Even a Book Polygamist gets the Blues

For most of this past year my books and I have had polygamist marriage difficulties.

Perhaps its my fault – studying and working more and spending the rest of my spare time hanging out with my mates and playing video games (because don’t I deserve some down time?) that I barely have the time or energy to dote on one book let alone four or five.

But do they not have some part in the drifting apart also? Perhaps they’ve lost the spark that kept me interested – I don’t see them making an effort to pull us out of the rut!

However, despite the disconnect I still held hope. I continued to carry a book or two in my bag, hoping that I would reach for them rather than my iPod or Nintendo 3DS mistresses on my commute. I tidied the pile next to my bed so they would look more alluring, but alas, I was usually sleep-bound before I could even glance their way.

And then came the Blue Book Affair which shocked me out of my reading rut and got me on track. I returned once more to a book I had been neglecting and pussy footing around for months – Freedom by Jonathan Franzen – filled with a new determination to finish it and finally have room for a new read. After a few days of dedicated reading I got through the last few chapters and was left with a dilemma that I am rarely faced with when reaching the end of a novel – I didn’t like it.

Despite having a wide range of interests when it comes to what i read, I pick my books carefully and usually will only start something if I’m fairly certain that I’ll enjoy it (whats the point otherwise?), so a book that fails to engage me is a surprising and distressing experience. I was especially surprised when it came to Freedom. Objectively it looked like it would be a quality read – a family epic spanning decades, which I usually love; it has won, and been nominated for several awards; the author has been highly praised; when the book came out in 2010 it was a hit; and it was even on Oprah’s book club (hmmmm maybe that should’ve been a warning – me and the Ms O don’t always agree) – but as much as I tried to like it I ended the experience with a feeling of relief rather than the usual mix of satisfaction and sadness I get when reaching the end of a good book.

I will elaborate in a future review (which will be one of the only negative ones I have written since the inception of Book Polygamist) but in short while Franzen is obviously a talented writer, and several plot points and subject matters had me interested , I just did not engage or empathize with the primary (or secondary) characters in any way. If I had identified with or even just liked even one or two of the half-a-dozen or more central characters (or even felt a satisfying loathing), this book could’ve been a winner, and as with the general book-reader marital problems my isolation from the characters could’ve been my own fault – perhaps I was not the target audience, perhaps if I lived in America I would’ve connected with their political beliefs etc etc – but whatever the problem was i just wasn’t feeling the love.

Since I finished Freedom I have read quite a few reviews online and have found amongst the waves of praise many people who were left with a similar disappointment, so at least I don’t feel like I’m being unfair but I still wanted to shake it off, so to speak and jump right back on the horse (ah! mixed metaphors! they’re like a squeaky wheel that kills two birds in a bush…that are catching worms early…or something).

I did this by first picking a book from my small Library-Books-To-Read pile (using my usual process) which was The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff (which I was excited about because I have borrowed it a few times in the past but had to return it and I also like the coincidence of reading another book with Templeton in the title so soon after The Templeton Twins: have an Idea)

And then I amped up the Cleansing-Bad-Book-Experience-With-Better-Books by starting The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins 😀

and putting another one of my reads – The Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian in my bag to read on the bus (a strategy that actually worked this time as I had finished the remaining 3/4 of the book over three days of commuting).

By the end of last week I had finished The Secrets of Eden and The Hunger Games, plus I have gotten more into The Monsters of Templeton and two of my other current reads: Pyramids by Terry Pratchett and the Neo-Noir anthology, Blood, Guts & Whiskey which I have been meandering through since May, so perhaps in the world of book polygamy, a few short affairs can salvage a rocky relationship 🙂

I hope all my Bookbaggers have enjoyable reads on the go, and as always I bid you:

Happy Reading!

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The ending of an ending and now Dead again with some Secrets?

I finished the award winning novella, The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes a little over a week ago, but really since it was only 150 pages long I finished it over 4-5 sittings and if I wasn’t so busy could easily have devoured it over a lazy afternoon.

Despite its size The Sense of an Ending was quite intricate and thought provoking (as evidenced in recent Notable Quotables) and since I have now dropped down to only 4.5 working hours a week (the ups and downs of being a casual employee :S) I should have ample time to write a appropriately intricate and thought provoking review as well as one for Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbins which I finished recently and absolutely adored!

Upon finishing The Sense of an Ending (which happened to be in the middle of the night – luckily on a night when I didn’t have work the next morning) I immediately lay out all the books on my Books-I-Own-But-Have-Yet-To-Read pile and started my regular (and at the number of books I have amassed, increasingly long) process, which with the sheer number of books now on the pile I had to do almost three times just to get down to one or two books!

Because of this when I did reach the point of having only two contenders I simply decided I would start both Gosh Darnit!

The two books I started are:

Dead and Gone (Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire Mysteries/TrueBlood etc etc Book 9) by Charlaine Harris

and, Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian

I’ve been hanging out to read the next Sookie Stackhouse book for a while and I have had Secrets of Eden on my To-Read pile for years now so i’ll be happy to enjoy them both during my lazy, less-work period 🙂

From the end of the Woodpecker to the Beginning of an Ending

Two weeks ago I finished reading Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbins, a fantastic novel that took me 18 weeks to finish despite it being a mere 277 pages long, mainly because I haven’t been reading on a regular basis due to study and then work. Since I have been plodding through the other three books i’m reading for almost as long or even longer (Blood, Guts and Whiskey for 23 weeks and counting; Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe for 16 weeks; and Freedom by Jonathan Franzen for 14 weeks) I was excited to finally get into something new, but I was also dreading picking one of the thicker books on my To Read pile which with the reading rate i’ve developed lately I would probably still be reading come 2013.

To my surprise and joy the eeny meeny miney moe Gods smiled upon me leading me to the thinnest book of the bunch – a novella which won the 2011 Man Booker Prize – The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes – weighing in at a teeny 150 pages. Suffice to say even though I’ve only had two or three reading sessions with The Sense of an Ending I’ve almost finished which should lead to a quick review and then choosing of another (hopefully) thin yet enjoyable book 🙂

At this rate my reading tally for 2012 (the National Year of Reading no less!) which is looking very sad at the moment (only 14 books when my average per year is 30-40 O.O) still has a glimmer of hope – hazah!

From the Land of the Free to simply Freedom; and move over Lee, here comes Poe!

On Friday on my way home from work I finally finished American Gods by Neil Gaiman, a book I have been slowly enjoying over 16 weeks. This may seem like a while for a book that I was enjoying and not struggling through, but besides being so busy and unable to read most of the time, I was purposefully taking my sweet time with  American Gods because it was such a wonderfully rambling, intricate, epic tale that every bit I devoured deserved a good rumination and digestion 🙂
I will get to reviewing it eventually (probably along with a flood of  backlogged reviews once I gain my diploma in June – yay!)

The only problem with finishing American Gods (despite the fact that it was one of those novels I wished would never end) was that I had no books on my library book pile to choose from! Of course I still had four other books on the go so it wasn’t really a disaster, but there were so many books at the library (or libraries really) that I have borrowed and had to return before I could even get to them that to have zero to choose from was just sad. Luckily I could just jump on the Maylands Library catalogue over the weekend and request a bunch of “lost” library books to borrow come Monday and as soon as my class finished midday today I checked my account and saw that 5 of my requested books (out of 8) were already waiting for me 🙂
Once I got home I went through my usual process and ended up with a novel I have heard a lot of positive hype about: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.

Meanwhile, during the Mother’s Day weekend when I wasn’t spoiling my mum with flowers, a home cooked brekkie (breakfast in Australian :P) and a scrumptious dinner at her favourite local restaurant/cafe Picco’s Kitchen, I was reading the last few chapters of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The raving for this classic is virtually bottomless so I won’t add to it now, but I will get to an appropriately raving review soon 🙂 Once I finished and wrote my thoughts in my Book Lover’s Journal I waded through the mountainous Books-I-Own-But-Have-Yet-To-Read pile and ended up with Tales of Mystery and Imagination, a collection of stories by Edgar Allan Poe that I received for Xmas last year. I’ve never actually read Poe’s stories, though I’m a fan his poem/short story The Raven, so I’m quite excited to get into some classic Gothic creepiness 😀

As always Happy Reading to you all, especially all those mothers out there, other loved ones that are surrogate mothers and women like myself who choose not to be mothers 🙂

From Ashes to Glass; From a Raven to a Woodpecker

This past couple of weeks, when I haven’t been working at my new job at the Mt Lawley campus of my college or working on an assessment (holiday homework is the pits!) I have been able to relax with some reading and as a result I finished two books a couple of days ago – City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare and The Raven’s Heart by Jesse Blackadder.

Both books were very enjoyable and eventful (especially at the tail end) and I will review them soon (i.e. once I have finally posted my belated Top 10 Heroes/Villains and have written a review for The Night Circus ; Code Noir and Raisins and Almonds).

When I finished City of Ashes I immediately knew which book I was going to read next because the Books-Borrowed-Off-My-Bro pile only has three titles on it, and since one of those titles is the next in the series after City of Ashes it was safe to assume that since it shared the same author, virtually the same title and the same publisher details as its two predecessors, it was going to win the eeny meeny miny moe just like the ones before it. Knowing this I’m not entirely sure what possessed me to go through the process anyway, but being a creature of habit I did and sure enough, City of Glass, the third book in the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, was the victor.

 

 

The very next day I reached the end of  The Raven’s Heart, a Historical epic set during the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots and the process for choosing the next read was not so simple as my Books-I-Own-But-Have-Yet-To-Read pile next to my bed is quite perilous. After a tetris-style re-shuffle on my bookshelf I was able to remove some of the books from the pile so the choosing process was a bit better, and as I mentioned a while ago I have the publication details written down in order to make my job a lot easier, so the pile was soon whittled down from 17 to one, the one being Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbins.

 

 

I had never heard of Still Life With Woodpecker or Tom Robbins when a friend of the family (and second mum of sorts :)) gifted it to me for my 25th birthday last year, but from what I read on the back cover I was certain it would be a very unique read.

Here’s the blurb so you can all see what I mean:

STILL LIFE WITH WOODPECKER is sort of a love story that takes place inside a pack of Camel cigarettes. it reveals the purpose of the moon, explains the difference between criminals and outlaws, examines the conflict between social activism and romantic individualism, and paints a portrait of contemporary society that includes powerful Arabs, exiled royalty, and pregnant cheerleaders. it also deals with the problem of redheads.

As you can see, it isn’t any ordinary book but is just the kind of strange, creative and cheekily humourous literature that doesn’t come around too often and which I love. The other night I read the first 9 chapters (they’re of the short and punchy variety, ranging from a page or two to only half of one) and drank it up. The use of language is a feast of carefully constructed lines just begging to be quoted and the storytelling is intriguingly unique, but in my half-asleep state I don’t think I gave it justice so I think I’ll be re-reading the start in the light of day.

Sorry again that I have been so absent. I will try my hardest to get back into the swing of regular posting, especially with reviews and until then:

Happy Reading! 🙂

The third Free Pick – Raisins and Almonds to celebrate a premiere :)

On Tuesday, while I was wiling away the time between the end of my class and starting work I finished Code Noir by Marianne De Pierres (review to follow after I’ve finished the one for The Night Circus), and even before I was done I knew what  my next free pick would be: Raisins and Almonds by Kerry Greenwood.

Raisins and Almonds is the 9th book in the Phryne Fisher Mysteries (out of 18 so far) and I was excited to read it for a couple of reasons:

  1. Its been a while since I’ve read a Phryne book (I read the 8th book, Urn Burial February last year so its been a year! O.O) so I’ve been missing her detective antics and fabulous outfits 🙂 and;
  2. I’ve been in a Phryne mood because the premiere of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (which I talked about in my Top 10 Books I Would Like To See Adapted For The Screen post) has been approaching, and is tonight at 8.30 (eeeee! :D)!!

Even though I chose the book Tuesday night I haven’t started it yet, being so caught up in the other books I’m reading, so I’m looking forward to starting it tonight after the premiere, and then it will most likely accompany me on the bus next week 🙂

The end of February is fast approaching  so this will probably be my last Free Pick February book as I am not near the end of any of my current reads, and I will revert back to my usual eeny meeny miny moe process of elimination for March.

Also I will be closing my latest poll early next week so I can begin work on the Top 10 lists, and with one theme currently on 2 votes and the other on nil, it looks like the chosen theme will be Top 10 Heroes and Top 10 Villains.

Hope you all have a relaxing weekend and Happy Reading!

 

The second Free Pick – top of the list Classic

This afternoon I finished The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (let me just say – AMAZING! I was so into the ending that I got off the bus and sat on the bus stop bench to finish 🙂 I will write a review soon, but as I loved this book so much I don’t want to rush it).

As it is Free Pick February, and The Night Circus is one of my books, I was pyched to choose a new read from the Books-I-Own-But-Have-Yet-To-Read pile since it it the largest (at 18 strong) and there is a bunch i’m dying to read.

While I was walking home from the bus stop with The Night Circus tucked lovingly under my arm one book popped into my head, maybe because I posted my Top 10 Classics I Want to Read so recently, but as soon as I got home I decided that I will finally read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 😀

Happy Reading!