Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving and a giveaway

First, the giveaway is unfortunately not mine. I'll have to consider doing one next year sometime though. The giveaway can be found at In Which a Girl Reads and there are going to be three winners, all of whom get to choose from an awesome selection of books. You can check it out here. She is celebrating 100+ followers, which is an awesome achievement.

Thanksgiving with my family is never a huge deal as long as we are together. This has gotten more important over the past couple of years due to my maternal grandparents' health declining. So Mom and I did the cooking and I had an awesome time with my family. And I've since been spending time with my boyfriend and some friends. Tonight I'm going out to dinner with my parents for their 35th wedding anniversary.

I've done almost no reading this past week. But it's definitely been worth it. However, I am somehow partway through a number of books:
Salt: A World History, which I've been slowly working on for a couple weeks and which has a ridiculous amount of etymology that I am enjoying
Fragile Things, which I'm trying to take my time on, because of how much I love Neil Gaiman
Persepolis, which is far simpler than I was expecting
Sense & Sensibility, which is absolutely awesome and which I've been picking up to read a few pages every time I get a chance

I'm used to one or two books at a time, so this is a bit more than I'm used to. I'm still enjoying the experience.

I've also finally decided to attempt to use Google Reader. I've found a number of blogs that I've been perusing the past couple of weeks and the list keeps growing. Next I need to create a list on my blog of all the blogs I'm reading. And attempt to design the blog how I want it to look. I have the colors I want, now I just need to get the layout I want.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Library Loot

Library Loot is a weekly event hosted by Eva and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they've checked out from the library. If you'd like to participate too, just write up a post - feel free to steal the button - and link it using Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course, check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

Head on over to Marg's post here for Mr. Linky.

I actually got a bunch of books from the library in the past week. I picked up books twice... once on Friday and once today. I did return a bunch of books both times though, so I don't feel too bad for having so many borrowed at once.

Fables by Bill Willingham. I saw Eva's review of this a while back and it sounded so interesting. I've been having a hard time without Neil Gaiman's Sandman series (I'm up to book 6 but that ended up in storage and I can't find that volume at the library) and needed a new graphic novel series to start. I'm so looking forward to this. 

1001 Nights of Snowfall by Bill Willingham. I also grabbed the prequel series which started publication in 2006, four years after the first volume of Fables was published.

Two pictureless books about book reviewing that I found in the library system, both published in the 1970s:
Writing Book Reviews by John Drewry - I've started this one already and I like it so far.
Book Reviewing by Sylvia E. Kamerman

Zorro by Isabel Allende. I read The House of the Spirits in high school and loved it. This will be my second Allende. I got it on audio book when I stumbled across it on Friday.

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I started this a while ago. I own the entire series (in storage, with everything else). But I never bothered to finish it. And now it's time. This is on audio as well.

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman. This was another in the quest to read all of Neil Gaiman's work. I finished this on Monday night. And I loved it. Like I love everthing he writes.

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. Got this on audio book because I kept hearing so many good things about him. But I couldn't finish it because I really didn't like it. So I returned it today. One of the nice things about the library is being able to return books without guilt.

And then I went back to the library today after work let out a little early, and I picked up six more books.

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. A confession. I am 25 and I have never read any Austen before. I wasn't sure what order to read them, so I decided to just go in the order Wikipedia lists them. So this is the first one. I'm pretty sure I'll enjoy it - I have enjoyed most of the movie adaptations I've seen of Austen novels.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. A friend of mine read this and loved it. And recommended it to everyone via Facebook when the movie came out. So I decided to try it.

 A Long Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka. I know my library recommended this one and it takes place in Poland (some of my family immigrated to America from there), but I can't for the life of me remember what it's about. Hopefully it will be good. :)

Wicked by Gregory Maguire. I have wanted to read this for the last seven years. I have no idea why I haven't read it yet. Wicked is coming to my hometown soon and I'm hoping to see it too.

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett. For the Terry Pratchett 2010 Reading Challenge, which starts 12/1. I'm really looking forward to this.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. For the Women Unbound Challenge.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


I almost always finish books. Mostly I take my time and go back and forth between a few at a time until I finish. Some I go straight through in just one or two sittings. Others I will pick up and put down a few times before I finish, and the breaks can last a few months or even years. Very rarely, I find a book that I cannot stand and refuse to finish. I found the first one this year. Tuesdays With Morrie. It was so popular that I didn't have high expectations. I did expect that I would be able to sit through the whole audio book. I'm not even through the entire first disc of the audio book (out of three discs), and I just can't bring myself to keep listening. It's just not entertaining, I'm frustrated with Mitch, and I feel like he's treating me like a child when he explains things.

And yet, as much as I dislike it, I still hate to return it to the library unfinished. But return it I will.

On a brighter note, I enjoyed Brida by Paulo Coelho and I'm looking forward to listening to Isabel Allende's Zorro next (I loved The House of the Spirits, which I read in high school).

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A to Z Challenge

I'm joining the A to Z Challenge, because I think it will be an awesome way to work my way through my TBR list, which is 800+ books these days. I even have all the letters already as long as I go by author name (even X). So that's the plan. This challenge runs from 1/1/10-12/31/10 and I'm really looking forward to it. Note: books will be chosen according to availability at my library since all my books are in storage and I don't have room to buy any for the time being.


Saturday, November 21, 2009


Minaret by Leila Aboulela was on my TBR list for a while. I can’t even remember where I first heard of it. It was also the first line in my spreadsheet (I order them alphabetically by author). Almost every time I opened my spreadsheet I’d see it and consider borrowing it from the library. I have no idea why I waited so long, and now that I’ve read it, I wish I hadn’t waited. As I was reading, I’d end each chapter, look at the clock, count the pages in the next chapter and decide to read just one more chapter. After all, it was only a few more pages.

Minaret follows a young woman, Najwa, in her spiritual journey as a Muslim. She starts out living with her family in Khartoum in the 1980s and leaves during a political coup for England. I was surprised how much of her journey echoed my own, even though we have radically different backgrounds (I’m a Christian who’s always lived in the US and haven’t had to deal with the kinds of pain she has). For example, we both went from not really caring what we wore and not really paying attention to religion to finding our faith and starting to dress more conservatively because of our religious beliefs. It’s founded in the same idea but looks so different on the outside. I just found that to be really fascinating.

Aboulela writes simply and says so much. I noted a few places in the novel that stuck out to me:

She shows me how a slim kitchen drawer opens out into a folding ironing board. Underneath is a cupboard full of clothes waiting to be ironed. (68)
I love this quote. It’s on Najwa’s first day of work and it has the exact same feel as when I walk into a new client site. There is always a drawer of work that’s been piling up waiting to be done. And because we'd like to please the client and create a smooth transition experience, we always end up helping with the backlog. Not a complaint, just an amusing observation.

Lamya is home, a little breathless, her jacket splashed with rain but her eyes merry. She kisses and hugs her daughter, saddles her on her left hip and walks aroundwith her. Mai is beaming now and Laya is livlier than she was in the morning.She asks me lots of questions, inspects the dinner I cooked, lifting up saucepan lids. She seems impressed, her features alive. Is this how a young affluent woman feels, fulfilled in her wok, coming home to a young child? I owe myself an absence of envy; I owe myself a heart free of grudges. (73).
I love how Aboulela shows such powerful emotion. This woman has everything and Najwa has none of what she expected in life when she was younger. Our expectations for ourselves when we were young stick with us and even though I have no idea if I'll ever want to go to grad school realistically (I still have to finish my bachelor's degree), a small piece of me will always feel a little bit of envy for all the people around me who do. It was a dream when I was a kid to get a PhD, but I had no idea what to study and I didn't realize that while I loved the image of it that it didn't necessarily fit with what I want from life.

Now he was against this new government and had probably forgotten all about my father. What was the point of it all? Coup after coup - one set of people after another - like musical chairs.
The musical chairs simile is repeated throughout the rest of the novel whenever Najwa thinks of going back to Khartoum. I absolutely love this image. I can imagine that people who have lived through that kind of tumultuous political environment having that point of view.

She will always see my hijab, my dependence on the salary she gives me, my skin colour, which is a shade darker than hers. She will see these things and these things only; she will not look beyond them. (116)
This is a lot of judgment all at the same time for different things. Her religion, her job, her ethnicity. I'm not sure there are words for how I felt reading this. It was so hopeless from her point of view.

So to sum up everything, I kind of wish that I had decided to read this for the Women Unbound Challenge. But at the same time, I'm glad for the books I did choose. I loved this book. I will definitely need to read more by Leila Aboulela. This was an awesome read.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New Challenge! Terry Pratchett!

Marg at Reading Adventures is hosting a new challenge, the Terry Pratchett 2010 Challenge, and I had to sign up for it.I've been meaning to read some Terry Pratchett and a challenge focused on reading his works is the perfect motivation to get started.

The challenge will start from 1 December 2009 and run through to 30 November 2010. Any Terry Pratchett book counts. Reading for the first time, rereads and watching the TV adaptations all count. There are several different levels of participation for you to choose from:

1-3 books - Cashier at Ankh-Morpork Mint
4-5 books - Guard of the City Watch
6-8 books - Academic at the Unseen University
9-10 books - Member of Granny Weatherwax's Coven
10-12 books - Death's Apprentice

I'm going to aim for three books for this challenge, making me a Cashier at Ankh-Morpork Mint. I already own them and they've been on my TBR list for almost a year (although they are currently in storage). They are: 
Good Omens (co-written with Neil Gaiman)
The Colour of Magic (Discworld #1)
The Light Fantastic (Discworld #2)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Library Loot

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

 I only have one book this week, and it's an audio book. I still have a bunch of the books from last week to read through, and I haven't had much time to read lately since a couple friends and I decided that we need to see each other again right this second. :) It's been a lot of fun though.

I'm slowly making my way through all of the Paulo Coelho books. This is my third (I've already read The Alchemist and The Devil and Miss Prym).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Miss Leavitt's Stars

When I saw Eva at A Striped Armchair's post* about George Johnson's Miss Leavitt's Stars, I decided to add it to my TBR list. Then the Women Unbound Challenge came up and I decided I'd start the challenge with this little biography of sorts. I'm glad I did. It was a quick read and while there was way more science than biography, it was really fascinating to see how one woman's observations made such an impact on what we know about the universe.

Henrietta Leavitt was one of the women hired to work as a "computer" for the observatory at Harvard in the 1900s. She spent countless hours determining the brightness and color of stars, which from the sound of it was fairly tedious work. She made a discovery about variable stars which allowed her director to begin measuring how far those stars were. Later, her discovery made it possible to measure the size of the universe.

Her dedication to her work even as she suffered from various illnesses was inspiring. At times, she had to take a break from working but she never seemed to stop thinking about her variable stars. It was less of a job and more of a passion for her and that's so awesome.

I suppose my only complaint is that I wish there was more about Leavitt. I did love learning about the impact her work made though. Overall, I really liked it. Enough that when I saw that this is part of a series of books about scientific discoveries that have greatly impacted society, I added all of them to my TBR list. They're all by different authors, so it'll add a bunch of new authors for me. The link to the Great Discoveries series is here.

*Eva's thoughts are here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Library Loot

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries! Marg has the Mr. Linky here.

I got a bunch of books this week, and I'm really excited about them. :)

Audio Books
F. Scott Fitzgerald, Benjamin Button and Other Stories
Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto

Books about the sun and other stars (because I got curious after reading on the Old Farmer's Almanac about how the sun affects our weather)
John Eddy, A New Sun: The Solar Results from Skylab
Donald Cooke, The Life and Death of Stars
Steele Hill, The Sun
Fire of Life, The Smithsonian Book of the Sun
Sten Odenwald, The 23rd Cycle: Learning to Live With a Stormy Star
Leon Golub & Jay Pasachoff, Nearest Star: The Surpring Science of Our Sun

Other Books
Elmore Leonard, Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing
George Johnson, Miss Leavitt's Stars: The Untold Story of the Woman Who Discovered How to Measure the Universe
Mark Kurlansky, Salt: A World History
Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude
Leila Aboulela, Minaret

Friday, November 6, 2009

Women Unbound Challenge

I am joining the Women Unbound Challenge. It runs from 11/1/09-11/30/10. Participants are encouraged to read nonfiction and fiction books related to women's studies = "the multidisciplinary study of the social status and societal contributions of women and the relationship between power and gender."

I think it could be a lot of fun, especially because there's a non-fiction element and I'd love to read more non-fiction. I tend to get intimidated by non-fiction, but I have no idea why. I read quite a bit of it while I was in college and I enjoyed a lot of it. I'm also trying to get myself to think about reviewing books and posting my thoughts in an organized fashion, which I've struggled with in the past. Writing is something I need to work on, so I see this as a good way of growing and empowering myself more. :)

To start, there is the Start-of-Challenge meme: 

1. What does feminism mean to you?
I can't believe I'm actually going to say this in a public place, but I cringe at the word. Here's why: too many people have scoffed at my "lack of self-respect" when I say that I want to be a stay at home mother when I get married and have kids. I've also had to deal with someone I care a great deal about literally turn into a man-hating monster for "feminism." I used the quotes here because I don't believe that's what feminism truly is - some people have morphed it into some negative things.
As far as what feminism actually means to me: women are equal to men and should be treated as such. I believe every woman should be able to choose her own career(s) and pursue all of her dreams, both personal and professional. Every woman has the right to make her own decisions about her own life, including but not limited to how she dresses, what interests she pursues, and what career path she belongs in.
For some personal background and info, I am currently the only woman in my department (I work for a small company) and have worked hard to earn a position of respect among my colleagues. In the future when it's time to have kids, I want to stay at home with them to teach and raise them. At some point, I plan to start my own business that can earn passive income - but I haven't quite figured out what I plan to do with that yet. It's been a dream of mine for a long while.

2. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not?
Yes and no.
Reasons for No: In my experience, the women who specifically consider themselves feminists take on a very negative approach to men, but that's not what it should be. I also think that gender neutral terms are a pain because the image in your head doesn't change when you hear those terms versus the gender specific terms. And I think it only covers symptoms of a problem rather than attacking the problem itself.
Reasons for Yes: In terms of being an American woman, I have legal rights that a lot of women around the world don't have. I believe that every woman everywhere should have equal legal rights.

3. What do you consider the biggest obstacle women face in the world today? Has that obstacle changed over time, or does it basically remain the same?
If we're talking the entire world, then probably achieving the same legal rights as men. We may have the laws declaring us equal, but there are so many women in the world who don't yet. This has definitely changed over time and it will continue to change in the future.

If you've actually read this far, you are probably wondering why I could possibly want to do this challenge if I don't consider myself a feminist. And the best answer that I can give is that I stumbled across Eva's A Striped Armchair and her post about the challenge was so positive and completely void of everything I dont't like about feminism that I had to say yes to this. Because after all, I am a woman, and women's issues are important to me.

I have decided to read 5 books, and here are my choices:
1. George Johnson, Miss Leavitt's Stars: I found this on Eva's blog and it looks so interesting. It's about Henrietta Swan Leavitt, an astronomer in the early 1900s.
2. Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis: This has been on my reading list for a long time, ever since I stumbled across it at Barnes & Noble a couple years ago.
3. Elaine Brown, A Taste of Power: Recommended to me by a good friend, this one is about the first female leader of the Black Panthers

And (at least) two of the following:
Laura Claridge, Emily Post: Daughter of the Gilded Age, Mistress of American Manners (biography of the ever popular author of the go-to book for manners and society)
Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha (surprisingly I know very little about this other than it's about a geisha in Japan)
Deborah Rodriguez, Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil (memoir of an American woman in Afghanistan helping establish a beauty school)
Joan Jacobs Brumberg, The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls (history of feminine body image and sexuality)
Barbara Leaming, Mrs. Kennedy: The Missing History of the Kennedy Years (biography of Jackie O)
Cokie Roberts, Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation (history/bio of a few of the women supporting and involved with the American Revolution)
Pat Shipman, Femme Fatale: Love, Lies, and the Unknown Life of Mata Hari (biography of Mata Hari, an exotic dancer in France who spied for Germany during WWI)
Glenn Stout, Young Woman and the Sea: How Trudy Ederle Conquered the English Channel and Inspired the World (biography of the first woman to swim across the English Channel)
Mary Jo Buttafuoco, Getting It Through My Thick Skull: Why I Stayed, What I Learned, and What Millions of People Involved with Sociopaths Need to Know (memoir of Joey Buttanfuoco's wife - he shot and nearly killed her - I expect this will count since it's a about a woman in an abusive, unfaithful (on his part) marriage who eventually decided to leave
Martha Ackmann, The Mercury 13: The True Story of Thirteen Women and the Dream of Space Flight (biography of a group of female pilots turned astronauts during the space race)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Library Loot

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries! Marg has the Mr. Linky here.

I haven't done this before, but I love the library. After a few years of buying all my books new, I realized just how much money I was spending on books. And I always had more books I wanted to buy. I started an experiment last fall to see if my library system could handle the different books on my Amazon wishlist. Well, the library did so well that I ended up taking almost all of the books off my Amazon wishlist and I created an Excel spreadsheet with all the books I wanted that I could get from the library. That list has grown to almost 800 books at this point. I've been slowly chipping away at my list, but it seems to grow faster than I can possibly read. The library is especially valuable to me now that I have all of my books in storage (temporarily).

I took these books out last week but I didn't get to the library over this last weekend. So this will have to do for this week.

This one is for book club with a few friends in a few weeks. I love The Little Prince. I read it in French when I was younger (for school) but I hadn't read it in English until a couple years ago. And I'm able to use this as an excuse to get together with friends and put together Christmas boxes for kids (think Toys for Tots). :)

 I have no idea why I waited so long to get this. I love Neil Gaiman (I've read the first half of The Sandman series, as well as Stardust and Smoke & Mirrors - I'm working on the rest of it). I actually read this on Sunday in the airport and on the plane for a business trip to Massachusetts this week. And I loved every bit of it.

I remember liking the movie a few years ago, so I grabbed it. I'm a chapter in and I'm not sure what to think at this point. It's good but it's not really grabbing me. I'll likely hang on to this for a bit and read it here and there in hopes that I get more interested in it. If not, that's okay too because I can always borrow it again.

That's everything for now (aside from perviously read books that I haven't had a chance to return yet), but I have eight books waiting to be picked up on Sunday, so I'm pretty excited about them.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

"She opened the large, communal thermos on the table next to the cash register; but when she poured herself some coffee, none came out. What came out instead was poison oats and poison corn."
Page 318, The Cider House Rules by John Irving

The Amaranth Enchantment

I know I read a few really positive reviews of this book (which was why I borrowed it from the library in the first place), but I sat on Julie Berry's The Amaranth Enchantment until I had it out from the library for almost 9 weeks and had only one day left until it was due. And then I sat down and read the whole thing in one sitting. I have a really hard time sitting still so that's saying a lot.

Lucinda is kind of like a twist on Cinderella, with a horrible step-aunt who takes Lucinda in after her parents died when she was a child. But Lucinda is more than just a kind heart - she goes after what she wants and is willing to fight hard for it. I absolutely loved that about her.

Overall, I found this a sweet Sunday afternoon read that warmed my heart.

Wicked Lovely

I stumbled across Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely at the library just grabbing any books in the YA section that looked interesting. I haven't read anything that really focuses on fairies before this (aside from pieces of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series). The cover also drew me in with the shades of blue. It's so pretty.

I actually had a hard time getting into Wicked Lovely, but about 100 pages in, I found myself absorbed by it. Ash gets herself into a crazy mess with the fairies and does her best to figure out how to deal with it. I wasn't really surprised by anything that happened, but I loved seeing it all play out. Ash grows throughout the novel and makes the best of a bad situation.

It's the first of a series, and I think Wicked Lovely is a promising start.