blue-eyed Indians and Mad Dog Branzillo-- and me too!

37SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Mar 13, 2010, 2:31pm

19. The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Agatha Christie

*audiobook

As one who is much too familiar with Agatha Christie (compulsory move to the Philippines as a teenager, self-imposed seclusion in bedroom with a box of books... a fun time for the entire family, if I do say so myself) I picked up The Mysterious Affair at Styles as kind of a throw-away, don't really have to concentrate on option to listen to while I'm creating subpoenas and doing all the fun stuff that I do at work. For that, it was perfect. Even without being familiar with this particular work in the Agatha canon, the tell-tale signs of guilt are present: mysterious facial hair, less than perfect treatment of the servants and grounds, too-exacting attention to spouse. Also, anyone who marries out of his or her class must indeed be suspect. This is coming off a bit harsh- I love Agatha Christie, but she is what she is. Society and minds are closed against any difference or change, but as long as you understand that (much like any work tethered to conventions not our own) it is a perfectly enjoyable read. or listen.

Female author, fiction, iTunes podcast, 208 pgs

38SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Feb 1, 2010, 4:31pm

20. A Wind in the Door,Madeline L'Engle

This is not the cover I own, but this is the cover I want--such a perfect illustration of the many eyes of Proginoskes. This apparently is from an out of print paperback. My copy matches the rest of the re-released Time Quartet:
I am really quite dissatisfied with my edition now. The story, however, remains the same, regardless of the comparatively unimaginative cover.

Charles Wallace has begun first grade; the daily poundings from his classmates began at approximately the same time. Meg worries about that until she realizes how concerned Dr. (Mother) Murray is worried about Charles Wallace's health. Charles Wallace sees a drive of dragons in the garden, the school principal turns into a terrifying bird and rends the sky, and Meg, Calvin, a cherubim with an attitude and the real Mr. Jenkins help a farandolae to deepen, thus saving a mitochondria, their host (Charles Wallace), and by extension, the world, the universe, and so on.

What I didn't notice when I was 12: The whole assumption of evil with a capital "E". Evil-- Dr. Evil type Evil. However, Evil (as represented here by the Echthros) is merely the absence of... love? I think love. Meg kind of throws herself into the void and promises to love/name EVERYTHING (can we say emotional teenager?) and that somehow fixes the problem. Kind of like The Nothing in The Neverending Story. Evil as emptiness. Which is an interesting concept, and much better than evil as "not my religion". In my personal and humble.

Female author, fiction, owned, 211 pgs

39SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Jan 30, 2010, 3:19pm

On a side note- I rather prefer the larger pictures (as demonstrated by the absolutely fabulous A Wind in the Door cover above). Either my internet service just *ahem* totally rocks, or picture size doesn't really make much difference in the time spent pulling up the page. I'm considering switching to the larger pictures for all book covers. Any thoughts?

40SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Mar 6, 2010, 10:59pm

21.East Lynne, Ellen Wood a/k/a Mrs. Henry Wood
Book 2,Victorian Sensation Fiction

Lady Isabel Vane makes a poor relationship choice and pays for it... and pays and pays and pays some more.

Lady Vane is the daughter of a profligate aristocrat. When he dies without providing for the completely unprotected Lady Isabel, a middle class lawyer, blessed with the euphonious name (!) of Archibald Carlyle (who has been admiring the beautiful Isabel from a distance) steps up, offering the protection of his home and hand.

Barbara Hare, the woman who has been pining over him, is heartbroken but stoic. and not going anywhere.

Several years after their marriage, Lady Isabel is ill and fretful, and more than a little jealous of her husband's mysterious (but completely innocent) conversations with the still-single and pining Barbara Hare. After a midnight decampment from hearth and home (and three children), Lady Isabel quickly finds her vile seducer to be, in truth, vile, and instantly repents her wickedness. Of course, the dye is cast; no rest for the wicked and all that. (Gotta love Victorian morality. No wait, ya don't.) She is hideously disfigured in a train accident, and decides upon the incredible step of taking the governess position in her own home.

Way too tear-drenched for my personal tastes, but interesting in its portrayal of class differences, assumptions and fears.

Female author, fiction, bought for school, 624 pgs

41BookLizard
Jan 31, 2010, 7:53pm

When are you reading Aurora Floyd?

42SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Jan 31, 2010, 1:52am

22. When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present, Gail Collins


The subtitle is indicative of the subject matter: this book traces, through legal advances and personal testimony, the progress of women's rights in America in the last 50 years. Fascinating reading. Gail Collins has an excellent way of recounting stories to pull out the interesting bits and of explaining the importance of seemingly unrelated events. I highly recommend this book and, for that matter, anything written by Gail Collins.

Female author, non-fiction, owned, 405 pgs

43wookiebender
Edited: Jan 31, 2010, 4:21am

I'm considering switching to the larger pictures for all book covers.

It can make a difference for me at home - we're on a fairly slow connection there. But that larger picture up there isn't really enormous and bandwidth-hogging, something like that is fine.

One note: if you put in a height and width on your img tag, then the images download without the browser having to readjust the text around the images (not sure if you're already doing that or not).

Eg: <img src="http://somedomain.com/yourimage.jpg" width="100" height="200" />

Makes it easier for those with slower bandwidth because the page doesn't keep on getting readjusted as the images are downloaded.

ETA: If you don't know the image dimensions, right click on it in the browser and choose "Properties".

44SouthernBluestocking
Feb 1, 2010, 3:31pm

Coolio- Thanks wookie :) Will keep my desire for bigger and better in check.

45SouthernBluestocking
Feb 1, 2010, 3:58pm

(41 BookLizard)

Aurora Floyd is from Feb 17 to Mar 3. Going to read with me? :)

46SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Apr 1, 2010, 12:58pm

February 2010

23. Barrel Fever: Stories and Essays, David Sedaris
24. The Last September, Elizabeth Bowen Book 2, Development of the Novel
25. Girl in Need of a Tourniquet: A Borderline Personality Memoir, Merri Lisa Johnson
26. Lady Audley's Secret, Mary Elizabeth Braddon Book 3, Victorian Sensation Fiction
27. Naked, David Sedaris
28. The Ordinary Princess, M. M. Kaye
29. The Maltese Manuscript, Joanne Dobson
30. The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde Book 3, Development of the Novel
31. Agnes and the Hitman, Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer
32. The Awakening, Kate Chopin Book 1, Women in Literature
33. Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague, Geraldine Brooks

Monthly Totals
Books read: 11
Pages read: 2,920
Author demographics: 3 male, 8 female
Book demographics: 2 nonfiction (both of these memoirs/essays) 9 fiction
Book origins: 10 owned, 1 bought (for school, needed a particular edition of Dorian)
Re-reads: 4: The Maltese Manuscript, Dorian Gray, Agnes and The Awakening. Of these, 2 were required for school, 2 were frivolous.

Ok, reading totals were not quite what they were in January, but, given my month, I didn't really expect them to be. I'm proud of reading some things (finally!) off Mt. TBR, primarily Year of Wonders,which I've been planning to read for quite a while. I've also decided to stop worrying so much about my fiction/nonfiction disparity, as I've noticed that much of my nonfiction reading (scholarly articles and chapters from text books) doesn't actually get recorded on LT. So I'm giving myself some leeway on the fiction addiction. :)

Skip to next month (March)

47SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Feb 3, 2010, 12:34am

23.Barrel Fever: Stories and Essays, David Sedaris

*audiobook

Male author, non-fiction, owned, 208 pgs

48BookLizard
Feb 7, 2010, 9:59pm

45> I have it checked out from the library. It's due on February 10th. If I can renew it, I'll try to read it with you.

49SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Feb 8, 2010, 9:34pm

(48:BookLizard)

Very cool :)

50SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Feb 25, 2010, 1:31am

24. The Last September, Elizabeth Bowen

Book 2 Development of the Novel
I haven't read a book that I disliked this much in ages. Had it not been an assignment, I probably would not have gotten past the first chapter. I will eventually come up with something else to say about this.

Female author, fiction, owned, 320 pgs

51SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Mar 6, 2010, 9:44pm

25. Girl in Need of a Tourniquet: A Borderline Personality Disorder, Merri Lisa Johnson

Merri Lisa Johnson is one of my professors; this semester I've been awarded a position as her research assistant. One of my initial tasks was editing the first copies of her forthcoming memoir. Amazing! I signed lots of confidentiality statements, so no more information here, but I highly recommend you pick one up when it comes out from Seal this Spring. Highly, highly, highly recommend.

Female author, non-fiction, owned, 219 pgs

52SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Feb 27, 2010, 11:26pm

26.Lady Audley's Secret, Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Book 3, Victorian Sensation Fiction

Lady Audley looks like the perfect Victorian wife: she is blonde and childlike, naively opens big blue eyes at her suitors, and, once enthroned in the manor to which she will become accustomed, manages the household beautifully. Her step-daughter (who is barely younger than she is) doesn't warm up to her, and the dogs don't particularly care for her (always an important note) but everyone else in the county things Lord Audley did very well to marry the penniless, solitary governess. Lady Audley, however, isn't quite as without family as she claims to be.

A young man, newly returned from several years on the continent and heartbroken at being greeted with his wife's grave instead of his wife, suddenly goes missing. In searching for his missing friend, Lord Audley's nephew begins to suspect that Lady Audley is not all that she seems. It seems, in fact, that she has a Secret!

I found this book interesting primarily for its complication of Victorian stereotypes: that the beautiful are not always good seems somewhat elementary, but given the stereotype that Lady Audley was filling (beautiful and good wife) the contradiction of that trope seems rather daring.

Female author, fiction, owned, 460 pgs

53wookiebender
Feb 12, 2010, 3:03am

Re: Elizabeth Bowen, it must be tough having to read literature for classes, if you're just not enjoying the book! Makes me glad to be a science graduate. :)

I'll keep my eyes open for Girl in Need of a Tourniquet!

54SouthernBluestocking
Feb 14, 2010, 6:11pm

27. Naked, David Sedaris
*audiobook

Male author, non-fiction, owned, 224 pgs

55SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Feb 25, 2010, 1:22am

28. The Ordinary Princess, M. M. Kaye

(This is the copy I own, but not the copy I remember... the remembered cover of my childhood was --as shown below-- much better)

Regardless of cover, this is one of the best kid's (and exhausted grownup's) books around. In my humble and personal. And particularly wonderful reading for a long, sleepy Valentine's Day morning.

The birth of the seventh daughter in a family of princess with impossibly golden hair and beautiful complexions is greeted with appropriate pomp. At her christening, a strange fairy aunt gives an unexpected gift: She is to be ordinary. Immediately Princess Amethyst's nose starts to turn up and her hair turns slightly darker. Eventually no one can deny that she is, indeed, ordinary.

The ok-to-be-ordinary story is wonderful for the writing (superb), illustrations (ditto), and general euphoric smiley-ness induced.

Female author, fiction, owned, 128 pgs

56SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Feb 26, 2010, 5:52am

29. The Maltese Manuscript, Joanne Dobson

**re-read**

More mayhem at Dr. Karen Pelletier's prestigious university. The library is the target: books are disappearing and a childhood friend of Karen's is hired by the university to investigate.

I love this series, but this is my least favorite book. Not sure why, but this one just doesn't work for me. I've still read it about a million times though- I can't seem to stop after a four book re-read if there are five in the series.

Female author, fiction, owned, 288 pgs

57SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Nov 15, 2010, 1:00pm

30. The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde

Book 3, Development of the Novel
**re-read (required)**

The first time I read this, at age 15, I was primarily intrigued by Dorian's depravity. I still am. I so want to know why the ladies to whom his name has been linked in the past now blush and leave the room when he enters. I mean, I understand the other part--why the young men whisper, blanche, commit suicide, whatever-- but the women? I kind of feel that, by leaving it vague, Wilde just encourages you to think of the dirtiest thing you can, and go with that. Blush inducing, but I still kind of want details--if for no other reason than just to know, ya know?

Apart from that wholly juvenile discontent with the content, it's a fabulous book. Obviously. I'm hardly the first person to note that Wilde's language is incomparably lush and gorgeous. The story, although purportedly a moralistic (or -isticish) tale (Dorian does get his comeuppance in the end) is decadent and diabolical and utterly amoral. Wonderfully so.

Male author, fiction, bought, 145 pgs

58judylou
Feb 25, 2010, 3:41am

What a lot of great titles you have been reading. So many of them are now on my tbr list.

59SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Feb 27, 2010, 11:03pm

31. Agnes and the Hitman, Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

**re-read**

This is one of my favorites by Jennifer Crusie, about whom I truly can't say enough. It's chick lit, but superb & absolutely perfect chick lit. I like pretty much everything she's written; this and the other book she wrote with Bob Meyer, Don't Look Down, are my favorites, but I've read and re-read everything she's written more times than I can count. But skip her other co-authored projects. Not outstanding. This book, however, is.

More to be added later.

Female author, fiction, owned, 412 pgs

60SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Feb 27, 2010, 7:18pm

32. The Awakening, Kate Chopin

Women in Literature

The story of Edna Pontellier's *ahem* awakening to her subjective status is well documented as one of the earlier representations of a woman's fight for autonomy. I've read this a number of times, and it is a struggle every time. I sympathize with Edna, I really do, but I don't like her. I always end with a mental eye-roll at her suicide. Like the fake Monica on Friends, who criticizes the movie Dead Poet's Society by railing against the suicidal main character's failure to stick it out and just do community theater after graduation, I tend to feel that Edna's choice is really overly dramatic.

During this reading I was struck by the luxury with which Edna is dissatisfied. I believe this is a conscious plot point: if Edna had been miserable with a cruel husband, old carpets or shabby parlor, then the reason for her misery may have been the inadequacy of her situation, not the situation itself.

I believe she is reacting against her social definition: as a woman, she is defined by her roles, not as an individual. She is a wife and mother-- not first, but wholly. There is nothing else, or rather, there is not supposed to be anything else. (Reminds me of F. Scott institutionalizing Zelda when she wants to start painting and writing instead of only being his wife and Scotty's mother--but that's another diatribe.) Edna says of her husband and children that they were part of her life, but they need not have thought that they could possess her, body and soul. This follows on the memory of a conversation in which she states that, while she would die for her children, there were things that she would not do. The complete and daily denial of self-- of any needs outside of the previously discussed roles--is what she is unable and unwilling to face. And hence, a long swim out to sea.

I believe I've talked myself, somewhat incoherently, back into liking this book.

Female author, fiction, owned, 180 pgs

61SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Mar 1, 2010, 4:15pm

33. Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague, Geraldine Brooks


Female author, fiction, owned, 336 pgs

62divinenanny
Feb 28, 2010, 6:53am

Oooh, looking foward to your review of Year of Wonders. I have People of the Book on my TBR pile, but this one is next if I like People of the Book.

63wookiebender
Feb 28, 2010, 3:08am

I haven't read People of the Book yet, but I did like Year of Wonders (even the ending, which I think a number of people disliked). Looking forward to your review, RR!

64SouthernBluestocking
Edited: May 31, 2010, 12:03am

March 2010

34. Aurora Floyd, Mary Elizabeth Braddon Book 4, Victorian Sensation Fiction
35. The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fforde
36. Lost in a Good Book, Jasper Fforde
37. Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
38. The Well of Lost Plots, Jasper Fforde
39. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum
40. The Little Black Book of Stories, A. S. Byatt
41. Something Rotten, Jasper Fforde
42. American on Purpose, Craig Ferguson
43. The Scarecrow, Michael Connelly
44. Seventh Heaven, Alice Hoffman
45. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Gregory Maguire
46. Franny and Zooey, J. D. Salinger
47. The Art of Mending, Elizabeth Berg
48. Half Moon Street, Anne Perry
49. Belgrave Square, Anne Perry
50. Sula, Toni Morrison Book 2, Women in Literature
51. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce Book 4, Development of the Novel

Monthly Totals
Books read: 18
Pages read: 5605
Author demographics: 8 women, 10 men
Book demographics: 17 fiction, 1 memoir
Book origins: Aurora Floyd and Portrait were both purchased for school, as was the anthology that Sula was in, the Anne Perry's were from the library, the rest were gifts or previously owned
Re-reads:5 total (4 Jasper Fforde's, frequent and guilty re-reads; 1 Gregory Maguire, read it in 2003)

Again, as I said in February, considering my month, definitely ok with these levels.

Skip to next month (April)

65kristenn
Mar 1, 2010, 9:17pm

>63 wookiebender: I'm in the enjoyed-it-until-the-ending camp.

66SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Mar 15, 2010, 1:28pm

34. Aurora Floyd, Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Book 4, Victorian Sensation Fiction

I loved this book. I can't deny that it started out a little slow, the first 300 pages were interesting, but not enthralling. The divergent point came when the (drum roll please) secret of Aurora's youthful indiscretion is exposed to her husband.

I've edited out most of the spoilers... initially I posted a lot of the plot here, in the assumption that no one else would ever read this book (it was somewhat difficult to read, it is one of the lesser known of a largely discredited genre, it is more than 150 years old) but I've decided my goal is to convince you to read it, not tell you the plot. So if you read my previous post, I'm very, very sorry about the spoilers. I was a little drunk when writing it. ;))

Anyways...
Aurora Floyd is the very spoiled daughter of an impossibly rich retired banker. Her mother, who was absolutely adored by her father, was an actress (Horrors!) and died shortly after Aurora's birth. As may be expected of a beloved and indulged daughter raised by a besotted father, Aurora grew up rather headstrong. All of her folly (more attention to the stables than to her books, general unladylike behavior) is overlooked until one day when a mysterious quarrel comes between Aurora and her father. Aurora is sent off to a convent-type school in France and remains away from home for a few years.

Here is where the mystery begins. When Aurora returns, her father (careworn and anxious) asks her "Is he dead?" to which Aurora replies in the affirmative. Nothing more is heard of this until the self-righteous (well, in the book he is merely horribly honorable, ugh) suitor hears a rumor about her time abroad and asks for an explanation. She asks for his trust, he refuses it, so exuent Horribly Honorable Suitor. Second String Suitor comes along, promises his trust regardless, nurses her through the rapid decline she falls into after Horribly Honorable Suitor splits, and generally wins the day.

The shadow hanging over their happy home (which really is terribly happy) is completely visible to the reader, and completely ignored by the occupants of said happy home. Eventually, of course, trouble comes a-knocking, and it is the response to said trouble is, on Aurora's part, completely typical. Happy Hubby's response, on the other hand, restored my faith in the (fictional) Victorian male. (The rest of my Victorian Sensation Fiction reading has been pretty grim. "Depart from my house and darken my existance no more, evil wench!" grim. Ugh.) I'd recommend this book solely on the atypical and wholly wonderful response of the husband to the wife's problems.

Female author, fiction, bought for the class, 504 pgs

67SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Mar 13, 2010, 4:57pm

35. The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fforde

**re-read**

Love this book/series, and find it utterly impossible to describe. I end up babbling about CHANGING THE ENDING OF JANE EYRE and people tend to shake their heads at me, (possibly unfamiliar with what an absolute travesty the original -well, original in this book- end would be) (see what I mean about babbling?)

For those of you who have thus far missed the wonder that is Jasper Fforde... Thursday Next is a Literatec, which means she polices literature. (Not polices as in censors, but polices as in arrests forgers among other things.) The place is England in the mid 1980's, but an alternate England in which the Crimean never ended, England is at war with Wales, Impressionists and Renassancites riot in the street, and literature is a ludicrously lucrative business. Next gets pulled into a man(?) hunt for Acheron Hades, her old professor and the third most dangerous man on earth. (You really don't want to know about numbers one and two.) Mr. Rochester and Jane Eyre make appearances, as does William Wordsworth, who horrifies Thursday's Uncle Mycroft by flirting with Aunt Polly, who has become trapped in one of his poems.

Throughout the course of events Thornfield gets burnt down, Thursday's peace of mind is saved by an accusation of bigamy, Martin Chuzzlewit has a really bad day, and some Japanese tourists get the experience of a life time.

Absolute fun, especially for those of us with a literary turn of mind.

Male author, fiction, owned, 384 pgs

68raideoman1
Edited: Mar 4, 2010, 9:50am

This message has been flagged by multiple users and is no longer displayed (show)
Forgotten Hollywood Forgotten History by Manny Pacheco

Tells America's story through the eyes of great Character Actors in Hollywood Golden Age including Claude Rains, Ward Bond, Walter Brennan, and Basil Rathbone

A great unique read...

69SouthernBluestocking
Mar 4, 2010, 12:39pm

Thanks for the spam, Mr. Radieoman.

70ronincats
Mar 4, 2010, 6:19pm

I was going to ask what you thought of The Eyre Affair, but then realized it was a re-read, so guess you must have liked it. I do enjoy that series!

71wookiebender
Mar 4, 2010, 11:10pm

Oh, Jasper Fforde is great fun. I've got his latest (Shades of Grey) and am looking forward to finding time to read it!

Shame about the spam.

72SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Mar 31, 2010, 4:27pm

36. Lost in a Good Book, Jasper Fforde

**re-read*

Like all of the books in this series, this resists succinct synopsis. Thursday and Landon are married, but he gets eradicated by Goliath in retaliation for the events of the previous book (The Eyre Affair). A Shakespeare play comes to light, and promises to send the upcoming elections in an undesired direction. Thursday learns to book-jump with Mrs. Havisham, assists her father in preventing the end of the world through dream-topping transformation, and prepares for the birth of her still-eradicated husband's son.

Male author, fiction, owned, 399 pgs

73SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Mar 8, 2010, 4:41pm

37. Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen


Water for Elephants is a flash-back novel. After an absolutely fabulous intro (a stampeding circus menagerie described frighteningly well), we cut to an elderly man sitting solitary in a nursing home, remembering episodes from his time with the circus.

The incongruity of the switches (from the dusty and dangerous circus world to the sterile and numbing nursing home) seemed a little depressing to me... obviously, given the format of the novel, you know that the danger is survived, but the present (the nursing home) is so awful that I wasn't really sure if I was happy about the survival. (That's a little negative--the novel just unwittingly tapped into my fears of aging and helplessness. The book really isn't about that at all. In fact, the ending is surprisingly wish-fulfilling.)

Lots of interesting themes: entrapment (in marriage, in institutions, through medications, through poverty, through disability), salvation/rescue (through personal agency and friends), abuse of power, and possiblities of power. And of course, my favorite: Bessie, the elephant, who isn't a theme, but is big enough for one. The chapter divisions had photographs of circus performers from this era, which helped in picturing circus life and performers, which seem so very strange to me.

The circus parts, the flash backs, were amazing, and, given the amount of time I've spent in nursing homes with my great-grandmother, the nursing home parts seemed pretty accurate as well.

Female author, fiction, borrowed, 331 pgs

74wookiebender
Mar 9, 2010, 5:39am

Oh, I did enjoy Water For Elephants (keep on trying to call it Like Water For Elephants, after Like Water For Chocolate). I tend to force it at any opportunity onto other unsuspecting readers as a great read.

75SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Mar 10, 2010, 3:53pm

38. The Well of Lost Plots, Jasper Fforde

**re-read**

Thursday spends her pregnancy inside The Well, helping to rework the thought-to-be-doomed book she was placed in and trying to remember... something. Granny Next and ibb and obb are interesting cohorts, and while I like the idea behind The Well of Lost Plots (plotsmiths, wordwranglers, anger management for Wuthering Heights), I miss Fforde's "real" world more: the literature-obsessed, the vampire stakers, the chronoguard.

While this is good, and often re-read by virtue of its inclusion in this series, I don't think it is quite on par with the first two. Still good though.
(Argh! Gotta stop with these re-reads!)

Male author, fiction, owned, 373 pgs

76SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Mar 10, 2010, 7:26pm

39. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum

audiobook

After reading Wicked:The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West for the third or fourth time in January, I thought I should give the original a try. I read The Patchwork Girl of Oz and Oz of Ozma several times when I was younger, but had never read this one... not particularly sure why. So many differences between this and the movie: for one thing, Oz is a real place, not a fever dream, as is implied in the movie. Uncle Henry has to build a whole new house after the tornado, as the old one is sitting in the middle Munchkinland. Also, Uncle Henry and Auntie Em are way more depressing in this book. They are dried-up, grey farmers--neither of them ever smile. Dorothy says neither of them ever smile. Wow. Talk about your inhospitable childhood. No wonder she was making friends with scarecrows.

The afterword, written by L. Frank Baum in 1900, was especially interesting. He says that the modern child needs new fairytales, ones without the heartaches and nightmares of classic fairytales, which are only included to provide a moral. Modern children, he says, are already taught morals, so they need pure entertainment.

Male author, fiction, iTunes podcast, 182 pgs

77SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Mar 11, 2010, 3:16pm

40. Little Black Book of Stories, A. S. Byatt


Amazing. Terrifying. Nightmare-inducing. Completely impossible to adequately describe. This volume is comprised of five fairy tales of novella length, but these stories are grimmer than anything the brothers Grimm offered. The characters are confused by cataclysmic wars, moved to fury at the plight of the motherless or the unwillingly mothered and grappling with the meaning of human-ness.

The Thing in the Forest is the story that compelled the purchase of this book. I opened it in the basement of a used bookstore outside of Boston, read a sentence and sat down in the floor and finished the story. Two little girls are sent away from London during the bombings, wander out for a walk in the woods at a train stop and are confronted with the terrifying side of myth.

The rest of the stories were good, but not quite as wake-you-up-in-a-cold-sweat good.

Female author, fiction, owned, 236 pgs

78wookiebender
Mar 10, 2010, 2:01am

I've got a couple of compilations of AS Byatt's stories, I wonder if either of them contain that story... if not, I may need to go hunting!

Agreed, the third Thursday Next is not my favourite, but it's still fun. And I too only read Oz after reading Wicked (and some others). But I think I'm a bad person: I liked the movie better. ;)

79jfetting
Mar 11, 2010, 7:08pm

oooh that book of stories sounds good!

80SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Mar 31, 2010, 4:35pm

41. Something Rotten, Jasper Fforde

**re-read**

Thursday is finishing up her stint as the Bellman, begun in The Well of Lost Plots. She returns to Swindon and the real world, gets her job back as a Literatec and sets about trying to get Landon uneradicated, the hostilities with Wales and Denmark negotiated, and the Swindon Croquet Hoop won.

Male author, fiction, owned, 320 pgs

81SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Mar 14, 2010, 12:35am

42. American on Purpose, Craig Ferguson


My boyfriend is a major Craig fan, and gave me this book when it came out last year. I enjoyed it, but with qualifications. The writing didn't get in the way of the story, the story moved quickly, was well planned and had many funny moments. On the whole, though, this isn't a funny book. He spends a lot of time on his descent and recovery from alcoholism-- I think I was expecting more light comedy and less Lost Weekend. There was a tone of straightforward sincerity that was--disconcerting, to say the least. (My knee jerk reaction was omg maudlin! but I'm wondering if that is just because he committed the cardinal sin of being serious.) All that to say: I have no idea how I really feel about this book. Helpful, aren't I?

Male author, non-fiction, owned, 268 pgs

82SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Mar 14, 2010, 2:35pm

43. The Scarecrow, Michael Connelly


After finishing American on Purpose, I was unsure if I wanted to spend the remainder of the day diligently composing and constructing insightful comments on The Woman in White (my homework) or continue with the laziness. I chose the latter, as this and the two remaining reviews of yesterday's books will prove. Such a slacker am I.

I like Connelly's books--I've never sought one out at the bookstore, but when they make it to my house (like American on Purpose, generally in a care package from the bf) I'm always happy to read them. Or put them on my shelf for a year till I remember that I own them again.

This book brings back the character of Jack McEvoy, the journalist from The Poet (which I think is my favorite Connelly). After losing his job at the LA Times due to budget cuts, he is told that he'll continue to get paid for two weeks if he'll train his replacement. A phone call from an irate woman on the wrong side of town about an earlier story leads to an investigation that he hopes will turn out to be a huge final scoop.

Male author, fiction, owned, 415 pgs

83SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Mar 29, 2010, 2:38pm

44. Seventh Heaven, Alice Hoffman


I love Alice Hoffman's books. I haven't read all of them, but those I've read have been lush and strange and just utterly enjoyable. That said, while I enjoyed this one, I didn't think it wasn't quite on par with some of her others. Perfectly enjoyable read; had it been by someone other than Alice Hoffman I would probably be raving about finding a new author. But with her trackrecord, this one just didn't quite keep up. Read it, just don't let this be your introduction to her works. Try Practical Magic first.

Hemlock Street is typical street in a typical suburb in the late 50's. Think Pleasantville or Stepford. When Nora Silk moves in with her two children (and without a man!) everyone is shocked and then transformed.

Female author, fiction, owned, 256 pgs

84judylou
Mar 14, 2010, 6:05am

I am a big fan of Byatt's short stories. I remember reading her little black book a while ago now. I had the same response that you did.

85SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Mar 30, 2010, 1:07am

45. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Gregory Maguire

**re-read, but has been more than 5 years, so I'm giving it a pass**

Male author, fiction, owned, 384 pgs

86SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Mar 14, 2010, 12:38am

46. Franny and Zooey, J. D. Salinger


This is my first Salinger. Shocking, eh? Wasn't allowed in the house as a child, we definitely didn't study him at my uber-conservative religious school... and when I no longer had those restraints I somehow just didn't get around to it. Until today. Wow. Completely not what I was expecting and somehow exactly what I wanted to read.

I don't quite get the obsession with mysticism that Franny and Zooey discuss... but I completely get the (possibly ever-so-slightly adolescent) dissatisfaction with the world. Great book. I feel a Salinger marathon coming on!

Male author, fiction, owned, 202 pgs

87SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Mar 29, 2010, 2:29pm

47. The Art of Mending, Elizabeth Berg


I got busy and kind of forgot that I read this until now (14 days later). It was good--kind of mindless, not one that I feel the need to keep in my personal library (the true mark of greatness) but quite enjoyable. (I don't know, I just get bored with these intensely felt, women-endlessly-pondering-events-of-two-decades-ago books. It was good, I enjoyed it while I was reading it, but seems bland in retrospect.) But I love the cover- all that beautiful fabric stacked up.

At the annual family reunion, Laura's sister tells her that their mother abused her as a child. Drama, tears, recriminations, disbelief, and finally, redemption follow.

Female author,fiction, owned, 236 pgs

88SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Mar 30, 2010, 10:08pm

48. Half Moon Street, Anne Perry


Female author, fiction, library, 320 pgs

89SouthernBluestocking
Mar 29, 2010, 12:25am

49. Belgrave Square, Anne Perry


Female author, fiction, library, 374 pgs

90SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Mar 31, 2010, 5:33pm

50. Sula, Toni Morrison

Book 2, Women in Literature

Loved this. First novel by Toni Morrison that I've read, won't be the last.

Female author, fiction, owned, 192 pgs

91SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Apr 11, 2010, 12:16pm

51. The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce

Book 4, Development of the Novel

I'll admit this wasn't an easy read, and, as it was for a class (and came at a rather stressed-out time in the semester), it wasn't a particularly enjoyable read. I'm assuming that is my/my circumstances' fault, not some previously ignored flaw in a universally well-respected work.

Final impression: Eh- I don't really want to work that hard to figure out what is going on. Can't imagine the result if I'd been assigned Ulysses!

Male author, fiction, owned, 289 pgs

92SouthernBluestocking
Edited: May 1, 2010, 2:09pm

April 2010
52. A Visitation of Spirits: A Novel, Randall Kenan Book 5, Development of the Novel
53. And Only to Deceive, Tasha Alexander
54. Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys
55. The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison

Monthly Totals
Books read: 4
Pages read: 993
Author demographics: 1 male, 3 female
Book demographics: 4 fiction
Book origins: library, bought, bought, library
Re-reads: none (!)

Skip to next month (May)

93SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Aug 28, 2010, 9:04pm

52. A Visitation of Spirits: A Novel, Randall Kenan

Book 5, Development of the Novel

Really amazing book (I say that a lot, don't I? I guess it is good that I didn't pursue a career in editing--I can find a redeeming quality in almost any book. Sadly, I'm not as lenient with people. But that's a whole different subject.) anyway- regardless of my overuse of the phrase, this was a really really amazing book. Perhaps a trifle confusing (got so much more out of it during the second read-thru) (I wrote a paper on it; my papers invariably require multiple reads of target text) but the effects of the structure of the novel on the plot make the less-than-straightforward recounting of events really worthwhile.

A teenage African-American boy is confronted with the impossibility of reconciling his sexuality with his North Carolina, small-town, religious culture.

There are monsters in the woods and monsters in the church. Not a light read, not an easy read, but highly recommended.

Male author, fiction, library, 257 pgs

94SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Sep 15, 2010, 2:20pm

53. And Only to Deceive, Tasha Alexander

A friend recommend this series after listening to me whine through an entire happy hour about how I hadn't read any really good 'just for fun' books. They were just what the *ahem* librarian ordered.

Lady Emily is an eminently respectable Victorian widow--even if she has been in mourning longer than she was actually married to her stranger of a husband. His death allows her a relatively unknown measure of freedom, which she puts to good use first by learning about her husband, then by investigating his death.

These books are incredibly well researched. Lady Emily's interest in antiquities leads to descriptions of many of the works of art that were acquired by London museums during the Victorian age--the author deftly handles presenting the view of an ancient civilization through the interest of a more recent one.
Female author, fiction, bought, 320 pgs

95SouthernBluestocking
Apr 10, 2010, 12:48pm

54. Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys


Amazing. Re-reads of Jane Eyre or The Eyre Affair won't be quite as placid as previously. Wide Sargasso Sea tells the story of Antoinette Cosway, the daughter of slaveholders in the Caribbean at the time of the liberation. How Antoinette becomes Bertha Rochester and ends up locked in Thornfield Hall... well, the writing really deserves a reading, not a slip-shod plot summary. I highly recommend.

Female author, fiction, bought (at Goodwill!), 190 pgs

96wookiebender
Apr 16, 2010, 4:48am

#51> I'm assuming that is my/my circumstances' fault, not some previously ignored flaw in a universally well-respected work.

Nah, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was just not an enjoyable read. (All that Hell! And guilt!)

97SouthernBluestocking
Edited: May 1, 2010, 1:59pm

55. The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison


Female author, fiction, library, 226 pgs

98SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Jul 4, 2010, 3:07pm

May 2010
56. A Poisoned Season, Tasha Alexander
57. Shades of Grey, Jasper Fforde
58. A Fatal Waltz, Tasha Alexander
59. Good Night, Mr. Holmes, Carole Nelson Douglas
60. Southampton Row, Anne Perry
61. Irene at Large, Carole Nelson Douglas
62. Wild Ride, Jennifer Crusie, Bob Meyer
63. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
64. Little Men, Louisa May Alcott
65. Women and Madness, Phyllis Chesler
66. Irene's Last Waltz, Carole Nelson Douglas
67. Silent in the Grave, Deanna Raybourn
68. Silent in the Sanctuary, Deanna Raybourn
69. Silent on the Moor, Deanna Raybourn
70. Poison Study, Maria V. Snyder
71. Magic Study, Maria V. Snyder
72. Fire Study, Maria V. Snyder
73. A Book of Air and Shadows, Michael Gruber
74. Incantation, Alice Hoffman
75. Blackberry Wine, Joanne Harris
76. Jamaica Inn, Daphne du Maurier
77. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley

Monthly Totals
Books read: 22
Pages read: 9,543 (highest so far in 2010)
Author demographics: 20 female, 3 male
Book demographics: 21 fiction, 1 non-fiction
Book origins: Wild Ride is the only one bought new, as to the rest, unsure. More than half were borrowed, a few I got from the library and then bought used--because I don't have enough books!--several were from Mt. TBR. (This whole method of tracking bookbuying is problematic. Since I'm not actually creating books in my home, they are actually all either bought or borrowed. Might be coming up with an alternate method of tracking this.)
Re-reads: 5 (Pretty good for me! And 2 of those, the Alcotts, were last read more than a decade ago.)

Skip to next month (June)

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Edited: Jun 1, 2010, 4:02pm

56. A Poisoned Season, Tasha Alexander

fluff. but fun fluff. Sequel to And Only to Deceive, (book 53). After Lady Emily successfully investigates her husband's death, she is presented with another odd event in society: items from the dismantled court of Louis XIV are being stolen from drawing rooms and boudoirs, while a man claiming to be the heir to the French throne is being feted throughout fashionable London. Lady Emily must determine who is behind the thefts, and later, the murders.

The plot was quite similar to one of the Pink Carnation books by Lauren Willig, but unsure which one. Regardless, great fun.

Female author, fiction, borrowed, 320 pgs

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Edited: May 8, 2010, 4:11pm

57. Shades of Grey, Jasper Fforde

Male author, fiction, library, 400 pgs

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Edited: May 8, 2010, 4:12pm

58. A Fatal Waltz, Tasha Alexander


Again- fluff, but fun fluff. And not as *ahem* fluffy as some. The history is sound, female characters are strong and well-developed, but the feminism is appropriate to the age (Victorian feminism, not third wave- often a flaw in retrospective fiction) and the mystery fairly well thought-out and developed. While I don't see Tasha Alexander becoming an absolute favorite, these books were quite enjoyable. Exactly what I needed at the end of a ridiculously difficult semester.

Female author, fiction, borrowed, 301 pgs

102SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Jun 1, 2010, 3:31pm

59. Good Night, Mr. Holmes, Carole Nelson Douglas


After watching the new Sherlock Holmes with my boyfriend several times after he bought it, I was dying to re-read these. Trouble is, apparently I sent them *gasp* to the used book store. Never should have. Stupid choice, I love and frequently re-read these. Now I have to buy them all again. (sigh).

***And I found the first two of the series at my used book store. So the world is right-ish again.***

Irene Adler, of The Scandal in Bohemia fame, is the heroine of this series by Carole Nelson Douglas. Good Night, Mr. Holmes begins several years before the events that Doyle wrote about--Douglas weaves those events into her narrative, making Adler a "real" character, not one that just has one exciting (and already known to Holmes fans) adventure. The entire series is great--Penelope, or Nell, is an engaging narrator--a somewhat prim, and wholly relateable, Watson.

I've read the entire series several times; while I enjoyed the book just as much as always, this time around I became aware of the author's habit of reusing the prim-narrator-doesn't-get-the-smut joke. While Nell is a Victorian lady and a minister's daughter, she isn't an idiot. I find it somewhat incomprehensible that she is able to assist solving mysteries, and deduct with some acuity the many different situations that she is put in, but after living with Irene and Godfrey (Irene's husband) she still is left baffled by comments that veer towards the bawdy. Of course, three adults living in a household (at least in Victorian times) would require either great freedom of conversation or a great deal of tact. Perhaps her inability to understand the comments--or at least to admit that she understands the comments--is a linguistic averting the eyes. Or possibly it is the mark of an author just overusing a gag, and I need to stop dissecting everything.

Female author, fiction, library, 420 pgs

103SouthernBluestocking
Edited: May 15, 2010, 12:02am

60. Southampton Row, Anne Perry


Female author, fiction, library, 352 pgs

104loriephillips
May 10, 2010, 7:57pm

#59 I've so done that--trade in books and then later wish I hadn't, and then buy them all over again!

I read Good Night, Mr. Holmes earlier this year and plan to read the second in the series sometime. Have you read The Seven-Percent Solution? It's a fun read too.

105SouthernBluestocking
May 11, 2010, 8:45pm

loriephillips- I haven't, but I will! sounds good. Have you read The Last Sherlock Holmes Story? Also good- about Jack the Ripper. And Michael Dibdin is always pretty sound.

106loriephillips
May 11, 2010, 2:57am

I've added The Last Sherlock Holmes Story to my wishlist! I think I saw it in the bookstore just the other day.

107SouthernBluestocking
May 15, 2010, 12:29am

61. Irene at Large, Carole Nelson Douglas


Female author, fiction, library, 416 pgs

108SouthernBluestocking
May 15, 2010, 12:37am

62. Wild Ride, Jennifer Crusie, Bob Meyer

Female author, fiction, bought, 368 pgs

109SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Jul 26, 2010, 8:57pm

63. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott


I've loved this book since I was seven. Honestly, Louisa May Alcott's occasionally rank sentimentality gets me every time: I cried at least once a chapter on this re-read. Lord.

The morality behind the book was quite a bit more evident to me this time than it was when I was younger. Not just the religion: honestly, the Pilgrim's Progress stuff doesn't really even bother me. I suppose I was most impressed by implication of the superiority of the middle and working classes over the upper class, as evidenced by Meg's temporary spoiling during her visit to her rich friends, Laurie's dire need of the "good influence" of the little (good-hearted, poor, working) women next door, Jo's eventual matrimonial choice... it seems like it would be fun to do a study of economic morality (or something) through books of this era. Can you be moral and rich when your country is at war? When the items that brand you as rich, or that make you rich, are produced by individuals you are purportedly trying to free? Interesting to mirror the sacrifices of the March family with the acquisitions of Mr. Rhett Butler. Of course, comparing fictional characters is rarely profitable. But fun, why yes!

Female author, fiction, owned, 777 pgs

110SouthernBluestocking
May 17, 2010, 12:49am

64. Little Men, Louisa May Alcott


Female author, fiction, owned, 354 pgs

111SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Sep 1, 2010, 1:50pm

65.Women and Madness, Phyllis Chesler


Female author, nonfiction, bought, 352 pgs

112SouthernBluestocking
Edited: May 20, 2010, 12:49am

66. Irene's Last Waltz, Carole Nelson Douglas


Female author, fiction, library, 480 pgs

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Edited: May 24, 2010, 1:07am

67. Silent in the Grave, Deanna Raybourn


I read these really fast, so the trilogy is getting one review. I'm not sure if these are mysteries or romances--various book vendors have them categorized differently. Very enjoyable reads- I borrowed them from a friend, and I'll undoubtedly order the series.

The heroine is seriously lifted straight from Tasha Alexander's books (books 53, 56 and 58 this year). Victorian widow, newly liberated situation allows for her investigation of her husband's death, then other odd situations in society. I believe Ms. Raybourn and I share a deep and abiding love for Wuthering Heights: her hero is Heathcliff with a moral code, which made the books quite fun.

I thought the mystery rather well done--I had absolutely no idea what was happening until the final pages. The romance element is a bit stronger in the Raybourn books than in the Tasha Alexander books, not because anything actually happens (it's not that kind of book- not that there is anything wrong with that) but because the *ahem* tension is a bit more evident.
Female author, fiction, borrowed, 512 pgs

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Edited: May 22, 2010, 4:50pm

68. Silent in the Sanctuary, Deanna Raybourn


Female author, fiction, borrowed, 552 pgs

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Edited: May 22, 2010, 4:54pm

69. Silent on the Moor, Deanna Raybourn


Female author, fiction, borrowed, 480 pgs

116SouthernBluestocking
May 24, 2010, 12:45am

70. Poison Study, Maria V. Snyder


Fantasy/fluff, but super fun. In the first book, Yelena, a convicted murderer, is given the opportunity to be the Commander's food-taster, a job that could kill her at any moment. In the first of this trilogy, she learns about poison, betrayal, sacrifice, and love. (Ok, that was super cheesy. The book is good though. Perhaps a trifle mindless... but fun, nonetheless.)

Female author, fiction, borrowed, 440 pgs

117SouthernBluestocking
Edited: May 24, 2010, 1:04am

71. Magic Study, Maria V. Snyder


Second installment: Yelena (thought to be an orphan in the first book) reconnects with her family, members of the flamboyant country to the south, while learning more about her magic. Hero still shows up occasionally to save the day (which rankles a bit) but Yelena is strong, independent and very much in control of most situations. Seems to be an equal pairing, not a wilting damsel in distress. It isn't up to me to judge author's feminist qualities, but if it were, I'd give Ms. Snyder an A. Also, major props for a transgendered good character. Good stuff.

Female author, fiction, borrowed, 400 pgs

118SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Aug 28, 2010, 8:50pm

72. Fire Study, Maria V. Snyder


Third and final installment of this series (though in looking for the picture I found a spin-off series by the same author, about one of the minor characters. Looking forward to reading Sea Glass and Storm Glass. Some time. Not tonight.)

Anyway, while Yelena has been learning to use and control her magic in Sitia, a rouge rogue clan has begun using the blood rites again. To save the souls of the ones taken, Yelena has to trust her magic, a difficult task when every soul finder in recorded history has been corrupted by lust for power.

As a whole, the trilogy was good. Not one I must own and revisit at my leisure, but I'm glad I read it. Must trust my friends more when they say a book is good.

Female author, fiction, borrowed, 448 pgs

119Aerrin99
May 25, 2010, 1:19pm

Yay! I just read that trilogy a few months ago and my thoughts are much in line with your own. I quite enjoyed Yelena as a heroine (especially in the first book) and generally found them to be really solid, enjoyable fun. I'd recommend them to my fantasy-loving teen cousins without hesitation!

120SouthernBluestocking
Edited: May 27, 2010, 8:18pm

73. The Book of Air and Shadows, Michael Gruber


Eh, on the up side, I read this in pretty much one marathon gulp--so that, I suppose, says something about it. I think I've just read too many of these books: the search for the lost artifact of the book world, culminating, shockingly, in violence and mayhem for which our intrepid hero (usually a professor, possibly a used book salesman--something eminently relatable to the bookophiles who are willing to read such a tome) conquers the bad guys by quickwittedness. I might be a little harsh, but I feel like I've read this book, and better, before. Perhaps because that structure appeals to me (Possession, The Club Dumas, The Thirteenth Tale...I'm quite sure I have at least 20 more books on my shelves that fit this rubric. Of course, if you expand the plot a little, it is just a David and Goliath story set in book world. With sprinklings of the past thrown in to keep our inner nerd happy.)

The mystery was a trifle trite: I cared less about the lost Shakespeare play than the relationships. I liked the idea of using an IP lawyer as one of the protagonists, and the musings of the second protagonist about media's creation of society was insightful. (Of course, it is also Harold Bloom's insight--a book on a Shakespeare play should at least reference ripping of his Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. And it could have been done in a way to make it seem more homage than rip off. )

The set up was a little confusing: the two protagonists mentioned above tell their sides of the story in first person, these chapters are interspersed with pages from the text that they are trying to decipher. It was supposed to have been written in the early 17th century, so it is possible to decipher, but I'd have appreciated a foot note or something saying that Professor Such-and- such had normalized the spelling and grammar, but hadn't changed the substance or something.

On the whole, I was underwhelmed. But I still finished it, pretty much in one sitting, so perhaps I'm just grumpy because I skipped lunch.

Male author, fiction, bought (Goodwill), 466

121loriephillips
May 27, 2010, 8:24pm

I've had The Book of Air and Shadows on my TBR pile for a very long time. I've not read it yet because I was worried it would be just as you describe it! I agree that there are a lot of similar books out there, and I'm just not sure I want to read another one. Thanks for the review. I think this one will be staying on the TBR pile for a little longer or maybe I'll just trade it for something that calls to me more than this one.

122SouthernBluestocking
Edited: May 27, 2010, 10:02pm

74. Incantation, Alice Hoffman


The Spanish Inquisition comes to Estrella's town with a massive burning of the religious and medicinal books found in the Jewish ghetto. Then church members begin accusing other church members of being secretly Jewish, false converts of the last sweep of the Inquisition, nearly a century ago.

Alice Hoffman is one of my favorite authors, and while I knew she had written some YA titles, I hadn't read one. It was good- it lacked a little of what I think of as her "flavor" (I love her magic-in-a-small-town, strong-sisterhood thing.) I kind of wish Hoffman had broadened the perspective a bit. The entire story is told in first person from the viewpoint of a 16 year old girl; I wish the strong grandmother, the beautiful mother, and the treacherous and heartbroken best friend had been given a voice as well.

Female author, fiction, bought (Goodwill), 166 pgs

123SouthernBluestocking
May 27, 2010, 10:12pm

121: loriephilipps- Glad to help! It isn't horrible, not even the worst I've read this year (*ahem* Elizabeth Bowen *ahem*) but there are just so many really good books I haven't read yet that I hate to waste the time on the tending-towards mediocre ones.

124SouthernBluestocking
Edited: May 31, 2010, 12:02am

75. Blackberry Wine, Joanne Harris


Female author, fiction, owned, 357 pgs

125SouthernBluestocking
Edited: May 30, 2010, 10:13am

76. Jamaica Inn, Daphne Du Maurier


I always cite Daphne Du Maurier as one of my favorite authors, but always forget the state her books get me in. The suspense in her books has a nightmarish quality that always affects me: The House on the Strand scared the pants off of me, and it isn't really even a scary book...something about how she paints the atmosphere of Cornwall. Jamaica Inn affected me in similar manner. (I really didn't mean to finish this book at 6 am... but sleep was stubbornly inaccessible. Damn you Daphne!!)

That said, quite a good read. After her mother's death, Mary Yellan travels to Cornwall to live with her aunt and uncle at Jamaica Inn. The aunt she met ten years ago seemed like a glittering butterfly; she is now practically an imbecile, with darting eyes, fretfully working hands and a stammering, gibberish fear of her mountain of a husband, Joss Merlyn. Although his treatment of her aunt would be sufficient reason to distrust her uncle, Mary soon realizes that he is guilty of many other things. *insert scary organ chords*

There is, of course, a romance. Didn't so much care for the pairing: while he seemed a romantic character, I didn't see any foundation there for any sort of lasting relationship... I'm sounding my age. My sixteen-year-old self would have loved this. My almost-twice-that self thinks she gave up too much of herself to be with him. Had his character been a little more developed (losing, of course, that lovely mysterious quality) I think I'd have been easier about the end; as it is, I feel like a kindly old lady wringing her hands at the shotgun wedding. Maybe I should re-read Wuthering Heights and restore my belief in romance. (That was a joke.) (Never mind.) (I'm done now.)

Female author, fiction, owned, 304 pgs

126SouthernBluestocking
Edited: May 31, 2010, 11:59pm

77. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley


This is a bit too vast for me to have anything to say about the novel in its entirety. I enjoyed it, but I wasn't completely entranced--I finished it in a gulp mainly because I feared that if I put it down I wouldn't pick it back up. That said, I did enjoy it.

I knew it was a retelling of the Arthurian legends from the female perspective (I hesitate to call it feminist... I need to think on that a bit), I liked the Goddess religion versus the Christian religion conceit, but for all the supposed talk of the sisterhood (of both religions) it seemed that the women couldn't go ten minutes without fighting. Of course, the men didn't really go ten minutes without fighting either, I suppose it was just a tumultuous time.

This has nothing to do with the book as a whole, but the description of Pellinore's dragon matches A. S. Byatt's short story "The Thing in the Forest," included in her book Little Black Book of Stories (which was book number 40 this year.) Not sure if the atypical description (a worm that oozes an acid-like substance) is rooted in some legend that a quick Google search wouldn't reveal, or if Byatt was just referencing this book. Either way, it was quite an interesting intersection.

Female author, fiction, owned, 881 pgs

127SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Aug 31, 2010, 11:46pm

June 2010
78. Over Sea, Under Stone, Susan Cooper
79. Comfort Women Speak: Testimony by Sex Slaves of the Japanese Military, Sangmie Choi Schellstede
80. Kickboxing Geishas: How Modern Japanese Women Are Changing Their Nation, Veronica Chambers
81. The Bells of Nagasaki, Takashi Nagai
82. Mirror, Mirror, Gregory Maguire
83. Tears of Pearl, Tasha Alexander
84. The Girl Sleuth: A Feminist Guide, Bobbie Ann Mason
85. The Borrowers, Mary Norton
86. Kitchen, Banana Yoshimoto
87. The Dream of Perpetual Motion, Dexter Palmer
88. Hiroshima, John Hersey

Monthly Totals
Books read: 11
Pages read: 2338
Author demographics: 7 women, 4 men
Book demographics: 6 fiction, 5 nonfiction
Book origins: nothing bought; owned, library, or from the b-friend
Re-reads: 3, but none of my frequent rereads

Skip to next month (July)

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Edited: Jun 1, 2010, 4:46pm

78. Over Sea, Under Stone, Susan Cooper


Female author, fiction, owned, 243 pgs

129SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Jun 5, 2010, 6:19pm

79. Comfort Women Speak: Testimony by Sex Slaves of the Japanese Military, Sangmie Choi Schellstede


Quick, but incredibly disturbing, read. Nineteen Korean women recount their experiences as "comfort women" in WW2 Japan. Kidnapped or fooled into thinking they were traveling for a well-paid factory job, between 100,000 and 200,000 women were taken from their homes and transported to various army locations, where they were forced to provide "comfort" for the troops. Horrifying stories recounted. Every woman's testimony agreed that they serviced between 50 and 80 soldiers a day. These women, the ones that survived, are the exceptions--most of their fellow victims were beaten to death, succumbed to botched abortions or to venereal disease.

The book was published in 2000, so most of the memories are half a century old. The memories are so ancient that the stories have almost a stoic, unemotional quality: the rage and pain is so basic, so foundational to the women's lives, that it seems that it barely needs expression. I'm sure that this quality is heightened by the translations, from oral testimony in Korean, to transcript, to English. The flat retellings are more haunting than if the women raged and ranted.

This is not the book that I was planning to read. I'm preparing for a trip to Japan in August; I'm in the process of creating an independent study that will be looking at women in Japan, Japanese feminism, feminism in the nuclear age... something. Still formulating, as I'm sure the rest of the summer's reading will show. In my complete ignorance about Japanese history, I assumed that Japanese comfort women were, indeed Japanese women, not women exploited by the Japanese. As such, this book didn't really challenge my (regrettably) narrow views about Japan during this era. It's so easy to forget that my "take" on history is probably more influenced by war movies (made by postwar Americans to justify our involvement in the war and to memorialize the fallen) than by actual history. I'm not looking for revisionist history; war-time atrocities are well documented. However, I hope future reading choices will challenge and complicate, not reinforce, my good guys/bad guys assumptions.

Female authors, nonfiction, library, 154 pgs

130SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Jun 5, 2010, 4:53pm

80. Kickboxing Geishas: How Modern Japanese Women Are Changing Their Culture, Veronica Chambers


This was a quick, engaging read, and a good place to start my Japan/feminism/whatever it is study. The bulk of the book was comprised of interviews with women who are resisting the "submissive Japanese woman" label (not my words). These women, some entrepreneurs, a few in high-ranking positions in Japanese companies, some highly educated and "opting out", represent a change from the previous generation's salaryman and housewife couples. (A salaryman is one who works his entire life for one company, often upwards of 14 hours a day; he is compensated with a great salary and pension. ...No, it doesn't seem worth it to me either.)

The title, while catchy, really didn't have anything to do with the subject--I believe she merely meant it to represent a combination of the old and the new, but there were no actual kickboxing geishas (yes, I was disappointed.) If I had turned in a paper on modern Japanese feminism, titled similarly, it would have come back with a large red question mark and a scrawl: "avoid cute!"

While this is a rather minor problem with the book, I think it is indicative of a larger one. The tone was simple and fresh at first, but became a trifle annoying: I think in her effort to keep the book reader-friendly (read: hip--she talks a lot about her favorite music and movies, it kind of felt like she was trying to prove how cool she is), the author has lost all credibility as an outside observer of the culture. She's trying to present herself as somewhere between an academic and a tourist, instead it is just rather awkward. As such, I've downgraded this from an "academic" read to more of a memoir/travelogue. Seriously, subtitle should have been "this was my trip to Japan!", not something implying she was qualified to take on the whole of Japanese feminism.

That said, I didn't hate the book. I didn't particularly like the author (you may have noticed from the above) but her material was interesting, some of her insights were, well, insightful, and her knowledge of modern Japanese feminism, although at times was rather shallow, is definitely more than mine. The book was helpful, but probably won't be cited as an academic source in future papers of mine. If I were a star-giving kind of girl, I'd probably give it 3.

Female author, nonfiction, library, 276 pgs

Totally unconnected to the above, but I'm pretty psyched about hitting 80 books in June. Last year I was also part of the 100 books in a year challenge, but hit 80 at the end of the year. This feels like an improvement, and a good point to make some changes in my reading. I read a lot of crap. As much as I planned to cut back on the re-reads, I think I've re-read at least one of my favorite series each month: Joanne Dobson, Madeline L'Engle, Jasper Fforde, Carole Nelson Douglas! I'd like to change that, but am all too aware of my propensity to grab the favorites after a bad day. I'd like to move some of Mt. TBR to the favorites category, which will never happen if I keep re-reading. So here's hoping!

131SouthernBluestocking
Jun 5, 2010, 7:12pm

81. The Bells of Nagasaki, Takashi Nagai


Horrible and amazing. Dr. Nagai was a professor of radiology at the University of Nagasaki. The few survivors of the blast worked tirelessly over the next few hours, days, then months to bury the dead, help the survivors, and begin to think about life again. This book was written a year after the blast, as Dr. Nagai was dying of leukemia, which he contracted during his radiology research before the blast, but which was vastly exacerbated by the radiation. He documents the stages of the bomb: the initial blast, the radiation, the fallout, the radiation sickness... completely horrific. Feeling rather ashamed of my country today.

Male author, nonfiction, library, 118 pgs

132SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Jun 6, 2010, 10:29pm

82. Mirror, Mirror, Gregory Maguire


Gregory Maguire sets this retelling of Snow White in early sixteenth century Italy. Pope Alexander IV's two children, Lucretia and Cesare Borgia, visit Don Vicente de Nevada at Montefiore, his castille far above the hills of Umbria and Tuscany. They demand that he retrieve an invaluable icon, a relic of the original Tree of Knowledge, and in return they promise not to sack his home. Without choice in the matter, he reluctantly leaves on the indefinite quest, with the ominous promise of Lucretia Borgia to "look in on his little daughter, Bianca" ringing in his ears.

Stage set: loving father away, wicked witch in power, trauma and drama ensue.

Male author, fiction, library, 278 pgs

133jfetting
Jun 6, 2010, 10:26pm

Have you ever read Hiroshima by John Hersey? I had a very similar not-so-proud-to-be-an-American feeling after reading that. The effects on the population were horrifying. I'll be adding the Nagasaki book to my TBR pile.

134SouthernBluestocking
Jun 6, 2010, 10:29pm

re: 133--Not yet, but it's on the required reading list for my Japan trip, so I'll be reading it soon. Looking forward, with trepidation, to reading it.

135SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Jun 7, 2010, 1:46pm

83. Tears of Pearl, Tasha Alexander


The fourth and latest of the Lady Emily books by Tasha Alexander. I'm having trouble pinpointing my dissatisfaction with this novel, and I'm afraid I can't adequately describe it without spoilers.

While on their honeymoon in Turkey, Lady Emily and her new husband, Colin Hargreaves, are attending an opera at Topkapi Palace when a harem girl is found strangled on the grounds. Her death is soon linked to the disappearance of the British ambassador's young daughter, some twenty years ago.

The plight of the girl who wanted so desperately to escape from the harem was rather disturbing. While I didn't trust her for a second, and was half convinced that she was involved in a plot to discredit Lady Emily, the resolution of her story was quite unsatisfactory. And the conclusion of the Lady Emily part of the story was quite a downer. Not a problem in "serious literature," but unexpected (and unwelcome) in this sort of novel.

Still, it was well written and well researched, just, by me, not well received.

Female author, fiction, borrowed, 306 pgs

136wookiebender
Jun 7, 2010, 1:36am

Congratulations on the 80 (well, 83 now!) books!

Good luck in your goal to read more of Mt TBR, as well. I read a lot of Mt TBR, so much so that I miss some old favourites as I never really feel I have time to re-read anything.

There must be a better balance!

137SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Jun 11, 2010, 3:00pm

84. The Girl Sleuth: A Feminist Guide, Bobbie Ann Mason


Major memory lane travel today. Mason's book, published in 1975, looks at girl's series books from the thirties and forties through a distinctly second wave feminist lens. The book is dated, but has some good insights into the books about Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and the Bobbsey twins.

I've read two series lately about Victorian widows: the Tasha Alexander books and the Deanna Raybourn books. In each of those series, the young wife is given an unprecedented amount of freedom after the death of her husband. Their (relatively) unique situations allow them to have adventures and solve mysteries. After reading The Girl Sleuth, Lady Emily seems a (much more likable) grown-up version of Nancy Drew. The girl sleuths are allowed a unique position of freedom--they are not children, (and their mothers are either dead or nearly invisible) so they have few restrictions on their freedom. And they are not yet adult women, so they are not yet required to play backup for husbands and children. Also, except in the case of Trixie Belden, they are ridiculously privileged: Ms. Mason goes on for an entire chapter about the closed-gate type society that enfolds and protects Nancy.

"Cool Nancy Drew figures it is better to be locked in the timeless role of girl sleuth--forever young, forever tops, above sex, above marriage--an inspiring symbol of freedom. ...She always has it both ways--protected and free. She is an eternal girl, a stage which is a false ideal for women in our time. Nancy's adventures take place outside time and space. Her task is to restore a crumbling place to a past and perfect order. (p. 75)

Ms. Mason had an interesting insight about the function of the attic in the "girl sleuth" books. She says:
"One important motif in girls' fiction is the attic--a place for girls to weep and dream and read precious letters. Jo March scribbles stories in her garret and Nancy finds treasures. Boys act out their fantasies in the outside world, but girls retreat from their regular roles in the kitchen and parlor and contemplate their secret longings. Whenever a girl sleuth encounters an attic in someone's house she immediately trots out old trunks full of photo albums, costumes, and clues. (p. 78)

I'm reading (off and on, it is very long) The Madwoman in the Attic; I'm formulating and theorizing (love the conference-speak) something about women and attics and domesticity and gendered spheres... or something.

This was a quick read, and an enjoyable one, although I think it showed its age a bit. I was an odd child; I read books from the 30's during my childhood in the late 80's (my parents were strict--those floozy Wakefield twins weren't allowed in the house, and the Babysitter's Club? Ha!) I think this book probably wouldn't have meant a thing to most of my contemporaries, but it worked for me.

Female author, nonfiction, bought this year, 143 pgs

138wookiebender
Jun 10, 2010, 1:24am

Oh, I have fond memories of Nancy Drew, too! Sounds like an interesting book, it'd be good to get an overview of the girl detective genre.

139SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Jun 11, 2010, 3:12pm

85. The Borrowers, Mary Norton


Love. And wow, Arrietty had a lot of gates keeping her in her prescribed role.

***
Have been thinking more about The Borrowers from a feminist perspective. I think you could argue that it has a rather subversive tone--Arrietty is constantly threatened with the possible repercussions of being seen. Safety is being invisible, remaining within the boundaries, not being greedy or wanting too much. However, Arrietty successfully transgresses those rules, and makes friends with (gasp!) a boy. Not only a boy, but a boy OUTSIDE. (Gender AND domestic sphere transgression!) Of course, boy then gets to play hero and rescue Arrietty and family, but the narrative doesn't punish Arrietty for breaking the rules. The narrative punishes Homily (is that her name? Arrietty's mother) for greed: when the teacup is broken, she pushes Pod to get her a new one. Of course, the child rejecting parental authority is kind of a classic theme of adolescence, but I think the gender stuff puts an interesting spin. And now I'm thinking of a whole Marxist/feminist reading of the series.

Female author, fiction, library, 180 pgs

140SouthernBluestocking
Jun 10, 2010, 2:47am

re: 138

Wookie- it was interesting-- as I said, a tad dated, but she was clearly very informed about her subject. (I think she's read more than me! Horrors!) I think Nancy Drew aficionados would definitely appreciate. :)

141jfetting
Jun 11, 2010, 12:22pm

The Borrowers! A total childhood favorite - I still blame them for misplaced pens, notepads, stamps, sunglasses, flash drives, etc etc.

142SouthernBluestocking
Jun 11, 2010, 3:04pm

re: 141

Favorite of mine too! My friends and I recently had a rather rambling conversation trying to explain this series to the poor benighted soul that hadn't read them as a child. (Drinks were involved--I think we failed miserably to properly convey the glory that is under the floorboards.) I think my favorite is The Borrowers Aloft...is that the one where they live for a time in the model village? I may need to re-read the series in its entirety!

143jfetting
Jun 11, 2010, 3:53pm

I liked the one where they lived in a shoe in a field. I don't remember which it was anymore.

144SouthernBluestocking
Jun 12, 2010, 3:07pm

86. Kitchen, Banana Yoshimoto


This was an amazing read...and one that I realized about three pages in that I'd read before. Finished it anyway, it was short, and the language is absolutely beautiful. (I realize that may have more to do with the translator, but still, gorgeously written.) All of the characters in the two stories, Kitchen and Moonlight Shadow, are dealing with grief in atypical ways.

*** more to follow***
Female author, fiction, library, 150 pgs

145SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Jun 17, 2010, 1:38pm

87. The Dream of Perpetual Motion, Dexter Palmer


Wow.

Male author, fiction, library, 338 pgs

146clif_hiker
Jun 12, 2010, 3:18pm

131 & 133; concerning the horrifying effects on the Japanese population... I'm not any kind of apologist for the Truman admin dropping two atomic bombs on Japan; but consider the effects on the population of Japan had we been forced to invade the islands (google the battle for Okinawa sometime). So far as we knew, they were going to fight, kamikazi-style, down to the last man, woman and child.

Truly there was no good solution to winning that war.

147jfetting
Jun 12, 2010, 4:10pm

No, you're right kcs, there was no good solution. I would hate to have been Truman, having to make a decision like that.

148SouthernBluestocking
Jun 13, 2010, 1:00pm

I very much agree that it would have been a terrible decision to have to make.

149SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Jun 27, 2010, 10:43pm

88.Hiroshima, John Hersey


Male author, nonfiction, gift, 152 pgs

150clif_hiker
Jun 27, 2010, 12:06pm

151seekingflight
Edited: Aug 7, 2010, 12:15am

Hi ravenous.reader,

Just dropping in to catch up on your reviews - always interesting reading in their own right. I particularly enjoyed your comments on Little Women and The Girl Sleuth.

I also have an interest in Japan, so I've also been following your Japan related reading with interest.

Re: 79 - A number of years ago, I read Twenty-four Eyes by Sakae Tsuboi, a story that follows a Japanese schoolteacher through the war years, showing the repercussions of the war on the small town where she taught, and her students. It gave me a new empathy for ordinary Japanese people caught up in a war they themselves had never wanted.

The Wages of Guilt and Embracing Defeat also talk about war guilt and memories of the war in Japan. They've been sitting on Mt TBR for many years now, although I've always thought they'd make fascinating reading.

152SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Aug 31, 2010, 1:06am

July 2010
Sorry, move along. Nothing to see here. Vacation, houseguests, and preparation for Japan trip provided time for occasional light reading, but no completed books.

Skip to next month (August) I know, not a great leap. But in the interests of uniformity...

153SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Oct 3, 2010, 12:37am

August 2010

89. Living with the Bomb: American and Japanese Cultural Conflict in the Nuclear Age, Lauren Hein and Mark Selden
90. Greenwitch, Susan Cooper
91. The Preservationist, David Maine
92. The Book of Three, alexanderlloydlloyda::Lloyd Alexander
93. Life of Pi, Yann Martell
94. Thrones, Dominions, Dorothy L. Sayers, Jill Paton Walsh
95. Busman's Honeymoon, Dorothy L. Sayers
96. Whose Body?, Dorothy L. Sayers
97. Cloud of Witnesses, Dorothy L. Sayers
98. Unnatural Death, Dorothy L. Sayers

Monthly Totals
Books read: 10
Pages read: 2629
Author demographics: 7 women, 4 men
Book demographics: 9 fiction, 1 nonfiction
Book origins: nothing bought; owned, library, or from the b-friend

Skip to next month (September)

154SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Sep 16, 2010, 4:11pm

89. Living with the Bomb: American and Japanese Cultural Conflict in the Nuclear Age, Lauren Hein and Marc Selden



Male author, female author, nonfiction, gift, 310 pgs

155SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Sep 16, 2010, 4:10pm

90. Greenwitch, Susan Cooper

This is the third book in Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series. I've always chosen the second book, The Dark is Rising, as my favorite- it is such a wonderful late November book, all of that old magic among the snow muffled New England lanes... Love that book, need to re-read it. Anyway, I've always thought that was my favorite, but the recent, completely random, re-read of Greenwitch may have changed my mind.

The protagonist in Greenwitch is Jane Drew, who played a relatively minor role in the first book of the series, Over Sea, Under Stone. In the first book, her brothers, Simon and Barney Drew, seem to enjoy most of the action, while Jane just dithers a lot. (I need to re-read that one too... I remember being underwhelmed with Jane's role, but would need to review for particulars.)

Anyway, the third book allows her to have a rather central role. She is allowed to attend the strictly female ritual of the making of the Greenwitch, a Cornish tradition, giving her the needed insight into the character of the oddly personified Greenwitch. Of course, she saves the day performing to gender type--by becoming the caretaker and attempting to manage the emotions of those around her before herself... but even though she is acting through those stereotypical tropes, she still is allowed to act. Still, she acts primarily through a dream, enjoyed in the enclosed safety of her bedroom (can we say domestic sphere?) but still.... (clearly, I'm torn.)

On a side note, (speaking of domestic spheres, as I so often am) I found it interesting the detail that was gone into in the description of Jane's room... and the similarly detailed description of her view. Gave me ideas of an entire research project looking at the overly described adolescent female abode in literature--and the portrayed view of her world. Not sure if it will come of anything, but might provide an interesting aside in some future paper. Or just fun things to look for in future books.

Female author, fiction, owned, 131 pgs

156SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Sep 16, 2010, 4:09pm

91. The Preservationist, David Maine

Male author, fiction, owned, 230 pgs

157SouthernBluestocking
Aug 23, 2010, 7:35pm

92. The Book of Three, Lloyd Alexander
Male author, fiction, owned, 129 pgs

158SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Sep 16, 2010, 4:08pm

93. Life of Pi, Yann Martell


I read the introduction to this book as I was ruthlessly editing my books. Instead of putting it in the used-book-store stack, I sat down and read it in one long wonderful Saturday morning gulp. Fabulous book- I'm not sure if I believe the human or the animal story, but highly recommended.

Male author, fiction, owned, 319 pgs

159SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Aug 29, 2010, 1:17pm

94. Thrones, Dominions, Dorothy Sayers, Jill Paton Walsh

I've had this book for ages, and I think I've read it before, but it's been a long time and I don't really recall it. Clearly, it made a huge impression on me.

The re-read, on the whole, was good. I was a little *snob alert* concerned about a contemporary author "finishing" a novel that Dorothy Sayers abandoned some 80 years ago. I think that is always such a very problematic proposition: not only is the contemporary author supposed write "like" some one else, but also in the voice of another time. Generally the result is unintentionally and unwelcomely comic. Also I'm rather a rabid Sayers fan, and was concerned that the characters I so love would be reduced to caricatures.

It was a justified fear, Lord Peter seems a little more nervy than I remember from the "real" books, but Harriet seems correct. (Of course, Sayers was always better at drawing Wimsey than Harriet, so the change would be more apparent in him.)

I found the mutterings about Germany to be rather annoyingly prescient. Had the book actually been completed in 1936 or whenever, then it would be an interesting point of research. Since it was completed in 1996, all the dialogic rumblings about fears of the German government seem a little bit like saying that you knew it all along, way after the event. Of course, the book is set in 1936, Hitler occupied the Rhineland in 1936- to ignore the events completely, given that Peter is supposed to be so closely connected to the Foreign Office, might also be read as false, but I thought the painting of the political climate a little heavy-handed.

Of course, I didn't read it for the political climate--I read it for the Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane story. If you haven't read these books, move them up on your TBR pile. Start with Strong Poison, Harriet Vane is introduced in that one. While I enjoy, strictly as a mental exercise, the non-Vane Wimsey books, I don't love them, and actually rank them around the Poirot books. I think Dame Agatha is great on the plots- so twisty! So turny! But Sayers is so much better on relationships and dialogue. Seriously. Peter and Harriet are my favorite literary couple, bar none. Including Austen and Crusie. That is insanely high praise.

They are so appealing because they are so intensely aware of the other's self-hood. I love the portrayal of an intelligent woman actually considering the drawbacks of marriage to a wealthy man. The drain on her time, on her career, on her individuality, on her alone time… she actually considers these--at length. She respects her own mind, and doesn't want to tie it, herself, to a relationship that would keep her from developing fully.

So many books--actually, almost all books, show marriage as the ultimate prize for women. This is why there is no tradition of a female quest or bildungsroman- the only possible acceptable end for a woman's story is safely wed. If the female develops too much individuality or character (the development of the character is where the action in both of those types of books comes from), she won't be able to adequately fit into her husband's world. (Sorry, I get a little rant-y about this topic. I'm stopping now. With great reluctance.)

This is why I love these books. These actually show the struggle--that there is a possibility of loving someone, even a good, non-abusive, understanding someone, but fearing that a relationship will take away something integral to self. Of course, I'm as glad as anyone when Harriet finally says yes in Gaudy Night, but I love that Sayers addresses the problem of self-hood and relationships so centrally in her "couple" books.

This began as a review of Thrones, Dominions, and turned into something completely different. Thrones, Dominions occurs a few months after their marriage. A beautiful society woman is found dead by her devastated husband, both Lord Peter and Harriet knew the couple, so Peter starts asking questions. Sayers is always a little heavy on the outside narrators--the first 30 pgs Busman's Honeymoon is told through letters circulating through Society just before and after the wedding--but Thrones, Dominions uses that device more than her other books. Primarily we are given access to the dead wife's boudoir, and limited entre into her mind and that of her husband. Their relationship (which is famously romantic, very passionate , but a little strained during the day) is contrasted with the relationship of Peter and Harriet, which is much more restrained in public, but presented as equally passionate, but also affectionate and friendly.

I highly recommend all of these books. (Just in case you didn't get that hint from all of the previous.)

Female authors, fiction, owned, 322 pgs

160SouthernBluestocking
Aug 29, 2010, 9:08pm

95. Busman's Honeymoon, Dorothy L. Sayers

I believe I outlined all that I love about these books in the previous, much-too-verbose review, so I'll be brief.

Busman's Honeymoon is vintage Sayers, with no noodling about by contemporary authors. It begins with the marriage of Harriet and Lord Peter, agreed to in the final pages of Gaudy Night, and immediately progresses, with them, to their intended honeymoon spot: an ancient house in the county in which Harriet was raised, which Peter bought for her as a wedding gift. Due to the secrecy of the wedding and the honeymoon plans, the sale of the house was necessarily completed by correspondence. Upon arrival, none of the expected arrangements had been made; it appeared that the previous owner just locked the door and left, leaving his possessions and last night's dinner upon the table.

After a bit of comedic confusion, a niece of the owner is found, the house is unlocked, Bunter quickly and quietly clears out the detritus and Peter and Harriet begin their honeymoon.

The body of the previous owner is found in the cellar the next day, and all hell, and years of corroded soot, break loose.

Female author, fiction, owned, 403 pgs

161SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Aug 29, 2010, 11:34pm

With regard to my comment about the multiplicity of narrators common in the Sayers tradition:
I am reading, slowly, the most fascinating book: Conundrums for the Long Weekend, England, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Lord Peter Wimsey. I say slowly, although I only began it a few hours ago, after reading the first chapter I've been inspired to re-read the series in conjunction with the book... so it's going to be a bit of a project. Anyway, in the introduction, the authors discuss the beginning of modernity in conjunction with the end of The Great War--apparently the many narrators is her nod to the explosion of the unified self which was being explored by modernist writers such as Joyce and Woolf. By giving us a multiplicity of viewpoints, through letters most obviously, but also through shifting dialogue, she nods to the modernist writers, but by keeping it accessible (no stream of consciousness and the narrator is generally identifiable) she keeps her middle class audience happy. I love getting additional insight into my books- and I'm kicking myself that I didn't ask Why? after pointing out that she uses so many speakers.

162SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Sep 4, 2010, 9:40pm

96. Whose Body?, Dorothy L. Sayers

Female author, fiction, owned, 212 pgs

163wookiebender
Aug 29, 2010, 3:50am

Consider Strong Poison on my wishlist. :)

164SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Aug 30, 2010, 2:00am

97. Cloud of Witnesses, Dorothy L. Sayers

Female author, fiction, library, 288 pgs

165SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Sep 16, 2010, 4:05pm

98. Unnatural Death, Dorothy L. Sayers

Female author, fiction, library, 285 pgs

166SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Oct 3, 2010, 12:46am

September 2010
99. People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks
100. The Blue Castle, L. M. Montgomery
101. Violent Femmes: Women as Spies in Popular Culture, Rosie White
102. The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, Dorothy L. Sayers
103. Bella Tuscany, Frances Mayes
104. The Nine Tailors, Dorothy L. Sayers
105. Strong Poison, Dorothy L. Sayers
106. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess
107. Murder Must Advertise, Dorothy L. Sayers
108. A Short Guide to a Happy Life, Anna Quindlen

Monthly Totals
Books read: 10 books
Pages read: 2376 pages
Author demographics: 9 women, 1 man
Book demographics: 7 fiction, 3 nonfiction

Skip to next month (October)

167captainsflat
Sep 4, 2010, 12:15pm

Two very interesting projects. Looking at the "overdescribed female adolescent room", and Dorothy Sayers. Excellent! Please post findings!

168judylou
Sep 5, 2010, 4:52am

Just passing through. You've been reading quite a range of books this past few months. Very interesting!

169SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Sep 16, 2010, 3:53pm

99. People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks


A young book conservator is called to war-torn Sarajevo to restore a beautifully illustrated ancient Haggadah. Within the binding of the book, she finds several minute artifacts. The story traces the history of the book through these artifacts, sweeping back and forth between 1996, the time the book is being restored, and earlier times in the book's history.

This is really a story of religions: in each story, Judaism, Christianity and Islam meet and explode or coexist. Brooks doesn't propose that one religion is more violent than the others, or one more worthy of sympathy-- while she does recount the many pogroms against the Jews through the history of the Jewish Haggadah, both atrocities and amazing acts of courage and generosity are present in believers of each creed.

This was a beautiful book. It is to be assumed that enormous amounts of historical and religious research went into so fully framing the stories, but the history is so well integrated that it disappears in the drama that is unfolding. Quite good- highly recommended. I'd love to see a critical edition, with illustrated plates of the actual Sarajevo Haggadah.

Female author, fiction, owned, 372 pgs

170SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Sep 16, 2010, 3:45pm

ONE HUNDRED!!!
The Blue Castle, L. M. Montgomery


Valancy Stirling is a skinny, sallow spinster who lives the most depressing life imaginable with her overbearing mother, sniffling aunt, and interfering, patronizing extended family. (Think Bette Davis in Now, Voyager.) After suffering a worse-than-usual chest pain, Valancy secretly goes to a specialist, who tells her that she has a serious heart condition and will die within the year. Valancy rebels at the idea of "dying before she's lived," and starts speaking her mind at family gatherings, leading the elderly patriarchs of the family to murmur, aghast, and her mother to have hysterics.

She eventually tells her story to the town ruffian, a sparkly-eyed backwoods man who smokes a foul smelling pipe and drives the oldest car imaginable. She then proposes to, marries and moves in with this backwoods man, the euphoniously named Barney Snaith. After several months of the most perfect health and glorious happiness, she begins to wonder about the doctor's diagnosis--and what that might mean to her marriage.

This has been my favorite L. M. Montgomery since I was about 16--I think I identified much too strongly with the overbearing family! I've always thought of this as kind of a fairytale; an uncomplicated trajectory from misery to happy ending. I still think that, but this time I noticed (was looking for) something else kind of nonfairytaley: Valancy saves herself. She doesn't wait for a prince to rescue her--she leaves home, she throws off convention, she proposes to Barney, she essentially creates her own Eden--or at least her own entry into Eden. She isn't an all round strong female character--she begins quite weak and nobly returns home "with the grey face...of a creature that has been struck a mortal blow" when she fears that Barney will feel tricked by the exchange of a year of marriage for a life. In that, I suppose, Lucy Maud has Barney play the ever-loving hero. (And in such a frustrating way! These books that have the male lead tenderly swearing at the blockhead who won't believe herself loved... the "Dear little fool!" exchanges...make me a bit tired.) But still, I do appreciate that Valancy didn't gaze out the parlor window until Prince Charming rode up.

Regardless, I liked it as much as I remembered, and enjoyed reading it quite as much as expected.

Female author, fiction, read online, 224 pgs

171loriephillips
Sep 14, 2010, 6:50pm

Congratulations on reaching 100!

I love L.M. Montgomery but have not read The Blue Castle. I'll have to keep an eye open for it.

172jfetting
Sep 15, 2010, 5:53pm

congrats on reaching 100! I've never read The Blue Castle either, despite a lifelong love of L.M. Montgomery. Will have to fix that!

173SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Sep 17, 2010, 8:55pm

101. Violent Femmes: Women as Spies in Popular Culture, Rosie White


Rosie White examines the female spy in media as a queer subject, not so much in terms of personal sexuality, but in terms of their complication of gender tropes. "If spies are agents, then the woman spy is doubly transgressive because she crosses the line that ordinarily designates woman as object rather than subject...the female spy is the hermaphrodite figure, destabilizing unitary formulations of gender identity in favor of a more mobile subjectivity."

The focus in both La Femme Nikita and Alias on keeping professional and private lives separate, under threat of "termination," speaks to the fears of the predominately middle-class, white-collar viewer of inability to satisfy the insatiable appetite of the capitalistic structure for labor, inability to satisfy physical requirements for health, inability to keep all of the balls in the air at once.

All those hours with Sydney Bristow and Nikita are now completely justified.

Female author, nonfiction, library, 146 pgs

174SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Sep 19, 2010, 12:56pm

102. The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, Dorothy L. Sayers


The ancient General Fentiman is found dead in his favorite chair at the Bellona Club. The death appears to be natural, but a survivorship clause in a wealthy relative's will, also newly deceased, requires a closer look at the circumstances.

The unpleasantness begins on Armistice Day, and echoes of the first world war create a complex theme throughout the book. The general's two heirs, George and Robert Fentiman, are veterans. While Robert is the classic war hero- all hale and bluff and ready to shoot game in Africa after the war is over- George has suffered from shell shock since his return from the front.

Dorothy L. Sayers's portrayal of shell shock and frail/fractured masculinities is one of the reasons I find her work so fascinating. Detective fiction, especially from this era, usually serves to shore up the disintegrating class system and the problems of modernity by ignoring all changes (Agatha, I'm talking about you). Numerous characters in the Sayers canon have been negatively affected by the war-- Wimsey himself suffers from returning bouts of shell shock, and is open about spending time in an institution of some sort after the war. He met, and was rescued, by Bunter at the front, and Bunter is frequently presented as the indispensable one who knows what to do when the terrors come.

Bunter doesn't suffer any aftereffects from the war--by positioning the hero, Lord Peter Wimsey, the aristocrat with excellent taste, excellent sensibilities, and excellent mental facilities, as the one with shell shock, I think Sayers is making a rather subversive stab at modern (well, 1914-style) war. She doesn't make the leap to actually condemn the war--instead it is shown as a necessary evil--but by showing the repercussions of war, the long-term destruction of the lives that escaped instant annihilation, she opens a space for a rather crippling critique of war. Presented with such violence, the correct response (since her hero responds this way) seems to be mental fracture. Instead of condemning shell shock (as was a prevalent party line at the time) as the effect of war on "weak, un-manly" men, shell shock seems to be the correct response.

I also love Sayers' gestures towards understanding women's roles. Wimsey is called in the middle of the night to the house of the truly angelic wife of the shell-shocked soldier, who has gone missing. The police had made rather a bungle of an interview earlier in the day, and there are fears that George has had a recurrence of his difficulty. Wimsey's first instinct is pure lord of the manor: he orders her to sit and calm herself, while he begins making some tea for the little woman. He then stops himself with the following reflection:
"One has an ancestral idea that women must be treated like imbeciles in a crisis. Centuries of 'women-and-children-first' idea, I suppose. ... No wonder they sometimes lose their heads. Pushed into corners, told nothing of what's happening and made to sit quiet and do nothing. Strong men would go dotty in the circs. I suppose that's why we've always grabbed the privilege of rushing about and doing the heroic bits."
And then he sits down while she makes the tea.

This is why I love these books: if he had just sat down while she made the tea, he would have looked rather patriarchal/aristocratic/little woman will serve/awful. Instead Sayers has him begin to do the expected thing- to take over- then stop himself. Sayers is excellent at discussing the motivations behind assumptions. Even when she is wrong (in my opinion) about those motivations, she articulates a reason behind them. They aren't just the "natural male response" or the "natural female response": there are deeper issues at stake. I think she works to expose the construction of identity, and more particularly, of gender.

(And that sounds like an abstract for the paper that I someday will write about her works.)

Female author, fiction, owned, 228 pgs

175wookiebender
Sep 16, 2010, 12:40am

Wow. I really must read Sayers now! Great review!

And congratulations on reaching 100, and then some!

All those hours with Sydney Bristow and Nikita are now completely justified.

Absolutely. :)

176SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Sep 18, 2010, 6:26pm

103. Bella Tuscany, Frances Mayes


Since my re-immersion in the world of academia, I'm finding it a bit difficult to read strictly for fun. I pick up a book, and by the time I come out the other end, I have half a notebook of ideas for research. That isn't precisely a bad thing- I'd much rather have the creative juices flowing than otherwise- but it makes my leisure reading not quite so leisurely.

Hence, the travel memoir. While I come up with places I'd love to visit, I can enjoy the words more freely than when I am subconsciously tracking how frequently such and such word is used to describe...whatever.

This is the third book of Frances Mayes that I've read. My favorite is still Under the Tuscan Sun, but both A Year in the World and Bella Tuscany have images that are knock-you-over beautiful. I feel like I understand where she is coming from--I'm sure many people do--but she writes about getting away from the mad rush of the academic world- always writing, researching, reading, grading- and into a life that follows the planting and the harvesting and the morning cup of cafe at the village trattoria. Exactly what I so often need, even if, for now, it is only accessed vicariously.

In Under the Tuscan Sun, Frances Mayes talks about finding, deciding to buy, and restoring Bramasole, her Italian villa. A Year in the World focuses on more exploratory travels- short trips and original impressions of new places. Bella Tuscany is a combination of the two- the heart of the book is definitely in Bramasole, but she talks about several short-ish trips to cities in Italy.

Her descriptions of Venice keep coming to mind: "I long to go inside the houses, experience from the inside what it's like to have high tide lapping at the lower floor, smell the damp marble, see the rippling shadows of the water on painted ceilings, push back faded brocades to let the sun in."

My grandparents owned a house on the Kentucky River--I remember lying on the indestructible Berber carpet in the middle of the summer, the river plishing and plashing below, watching the lacy white curtains billow in afternoon river breeze and the hundreds of points of light that the river's reflection would throw on the white ceilings. I think this is why I love books so much- that memory was buried under twenty-some years of detritus, but reading her description of a similar sight in Venice conjures those long, lazy summer days.

Female author, nonfiction, owned, 286 pgs

177SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Sep 20, 2010, 4:42pm

104. The Nine Tailors, Dorothy Sayers

Female author, fiction, library, 318 pgs

178judylou
Sep 19, 2010, 6:48am

Congrats on the 100+ !

179SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Sep 20, 2010, 2:51pm

105. Strong Poison, Dorothy L. Sayers

And here we have the beginning of my favorite of the Sayers books. I've read this book (and Have His Carcase and Gaudy Night, the other two Harriet Vane books) more times than all of the other Sayers books put together. As I've discussed in previous posts in rather excruciating detail, their relationship is why I so love these books.

Harriet Vane is in the dock for murdering her lover, Philip Boyes. After believing his professed convictions about free love and marriage, she consents to live with him "in an unregular fashion." A year later, he proposes. Rather than gratefully accepting his gesture, as he supposed she would, she storms out, breaking the connection completely. It was insulting, she later tells Lord Peter, to be put on probation like an office boy. He made her and himself ridiculous, and one can't survive that. (This is all in the first 30 pages- no spoilers here.) Philip Boyes ends up dead within a few months. Originally it was thought to have been severe gastritis, but people talked, the body was exhumed, arsenic was found, and Harriet was blamed.

Usually I start with this book and read the other two Peter/Harriet books, skipping all of the previous books in the series (the other Sayers books that I've read recently.) Reading the series in proper progression has shown the gradual transformation of Peter's character. In this book, he's almost paralyzed by the fact that his hobby actually matters now--rather than being the dabbling of an aristocrat, the life of "the woman, the one and only woman" hangs in the balance. Most of the action is actually carried out by other parties that he mobilizes. He still talks "piffle"--the whirling circuitous reams of dialogue that make this series so fun--but it seems more of an act, to keep up his own and Harriet's spirits, rather than, as previously, the over-bubbling of care-free conversation.

I don't have as much actual analysis of this book as I do for some of the previous ones- it's harder to concentrate on gendered spheres and whatnot when so enmeshed in plot and character development. Regardless, here goes:
The Cattery (Peter employs a number of "superfluous women" ostensibly as typists, but actually as detectives) is an interesting twist on the stereotype of the nosy middle-aged woman, and two of their number actually provide more information than any of the men involved.
Sayers takes rather direct aim at Spiritualism (the Sayers commentary that I'm reading, Conundrums for the Long Weekend, draws connections between her impatience with it and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's late-in-life belief. Spiritualism isn't something that I'd previously associated with the 20's and 30's- in the books I've read it's been centered pretty completely in the mid Victorians. Apparently there was an upsurge after WWI--so many bereaved families without funerals, without closure.)

There is a truly wonderful BBC production of this and the two other Harriet Vane/Peter Wimsey books. Highly recommended--although, of course, I'd read the books first. While the mini-series is accurate (in my humble) as to portrayal of characters, it provides a sketch, while the books offer so much more detail. Regardless, if you are interested, definitely check out the Dorothy Sayers Mysteries DVDs.

Female author, fiction, owned, 272 pgs

180SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Sep 20, 2010, 4:36pm

106. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess


This is the first novel assigned for my Modern Brit Lit course- I've had this book for a few years, and tried to read it before, but had stopped a few pages in because of the extremely difficult dialect. I had to make it through this time, and it got much easier after the first chapter. I definitely didn't understand every word, but it was kind of like reading Spanish- I got the gist.

The introduction to my edition contained a letter by the author. Apparently, the American edition, originally published in 1962, eliminated the final crucial chapter. The British version included this chapter, as did all later translations into different languages, but the Kubrick film was based on the American version, so did not. My edition is the first that was published in toto in America. The final chapter completely changes the book-- In the original American version, Alex is a static character who is operated on by outside events, but essentially remains the same at his core: Alex is violent, Alex is a prisoner, Alex is robbed of choice, Alex is made exhibition for anti-governmental group, Alex is rehabilitated, Alex is violent. The end.

The last chapter which was eliminated from the American version has Alex maturing- growing tired of the violence, meeting a droog from the old days who has a steady job and is married, imagining life with a devoted devotchka of his own and a son to whom he can recount his stories.

This change seems rather integral to the plot of the book. If, as seems to be the message in the first American version, the only hope of containing the violence contained in some is by police brutality or brainwashing, the brainwashing actually seems a more acceptable response. If, however, the violent might change, then brainwashing is an unacceptably intrusive response.

In his introduction, Burgess compares this difference to the Nixon and Kennedy administrations- he said as he wrote it, it is a Kennedyan novel: it admits the possibility of moral change. What the American editors wanted in 1962 was a "Nixonian book with no shred of optimism in it." I think the American version of the book actually proposes that humans are "Clockwork Orange" entities ("the appearance of an organism lovely with colour and juice but in fact only a clockwork toy"), entities without free will, but predestined to do either good or evil. With the inclusion of the vitally important final chapter, the British version contradicts this, showing that Alex is able to choose violence, but also to choose not-violence.

Male author, fiction, owned, 192 pgs

181SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Sep 21, 2010, 3:01pm

107. Murder Must Advertise, Dorothy L. Sayers

Female author, fiction, owned, 288 pgs

182wookiebender
Sep 20, 2010, 12:24am

Oh, I've had A Clockwork Orange on Mt TBR for far too long! I really must dust it off and give it a go. (I have heard the language is difficult, but also that you just need to give it a while to get into the swing of it.)

Loving the reviews of Dorothy L. Sayers' books, she is definitely someone I'll be looking out for when I next get to a bookshop.

183ronincats
Sep 21, 2010, 4:24am

Looks like you've had a whole lot of fun getting to 100! Congratulations!

184SouthernBluestocking
Sep 22, 2010, 1:42pm

108. A Short Guide to a Happy Life, Anna Quindlen

Female author, nonfiction, owned, 50 pgs

185SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Nov 1, 2010, 1:44am

October 2010
109. A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
110. The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness Emmuska Orczy
111. Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
112. The Oxford Murders, Guillermo Martinez
113. The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
114. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie
115. Possession, A. S. Byatt

Monthly Totals
Books read: 7 books
Pages read: 2693 pages
Author demographics: 3 women, 4 man
Book demographics: 7 fiction

Skip to next month (November)

186SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Oct 31, 2010, 2:42pm

109. A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
Male author, fiction, owned, 400 pgs

187SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Oct 20, 2010, 12:13am

110. The Scarlet Pimpernel, Emmuska Orczy
Female author, fiction, owned (multiple copies, but listened to this one on B.J. Harrison's 'The Classic Tales' podcast), 270 pgs

Love, love, love this book. I read this about once a month from age 14 to 18, and once a year for the next decade-- it stands up to re-reading.

188SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Oct 20, 2010, 12:12am

111. Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
Female author, fiction, owned (but listened to itunes podcast), 336 pgs

I find it rather shocking that I thought Heathcliff was a romantic hero as a teenager. Dude, that guy is scaaaary.

189SouthernBluestocking
Oct 18, 2010, 9:18pm

112. The Oxford Murders, Guillermo Martinez
Male author, fiction, owned, 197 pgs

190jfetting
Oct 18, 2010, 9:18pm

I love The Scarlet Pimpernel, too. It's due a reread, I think.

191SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Oct 20, 2010, 12:29am

113. The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne

As my recent reading/listening attests to, I've been on a bit of a classics kick lately. In keeping with that, (and because Hawthorne just seems so darn autumn-y) I decided to give this a go.

I read this eons ago when I was a cowed, long-skirted student at an extremely conservative Bible college. In that context, it didn't seem all that shocking. Ten years later, as I happily wear jeans to feminist theory classes, it just seems so impossibly, incomprehensibly and sputter-inducing-ly restrictive. I know, you have to read books with the eyes of the age, not your own- it's as foolish to rail against the Puritan fathers for their condemnation of Hester as it is to judge the Bennet sisters for considering economic marriages. But dude, this book is grim. Sin, guilt, shame, revenge... definitely not the feel-good read of 1840.

Anyway- what I didn't get from earlier readings: I found the fact that Hawthorne allowed Hester to bear the public ignominy alone really rather insightful, given the inequality of sexual purity standards that would have been in existence in his time. (I hesitate to attribute the unequal standards to the Puritan's time... my conception of that time is that sex was always bad, without question. I could be wrong though- and I'm sure there were exceptions.)

I'm taking a feminist theory class in which we have been discussing "sex panics"-- the idea that a community that is under attack (be it by a colonizing nation or the reactions of a native people to that colony) will find another weaker group of people to scapegoat for their problems. (Without the power to rebel, one has to find a manageable reason for the problems... a really interesting idea to keep in mind when watching the news.) Anyway, I'd never noticed how frequently Indian attacks are mentioned in this novel-- puts the moral strictures in a different light.

I didn't remember the unquestioning assumption of the existence of witches and the devil. Several times within the novel, characters discuss flying through the air or meeting in the forest... interesting in light of Hawthorne's attempts to distance himself from his familial legacy.

Male author, fiction, owned (but listened to on itunes podcast), 352 pgs

192SouthernBluestocking
Oct 25, 2010, 1:57pm

114. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie
Male author, fiction, owned, 533 pgs

193captainsflat
Oct 26, 2010, 10:58am

I am loving your Dorothy Sayers reviews. Keep them coming. You think only Heathcliffe is messed up? It's both of them, Cathy is just as bad.

194SouthernBluestocking
Oct 30, 2010, 4:40am

115. Possession, A. S. Byatt
Female author, fiction, owned, 605 pgs
One of my favorite books. So absolutely wonderful.

195divinenanny
Oct 30, 2010, 7:47am

Glad you like Possession so much, as it is on my TBR pile. I read The Children's Book and The Biographer's Tale earlier this year and loved both.

196jfetting
Oct 30, 2010, 2:18pm

I need to reread Possession soon. It is one of my favorites, too.

197SouthernBluestocking
Oct 31, 2010, 1:26pm

Hi all- Just wanted to mention that I'm blogging over at
Southern Bluestocking. Mostly extended book ramblings (as I am wont to do) but also some crafty-type stuff that I've been working on.

Trundle over if you have a moment.

198SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Oct 31, 2010, 3:04pm

@195, Divine Nanny- I can't wait to read The Children's Book- the bf got it for me a few weeks ago, but I just haven't had time yet... maybe next weekend. I haven't read, and don't really know anything about, The Biographer's Tale, but so far I've loved everything of hers that I've read, so I'll have to check it out. Eventually. She's not really an author that you can gulp down one after another... the books are just so dense, in the best of all possible ways.

@196 jfetting- yes, such a good book. I think this was the fourth time through for me (well, this time was on audio book, which actually is better for me. I find it so difficult to slow down and enjoy the language when I'm reading. I'm such a plot junkie --hmm, wish I'd chosen that for my LT handle!--I'm always skimming for the next bit of dialogue, which is considerably more difficult when it's on the ipod!) and I think it gets better every time.

199SouthernBluestocking
Oct 31, 2010, 3:39pm

@193- captainsflat
Glad you're enjoying the Sayers stuff- I am too, but sadly have gotten a bit sidetracked... I have high hopes for November, though.
And yes, Cathy's definitely a bit off as well, but I still find it quite a bit easier to sympathize with her actions-- I always feel that she is just kind of twisted by her surroundings (like the trees by the wind in the beginning of the book)... that she just didn't have the room to grow straight or something. Of course, the same argument can be applied to Heathcliff (the poor little foundling child) and, I suppose, to pretty much anyone in the fictional or literal world. So that's a rather poor argument. I'll just say I find Catherine a bit more sympathetic. Her motivations are explained, in part, to Nellie (Nellie?) in the "Heathcliff is more myself than..." speech- she used horrible logic to justify marrying Edward, but she was, indeed, a poor little motherless mite. (and I've brought myself around to the universal justification again. Oh well.)

200SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Dec 2, 2010, 4:47am

November 2010
116. Nights at the Circus, Angela Carter
117. Excellent Women, Barbara Pym
118. Sula, Toni Morrison

Wow, this was a low month. I've been studying like crazy, reading hundreds (seriously) pages of articles, but I'll descend into madness if I start tracking my article-reading as well. I'm not precisely sure why I feel the need to justify my reading levels, so I'm going to stop now.

Without further ado:
Monthly Totals
Books read: 3 books
Pages read:725 pages
Author demographics: 3 women
Book demographics: 3 fiction

201SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Nov 11, 2010, 12:35pm

116. Nights at the Circus, Angela Carter
Female author, fiction, owned, 295 pgs

Wow. Amazing book- reminded me a bit of Jeanette Winterson's Passion, a little bit of Orlando, a little Water for Elephants and a little of the too-soon cancelled Carnivale.

It's as difficult to describe as any of those would be. A globally-renowned aerialist allows a young American journalist to interview her; his purpose is to dispel the myth that her equally-renowned wings are pure costume and not, as she claims, something she was born with.

I'm going to collect my thoughts about this a bit more in the upcoming days.

202wookiebender
Nov 9, 2010, 4:24am

Oh, it's a fascinating book, isn't it? I enjoyed "Carnivale" as well, every now and then I wonder how it all finished...

203Aerrin99
Nov 10, 2010, 1:48pm

Gosh, that sounds fascinating! And as a fan of both Water for Elephants and Carnivale, I have definitely wishlisted it!

204SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Nov 10, 2010, 6:04pm

Carnivale was rather wonderful, wasn't it? I think I'll request the DVD sets from the library for a Christmas break re-watch. (yay!)

I read Water for Elephants earlier this year, and thoroughly enjoyed it. (Click here for my ramblings about that.) The inter-chapter photographs of the Depression-era circus performers are what I remember most vividly, and what I was picturing while I read Nights at the Circus.

Did you know they are making a movie of Water for Elephants? I'm a little afraid. Robert Pattinson is starring. Oh my.

205wookiebender
Edited: Nov 10, 2010, 1:30am

Bother, my edition of Water for Elephants had no photos! I feel vaguely ripped off. (But it was a brilliant story, I mightily enjoyed myself.)

Tomorrow night one of the TV stations is showing Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Their ads are prominently showing Robert Pattinson, who was Cedric. He wasn't what I wanted as Cedric, and I'm feeling rather peeved about it all. Will have to go and re-read the books, that'll make me feel better. :)

I'm very afraid of the movie adaptation of Water for Elephants...

ETA: You know, Passion is also my favourite Jeanette Winterson, and Orlando is my favourite Virginia Woolf. I was born to love Nights at the Circus, wasn't I?

206SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Nov 10, 2010, 3:48am

I had totally forgotten/blocked out that he played Cedric. Yeah, he's definitely not what I pictured when reading the book. (Honestly, I don't have that much against him as an actor--I don't actually have that much knowledge of him as an actor... I just can't get past the recurrent tabloid drama with the sulky chick. Ugh.)

And yes, I so so so love Passion (Sexing the Cherry is a very close second) and Orlando is my favorite Woolf too... supplanted temporarily every time I re-read The Hours, but Mrs. Dalloway invariably puts an end to that. (Is it wrong that I like The Hours so much more than its source text? I like Mrs. Dalloway...at least, I recognize its worth as a modernist text... but I absolutely love The Hours. So much.)

Lord. As usual, I digress. Sorry you don't have pictures in your Water for Elephants. Gruen says (in a footnote which is very sketchily remembered) that she came across the photos as she was researching... an online search of her name and some descriptive words might bring 'em up.

207wookiebender
Nov 10, 2010, 4:14am

I have Mrs Dalloway & The Hours both on Mt TBR. I *must* read them, and I *must* read them close together. Would it work if I read The Hours first, or do you think I should read the source first?

I must admit, I am more tempted by The Hours, but never pick it up thinking "I really should read Mrs Dalloway first...".

208SouthernBluestocking
Nov 11, 2010, 12:28pm

I don't think you have to read Mrs Dalloway first- The Hours stands perfectly well on its own. (I didn't read Mrs D first- I saw the movie of The Hours, then read the book, then read Mrs Dalloway a few months later... so I did it completely backwards, and I survived.)

Read The Hours. It's gorgeous- reminds me of Possession in a way- I think it's all those interlocking characters and spreading the ripples of lives. Mrs Dalloway is good, and it feels rather virtuous to read, but isn't quite as gob-smackingly, read-at-stoplights-and-while-walking good. In my opinion.

I wish I liked the rest of Michael Cunningham's books as much- I tried (and own, somewhere) Specimen Days, but never even got to the much-criticized alien lizard part- I was bored by the first segment, which occurs in a mid 19th century mill. Any familiarity with any of his other stuff?

209captainsflat
Nov 17, 2010, 1:56am

Wow. I'm always amazed at how synchronous reading is here. I just read the Hours. I have to say I like Mrs Dalloway better, but The Hours does reflect things back on to Mrs Dalloway that I missed before.

210SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Nov 20, 2010, 4:32am

117. Excellent Women, Barbara Pym
I was sure someone in this group had recommended this book to me... but now on a search, I'm unable to find it. No idea- maybe I'm wrong.

It was good- I didn't love it, but I think I need to re-read it. Maybe I just wasn't plugged in. I've heard such good things about it that my ambivalence makes me think I was inattentive.

Of course, the real answer (that I'm attempting to eliminate from even my subconscious) is that I really wanted it to turn into some romantic revelatory novel; Mr. Tall, Dark-n- Handsome to sweep her off of her feet. I'm quite shocked at myself, and feeling like I need to go read some Steinham or Wolstonecraft to make up for my failings.

I didn't especially *like* any of the heroes presented as possible suitors: the gadfly young couple downstairs just annoyed me (like the Buchanans, destroying Gatsby's life and the garage man's life and just tinkling away to the city with all of their beautiful golden money), and the young curate seemed impossibly dull (inexplicably, he reminded me of the brother that died so early on in The African Queen, may have been because Mildred reminded me a bit of his sister, Rose Sayer. I'll admit to harboring some hopes about the anthropologist--he seemed sufficiently mysterious to have been hiding some kernel of a good soul behind all that inability to converse politely. Sort of Mr. Rochester-like. Of course, the narrator warns us at the beginning that she is not Jane Eyre, so I should have seen that one coming.

I do feel as if I should re-read this- if for no other reason than to redeem myself in my own eyes after this shocking lapse into sentimentality. Horrifying depths have been plunged- and it's barely noon. Doesn't bode well.

Anyway-
Female author, fiction, owned, 238 pages

211jfetting
Nov 21, 2010, 5:08pm

I find that when I'm looking for a happily-ever-after sort of ending, it is best to avoid Pym. I've read a couple this year that made me just want to crawl under the bed and hide from the world. (I love her writing, though, but I need to be in the right mood for her).

212SouthernBluestocking
Nov 23, 2010, 4:33am

Glad it wasn't just me- I wasn't consciously looking for the happily-ever-after, but apparently I expected it nonetheless.

I have other authors that I avoid during moods (If I read Dorothy Parker when irritated with the sig other, I turn positively volcanic, certain poems of Millay's turn the entire world grey) I suppose Pym just needs to be one of those authors meted out with discretion.

213SouthernBluestocking
Nov 29, 2010, 5:40pm

118. Sula, Toni Morrison
Second time through this year for this one, again reading for a class, this time Critical Sexualities. Fantastic book.
Female author, fiction, owned, 192 pgs

214SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Dec 25, 2010, 3:48am

December 2010
119. Maybe This Time, Jennifer Crusie
120. The Children's Book, A. S. Byatt

215SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Dec 15, 2010, 1:01am

119. Maybe This Time, Jennifer Crusie

Loved. Read it in one long, lovely gulp, and kind of wanted to flip back to the front and read it again.

Andie and North were engaged 12 hours after meeting, married days after that, and divorced barely a year later. In the 10 years since she walked out, Andie has been (according to her her card-reading mother) running from something in the past. When she decides to stop running and marry her new boyfriend, Will, Andie visits North to return 10 years worth of alimony checks so that she can stop thinking about him every month.

Instead, North ends up convincing her to take care of a little problem for him: a spate of family deaths has left him the sole guardian of two very disturbed children. The last in a string of governesses just quit, and the stories surrounding the estate and the children just keep getting odder. North needs Andie to go sort it out.

Good stuff. I so love her books.

Female author, fiction, new, 352 pgs

216SouthernBluestocking
Dec 25, 2010, 3:47am

120. The Children's Book, A. S. Byatt
Female author, fiction, new, 675 pgs

217wookiebender
Dec 29, 2010, 10:01am

Looking forward to your review of The Children's Book, it was one of my favourite reads of 2010.

218judylou
Dec 29, 2010, 1:05am

Just popped over to let you know that I have been enjoying your comments here this year. I have added quite a number of books to The List with your recommendations. Looking forward to next years books.

219divinenanny
Dec 31, 2010, 12:58pm

I was just thinking about how I wished I hadn't read The Children's Book yet, so I could read it for the first time again... I enjoyed it that much!

220Aerrin99
Dec 31, 2010, 3:55pm

Gosh, with recs like that, it has to go on my wishlist!

221SouthernBluestocking
Edited: Jan 2, 2011, 8:07pm

Favorite Books of 2010
The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins
A Short History of Women, Kate Walbert
Tomato Rhapsody, Adam Schell
A Visitation of Spirits, Randall Kenan
Nights at the Circus, Angela Carter
Maybe this Time, Jennifer Crusie