Wednesday, 30 July 2008

How Has Blogging, Or Reading Blogs, Changed Your Reading?

This is the question posed over at Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’? today. And a very interesting question it is too :)

Blogging has changed my reading in fairly subtle ways, I think. The most obvious thing is that my wishlist and Mt TBR have increased greatly as I've seen books reviewed and then tried to Mooch them. I'd imagine that this is the case for most book bloggers. Of course, I'm on The Project now so am avoiding the acquisition of books (and I'm doing not bad although I'm not perfect) but my little wishbook is rapidly filling a small notebook.

I've found, since I've been reviewing books (first on BookCrossing, then also LibraryThing, now also here) that I read more actively. Instead of just passivly letting the words wash over me, I'm judging the writing and watching to see if I'm enjoying it. Yes, I still sometimes read quite mindlessly but I do tend to have one eye on my review as I read.

The other change that blogging has wrought is the challenges. I used to read books in the (rough) order in which they entered by home. Today I have a challenge shelf and read from that. If it's ever empty (like that's going to happen any time soon!) I'll go back to my former method. The challenge shelf is a kind of fast-track for the books and I'll also put books there that other people have asked for when I'm done with them or that I have a burning desire to read and therefore don't want to put on Mt TBR. I like my new system and it does appear to be working for me.

The only negative I can see is that reading blogs takes me away from reading books. Sometimes, when I'm tired and not having a good day, it's so much easier to surf through some blogs instead of schooling myself to settle down with my book. I did this last night. Sure, I had fun but would my time have been better spent with my book? Maybe. But I think it's all a question of balance.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Teaser Tuesday

There are so many lovely games and challenges about at the moment. I really love this one. Here are the rules:

Grab your current read

Let the book fall open to a random page

Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

So, here we go:

Judith Miller - Whispers Along the Rails - page 43

"One thing was certain: she'd soon need to make plans for her future. She had paid for her room rent through the end of February, or was it March?"

Naming Convention Challenge 2008

I've come across a very interesting challenge. Here are the rules:

1) Write down your first name (or whatever name you usually go by)
2) Do any or all of the following:
2a) For each letter, pick an author whose last name starts with that letter.
2b) For each letter, pick an author whose first name starts with that letter.
2c) For each letter, pick a book that starts with that letter.
3) Books can be cross-overs from other challenges, but each book can only be used once in this challenge. Authors may be repeated though.
4) The challenge lasts one month per letter of your name

I've decided, firstly, that I can't resist a good challenge. And, secondly, to use my first name (Laura) to choose books whose titles begin with the letters. So the selections are:

Janette Oke - Love's Long Journey
Jan Karon - At Home in Mitford
Kazuo Ishiguro - The Unconsoled
Vanessa Del Fabbro - The Road to Home
Marlena de Blasi - A Thousand Days in Venice

Happy reading, everyone!

Monday, 28 July 2008

Monday Musings #2: Choosing Your Next Book

Today's Monday Musings asks:

What do you think? Would you use a program like this [BookLamp], that helped you pick books to read based on what you’ve read before?

I think BookLamp sounds a fairly good idea but I think there would be a danger of the reader falling into a rut of always reading books of Type A and missing out on all the other Types she might enjoy. I suppose it would depend on exactly how the site makes selections for you. I certainly wouldn't want to be dependant on one source for reading recommendations. At the moment I gather wishes from various blogs, LibraryThing and friends over at BookCrossing.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

67. Niki Anderson - What My Cat Has Taught Me About Life

This is a charming book which would be welcome at my bedside anytime. It is subtitled 'Meditations for Cat Lovers' and lives up to its aims. The author has put together a series of lovely, catty stories with prayers and verses of Scripture. A welcome addition to my library, I plan to hold onto it for now although I will send it out on a Ring when I've completed the feline behaviour course I'm currently working on.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Unread Authors Challenge II

The Unread Authors Challenge II will be getting underway on 1st August 2008. And I'd like to play ... The rules are simple. Read six books in six months by authors that you have never read before. You can read six books by one 'unread' author or six books by six authors or something in between. I'm going to choose:

Book Lover by Jennifer Kaufman and Karen Mack
Jam and Jeopardy by Doris Davidson
Bread Alone by Judi Hendricks
Sarah by Orson Scott Card
Knowledge of Angels by Jill Paton Walsh
The Quilter's Apprentice by Jennifer Chiaverini

Musing Mondays

There's a new bookish meme in town. Should Be Reading's Musing Mondays aims to encourage readers to talk about their reading. How could that be bad?

Today's prompt is:

Every once in awhile, especially when I hear a lot about book challenges and number of books read, I want to pull back and ask people why they read. Is reading inherently better than watching movies or making jewelry or cooking fancy cakes or cultivating roses? Is reading ever negative and, if so, when? So why do we read?

I think it'd be sad if my reading ever boiled down to how many pages I can get through in a day. I suppose that's a danger of challenges and such but, as I've only just started doing them, I've not found it a problem thus far.

Why do I read? It's only partly the content of the books. I love the process of reading. I love running my eyes over the words and seeing them come to life as I learn their meanings. I find it calming and magical and consuming. I can, quite literally, get lost in a book. A lot of my reading is distraction. I have mental health problems which include anxiety and reading is the best way I've found to force my mind to switch off the nasty feelings and tune in to something more pleasant. For me, reading is better than watching a film or knitting or going for a walk. It suits the way my mind works. Is it inherently better for everyone? I'm inclined to say it is. Surely it's better to be engaging your mind with a good book than vegging out in front of the TV? I feel strongly that reading is superior to movies, TV and popular music. It is equal to other hobbies that engage the mind. I think my objection to TV etc is that it's so passive. All we need to do is clutch the remote and gaze at the pretty pictures. Which is fine for a little while but not four hours a night (or whatever the average is).

Is reading ever negative? I don't think so ... I'm struggling to find a way that it is. There are plenty of pop-corn books out there (I'm thinking cheap romances and sci-fi) but even these require us to engage our minds to some extent.

I think my beliefs about reading are very strongly influenced by my own experiences of poor mental health. Because it is beneficial for *me* to read a lot, I tend to assume that it is likewise beneficial for everyone. And, really, why would it not be?

Saturday, 19 July 2008

66. Geraldine Brooks - Year of Wonders

Year of Wonders
Brooks, Geraldine
4th Estate
No. of pages:
First sentence:
I used to love this season.

I chose to read this book because I enjoy historical fiction and found something oddly romantic about the concept of a seventeenth century village quarantining itself while plague was amongst the inhabitants. I was not disappointed.

The central character and narrator is a young widow named Anna. She has an engaging personality and her voice rings true throughout the text. Brooks has chosen a style of language which seems natural to Anna and has obviously researched her subject meticulously. At times I could see myself sitting at Anna's hearth while she told me her story - and it is a story that held my interest from start to finish.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction based on the facts as we know them. I have read another book by Brooks and am looking forward to reading more in the future.


Monday, 14 July 2008

65. Amy Tan - The Joy Luck Club

The Joy Luck Club
Tan, Amy
Ivy Books
Paperback (Cleaning Challenge)
No. of pages:
First sentence:
The old woman remembered a swan she had bought many years ago in Shanghai for a foolish sum.

This book was sent to my by the very generous hetku77 as part of chirel's Cleaning Challenge. I had wishlisted it after reading a description/review of it.

This is the first Amy Tan I have read. I enjoyed her style of writing, finding it smooth and easy to speed along with although the plot is slow and simple rather than thrilling. The book gives us scenes from the lives of eight women - four Chinese mothers and their four American-Chinese daughters. Each scene is evocative and intricately depicted. I found myself sighing, wincing and getting frustrated along with the characters. My only criticism is that the different narratives didn't really have different voices so I had to keep checking to see whose story I was reading and whose family she fitted into. That said, I cannot think of how differentiation could have been achieved without falling into cliché.

The main theme of this book is mother-daughter relationships. I found many parallels to my own life even though I'm not Chinese.

I would recommend this book to women who enjoy family sagas, cross-culturalism and examining relationships. The cover is fairly attractive, showing a very Chinese design. I have at least one other Amy Tan book on Mt TBR and will look out for more in the future.


Friday, 11 July 2008

Classics Challenge May-Dec 2008 - Change

I made a rather half-hearted effort with James Montgomery Boice's The Parables of Jesus for this challenge (on which I am already behind) this afternoon. I don't know why I got this book as it didn't appeal to me at all when it arrived and has continued not to do so as I've shifted it from box to shelf to pile. Anyway, I read the first chapter and still didn't want to continue so I've decided to substitute The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. Hopefully I will get on better with that!

Thursday, 10 July 2008

64. Deeanne Gist - The Measure of a Lady

The Measure of a Lady
Gist, Deeanne
Bethany House
No. of pages:
First sentence:
This Street is Impassable, Not Even Jackassable.

I had a copy of Gist's first book (A Bride Most Begrudging) but found it too unlikely to be enjoyable. This second work seemed much more firmly grounded in fact and, indeed, Gist says in the Author's Note that many of the events retold did in fact happen although the characters and plot are works of fiction. I found myself sucked into the whirl of storytelling right from the start. I particularly like the loose ends that still dangle at the end of the book. This is unusual for me - I usually like to see everything set square by the end of a novel.

Gist's style is easy to read and easy to love. Her language is simple but effective. Some passages made me wince while others really did make me laugh out loud.

I think Johnnie is my favourite character. He's a good boy made bad and I'd be happy to have him sweep me off my feet! The romance in this book is passionate without falling into salaciousness. Gist raises questions about sexuality, prostitution and purity and deals honestly with these difficult issues.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good, old-fashioned romance. The cover is very attractive - indeed, I sometimes paused in my reading just to sneak a peak at it. The title is appropriate to the text weaving in Rachel's desire to fulfil expectations and her realisation of what being a lady really means.

I will read more from this author although I probably won't revisit A Bridge Most Begrudging.


The TBR Project: Amended

It's my Project and I can do it any way I like!

I'm really missing reading book blogs and reviews and keeping a wishlist. Now, I can't keep my list on BookCrossing or BookMooch because that's a sure-fire way to ensure that I end up acquiring the books (even if I don't buy them). But I'm going to allow myself a non-computer wishlist. I have a nice, new notebook and I shall write down what I would like to read when the Project is over.

The alternative to this softening would be my giving up in disgust 'cause 'I'm deprived' and that won't shrink Mt TBR!

Monday, 7 July 2008

63. Roger Tabor - Understanding Cats

Understanding Cats
Tabor, Roger
David & Charles
No. of pages:
First sentence:
They key to understanding cats is to look at the many aspects of the animal and to develop an integrated view.

I acquired this book as part of the Feline Behavioural Course I'm doing. I've read another book by Roger Tabor and have still more sitting on Mt TBR! I really enjoyed this volume. The information is clearly presented and the lavish illustrations made it a real pleasure to read. Tabor's writing is easy and informative. He has a clear passion for his subject and explains sometimes complex topics succinctly. I'd recommend this book to anyone with an interest in cats.


Sunday, 6 July 2008

62. Max Lucado - Cure for the Common Life

Cure for the Common Life
Lucado, Max
W Publishing Group
No. of pages:
First sentence:
"Sweet spot."

The title of this book really appealed to me on a rainy day in Glasgow when life seemed incredibly common. This is the first Max Lucado book I've read and I was most impressed. Using People Managemet International's 'STORY' method, Lucado guides the reader to discover their sweet spot - the spot in which they are using their uniqueness to make a big deal out of God every day of their lives. The book is split into two parts. The first contains Max's analysis of the STORY while the second, written by a representative of PMI, tells the reader how to write their own STORY.

I really enjoyed Lucado's lyrical writing style while finding the content incredibly relevant and stimulating. I haven't worked through the second part of the book but intend to put this book into the 'for further study' box to do later. I am blow away by the idea that God doesn't want to take away my passions - instead he wants to use them for His glory!

I would recommend this book to anyone seeking purpose in their life and I will certainly be looking for more Lucado books in the future.


Thursday, 3 July 2008

61. Peter Ho Davies - The Welsh Girl

The Welsh Girl
Davies, Peter Ho
Paperback (BookRing)
No. of pages:
First sentence:
Outside, the technicolor sunset is giving way to the silvery sweep of searchlights over distant Cardiff as a hand tugs the blackout curtain across the sky.

I read this book because I'm interested in the social history of the Second World War. I'm not sure that 'enjoy' is quite the right word to describe the reading experience. The book seemed dark and grey, sinister in parts. But the stories - of a German Jew, a German POW and a Welsh woman - all entwined in a captivating manner. I tend to enjoy female characters more than male and found that the case here - I wish the loose ends of Esther's story hadn't been gathered so swiftly at the end of the book.

Much of the book is written in the present tense (presumably to differentiate from the flash-back scenes) and I found this a little strange, perhaps the narrative is set so firmly in the 1940s and they are most certainly the past.

I would recommend the book to anyone with an interest in the Second World War whether they're interested in military or social history as both sides are covered.


Wednesday, 2 July 2008

60. Joyce Meyer - How to Hear from God

How to Hear from God
Meyer, Joyce
No. of pages:
First sentence:
Learning to hear from God and be led by the Holy Spirit is very exciting.

I read this book because I usually enjoy Joyce Meyer and the subject matter appealed to me. Unfortunately I was rather disappointed. Although the book does contain some good information, it lacks a coherent argument and tends to dot about from subject to subject. It is also repetitive and contains several power-trips for Meyer to enjoy. I think this is one of her earlier books as it lacks the sophistication of her latter works. I would, however, still recommend this book to others who are interested in Charismatic/Pentecostal Christianity.


Rings or Rays?

Katie1980 asked, very sensibly, why I'm Ringing books read for The Project rather than Raying them?  I also realise that (maybe) someone might read this who isn't a BookCrosser so a word of explanation is needed.

BookRings and BookRays (Rings and Rays) are run via BookCrossing.   In both cases, the book travels down a list of participants each of whom reads it and leaves a Journal Entry reviewing the book.  In a Ring the book returns to the originator when it gets to the end of the list.  In a Ray the book becomes the property of the last person on the list.  So, if you're trying to get rid of books, a Ray is the way to go.

But I've chosen to Ring the books I read for The Project.  Why?  I suppose it's habit.  I always Ring what I read and have done for a number of years.  When the Ring's over and the book comes home I usually put it on BookMooch.  And that's what I will continue to do.  My books need to pay for themselves and, when The Project is over, I'll be Mooching for books again and will need points.  If I end up with an enormous bank of points and am still on The Project and therefore not Mooching then I can send the points to Charity.  I also Wild Release and OBCZ Release books that I've read and then Ringed so that's another outlet for books once they come home.  I enjoy all these activities and I think if I were to eliminate them by doing Rays only then I'd feel like I'd lost my hobby and The Project would soon fall by the wayside.  It'd be a bit like dieting and banning all the food you enjoy.  It's not likely to work in the long-term.  And, with this many books to deal with, long-term is the way it's going to be!

Oh - I should also say ... I really don't feel tempted to keep the books when they do come home from their Ring.  I've already read the book and it's rare for me to desire a re-read.  So there's very little chance of a read and Ringed book finding it's way back onto Mt TBR.  Anything I thought was that good won't be getting Ringed anyway (books sometimes go astray on these things).  It'd go into the 'Further Study' pile or straight into Permanent Collection.  Further Study is currently looking rather full so I'll be choosier than usual and PC isn't a problem as it fits in its home (or would, if the space wasn't taken up by Mt TBR).  I do need to knuckle down and do some of the studying I have planned and probably also weed out the books a bit but, compared to Mt TBR, FS and PC just don't even rate as problems.

And so I shall read ...!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

The Mount ToBeRead Project

I have too many books.  

This is something I realise periodically.  And I periodically go on Book Diets and vow that there will be no more until Mt TBR reaches manageable proportions.  Sometimes I [gasp] have a Book Cull.  This is not as drastic as it sounds - I'm a BookCrosser and have plenty of things to do with unwanted books.

None of these measures is long-lasting or effective.  Because I am an addict.

I've been decluttering and tidying and cleanng my home.  And have started putting all the boxes of Mt TBR in one place.  I've never done this before and I am, quite frankly, shocked.  Far from being a convenient way to store those books that won't fit on the shelves, the boxes are taking over the living room.  There are seven boxes in there now and I can no longer hide them behind the curtains.  And there are more to come.  And then there are the bookcases.  And the books that aren't contained but live on the study floor.  And, of course, this is only Mt TBR.  Never mind Permanent Collection or those for release or BookMooching or whatever.  Oh Lord.  I've just remembered another hidden stash.

I have too many books.

Now, I'm a BookCrosser and we've already established that this gives me an easy avenue by which to release unwanted books.  I have resolved to BookCross in a more active manner and get the random books which I don't want to read out of the house that way.  But what about Mt TBR?  I'm not about to release a book unread when I paid good money for it and still want to know the secrets hidden in its pages.  But reading and then releasing all these books will take years.  And if I keep adding to Mt TBR in the way I have been then it becomes of Forth Road Bridge project.  (For those who don't know, it takes so long to paint this bridge that the men start again as soon as they reach the end and will never be 'finished.')

So I would like to introduce you to:

The Mount ToBeRead Project.

The aim of the Project is to reduce the size of Mt TBR.  I'm not going to start counting the number of books on the Mountain.  I think it's pretty self-evident that the Mountain is huge and drastic action is needed.  Enough said.  To make the Project measurable, my goal is to fit Mt TBR into two shelves of the bookcase in the study (each measures about 1.5 meters).  I'm thinking two shelves so that I can have one for fiction and one for non-fiction.

In order to meet my goal, I'm going to enforce the following Rules for the duration of the Project:

  1. No book acquisition.  This includes Rings, BookMooch, NSSs and shopping.  It does not include books required for studying.  It does not include instances where I have (say) No. 3 of a series.  I may acquire books 1 and 2 but not book 4.  The prohibition includes audiobooks.
  2. No digital wishlists.  I may keep a Word.doc or something listing books I really want to read when the project is over (eg book 4 of a series where I've read 1-3) but no BM/BC/Amazon wishlists.
  3. No eye candy.  I may not read reviews of books not currently on Mt TBR.
  4. No magazines.
  5. No knitting.  
  6. No Sky+.
Reading is to be my primary focus.  I do not expect that I shall read a book a day for the next five years or anything like that but, given the choice of what to do, I shall read.  And I shall endeavour to avoid things that would distract me from my goal - like magazines (which don't count as reading).

I will be ruthless in the application of The Fifty Page Rule.  With this many books available, I can afford to be choosy.  DNFs will be released (either wild or through BookMooch).  Read books will be Ringed and then also released.

I will blog about my progress right here.

Let the Project commence!