Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Three Musketeers, Part 2

Well, I have finally finished The Three Musketeers.  This is particularly satisfying because it's one of the longest unread books on my TBR shelf, and one that I've owned for about four years, so that's a good thing.  I did enjoy it, but I have to be honest, it's not the greatest work of literature in the world.  It's a fun book, and I'm glad I read it, but it's not particularly deep or literary.

The second half of the book dragged in parts -- first, there was the battle of La Rochelle, which has something to do with Catholics vs. Protestants.  Frankly, action scenes tend to bore me.  I guess I have a hard time imagining them in my head.  Also, there was a section of five or six consecutive chapters about Milady that just went on and on.  I kept trying to slog through them but I'd read a chapter and put the book down, but it was hard to get started again.  I only had a hundred pages to go and I just wanted things to get wrapped up.

The parts of this book that I loved best basically included one or more of the Musketeers, and D'Artaganan -- for me, it started to get boring if it focused on the other characters.  I don't know if these sections weren't as well written, or the story just dragged, but things definitely perked up if one of them was in the scene.  Of course the best scenes of all are the ones when they're all together, usually with some witty banter.  I did get bored with Milady's scheming and Cardinal Richelieu's plotting, though the ending was pretty satisfying.

So -- a good book, overall, though I can't say that I'd ever want to read it again.  I do want to get to The Count of Monte Cristo someday, though is length is a little intimidating.  I'll have to wait until I get through some of the other Big Fat Books on my TBR shelf before I attempt it.

And for those of you who have not seen the trailer for the upcoming film adaptation of The Three Musketeers:

Looks fairly ridiculous -- I don't remember any flamethrowers in the book, nor any scenes with Milady dodging bullets Matrix-style!  Script by Andrew Davies (who brilliantly adapted so many classics for the screen including Pride and Prejudice and Bleak House, two of my favorites) yet directed by Paul Anderson best known for Resident Evil.  Riiight.

Thanks again to Allie of A Literary Odyssey for organizing this readalong. I look forward to reading all the other postings.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The New House by Lettice Cooper

Author Lettice Cooper
Still working my way through the Persephone list.  I've discovered several early editions at the local college libraries, including The New House by Lettice Cooper.

At first glance, this is a book in which not much happens:  after spending 30 years in a large home in Northern England, a widow and her thirtysomething daughter are downsizing and moving into a smaller home.  Sounds boring, right?  Well, this book is so much more than just about moving to a new house.  Set in 1936, this book touches on a lot of topics that are still timely today -- the relationships between parents and children, women's careers, marriage, class differences, socialism.  This book was published nearly 80 years ago, but the themes in it are still so relevant, I was amazed.

Mrs. Natalie Powell is the widow of a businessman who basically gave her everything she wanted for thirty years; after his death, money's tight and the big house has been sold and will most likely be knocked down by a developer and turned into a housing estate.  Over the course of one long day, she and her family -- three grown children, plus a daughter-in-law, future son-in-law, and her older sister --  are affected by the move.

As a military spouse, I have personally changed houses nine times in the last sixteen years, so this book intrigued me.  I can't say I've gotten used to it, but the move in this book is not so much about the physical change of one house to another; it's a reflection of how these people's lives are changing, whether they like it or not.  Mrs. Powell is a horribly selfish, self-centered woman, and all she can do all day is whine about how unfair this all is -- after spending years in a big house with five servants, she spent the last year since her husband's death with only two, and now they're down to one.  Boo hoo!  Her eldest daughter Rhoda, who never married, has basically spent her entire youth running to her mother's beck and call, and she's ready to get out.

Her son Maurice is struggling with a selfish wife (who's an awful lot like his mother), and though he was raised in a privileged household, he's beginning to wonder about the unfairness of his wealthy and upbringing, and whether another sort of life would be better for his own child.  The youngest daughter, Delia, is a real go-getter -- a career woman!  Shocking!   She takes after her father, who was a self-made man, and is urging her sister to break away from home before it's too late.  The book also includes Mrs. Powell's sister, Ellen, who spent her life taking care of her mother -- will this pattern repeat?

The endpapers from the Persephone edition of The New House.

The entire book takes place between the time the family wakes up early in the morning and goes to bed very late that night.  This book is about 300 pages long, but there's a lot packed into it.  Like a lot of Persephones, this is fiction about domestic life, but there are so many other themes going on that it gave me a lot to think about.  Again, this would be such a great book for a discussion group, especially since there are so many relevant topics about downsizing and family dynamics.  I may need to buy my own copy so I can foist it on someone else so we can discuss it.  If you're planning on participating in the Persephone Secret Santa next year, you may find this in your stocking.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Big Fat Books from My TBR Shelf

By the end of the month I will have completed two very fat books from my TBR shelf: Charlotte Bronte's Villette and The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (by far the largest book on the shelf  because it's a hardcover).  But I am still left with a whole bunch of chunksters -- more than 20 books that are 500 pages or more.  I know these are probably all amazing, but after reading two BFBs (Big Fat Books) simultaneously, it might be time to take a little break before tackling another.

Here are some of the BFBs that await me (page numbers indicate those in my particular editions):

The classics.  These comprise most of the unread pages, not surprisingly.  Of course they're actually shorter than they appear since many of them have endnotes.  Still big and fat and a little scary, though.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck.  One of the books selected by Amanda for our reading swap.  I have been meaning to read this since I zipped through The Grapes of Wrath a few years ago.  Despite the length, it shouldn't be a terribly long read.

The Good Soldier Svejk by Jaroslav Hacek.  This was the selection for one of my online groups which sounded really interesting -- a satire about WWI, written from a European perspective.  It sounds like a Czech version of Catch-22.  Includes lots of funny little cartoons.  The book group seemed to like it but of course I didn't read a single page. (784 pp.)

Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson.  Technically, it's an omnibus of three books in one, but this is a big, fat edition.  Bought after reading all about the beloved series, which I still haven't seen -- it's never aired here on PBS and I thought I should read the book first.  (537 pp.)

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville.  One of the freebies I won in the Penguin contest.  People either love it or hate it.  I hope to give it a try later this year in an online readalong. (652 pp.)

The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker:  Another gift from the nice people at Penguin Classics, and one of those I was most excited about receiving.  I've never read her but I've heard she's hilariously witty. "This wasn't just plain terrible, this was fancy terrible.  This was terrible with raisins in it." This collection includes stories, essays, and letters, so it's probably a good thing to read a little at a time.  But there's still 640 pages of it.

Orley Farm by Anthony Trollope.  And Phineas Finn, Can You Forgive Her, He Knew He Was Right, The Eustace Diamonds. . . . Okay, don't even get me started on Trollope.  I bought a whole bunch of his works after I read The Way We Live Now, and more after one of my online groups decided to read the entire Pallisers series. (There are six, all more than 500 pages.  Some are closer to 800!  I have yet to finish a single one).  Plus I've started the Barchester Chronicles (only four volumes left) and I have several of the stand-alone books as well.  There's probably close to 5000 pages of unread Trollope on my TBR bookshelf this minute.  Trollope wrote 47 novels, and I'd like to read as many as possible, so I'd better get started.  

Miss Marjoribanks by Margaret Oliphant.  Bought during my obsession with Victorian literature.  She is described as something of a transition between Jane Austen and George Eliot, which intrigues me. (512 pp.)

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. (880 pp.)  One of about five more works by Dickens that are sitting on the shelf unread -- I also own The Old Curiosity Shop, Sketches by Boz, and Pictures from Italy.  And did I mention I just bought Martin Chuzzlewit last week?  Eight hundred pages of teeny tiny print, what was I thinking?

South Riding by Winifred Holtby.  This will probably be my next Big Fat Book -- I won this in a giveaway during Virago Reading Week and I am really looking forward to the BBC adaptation which airs in the U.S. in May.  I'll need no convincing to read this book. (502 pp.)

Contemporary books.  Mercifully, these tend to be faster reading than the Victorians and other classic chunksters.  They're still taking up a lot of space, though.

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay.  A coming of age story set in South Africa just after WWII. I know it has something to do with boxing, of which I have no interest whatsoever, but I've heard this is just fantastic. (528 pp.)

The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt.  I found this hardcover for $2 at the library book sale.  I liked Possession, so I couldn't resist at that price.  And the cover is really pretty. (675 pp.)

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber.  A neo-Victorian, also bought at the library sale.  This one's a paperback so it was only $1.

Nonfiction.  These are actually less pages of text because of references, indexes, etc.  They're still darn long.

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang. Another library sale find.  I've heard it's great but it sounds kind of depressing.  It has pictures though. (544).

John Adams by David McCullough.  Everyone says this is just great, but it's 751 pages of early American history and politics.  Was this a bad purchase?  I paid $1 at the library sale.

The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family by Mary Lovell. Purchased after I read and loved The Pursuit of Love and  Love in a Cold Climate.  I have since bought more books by the Mitfords.  I haven't read those either. (640 pp.)

Few Eggs and No Oranges by Vere Hodgson.  Naturally, there is at least one Persephone on the list.  This diary of life in wartime England sounds fascinating, but I am put off by the length, I admit it. (640 pp.) 

Does anyone else tend to put off the big fat books in favor of the shorter ones?  Which of these have you read and loved, and which should be sent directly to the library as donations?  Any input would be greatly appreciated.  I'll probably take a break and read some novellas soon -- Readathon is coming up in just a couple of weeks and I have a whole stack of those too.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Villette Readalong -- Finished

Finally, I have finished Villette.  I know, it's a readalong, but I had some real momentum while reading it last week, and bloggers, I just couldn't help myself -- I finished the rest of the book.  The story really picked up for me and I had to keep going.  However, when it came time to actually put some thoughts down, I am kind of at a loss.

Without giving too much away, finally, the entire Lucy/Graham/Polly love triangle was resolved, pretty calmly.  Polly turned out to be a pretty good egg after all; Ginevra was as obnoxious as ever -- one of my commenters last week wrote that she wanted to push her off a cliff, which is about right.  Originally I just wanted to smack her, but then she got worse.

And some other characters who seemed pretty interesting and fairly benign earlier in the book got more complicated, and in some cases, more treacherous.  I won't say which ones in case anyone is still reading it, but some of them really infuriated me.  I know this sounds really vague but a lot happens in the last quarter or so of the book, and I got hooked on it and finished it all up in a couple of days.  I don't know if it's because the story got much better or if I was just unable to drag it out any longer.

After spending so much time on this book I'm at a loss, and I just can't come up with clever and insightful comments about this book.  After some slow spots, I did end up liking it (though I wasn't thrilled with the ending).  While it's not nearly as exciting as Jane Eyre, it has some great character development.  I'm not sure why some people consider it Charlotte Bronte's finest book. I suppose as her final work, it's her most mature.  My copy (Modern Library) has an introduction by A.S. Byatt and some Frenchwoman that probably has all kinds of insights and background which I was saving for the end, but it's 50 pages long, and I am too tired of looking at this book to open it again.  I'm glad I finally got around to reading it, but I'm in no hurry to pick up her other books Shirley (654 pages!) and The Professor (a mere 300).

Thanks again for Wallace at Unputdownables for organizing this.  I did enjoy participating in the Readathon, since it motivated me to keep going.  I apologize for cutting my participation short, but maybe two months was just too long for my short attention span.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Three Musketeers, Part 1

Sword fighting! Romance! Mystery! Intrigue! What is not to like about The Three Musketeers?

Well, it is long, and it's not exactly what you'd call great literature.  But it is a beloved adventure novel that has stood the test of time, so therefore it is considered a classic.

And isn't that an awesome cover?  This is so shallow of me, but it was really the cover that finally attracted me to this book.  I remember watching an old 1970s film version starring Michael York and Richard Chamberlain, years and years ago, but I'd never had much desire to read it.  However, this recent edition translated by Richard Pevear intrigued me.  I realized I'd read hardly any classic French literature, so I put it on my birthday list. And the book sat on my shelves and was moved from house to house unread, until the combination of the TBR Dare and Allie's Readalong inspired me to finally start it.

If you are not familiar with the story, basically, young D'Artaganan (I don't even know if he HAS a first name), from Gascony, travels to Paris with a letter of introduction from his late father to the head of the Musketeers, who are the king's guards.  Unfortunately, the letter is stolen, so by his wits and skills alone he must attempt to join this elite group.  Along the way, he accidentally insults three different musketeers, who each challenge him to a separate duel.  He has no idea that these are the three famous friends Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, and when they arrive for the challenge (Porthos and Aramis are the seconds so they show up for the first duel early), they are insulted by the cardinal's guardsmen, and end up combining forces against their common enemy.  D'Artagnan impresses the Musketeers with his fighting skills and bravery and becomes their protege.

D'Artagnan soon becomes caught up in political intrigue between the Queen and the evil, power-hungry Cardinal Richelieu; meets a the love of his life (who is married to his nasty landlord); and has to save the day with the help of his brave comrades.

Honestly, this is a really fun book.  Yes, there is sword-fighting and action, but what I like best about this book is the friendship between and the four friends, and the relationship between D'Artagnan and his lackey Planchet. And it's really quite funny.  For such a long classic, it's an easy read, and I had no trouble reading eighty or so pages at a single stretch.

The only problem I have with this book so far is the lack of morals some of the characters are displaying.  These guys think nothing of gambling away a friend's horse, stealing wine, and challenging someone to a fatal duel over a mere insult.  And for such amoral people, they think nothing of meting out some pretty harsh justice for others -- there's a pretty shocking scene toward the middle of the book that I won't give away.  Maybe that's the way things were in the 17th century France, or maybe it's just a fantasy that amused people at the time when it was published in 1840; maybe the musketeers are just doing what all the readers were fantasizing about.  Either way I'm not taking it seriously enough to let it detract from my enjoyment of the book.  I look forward to completing the second half soon.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Book Buying Ban = FAIL

It is official.  I have fallen off the wagon and bought books.  I am so sorry but I just couldn't help myself.

First, I have to back and report something truly tragic:  brilliant author Jasper Fforde, creator of the Thursday Next series, was in Texas last Friday!  He appeared at a book signing at BookPeople (the world's best independent bookstore), in Austin, Texas, hipness capitol of the world (well, at any rate, south of the Mason-Dixon Line).  BUT I MISSED IT!

I did NOT find out about this amazing event until 7:30 p.m. Friday.  Jasper Fforde's appearance began at 7 p.m., and Austin is a 75-mile drive.  You do the math.  There was absolutely no way I would make it in time, much less get a wristband and actually get a book signed.  I was crushed.  I love Thursday Next.  If you have not heard of this series, here is a brief description, copied from Goodreads:

Welcome to a surreal version of Great Britain, circa 1985, where time travel is routine, cloning is a reality, (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem, militant Baconians heckle performances of Hamlet, and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection, until someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature. When Jane Eyre is plucked from the pages of Brontë's novel, Thursday must track down the villain and enter the novel herself to avert a heinous act of literary homicide.

It is both bizarre and brilliant, and if you're a classics lover with an open mind, you'll probably love this book.  Needless to say, I was horribly disappointed not to attend this book signing, and I had to console myself with a signed copy -- I was already planning on going to Austin on Sunday for my quarterly Jane Austen Society meeting (at which we discussed Lady Susan and ate lavender scones, which I made from scratch!)  And not only was the book signed, it came with this cool postcard (downloadable here):

So, I went to Bookpeople and succumbed to the book-buying madness.  Not only did I get Thursday Next #6, I also broke down and bought Martin Chuzzlewit -- I will get around to reading this with the online Dickens group!  I will!!  As soon as a I finish Villette and The Three Musketeers (which I'm loving, by the way).

And today I had a 40% off coupon from Borders and $10 in Borders bucks since I upgraded my membership, so the book-buying ban went by the wayside.  Of course I could have just given it to my children or husband, but where's the fun in that??  Instead I bought The Post Office Girl by Stephan Zweig, which ended up costing me about $1. I've wanted to read this since NYRB Reading Week (sadly, I did not participate, but added countless books to my TBR list).  

So how is everyone else doing with the TBR Dare?  Anyone else breaking their book-buying ban?  I was really doing well up until now -- I'd only bought ONE tiny little book at the library book sale!  Well, I'm going to do my best as long as I can hold out.  I think I need to resolve to stop adding books to the TBR list as well -- but I'd have to stop reading blogs and that's just not going to happen.  Sigh.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Dueling Brontes

Right now, I'm reading Villette and listening to Jane Eyre on audio.  Is this a bad idea?  In my previous posting for the Villette Readalong, Melody from Fingers and Prose described it as "dueling Brontes."   Which naturally reminded me of . . . 

Bronte Sisters Power Dolls!!!

  I. Want. These.  That is all.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Villette Readalong Week 5

Sorry, but I'm getting kind of bored with Villette.

Not much happened the last few chapters.  Though she won't admit it, I'm pretty sure Lucy is falling in love with Graham/Dr. John.  They're spending a lot of time together, but I have a feeling he thinks they're "just friends."  During an outing to the theater, there's a panic, and in the throngs of people trying to leave, a young woman swoons.  Naturally, Dr. John comes to her rescue.  This girl is oddly familiar!!

This does not bode well for Lucy -- especially when all of a sudden she doesn't hear from him or his mother for weeks.  Seven weeks, to be exact!  Finally, she gets a note from her godmother, inviting her to come over and meet some old friends -- Ginevra's wealthy uncle and cousin.  Lo and behold, the cousin is the swooning girl who is none other than . . . little Polly, all grown up now!  I had been wondering all along when she would show up, or whether Ginevra and Polly were the same person.

Polly's father, who is now know as Count Bassompierre, is looking for a school for Polly.  She's seventeen but apparently her education has been sketchy.  He's very interested in Madame Beck's school.  Polly seems a lot like Ginevra, equally annoying, but with more money.  She is shocked -- shocked, I tell you!  -- that Lucy actually has to earn a living.

And of course, Dr. John rekindles his friendship with Polly.  I forsee him falling in love with her now that he's over Ginevra, and will break Lucy's heart.  I'm also envisioning some catfights between Polly and Ginevra now that Dr. John has gotten tired of her.  Will this be a love triangle? Quadrangle?  Hopefully things will pick up now because the last few chapters have been awfully slow.

The audio of Jane Eyre, on the other hand, is just getting better and better. And it's overdue at the library, eek!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A London Child of the 1870s by Molly Hughes

The Hughes' London home
"A girl with four brothers older than herself is born under a lucky star. To be brought up in London, in the eighteen-seventies, by parents who knew how to laugh at both jokes and disasters, was to be under the influence of Jupiter himself."

Currently, I'm in the middle of two massive classic books for online readalongs -- Villette and The Three Musketeers.  Last weekend I really needed a break, something shorter that I could finish quickly. I settled on A London Child in the 1870s by Molly Hughes, which is a nonfiction memoir about her childhood in Victorian London.  It was both delightful and charming -- I loved it. Molly grew up with four older brothers and it sounds like she had a lovely and idyllic childhood.

I have really been on a roll with the Persephones lately -- since Persephone Reading Weekend, I've been so inspired by all the great book reviews. After finishing A Woman's Place, I had to make a special trip to the Coates Library at Trinity University here in town (one of the nicest college libraries I've ever seen, by the way) and after making my return, I naturally had to browse through the Persephones in the collection. And I couldn't help checking out two more! I worry sometimes that books are neglected and unloved on the shelves, and that if nobody checks them out the library will just decide to chuck them. I'm sure academic libraries aren't as ruthless as public libraries need to be, but it is still my duty to keep them circulating.

But, back to A London Child. I think my favorite parts of the book were her descriptions of the summer vacations at her grandfather's farm in Cornwall. There's a chapter devoted to the railway journey -- it sounds like her mother had to manage alone with the five children! The farm sounds like a lovely place to spend a summer. Here's one of my favorite passages in the book -- as a dog lover, I found this particularly amusing.

Only one dog do I remember. I think he was so dear to everyone that when he died the family could never bear to have another. Theo was a great shaggy Newfoundland, who joined in all our childish games as well as he ever could, being treated as a member of the family. The old cook was heard to say one day, as she stooped to pick up his dish, 'Have you finished, please, Master Theo?' Barnholt [Molly's nearest brother in age] once offered him a bite of his bun, but Theo did not understand the limits implied in the word 'bite', and the whole bun disappeared.

It was quite a short book, only 173 pages, plus my edition included photos of Molly's family which I just loved. What made reading this particular copy even more special was that it was a first edition from 1934!  I felt honored just being allowed to check it out -- I feel like I should wear gloves while I read it.

This book was the first of three volumes written by Molly Hughes, and I'll have to track down the other two so I can find out what happened to her and her family. It was just a great read.

The endpapers from the Persephone edition, a reproduction of William Morris wallpaper from the 1860s
Before I forget, I must include a spoiler warning. Since I didn't read the Persephone edition, I didn't have the introduction by Adam Gopnik, but I believe it is an adaptation of an article he wrote about her books for The Guardian in 2005. No disrespect to Mr. Gopnik, but if you hate spoilers, don't read this until after you've finished the book! It includes a huge spoiler from the very last page of the book. If you are the sort of person who reads the last page first, by all means, go ahead and read it. But I started reading the article and I am very sorry that I didn't wait because it did change my experience of reading the book somewhat. I'll say no more.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Villette Readalong Week 4

I haven't touched this book in more than two weeks, since before my last posting -- I was ahead and then I had so much else to read for various online events and my library's book group, I have not given this book a second thought since then. Honestly, I don't think that's such a good thing, since I didn't even miss it.  Also, I made the mistake of starting the audio version of Jane Eyre in the car -- I love rereads when I'm driving around town or on my iPod when I walk the dog, since I don't feel like I have to rush through them to finish the story, since I already know what happens.  I can slow down and just enjoy it, like an old friend.

And although this isn't the best narrated audiobook (I find the reader to be somewhat stilted and robotic at times, especially when she's reading words more than three syllables) Villette really does pale in comparison to Jane Eyre!  I know I shouldn't compare them, but I couldn't help it.  I really had no right to start a different Bronte work at all, but I was so bored in the car and the new film version comes out soon, and I hadn't read it in forever.  But now all I can do when I start to read Villette is think about how Jane Eyre is so much more interesting!

Anyhow -- Lucy has been rescued from her medical crisis by the dashing Dr. John, who, lo and behold, is Graham, her godmother's son!  Ta-da!!! Was anyone really surprised?  I actually was, since how is it she didn't recognize him?  Why wasn't this mentioned at all?  I'm starting to not trust Lucy, honestly.  It did occur to me that she'd fall in love with Dr. John and somehow Graham would be a different character and show up later, and there would be some kind of love triangle.  Now I'm just thinking that the third person in the love triangle will be the wretched Ginevra, whom I still want to smack.   And Lucy Snowe is getting tiresome.  I still have more than 300 pages of this book and it doesn't look promising.  However, I am much too stubborn to give up on it now.

This probably isn't much of a review, but the last section made hardly any impression on me, so I guess I need to give it another shot and write about it while it's still fresh.  So, back to the books! 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Books I HAD To Buy But Haven't Read

I love making lists so I always look forward to Top Ten Tuesdays -- so many great excuses to make another! This one, however, is a little embarassing.  Here are ten books I rushed out to buy. . . and are still sitting unread on my TBR shelves (along with about 180 others, sigh).  In alphabetical order, by author:

1.  The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende.  For some reason I decided I needed to buy this book and take it with me on a trip to Paris, not thinking that maybe a book by a French writer would be more appropriate.  One of the characters is a girl with green hair.  I was not in the mood for magical realism and put it down after only one chapter or so.

2. Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker.  I kept reading about the delightful Bloomsbury books now back in print, especially this one.  Drove across town specially to buy it.  Still haven't opened it, but at least it's only been a few months yet.  Oh, and a month later I found three more Bloomsbury books in pristine condition at Half-Price Books!

3.  Family Roundabout by Richmal Crompton.  The most recent of my purchases on this list, I ordered it with my Christmas gift money after reading this rave review by Thomas at My Porch.  There were even more raves last weekend during Persephone Reading Weekend, but I'm going to wait until May for the Persephone Books group read on Goodreads.  Hopefully someone else will comment this time.

4.  Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens.  One of five unread Dickens novels on my TBR bookscase.  I was obsessed with Dickens a couple of years ago and read seven of his works in two years.  Needless to say I got a little burned out by Dickens and switched over to Trollope (because he only wrote 47 novels).  I'll get back to Dickens eventually.

5.  The Barnum Museum by Steven Milhauser.  This collection of short stories includes "Eisenheim The Illusionist," basis for the excellent movie The Illusionist.  After I saw it I went home and immediately started searching for it online since my library didn't own a copy.  Haven't read any of the other stories yet.

6.  The Bromeliad Trilogy by Terry Pratchett.  I read a review of this and wanted it so badly, my mother went out and bought it for me and carried over the Pacific Ocean.  About seven years ago.  Have I read it yet?  Um, no.

7.  The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope.  I've been in love with Trollope's work since I read The Way We Live Now in 2008, so I bought this 800 page tome.  Of course it's third in the Pallisers series and I feel like I need to read them in order, but I got distracted during Can You Forgive Her?, the first volume.  Then I started the Barchester Chronicles and I have to finish that first.

8.  Letters From Hawaii by Mark Twain.  Since I was going to Hawaii, I thought I should read something appropriate -- and wouldn't it be appropriate to buy it in an independent Hawaiian bookstore in Honolulu?  Yes, if I could find it -- I walked around Honolulu half a day and finally broke down and bought it at their Barnes &Noble, for which I still feel guilty.  At least I read the introduction, right?

9.  Kipps by H. G. Wells. Have you heard of this one?  Has anyone heard of this book?  I was at a reading festival and one of the visiting authors recommended this while she signed my book, so naturally I ordered it online.  It's supposed to be a witty satire on Victorian life.  It had better be good since I have shlepped this book to three different houses since I bought it.

10.  Twilight Sleep by Edith Wharton.  I'd been really into Wharton so I drove about eleven miles out of my way to Borders to buy it -- and realized I'd forgotten my coupon, so I had to pay full price!  Have I read it?  Of course not.

So, what books did you absolutely have to buy . . . that are still sitting on the shelves?  I would love to hear.  And which of these should I read first?  Still working on my TBR Dare.

This Top Ten Tuesday Meme was borrowed from The Broke and the Bookish via Brenna at Literary Musings and Suey at It's All About Books.

Miss Pettigrew DVD Giveaway

Frances McDormand as Miss Pettigrew and Amy Adams as Miss LaFosse
Sorry for taking so long to post this, but the winner of The Miss Pettigrew DVD giveaway is. . . .

Kristen M. from We Be Reading !!! Congratulations!!

Kristen, please send me an email at karenlibrarian13 [at] yahoo [dot] com with your contact information and I can pop this delightful film adaptation into the mail to you.  Thanks again for all your comments over the weekend!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

One Two Theme! Challenge

I swore I wouldn't sign up for any challenges other than the TBR Dare, but then I found Alexandra's challenge after linking to her blog (see -- I really do read comments and explore other people's blogs -- I find such great stuff that way!)  It sounds like a fun way to attack my TBR list. Basically, you choose your own challenges, by theme.  For the first theme, you choose one book; the second has two; the third has three; and so on.  For any theme with more than two books, at least one must be non-fiction.

Here are my themes and possible reads, mostly drawn from my TBR shelves:

1: China
Peony or East Wind, West Wind by Pearl S. Buck
The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Mildred Jung Chang
Empress Orchid by Anchee Min

2: World War II
Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Berniers
A Bell for Adano by John Hersey
Few Eggs and No Oranges by Vere Hodgson (see, I knew I could sneak at least one Persephone in!)
Nella Last's War by Nella Last

3:  Food
Chez Moi by Agnes Desarthe (also France)
The Olive Farm by Carol Drinkwater
Cooking for Kings: The Life of Antoine Careme by Ian Kelly
Untangling My Chopsticks: A Culinary Journey through Kyoto by Victoria Abbott Riccardi
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Chef by Jaspreet Singh

4:  France
My Life in France by Julia Child
Bel-Ami by Guy de Maupassant
The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Perfume From Provence by Lady Winifred Fortescue
The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles
Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser
Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik
Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or The Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
The Drinking Den or Germinal by Emile Zola

In other words, I need to read (at least) one book about China, two about WWII, three about food, and four about France.  I feel like my themes aren't particularly original but the whole point is to find a reason to work on the owned-and-unread pile.

So, bloggers, what do you think?  Good choices?  Any recommendations?  Anything that will help me whittle down my unread book pile is a good thing, right?  And how is everyone else doing on the TBR dare?