Sunday, January 29, 2012

Just Finished: Julie and Romeo

Jeanne Ray's Julie and Romeo was my choice for the Romance category of the Mixing It Up challenge.  As I have said, I would rather do almost anything than read a Harlequin-style romance.  So, I looked for a book that could be considered a romance, but wasn't a "romance novel," if you know what I mean.  Browsing Amazon eventually turned up Julie and Romeo

From the jacket:  "A deliciously funny and wickedly sexy novel of love found (finally!) and love threatened (inevitably) by the families who claim to love us best: Romeo Cacciamani and Julie Roseman are rival florists in Boston, whose families have hated each other for as long as anyone can remember (what they can't remember is why).  When these two vital, lonely people see each other across a crowded lobby at a small business owner's seminar, an intense attraction blooms that neither tries to squelch.  They're not sure what fate has in store for them, but they're not about to let something as silly as a generations-long feud stand in the way of finding out."

Well, it's a romance.  Very light, often amusing, and occasionally truly wise about mothers and daughters.  Initially, I was, honestly, reading just to finish the Romance requirement of the challenge, but it's a winning, good-natured sort of tale.  Although I wouldn't have chosen it for my own pleasure, I ended up liking Julie and hoping she'd get her man.

Twelve by Shakespeare in 2012 January: One Down, Eleven to Go

Twelve by Shakespeare in 2012 has finished A Midsummer Night's Dream.  Although the number of participants was unfortunately small, we had some interesting discussions.  A feather-light comedy, over almost before it begins, all conflicts resolved quickly, with plenty of silliness and without lasting repercussions, it does leave the impression of having woken from a dream.  The different types of love were discussed, and the pairs of lovers were compared and contrasted, as were the characters of Puck and Bottom.  Consensus: fun.  Much Ado About Nothing is next on the agenda for February.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wednesday Verse

The Panther
by Rainer Maria Rilke

His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold
anything else.  It seems to him there are
a thousand bars; and behind the bars, no world.

As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides
is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.

Only at times, the curtain of the pupils
lifts, quietly--.  An image enters in,
rushes down through the tense, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart and is gone.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
My teasers:  

"Give me your fork, Mum, and take the baby," said Flopson.  "Don't take it that way, or you'll get its head under the table."  (From Great Expectations by Charles Dickens).

You gotta love Dickens.

My Tentative List for the Mixing It Up Challenge

I'm going for all 16 categories in the Mixing It Up challenge, and this will be my base post for that challenge.  Below are the categories, with tentative reading choices for each one.  As I complete a book in any category, I'll replace the tentative choices with a link to a response.


Finished:  Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.  Am reading this in anticipation of Masterpiece Classic's stateside airing of its new production in April.  Response here.


Finished:  Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson.  I enjoyed both Isaacson's engaging style, and getting a more three-dimensional understanding of Einstein's character than the cartoonish mental image I had before.  Response here.

Cookery, Food, and Wine

Finished:  Literary Feasts:  Recipes From the Classics of LiteratureResponse here.

Finished:  Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder.  Response here.

Modern Fiction

Finished:    An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro.  Response here.

Graphic Novels and Manga

Finished:  Maus: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman.  Response here.

Crime and Mystery

Finished:  The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Response here.


Finished:  Casting the Runes and Other Ghost Stories by M. R. James.  Response here.  


Finished:  Julie and Romeo by Jeanne Ray.  I went with this one because it isn't a "romance novel," most of which I would rather do almost anything than read.  Response here.

Science Fiction and Fantasy

Finished:  The Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells.  Response here.

Finished:  The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches by Matsuo Basho.  Response here.
Poetry and Drama

Finished:  The Revenger's Tragedy by Tourneur.  Response here.

Journalism and Humor

Finished:  Something Fresh by P. G. Wodehouse.  Response here. 

Science and Natural History

Finished:  Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain.  Response here.

Children's and Young Adult

Finished:  The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.  Response here

Social Sciences and Philosophy

Finished:  The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau.  Response here.

Please do make suggestions for any and all categories; none of this is written in stone except the first two, which I'm already reading.  Ideas are thin on the ground for several categories here and I welcome help!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Challenge: Mixing It Up

Okay, I'm entering another challenge:  Mixing It Up, hosted by Musings of a Bookshop Girl.  Maybe it's because I'm already reading two books that will fit this challenge, or maybe it's just that I like the variety in this one.  Anyhoo, I'm in.  Here are the rules:

The premise is really very simple.  It's all about mixing up your reading, pushing your boundaries and exploring new genres.  Take a look at the categories below, and choose one book for each category.  It's that easy!  You can choose to try anything from a gentle 4 to the full 16 different genres, and the book you pick for each is entirely up to you!




MEASURING JUG: Playing it safe with 1-4 categories
CUPCAKE MIX: Livening things up with 5-8 categories
MIXING BOWL: Branching out with 9-12 categories
TWO-TIER CAKE: Getting ambitious with 13-15 categories
ALL THE TRIMMINGS AND A CHERRY ON TOP: Going for gold with the full 16!

The Einstein bio that I'm reading now would obviously fit the biography category, and Great Expectations, which I've just started, will work for classics.  I think I'll try to make all 16 categories.  Although I've never been interested in graphic novels, this may be an incentive to try Maus, of which I've heard so much over the years.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wednesday Verse

This Is Just to Say
by Erica-Lynn Gambino

(for William Carlos Williams)

I have just
asked you to
get out of my

even though
you never
I would

Forgive me
you were
me insane

Monday, January 16, 2012

Rereading Great Expectations

It appears that PBS will be airing a new production of Great Expectations where I am in April.  (Hat tip: dovegreyreader.)  I retain an impression from way back when of having liked it, so I've decided to reread it before it airs.  It suits my mood right now, which is moody, wintry, gothic-y.  My hope is that reading and watching will be more enjoyable than just watching.  If anyone has seen this new version already, do let me know your impressions. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Interview Questions from Booking Through Thursday

Booking Through Thursday asks the following:

What’s your favorite time of day to read?
Mealtimes.  That's almost the only time I am not doing something else. 

Do you read during breakfast? (Assuming you eat breakfast.)
Yes (see above).  On weekdays, the New York Times. On weekends, anything goes. 

What’s your favorite breakfast food? (Noting that breakfast foods can be eaten any time of day.)
Buttered toast.  Heavy on the butter. 

How many hours a day would you say you read?
Probably average three.  (See first question above.)

Do you read more or less now than you did, say, 10 years ago?
I would say the same amount, but different choices of reading matter.

Do you consider yourself a speed reader?
I try not to be, but I'm afraid my tendency is to gulp rather than savor. 

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
The power to periodically pause time, so I could rest alone when feeling stressed, then continue on where I left off.

Do you carry a book with you everywhere you go?

What KIND of book?
Whatever I'm currently reading.  So I can occupy time in waiting rooms or at kids' sporting events.  Unfortunately, this is really wishful thinking on my part, as I generally have to talk with other parents, etc., and don't actually get to read that much while out.

How old were you when you got your first library card?
Probably around 5 or 6--at school. 

What’s the oldest book you have in your collection? (Oldest physical copy? Longest in the collection? Oldest copyright?)
Ooh.  Let's see.  The very oldest would be some family heirlooms given to me by my Mom a few years ago:  100 Best Short Stories, in ten volumes, published by Funk & Wagnall's in 1927.  I also have all my adolescent comfort reading (Agatha Christies and Mary Stewarts from 30 years ago). 

Do you read in bed?
Actually I don't, because I don't go to bed until I'm pretty sleepy, and can't focus that well.  Instead, counterintuitively, I do crosswords in bed.  Incredibly relaxing.  Couple of clues and I'm asleep. 

Do you write in your books?
Almost never.  Can't make myself do it.  If I do, I do it very lightly in pencil and erase later. 

If you had one piece of advice to a new reader, what would it be? 
Try something you don't think you'll like.  You might be surprised.

What question have I NOT asked at BTT that you’d love me to ask?  Name a book you love in a genre you normally don't care for.  What made you decide to read it?  Did it make you want to try more in that genre?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Just Finished: Dark Matter, by Michelle Paver

In Michelle Paver's Dark Matter, a man is alone in the deep night of the Arctic Circle in winter.  As he gains knowledge and understanding of his situation, he becomes more afraid.  What menaces him is very bad indeed, and as his understanding grows, so does his fear. 

Dark Matter is a ghost story.  I am inordinately fond of ghost stories, so that put it on my radar when I saw it reviewed a year ago by dovegreyreader.  I'm even fonder of ghost stories set in the Arctic (not nearly enough of those, to my mind), possibly because of the opening scene of Frankenstein.  Remember--the human-but-not human-creature, embodying tragedy, seen from a distance, driving the team of dogs into the frozen, empty, uninhabitable end of the earth?  It was a genius combination.

Dark Matter gave me what I hoped for:  a creeping sense of dread as the man loses his companions one by one and is finally left alone in the months-long darkness, the increasing evidence of something unnatural threatening him, and a ghost that is genuinely scary.  (Admittedly I am easily scared.)  This ghost was just right.  Its reason for being arose logically from the setting, and the scenes in which it appeared did not deteriorate into gore and perversity, for which I also have a low tolerance.

If I would quibble with anything about Dark Matter, it would be the writing style, which is to say, the narrator's speaking style, since the book is in the form of the main character's journal.  The period is 1937, and the speaker, Jack, is English.  This voice was a bit too modern-sounding and that jarred just a little. 

Still, a lovely, moody ghost story.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Know, Aware, Realize

I love Theme Thursdays at Reading Between Pages.  Today's theme is KNOW, AWARE, KNOWING, REALIZE.  From Dark Matter by Michelle Paver:

I know that Gruhuken is haunted.

I knew at once that it wasn't some trapper from a nearby camp, or a polar mirage, or that hoary excuse, 'a trick of the light.' The mind does not suggest explanations that don't fit the facts, only to reject them a moment later.  I knew what it was.  I knew, with some ancient part of me, that it wasn't alive.

I've just realized the significance of what I wrote about the doghouse.  Something opened the doghouse door.

  (Shiver... )

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wednesday Verse

This is Just to Say
by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What the Kids Are Reading

What are they reading and loving?  Not what have they been assigned, but what would they recommend, asks 5 Minutes For Books.  Well.  I have four of them (kids, that is).  Let's take a look, shall we?

Eldest daughter (17):  "Finally, a book I want to read!"  Said upon catching sight of The Woman in Black by Susan Hill on the counter at my elbow.  Her excitement stems, it must be confessed, from the fact that this book has been made into a soon-to-be released movie starring--wait for it--Daniel Radcliffe.  She hasn't actually started it yet, and she's not getting her mitts on it until I finish it.

Second daughter (14):  The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle.  At least, this is what she brings to breakfast every morning, and it's only the tip of the iceberg.  On her nightstand at this writing are The Way We Live NowVanity Fair, and  Les Miserables, as well as, I think, one or more of the Hunger Games and Percy Jackson series.  This one is a devourer like her mom.

Older son (11):  Percy Jackson all the way.  Is reading and rereading them in order.  Won't look at anything else right now.

Younger son (8):  To Space and Back by Sally Ride & Susan Okie.  This guy voluntarily reads only non-fiction, and that only if it relates to whatever his passion du jour is (currently space travel).  Previous passions include gladiators and aliens.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

New, Fresh, Latest...

Reading Between Pages has a Thursday meme asking readers to post quotes from what they are reading that illustrate a theme.  Today's theme over there is NEW, FRESH, LATEST.  A biography of Einstein is, surely, an excellent source of sentences with this theme.  A sampling:

The general theory of relativity was not merely the interpretation of some experimental data or the discovery of a more accurate set of laws.  It was a whole new way of regarding reality.

Einstein, at age 36, had produced one of history's most imaginative and dramatic revisions of our concepts about the universe.

But physics was poised to be upended again, and Einstein was poised to be the one to do it.
(From Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson.)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wednesday Verse

This tickled me, but then I lived in Minnesota for two years. 

After Forty Years of Marriage, She Tries 
a New Recipe for Hamburger Hot Dish
by Leo Dangel

"How did you like it?" she asked.

"It's all right," he said.

"This is the third time I cooked
it this way.  Why can't you
ever say if you like something?"

"Well, if I didn't like it, I
wouldn't eat it," he said.

"You can never say anything
I cook tastes good."

"I don't know why all the time
you think I have to say it's good.
I eat it, don't I?"

"I don't think you have to say
all the time it's good, but once
in awhile you could say
you like it."

"It's all right," he said.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Twelve by Shakespeare in 2012

Read and discuss one of Shakespeare's plays each month in 2012.  This is the plan of a virtual group I have joined, and it makes a nice impressive-sounding goal with which to start off the new year!  Still some gaps to be filled, but it's looking nice and enticing so far.  I'm hoping for some that I haven't read yet--will post with updates.  

Tentative lineup:  
January:  A Midsummer Night's Dream
February:  Much Ado About Nothing
March:  The Tempest
April:  Taming of the Shrew
May:  King Lear
June:  Julius Caesar
August:  Coriolanus

September:  MacBeth