Friday, October 31, 2008

RIP III Complete, with Review: The Female of the Species

This collection of short stories examines the capacity of women to do evil. Bringing us into the depths of horror, Oates's protagonists range in age, interest, and situation. We meet a six-year-old girl, a young nurse, a middle-aged fashionista, and an elderly woman dying in a nursing home, among others. What unites all of these women across their stories are the desperate personal circumstances in which they find themselves, and the realization that the only path out is a dark and disturbing one. As with much of Oates's work, this collection addresses the exploitation and marginalization of women in American society, yet it does so through horror and suspense. This is a deliciously suspenseful collection, excellent reading for a spooky October night.
And with this, I am finished with my RIP III challenge. It's been a great challenge- many thanks to Carl for hosting.
Joyce Carol Oates, The Female of the Species: Tales of Mystery and Suspense (Harvest, 2007) ISBN: 0156030276

Monday, October 27, 2008

Review: All Families Are Psychotic

This novel tells the story of a dysfunctional Canadian clan that finds itself in Florida in 2001 to watch its only overachieving member take off as a member of the space shuttle crew. It's possible that one has never met a family quite as dysfunctional as the Drummonds. Their problems include AIDS, liver cancer, suicidal depression, thalidomide-caused birth defects, baby-selling, adultery, illegal prescription drugs, just to name a few. You wouldn't' think that a book about this much tragedy is funny, but indeed it is. In fact, this book is very funny indeed. It's nearly impossible to explain the plot without spoilers, so suffice it to say that the novel jumps back and forth between the family's past and present, showing that they've always had issues. This is a great book for when you need something laugh-out-loud funny. Coupland has a tremendous gift for the bizarre and absurd. When you're done, you won't think your life is quite so strange after all.

Douglas Coupland, All Families Are Psychotic (Bloomsbury, 2001) ISBN: 1582342156

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Review: The Lake of Dead Languages

This book has been blurbed as being comparable to Donna Tartt's Secret History, and indeed, there are some distinct similarities. Both books enter the world of New England private schools, particularly the world of classics students obsessed with their teachers. Both books involve students entranced by the rites of the ancients, and in both the students perform clandestine rites with tragic consequences. All of these similarities aside, the two books have different purposes. Goodman's novel follows Latin teacher Jane Hudson, a teacher and alumna of the Heart Lake school in upstate New York. Hudson had a horrible experience at Heart Lake, and when mementos from her past start washing up in the lake, she has little idea who or what could be responsible. Deaths and accidents in and around the school make it clear that Jane is being pursued by a malevolent force, and she is in real danger. And that danger makes this a gripping book. The story sucked me in quickly and held me to the end. Though I had determined the responsible party and the twist at the end before Goodman revealed it, the book was still engaging, and I couldn't wait to get to the end. In this book Goodman has woven a complex narrative with multiple layers of characters and relationships. The story jumps back and forth between Jane's past and present, and culminates when the two parts of her life collide. Suspense builds quickly in this book. Full of suspense and psychological intrigue, I couldn't put the book down. I'll certainly be reading other of Goodman's books soon. This was a great choice for the fall and for the RIP challenge.

Carol Goodman, The Lake of Dead Languages (Ballantine, 2005) ISBN: 034548715X

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday Salon: Readathon Redux

I spent yesterday participating in the 24-hour readathon, hosted by Dewey at The Hidden Side of the Leaf. Having finally gotten some sleep, I can say that the day was a tremendous amount of fun. I loved hearing what everyone was reading, how they were doing, and knowing that I was doing the same thing as lots of other bloggers around the world. It was also nice because for once I didn't feel guilty about spending hours and hours reading. I also had the opportunity to be reader of the hour around 7pm, which was awesome, because tons of people visited my blog. Since I didn't get around to charting my final progress last night, I figured I'd do that today. So, here's how I did:

Books Finished:

Douglas Coupland, All Families Are Psychotic

Sue Monk Kidd, When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life's Sacred Questions

Kaye Gibbons, A Virtuous Woman

Alex Boese, Elephants on Acid

Joyce Carol Oates, The Female of the Species

Admittedly I had started some of these already. I also read approximately 50 pages of Benjamin Lebert's Crazy, which I can't wait to continue.

So, all in all, I'd say that was a pretty successful readathon. I can't wait for the next one!

So Long, Farewell...

Well, I think it's time for me to hit the hay. I'm out. I'm way too tired to tally up everything tonight, so I think my accomplishments and reflections will make for a lovely Sunday Salon post tomorrow. Thanks to everyone, this has been loads of fun, and I'll definitely be around for the next one.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

RIP III mini-challenge

I'm pleased to announce that during this RIP mini-challenge I finished my last book for my RIP III challenge. I just finished Joyce Carol Oates's The Female of the Species, and earlier this week I also finished Carol Goodman's The Lake of Dead Languages. That puts me at four books, so I've finished. Now I just need to get the reviews up for Goodman and Oates.

And I'm also starting to get seriously tired and punchy. Definitely yawning at my computer.

I got cupcakes!

After making my top ten list, I decided I really did need some cupcakes, so this hour has involved a trip to the supermarket. I am now the proud owner of a nice box of 2-bite chocolate cupcakes, with garish orange frosting for Halloween. Just what I needed!

Because what you need right now is more books...

Have a look at Bart's Bookshelf. He's doing great book giveaways throughout the readathon. Go know you need another book.

Readathon: Hour 15

Top ten things the readathon has made me wish I had in my house:

1. A recliner
2. A hot tub (for when the whole thing's over)
3. A man (or woman, I'm not picky)servant to make me cappuccino
4. Voice dictation software, so that I could yell the blog posts out from the couch
5. Cupcakes....lots of cupcakes
6. A self cleaning kitchen so that I won't have to worry about doing the whole thing tomorrow (maybe #3 could handle that)
7. A more comfortable couch
8. One of those ambient noise machines, so that I could turn on a rainstorm in the background. Often the Pacific Northwest obliges in this one, but not tonight)
9. A spare pair of glasses
10. A big, fat Amazon gift card, so I could buy myself new books to reward myself for completing the challenge.

And now, back to the reading!

Readathon: Hour 14

I've now finished three books, yeah! The third book finished is Sue Monk Kidd's When the Heart Waits. It's a book that I'm reading for my 888 challenge, in the religion category. And now I'll be moving on to my new book, which I've finally selected. That would be (drum roll):

A Virtuous Woman by Kaye Gibbons

And I'm off.....

Thank you to our cheerleaders

I just wanted to take a moment to offer a great big thank you to the cheerleaders who've been coming by and leaving such encouraging messages on my blog. You guys are the best.

I also wanted to take a moment and offer a shout-out to my blog designer. I've gotten lots of compliments on the blog design, which was done by Winged Cat Creations. Click on her name to head to her Etsy shop!

Thanks one and all-- now back to the books!

Readathon: Hour 13

I've finished a second book! Huzzah! I finished Alex Boese's Elephants on Acid, which is a non-fiction romp through the world of the truly bizarre experiments that have been done in the name of science.

And here's my answers for the library cat mini-challenge:

1. My closest library cat is at the Anacortes Public Library in Anacortes, Washington.

2. Dewey lives at the public library in Spencer, IA

3. The movie was Puss in Books

4. His full name is Dewey Readmore Books

I've really been wanting to read this book. Unfortunately, I am allergic to cats, so I can't really hang around library cats or have one of my own, but I'm dying to read about Dewey in IA.

Readathon: Hour 12

Here's my mid-point survey questionnaire

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now?
Sue Monk Kidd's When the Heart Waits

2. How many books have you read so far?
I've only finished one: Douglas Coupland's All Families are Psychotic

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
David Sedaris, When You Are Engulfed in Flames

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?
Not really, but I've not been reading the entire day- I didn't do the 5am wake up, because I can't afford to screw up my sleep schedule, nor can I give all of Sunday over to recuperating.

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
Not many- my mom called, but she called while I was eating lunch, and I blogged while we were talking.

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
It's actually much more fun than I thought. I figured it would be sort of fun, but it's really fun!

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
Not yet.

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? I'd start with a shorter book.

9. Are you getting tired yet? Not yet, but I didn't do the 5am wake up.

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered? Not yet.

Readathon: Hour 11

So, we're nearly halfway through and I'm back at the reading. This hour I'm taking part in Sarah's mini-challenge: head outside and take a picture, and show us what you see. It's a nice little break from reading, that's for sure.

Here's my outside:

I'm running back to the couch to get back at it. I've got to pick a new book, and I've got a few from which to select. In my next post I'll let you know what I choose! I'm also going to make a nice cup of tea.

Readathon: Hour 8

I'm still plugging along through Douglas Coupland's All Families Are Psychotic. I should have this one done soon, which will be my first book completed during the Readathon- yay! My current progress is:

Pages Read: 226
Books Completed: nearly 1
Time spent blogging: about 2 hours
Time spent reading: about 4 hours

Checking In

Here's me, checking in for the first time this morning. I didn't quite make the 5am wake up call, but I've been here savoring my morning coffee and reading Douglas Coupland's All Families Are Psychotic, which is hilarious. This is the first Coupland I've read, and it definitely makes me want to read more.

Friday, October 17, 2008

My Poor Neglected Blog!

So, lately I've been run down by a nasty head cold, which means I've not been reading much and I've been posting even less. Thankfully, I'm much better now, and I'm raring to read and post. Most importantly, I'm gearing up for the 24-hour reading challenge. I already know that I can't do the full 24 hours. I'm going skating for a couple of hours in the afternoon, but I'll be spending a good chunk of my day at the books. We'll see if I can manage the 5 am wake-up!