Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Reading through the years

I can't remember where I saw this Meme so sorry for the lack of shout out. It's fun to do though.

20 Years Ago: I had just changed to a new school and I think I was mixing SVH with more classic books. Titles that have stayed with me are The Little Princess, The Silver Sword, Back Home, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Secret Garden.

10 Years Ago: At University so I was reading a lot of text books and I think I had just discovered Jilly Cooper. I remember a long summer spent enjoying the romps of Rupert Campbell-Black. It was also round this time I started reading Historical Fiction beginning with Jean Plaidy.

5 Years Ago: I’d just begun teaching Year One and discovered the pleasure of books for children. Charlie and Lola and Guess how much I love you being particular favourites. For myself I fell in love with The Time Travellers Wife and like everyone else was reading Harry Potter.


3 Years ago: I’d been living in Mexico for a year. I remember taking the Da Vinci Code on holiday and being completely gripped form start to finish. Then thinking about it and realising how irritating it is. The main character is always amazed how few people knew some obscure historical/religious reference, which he then explains.


Last Year: I got married so books of poetry featured highly! Books that stand out are the last Harry Potter Book (HP goes camping), Cloud Atlas and The Dark is Rising. This was also the year I discovered Diana Gabaldon.


This Month: Well I think I have expressed my total love of E. Lockhart’s books here already but in case you missed it; The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and The Boy Book are new favourites.

3 Favourite Reading Locations: the sofa, the bookstore, the bath.

3 Reading habits: I read all the time. I fold down pages when I like a particular phrase or idea and copy it out later. I am tracking my books on Goodreads.


3 Things that distract me: Not a lot actually if I am involved I am oblivious to everything else!

3 Characters I’d love to be: Hermione in Harry Potter, although can I not marry Ron? Frankie Landau-Banks but I really don’t want to be 15 again. Lydia from the Pursuit of Love, although she does die young, so maybe not. So I guess no one I’ll just read about them!

3 Characters I despise: I’m trying to think of any moustache-twirling villains. The Magisterium in His Dark Materials are pretty despicable.

3 Favourite Book Beverages: Cinnamon Dolce Latte, tea, water.

3 Favourite bookmarks: a postcard of a girl with an umbrella, a laminated USA stamp, a little bit of card with happy faces stamped on.


3 Dead Writers I’d love to meet: Jane Austen, Nancy Mitford, Agatha Christie.

3 Alive Writers I’d love to meet: Phillip Pullman, E. Lockhart, Neil Gaiman – although I’d be shy so probably better not.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Weekly Geeks

The first Weekly Geeks challenge from Dewey was to visit the blogs of five other participants and link to them. So here are my five new reads.

Things mean a lot
- A beautiful site and a beautiful review of Winnie the Pooh. From the books in the side bar we have similar tastes too.

Bookworms and tea lovers - yes I am both! I really liked Samantha's blog and she had some great reviews.

The Armenian Odar Reads - lovely, thoughtful reviews and a great tag line, I am a book eater!

A Girl Walks into a Bookstore - Looking at the books in her 50 books challenge I saw many I want to read. I'll be interested to see the reviews.

So many book reviews - I loved her post on why she reads. Also nothing to do with books but she had a post about the new series of Battlestar Galactica, always good to met a fellow fan of this underrated show!

I also have to mention Mrs S who found me. But through her I found this excellent site. Where I got my new header, so thanks Mrs S!

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Sunday Salon - YA Book and fun blogs

I've been reading YA books this week, despite being well past the YA age range! I've really been enjoying them though, the ones I have read are well written, thoughtful and funny. I wish I'd had books like this to read as a teenager.

I've been trying to think back to what I was reading during my teenage years. The only good teen author form those days, that comes to mind, is Judy Blume. I do remember my whole class being obsessed with Sweet Valley High and Point Horror but they aren't the kind of books that commented on life and normal teen experiences or made you think at all. On a side note I've been loving reading views of the new updated SVH books, featuring the perfect size four twins, what not size Zero??

In other news I have signed up for Weekly Geeks which looks like it will be lots of fun.

I'm also taking part in Becky's Book Club. During May we will be reading and talking about Life as we knew it by Susan Beth Pfeffer. Sounds like a lot of fun and if you want to take part go and sign up here.

Scambled Eggs at Midnight - Reviewed

Scrambled Eggs at Midnight - Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler

Rating 3/5
Part of the YA Challenge


Cal and Eliot both come from eccentric families. Cal's Mum is trying to find herself and moves them from place to place so regularly nowhere ever feels like home. Eliot's Dad runs a religious fat camp - What would Jesus eat?. They are both searching for something and find it in each other.

Told in alternating chapters by Cal and Eliot we get to see both their perspectives on their blossoming relationship. I really enjoyed the book and it had some wonderful descriptions and some quirky characters, which I always enjoy.

I liked the portrayal of first love and the way we bond or fail to bond with our parents. I much preferred Eliot's chapters to Cal's though and would have preferred the whole book to have been from his point of view. Also the ending was very sudden, all the loose ends got nicely tied up.

It is a good read though so I do recommend it. Here are a few favourite quotes:

"for that moment there is no up or down, just the falling, and it's everything I want, everything I have always wanted my whole life . . .And all I want is to let go into it and for it not to be that other kind of falling, the kind that will break five vertebrate in my back and neck or crush me under the weight of my own heart."

"We are quiet but this time it's the dark blue kind, the midnight kind, the sink-in-until-you-lose-yourself kind."

"You don't have to be beautiful to be seen, you just have to be seen as beautiful, by someone, by one person. Mom lost that person when The Dad fell in love with God and the money. She feel in, fell out, and it doesn't matter anymore, because the person you had to catch you at the bottom is no longer there."

The Boyfriend List and The Boy Book - Reviewed

The Boyfriend List and The Boy Book - E Lockhart.

Rating 4/5
Read for The YA Challenge


E Lockhart is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. Her books are funny, insightful and full of great characters.

In The Boyfriend List Ruby (Roo) loses all her friends and becomes a leaper at her school after an unfortunate kissing incident at the spring fling. With the help of her therapist Doctor Z, Ruby works through The Boyfriend List - a list of all the boys she has ever kissed or thought about kissing. The book flashes back to different episodes in Ruby's life and shows how they effected her and lead to her social downfall.

Ruby is a very engaging character, she has a strong voice and is easy to sympathise with. I liked the footnotes at the bottom of the pages too, I didn't find they distracted me from the story and they were very funny.

The Boy Book fast forwards to Ruby's junior year, where she is still a leaper with blue spots but is slowly rebuilding her life and making new friends.

Other characters were more visible and well rounded this time and we see the problems Ruby's friends are facing too. I really liked Noel, I always love characters who are slightly outside the norm.

The book also contains snippets form "The Boy Book". Which Ruby and her friends wrote when they were younger to try and figure out why boys are like they are. As well as being very funny there are some very true observations.

I liked how these books were about friendship, finding yourself, taking charge of your life and being responsible for your actions. Rather than falling dramatically in love, which seems to be a theme in quite a lot of YA books or at least the ones I have read.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Springing


Well, here where I live, Spring is sprung–weeks early, even. Our lilac bush looks like it will have flowers by this time next week instead of in the middle of May as usual. The dogwood trees, the magnolia trees–all the flowering trees are flowering. The daffodils and crocuses are, if anything, starting to fade. It may only be April 24th but it is very definitely Spring and, allergies notwithstanding, I’m happy to welcome the change of season. What I want to know, is:

Do your reading habits change in the Spring? Do you read gardening books? Even if you don’t have a garden? More light fiction than during the Winter? Less? Travel books? Light paperbacks you can stick in a knapsack?

Or do you pretty much read the same kinds of things in the Spring as you do the rest of the year?


I was going to say no but actually it depends on the book. I am having a very hard time getting into The Thirteenth Tale, although I can tell it is the kind of book I will love, because I feel like I should be curled in front of a fire with rain lashing the window while I read it. Some books are definitely meant for winter and some for summer. We are due thunderstorm at the weekend, so that should help!

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Vocabulary





Suggested by Nithin:

I’ve always wondered what other people do when they come across a word/phrase that
they’ve never heard before. I mean, do they jot it down on paper so they can look it up later, or do they stop reading to look it up on the dictionary/google it or do they just continue reading and forget about the word?

I love new words and phrases in books. If the husband (with his freakishly large vocabulary) is around I'll ask him. If not I turn down the page and come back to it.

The last book I read The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart had many brilliant new words in. Not all of them real but still a lot of fun.

"When there's a negative word or expression – immaculate, for example – but the positive is almost never used, and you choose to use it, you become rather amusing. Or pretentious. . . . The neglected positive of immaculate is maculate, meaning morally blemished or stained. . . Other times the neglected positive is not a word. It is an imaginary neglected positive, or INP"

So

impetuous - Petuous - meaning careful.
Ept, meaning competent, from inept.
Turbed, meaning relaxed and comfortable, from disturbed.

After the explanation (which originally came about from P.G Wodehouse using gruntled) Frankie uses INP's throughout the book and they gave me pause. New words really leap off the page at me.

I think its a great way to play with language and would be a lot of fun to do in the classroom.

Can you think up any neglected positives or better yet INP's?

342,752 Ways to Herd Cats Challenge


Another challenge but such a cool one I couldn't resist. Hosted by A Bottle of Shine you have to post ten books you love. Then go look at other peoples' lists and choose three books to read. The challengue runs from 1st May to 30th November.

Here's my top ten.

The Amber Spyglass - Phillip Pullman

The Secret History - Donna Tratt

The Pursuit of Love - Nancy Mitford

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox - Maggie O'Farrell

Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

Twilight - Stephanie Meyer

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks - E. Lockhart

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

Hideous Kinky - Esther Freud

Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons


My three books will be announced soon.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Sunday Salon


The Sunday Salon.com



My first time at the Sunday Salon and I've unintentionally managed to read three books that have dealt with similar themes: finding yourself; finding your place in the world; challenging conventional norms of behaviour; aspiring to a different kind of life or way of living.

Different as they are; I have enjoyed them all. The Secret History by Donna Tartt is one of my favourite books, it's beautifully written and gripping. I know I will read it again and probably discover new layers in it.

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli is sweet and inspiring. It left me feeling I needed to open my eyes and notice the world a bit more when I'm walking through it. I have a tendency "to live like a hermit in my own head" (to channel the lyrics of Death Cab for Cutie).

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks made me laugh out loud as well as making me think about the assumptions and limits women still face and battle against. I really enjoyed E. Lockhart's writing, Frankie was such a strong and engaging character. I also loved the way she played with language in the book.

This afternoon I've been curled up on the sofa, digesting a particularly large and filling brunch and indulging in the many pleasures of The Duke and I by Julia. Becky recommended these series of books a while back and they are perfect for a Sunday afternoon. Very funny, full of smouldering heroes, beautiful d├ębutantes and lots of witty dialogue. I particularly like the gossip column at the start of each chapter.

I'm off to read pick up some more recommendations at the Sunday salon. Enjoy the last hours of the weekend.


Breaking all the rules

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart.

Rating 5/5


The cover made me stop and pick this book up.

It's a fabulous cover.

The back of an envelope sealed shut with red wax; on which is stamped the image of a basset hound. The title is great too. I flicked it open and was sold.

The story lived up to the promise of the cover, title and blurb. I loved it.

It's Frankie's coming of age story, she's finding out who she is and who she wants to be. She's making choices and living with the consequences.

As with Stargirl, the other young adult book I read recently, there are lots of messages about being true to yourself, challenging the conventional rules and being who you want to be rather than who others want you to be. E. Lockhart conveys the message in more more accessible and realistic way.

Frankie is a great character; with a very strong voice. I was completely engaged in her story and rooting for her all the way. She's a girl of today and even though she breaks all the rules she's still a role model.
There were so many things I loved about this book: Frankie's refusal to not be excluded from the boys activities; the paper on The Suicide club; the idea of the panopticon; the secret society; the pranks; the references to P G Wodehouse; the playing with words - nocuous, the positive of innocuous.

I'm really hoping this is the start of a series and we'll see more of Frankie. For now though I'll be rushing out to buy E. Lockhart's other books.

To read the blurb that hooked me and a excerpt go here.

Friday, 11 April 2008

She was today, she was tomorrow.

Stargirl Jerry Spinelli.




Rating 4/5

Stargirl is different to anyone who has ever been to Mica High before. She has a weird name; a pet rat; she plays the ukulele; she serenades people in the lunch hall; she gives out gifts on birthdays and holidays; she cheers for the opposite team; she believes in enchanted places. All her attention is focused out on the world. She is unselfconscious and free of normal constraints.

We could all do with being a bit more like Stargirl.

Everyone falls in love with her but especially the narrator, sixteen year old Leo. The blossoming of their relationship is very sweetly written. It captured the magic of first love.

"She was bendable light. She shone round very corner of my day."

Then everything goes wrong. All the things the students initial loved about Stargirl start to unsettle them. She doesn't fit and her differences no longer make her special they make her a threat to the normal order of things. They start to see her behaviour not as something to aspire to but something that makes them feel bad and mean and little. The whole student body shuns her and Leo along with her. So she tries to change. Not because she needs their validation but because Leo does and she loves him.

Trying to change yourself for other people leads to all sorts of problems though. The lack of warmth from the student body only has the power to hurt her when she's trying to be someone she isn't. When she's being true to her own nature other people's opinions don't bother her.

Stargirl is about: being who you are; accepting people as they are; first love; looking out at the world rather than in at yourself; and following your own path. If your doing what you want to do, what you feel is right and important than life is much clearer and simpler than if your trying to please others.

Other Reviews

Valentina

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Wrtiting Challenge


  • Pick up the nearest book. (I’m sure you must have one nearby.)
  • Turn to page 123.
  • What is the first sentence on the page?
  • The last sentence on the page?
  • Now . . . connect them together….
    (And no, you may not transcribe the entire page of the book–that’s cheating!)

Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!
(Oh, and I’ve added one little thing to the sidebar–a donation button. JUST in case you feel so inclined. I’d love to upgrade BTT to its own hosting, but only if it can afford to pay its way over the course of the year. Absolutely no pressure–I’m glad to have all of you! Just, you know, in case.)


"Sorry," I said.

"You're jealous, you're upset because I'm paying all this attention to other people and not enough to you."

These sentences fit together really well. You can't tell there is whole page between them. I suppose because it is a continuation of the same conversation.

The book is Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli.

The I is Leo and the other speaker is Stargirl and this dialogue is happening just before they kiss for the first time - aw!




Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Quote of the Day



"She might be pointing to a doorway, or a person, or the sky. But such things were so common to my eyes, so undistinguished, that they would register as "nothing" I walked n a gray world of nothing"

Stargirl - Jerry Spinelli

Quote of the Day



"I liked the feeling moonlight gave me, as if it wasn't the opposite of day, but it's underside, it's private side, when the fabulous purred on my snow-white sheet like some dark cat come in from the desert"


Stargirl - Jerry Spinelli

Monday, 7 April 2008

The Secret History

The Secret History - Donna Tartt

This is story that catches you with the first line

"The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation."

and does not let go. It is gripping, a real page turner but also beautifully written.

It is the story of Richard, a university student freshly arrived to the New England College of Hampden. He is disenchanted with his California upbringing and longs to be someone else. Intrigued by a group of students who study Greek, he manages to swap into their classes. He falls in love with all of them and the way of life they represent, which he aspire to. As he learns more about them and the secret that binds them, he begins to see they are not quite what he first thought.

The story races along and the tension mounts with each page but dialogue and description are never sacrificed to pace. Donna Tatt is truly talented at painting pictures with words.

"As I lay on my bed, staring at a pool of white moonlight on the wooden floor, a gust of wind blew the curtains out, long and pale as ghosts."

Richard's voice is captured so deftly that I never lost sympathy with him despite some of his less than pleasant actions. As the full horror of what he has been apart of creeps up on him he begins to see how he's own neediness, lack of self worth and disposition "My own tendency to try and make intersting people good" allowed him to be manipulated.

The mystery and the true nature of Richard's new friends and their relationships with each other are slowly revealed amid hints and over heard conversations. So for a while you aren't quite sure what to believe about who, this increases the tension.

I really did enjoy the book it is not only a good story but it really makes you think about people, their actions, the faces they present to the world and how well we can ever truly know another person.

'

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

March Books

These are the books and stories I read in March, along with their first lines. If I am uncertain about a book I often read the first line or two. I thought it would be interesting having read the books to see if these lines would have hooked me. Do any hook you?

The Owl Service - Alan Garner

"How's the bellyache then?"

Eclispe - Stephanie Meyer

All our attempts at subterfuge had been in vain.

Visions of sugar Plums - Janet Evanovich

My name is Stephanie Plum and I have a strange man in my kitchen.

A is for Alibi - Sue Grafton

My name is Kinsey Millhone.

After You'd Gone - Maggie O'farrrel

The day she would try and kill herself, she would realise winter was coming again.

Petite Anglaise - Catherine Sanderson

I snap awake after three, maybe four hours of alcohol saturated sleep.

Face of a Stranger - Anne Perry

He opened his eyes and saw nothing but a pale greyness above him, uniform, like a winter sky, threatening and heavy.

Odd and the Frost Giants - Neil Gaiman

There was a boy called Odd, and there was nothing strange or unusual about that, not in that time or place.

Short Stories

Pilgrims - Julia Orringer

It was thanksgiving day and hot, because this was New Orleans; they were driving uptown to have dinner with strangers.

When she is old and I am famous - Julia Orringer

There are grape leaves, like a crown, on her head.

The Isabel Fish - Julia Orringer

I am the canker of my brother Sage's life.

Note to Sixth Grade-Self - Julia Orringer

On Wednesdays wear a skirt.

Hateship, Freindship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage - Alice Munro

Years ago, before the trains stopped running on so many of the branch lines, a women with a high freckled forehead and a frizz of reddish hair came into the railway station and enquired about shipping furniture.

Floating Bridge - Alice Munro

One time she had left him.

Family Furnishings - Alice Munro

Alfrida.

Most of these books have good first lines because they pose a question to the reader that will hopefully be interesting enough to keep them reading. My favourites are from After You'd gone because it is so shocking, the first character introduced to is going to kill herself? Why? How? Who is she?

The other is from the Isabel Fish because of the word canker it's unusual and it leaps out at me for that reason. Far more interesting then bane or blight.

And finally from Odd and the Frost Giants. I love it because it tells you so much about the story in so short a time.