TEN ON TUESDAY
OK, Let’s try this again! Last week my post was eaten by tumblr and today I’m late (it’s Wednesday); but nonetheless, I have been reading and listening!
I finished Snow Falling on Cedars (by David Guterson.) It’s a beautifully written and evocative story about a Japanese man on an island off of Seattle, Washington who is accused of murdering another man in the fishing community. There’s racial strain (post-war America), heartbreak, injustice and vindication. The whole feel of the novel reminds me of a single note being played very slowly on a violin: There is all this slow building of tension as the poignancy and anticipation build at the book’s own pace. It’s not a book you race through: Rather, you slow your breathing down and savor the story. I have only one complaint in that there is a major loose end that isn’t tied up by the end of the book. No one seems to have noticed; but it really bugs me and prevents me from giving it five stars.
I’ve also knocked off a couple more short novels and a children’s story: Lesley Castle (by Jane Austen), The Uncommon Reader (by Alan Bennett) and Coraline (by Neil Gaiman.) Lesley Castle is actually a collection of three stories that Jane Austen scratched out at the age of sixteen. For the Janeite who wants every little scribbling of Ms Austen’s, this would probably appeal; but the writing is really so inane (and in the case of the last story, unfinished) there really isn’t much of anything there except for the academic. The Uncommon Reader was a cute story about the Queen of England who happens across a bookmobile parked outside the palace kitchens. I think “twee” is the word I’m looking for :-/ Finally, I picked up Coraline.. I’ve never read the book, listened to the audio or seen the movie, but I was very curious about it. My nine-year-old daughter saw the movie and didn’t like it at all (She’s not one for the dark or weird.) Anyway, the story reads very much like a knight’s tale: a quest, a dragon, acts of courage. The illustrations were interesting, reminiscent of Ralph Stedman with a folkloric twist. I’m thinking about writing a hat trick review of the book, audio and movie :-)
I’ve started reading Tortilla Flat (by John Steinbeck.) It’s about some broke down (as in poor) paisanos in Monterey, CA who make do with a certain amount of guile and a lot of self-justification. They are pretty much harmless though and you can’t help but feel a certain amount of affection for them. This is another short novel and while I would have normally finished it over the week-end; I have to admit I just haven’t felt like reading for a few days. It’s not a slump per se, just that I’ve got too many other things on my mind that I need to focus on and not escape into a book!
I totally forgot to read a chapter from A Short History of Byzantium (by John Julius Norwich) this past Sunday; but I’ll make up for it by reading two (chapters) this coming Sunday and finish off the first part.
I finished The Last Werewolf (by Glen Duncan; narrated by Robin Sachs.) For the life of me I can’t figure out why they didn’t use a second narrator for the final chapters of the book; but they didn’t! Anyway, Robin Sachs was great and his reading made the book a little bit more palatable. I had no problem with the explicit language or vocabulary; just the obtuse exposition of existentialism and the ridiculous secondary characters that read like 1980s Hollywood casting call rejects.
I’m halfway thorough Half-Blood Blues (by Esi Edugyan; narrated by Kyle Riley) and I’m trying to decide whether to continue or not: The story is great, which would argue for the glass being half-full and finishing the book. OTOH, the narration is terrible and argues for the glass being half-empty and DNFing the whole thing. The narrator is listed as Kyle Riley, who appears to be a white West-End actor; but the narrator in the audiobook sounds like an African-American. If I really am listening to Kyle Riley read this book, kudos to him for sounding like an African-American (from whose POV the story is told): the cadence, informal and slangy language of the book are “edge-to-edge.” BUT and this is a huge “but,” otherwise the narration is way off: the narrator doesn’t pick up on textual clues (e.g. she said softly - the narrator practically barks out the line), all the characters sound the same regardless of gender, nationality or age, there are mispronunciations (e.g. “Liesl” should be pronounced so that the first syllable rhymes with “bee,” not “eye”) and the narrator sounds very pleased with the sound of his rich, deep voice. Is this really the Whole Story narrator or, someone that Macmillan picked up for the book (and didn’t re-credit the packaging)?
I’ve moved The Eleventh Plague up and added Pinned to the second position. I originally got these two titles to participate in the SYNC program via The Audiobook Community; but since ABC moved to a FB-only initiative (which doesn’t format for groups within the page), I’m not pursuing it. Nonetheless, I went through the trouble of getting the two titles and I might as well listen to them and free up some space on my iPod!
TEN ON TUESDAY
Last week, I was sick and I took a sabbatical from blogging; and now I’ve got some catching up to do!
I’m still picking my way through Snow Falling on Cedars (by David Guterson.) It’s not a novel you whip through; but there’s a story underneath all the nautical terminology. It’s about a Japanese man accused of murdering another local man in a fishing community. It takes place in the Pacific Northwest, on an island off of Seattle, in Post-War America.
I’ve also starting A Short History of Byzantium (by John Julius Norwich.) It’s my “Sunday” read, which means I only read a chapter or two every Sunday. This is something I had started to do when I was a member of The History Book Club on goodreads and it’s a practice that works out well for me. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by an interesting; but perhaps daunting tome, I just pick at it a little bit until it’s done! You too can eat an elephant one bite at a time!
I’ve removed Enough About Love (by Herve LeTellier and The Kite Runner (by Khaled Hosseini) from my list for now and added The Little Book (by Selden Edwards) and Atonement (by Ian McEwan.) I’ve moved up Netherland (by Joseph O’Neill) because I’m sort of in that mood where I can tolerate repressed white lit-fic male authors and I might as well read it ‘em while the mood lasts!
I finished We’re Alive, Season 1 (by Kc Wayland; performed by a full cast.) The review went up on my regular blog today so you can check it out there. I’m still procrastinating on listening to more of the Arthur Miller plays, though I suspect that when I need to listen to a short audio and, post a review to stay on blogging schedule, The Arthur Miller Collection (by Arthur Miller; performed by various full casts) will come in migty handy… and rather soon too!
I also listened to The Spy Who Loved Me (by Ian Fleming; narrated by Nadia May) which I really did not like one bit! It’s the only Bond novel written from a female’s point of view and, Fleming apparently thought that a female’s point of view was all about her identity as defined by her sex life. I haven’t fleshed out what I really want to say about this audio yet; but I suppose it will come to me in the next couple of days (look for a review either Thursday or next Tuesday!)
I also finished Zombiestan (by Mainak Dhar; narrated by John Lee.) I liked the fact that the story wasn’t all doom -and-gloom: There were children, lots of survivors and hope; but I didn’t like the writing (seemed kinda like a self-pub, even though it wasn’t) and I felt the zombies weren’t zombie enough :-/
Right now I’m listening to The Last Werewolf (by Glen Duncan; narrated by Robin Sachs.) I read it in eBook format last summer and wasn’t really all that impressed: I felt that GD was showing off the fact that he passed his Philospohy 101 course and, I thought the inclusion of vampires was stupid. I’m listening to it now because I always wondered if I was overly critical because I didn’t have the red-gilt, parchment-colored pages to indulge in or; the leering voice of Robin Sachs to engage me. The Readers (podcast and goodreads group) are hosting a Summer Reading feature and The Last Werewolf os the first book up. I thought this was a great opportunity to take another look at the first-in-series. Even though I only gave it three stars before, and i’m not sure that, even with Robin Sachs, it will garner a higher rating; I know I’ll still probably pick up Tallula’s Rising (second title in the trilogy) in June and, it’s good to have a little refresher before preceeding in a series!
I’ve snuck Half-Blood Blues (by Esi Edugyan; narrated by Kyle Riley) onto the list. It’s another Readers selection for the summer….
THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN AND SCHEDULED FOR 05/22/2012. IMAGINE MY SURPRISE WHEN I FOUND IT STILL SITTING IN MY DRAFT FILE! I’VE PUBLISHED IT IN LIEU OF A POST FOR 05/29/2012 AS TUMBLR HAS EATEN THAT DRAFT! I GUESS IT ALL WORKS OUT :-/
NEXT WEEK I’LL DO A TWO-WEEK CATCH-UP (HOLD THE MUSTARD :-D )
TEN ON TUESDAY
I finished The Blackwater Lightship (by Colm Toibin,) the second novel from this author that I have read. The thing that was intriguing to me about this book and Brooklyn was the asexual nature of the female protagonists. It wasn’t that the characters didn’t have sex; but that they seem so emotionally distant from the passion. I think they aren’t doing it right! :-D Overall though, I find Colm Toibin’s writing to be very… wordy. It lacks lyricism or poetry, and that seems unforgivable to me especially with an Irish author. It’s not that he doesn’t describe beautiful things, just that there isn’t any beauty in the writing itself.
I also finished Paul Auster’s short novel, Man in the Dark and I’m really glad I gave this author another shot! While reading Man in the Dark didn’t shed any light on Invisible (see last week’s post about how reading more Atwood helped me to understand more Atwood,) it was a very entertaining read. It’s the story of a seventy-something-old man who wiles away his insomniac hours by making up stories. In Man in the Dark, he creates an alternate reality that has the reader guessing as to which is the “real” story! Slightly fantastic, but believable nonetheless.
And once again, instead of forging ahead with my list, I heeded the call of another book that was calling my name, Snow Falling on Cedars (by David Guterson.) It’s not a novel you whip through; but there’s a story underneath all the nautical terminology. It’s about a Japanese man accused of murdering another local man in a fishing community. It takes place in the Pacific Northwest, on an island off of Seattle, in Post-War America.
I’m still in the middle of We’re Alive, Season 1 (by Kc Wayland; performed by a full cast,) and The Arthur Miller Collection (by Arthur Miller; performed by various full casts.) I’m not particlularly enjoying either one right now but I need to finish both for the Armchair Audies. We’re Alive’s sound effects are very much “testosterone driven” (a term Sue Zizza, a audio drama producer, coined.) Lots of adolescent humor and boys playing soldiers; plus there an actress who can’t seem to make up her mind what nationality she is for the first few podcasts: sometime she sounds like she’s trying to be English, other times Asian; but now we’ve settled on a French nationality :-/ As for The Arthur Miller Collection, the unevenness of the performances and the overall tragic tine quickly wear on a soul. Of course, in dragging my heels in both of these audios, I’m hoolding up the listening that I need to do for Zombie Awareness Month. Sigh. Maybe I’ll just bite the bullet and finish We’re Alive in one sitting and then do the same for The Arthur Miller plays.
I have finished Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace! I have now read four of Atwood’s novels: The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood and now Alias Grace. Atwood is one of those writers, who the more you read their books, the more you understand the other books that they have written. There is a common sensibility and variations of (a) theme(s) that you would expect from work originating from the same writer; but more than that, you can see how it’s all related in some sort of private universe that we all are privileged to share. I’m looking forward to exploring more of this private universe with Life Before Man and Wilderness Tips, both of which I picked up at the Rogue Book Exchange a couple of weeks ago.
Right now though, I’m reading The Blackwater Lightship (by Colm Toibin.) I have a number of stacks and lists of books I “should” be reading for various challenges and memes; but this is the one that is called out to me. I didn’t know anything about it when I picked it up and I wonder if the cover art, with its muted golden hues, is what attracted me in somehow appealing to my mood. I looked up “Blackwater’ and discovered that it means, uh, sewage of the nastiest kind; and I was a bit wary of what this might portend in the book; but it tuns out that Blackwater is the name of the town setting! “The Blackwater Lightship” sounds like a rather romantic title though, doesn’t it? But there’s nothing particularly romantic about it: Declan is dying from AIDS and his sister, mother and grandmother have been called upon to bear witness and be with him in this (perhaps final) round of illness. The setting is in Ireland and the time is 1992 and so reasonable hope is not a factor in the atmosphere of the story.
I should finish The Blackwater Lightship tonight and then I have Man in the Dark, a short novel by Paul Auster here on-hand. I’m not sure I like Paul Auster, having read Invisible last week; but I think this is worth investigating before I move on.
Then I need to read Say Nice Things About Detroit (by Scott Lasser) for work. I head into the studio next week with Kevin Kenerly narrating :-)
I’m in the middle of We’re Alive, Season 1 (by Kc Wayland; performed by a full cast,) putting The Arthur Miller Collection (by Arthur Miller; performed by various full casts) on hold until after I’ve finished with the zombie podcasts. With Armchair Audies, Zombie Awareness Month and SYNC, I may have taken on too much; but I still may be able to pull it all off :-)
My fling with short novels and novellas continues, this past week with the epistolary classic, 84, Charing Cross Road and its diary sequel, The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street (both by Helene Hanff.) When 84, Charring Cross Road first appeared on my required reading list in high school, I avoided it because I though it was a collection of maudlin love letters. When I did finally get around to reading it as a young adult, I was pleasantly surprised that they weren’t those sort of love letters and I’ve held the book in fond memory ever since. For the uninitiated, 84, Charing Cross Road is a collection of letters between Helene Hanff and the booksellers at Marks & Cross in London. The letters span approximately twenty years, from Post-War London and its hardships through to the circus that was the 1960s. In going back to 84, Charing Cross Road this time, however, it didn’t hold up as well for me, mainly because I didn’t like Ms Hanff this time around. I was dismayed at her sarcastic sense of humor and wondered what it was in her writings that made her so appealing to her foreign correspondents-cum-pen pals. I went on to read The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street (the recent acquisition of which was the reason for my re-reading 84, Charing Cross Road), which is a diary of Ms Hanff’s trip to London. It was okay, even if Ms Hanff seemed a bit obsessed with her wardrobe. While I loved neither of the books, I liked them together, a case where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I was disappointed to go online and find very few pictures or other visuals in regards to 84, Charing Cross Road/The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street. I would have loved to have seem Ms Hanff’s library, the bookstore when it was still open, the staff’s personal pictures which are often referred to - but never reproduced in the books.
I finished off last week’s reading, not with a short novel, but with the 308-page Paul Auster novel, Invisible. There is no denying that Paul Auster is a very good writer: From the first page I was hooked on the story; but by the story’s end, I was still on the hook. I felt stupid for not getting it and wondered at the point of the whole thing. The story is about a young student who, with another man, is mugged. Something happens which then generates approximately forty years of male angst. Kinda reminds me of Ian McEwan in that way :-/
I know you never thought I’d say it; but I’ve started Alias Grace (by Margaret Atwood!) I should be finished by next Tuesday and then we shall see what we shall see :-)
I’ve started We’re Alive, Season 1 (by Kc Wayland; performed by a full cast) even while in the midst of The Arthur Miller Collection (by Arthur Miller; performed by various full casts.) I’ll be posting reviews of a couple of the Arthur Miller plays this week, The Man Who Had All the Luck and All My Sons. I hope to be able to post more reviews of the individual plays; but I’ll have to see how I can juggle the schedule with Zombie Awareness Month and SYNC looming on the horizon :-)
Last week I was at the library and they had a display that read, in effect, “Short on time? Try these short novels!” There were a couple of dozen books on display, each at around 200 pages or less. I picked up a couple and, two days later, I was back for more! The short novel or novella is a great way to sample a writer without having to commit to a 300-400 page book. It takes quite a bit of literary craftsmanship to write the short story, novella or short novel. In essence, the writer is still on the hook to deliver the story with enough detail to make it all work; but there is no room for extensive backstory or digressive ruminations. What also marks the short forms as different from their full-length cousins is that they often leave more room for the reader to project or imagine things into the novel. For instance, “3:10 to Yuma” (short story by Elmore Leonard) has been made into a film three times and, each time the essence of the story remains the same; but what the writers added-in created vastly different results.
Anyway, I’ve read five books in the past five days:
I’ve been chattering about them on twitter each morning and plan on continuing for awhile, though this morning was a no-go since I really had to write and post a review last night! Anyway, the thought has occurred to me that as the next read on my list is a 500 page lit-fic novel, I may be subconsciously proscrastinating. It sounds ridiculous, I know! I love to read! I love Margaret Atwwod! And yet, here I am looking at 84 Charing Cross Road (by Helene Hanff), a re-read for me, instead!
I’m in the middle of both The Arthur Miller Collection (by Arthur Miller; performed by various full casts) and Thunderball (by Ian Fleming; narrated by Simon Vance.) I just found out that I may not be able to make Saturday night’s #ShakenNotStirred tweetchat and viewing party because of a scheduling conflict. I’m going to try to work it out; but I suspect that I will not be watching Sean Connery with The Bond Girls this week-end :-(
I started The First Days: As the World Dies (by Rhiannon Frater) and quite frankly, it’s a piece of crap. I’ve ranted about it a little on twitter:
I’ve listened to the first couple of plays in The Arthur Miller Collection (by Arthur Miller; full cast performances of ten of Arthur Miller’s plays): The Man who Had All the Luck, All My Sons and Death of a Salesman. The performances have been very uneven; and the addition is interviews after the plays - while interesting, make me feel like I’m being educated rather than being entertained. I’m going to stop for a few days to make sure I get Thunderball in before next week’s #ShakenNotStirred event; then it will be back to the plays.
Now there are two Ten on Tuesday lists! One is for print and one is for audio!
Right now I’m reading Accidents of Providence (by Stacia M. Brown.) This pubbed last February to fairly lukewarm reviews; but I’m really enjoying it so far and seeing quite a few parallels to current events. It’s a historical fiction predicated on An Act to Prevent the Destroying and Murdering of Bastard Children (1624.) Jennifer/@lithousewife at literatehousewife.com is hosting a discussion on April 19, 2012 if you would like to read along!
I had to DNF Resolving Everyday Conflict (an Inspirational/Faith-Based Non-Fiction title by Ken Sande and Kevin Johnson; narrated by Maurice England.) The narrator had a great, straight forward approach to the material; but he also has a lateral lisp that at best is annoying and, at worst, painful. Also, I’m a cradle Catholic and, despite my open mind; there are times when I cannot grasp some the concept of Christ’s death as “Sacrifice” as opposed to “The Way” and “The Light.” Because this work is built on understanding Christ’s Death as primarily “Sacrifice” I hit a wall fairly early on.
Right now I’m listening to Unknown (A Special Edition of Out of My Head; by Didier Van Cauwelaert; narrated by Bronson Pinchot,) an Armchair Audies finalist in the Thriller/Suspense category. Basically, it’s Out of My Head, with the movie poster art for Unknown (starring Liam Neeson) on the cover.
I’m very excited that the CD set of The Arthur Miller Collection came in; but shocked that it’s nineteen discs! I’ll be ripping this to my iPod this weekend and starting that next week.