Seven Random Facts About Me & Books

youve-been-tagged

A long, long time ago Avis of  She Reads and Reads tagged me for the book edition of the seven random facts meme. I’m just now getting this up.  (Bad me!) Click here to read her post.

Here are seven random book-related facts about me:

  • I currently have about 450 books stashed around my apartment.  Almost 400 of them are catalogued in LibraryThing, but the remaining 50 or more are cookbooks and music books which I have not entered in LT, and probably won’t.
  • I love to read across all genres but for a long time now I have read mainly non-fiction or literary fiction because in general I have found them to have been the most thoughtful and well written, two things that I am really big on. I have branched out and read more genre fiction this year and in some cases have been pleasantly surprised, especially most recently  with In The Woods by Tana French and Dating Da Vinci by Malena Lott.
  • If I go into a store and buy a book it will be a trade paperback book unless I really need it (for a book club or something) and I have no choice but to buy it in hardcover.  I’m also really particular about font size.  I have walked away from books that might have been good but the font was just too big or too ugly.  I’ll read books that people give me in any format.
  • I used to dog ear pages and write in books, but now I use little tabs and post-its to mark my place and to mark interesting passages.
  • I keep the books that I want to read sooner rather than later in my windowsill.
  • For years I bought every book I read.  This year I have gone to the library sporadically.
  • One of my fondest memories is the weekly trip that I would take to the library with my mother and cousin.  We would stay in the children’s section while she would look around at the adult books and then she would come and see what we had picked out.  We would all go and check out the books, my cousin and I so proud of our library cards.  The library was near the park so we would often go there afterward and I would look forward to getting a hot dog from the cart.  I went through a variety of stages with those hot dogs.  Just mustard.  Just ketchup. Only mustard and ketchup. Mustard and ketchup and onions and sauerkraut. You get the picture.  Good times!

I’m supposed to tag 7 other people, but at this point I have seen this on so many blogs, each time reminding me that I had to put mine up.  If you haven’t played along yet, let me know and I will “tag” you.

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Last Week on Linus’s Blanket ~ 11/29/08

Most Read Post

  • The Boxcar Children, by Gertrude Warner Chandler

Most Read Non-Review Post

  • Mailbox Monday

5 Most Read Reviews

  1. The Boxcar Children, by Gertrude Warner Chandler
  2. The Jewel Trader of Pegu: A Novel by Jeffrey Hantover
  3. In The Woods, by Tana French
  4. Testimony, by Anita Shreve
  5. Foe, by J.M. Coetzee

I was a little surprised to see The Boxcar Children at number 1, and more surprised to see that Foe is in the top 5 considering that it’s an older book and I reviewed it a while back.  Interesting.

Newly Reviewed Last Week

  • The Jewel Trader of Pegu: A Novel, By Jeffrey Hantover
  • In The Woods, by Tana French
  • Silas Marner, by George Eliot

Read Last Week

  • The Biblesalesman, by Clyde Eggerton
  • The Bookmaker, by Michael J. Agovino
  • The Faith of Barack Obama, by Stephen J. Mansfield
  • Islands of the Divine Music, by John Addiego
  • Perfect on Paper: The (Mis)adventures of Waverly Bryson, by Maria Murnane
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Saturday Review Finds

Sherry over at Semicolon does a Saturday Review of Books
where we can go and post our reviews from the past week and read other's reviews as well.  Such a great idea.  Thanks Sherri!

This week I submitted reviews for Silas Marner , In The Woods and The Jewel Trader of Pegu: A Novel ; and not that I need anything else hopping on my tbr pile,  but I also found these that looked interesting:

  • When Wanderers Cease to Roam by Vivian Swift , as reviewed by Dawn @ She Is Too Fond of Books

What did you find at the Saturday Review of Books?

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Friday Finds ~ 11.28.08

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I could have  sworn that I had participated in Friday Finds before, but then I didn’t have the image for it in my files or the category listed in my blog, so maybe not.

This looks good.

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Silas Marner, by George Eliot – Book Review

 Silas Marner by George EliotSilas Marner by George Eliot

 Ah! A golden oldie from the shelves.  Silas Marner has been on my shelves for so long that I don’t remember how I came to own a copy. Was it for an English class I eventually dropped? Was I browsing through the bookstore and suddenly overcome by the desire to run off with some George Eliot? It is true that I would like to work my way through some more of the classics.  As a child, I enjoyed The Count of Monte Cristo and A Tale of Two Cities (even though I have never been able to get into this as an adult).  I loved Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.  However, I had mixed feelings about good old Silas.

There are some classic books that can be easily understood outside the time period in which they were written; whether owing to simple and clear language or to the universality of their themes.  For me, Silas Marner was not one of those books.  On the surface, it would seem that it should be one of those books in that it offers the apparency of an obvious story line. Its plot basics can be related to and understood in contemporary times.  A man lives apart from a society for which he has no use, but is rehabilitated and reintegrated into that society through circumstances that require him to take in an orphan and raise her as his own.

The long version of events is that as a young man Silas, who loves living in his small religious community, and is a devout follower of the faith, is framed by a friend for stealing.  To make matters worse, that friend goes on to marry Silas’s fiancée.  Having had faith that the truth would be found out, Silas is disappointed and bitter that no one believes his story. He moves to another town and essentially becomes a hermit, interacting with the town only in offering his services as a weaver and hoarding the money they pay him for his fine work. His money is stolen when he leaves his door open while wandering the countryside. The same night a baby is left at his fireside. You can guess the rest. He’s a changed man from the love of a small child.

This is a short book, but I did not make progress quickly.  I liked the story, sort of.  I mostly enjoyed the experience reading Silas Marner because it validates that I can read and have a basic understanding of a classic work on my own, and it wasn’t boring; which is exciting because I think it’s what I expect of some classics.  But I hated that he lost his place in a community that he loved, that his friend framed him and married his fiancée and that he lost his money and was thus wronged a second time (even though he was being careless). I knew that this is all effecting his change and would make him a person more eager to engage other people and be a better person, but I still hoped that there would be some closure or comeuppance for the scoundrels. The scenery descriptions are lush and gorgeous, but ultimately I was a little overwhelmed by them.  There were some sections where the landscape acted as the main character and that was tough for me.

Basic comprehension aside, I felt I missed the nuance and clarity that would have come with more knowledge of the time period. In fact, I hope that I missed a lot because I wouldn’t otherwise think that this story was as worthwhile to read. I felt for the character of Silas and knew that all of the events that he had gone through were leading to a greater transformation, but in that sense, it wasn’t particularly original and I found the construction to be rather heavy handed.  I’m left thinking that mitigating factors at the time that might have made this radical storytelling or offer deeper insights than my assessment has gathered.

What do you think about classics?  Do you think it’s helpful to read a little bit of the history going on at the time to understand what’s going on?

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In The Woods, Tana French – Book Review

in-the-woods
In The Woods, by Tana French

Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: May 27, 2008
Format: Trade Paperback, 429 pages

Part mystery and part detailed character sketch and psychological portrait, In The Woods is a riveting and enjoyable read throughout. Three children disappear in the woods near their home in Dublin, Ireland in 1984, and later, only one child is found clinging to a tree with blood on his shoes and no memory, no matter how much he is questioned, of what happened. The missing boy is packed off to boarding school where he goes from Adam Robert Ryan to Robert Ryan, a drifter who finally focuses his life and becomes a detective, working his way up a spot on the coveted murder squad.

When a young girl turns up dead at the edge of those same woods he played in with his friends long ago, Rob knows that he should remove himself from the case, but he continues investigating with the careful and skeptical support of his friend and partner Cassie Maddox, one out of two of the only people who know his true identity. Rob has warned her to let him know if the case starts to affect him and his work too strongly, but feels sure that he is having flashes of insight and memory that may prove ultimately prove helpful in solving the new crime.

This novel was an interesting find for me. Sometimes with genre fiction I have the expectation that I am going to have to sacrifice quality of writing and/or depth of characters to get an interesting mystery story. That was not the case with Tana French’s compelling story. This detective novel/procedural is nothing if not character driven with several interesting twists on the usual unsolved mystery where the past comes back to haunt the seasoned detective.

One of the most compelling aspects of the novel is the unreliable narrator in
Rob Ryan, who introduces himself with the warning that he lies. His cagey admission in the beginning of the novel adds another layer of suspense as at any given time you wonder whether he is telling the truth or if he is not telling the truth. If he’s not telling the truth you wonder if it is because he is purposely misleading you, or is he filtering the truth because of the horrific experience he had as a child, which even having no memory of the events, colors his entire life.

More than just a whodunit, this is the portrait of two fragile people
who have come together to work as partners and who have over the years gotten
to know each other and formed a deep friendship with an attendant bond. Though Cassie Maddox’s point of view is never explored she is carefully drawn and fully fleshed to the reader through her friendship with Ryan. Unfortunately that friendship is put to the ultimate test in the course of the intense month long murder investigation which Maddox’s actions unwittingly brings to them one leisurely day in the office.

French’s characterizations are complex and drawn with great empathy and attention to detail. I sympathized almost equally with Ryan and Maddox as the case spiraled out of control and wreaked havoc in the personal lives of these detectives, each of them faced with intense personal and professional dilemmas.  I was riveted and turned pages rapidly trying to figure how everything was going to turn out for everybody, though, I would caution those who like their endings nice and neat to think twice before picking up this wonderful psychological thriller.
Loose ends abound.

Read More Reviews

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Both Eyes

Presenting Lenore

Reading is My Super Power

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Musing Mondays: Something Like a Phenomenon

How do you feel about wide-spread reading phenomenons – Harry Potter, for instance, or the more current Twilight Saga? Are these books so widely read for a reason, or merely fads or crazes? Do you feel compelled to read – or NOT to read – these books because everyone else is?

I don’t really feel one way or another about reading phenomena, crazes and fad.  If a book becomes the next big thing and it happens to be something that I’m interested in, then I will read it and weigh in at some point.  I never feel compelled to run out and read it in any particular hurry.

I remember being told that I had to read The Da Vinci Code and it had been out a long time before I read the copy that had been forced upon me.  I found it to be enjoyable for what it was.  Fast paced and written from an intriguing historical angle, it was a fun read where I didn’t expect deep characterization or lyrical writing.  I certainly wasn’t myself for not having read it sooner and I think I would have been okay had I not read it at all.  Interestingly enough I though the movie was pretty good and what I pictured having read the book.  This is coming from someone who usually isn’t too fond of movies based on books.  I suspect it’s because while I found the book to be enjoyable, I wasn’t all that invested in it or the characters.

The referenced series haven’t attracted my interest either, and I doubt that I will read them.  In the case of Harry Potter, I have never particularly enjoyed reading about non-human characters, and have like wise skipped most movies and books that have had such creatures. So I missed out on Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, et al.  I did really love ET, I must say.

The Twilight books are the first that I have witnessed to explode online and I still haven’t read any.  Not really interested in vampires and even the added thrill of teenage vampires in hot love doesn’t quite do the trick.  I probably won’t see the movie either.

I’m trying to think if there is anything that I have ever anticipated in terms of books, and I can’t come up with anything.  I think that might be because I am always reading about books that seem interesting and am looking forward to reading, and unlike movies there usually aren’t trailers and reminders for them.  I am always picking from a number of carefully selected books that I have wanted to read for a long time.   And with this I think I have completely wandered off the topic.

What about you?  How are you affected by reading phenoms?

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Jewel Trader of Pegu: A Novel, Jeffrey Hantover – Book Review

the-jewel-trader-of-pegu
The Jewel Trader of Pegu: A Novel, Jeffrey Hantover
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: January 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover, 227 pages

The Jewel Trader of Pegu is a delightfully descriptive and gently observed novel by Jeffrey Hantover. Told in epistolary fashion, The Jewel Trader of  Pegu follows the journey of 16th century jeweler Abraham. Abraham is a young man who is prompted to travel the world collecting precious stones to bring back to his uncle to sell after the death of his wife and newborn son in childbirth. He writes to his cousin Joseph, a man who sees in many ways his opposite, back home. His last stop on his journey around the world is the mystical country of Pegu, which is located in Burma. There he is faced with crisis of conscience and religious faith as he is asked by the people of his temporary homeland to perform a sacred custom for brides, which goes against the basic articles of his faith.

Abraham is at first able to decline participation in the process, but as it becomes clear that he is upsetting the people who have embraced him, there is also the implicit threat of being expelled from the country for refusal to fully participate in the workings of society. Abraham’s letters are interspersed with the narrative of an unknown young woman from his host country who provides an alternate perspective of her people and their customs.  She emerges an important part on Abraham’s life and the catalyst of a major decision that he makes which define him for himself.

Reading this book I luxuriated in beautiful writing and interest ideas as Abraham explores his own religious customs and values against the backdrop of people whose beliefs and practices are radically different from what he had been taught and had blindly believed all his years. He compares their acts of barbarity with those of his own country, and wonders who is right.  It’s always interesting to me to be exposed to other ideas that my own culture would be considered backwards or barbaric. Abraham is the perfect filter for this because he is always questioning and viewing his reactions and wondering how they came about, questioning and reviewing his actions to people and contrasting how Jews are treated by the Christians back home in Venice.

This novel also raised for me the questions of identity and who we are when we are away from our home country and culture and faced with living and surviving in a place that often has us out of our comfort zone? How fluid is identity and religion when we are surrounded by what is totally unfamiliar? How do we justify our own barbaric acts and for what reasons and by whose standards do we consider them to be valid reasons?

This book is graceful, thoughtful and slow moving.  If you are looking for action then this isn’t something I would recommend.  Some of the scenes and depictions of war can be graphic but there aren’t rapid-fire events moving the plot along. This is a book of self-examination and ideas.

This book will be out in trade paperback on December 30, 2008.

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While I’m Away…

I work in the Corporate Offices of an international retail company and we have board meetings six times a year. I’m in the midst one of those periods, and for two weeks it’s ALL work all the time, weekends included. The good news is the two week started last week and I was able to post and interact a wee bit. This week, not so much. Our meeting is on Thursday so I’ll be back to regular posting Saturday when I have had a chance to catch my breath. I se I have some new commenters whose posts I look forward to responding and whose blogs I look forward to reading. I also have my old friends that I want to catch up with. Thanks to you all for stopping by.

In the meantime may I suggest these sites for your reading pleasure?

Words to Mouth Carrie has an awesome sight. She has in-depth author interviews that really give a lot of great insight into why the author writes and their inspirations, plus she has reviews, audio interviews, giveaways and guest posts. The latest post up is a guest review of a book I reviewed here, Life After Genius. Carrie also posted my review of Testimony. Definitely check her out.

Just Write Blog Carnival Missy over at The Incurable Disease of Writing hosts a great carnival each week with interesting articles on the writing life as well as short stories, poetries, writing tips and more. She also post book reviews, for all of my fellow book lovers out there. Check out the latest issue of the carnival and also check her site for submission details.

Book Review Blog Carnival Ii head here to check out all the great reviews. Clark of I’ll Never Forget the Day I Read The Book does a wonderful job organizing. This week the carnival will be hosted at hos site. The next issue is November 23rd, and Clark will be hostig it at his site. You can go here to submit your review. Clark also tagged me for the Bookworms Award meme. I’m reading a really good book right now, so I will try to post it before Saturday and ask some of you all to do it as well. So consider yourself warned.

I owe Avis a post too, on 7 book things about me. That one is coming as well.

Writing posts doesn’t take a long time, but formatting them sure does. Anyone have any tips, tricks, shortcuts?

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