Saturday, January 22, 2011

War and Peace - Read Along Check In #1

Well, I'm through the first volume, a little late due to being distracted, and having no ereader during the floods here!

War and Peace, what does one say?  I'm liking it better than I thought, but not as much as I'd prefer, given how much of the damn thing there is left!  I hit some serious battle scenes, which I've always found tedious no matter the book, and War and Peace is no exception, what a suprise given it's title.  It's not even battle, some of it, just never ending warfare intel and politics.  Didn't love it.

The court scenes in the first part of the book, I liked some of this, there were elements of that glimpse into other times that I love in classic literature, some of the characters were interesting enough, I like the aloof Andrei/Andrew Bolkonsky, he seems to have a smirk of cynicism that I appreciate, and his fervent sister was well, if stereotypically, drawn.  The letter she writes in Book one is like an extended eyeroll of heated religiousity and "obedience" - nice!

Pierre is the character most people seem to like best, but he just seems a little dull and easily led thus far, I'm not burning to find out what happens next to him.  I also found the introduction of one of the main love interests, Natalya/Natasha, when she is 13 to be more than a little off-putting.  I know!  Let's set up our personification of feminine awesomeness as a young girl, a child really, then she'll be super easy for all the grown men around her to love and worship, and lust after!  That's not problematic at all!!  /sarcasm.  Again, didn't love it.

Book 1 is like the world's longest introduction, it could do with some serious editing.  Is that bad...I suppose one isn't supposed to say such things about Tolstoy.  I was also not as up with my French, or my Russian turn-of-the-century-in-jokes as Tolstoy seems to expect, so often felt like the odd one out at a rather formal and lengthy dinner party put on by people who speak a lot of French for a country getting invaded by France.

As a rampaging feminist, I'm struggling a little with the "men = active, women = stay home and die in childbirth whilst obeying their elders and keeping demure" dichotomy, [not to mention the 13 year old girls are super awesome, you should really fall for one right now!!] but hey, that's par for the course with classic literature (and all too much modern lit too, sad to say).  Overall, I did like the machinations of some of the society "ladies," especially Anna Mikhaylovna, Boris' mother, who will stop at nothing to advance him in society.  I liked her drive and effortless use of her few remaining cards to put one over the many Princes in the story, manipulate everyone, and get her own way.  My less favourite characters are the "typical ladies" or romantic interests, they are a little tedious and obvious - but hey, I'm optimistic given I've got so far left to read, maybe it'll turn around.

Overall, it's getting there, but I'm more than a bit tempted to take a break and read something else!  It's not an easy book to pick up in between demands from my small child, either, so I am a little behind with it generally.  Must pick up the pace to keep up with the other read-a-longers!

The edition I'm reading:

1001 Book Challenge, being a joiner

Pub Writes is hosting a 1001 challenge this year where you can commit to as few as 5 books off the list, or as many as 16+  So I signed up for it.  It's great to read the other linked blogs as well.  Hop on over if you feel like joining me!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold

I picked The Lovely Bones off a different list (the BBC 100 Books meme) as it caught my eye, so it's not a 1001 book after all.  Ironic given my goal for this year.  I read the Kindle edition of the book on my iPad.

The Lovely Bones is a confronting book.  I'm a happy horror and supernatural reader, and don't have a weak stomach in the face of gore.  It's books like this one that give me a freak out.  I am almost 100% certain this is due to having a daughter of my own.  More than before, the everyday tragedies of our actual, "real," world leave me on the verge of tears, feeling anxious and concerned for her future, and wanting to start Googling for martial arts classes that will take 2 year olds and turn them into lethal killing machines. 

There is something truly visceral and horrible about the prosaic evil of a man who would rape and kill a 14 year old girl.  Far more than any fictional monsters, who I can quite happily read about and watch til the metaphorical cows come home.  Real life, skillfully drawn "monsters" are far more horrifying.

So yes, this novel hit where it was aiming, for this mother of a young girl.

I..."enjoyed" seems the wrong word...the slow unwinding of her family, I would have like to hear more from the mother, the father's grief and response was sensitively drawn, but I suppose as a mother I wanted more from that role in the novel than simple (or not so simple) abandonment.

The resolution of the book, what there was of it, was satisfying, and the slow reweaving of lives after such a tragedy, over so many years, had a real feel to it that I appreciated.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

#1 Atonement, Ian McEwan

My first 1001 book!  I treated myself to a copy of Atonement on Kindle for iPad, but with the flood, had some power issues, so read a hard copy book instead, returning to Atonement when we had power back.  Atonement is a…well…in a fit of eloquence, a sad book, it has a nostalgic feeling of doom about it from the very start.  Things are bound, and do, end badly, amidst the prosaic details of a different era, the thoughts and feelings of a family and those intimately affected by them. 

My favourite pieces of the novel were the war experiences of Robbie, and the war-time nursing of Briony.  I normally don’t much care for war novels (not sure why, perhaps too close in time to us?) but this had a gritty realism, almost dream-like quality that I could relate to, it felt like a real person there, the real things you might think in that situation.  It had a grim endurance and everyday horror to it that rang true for me. 

As a story, this one was bound to end badly, and it did.  A little unsatisfying, but understandably so.  All in all, I was happy with Atonement, though some parts felt a little long and the suspense seemed too much for the slow passages and intricate thoughts they contained.  You just kinda wanted to skip ahead and find out "what happens!!"  I was keenly interested in the final third of the book, but feel a little disappointed in it, it’s a bit of a tragic end to things, a kind of expected hopelessness.    

I also found the whole ‘marrying your rapist’ thing a little unbelievable.  Well, perhaps the whole false accusation, that’s it game over thing was a bit…not quite credible.  So that sounded a false note for me.

Overall, I can see why it’s on the list, and it will sit with me for a while, but not totally satisfied. 


Monday, January 17, 2011

On floods, ebooks, and electricity

I’ve been out of action for a while, the floods here in Brisbane have been just terrible, and we were completely cut off here for three days without power or much in the way of communications.  My husband didn’t get home before the road was cut, and spent the time at his brother’s. He made it back on Friday afternoon and we picked up the older kids, and just that night got power back!  It was very welcome (though I did think of keeping my husband in a dark room for three days, complete with a 2 year old and poor communication, just so he got the full experience :D).   

Without power, I did get to read a little, though my current two 1001 books are both ebooks on Kindle on my iPad, so that was a little interesting.  There's something witty to be said here about ebooks and electricity, but it's beyond me to fashion it.  I raided my hard copy book piles, and read Committed, by Elizabeth Gilbert, which was on my To Be Read pile, I'll write something about it soon.

We've had power for a while now, so I finished some ebooks, The Lovely Bones, finished Atonement - my first official 1001 books book!, and started War and Peace *gulp.*

More on these books soon as things get a little more back to normal around here.  Brisbane is still doing it tough, spare us some thoughts!  Here's one of the many places it flooded near our house, cutting our suburb off for three days!  That post marker shows the water at just under 21 metres.

Mt Crosby Road disappearing at Kholo Creek

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Revisiting the maths, how many books do I really read a month?

Okay, this is why anything involving more than the basic 1+1 = something that makes sense is not possible on the amount of sleep I am currently getting. 

If I read 100 (+) books a year, that is NOT equal to 4 books a month.  See how that doesn't work? 

I blame my 2 year old, who thinks that 1am is an *awesome* bedtime, now for over a week running.  *sound of hair tearing and the gnashing of teeth*

So, if worked out accurately with actual maths, turns out it works like this:

Because you're 37 years old, female and from Australia, you're likely to die in another 46 years when you're 83. At your current reading rate, you could read 5032 books if you wanted to, so you're on target to read the remaining 1144 and finish your plan when you're 47 years old. That should give you plenty of time for some of life's other pleasures.
Now that makes a tad more sense to me!  I put in 9 books a month, which is doable I think, on average over a year (I hope!).  It's the aforementioned toddler that is the issue here.

The irony is that my first proper book for 2011 is The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold, which is NOT on the list.  I'm enjoying it, in a confronted kind of way, and will write something on it when I'm done.

I thought I'd join a reading challenge or two as well to share and keep me on track.  There's a great book blogging community that I read but haven't participated in before, that I would love to tap into, and challenges are a nice way to say "hi!".  *waves*

I think I'll do a list of the first few 1001 books I plan to start with, I'm picking some favourite "I always meant to read that" books to ease me in. 

I am also joining a War and Peace challenge, the fab idea of Allie at A Literary Odyssey, as I've always shied away from that mighty tome, despite my otherwise great love of classic lit. I'm afraid I've always found the very idea of War and Peace the epitome of tedium, but hey, it's on the bloody list so I've got to get to it eventually.  *rolls eyes*  Here is the basics of the challenge...
We will have four posts covering the following:
  • January 15, 2011: The first check-in will focus on volume 1. In my edition it is about 295 pages.
  • January 31, 2011: The second check-in will focus on volume 2. In my edition it is about 306 pages.
  • February 12, 2011: The third check-in will focus on volume 3. In my edition it is about 332 pages (the longest section).
  • February 28, 2011: The fourth check-in will cover volume 4 and the 2-part epilogue. These sections are about 282 pages in my edition.
It may seem like a lot and it probably is, but we will be reading around 300 pages every two weeks. That is incredibly doable! There are 365 chapters in the novel, so the chapters are short (something I always love in long books).
If you'd like to sign up, do it now, the first section has to be done by the 15th, yikes!

Happy Reading!


Friday, January 7, 2011 many books HAVE I read off the 1001 list?

Inquiring minds want to know...  Well, I'm quite sure I don't have any readers, yet, so perhaps it's just me.

Well, it all depends what list you're looking at.  There have been three editions of the 1001 book list, 2006, 2008 and 2010.  In each, some changes were made, books added in and some taken away.  So, the complete list of "books you should read" is actually now 1294 books long.  There are 714 books on the "core" list, that appear in each of the three editions. 

Using the different lists, this is me:

2006 = 148

2008 = 124

2010 = 123

Total 1294 = 151

Core = 120

That's not a bad number, I did most of this in the classics section, and with the few sci-fi/horror stuff on the list.  I'll copy over the books I've read later this week as a post.  I'm planning on writing a few reviews of past reads as well as reviews as I go.

**ETA - I found another one I've read, I figure there might be more, too - what can I say, it's a BIG list!**

Below is the stat box from the spreadsheet - you set a reading rate per month (I said 4 books a month which is relatively conservative for me), given it's averaged over a lifetime.  Sure, I read less at the moment, I have a 2 year old!  But in the past I was up at the 250 a year mark, so don't see why I couldn't do at least 100 a year, on average.

Now, I haven't quite decided which list I will use, either the full 1294 list (or however many there are by the time I finish :D, or the 2010 list, which is the current one at my start date.  So at the moment I am sticking to the Core books.  There are only 603 of those left!  Bah, is that all!!

I got this great spreadsheet at Arukiyomi's blog.  Invaluable stuff.  For a modest donation you can get the full version which does stats and all kinds of fun. 

Because you're 37 years old, female and from Australia, you're likely to die in another 46 years when you're 83. At your current reading rate, you could read 2236 books if you wanted to, so you're on target to read the remaining 1144 and finish your plan when you're 60 years old. That should give you plenty of time for some of life's other pleasures.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

And so it begins: the 1001 Books List

Okay, so I've been eyeing this list for a while now, and during some thinking about blogging reading, and being in a reading rut, and generally wanting a blogging interwebz challenge, I decided (perhaps foolishly) to start on my 1001 Books you Should Read Before you Die list.  Well, actually, I did some research, and because there have been three editions of this book, there are actually 1294 books that have been on one or more of the lists.

So, which to pick!? I think, to be totally arbitrary, I'll go with the 2010 list, and for now, stick to books that have been an all the lists, so I can update if needed. 

I'm still going through the list to mark off those I've read, but I already know it's not as many as I thought.  Curse the relative lack of sci-fi, horror and supernatural literature!  :D 

I am going to set myself a reading goal for the year of 75 books.

I'll post my "I've read" boast list on the morrow.

Happy reading!