Tuesday, March 31, 2009

March Goals Met

So I met my reading goals for the month of March! Yea for me!! It turns out it is a great idea to have a list of books I want to read for the month. It is really motivating and did push me to read more. Plus I read those books that I have been meaning to read but always put off for others. I read all 10 books that I previously picked plus I read one more - The Time Travelers Wife for book club. It was a great month.

This month I am going to give myself the 10 book challenge. I may read more or I less. I am going on a trip to Germany for a little less then a week and then I am also going to the beach for a long weekend...so that may help my reading or hinder it. But I also have the 24 hour Read-a-Thon that I will be participating in. That will get my book numbers up. Anyway the books I picked for this month are:

American Pie - Michael Lee West
The Gargoyle - Andrew Davidson
World Without End - Ken Follett
The Bridges of Madison County - Robert James Waller
The Assassin's Song - M.G. Vassanji
The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness
Divine Evil - Nora Roberts
A Vintage Affair - Isabel Wolff
The Black Sun - James Twining
Earth Democracy - Vandana Shiva

Only one non-fiction this month and one for my Diversity Rocks challenge. Maybe I will pick up some more books in the lovely bookstores of Munich!

The Russian Concubine - Kate Furnivall

A friend of mine raved about this book so I picked it up and had it on my shelf for a few months before I read it. I do that for some reason. If I know that a book is going to be good I put off reading it. I like to save "for sure" books for days when I really need them. I have been on a great book streak lately so I decided to keep it going with The Russian Concubine. This was a great novel. Over 500 hundred pages but I couldn't put it down. The story is set during 1928 in an International Settlement in Junchow China. The story focuses on a young Russian girl, Lydia and her beautiful but poor and alcoholic mother who are stuck in China with no papers or passports or any way to take care of themselves. Lydia steals to keep her and her mother with a home and food. One day her luck runs out and thats when she meets Chang An Lo, the man she will later fall in love with. There is also a sub-story following Theo Whilloby, the headmaster of the school that Lydia attends. Theo is in love with Li Mei, the daughter of the local opium dealer and his life gets more and more complicated as the story progresses.

I loved the characters in this novel. I loved how fierce and smart Lydia was. She was a great young female character. She had strong opinions but always was eager to hear others points of view and to gain more knowledge. It was a great love story. The fact that Chang An Lo and Lydia were so different, not ownly culturally at the beginning but also politically made the story more interesting for the reader. I hope a sequel is made of this book. I would love to see where the characters lives lead them and whether or not love does conquer all.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Salmon Fishing In The Yemen

I was a little sceptical at first to read a book about fishing or fish in general...not the most thrilling subject for me. But I gave it a go and was really surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The book is about a fisheries expert named Dr. Alfred Jones who works for a British Fishing Agency and is contracted out to help bring salmon fishing to The Yemen. Alfred does not want to be part of this project because he believes it is impossible and flat out refuses until his job is on the line. As he becomes part of the project and meets the man behind the idea, Sheikh Muhammad, Alfred begins to believe that it is possible to bring salmon and the sport of salmon fishing to The Yemen.

This book was really funny. It was very British and I found the humour to be very intellectual. I loved how much bureaucracy was made fun of and how governments change their attitudes and opinions on subjects day to day. I also loved how the book was written in a variety of forms - from a diary to an interview to letters. It made the story really interesting to read and it never got boring.

I think I would like to read more by this author. I think I will look him up when I get to the library in England this summer!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

This was another book that I had picked up a few years back, read about 50 pages of it and put it down. Now I can't remember why I didn't like it so when my bookclub decided to read it I thought I would give it another try. I started reading it on the weekend but after four days I was only 100 pages in. I didn't really like it and I found it hard to follow but people said that after İ got into it a bit more it would flow better and I would really like ıt. Well it did begin to flow better and people were right that I did begin to like it.

This book is about Henry - a man who has a genetic mutation that leads him to travel through time when he is stressed. He has had this problem since he was a child. The book is also about Clare, Henry's wife whom we meet in the storry at different parts of her life because Henry travels through time to mee ther when she is a little girl. The novel is about their life together and the future that they are trying to make. Henry is not supposed to tell anyone about the future and Clare isn't supposed to tell Henry about the future that Henry from the future has already told her about.

The novel can be a bit confusing because of the time travelling and the ages changing. But you get used to the style of writing after a while. I did like this book - but it did not make me happy. It actually made me feel really really sad. To be honest, it is a pretty depressing book. The characters have so many problems and trauma that they go through - Clare and Henry's relationship is not always a happy one or a functional one.

I am glad I read this book after not finishing it years before. I think it has great points to discuss and our bookclub meeting will be very interesting.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Little Slow On The Reading

So for the past month I had great reading strengh. I read steadily everyday - giving up a few tv shows to get more reading in. (I was aiming for 10 books a month...but more is better!) But then this weekend I started back at the gym full-tilt. I am so tired by 8 pm that I can't read anything. I have gotten through 120 pages of 'The Time Traveller's Wife' in the past 4 days. The book is not a complicated read its just that I fall asleep when I get started reading. I need to get into a new reading routine because I don't want to give up any gym time. I was excited that this month I would finish all the books I set out to read - but I still have 2 more to go and only a week left. I hope I can do it!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Soccer Wars - Ryszard Kapuscinski

This was a really interesting read. The book is full of short stories and articles from Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski's travels in the "third world" between 1958 - 1976. He has been in some terrifying situations. Kapuscinski travelled to some of the most dangerous places to bring stories to the rest of the world. He went places that no one else wanted to go. He is either really ballsy or a little crazy. One such story was when he was in Nigeria during the civil war. He wanted to see the road blocks so he travelled by himself - being stopped about 4 times by men with guns and machetes and once being dowsed in gasoline and almost being burnt alive.

I liked this book because it gave little bits of insight into historical violence in some "third world" countries. It made me want to look into the 100-hour war between Honduras and El Salvador in 1969, as well as Turkey's invasion into Northern Cyprus. Living in Turkey I feel that it is important to know some of these things. I was never really aware of how the Cyprus conflict was started - reading these stories makes me want to be aware.

I would recommend this book to just about everyone. It was a fast read full of information.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Cellist of Sarajevo - Steven Galloway

This book caught my eye when I was shopping in Singapore. I picked it up a few times but never actually bought it. (Perhaps I had to many choices in Singapore!) But I did order it from Amazon.com after my husband said I could pick out a few books. This novel was heartbreaking. Set during the seige of Sarajevo, the novel chronicles the lives of three people; Dragan, Kenan and Arrow. All three live in the same city, never meet but all have in common the desire to have their city back and also to listen to the lone cellist. The Cellist who plays for 22 days (which is based on true events) to remember the people who he saw killed while waiting for bread becomes a beacon of hope for all 3 strangers.

I loved the way this book was written. It flowed so well and had great emotional descriptions. There wasn't a whole lot of dialogue in the story - but I never really noticed because I was enjoying it so much. I thought it would be a quick in-one-day read because it was only a little over 200 pages but I ended up stopping and thinking alot about the characters and the war in Sarajevo.

I love that the books I have been reading recently have all opened my mind to history I never really knew about before!

Monday, March 16, 2009

The City of Djinns - William Dalrymple

Pure and simple - this book made me want to go to Delhi, India even more than I already did. The City of Djinns is a year in the life of William Dalrymple, who moves to Delhi with his new wife to look into the history of the city. The book has funny stories about all the interesting characters that the author meets throughout his stay. I enjoyed this book because while it dealt with the history of the city it was not a history book. I am not good at history - I forget the names and dates and get confused. But this had a mix of history as well as his own adventures. The City of Djinns was about many different types of people who live in India - Sikh, Hindus, Muslims etc and some background on how people lived in the past as well as now. I never realized how many things there were to see just in Delhi, let alone all of India.

Dalrymple tells some great stories about eunuchs, whirling dervishes, Hakim clinic doctors, Shah Jehan (he constructed the Taj Mahal) and many others. I really enjoyed this book because it looked at many different aspects of India and Indian culture. I think I will now have to seek out more travel writers!!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Living Dead In Dallas - Charlaine Harris

This is the second installment in the Southern Vampire Mysteries and I liked it much better then the first one. I saw the series "True Blood" before I read the book so I pretty much knew what was going to happen all the way through the first novel. Thats why the I liked the second one so much - everything was a surprise! The premise of the story is pretty much two parts - the first Sookie Stackhouse finds Lafayette (the gay cook - who is way better represented in the tv show) dead in Andy Bellfleur's car (the police officer). She is trying to find out who murdered her friend as well she is sent to Dallas on some vampire business to use her skills to find a missing vampire. Sookie now has to help the vampires whenever she is needed - even is she doesn't want to.

There is so much to this book (and series) and there are some great twists and turns. I really like Sookies character...I think she is fun and smart. Some people say the series is not well written but I say it is fun! I think the author does a great job of creating a world that I can escape into for a little while. I have another book in this series waiting on my shelf (and they are hard to come by in Turkey!)- but I think I will keep it for a rainy day :)

Friday, March 13, 2009

House of Meetings - Martin Amis

I really don't have a lot to say about this novel. Narrated by an 80+ year old Russian man who is recounting his years in a Soviet Gulag (work camp). He is telling his life story in the form of a letter to his stepdaughter. He is traveling back to Siberia basically to die. The story is pretty much a sad weird love triangle between the narrator, his brother Lev and Zoya - the women they both love. The main character is a war criminal and talks about doing some awful things during his time as a soldier.

I can't say I liked the book. It was a short read - not easy though. For only 200 pages it took me 3 days to read. I don't think I like Martin Amis' style of writing. It was an interesting subject (I have never read about Soviet Russia before) but just didn't do it for me. Maybe I am not as literary as I thought.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Infidel - Ayann Hirsi Ali

Infidel was one of the most interesting reads I have had in while. It also made me think - a lot. The book is very controversial because Ayaan Hirsi Ali looks at Islam from a very critical view. I wasn't sure what to expect but I was plesantly surprised that it was not a book about bashing Islam - it was a book talking about one woman's experiences and the reasons why her beliefs about Islam are the way they are. Hirsi Ali writes about her childhood (I don't even know if I would really call it that when looking at childhood from a Canadian viewpoint) living in Somalia, Kenya, Saudia Arabia and Ethiopia. Not only was she a refugee for most of her life, she also lived through much violence (both in the home and out) as well as in a devout Islamic family. Hirsi Ali talks about how her views about Islam changed as she got older and claimed refugee status in Holland. From what I understood from the novel her eyes were opened to the violence that some Islamic women face after she became a translator for the police and government. She was meeting women everyday at hospitals and homeless shelters, who were being abused and were scared. But because of their families beliefs (that women must obey and as Hirsi Ali says "submit" to their husbands) they had no where to go.

I found the book interesting. I do not know enough about Islam (or about African culture)to say if her views are true or not. Many people say that she is confusing culture and religion. I take what I read with a grain of salt - her experiences are not every woman in Islams experience. I know many Islamic women who are proud of their religious beliefs and are very happy in their lives. The same goes for Christian and Jewish women.

There is one thing that this book made me realize - women are abused all over the world and it is still acceptable in many places (including Canada). People need to speak out against violence - no matter if it is culturally or religiously based.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How do you start a novel?

I went to the University library yesterday with a friend to pick up our newest bookclub pick - The Time Travellers Wife. This friend and I were browsing through the books (even though I told myself I was not allowed to get any more books - I already had 7 out) and she asked when I was going to write my book. I always find it funny when people assume because I read so much that I would be compelled to write a novel. Of course they are right and I am dying to write a book and have been since I was a little girl but still! Hahaha.

So last night when I was trying to sleep it was all I could think about. Why haven't I seriously sat down and tried to write for years? Why have I been putting off the one thing that I have always wanted to do? Maybe I am scared or think I don't really know how to write or it never will be good enough. I don't really know. When I was in high school a friend and I used to write a zine together and I loved it. I loved the feeling of putting it together and have other people read what I had put my heart into. I always have excuses - not enough time or inspiration or a comfortable place to write or I need a program for my computer to really get started. Its always something. I remember always telling people that I was going to write fiction for young adults. I wanted to write for young adults because I remember how much these books affected me when I was younger. I wanted (and still do) to affect young people this way.

When I was younger my father bought me a typewriter because he knew I wanted to write so badly. I remember the colorful paper he used to buy me and the hours I used to spend on that thing. When I got older he bought me my first computer - in exchange he told me I had to write a book for him. I guess he is still waiting. But maybe he will get his book soon. I think it is about time for me to really give it a shot and see what I have in me.

Does anyone reading this have any tips on how to even start a novel? I would greatly appreciate any input.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I never usually do re-reads but this book was sitting on my shelf staring at me for too long saying "You know you loved me...try me again!". I had borrowed Shadow of the Wind from a friend of mine for my husband to read. He never got around to reading it but I couldn't just give it back to her without giving it another read myself. It was great the first time and even better the second time around.

The story is set in Barcelona and takes place during the 1940's and 1950's. It ıs very hard to describe this book but I would call it a Gothic murder mystery. The book is about a young boy named Daniel, whose father owns a bookstore. Daniels mother dies when he is very young, so it is Daniel and his father all alone. When Daniel is 10, his father takes him to one of the most mysterious and wonderful places in Barcelona - The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. This is a place books go when they have no other place. They are protected and cared for until it is time for someone to adopt them. Daniel is allowed to take on book that he will care for his entire life - he picks the novel (or the novel picks him) Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax and it changes his life forever.

I won't tell you anymore because there is so much to it and I don't want to give away any of this fantastic book. One of my favorite characters in any novel is in this book - Fermin Romero de Torres. He is the wildly eccentric former spy who Daniel meets living on the streets begging. Daniel gets him a job at his fathers shop and Fermin's life changes. He is hilarious and has some great lines. One of them being, "Daniel, you are as white as a nuns buttock!". It made me laugh - I can picture this skinny character with his pencil thin mustache and Spanish dress perfectly in my head.

This is a definite 5 star book for me. I am sure I will being reading it a few more times in my lifetime!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Out Stealing Horses - Per Petterson

This novel was pretty. It was pretty to read and it was pretty to imagine what rural Norway really looks like. Set in an old cabin, 67 year old Trond Sander has moved there after his wife dies in a car accient that almost takes his life as well. Trond lives pretty much alone except for another older man who lives in a cabin near him. Lars is a man from Tronds past. This encountering has Trond remembering back to his childhood after the war - and to his relationship with his father.

I love stories where old men recollect on their lives. For some reason I identify with them and sympathize with their plights (though I am neither old or a man). This was a wonderful story that made my imagination work overtime. I never thought of Norway as a travel destination before but now it is on my list. I love reading novels from other countries - it makes me realize that people are people no matter where they are from. We all have the same types of emotions and needs. The combination of Trond and Lars reminded me a lot of my father and how he will likely be when he gets to be that age.

At first I thought the book ended too quickly and that things weren't resolved. But then I thought about it and realized that they weren't meant to be resolved. This novel was just a small snipet in an old mans life. We weren't meant to know what comes next - he just let us in to these few moments.

Give the book a read - I think you will like it.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Books To Read in March

I have decided this month to have a set list of books that I would like to read. I have never done this before (I am pretty go with the flow on my reading). But maybe having a certain number will motivate me to read more and play around less on the computer mindlessly instead.

March TBR:

Out Stealing Horses - Per Petterson
Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Infidel - Ayaan Hirsi Ali
House of Meetings - Martin Amis
City of Djinns - William Dalrymple
The Cellist of Sarajevo - Steven Galloway
Living Dead in Dallas - Charlaine Harris
Salmon Fishing in Yemen - Paul Torday
The Soccer Wars - Ryszard Kapuscinski
The Russian Concubine - Kate Furnivall

I have 3 non-fictions on the list..lets hope I can get through them! Wish me luck!