300th Post and August Recap

September 1, 2008 at 9:50 pm | Posted in Books, LIfe, My Life with Books | 13 Comments
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I couldn’t believe it, but my WordPress stats indicate that my post yesterday about Maw Books’ Darfur fund raiser was my 299th post.  That makes my August Recap my 300th official post!!!  Whoo Hoo!  Thanks to each and every one of you who have read this blog.  It’s really been an anchor for me.

Non-Reading Reading-Related Activities

This month I created my first challenge: Expand Your Horizons.  No one has joined Mark and me, but I’m hopeful that there are others out there who might find it fun to share books with a friend.

My first guest post was published on Saturday at The Friendly Book Nook and I was really excited about that.  Thanks to everyone who responded with comments.  It really meant a lot to me.  A special thanks to The Friendly Book Nook for honoring me this way.

I’ve been hard at work organizing the relaunch of The Literate Housewives’ Book Club.  I’ve been sprucing up the blog site and adding the forum.  I’ve also been hard at work on the bookmarks for everyone.  Unfortunately I was not able to get to the post office at all this past week.  I met Emma when she got off of the bus all last week.  Without a lunch break, I just didn’t have time.  Rest assured that everyone will get their bookmarks this week.  The club will officially open on the 15th of September.  I’m hoping to get invitations to the forum sent out tomorrow.

Reading Activity for the Month

Now for the downer…  I read only 6 books in August.  Actually, it’s closer to 5.75 because I read half of Surviving Ben’s Suicide in July and I read the last 6th of The Seamstress today (since I read over 500 of the pages of this book in August, it’s counting in August).  Here’s how that all broke down:

Non-Fiction:

Surviving Ben’s Suicide by C. Comfort Shields
The Castaway Kid by R.B. Mitchell

Expand Your Horizons Challenge:

Pattern Recognition by William Gibson

Fiction:

Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Robert Maturin
No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
The Seamstress by Frances De Pontes Peebles (review coming soon)

I shouldn’t be too hard on myself because of the numbers.  It took me a week to read the 250 I finished of Melmoth the Wanderer and it took me another week to read The Seamstress and Pattern Recognition.

August Favorite

The Sunday Salon

August 24, 2008 at 10:14 am | Posted in Books, LIfe, My Life with Books, Reading | 6 Comments
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The Sunday Salon.com

This week was by far less eventful than last week. For that I am very grateful. I was able to read two books: The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner and House and Home by Kathleen McCleary. I also posted my review of Pattern Recognition by William Gibson.

I became absolutely entranced by Juana La Loca while reading Gortner’s novel. Her story is tragic as she was betrayed by every man in her life, but she was such a strong woman. I hated that Jennifer was translated into Juanita in my high school Spanish classes. It wasn’t as sexy as Carmen or Pilar. It sounded plain to me. Now I would happily take on the name Juana for the strength and courage it signifies. Besides, what’s wrong with people thinking you might be crazy? They should be careful.

I read McCleary’s novel for one of the first TLC Book Tours, so you’re just going to have to come back on September 8th, when the tour reaches The Literate Housewife Review. This will be the second time I’ve participated in a virtual book tour. My first go round was for Mrs. Lieutenant by Phyllis Zimbler Miller. It was a good experience for me and I’m hoping that when Bethany from B&b ex libris is less bogged down we can get together with the author and hold a discussion.

This week I launched my first reading challenge: Expand Your Horizons. The object of this challenge is to exchange books with a friend who has different taste in books than you do. The first reviews for this challenge were Special Topics in Calamity Physics, written by my friend Mark and my review of Pattern Recognition. I’m hoping that Mark and I will do this again soon. It was a good experience for the both of us.

Marcia from The Printed Page will be sending me her copy of The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff. I’ve been coveting this book ever since it was offered as an Early Review book through LibraryThing. Jen’s review at Devourer of Books only intensified it. I am so excited to be receiving it. Thanks, Marcia! I’m starting the next book I’ll be sending you today…

Which leads me to what I’m going to be reading this week. The first book up is The Seamstress by Frances De Pontes Pebbles. It is set in Brazil, a country I’ve never visited before and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a 600+ page book, but I’m thinking that it will read quickly. After that, I’m going to read Femme Fatale by Pat Shipman, which is a biography of Mata Hari. I’m really looking forward to this. I just discovered that she was a Dutch courtesan. One of my people… 😉

I’ve gotten a little behind in my blog reading, so I’m hoping to catch up on that tonight. I hope that everyone has had a wonderful week. Emma starts kindergarten tomorrow and after a great experience at her open house, she’s looking forward to it. That will help me keep my tears to a minimum. 😉

Special Topics in Calamity Physics

August 22, 2008 at 5:02 pm | Posted in Books, LIfe, Reading | 3 Comments
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An Expand Your Horizons Review by Mark

the best husband of a best friend for which a woman could ever ask

Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I opened that smiling Amazon.com box to find “Special Topics in Calamity Physics”. As someone who spends most of his time reading textbooks, technical papers, and hard science fiction, this was sure to be something outside my normal experience. I managed to maintain a healthy optimism as I started the book. It was, after all, recommended by the same Literate Housewife who suggested that I read “Generation X” a number of years ago.

It didn’t take long before this optimism was no longer needed. I was drawn to the fascinating life of this strange girl with the strange name. The story is narrated by Blue van Meer, a girl unlike anyone I’ve met, yet strikingly familiar. She doesn’t seem lonely, despite a life of constant travel. Her only anchor through her life has been her father, an intelligent man who travels from university to university, working on his “latest book” and teaching batches of incompetent students.

Having only her father as reference, Blue’s ideas and goals are closely tied to her his. It’s impossible to say if she is incredibly self motivated, or if her passions come from dad. Either way, it’s clear that she is gifted. Within months of arriving at St. Gallway, the elite school where she spends her last year, she is head of her class. She recounts her life there, filtering her tale through lenses of great literature (Steinbeck, 1939, et al). In fact, the entire narration is punctuated with appropriate references to illustrate her point (Pessl, 2006).

Blue’s last year, however, isn’t the straight-line stroll to Valedictorian that her father predicted. With prodding from Hannah Schneider, one of the teachers at St. Gallway, she begins to attend social events. She meets a clique of charismatic kids who care more for gossip, games, and sex than studies. While it’s unlikely she would go so far as to call them friends, and certainly not in front of her father, their influence on her is strong. She finds a world outside of study and dad.

But Hannah’s affect on Blue isn’t limited to a few introductions…. nor is it limited to her subtle guidance / manipulation of the students in the clique. Hannah’s mysterious death comes as a surprising turn for Blue. From here, the book travels far beyond anything I had predicted when I began reading it a few short days before.

As I closed the cover for the last time, I felt a familiar pang of sadness. I feel it whenever I finish a book that I truly love. I feel a momentary loss. I will no longer be visiting this beautiful world that I’ve been enjoying. I realize that I owe Literate Housewife again, without whom I would have never been on such an adventure.

My only regret is that Marisha Pessl has not yet written anything else… and I must wait with everyone else until she does.

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This is the inaugural guest post in my new Expand Your Horizons Reading Challenge. Click here for more information on how this started and how you can participate.

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