I've decided to participate in this fall's 24-hour Read-a-Thon.  The Read-a-Thon begins on October 24th at 8am (in my time zone).  24 hours of reading books, updating my blog, reading other blogs, and doing mini-challenges.  When I first discovered this event, I was intrigued but not sure I wanted to participate.  Then I kept reading about how much fun everyone says it is.  I don't know how hardcore I'll be (it's been years since I've voluntarily pulled an all-nighter) but I'm definitely going to spend the majority of my day reading.

To make this even more special, and because it is October, for each book I finish, I will be donating $10 extra to my in-laws' 2010 Breast Cancer 3-Day fund (That was the link to my mother-in-law's, but for a laugh check out my father-in-law's page).

Here is my pile of books to choose from.  I will obviously not be getting through all of these.  Let's face it, I'll be lucky if I finish 3.  But I wanted to have some variety.  And I have a few books coming from the library as well.  And of course, I can always grab one of the other 300 books in my house that I haven't read.  I tried to pick shorter and/or easier books that would keep my attention.

Read-a-Thon Books

Anyone else want to participate with me?

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Peony in Love by Lisa See

Peony in Love: A NovelThis book has been on my TBR list for ages. Since before I read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan a year and a half ago. And boy am I glad that I finally got to it.

First, your teasers. My two favorite passages occurred a mere page apart:

“Quite by accident – except that it had to be fate interfering – he found the box with Liniang’s rolled-up self-portrait scroll.” p. 34

“Perhaps he was as afraid as I was that we’d be caught.Or perhaps he was breathing me in just as I was letting him come into my lungs, my eyes, my heart.” p. 35

It’s part historical fiction, part ghost story, part coming of age. It is a story about growing up, accepting changes, and most of all  love – romantic love, sexual love, familial love. The greatest of  which is probably the womanly love formed between mothers and daughters (which can also be the toughest love to recognize).

In the conversation with Lisa See at the end, she mentions that she wrote this to show that women (who may be been silenced) have not been silent throughout history. While there may be little  record of it, women were always thinking, writing, creating. See also mentions that she believes women still struggle to have their voices heard. How many times do we find our husbands and boyfriends not really listening to us? How many times growing up did we ignore our mother’s request to clean our room and immediately obey our father’s. This actually sparked an interesting discussion between Ben and me. We have about as egalitarian a relationship as you can get, yet there may be traces of this in existence (then again, sometimes I don’t listen to Ben, too).

When I read this book, I didn’t realize that the characters were based on real people. I assumed some of the basis for the story was true – I figured The Peony Pavillion was a real book, but that was as far as I thought the history went. After finishing the book and reading the Author’s Note, I learned that the characters of Peony, Ze, Ti, and Wu Ren all
existed and The Three Wive’s Commentary is real. This makes their story so much more compelling to me. Part of the reason I love Lisa See’s novels is because it is a chance to learn about Chinese history and culture. When the story intertwines with real history, it enhances that experience.

I loved Peony in Love even more than Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. I can’t wait to get to Shanghai Girls.

Out of curiosity, has anyone read her earlier novels?

Books: September 2009

September 2009 Reads

  • Betsy-Tacy and Tib by Maude Hart Lovelace [review]
  • The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler [review]
  • Betsy-Tacy by Maude Hart Lovelace [review]
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery [review]

September 2009 Books

  • Foreign Tongue by Vanina Marsot
  • Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
  • The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
  • Continental Drift by Russell Banks

September turned out to be a pretty good reading month for me.  I enjoyed everything I read and 4 books is really the best I can ever hope for (it doesn’t hurt that the Betsy-Tacy books are so short).  And of our new books, only one of those is really mine and I won it from Book Club Girl so I didn’t actually pay for it.  The other 3 Ben bought but I am really looking forward to getting my hands on Her Fearful Symmetry.

I left two books unfinished in September: Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer and Pride and Prejudice.  I keep losing interest in those two and reading other books instead.  But I will finish them someday.

The Hazards of Love

This post has nothing to do with books or reading.  But I wanted to share the amazingness that was The Decemberists concert because I know for a fact some of you are fans and I’m sick of people saying “the december-whos?”

Their show was quite possibly the best concert I’ve ever been to.  They were better than their recordings which is my secret hope every time I go to a show.  The first half was a perfectly orchestrated performance with each song flowing right into the next just like their albums.  The second half was more intimate with band members chatting, doing handstands, and crowd surfing.  They played all my favorite songs and showed me how great some of the songs I overlooked are.  Ben and I haven’t been to a show in years (we used to live at concerts when we were dating in college but then we got poor for a long time).  This one was much mellower than the concerts we frequented in the old days but a perfect way to get back into it.

The show was at the Hard Rock Live at Universal Studio’s City Walk in Orlando.  It was a great venue – small but not crowded.  Going to a show 2 hours away on a Wednesday night may have been poor planning (we got home at 2am) but any sleep deprivation we suffered was wortth it. I would drive to Miami or even Atlanta in a heartbeat to see them
again.  If you ever get the chance to see them you should.  And if you aren’t familiar with The Decemberists yet (the december-whats?), you should immediately go out and buy their entire discography.

Because words can’t really capture their fantasticness, here are some seripitiously taken video (sorry for the iphone quality/does anyone know how to rotate video on here?):

Sons and Daughters

Quantity v. Quality


I’ve been reading a lot of blogs lately and I’ve come to one conclusion: book bloggers read a lot of books.  I mean a lot.  Like 200, 300, 400 books per year.  Now I just finished my 29th book of the year.  It hasn’t been my best year ever but I’ve never even come close to three digits.

But these are hardcore book bloggers, can normal people read this much? It turns out they can.  I do read rather slowly so I went to my best friend from law school, Susan.  She’s a very quick reader and I knew she read a fair amount so I thought she would be a good real life person to ask.  She said, and I quote, “I haven’t been reading as much as I used to, but I’d think I still read 200 – 300 books per year. You?”

Susan and I are both attorneys working roughly the same amount of hours each week.  She has an active social calendar, a new house to work on, and she watches at least some television.  Why is she reading 10 times the amount of books I am?  Her answer: “I think you get more depth and detail from them.”

So I started thinking.  Can you read 400 books each year and get as much out of them as you would if you only read 40?  I don’t know the answer and I certainly don’t want to judge those readers.  I can’t imagine ever reading that much, but everyone is different and my reading style is not anyone else’s reading style.

Or maybe I just watch too much television.

I’d love to hear other thoughts.

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Discovering Betsy-Tacy #2: Betsy-Tacy and Tib

Betsy-Tacy and Tib (Betsy and Tacy Books)

In my first post, I meant to credit Emily for first bringing the Betsy-Tacy series to my attention.  But I forgot.  So I will thank you now, Emily.  I’d also like to acknowledge Book Club Girl.  Her frequent tweets about the series piqued my curiosity even more.

I read the second of the Betsy-Tacy books this weekend: Betsy-Tacy and Tib.  I enjoyed this one more than the first, not so much because it is better but because I knew what to expect going in.  Again, it was a nice read for young readers.  The format was similar to the first – each chapter was a different story of some game Betsy, Tacy, and Tib were playing.  Despite being 3 years older in this book (the mature age of 8), it actually tackled less serious issues (minus Tacy’s bout of Diptheria).  The books read so quickly that it doesn’t really matter that the depth might not be there yet – it’s still an enjoyable reading experience.  I see the potential for great character development.

One part that made me thankful I grew up when I did was when Tib’s father credited Frankie with building the house in Tib’s basement when I’m sure (being an older sister to a younger brother myself) it was mostly Tib.  I am glad that it struck her as odd.  Maybe this is a hint at what is to come in later books.

I’m looking forward to the next in the series (although I think the library has done something very strange with my request and it may need to be placed again…).

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Before Twilight, Sookie Stackhouse, and the Vampire Diaries

I had 20 minutes to kill before dance last night so I popped into the bookstore to browse for a few minutes.  As I walked by stopped and perused the “teen vampire book” table, this book caught my eye:

Thirst No. 1

I think: Christopher Pike has a new book? And it’s about vampires? I loved Christopher Pike when I was younger. Especially his other vampire series, The Last Vampire.  I probably read it 6 times. I hope this one is as good.  [I pick up the book and read the back]. Hmm…this sounds familiar. 5,000 years? Creator returns? Ray? Wait a minute. This IS The Last Vampire! They’ve renamed it and reissued it in order to capitalize on the vampire craze. That was smart. Teenagers today would probably pick up Thirst when they’d pass over the cheesy Christopher Pike covers of yore. How exciting that a new generation of girls are going to discover fantastic-ness that is The Last Vampire.

If only they’d reissue The Starlight Crystal…

My well-worn copies (yes, I still keep them somewhere that I can easily reach them for photo ops like this one):


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The Jane Austen Book Club

The Jane Austen Book Club: A Novel

(It’s halfway though the Everything Austen Challenge and I’ve just now finished my first book, but I’m not giving up yet…)

I began reading The Jane Austen Book Club because I was losing focus reading Pride and Prejudice.  I love Pride and Prejudice so I couldn’t figure it out.  This book made me remember that I love Jane Austen and now I’m excited to get back to P&P.

For the one person who hasn’t read it, the JABC is about 5 women (and 1 man) of varying ages and personalities.  They meet once a month for 6 months to discuss one novel.  During these discussions we learn more about one of the characters.   There was less Jane Austen in the book than I expected, but I liked what I found instead.  Life goes on for the JABC participants.  They fall in love, out of love, grieve for lost love ones, and continue finding out who exactly they are.  But they kept reading the books and meeting through it all.

I love the reverence that each of the characters (except maybe Grigg) has for Jane Austen. It’s amazing how much she can affect us 200 years later.  Aside from Shakespeare what other English author is so loved?

My favorite passages:

“Jocelyn turned out to like fiddling about with the original story no better than Prudie did.  The great thing about books was the solidity of the written word.  You might change and your reading might change as a result, but the book remained whatever it had always been.  A good book was surprising the first time through, less so the second.  The movies, as everyone knew, had no respect for this.” p. 82

“From the sound of it, no one who’d known Grigg since infancy could have doubted he was born to be a heroine.” p. 152

“There was something appealing in thinknig of a character with a secret life that her author knew nothing about.  Slipping off while the author’s back was turned, to find love in her own way.  Showing up just in time to deliver the next bit of dialogue with an innocent face.  If Sylvia were a character in a book, that’s the kind of character she’d want to be.” p. 171

Personal Thoughts

Everyone brings their own life experiences to their reading and a few things came to me while I was reading.

There was one section near the beginning when the book discusses how divorce affects adult children.  How they merely have their Christmases ruined.  My parents announced that they were getting a divorce last summer after 31 years of marriage.  And it’s a weird thing because I don’t live near either of them and I didn’t at the time they split up so part of me never really had to deal with it the way I would have had this happened 10 years ago.  It’s strange going home because they sold the house I grew up in and the family feels so small.  Sometimes I get homesick for something that doesn’t exist anymore, but usually I just go on with my life.  [However, I am spending Thanksgiving in Boston with Dad and Christmas in Michigan with Mom and Ben’s parents.]

Prudie discusses how her mother used to convinve her she’d done things that she hadn’t actually done.  She had trouble remembering which things she actually did and which were just stories.  My dad does the same thing to a lesser degree.  He tells me stories of all the places he took me when I was too small to remember but others tell me some of them didn’t actually happen.  In a  similar vein, we got our first video camera (a 20 pound contraption in the 1980s that only my dad could lift) when I was 6.  He made me and my brother reenact the first 6 and 4 years of our life to make up for it.

I guess this book made me think of my parents.

Final Thought: All Austen addicts should read this. Also, am I the only one that has a red cover for this book?

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Teaser Tuesday

After the wonderful week that was BBAW, I’ve decided to try and be a little more active in the book blogging community and since I can’t make myself finish my books faster, you get this meme:

“She hadn’t spoken up. She sat and seethed over her Red Vines and thought about moving, but only if it could be done without an implied accusation; she was, ask anyone, courteous to a fault.”

– Page 82 of The Jane Austen Book Club  by Karen Joy Fowler


Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share
    doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can
    add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

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The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

The Elegance of the HedgehogI wasn’t sure about The Elegance of the Hedgehog when we first decided to read it for RBC.  I hadn’t heard much about it, but I decided to give it a go anyway (plus I got it for really cheap via the book depository).  But it only took a few pages for me to begin to fall in love with it.

The story features two characters.  Renee is a 50-year-old widowed concierge.  She is well-educated, though self-taught.  She enjoys Russian novels, classical music, and Japanese films, but she pretends to be just another dull concierge and fools all the tenants.  One of the tenants is Paloma – a 12-year-old girl who is planning on killing herself and burning down her family’s apartment on June 16 (Ulysses reference?).  Then a new tenant moves into the building and everything changes.  I don’t really want to say too much else because I want you all to discover it on your own.

It was a very enjoyable read.  I generally try to read book club books slowly with the schedule, but I just had to finish this one.  I actually ended up finishing it on the flight back to Florida which really says something about the book because as an anxious flyer under the influence of prescription drugs concentration doesn’t come easily.

The book was full of beautiful language and thought-provoking ideas.  The book is originally French, but the English translation is wonderful.  I started taking notes in the margin as a I read it but about 70 pages in I got too absorbed by the story (and I think I need to accept my fate as someone that does not make margin notes).

I’m looking forward to reading Barbery’s other novel, Gourmet Rhapsody.

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