Tuesday Thingers ~ All About Popularity

June 17, 2008 at 11:41 am | Posted in Books, LibraryThing | 9 Comments
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Today’s Question: What’s the most popular book in your library? Have you read it? What did you think? How many users have it? What’s the most popular book you don’t have? How does a book’s popularity figure into your decisions about what to read?

The Most popular book that I own is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. This is also the most popular book on LibraryThing as it is owned by 32,529 members. I haven’t read that book even though I own the entire series. I have many people at work who are encouraging me (in some cases badgering me) to read the series, and for whatever reason, I’m just can’t work up the motivation to get started. I typically don’t read fantasy, but I think I’m more hesitant because it’s just so darn popular. At this point, who would really care if I said that I’ve finally started the series? I’m quite probably the last person on earth who hasn’t.  Do I really want to read these books just to say that I have?  Do I want to wait and read them with my daughters (5 and 3) when they get old enough?

The most popular book that I don’t own is The Da Vinci Code (23,291 LibraryThing owners).  I tried to read this at one point because my sister loved it and asked me to, but I couldn’t get past the evil monk flogging himself.  There was something about it that just felt off to me and I stopped reading it.  The Jesus and Mary Magdalen controversy doesn’t do anything for me.  Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ” explored this in a really meaningful way.  If I did want to read about that, I’d pick up The Last Temptation by Nikos Kazantzakis off of my bookshelf and read that.  I have absolutely no desire to revisit The Da Vinci Code.

In general, I don’t think that a book’s popularity affects me other than the hype surrounding it.  If there is a really hot historical fiction book, I’ll pick it up and read it in a heart-beat.  Even if I don’t end up liking it, I’m almost always glad I read it because I enjoy the discussions around it.  The Da Vinci Code and Eat, Pray, Love are examples of books that were/are really popular that turn me off.  In both cases, I didn’t finish the book and wished that I had followed my instincts and never picked them up in the first case.  In those cases, if they weren’t popular I wouldn’t have been given copies of the books in the first place.

How about you?  What’s your history with popular books?

Tuesday Thingers ~ 6/3

June 3, 2008 at 11:15 am | Posted in LibraryThing, LIfe | 9 Comments
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Today’s Tuesday Thingers question is: Why LT?

Why did you choose to open and maintain an LT account? Do you/did you use other online cataloging/social networking sites, like GoodReads or Shelfari? Do you use more than one? Are they different or do they serve different purposes?

I looked into LibraryThing after a friend’s daughter told me about it. I’m not a big researcher when it comes to these types of things. I jump right in. That being said, I’m not likely to dig too far into anything unless I know to look for it – which is bad. Tuesday Thingers is a case in point. I belong to the Early Reviewers group, but I had no idea about the bloggers getting together until I heard about it from Devourer of Books.

With social networking, I’m pretty much a follower. I have a MySpace account (which I rarely touch anymore) and a Facebook account. I didn’t join either until persuaded by my family or friends. Even though I use Facebook more frequently, there’s a lot of things you can do that I’m oblivious to. It’s pretty much a way to send messages back and forth for me.

This is a really good question for me this week. I’ve been meaning to do more digging into what LT is and can be for me. I need to spend more time reading up on all of the site’s features. I promise to report back a the end of my post next week about one aspect of LT that I’ve discovered and have started using.

#74 ~ Love Marriage

May 30, 2008 at 4:27 pm | Posted in Books, Culture, LibraryThing, Reading | 9 Comments
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Cover for Love Marriage

Love Marriage by V. V. Ganeshananthan

This debut novel tells the story of Yalini, a young woman who was born in the United States to parents who grew up in Sri Lanka. What makes her parents special is that they had a Love Marriage. They fell in love and decided to marry on their own. Their relationship was not Proper in that family did not make the arrangements for them. Because of this, there was heartache, albeit short-lived due to the distance, for both families. Yalini’s maternal uncle Kumaran went so far as to confront Yalini’s father’s family. When Kumaran comes to the Canada with terminal cancer, Yalini confronts the past not only of her family, but of Sri Lanka as well.

Before reading this novel, I knew very little about Sri Lanka. Learning about the history of this small nation was the most interesting part of this novel. Although I very much remember the terrible tsunami which hit there very recently, I was very interested in history that has taken place in Jaffna. I found the story relating to the Tamil Tigers very interesting and I plan to read more about them on my own.

Overall, I found the prose to be very self-conscious. I always felt the author’s presence and because of that, I never got lost in what could have been an engrossing story. I believe that this story would have flowed so beautifully if it were allowed free from Ganeshananthan’s tight control over style.

Despite the issues I had with the writing, this book is an example of what can make reading fiction so powerful – igniting a reader’s desire to learn about someone or something new. Encouraging personal growth is no small accomplishment. I would recommend this novel to anyone who might be interested in Sri Lanka, most specifically about the Tamil Tigers.

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To buy this book, click here.

Smoky Mountain Vacation

May 12, 2008 at 8:43 am | Posted in Barnes & Noble, Books, entertainment, Family, Historical Fiction, LibraryThing, My Life with Books, Reading | 5 Comments
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Greetings from Gatlinburg, TN, located in heart of the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s beautiful here despite the rain and I’ve enjoyed seeing my parents (I haven’t see my mother on Mother’s Day for at least 10 years), siblings, in-laws, nieces, and nephews. The kids did a great job on the drive. Even if they hadn’t, it’s just nice being out of the Roanoke Valley.

Although we’ll be away from home for 9 days, I’m planning on getting some good reading in:

  • Taking Lisa’s advice from Books on the Brain, I rented Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O’Nan from the library.
  • I snagged the latest book by Patrick McGrath, Trauma on the way to the checkout desk I was at the library.
  • The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block, which I received through a trade with another Early Reviewer on LibraryThing.
  • I picked up The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani for under $5 at Barnes and Noble last week. I’ve been wanting to read this since I read a review by Divia on HistoricalFiction.org.
  • Finally, I’m finishing up The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir. I’d love to say that I’m loving it, but it’s just okay. No offense to Last Night at the Lobster, but I shouldn’t be looking forward to my next book. I should be savoring this one. Sigh…

Top 106 Unread Books on LibraryThing

May 9, 2008 at 9:25 pm | Posted in Books, Inspiration, LibraryThing, LIfe, Reading | 1 Comment
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Devourer of Books posted this meme earlier today and it was so inspiring to me. We might even come up with a way to make it a friendly, book blogging competition.

We both are fans of LibraryThing and this the list of what at least was once the listing of the top 106 unread books (annotated to match my experience as modeled by Dev):

Asterisk – I own the book
Bold – I’ve read the book – w/link if reviewed
Italics – I’ve started the book
Stricken – I hated the book
Underline – on my current TBR list

Jonathan Strange & M. Norrell
*Anna Karenina
*Crime and Punishment
*Catch-22
One hundred years of solitude
*Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
*Life of Pi: a novel
*The Name of the Rose
*Don Quixote (read in Spanish, own in English)
*Moby Dick
*Ulysses
*Madame Bovary
*The Odyssey
*Pride and Prejudice
*Jane Eyre
*A Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
*War and Peace
*Vanity Fair
*The Time Traveler’s Wife
*The Iliad
*Emma
*The Blind Assassin
*The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
*Great Expectations
American Gods
A heartbreaking work of staggering genius
*Atlas shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran
*Memoirs of a Geisha
*Middlesex
Quicksilver
*Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian
*A portrait of the artist as a young man
*Love in the time of cholera
Brave new world
*The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
Middlemarch
Frankenstein
*The Count of Monte Cristo
Dracula
A clockwork orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
*The Poisonwood Bible
*1984
Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
*Sense and sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
*Mansfield Park
*One flew over the cuckoo’s nest
To the Lighthouse
*Tess of the D’Urbervilles
*Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
*The curious incident of the dog in the night-time
*Dune
The Prince
*The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes
*The God of Small Things
A people’s history of the United States : 1492-present
Cryptonomicon
Neverwhere
*A confederacy of dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
*Dubliners
The unbearable lightness of being
Beloved
*Slaughterhouse-five
*The Scarlet Letter
*Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
*Lolita
*Persuasion

*Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
The Aeneid
Watership Down
*Gravity’s Rainbow
*The Hobbit
In Cold Blood
White teeth
Treasure Island
*David Copperfield
*The Three Musketeers

So I own 44

I’ve read 35

I’ve started 2

I’ve hated 2

And 5 are on my TBR list
How do you fare against the 106?

On the Horizon

April 2, 2008 at 9:30 pm | Posted in Books, entertainment, Family, Historical Fiction, LibraryThing, LIfe, Reading | 2 Comments
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I have some fun things to look forward to in Literate Housewife-Land:

  1. I received an Advanced Readers Copy of Artist’s Proof by Lander Marks in the mail on Monday. After I finish reading it, I will be interviewing the author. I’m really excited to get to do that again.
  2. I am on the look out for two other ARCs: The Venetian Mask by Rosalind Laker (snagged through LibraryThing) and Gilding Lily by Tatiana Boncampagni (through HarperCollins). Since I snagged The Venetian Mask last month and it has yet to arrive, I’m starting to have my doubts about receiving it. That’s a little disappointing, but I’ll survive. Besides, it will be nice change to read two novels that are not historical fiction. I love historical fiction as you know, but a girl needs a little variety every now and then. :)
  3. My parents and my Uncle Ryan are coming down for a visit this weekend. I love to watch my kids interact with my parents. It should be a nice, relaxing weekend.
  4. I have registered http://www.literatehousewife.com! I am busy dreaming about how I want the site to look and work. As I’m no artist, I am looking for someone to help me with the colors, graphics, and logo I’ll need to complete the website and I’ve finally found a good lead. I’m hoping to have the site up and running this summer. I’m going to incorporate my blog and my Tudor Fan Site, which I’ll be building on that as well as well as adding a forum. When all that happens, be on the lookout for changes here, too.
  5. I am going to Vegas in June!!!!! As part of my new position at work, I’ve been invited to attend a conference being held at The Venetian. Sometimes I really feel like my life is swimming in connections. Artist’s Proof takes place in Las Vegas and, assuming that my LibraryThing snag will arrive in time, I might be reading The Venetian Mask by the pool at the Venetian!

Before all of that, I’ll be quickly finishing up Devil Water by Anya Seton and posting my review. It’s been a much more interesting read than the last book.

#62 ~ The Forgery of Venus

March 23, 2008 at 9:47 pm | Posted in Books, Brain Food for Thought, Culture, Free, Historical Fiction, LibraryThing, Reading | 1 Comment
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venus.jpg

The Forgery of Venus: A Novel by Michael Gruber

What would it be like to live a life in which you cannot trust your memory or your senses to tell you what is true or even who you are? Charles “Chaz” Wilmot lives that nightmare in The Forgery of Venus, the latest novel by Michael Gruber. Chaz is the son of a successful artist who crafted in the tradition of Norman Rockwell but, in his son’s eyes, could have been so much more. Chaz has even more talent than his father did, but he chooses to subsist as a commercial artist taking in piece work for magazines. It isn’t that he doesn’t believe in himself. He just doesn’t believe in the worth of what is being peddled and sold as art. He’s so adamant that it costs him his wife, Lotte, and prevents him from providing the best medical care possible for his ill son. When the use of the experimental drug salvinorin causes Chaz to believe his is actually experiencing parts of Valazquez‘s life and paint exactly like the old master, he finds himself entwined in another man’s art and in the world of high stakes art forgery.

I enjoyed this novel and found its questions about the meaning of life and art very interesting. Not being able to rely on your memories, your senses, or even the answers you requested from your own very young children would be very frightening. I think that I, like Chaz, would prefer to be crazy than for that to be a permanent state of existence. The mystery behind Chaz’s life/lives was intriguing and it was difficult to put this book down. Although I understand the premise of Chaz taping his story for an old college friend, I found the voice and tone of the first narrator hard to overcome. I also found it somewhat difficult to become comfortable with Chaz, but it was worth the effort. If you enjoy Tracy Chevalier don’t mind waiting out the first narrator, you will enjoy this book.

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To buy this novel, click here.

#59 ~ Gardens of Water

February 15, 2008 at 1:22 pm | Posted in Books, Culture, Family, LibraryThing, Religion, Sexual Identity | 9 Comments
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Gardens of Water: A Novel by Alan Drew

Gardens of Water tells the story of how the lives of a working class, conservative Muslim family from outside of Istanbul were impacted by the horrible earthquake of 1999. Sinan Basioglu, a hard-working man with a club foot, tries to do his best by his family and keep close to his God. Circumstances force them to take shelter in a relief camp established by Christian Americans. This time spent at the camp is most especially confusing to İrem, Sinan and Nilüfer’s 15-year-old daughter. Living in the camp provides her with a freedom she hasn’t known since her early childhood. When she falls in love with Dylan, the teenage son of an American expatriate teacher, the entire Basioglu family is caused to question who they are and what is expected from them.

It’s interesting to me how there are times when two or three books I read in a row carry a similar thread. Gardens of Water, although it takes place in the Middle East, continued my thoughts on the plight of women in society. In The Tea Rose, Fiona struggled against the prevailing prejudice that women are not capable to and should not run businesses. The female characters in The Witch’s Trinity were accused of witchcraft when life became hard because of the Judeo-Christian prejudices against them that began with Eve’s first bite of that apple in the Garden of Eden. For a Muslim girl like İrem, a simple school girl crush could threaten to ruin her family name and negatively impact her younger brother’s future. For many women, life is not all that more safe today than it was back in the time of the witch trials.

Alan Drew’s debut novel is rich in its details about life in Turkey and about what it feels like and means to be Muslim. I found this especially true in his descriptions of the scenery. I felt like I saw Istanbul from a distance and could feel the water over my toes. The scene where Sinan was carrying televisions on his back as he tried to hustle through the streets of Instanbul was probably my favorite. Not only did I feel Sinan’s desperation, I felt his isolation as a Kurd in Turkish society. If you are interested in Kurdish culture, the family life of modern conservative Muslims, or are just looking for an involving book to read, I strongly suggest Gardens of Water.

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To buy this novel, click here.

#55 ~ Stealing Buddha’s Dinner

January 27, 2008 at 1:43 pm | Posted in Books, Childhood Memories, Culture, Disappointment, Family, LibraryThing, LIfe, Memoir, Religion | 4 Comments
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Stealing Buddha’s Dinner: A Memoir by Bich Minh Nguyen

Sometime toward the end of the year I was adding some books to my library on LibraryThing and wanted to add a book I received from my parents for Christmas the year before. It is a book of vintage postcards from Grand Rapids, my home town. I was sitting in the office at the time and the book was in the living room. I was feeling too lazy to walk into the other room and, figuring that there couldn’t be that many books about Grand Rapids, Michigan, I just used “Grand Rapids” to search for it. Much to my surprise, there were quite a few interesting books about my home town. Of those, Stealing Buddha’s Dinner by Bich Minh Nguyen stuck out when I read the following description:

“As a Vietnamese girl coming of age in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Bich Nguyen is filled with a rapacious hunger for American identity. In the pre-PC era Midwest, where the devoutly Christian blonde-haired, blue-eyed Jennifers and Tiffanys reign supreme…”

I was one of those blonde-haired, blue-eyed (well, slightly green as well) Jennifers and I was very curious to learn how I reigned supreme (it didn’t feel that way at the time). Because I wanted to read this book very badly, I rented it from the library (I’m trying to economize). I figured that if I loved it the way I knew I would, I’d buy it later. In the end, I’m glad that I just rented it.

There is something fun and invigorating about reading about your home town and it was even more exciting for me when the author’s family moved to the Ken-O-Sha area. That’s very close to where I grew up. I recognized many of the locations mentioned in the book as well as the type of people as well. I may have been Dutch, blonde, and named Jennifer, but there are more ways of sticking out like a sore thumb in southeast Grand Rapids than by being Vietnamese: you could be Roman Catholic. In an area heavily populated by members of the Christian Reformed Church, being Catholic is just as “unfortunate.” As Nguyen describes her early experiences living next doors to CRC neighbors, it brought me back to my childhood as well.

This first third of the book felt very authentic to me. I laughed out loud at the way she described her uncle he discovered after enrollment that Calvin College was “serious” about being a CRC school. I related to the scenes where Nguyen experienced orchestrated attempts to “save” her under the auspices of a neighbor girl simply bringing other girls over to play. I know very well the disgusted way those other girls reacted when she made it clear that she was not interested in their God. I was five or six the first time I was told by another child that I was going to hell for “worshiping Mary.” It was so frightening and I can remember the way my chest felt as I ran home crying to my mother. When there aren’t vocal attempts to convert you, there is always the feeling of being held away at an arm’s distance. There was one CRC family that wouldn’t let their children play with my siblings, but they had no problem asking my parents to borrow our camper. That always made me so angry. So, when a scandal rocked our neighborhood in the late 80s, I did take delight in it. The neighbor lady from across the street had apparently been having an affair with one of the husband around the block. I did feel bad for the pain the children and the other spouses experienced, but for me also felt somewhat like a vindication. Although I’m not proud of feeling this way, it was nice to see two people from that group, who made no secret that they were better than my family simply because of their religious affiliation, fall in such a public and shameful way.

While I related to Nguyen’s early experiences, I did not find her memoir enjoyable as a whole. About a third of the way through it went back in time for no apparent reason. From that point forward, the book felt disjointed. There were also large portions of the book that described food and books in such minute detail that I found myself often jumping over large sections until the story picked up again. In the section where she describes the books she read and enjoyed at the time, I was taken back in time to the books I loved so well. Unfortunately, this section began to feel like a book report. Why spend so many pages describing each of the scenes in The Little House on the Prarie that made her wish that was her family? One example would have been so much more effective.

I really wanted to like this butt, but in the end I couldn’t even finish it. I set it aside with only 7 or 8 pages to go. I just didn’t care to continue to read every painful detail of her reunion with her mother. Yes, this should have been a strong way to end her novel. To me, it felt like it was going no where – and very slowly at that. Stealing Buddha’s Dinner would have been more effective if it ended about a third of the way through with the stories about her grandmother from later in the book added to that portion.

Read the first third if you’re interested in what it was like to grow up in the midwest when you’re not a WASP or if you’d like to read about the Vietnamese experience in America in the 70s and 80s. Otherwise, I would pass this book by.

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To buy this book, click here.

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