10 Oct 2010

Mid-Event Survey

1. What are you reading right now?
Squire by Tamora Pierce. It's a reread, but perfect for this time of night (it's currently 1am here), as it's engaging, well-written and - probably most importantly for this stage - an easy read.

2. How many books have you read so far?
I've completed 3 and am half-way in a fourth.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
I haven't completely decided on which books to read for the rest of the challenge, so I don't quite now. Perhaps more Tamora Pierce, in which case it'd be In the Hand of the Goddess. Perhaps I'll need a break from her after finishing Squire and pick up something else entirely, in which case I have no idea what that'll be.

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?
No, because I didn't free up my whole day ;) The read-a-thon started at 2pm DK time, and I was out until 4pm, so I missed out on two hours of reading time there. I have no other plans though, so should still get quite a bit read :D

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
After returning home I've pretty much only been interrupted to make and eat dinner and to update my LJ and read other people's progress reports.

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
Nothing yet. It's my second read-a-thon, and I'm having just as much fun as the first time around! Oh, perhaps that it's quite a bit harder to stay awake, but that may just be because I hit the wall (and fortunately now also my second wind) earlier than last time.

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
I wish more mini-challenges offered prizes from other places than The Book Depository. Not only do they not offer free shipping to Denmark, they don't offer any shipping to Denmark, so there are SO many contests where I'm ineligible. I wish those had the alternative of a gift certificate to an Amazon of your choice instead.

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year?
I'd really, really try to free up my entire day. Sometimes it just won't be possible - like this year, I really couldn't/wouldn't use a read-a-thon as a reason not to have our birthday brunch today - but it could be fun to actually be available for all of it :)

9. Are you getting tired yet?
At 1:11am? You'd better believe it! Usually I've been in bed and asleep for 1-2 hours by now!

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?
I don't think so, no. I'd tell people to stick to light literature (YA and childrens' lit is great for that!) and well-known/trusted authors, so you're pretty certain to pick books that catch your attention, but most people seem to have figured that on their own ;)

9 Oct 2010

Dewey's 24-hour-read-a-thon, 2010

Yes, I'm joining Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon

The timing isn't optimal for me - it runs from 2pm Saturday - 2pm Sunday, meaning that I'm going to miss out on quite a number of hours because of sleeping and a family birthday. Still, it's a read-a-thon, so I'm sure I'm going to have a blast no matter what!

The idea is that I pick a list of books to read, and then spend the day alternatively reading and updating here on my progress. I'll probably just have the one post and then update as I go along. Cheering would be lovely - or join in the fun yourself!

Last year I discovered that shortish and light books are necessary in order not to get bogged down - especially in the later hours - so I was actually considering rereading a number of Tamora Pierce books. I'm not as much in the mood for her books any longer, so I'm reconsidering that, and trying to come up with other ideas. Funnily enough, there are very few YA books on my to-read shelf... didn't really plan that part too well, but like I said, I was planning on Tamora Pierce ;) On the other hand, I do have a LOT of YA on my e-reader, but I have a feeling that an e-reader won't do as well for a read-a-thon - I need the variety of physical books. Anyway, as I've always known, I'm an erratic reader at the best of times, and like to choose from book to book, so the following list is just a brain storm and me shouting to make a noise.

The Will of the Empress by Tamora Pierce
Page by Tamora Pierce
Tunnelmanden by Dennis Jürgensen
Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia Wrede
Lake News by Barbara Delinsky

Last year I managed to read around 1000 pages. I'm not expecting to be able to do the same this year, as the family birthday will last longer, and Lars is home (he had a night shift last year). I'm going to give it my very best shot though! :D My reviews will be up at bogormen sometime after the Read-A-Thon has finished.

T-6 (8:00) This will be my progress post for the Read-a-Thon Challenge. I'll be updating it throughout the day, so those interested can bookmark it, and those not can just skip this post and forget all about it ;-) Right now I'm about to head out to the birthday brunch my cousins and I are having, so I won't be back until the read-a-thon is well under way. I'll see you then!

Hour 2 (16:00): Back from a lovely brunch with my family (19 people!!!!) and ready to start my first book. I'm going to deviate from the list already and start out with a very quick and easy read, to get myself motivated for a lot of reading. Claudia and the Perfect Boy by Ann M. Martin.

Hour 3 (17:01): BSC books always have been quick reads for me, so it was definitely a good book to start with. Wasn't the best BSC book ever though, but it seems to be that the later into the series we get, the weaker the books get. Ah well, it was a good way to spend 45 minutes ;) I've now started Tunnelmanden by Dennis Jürgensen - a quite famous Danish author. So far it seems good :)

Hour 4 (17:52): Tunnelmanden isn't half bad! Typically Dennis Jürgensen (thriller/horror for kids/YA), but a quick read and I'm actually really enjoying it. Progress: 235 pages. I'll need to take a break in about 30 minutes to make dinner, but hopefully I can finish it before then - I'm only missing 80 pages, so it should be do-able.

Hour 5 (18:29): Finished with one minute to spare! It was surprisingly good (although I don't know why I'm surprised - Dennis Jürgensen usually is good. Now on to some Tamora Pierce I think. But first - a break for dinner.

Hour 7 (20:55): Dinner made and eaten and I'm back at reading :) I picked up Page by Tamora Pierce, and just as expected, as soon as I started reading her books, I got into the mood for her writing again - she really is excellent! We'll see how many of her books I get through, or if I decide on something different again once I've finished this one ;) Progess - 103 pages.

Hour 9 (22:54): Finished Page and have picked up Squire. Yeah, yeah, I know. I take back everything I said about not being in the mood for Tamora Pierce. It wouldn't even surprise me if I end up picking up some of the Lioness series as well at some stage! But they really are perfect reading material for a read-a-thon, and as far as I can see, there are no rules against rereads ;) Progress on Squire - 26 pages.

Hour 10 (00:04): I'm paying for my lack of sleep right now. Last year I lasted until around 2am before having to give up and go to bed, but I only had 6 hours of sleep last night, and I can definitely feel that now. Staying up after midnight gets increasingly more difficult the older I get. So even though it's definitely more fun to be up when other participants of the read-a-thon are (and most of those are in the US), I think I'm going to have to give up and head off to bed now. See you in the morning. Oh, and progress on Squire - 100 pages.

ETA: Oh, I forgot the Mid-Event Meme occurs in one hour. I'll have to stay up for that! I don't mind doing some things out of order, but doing the Mid-Event meme 8 hours late just seems wrong. You're stuck with me for another hour then ;)

Hour 11 (01:01) Honestly I think I may have gotten my second wind, it's easier to stay awake now. I obviously don't read quite as fast when I'm tired though. Only another 62 pages read since last.

Hour 21 (10:54) I'm back! Not that I actually slept for all 10 hours, I just haven't had my computer on to update. I only have another 60 pages to go of Squire, so as you can see, I've been keeping busy! Oh, and happy 10-10-10! Thankfully a date USians and Europeans agree on ;)

Hour 22 (12:05) Only two hours left! I wonder if I'll have time to finish another book before the read-a-thon ends. I finished Squire about a half-hour ago, and have decided to take a bit of a break from Tamora Pierce and read Sorcery and Cecelia instead. I'm only 40 pages into it though, so haven't formed too much of an opinion about it yet.

Hour 24 (14:00) Alas, the last book I picked was too long for me to finish by the end of the read-a-thon. I'm only 239 pages into it, so still have another 80 to go -- meaning another 40 or so minutes to finish it. So that brings my grand total to 4.75 books read, 1388 pages read and 12h25m spent reading! I feel a bit bad for only spending a little over half the time reading, but at least I more than met my desired goal of reading more than 1000 pages :D

It was a LOT of fun! I'll definitely be doing it again next year, if time allows.

Books Read: Claudia and the Perfect Boy (150p), Tunnelmanden (314p), Page (245p), Squire (380p), Sorcery and Cecelia (239p, WIP)
Time Spent Reading: 12h25m

13 Sep 2010

E-reader review: BeBook One

I've had my e-reader for almost 9 months now, and am still really pleased by it, but it definitely does have its pros and cons.

My e-reader is a BeBook One from Endless Ideas. I've never tried reading books on any other e-readers (although I've briefly had my hands on both a Sony E-reader, a Kindle and an iPad), so this isn't a review of one e-reader compared to another, but of e-readers vs. paper books in general.

Pros:
It's a great conversation starter! I mostly use it when travelling, and have had several fellow train-/bus passengers ask me what it was or "Oh, is that that Amazon thing?" Obviously that isn't so good for shy people, but I love talking books in any shape or form, so it's never bothered me :)

It's so handy when I'm away on vacation! As you know, I read a LOT, so trying to guesstimate how many books to bring with me is always interesting. I hate being caught short (although that's of course more of an issue when going on vacations where I can't just go out and buy a new book, so not so relevant when going to London ;) ), so I tend to pack one for every second day or so, which can get rather heavy at times. With the e-reader I just need to bring one average-sized book and I have enough reading materials for several years :-D

E-books are cheaper than paper books. Not in Denmark though! You definitely don't want to buy e-books here. They are still so new that they often cost 2-3 times as much as a paper book. However, I can get hold of English books online, and there are several places where it's possible to find free e-books either for keeps or to loan.

It's nifty and a shiny new toy! Yes, my geeky heart loves new gadgets :) One of my colleagues saw me receive it (it was sent to work) and though he first laughed at me, he then admitted that new toys were great and new toys with cables were even greater ;)

Cons:
Yup, nifty and shiny, but not nearly as cozy as paper books. Apparently I have a great emotional attachment to the act of physically turning pages, feeling how many pages I've already read, and feeling how many pages are left. Seeing the number slowly increase just isn't the same.

It's really best for reading from A-Z. Flipping through a book to look for something specific is almost impossible. First of all because I tend to remember where things were written by how the book "feels" (approx. how many pages are left, was it on a right or a left page etc.) rather than the specific page number. Secondly it just takes too long to turn a page. Depending on the format and the size of the book it can take anything from 0.5-3 seconds to turn a page.

Apart from the sensation of reading paper books vs. e-books, there's also the issue of a physical library vs. a digital one. I'm proud of the library I've managed to put together by now. I would like it to be bigger, but who wouldn't?! ;) I like looking at my books, picking out old favourites to read a page here and a paragraph there. I like seeing a wall full of books and knowing that I've read them all. Looking at folders on a computer just isn't the same. Also I like having guests comment on my books and loaning books to others - and most people I know feel a LOT more comfortable browsing bookshelves in a living room, than browsing folders on a computer. The former is perfectly acceptable within etiquette, the latter definitely isn't unless expressed permission has been given.

An e-reader is a lot more egoistic than physical books. Mum didn't bring along enough books when we were on vacation together last. Had this been BER (Before E-Reader ;) ) I could just have given her one of mine to read, as I was bound to have brought several, but we couldn't very well both use the e-reader at the same time, so I couldn't be of any help. And I like being of help!

BeBook itself:
I got the BeBook One because it by far supported the most formats (lit, doc, rtf, txt, pdf, epub, html - just to mention the most common ones). At the time I received it, I'd never had my hands on any other e-readers, so I had nothing to compare it to. However, since then I've also seen a Kindle and the Sony e-reader, and I can see that it's definitely more low-tech than those two. It only has the most necessary features (page turn, zoom), no touch screen or keyboard, the screen's a very dark grey (similar to the old Palm) and it takes longer to turn a page than on the Kindle and the Sony e-reader.

My sensible self is satisfied with it. It fulfills its purpose, and that's really all I need it to do. My geeky self thinks it would be nice with something a bit more high tech and is seriously considering buying a Sony E-reader when I'm in London next ;) Or I might wait a couple of years until I see what actually becomes available in Denmark. Since I'm not out to replace my physical library with an electronic one (far from it!), I can say patient a while longer :)

9 Sep 2010

Book Blogger Hop: Judging Covers

Book Blogger Hop

The question was: Do you judge a book by its cover?

My answer: a clear yes and no.

Yes: When I go book-browsing, I judge a book by its cover. That and its title are the only two things you've got to go by when browsing unknown books, and I absolutely base my desire to pick it up and read the back blurb on whether or not the cover appeals to me. Sometimes an intriguing title can make me move past a lousy cover, but that doesn't happen terribly often, and I actually can't think of any specific examples right now.

I receive books for review, so I don't always get to chose the covers there, and some of them are ridiculously tacky. I'll still give it a chance, but sometimes it really goes against my better judgment. I've just received Eternal Hunger which looks really tacky, and Bloody Good by Georgia Evans was almost as bad - that one turned out to be okay entertaining though. Finally there was Seeing Me Naked by Liza Palmer, where the book was actually really great, but the cover was so suggestive that for the first time ever, I actually felt embarrassed reading it while on public transportation! See for yourself....


Of course, there are also covers that are so gorgeous that you (or I, at least) almost want to frame them and enjoy them in all their beauty. For me, some of those are The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield and The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers. Fortunately here the quality of the book fit the quality of the cover :)


No: When I have books recommended to me, I don't stay away from reading them, just because I don't like the cover. And if I have one edition of a book, I don't go out and buy another, just because I discover I prefer that cover. Some of my favourite books have absolutely hideous covers. Cases in point, the below editions of The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. In both these cases I'm able to disregard the extremely ugly covers because I know and love the books so much.


And although I did write above that I judge a book by its cover when I'm browsing books, and probably pass over what may be terrific books because the cover don't catch my eye, neither do I buy books just because of the cover. An intriguing cover isn't enough. It has to be combined with an interesting-sounding back blurb. So I don't judge books that much.

8 Sep 2010

Top Ten Childrens Books

These are a mixture of books I loved as a kid and books I'm looking forward to reading to my own children. It does not include picture books, but only chapter books that I either read myself, or that I had read aloud. We had a great tradition of Dad reading aloud to us (actually lasting until I moved out, although in later years it was only when on vacation) and got through a lot of classics that way.

As usual, I've decided not to include any Danish books, but I would be remiss if I didn't even mention Estrid Ott, as she was one of my all-time favourite authors as a child. Especially her delightful series about the adventures of the stuffed toy-Elephant, Bimbi. It's such a shame that these have never been translated to English!

Picking my Top 10 is hard enough, so there's no way I could list them in order of preference. These are just in no particular order. Oh, I decided I could only pick one book per author, but there's no real "rule" about that ;)

Top 10 Childrens Books

The Year of Plenty - Rebecca LeeAnne Brammer (2009)

I only discovered this book last year, but it's a wonderfully cozy and charming book in the same style as Little House in the Big Woods. The language is suitable for children, and I think it would work very well as a read-aloud book. Definitely a book I plan on reading to my kids - even if I have to translate it to Danish myself! ;)

Professional Shrink - Mac (2008)

Another book I didn't discover until last year, but it's one of the very few childrens books that I read for the first time as an adult and still gave 5 stars on Goodreads. It doesn't need the rosy-coloured glasses of nostalgia, it just works! It's absolutely hilarious and delightfully quirky. Probably best for slightly older kids (8-12), and I wish I'd been aware of it (or rather, that it had been written!) when I was a kid.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl (1964)

I couldn't write this list without including Roald Dahl, although it was really difficult to decide which book of his to use - Matilda runs a very close second. However, Charlie... was my introduction to Roald Dahl, so if for no other reason than that, it deserves a mention. I think it may still be my favourite - I've always been intrigued by the chocolate factory, and am sad that Willy Wonka rushed past so many interesting doors with no more than a quick mention. I'd love to roam about the factory more. One of the best things about Tim Burton's film adaption of it, was that he completely managed to capture the magic of the factory, and made me just as eager to explore it as Roald Dahl's book itself did.

Raging Robots and Unruly Uncles - Margaret Mahy (1981)

The first two books on this list were books had never read as a kid, this is a book I haven't read since I was a kid and had it read aloud to me. Margaret Mahy is a Kiwi author, and we discovered her during our first year in New Zealand, where Dad read this book aloud to us, to our great delight. Unfortunately I haven't been able to find it anywhere since, so I haven't read it after 1990! Obviously I don't remember much of it, other than that I LOVED it, so I'm very eager to get my hands on it again at some point. Perhaps it'll show up second hand somewhere.

Margaret Mahy's books were all delightfully quirky, and most of them were illustrated by Quentin Blake (who also illustrated many of Roald Dahl's books). I've always loved his work!

Heidi - Johanna Spyri (1880)

I vaguely recall seeing either a movie or a mini-series based on this book when I was young. Can't remember any details though, other than that I loved it, and immediately went out to find the book. It's a sweet classic which I was gratified to see completely passed the test of time, when I reread it a couple of years ago.

The Ordinary Princess - M.M. Kaye (1980)

I have very vivid memories of my Dad reading this aloud to us when we were in San Tropes, France in 1986. The book hasn't been translated to Danish yet, but Mum would try to keep ahead of Dad, translating a couple of pages at a time, and if we got impatient, Dad would translate on the fly (he's insanely good at that!). I loved the idea of an "ordinary" princess, and a fairytale where the prince and princess of an arranged marriage are finally allowed to get to know each other and fall in love ahead of time :)

Peter Pan - J.M. Barrie (1911)

This falls squarely into the "why haven't I read this before!" category. Again a book I read for the first time last year (what is this with last year? I obviously read a lot of great childrens books!), and I was very impressed by it. It's a lot darker than I had expected, but in a way that I think would go over the heads of most children, and I caught myself laughing out loud several times. I suspect it's a book that - like Narnia - works for both children and adults, but just on different levels.

Gone-Away Lake - Elizabeth Enright (1957)

I was reminded of this book just last month when it was chosen as book of the month for a book club I'm part of. I had completely forgotten how lovely it is, and was delighted to revisit Gone-Away Lake with Julian and Portia. It has all the important things in a childrens book - a magical atmosphere, good solid friendship both among peers and between the ages, and lots of fun adventures. I feel transported to another time whenever I read it.

Children of Noisy Village - Astrid Lindgren (1947)

No list of childrens books would be complete without a mention of Astrid Lindgren. She was a huge part of my reading while growing up. But it was almost impossible to decide which book to list, and I'm still not entirely sure I made the right choice. Other books I considered were Emil, Pippi Longstocking and Ronja Robber's Daughter. The reason I chose Children... is not that it's my favourite (I think that would be either Pippi or Ronja), but that it's the first book I can remember being read and reading myself. I remember loving the chapter where one of the girls gets her own room, and the descriptions of how she arranges it and keeps it nice and neat. I'd always get into a fit of tidying my room after reading it... a fit that would last for as long as it took me to move on to the next chapter ;)

Astrid Lindgren is a must on any book-shelf in a child's room. I can't wait to get to introduce my own children to her books.

Famous Five - Enid Blyton

And of course - Famous Five. I am almost certain that these were the first longer chapter books I read by myself, and I know that they were the first books I started collecting. For many years I'd get at least one for every birthday and Christmas, until I had the entire series - including some of the newer ones, written by ghostwriters. They weren't nearly as good, but I still wanted to read them all! My favourite was (and is) Five Run Away Together, because I loved reading about how they found the cave on Kirrin Island and Anne fixed it up really nicely :)

I still reread the original series every now and again, and fortunately they too pass the test of time. Also, they are remarkable in being a series where (at least in the first books) people actually get older the way they're supposed to! After four summer vacations, Julian went from being 12 to being 16! ;)

14 Aug 2010

Book Blogger Hop - TBR shelf

Book Blogger Hop

This week the Book Blogger Hop asks: How many books do you have on your "to be read shelf"?

I can't help but laugh at the thought of having just one TBR shelf! (Or even more - a TBR pile!) My owned, unread books take up 3 shelves, double stacked and at last count I had 153 books on those shelves... and that's not counting all the books on my TBR-list that I don't own.

TBR - Owned fiction
TBR - Owned Non-fiction

10 Aug 2010

My Top Ten YA

This list was really hard to make for two reasons. The first being that quite a number of my favourite YA are Danish books, which I decided not to include in this list, as it's more fun if you actually know the books I'm talking about ;) The second is that... well, what qualifies as YA? Some are obvious, of course, but others might just as easily be classified as children's books or as books for adults. I've tried to limit myself from taking any that are borderline - keeping the questionably young ones for "Top 10 Childrens Books" which I'm also certain will show up at some point ;)

I decided not to repeat books from my comfort reads list, so that excluded Alanna and Harper's Hall Also, I decided to limit myself to only one book per author.

And as always when I make lists such as these, I have the distinct feeling that I've forgotten some really obvious books, that for some reason chose this moment to completely elude both my memory AND my list at goodreads! Go figure ;) Also, I almost feel like I should only include books I've read more than once, so I know they're actually worth while, and I didn't just get overly excited on my first read-through. I don't reread nearly as much now as I used to though, so I feel like I'd limit myself far too much if I chose to do that. Still, with the exception of two, these are all regular rereads.

Top Ten YA Novels (in no particular order)

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - J.K. Rowling

I wavered between this one and Goblet of Fire - both are good, for very different reasons, but HPPS was more magical in that it was the first of the lot and thus my introduction to the series. I know it has received a lot of flack, but it started out being one of the best series I'd read in a very, very long time. Unfortunately J.K. Rowling couldn't quite perform under pressure, so the later books aren't as good, but the first four were excellent!

The Giver - Lois Lowry

One of those books I'd have to exclude if I only allowed myself to pick rereads, but I have to include this one! I can't rightly explain why, but it blew me away. I loved the universe described and the entire atmosphere of the book. Unfortunately the two companion novels didn't quite live up to my expectations, but this one was amazing! One of the rare books that I borrowed to read and then immediately went out and bought it.

Twilight - Stephenie Meyer

I realize the ridicule I'm opening myself to by including this book on my list, but honestly, there have been few YA books that have ever grabbed so completely hold of me, so I would be lying if I didn't mention it... even if it does make me sad that I feel like I have to defend it ;). I'm not claiming it's high literature, and I can see its flaws, but I love it regardless and end up completely disappearing into the universe whenever I read it. I wavered between Twilight, Eclipse and The Host - this one "won" by virtue of being the one I've read the most times and again by being my introduction to a new series/author.

Anne of the Island - Lucy Maud Montgomery

Quite possibly my favourite of the Anne books. She doesn't get into as many embarrassing scrapes as in AoGG, and I love reading about her schooling, and her life at Patty's place. I really need to reread that entire series sometime soon!

First Test - Tamora Pierce

Tamora Pierce is one of my all-time favourite authors, so I couldn't leave her off this list, just because I'd already used Alanna elsewhere. First Test is the first book of my second-favourite series of hers - I've always liked the Tortal ones best. While part of me misses the magic, another part of me is happy to finally see a "normal" heroine, who gets through based on her ingenuity alone.

Uglies - Scott Westerfeld

I greatly enjoy dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels (I tend to use the words interchangably), and thankfully this was no exception. The first one was definitely the best in the series, but actually I enjoyed all of them :) I know many people got frustrated with the vocabulary Scott Westefeld used among the characters ("happy-making", bubbly etc.), but I actually really liked it, and thought it added to the atmosphere.

Sue Barton, Student Nurse - Helen Dore Boylston

This has been one of my favourite series for the past 18 years! I've never wanted to be a doctor or a nurse myself, but I've always been fascinated by descriptions of their lives, and loved reading about Sue's experiences in nursing school. There's no great depth in the series, but it's just comfortable and cozy. Especially the first three books of the series I return to again and again.

Winter of Fire - Sherryl Jordan

Dystopian/fantasy - so basically a mix of my two favourite genres. I was introduced to Sherryl Jordan while living in New Zealand, and was immediately taken by her. I've enjoyed just about everything I've ever read by her, but this and Rocco have always been my two favourites. I like this one just a tad more, as I think the universe is more well-rounded.

Northern Lights - Philip Pullman

(a.k.a. "The Golden Compass") I never really took to the two other books in the series, but this first one blew me away. I vividly remember diving into it one Boxing Day not too many years ago, and not coming up for air until I finished it several hours later. No matter the quality of a book, if it swallows me up like that, I'm bound to love it, and will think of it fondly ever after (says the 30-year-old...). The compass especially fascinates me, and it's one of the few things I think they did get right in the movie. The series is accused of being anti-Christian, but I've never seen it, and will happily read it and recommend it :)

Min ven, Thomas - Kirsten Holst

Okay, I caved. I had to add just one Danish book to this list. Mostly because no YA list would ever be complete for me without it. Min ven, Thomas ("My friend, Thomas") is the coming-of-age book in Denmark (at least it used to be when I was that age). You follow a 16-year-old boy through the last years of high school, his falling in love with a class-mate and his sexual debut, his relationship with friends and family, and his discovering that his best friend is gay and is slowly dying from AIDS. It's extremely well-written and tragic and life-affirming at the same time. I haven't read it in years, but it used to be one of my favourite books, and one of the ones I'd get out of the library again and again until I finally decided to just get it over with and purchase it for myself ;)

26 Jul 2010

Currently Reading...

A common question I often get asked is, "So, what are you reading at the moment?" Sounds like an easy question, right? Yet my answer very much depends on who asks, and how long an answer I think they're looking for ;)

See, I'm never reading just one book. I know there are readers who can't cope with (or simply don't want to) read more than one book at a time. I'm the complete opposite. I can't cope with ONLY reading one book. I think a typical average number would be somewhere between 4 and 6.

Exceptions to the rule are when I'm off on vacation - there I usually only read one book at a time. Don't know why, other than that it would be too much of a hassle to bring along THAT many books ;)

There are several reasons for why I read several books at a time. The first (although this is not quite as true as it used to be) is thta I get bored with reading just one book at a time. I need variation, so though there are days where I honestly only do pick up one book, I usually read a bit of at least 3 on any given day.

The second reason is that I need different books for different occasions! So generally it's not that I feel like reading and then arbitrarily decide which book to turn to - it all depends on the time of day, where I am, and what I'll be doing while reading. I don't want to lug around heavy books on commute, and I obviously have to pick an audiobook for 'reading' while doing the dishes.


So! In case you're wondering what I'm reading and the moment and why, I'm here to satisfy your curiosity!

Book 1: The "for my entertainment" book
There is usually one book that I consider my "main" read. Either this is because it is the book I'm most interested in reading just now, or it's because it's the one I need to finish first (in the case of an ARC or a library book that has to be turned in soon). If I don't think you really care about all the details, this is my stock answer to the "What are you reading" question.
The Physician by Noah Gordon
A reread - I think it's the 5th or 6th time I'm reading this. I love historical novels, and though I have no clue at all how accurate it is, I still find it fascinating. I'm currently debating whether or not to continue with Shaman once I finish. They're LONG books though (700+ pages), so they take awhile to get through - even for me ;)

Book 2: The audiobook
Ever since I discovered audiobooks, I've had one on my mp3-player to listen to on my bike ride to and from work. If it's an interesting enough book, I'll also have it on while shopping, doing dishes or other mindless chores. Audiobooks can't be too heavy, as I can't give them my full concentration all the time.
Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
One of those books I saw ALL the time on "Paranormal" book tables in book stores. I found it on audible and decided to give it a try, and it's actually not half bad. Quite entertaining, and not nearly as predictable as most books of that ilk.

Book 3: The commute book
Though I usually bike to and from work, sometimes I get lazy or the weather is too bad or my bike's in the shop, and I have to take public transportation. Of course I have to have a book for that occasion too! Ever since I got my e-reader, it's been an ebook, as they're so much easier to lug around :)
Wicked by Gregory Maguire
Though this has mostly received bad reviews from my friends, I've been intrigued by it ever since before I saw the musical. I decided I might as well give it a shot, and am actually enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would. I only have another 150-200 pages to go, so I'm pretty sure I'll finish it.

Book 4: The book I HAVE to read but simply can't get through
This is usually a book I have to review, a book for a book club, or a book that I for whatever other reason feel like I have to get through, but which doesn't hold my attention enough to end up in the "Book 1" category. So I set myself a set number of pages a day/week and plod my way through it as best I can.
The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
I received this as an ARC as it's being considered for translation into Danish, but really can't make myself read it. I'm only a couple of pages in, but so far nothing about it appeals to me - not the writing style, not the characters, not the plot. I'll give it another 30-40 pages and then tell my publishers I had to give up. Thank goodness for that "boredom-clause" in my contract! :D

Book 5: The Book I WANT to read, but have currently abandoned
The book I have no real reason for not getting on with, but due to the other books being slightly more interesting (or more pressing), it's been put on the back burner.
The Man Who Tasted Shapes by Richard E. Cytowic
A slightly more scientific approach to synesthecia. It's interesting enough that I want to finish it, but unfortunately not interesting enough (and a tad too dry) to hold my attention. It's a library book though, so I have to finish by August 2nd. I may or may not give up - haven't completely decided yet.
If you've read this, and can let me know whether or not it's worth pushing through, I'd love to hear it!

Book 6: The inspirational book for mornings
That elaboration should become apparent in a minute ;) I try to hold a morning devotional every weekday morning, and read an inspirational book for about 10 minutes.
The Hippopotamus in the Living Room by Tommy Hellsten
Yes, I know it's usually called "The elephant in the living room", but it's not my fault that's not what the title is! An interesting book about children who've grown up with abusive and/or alcoholic parents.

Book 7: The inspirational book for evenings
And there you have the explanation ;) I try to read a few pages in bed each evening before going to sleep.
The Story of a Soul by St. Thérèse of Lisieux
Gretchen Rubin went on and on about this autobiography in her book, so I became intrigued and went out and bought it. I'm not that far into it yet, but so far I like it. It's interesting.

Book 8: The Bible
Hopefully selfexplanatory. I try to read a bit of the Bible as often as possible. At the moment I'm reading the Psalms for my morning devotion, and we're reading Galatians for Bible study.

Of course I don't always have books for every one of these categories. Books 1, 2, 6 and 8 I'll have at any given moment (although sometimes 6, 7 and 8 - or any two of those - will be the same book), but the others come and go as circumstances demand. Just a lucky coincidence that I actually have all 8 at the time of posting this! :D

26 Jun 2010

My Top Ten Comfort Reads

Stolen shamelessly from Giraffe Days. I have a feeling I'm going to be ganking a lot of "Top Ten" book lists from her :-)

I am big on comfort reads. If I'm feeling out of sorts, I turn to books first and foremost (well... not quite, but first out of material things anyway). I read when I'm bored, I read when I'm sad, I read when I desperately need to be distracted.

In those cases (well, not so much bored, but the other two), it's important that it's a book that won't have any triggers, and won't make me even more sad. In those cases, it's good to turn to the tried and tested and much loved ones. But of course I don't have to be sad or blue to pick up a comfort read... sometimes I just feel like re-reading a favourite book!

As for the definition of a comfort read... well, really, I'm just going to quote Giraffe Days there:
What is a comfort read? That's an easy one. It's a book that, no matter your mood, you can snuggle down with. A book that you know, because you've read it before, has the power to absorb you, de-stress you, shine a little light on your soul for however long. It's a book where the characters are like family, a book that has associations and memories for you - good ones. A book that's like your best friend, like a cuddly old jumper that you will never throw out no matter how tattered it becomes.

A comfort read is, quite simply, a book you read to comfort yourself with. You know what happens but that's never a problem. It's the characters and the story that you love, like a favourite movie or comforting song. And, for me, I think it needs a happy ending. I want to be left with that feeling of wholeness that is happiness.


My Top Ten Comfort Reads



The Blue Castle - Lucy Maud Montgomery
I can't remember when Mum first introduced me to this book, but I can't have been much older than 13-14, and I think I've probably read it about once a year since then. It fits all the hall-marks of a comfort read - humour, cozy descriptions, romance and - of course - a happy ending. Although this one is perhaps a little contrived ;)

But generally, almost everything LMM wrote would fit the bill of a comfort read, especially the first four and the last Anne book (a comfort read may be sad in the middle, as long as it has a happy ending!), Jane of Lantern Hill, and Emily of New Moon.


Little House... - Laura Ingalls Wilder
I know it's not one book, but it might as well be, as I seldom read just one :) Although truth be told, I do tend to skip Little House on the Prairie. It's just not nearly as interesting as the others.

My favourites are Little House in the Big Woods (although I'll often skip Father's stories), Farmer Boy, Little Town on the Prairie and These Happy Golden Years. I realise I just listed almost half of the series, but that just goes to show that it might as well be one book, with me reading favourite chapters ;)

I love all the descriptions of how the Ingalls (and Wilder) family lived, I love all the good food descriptions (even if it does make me terribly hungry!), I know the Ingalls family so very well by now, and love 'visiting' them, and it's just generally a nice series of a simpler time, with people generally being nice to each other. I know the latter is probably fabricated, or written through rose-tinted glasses, but that doesn't take away from my enjoyment of it in the slightest.

I've read at least one book in this series yearly since I was 10.


Wizard's First Rule - Terry Goodkind
I first read this in 1997 by recommendation of Christian (my BIL), and have already read it many, many times. It doesn't fit the usual definition of a comfort book, as it has some very unpleasant scenes, but this is where I have to resort to the definition above - it has the power to absorb me, it de-stresses me, and it holds good memories for me. At a time where my life was closed to be turned upside down it was the only book that could hold my attention long enough to read it (and even so, it doesn't now have bad connotations, because I'd already read it so many times by then). It's by far the best book in the series, and draws me in completely.

It's one of those books I really have to be careful not to start reading during the week, because I won't want to stop neither to go to sleep or to go to work.


Outlander - Diana Gabaldon
Another comfort read that includes some very unpleasant scenes. But the thing is, I know they're there, and I know it all works out in the end, so it doesn't matter terribly that I have to read them.

Again it's a book that draws me in completely. Again it's a book with humour and romance, and again it's a book that offers nice descriptions of how people lived, worked, cooked etc. Apparently such descriptions often occur in my comfort reads ;)

I was very, very unimpressed by the latest kerfuzzle surrounding the author and her views on fanfiction, and lost a lot of respect for her because of that. However, I love the books separate from my feelings about the author, so this still counts as one of my comfort reads.


The Yada Yada Prayer Group - Neta Jackson
This is probably one of the most comfortable comfort reads on my list. Reading this book (well, the entire series actually) is like coming home. I love the characters and am interested in their lives. These books have done more for my Christian life than any other book I've ever read - non-fiction and fiction both - and yet, despite being challenging, they're also comforting, and I'll happily dive into one and not come out of it again until the last page has been turned.


Alanna - Tamora Pierce
The Song of the Lioness was my introduction to fantasy (other than Narnia), so even if nothing else, I'd have to love it for that. Thankfully, the book itself turned out to be wonderful, and quickly made its way to being one of my favourites, and being a lovely comfort read.

Like I've already mentioned, I like descriptions of a person's life - this goes double for life at school (which you'll also see from the next book), so following Alanna's education is absolutely fascinating to me.


Dragonsinger - Anne McCaffrey
One of my very first internet friends recommended Harper's Hall trilogy to me. Fortunately the library had it, so I got them out, and was immediately hooked! Life at Harper's Hall was extremely fascinating to me, and I so desperately wanted to go there myself (even if I'm no where NEAR musically talented enough, but ah well). Humour - check, friendship - check, descriptions of school life - check, evil people getting their just desserts - check, lots and lots of lovely music - check. Oh, and it's short enough that I can read it in just over an hour. That's not a requirement for a comfort read (as you can see from some of the other books on this list), but it does make it handy for when I don't want a long dive, but just a quick dip.


Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis
Another series where I really can't pick just one. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is probably my favourite, but it's also the one I know the best, so I don't have the same need to reread it. I LOVE the part of Prince Caspian where the children first realise they've come back to Narnia, but the rest isn't as terrific. Voyage of the Dawn Treader is just lovely, but I miss Peter and Susan.

But they're all comfort reads. Lucy, Edmund, Susan, Peter, Caspian, Tumnus... they're all old friends, and I fully expect Heaven to be something like Narnia - talking animals and all! :)


Singularity - William Sleator
If Alanna was my introduction to fantasy, then this was my introduction to sci-fi. It's not your standard comfort book, as the plot itself is rather uncomfortable in places, but I'd still rate it as such, because of my familiarity of it. Also, I like that it makes me think, and the way it draws me into the universe so completely, that I occasionally have to shake myself to get back to reality and that I have just lived a year in the span of a night.

My love for this book cannot be explained. It's completely unlike most books I love, but it's fantastic.

The Rosary - Florence L. Barclay
No list of comfort books would be complete without a mention of The Rosary. I think this is possibly the most beautiful book I've ever read. The plot is fairly standard, and while both sweet and romantic, it's of the type that's a dime a dozen. No, it's the writing that really makes this book. Ms. Barclay has a way with words that is unlike almost any other I've ever encountered (with the possible exception of LMM).

So add beautiful writing, amusing scenes and a romantic story and you end up with a very happy Maria :)

I've stayed away from Danish books, as most people here wouldn't know them anyway. That's NOT to say there aren't some wonderful Danish comfort reads out there, and if you're able to read Danish, you should definitely go pick up some books by Estrid Ott :D

27 Apr 2010

Movie adaptions

Is there a book you really loved that was subsequently turned into a movie? Did it live up to your expectations? Why or why not?

There's no straight answer to this, because some did, some didn't, and some far exceeded my expectations - so I'm going to split up my answers in Yes, No and Somewhat, and give examples for each.

No

Twilight Yes, I'll admit it, I adore the books. However, the first movie was a huge disappointment, and I haven't even seen New Moon yet. I just don't think Kristin Stewart(?) is a very good actress, and not only do I not find RP at all attractive, I serious disagree with the way he acts Edward (I was going to call him a bad actor too, until I saw an interview with him - he's actually pretty brilliant!) Such a shame.

The 3rd Anne Movie I'm not sure which Anne book they thought they were making a movie adaption of, but it SUCKED. I'm seriously wondering if Sullivan even read any of the later books.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Sorry. It just didn't work for me.

The Golden Compass I did like the way they portrayed the compass, but that was pretty much the only thing I liked. I don't know how they managed to get it THAT wrong, but they did.

Somewhat

Prince Caspian Caspian was far too old, and I disliked both the powerstruggle between him and Peter and using him as a love interest for Susan. Other than that I loved it - especially the description of the kids' return to Narnia.

Harry Potter - all of them. They are good, but could never live up to the books. Although some of the characters are EXCELLENTLY cast (Snape and Prof. McG in particular)

Yes

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe They did a magnificent job on this one. I was so worried if it could live up to my expectations, and it far surpased them. Well done! :)

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory I didn't care much for the B-plot about Wonka's father, but otherwise I loved it. It was just as magical as the book.

The Lord of the Rings Of course it helps that I didn't care for the books much ;) I thought the movies quite well done though, so while they'll never become favourites, they did live up to my expectations in that they weren't boring either ;)

The Millenium trilogy I was very interested in seeing HOW they'd manage to turn these into movies - especially The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest - but they did an excellent job. Once again movies that surpassed my expectations.


... I'm probably missing some really obvious ones, but that's all I can think of right now. Other movie adaptions I either saw the movie first (like P&P, Traveling Pants and the Ya-Ya Sisterhood) or I didn't care much for the book in the first place (like The Jane Austen Book Club, Stardust and Bridget Jones)

25 Mar 2010

Spring Reading Thing 2010 - 7/13

I can't believe I missed the start of Spring Reading Thing 2010! Time is going by much too quickly, and I can't keep up. Ah well, I'm only five days late, so I hope I'll still be allowed in :)

As usual I'm going to go for one book per week, i.e. 13 books in total, as the challenge runs from March 20th to June 20th. No special theme, just books I want to read.



Update
For the first time ever, I didn't finish the spring reading thing challenge! That doesn't mean I haven't read, just that I haven't been reading these particular books. However, the challenge states that I may change my list at any time, so I guess I could just exchange the last 6 books for some I have read, and consider it completed! ;)

14 Mar 2010

Opening Hooks

There really is nothing better than a really great opening hook in a novel - it piques the interest and curiousity and begs you to read more immediately. It lets you know that you've chosen a good book. And it gives you a bit of an idea of what you are in store for.

Here are some of my all-time favourite opening lines. Sometimes the books themselves unfortunately don't live up the the first line, but thankfully most often they do.

  • "If it had not rained on a certain May morning, Valancy Stirling's whole life would have been entirely different." From L.M. Montgomery's The Blue Castle.

  • "Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much." From J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's/Sorcere's Stone.

  • "There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it." From C.S. Lewis's Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

  • "Ross Wakeman succeeded the first time he killed himself, but not the second or the third." From Jodi Picoult's Second Glance

  • "It wasn't a very likely place for disappearances, at least at first glance." From Diana Gabaldon's Cross-Stitch/Outlander.

  • "People usually start life by being born." From Walter Moers' The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear.

  • "The Herdmans were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world." From Barbara Robinson's The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

  • "I might as well say, right from the jump: it wasn't my usual kind of job." From Geraldine Brooks' People of the Book.

  • "I am what they call in out village "one who has not died yet" - a widow, eighty years old." From Lisa See's Snow-Flower and the Secret Fan.

  • "My father had a face that could stop a clock." From Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair.



(While I'm at it, check out the first sentence of Anne of Green Gables - it's an entire paragraph!)