Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Fave Blog Posts

Prompt: 5 Fave (or Most Popular) Blog Posts From This Year – 
link-up hosted at Traveling with T

When I started this blog in January 2014, I had no idea where it would take me. I was (and am) doing it for fun and to keep track of my reading experience. So I didn't even think about statistics, frequency of posts, responding to blog events, memes, posting pithy reviews, etc.

But, stuff happened. I found that I did respond to some prompts, some challenges, some reading events.

It's been a learning experience so my 5 fave posts are not related to how many views and comments my posts generated, but are posts that enhanced my blogging experience. Here are my faves in order of posting.

Sneezing With Steinbeck An early post inspired by the Bingo Reading Challenge.
Serendipitous Reading from March.This is the sort of post I had in mind when I started the blog.
Dewey's 24-Hour Read-a-Thon A whole new web experience. So much fun! 
Two Days of Surfing from September. Just because it says something about the bookish Internet.
Month of Faves: Six Degrees Of Separation (Books) I loved the Month of Faves. This is the one I most enjoyed doing and I also enjoyed the comments it received.

Many, many thanks to  Estella's Revenge, Girlxoxo, and Traveling with T 
for setting up this special end of year blog event. It's been great!!!!
And it's helped convince me to keep on blogging.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

30 – Top 10 Goals/Resolutions For 2014 – linking up with Top Ten Tuesday

Not posting or linking with this because I'm setting shorter goals as I go through the year.

 A month long  blog event hosted by Estella's Revenge,

Monday, December 29, 2014

Books as Gifts

 A month long  blog event hosted by Estella's Revenge,
Book Review / Discussion {a book from from your fave genre or author}
 – link-up at Traveling with T

We are a family that has always given books as gifts.  My mother was especially good at picking out books for other people.

Once she gave my grandmother (Mom's mother-in-law) a book about a freed slave turned madam in San Francisco, Mammy Pleasant: 1815-1904
by Helen Holdredge. It seemed an odd choice for an elderly farm woman, but my grandmother loved it, talked about it, and passed it around among the members of her bridge club.

That same year she gave my non-bookish brother (who usually read only when he had to) a lavish photo book of trains. He was happy with it. It appealed to his interest in trains and his interest in photography.

Why do I remember two gifts from so long ago? Probably because when I was helping her wrap them I thought they were goofy choices. I never would have given either of the recipients books! Let alone those particular books.

The love of reading and books was passed down to me from my mother. The ability to select books as gifts was not. Once my daughters were past children's books I had a difficult time picking out books for them. It isn't that I don't know their reading tastes; it's more that they have such wide access to books that I have no idea what they've already read.

Hooray for wish lists! But I didn't give them books this year because the wish lists were full of jewelery, tech stuff, make-up, treats, and clothing. I did buy one gift book about the SF Giants, but everything else was non-bookish.

Not so, my wish list. There was non-bookish stuff, but there were a lot of books. When I want to read something I first try to get it from the library. If I can't borrow it, it goes on the wish list. What my daughters select from the long list is always a surprise. The Akashic Noir series is on the list (with a note listing those I've already read). Since this is a huge series there's a lot of leeway. For my birthday I received Toronto Noir with the comment "because it seems an unlikely place for crime noir."

So what did I get for Christmas? This time she chose one from a place I've been:

It was a memorable trip back in the
USSR days when it was Leningrad.

   The other book from my elder daughter is ----->

 From my younger daughter.

                               Love the cover of Pepperpot


And one that wasn't on my wish list which she bought for our shared kitchen.

A note about this book: She found it in a consignment store. Used books are fine as gifts in our family, as long as they are in good condition. this book is in excellent, like new, condition. I doubt if it's ever actually been in a kitchen. I don't think it's been read or used at all. 

Speaking of used books and gifts, I think a gift certificate to a good used book store would be an ideal gift.  Browsing is half the fun.

What is your feeling about used books as gifts?

Friday, December 26, 2014

5 Pictures

Images from Project Gutenberg

From American Book-Plates by Charles Dexter Allen


From The Box-Car Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

EGYPTIAN PARTY. (From a Tomb at Thebes.) 



  From Animal Analogues: Verses and Illustrations by Robert Williams Wood




Picking Faves-4

Week 4 Picking Favorites – a list you loved from someone else this week – link-up hosted at Girlxoxo
 A month long  blog event hosted by Estella's Revenge,

Impossible for me to pick favorites this week because I didn't look at all the entries. Nor did I post on Christmas Eve (books that deserved the hype).

But I did read and I did get some books for Christmas.

One thing I read was on Sarah's List of books she almost put down and is glad she finished:
I picked it up at the library on the 23rd, started reading it on the 24th, put it aside briefly to do some stocking stuffing and finished it just after midnight. Glad I stayed awake to finish it because it was really, really good. I loved the way it flowed seamlessly from one point of view to another.

I'm also glad I was awake because just as I finished the book I heard some creature stirring and was afraid it was a mouse getting into the edible stocking stuff. It wasn't a mouse or a "right jolly old elf," it was housemate/daughter in the kitchen having a snack attack. So we munched together and talked about feminism.

When I was in the library Tuesday to pick up Florence Gordon I also picked up one from Karsyn's list. I'll read this one later this week. Housemate/daughter is eyeing it and she may beat me to it.*

This was a good library trip: In addition to the two from your recommendations I picked up three from my wish list:  Manazuru by Hiromi Kawakami (which is one of the discussion books for January in Japan), On Immunity by Eula Biss, and The Murder of Harriet Krohn by Karin Fossum.
I also found  A Palace in the Old Village by  a Morroccan/French writer, Tahar Ben Jelloun, which looks interesting.

And one of my Christmas presents is the the eBook edition of a book I discovered  on  Dolce Bellezza's Favorites By a Theme during the first week of a Month of Favorites.

I know I will follow through on several other suggestions from the posts from this project.  How about you?

* update 12/27, 4pm, just found out she was eyeing it because she's already read it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

5 Books I'm Glad I Finished

Prompt: 5 Books I Almost Put Down and I’m Glad I Didn’t – link-up hosted at girlxoxo
 A month long  blog event hosted by Estella's Revenge,
Girlxoxo, and Traveling with T 

The Moon Sisters by Walsh, Therese  (Advance review copy)
  I had a hard time getting into this novel and I almost gave up on it. It seemed to be jumping all over the place with no direction. As I got further into the story I realized that the family was dealing with grief and having a difficult time finding a sense of direction so the structure made sense.

Harlequin's Millions by Bohumil Hrabal; Stacey Knecht (translator)
The problem with this was the format. This 312 page book has sixteen Chapters and each chapter is one paragraph. There are no sentence breaks. I carried on with this thanks to encouragement from Tony Messenger and ended up liking it. I found the link Tony had to Teun van Wijk pictures of the book's setting very encouraging; made it seem more real.

We Were Liars; by  E. Lockhart  Library book.  First love, family quarrels, secrets, and unbearable memories. I picked this up at the community college library while I was waiting for a meeting to start. I read a few pages and put it back on the shelf. I did this again the following week. And again. Finally, when I was a little more than half-way through the book I checked it out, took it home and finished it that afternoon. Glad I finished it in the privacy of my own home.

Traveler of the Century by Andrés Neuman, Nick Caistor (Translator), Lorenza García (Translator)  Library Book.  
 I don't know how many times I put it aside because of the seemingly endless philosophical and political discussions that took place in the salon and elsewhere. Finally, after asking "Is he, the author, going anywhere with this?" I did something I rarely do. I skipped forward and read the end of the book. Then I went back to where I left off and read the rest of the book. I'm glad I did.

The Descartes Highlands by Eric Gamalinda
  Free copy from publisher through LibraryThing.
 A dark, gritty narrative is scattered over time, place, and viewpoint but at it's heart is the terrible underworld of the Philippines in the early 1970s. A "you will love it or hate it" kind of book.
  It is filled with graphic descriptions of sex, torture, and an abortion. F-Bombs abound. There is also love of various kinds, a mish-mash of philosophy and religion, politics, friendship, betrayal, and strange characters. Did I mention drugs? That too.
  I hesitate to say I liked it. When I finished it I shook my head and asked myself "WTF did I just read?" Whatever it is, I'm not sorry I read it, I'll re-read passages and it will stay with me.

I'm glad I managed to finish all these. What's on you list of almost didn't finish, but glad I did.?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas at Project Gutenberg

Hosted by Estella's Revenge,
I was surprised when I looked at my 2014 reads and realized that I didn't read anything from one of my favorite online resources this year. I did use Project Gutenberg to find some illustrations and I downloaded a couple of things (but I didn't read them).
So I decided to share some Christmas goodies 
(and at the bottom of this post a short list of some things I read from Gutenberg in 2013). 

Christmas At Project Gutenberg 


Twas the Night Before Christmas, A Visit from St. Nicholas By Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith

 The Romance of a Christmas Card, by Kate Douglas Wiggin


Christmas Sunshine, by Various [selections from Milton, Thackeray, and others] 
Christmas Stories from French and Spanish writers by Antoinette Ogden

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, illustrated by Arthur Rackham

Project Gutenberg has many other Christmas books, including several other editions of The Night Before Christmas and A Christmas Carol.

Some 2013 reading favorites from Gutenberg (these are not Christmas books):

Mrs. Vanderstein's Jewels; Bryce, Charles
  a detective story
Adventures of a Sixpence in Guernsey by A Native; Anonymous
  a short story
My Antonia; Cather, Willa
  plenty of classics on Gutenberg!
The Ink-stain (Tache d'encre) Bazin, Rene
  another classic
West Wind Drift; McCutcheon, George Barr
  first published in 1920. Shipwrecked castaways establish a colony on a deserted island. Gutenberg has thirty titles from this novelist and playwright who is best known for Brewster's Millions

(note to self: add some Gutenberg books to 2015 reading goals) 

If you are not familiar with this great project, EBook Friendly has a helpful tutorial 8 tips and tricks to get the most of Project Gutenberg

Friday, December 19, 2014

Week 3 Favorite Lists

Picking Favorites – a list you loved from someone else this week – link-up hosted at Estella's Revenge

 Five Fave Winter Reads:

Sharlene @ Olduvai Reads  thanks for adding four books to my TBR (I'd already read one of her five books).

Kristen M@We Be Reading  thanks for all the chunksters.

Carol's Notebook   Thanks for introducing me to two more books I want to read: Harmless and Invitation to Die. And for bringing a smile with the cover of The Grumpy Shepherd.

Those Winter Essentials:

Thanks to Valeria @ A Touch of Book Madness and   Kristen M@We Be Reading  for showing me new ways keeping my hands warm while keeping my fingers free.

And too numerous to mention - almost all posters - thanks for the the lotion suggestions, the tea, and the various blankets.

Now, what do you all do in the way of fingernail care during the winter? The sound of the file on broken nails is not one of my favorite winter songs.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Five Essential Winter Sounds

18 – 5 Must Haves for Winter Survival {bookish and non-bookish winter loves … moisturizer to keep those page-turning hands working, a plushy blanket, favorite tea / cocktail / coffee / hot chocolate etc.} – link-up hosted at Traveling with T

In addition to music here are five sounds I love to hear in winter:

  1. The crunch of Angelo plowing my driveway--yea, people can get to me in case of emergency (no way am I going out)!
  2. The sump pump pumping--yea, the cellar isn't flooding!
  3. The thump of the UPS parcel hitting the porch--yea, books!
  4. The bloop, bloop of the coffee pot perking--yea, caffeine! 
  5. The rumble of the weekly generator test--yea, it works! If the power goes out the pump will pump, the coffee will perk, and there will be a light for reading!
Do you have a favorite winter sound?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

5 Fave Winter Reads


 5 Fave Winter Reads {looking back at your top choices from books you read last winter} – link-up hosted at Estella’s Revenge

We had a bit of snow last winter so there was something rather nice about sailing somewhat aimlessly around the sunny Mediterranean with The Sailor from Gibraltar by Marguerite Duras, Barbara Bray (Translator). It was so easy to forget that it was snowing outside.

It was the first Duras book for me. I will read more in 2015 and maybe watch some films too.  I did watch a Duras documentary (by Duras, not about Duras) but now I can't find it. Thought I bookmarked it, but I guess I didn't. All I can remember is I didn't watch it on YouTube. 

What was it about me and the French last winter? I seem to have read a lot of French writers in translation. Here's another one I loved:

Enough About Love by Hervé Le Tellier, Adriana Hunter (Translator) I read this in Adobe Digital Editions, a format that usually gives me all kinds of problems. But this was such a good book I read right through my usual technical difficulties. I have to really, really like a book to read it in Adobe.

There were also those two favorite new friends for interesting conversations




And when I got really homesick I looked at beautiful pictures and read some California poetry in Not Man Apart: Photographs of the Big Sur Coast by Robinson Jeffers, David Brower (Editor), Loren Eiseley (Editor), Ansel Adams (Photographer).

And I knew that if I were in California, I would be looking at a book with beautiful icy pictures and Robert Frost poetry about snowy days.

(Frost was born in San Francisco; Jeffers was born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania)

I gave Not Man Apart  to my husband one Christmas long ago, it was his favorite book. He rarely gave me books but one I remember was a book he brought to me when I was in the hospital after the birth of our first child. It was John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley: In Search of America. It's still one of my favorite road trip books.

Do you have a favorite gift book? One that you gave and know it was warmly received or one that you received and were happy to have.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Top 10 Books That Blew My Mind in 2014

Top 10 Books That Blew My Mind in 2014 – A Month of Favorites linking up with Top Ten Tuesday

The above is the Month of Faves Prompt. Top Ten Tuesday suggests the ten best.

I read over 200 books in 2014. I gave more than half of them four or five Goodreads stars. I'm not going to attempt to pick ten "best."
Instead, I've selected ten that stood out as surprises.

 Some of these blew my mind because they were so good, but several blew my mind because they delivered so much more than I expected.

1. I don't like vampire novels...but.... In February my library had this thing called "Blind Date with a Book here's what I got ---->

I loved it!

 It blew my mind!

2. But really, I don't like vampire novels. The above one was a spoof, it was Christopher Moore, and San Francisco; but real vampires, as in Victorian London?  No way! But I won this one on a blog, I read some good reviews, it was on a friend's TBR list. I started it, thinking I probably wouldn't stay with it and I could sent it off to my friend.

I started it and I could barely put it down. I read it pretty much straight through

It blew my mind!

3. Hunger Games and books of that ilk? Nope. Then my daughter handed me a big fat book. "Uh, it's not your usual thing; but it's translated from the Japanese...and you were looking for things for Japanese Lit Month. For such a big [608 pages] book it's a surprisingly fast read."

So I took her advice and read it, not only was it a "surprisingly fast read" it was also a surprisingly good read. In fact:

 It blew my mind!

4. Paranormal mythical creatures? Ah come on, I'm a grownup. But this was on one of those eBook specials. You know $2.99 or less. Eh? Give it a go, why not?

It was so much fun!  Well worth the price.

It blew my mind!


5. Another World War II story? Sigh. Do I need this? But it is partly set in St. Malo and remember how much I liked - loved - St Malo? And Doerr is such a good writer. This became a must read. I expected a lot from this book and it did not disappoint. 

It was one of the best books I read this year.

It blew my mind!

6. Dystopian fiction? Well, maybe, once in a while, The Dog Stars [Peter Heller] was pretty good, but maybe it was enough for one year. Then this was shortlisted for the National Book Award, I watched a video of the author reading an excerpt and I was impressed.

So I read it. Was it better than the Heller book? I liked them both but this one was a bit better.

 It blew my mind!
7. This next one drew a lot of praise, inspired a movie, was about an author I like, dealt with a subject (Viennese exiles) that fascinates me, and published by a press I trust.

I expected it to be a mind-blowing reading experience...and

It blew my mind!

8. Here's another that I had high hopes for. Set in I place I know (or, rather, knew), recommended by a blogger I trust, published by another trusted small press, and it was something to read for German Lit Month. Right up my alley.

This better be good.

It was.

It blew my mind!

9. This one I was pretty sure I'd like:    Translated lit? Check.
                                                            Quirky subject? Check.
                                                            Immigration and/or exile? Check.
                                                            Trusted small press? Check.
                                                            Want to read? Check!

This was a fantastic story! 

It blew my mind!

10. This collection of short stories by prisoners and former prisoners was edited by Joyce Carol Oates who has taught creative writing in prisons. It is a troubling look at a community most of us hope never to experience first hand. Most of stories are set in maximum security prisons and seem autobiographical.

It was dark. It was disturbing. It was intense.

It blew my mind!

I read so many great books this year, many more of them could be called "mind blowing." Or perhaps "mind expanding" would be a better term. To go places I've never been, to visit worlds I can never know, and to see places I know in a different light--all of these are mind stretching reasons to read.