Saturday, December 29, 2007

Year in Review

There is no way I am going to finish Great Expectations by the end of the year--I am halfway through Volume II--so I thought I would post my 2007 stats. With everything going on this year, I'm surprised I was able to read as much as I did.

I only had three 2007 Reading Goals. I reached two of the three goals.
1. Read 65 books
2. Read 20,000 pages.
2. Have 25% of books read be non-fiction

Total books read: 76
Total pages: 27,572
Total non-fiction: 13 (17%). This is better than last year, non-fiction only counted as 11% of total books. So there was improvement!

  • Books written by women: 58
  • Classics: 10
  • Mysteries: 9
  • Books in translation: 9
  • North (& Central American) authors: 30
  • South American authors: 2
  • European: 12
  • African: 4
  • Asia: 8
  • Australian/Oceania: 1
  • Books borrowed from the library: 40
  • Re-reads: 9

Friday, December 28, 2007

BookBinge Contest

BookBinge is hosting a a Christmas Contest, head on over to this post to enter! 
The Christmas Season is upon us and we have one burning question: Have you been naughty or nice this year?

Regardless of your answer, we are inviting our lovely readers a chance to win an eBookwise eReader!

All you have to do is answer a few simple (okay, 10) questions on your blog/journal and leave the link to your Meme in this post. If you don't have a blog or journal, you can email us your answers. The winner will be chosen on January 5th, so you can enter up until 11:59pm on January 4th.

Christmas Meme:
1. What is your favorite Christmas romance to re-read each year? I don't usually read romance books, and don't have a particular book that I re-read every December.
2. What is your favorite Christmas movie/show? I watch Love Actually every year, which takes place around Christmas - I adore it! And for the non-romantic comedy movie, it is always A Christmas Story.
3. What is your favorite Christmas cookie? Definitely Peanut Blossoms.
4. When do you start Christmas shopping? Usually early, since I buy Christmas gifts for my parents and a few friends, and Chanukah gifts for my husband, which typically falls before Christmas.
5. Do you re-gift? I have been known to do so on a rare occasion. I have a pet peeve of gifts that are not needed (every year I actually ask to have money donated in my name instead of receiving gifts, but it never happens), so if I receive something I do not need or want, I try to find someone who does need/want it, rather than letting it sit in a closet and collect dust.
6. What is your favorite Christmas song? Silent Night, and another one I can't think of the title at the moment.
7. When do you get your Christmas tree? Even though we celebrate Chanukah, I grew up with a Christmas tree, and we put one up each year. Usually the beginning of December, but this year it was December 22.
8. Wrapping presents: Love it or hate it? Love it. And no one can ever open the ones that I wrap. :) 
9. Who is the hardest person to buy for? My father.
10. Christmas tree: Real or artificial? Real.

2nds Challenge Wrap-up

The 2nds challenge turned out to be more difficult than I had thought, after realizing that there are few books on my shelves in which I have only read one previous book by the author. Nevertheless, I was able to finish off a few books that I had been planning on reading for a long time. Thanks to Joy at Thoughts of Joy for hosting! 

My finished challenge books are:

The best book: I liked all of them in different ways.
What book could I have done without: None, they were all good.
What did you learn -- about anything -- through this challenge? I've realized it can take a very long time for me to get around to reading a second book by an author, particularly when they are more challenging reads. I have a huge list of authors I would like to read more of, but I own very few of those books, and I always seem to pick up something else. I read Marquez' One Hundred Years of Solitude more than two years ago, and immediately wanted to pick up Love in the Time of Cholera. Yet, it didn't happen until now. I hope to be a little better at this in 2008.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Best of 2007

I had high hopes for a lengthy post of why I chose the following books as my favorites this year. Alas, spare time is not easy to come by these days, so a briefer list will have to suffice. Here are my favorite books of 2007:

Best Classic: Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
Runner Up: East of Eden - John Steinbeck

Fantasy: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling
Runner Up: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke

Award Winner: To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee
Runner Up: The Giver - Lois Lowry

Non-fiction: Human Cargo - Caroline Moorehead
Runner-up: Under the Banner of Heaven - Jon Krakauer

World Literature: Foucault's Pendulum - Umberto Eco
Runner Up: Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe

Book in Translation: A Woman in Jerusalem - A.B. Yehoshua
Runner Up: Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Children's Lit: In the Land of Fairies - Daniela Drescher
Runner Up: Esperanza Rising - Pam Munoz Ryan

Debut Fiction/Best First Book: God is Dead - Ron Currie, Jr.
Runner-up: The Bone People - Keri Hulme

And my favorite book of the year is....

Half of A Yellow Sun - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I am so glad to discover this author this year, in which both of her novels are outstanding. I look forward to seeing what she gives us in the future.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Winter Solstice!

Happy Winter Solstice!!!

Tonight is Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. I'm disappointed that in the craziness of the cesarean, and a two week old baby, we did not do very much to celebrate Chanukah this year, but I'm making sure our family remembers our Winter Solstice tradition.

Each year, at dusk on the 21st, we turn out all the lights, and light a candle for each family member (now three!), plus one larger one in the middle. Then we take a few moments to reflect on the importance of our relationship to the environment and nature. Not a religous tradition, it is more of a family reminder of our obligations to honor and preserve the environment.

Also a Happy Big Eid to those who celebrate it!

Booking Through Thursday (On Friday)

I always seem to be a day late with these!

1. What fiction book (or books) would you nominate to be the best new book published in 2007?
(Older books that you read for the first time in 2007 don’t count.)
It is rare that I read a book the same year that it is published. I would say it is a toss-up between HP and the Deathly Hallows, and a lesser known book, God is Dead.
2. What non-fiction book (or books) would you nominate to be the best new book published in 2007?
(Older books that you read for the first time in 2007 don’t count.)
I haven't read any non-fic published in 2007 yet. I'm a few years behind in that genre. :)
3. And, do “best of” lists influence your reading?
I may learn about books I had not hear of when they are on "best of" lists, but I don't pick a book solely on that reason.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Title: Love in the Time of Cholera
Author: Gabriel García Márquez, translated by Edith Grossman
Country: Colombia
Year: 1985
Rating: A-
Pages: 348

There are already some great reviews of this book out there: Eva at A Striped Armchair, Tanabata at In Spring it is the Dawn, Nymeth at Things Mean A Lot, and Chris at Book-A-Rama have all read Love in the Time of Cholera this year.

First sentence: It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.

Challenge book? I read this for the Book Awards Challenge and 2nds Challenge. It was on my list for the Expanding Your Horizons Challenge, but that doesn't start until January so I'm not going to count it.

Short summary: How long would you wait for love? Florentino Ariza is preared to wait 51 years, 9 months, and 4 days. Love in the Time of Cholera is above all a love story set in the late 19th and early 20th century; a story about all the different ways that people can love each other.

What I thought: This novel is in a style completely different from One Hundred Years of Solitude (I would not classify it as a "magical realism" novel), but it retains the lyrical, passionate, and evocative prose that Marquez is so well known for. It is a love story, but it is not only a love story--more of an in-depth look at love and obsession, and how it can change and evolve over a lifetime.

I always love the imagery in many South American novels, and Marquez is one of the masters. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes magical realism, thoughtful prose, and strong character development. It is a book that demands your attention - if you don't have the time to immerse yourself, hold on to it for another day.

Interesting tidbit: In Spanish, el cólera means cholera, but la cólera means choler or anger. If you take this to the extreme, it can be used to describe warfare. In the novel, victims of the civil war are often mistaken for victims of cholera.

From the sky they could see, just as God saw them, the ruins of the very old and heroic city of Cartagene de Indias, the most beautiful in the world, abandoned by its inhabitants because of the cholera panic after three centuries of resistance to the sieges of the English and the atrocities of the buccaneers.

Someone said that cholera was ravaging the villages of the Great Swamp. Dr. Urbino, as he spoke, continued to look through the spyglass.
"Well, it must be a very special form of cholera," he said, "because every single corpse has received the coup de grace through the back of the neck."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Unread Authors Challenge Wrap-Up

I finished early, but I thought I would post my wrap-up while it is fresh in my head. Thanks to Sycorax Pine for hosting!

The challenge: Read at least six books by authors you had never read before, from September to February.

My finished challenge books are:

A Woman in Jerusalem - A.B. Yehoshua
Girl in Hyacinth Blue - Susan Vreeland
God Is Dead - Ron Currie, Jr.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke
Eragon - Christopher Paolini
Esperanza Rising - Pam Munoz Ryan

The best book: That's really hard to say. I really enjoyed quite a few of them for different reasons. Esperanza Rising was a great children's/young adult book; but Jonathan Strange, God Is Dead, and A Woman in Jerusalem were all quite good as well.
What book could I have done without: Eragon. I am not a fan of Christopher Paolini's writing. I was also not impressed when I saw that he wrote the forward to a new release of John Steinbeck's The Acts of King Arthur and his Noble Knights. I debated picking up Eldest, but couldn't muster the energy.
Any new authors? They are all new to me, that's the point of the challenge!

TBR Challenge 2008

This is the first challenge I joined last year, and the only one that I have not completed. I thought I would give myself another chance this year.

1. The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
2. Bel Canto - Ann Patchett
3. The English Patient - Michael Ondaatje
4. The Sea, the Sea - Iris Murdoch (finished 20 May 2008)
5. Blue Latitudes - Tony Horwitz
6. Mrs McGinty's Dead - Agatha Christie (finished 11 March 2008)
7. The Horse Whisperer - Nicholas Evans - DNF
8. No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency - Alexander McCall Smith (finished 4 May 2008)
9. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou
10. Links - Nuruddin Farah (Finished 8 Jan 2008)
11. Rebecca - Daphne de Maurier
12. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - Lisa See (finished 27 April 2008)

Moloka'i - Alan Brennert
The Book Thief - Markus Zusak (finished 25 February 2008)
Red Poppies - Alai
Cheri and The Last of Cheri - Colette (finished 3 June 2008)
Confessions of a Pagan Nun - Kate Horsley
Where We Once Belonged - Sia Figiel
Istanbul - Orhan Pamuk
Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise - Ruth Reichl
The Bookseller of Kabul - Asne Seierstad
Marie Antoinette: The Journey - Antonia Fraser

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Yay! I Won a Book!

3m at 1 More Chapter is generously giving away 12 books during the month of December. I am one of the lucky ones to receive Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith in her first giveaway!

Thanks Michelle!

Michelle's next batch of books up for grabs is currently open, so head on over to her blog to see if there are any you would like to win!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Africa Reading Challenge

This challenge, hosted by Dave at Siphoning off a Few Thoughts, fits in perfectly with my reading plans for next year, so I had to join. The challenge is to read 6 books by African authors, or about Africa. I plan on reading more literature from many of my former clients' (refugees and asylum seekers) homelands. Here is my preliminary list:

Links - Nuruddin Farah (Somalia) (Finished 08 Jan 2008)
The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur - Daoud Hari (Sudan) (finished 19 February 2008)

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency - Alexander McCall Smith (takes place in Botswana) (finished 4 May 2008)
The Yacoubian Building - Alaa Al Aswany (Egypt) (finished 28 June 2008)
A Long Way Gone - Ishmael Beah (Sierra Leone)
The Cairo Trilogy - Naguib Mahfouz (3 books, Egypt)
The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears - Dinaw Megestu (Ethiopia)

Books I would recommend:

Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe
No Future Without Forgiveness - Desmond Tutu (non-fic)
Life and Times of Michael K - J.M. Coetzee
Cry, the Beloved Country - Alan Paton
Aman: The Story of a Somali Girl - Virginia Lee Barnes (biography)
A Bend in the River - V.S. Naipal
Season of Migration to the North - Salih El Tayyib

Moishe's Miracle and Hanukkah at Valley Forge

We read both of these books for Hanukkah this year, and they both are part of my Jewish Literature Challenge.

Moishe's Miracle: A Hanukkah Story
Author: Laura Krauss Melmed
Illustrator: David Slonim
Country: America
Year: 2000
Award: 2000 National Jewish Book Award, Children's Lit.

Starlight, star bright
Magic on a winter's nigth
White snow, candle glow
Far away and long ago...

I loved this story. LOVED IT. Moishe is a milk farmer with a truly generous spirit, always giving out extra milk and cream to villagers in need in his small town of Wishniak. His wife, Baila, worries that Moishe's generosity means they will not have enough for themselves to eat. When Moishe receives from a stranger a magic frying pan that produces as many latkes as he desires, the reader discovers the true meaning of generosity, and honesty. I love the folk tale style of this story, and the beautiful illustrations, and will be a delight to read at Hanukkah each year with our daughter. The inclusion of Yiddish and Hebrew words offer learning experiences for both mummy and daughter. :)

Title: Hanukkah at Valley Forge
Author: Stephen Krensky
Illustrator: Greg Harlin
Country: America
Year: 2006

Hanukkah at Valley Forge is the winner of the 2007 Sydney Taylor Award for Young Readers, an award that recognizes the best Jewish children's literature. This story, inspired by a true event, takes place during a bleak winter at Valley Forge (near Philadelphia, PA) in the midst of the American Revolution. General George Washington, through one of his Polish-born soldiers, learns about the history of Hanukkah, drawing a parallel between the Maccabee's war with his own fight for independence.

Geared towards slightly older beginning readers, this is a delightful book that also educates readers of the Jewish presence in early American history.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Saturday's Six (on Sunday)

Here are this week’s “Saturday Six” questions. Enjoy!

1. If you could receive only the gift of food this Christmas, which single item would you choose?

The tiramisu served at our wedding reception at the Venice Cafe in Brisbane, Australia. I was wearing a corset underneath my dress, and struggled to eat more than a few bites, but it was the best tiramisu I ever had in my life! When we go back to Australia to visit friends in a few years, it will be one of the first places we go to eat!

2. Dessert. What’s the first food that just came to mind when you read that word?

Um, tiramisu? :) Since I already used that, the second thing that came to mind is fudgy brownies.

3. What do you eat more of when you’re trying to lose weight?

I have been fortunate enough to never need to try to lose weight. When I see that I'm not eating as healthy as I should, I do often start having fruit smoothies for lunch. This typically only happens in the summer.

4. Take the quiz: What holiday food are you?

You Are a Gingerbread House

A little spicy and a little sweet, anyone would like to be lost in the woods with you.

5. When you were a kid, did you ever really leave food for Santa Claus? If so, what was the typical fare you placed near the tree for Jolly Ol’ St. Nick?

We left the standard chocolate chip cookies and milk (whole, not skim). After I stopped believing in Santa Claus, my dad still tried to convince me to leave out the cookies. :)

6. Do you tend to eat more, less, or about the same at Christmas dinner than you do at Thanksgiving dinner?

I never really thought about it. If we are at my parent's, I probably eat more at Thanksgiving, because I like my mom's Thanksgiving meal better than her Christmas one. If my husband and I are hosting, it would still be Thanksgiving, because we celebrate Chanukah, not Christmas. I always eat more when we cook; my cooking skills are a learned skill, not an inherited one! (but my mom definitely knows how to bake--my biggest weakness in the kitchen).

Friday, December 14, 2007

Reading Across Borders - 2007 Progress

I am participating in quite a few long-term challenges. Some I have made fair progress on. Others, progress consisted of buying books that fit the challenge, but not having a chance to read them. :) I am quite happy with the number of books I read for this challenge.

Here is a summary of new country's I visited this year. In addition, I also read books from the UK, Canada, India, Japan, and Colombia.

Reading Across Borders
Goal: To read a book by an author from every country (and a few "regions" or territories, such as Tibet)
Total Countries Visited in Challenge to date: 22
Total new countries read in 2007: 8

Nigeria: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe; Half of a Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

China: Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
Israel: A Woman in Jerusalem by A.B. Yehoshua

New Zealand: The Bone People by Keri Hulme

Austria: The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Italy: Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco

North America:
Guatemala: I, Rigoberta Menchu, as told to Elizabeth Burgos-Debray
Mexico: Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquival

Countries I would like to visit in 2008:
Turkey: Istanbul by Orhan Pamuk
Egypt: The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz
Iceland: Independent People by Haldor Laxness
Somalia: Links by Nuruddin Farah
Sierra Leone: A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
Tibet: Red Poppies by Alai
Lebanon: Gate of the Sun by Elias Khoury
Samoa: Where We Once Belonged by Sia Fielgel

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Young Readers Challenge

Young Readers Challenge
Hosted by: Becky
Blog: Young Readers

Now that we have an aspiring young reader in our family (who is currently snuggled in my lap sleeping), I thought this would be a great challenge to join. Here is a list of books that I might choose from, and will probably add more along the way. Many of these are picture books.

Possum Magic - Mem Fox (finished 11 January 2008)
The Castle on Hester Street - Linda Heller (finished 7 February 2008)
Baby Shoes by Dashka Slater (finished 22 May 2008)
Dappled Apples - Jan Carr (finished 3 October 2008)
Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters - John Steptoe (finished 29 February 2008)
Sarah, Plain and Tall - Patricia MacLachlan (finished 28 January 2008)
The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (finished 7 April 2008)
The Birchbark House - Louise Erdrich (finished 8 April 2008)
On the Day You Were Born - Debra Frasier (finished 21 July 2008)
My Friend Jamal - Anna McQuinn (Finished 29 April 2008)

BTT - December 13

Do you use any of the online book-cataloguing sites, like Library Thing or Shelfari? Why or why not? (Or . . . do you have absolutely no idea what I’m talking to?? (grin))

If not an online catalog, do you use any other method to catalog your book collection? Excel spreadsheets, index cards, a notebook, anything?

I used to use Bibliophil, but I haven't updated it in a long time, and we have Delicious Library on our Mac to catalogue our whole collection, although some of my recent acquisitions haven't made it in yet. Checking out Library Thing is on my list of things to do someday, but it is admittedly not very high on the priority list. I use a spreadsheet for some of my challenges, such as Reading Across Borders and Book Awards. But I found a fun little notebook two years back that I have been using to keep track of all the books I read and my TBR list.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Maya's Blog

Maya now has her own blog - check it out at Maya's Universe!

It's still in its beginning stages, but I plan on adding a lot to it.

And I just started Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I'm getting through about 2 pages at a time. I must be crazy. :)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

In Memory

Grandpa Bill
March 7, 1924 - December 5, 2007

The past few months, as we were joyfully looking forward to the birth of our first child, I was also dealing with seeing the slow decline of a great man. My grandfather has been in poor health for years, suffering from congestive heart failure, but his will to survive always seemed to outweigh his physical health. Two months ago, things took a definitive turn for the worse, and ever since has been a waiting game.

Although he never had the opportunity to meet Maya, his first and only great-granddaughter (I am also his only grandchild), we were thankful that he lived long enough to know she was born happy and healthy, saw photos, and managed a few days of bragging to everyone who came to see him. Maya's middle name is the name of my grandmother, his wife. I know this naming made him very happy, and I am glad to have been able to bring him joy in the last days of his life, even if I could not be there in person.

My grandfather was my last remaining grandparent, and he was always a huge part of my life. Countless holidays were spent at his home, and we often shared birthday celebrations (our birthdays are 4 days apart). His funeral yesterday was humbling. I was amazed at the number of people that attended, yet I know my grandpa easily made friends and was kind-hearted to everyone he met. I know that he will be not be forgotten, and he will be dearly missed.

Esperanza Rising - Pam Munoz Ryan

Title: Esperanza Rising
Author: Pam Munoz Ryan
Country: America
Year: 2000
Rating: A
Pages: 262

First sentence: "Our land is alive, Esperanza," said Papa, taking her small hand as they walked through the gentle slopes of the vineyard.

This is the first book I have finished since Maya was born, which feels like a huge accomplishment! Now that Maya is becoming more adept at breastfeeding, I find my best reading time happens while I am nursing. I'm happy to be delving into books again. :)

Challenge book? I am counting this towards the Book Awards challenge. It is the 2002 winner of the Pura Belpre Award, which honors Latino authors whose work best portrays and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in a children's book.

Short summary: Esperanza is the daughter of a wealthy but generous landowner in Mexico. When tragedy strikes her family, Esperanza and her mother are forced to flee. They migrate to California , joining the ranks of thousands of farm workers struggling to survive during the Great Depression. Esperanza is forced to confront her new living circumstances, seeking hope and optimism in a new life.

What I thought: I loved this book, and I think it provides children and adults alike with a new perspective of the circumstances of Mexican farm workers during a time period that is better known for the plight of Oklahomans affected by the Dust Bowl. The story is based on the experiences of the author's grandmother.

In March of 1929, the federal government passed the Deportation Act that gave counties the power to send great numbers of Mexicans back to Mexico. Government officials thought this would solve the unemployment associated with the Great Depression (it didn't). COunty officials in Los Angeles organized "deportation trains" and the Immigration Bureau made "sweeps" in the San Fernando Valley and LA, arresting anyone who looked Mexican, regardless of whether or not they were citizens or in the United States legally. Many of those sent to Mexico were native born United States citizens and had never been to Mexico. The numbers of Mexicans deported during this so-called "voluntary repatriation" was greater than the Native American removals of the 19th century and greater than the Japanese-American relocations during World War II. It was the largest involuntary migration in the U.S. up to that time. Between 1929 and 1935 at least 450,000 Mexicans and Mexican Americans were sent back to Mexico. Some historians think the numbers were closer to a million.
-pg. 257-250, Author's Note