Thursday, October 28, 2010

Blogging around

I know we've been (and by we, I of course mean ii) slacking off over here and producing very little anything interesting for ya'll to read. But, I'm happy to point out that's not the case with the rest of the book blogging world.

I can not get over how brilliant the new meme hosted by Alayne at The Crowded Leaf is! In "What Were They Thinking?" you're supposed to post a book that makes you ask the infamous, “What Were They Thinking?” and explain WHY you are so turned off by the book. It's hilarious! I'd join in right away if I wasn't such a slacker and always forgetting this meme takes place on Thursdays (make a note everyone!). Today's WWTT is all about Romeo and Juliet. And vampires. Indeed, what were they thinking?? I'm not even going to point out the obvious horridness of this piece, but as Alayne was saying, I'll just say the whole vampire thing is getting really old already.

For the Finnish speaking crowd out there, a few active bloggers have set up a virtual book club for your enjoyment. They are selecting one book each month and this book will be then discussed on the 10th of each month in the book club blog. The first book of the month is Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook. We're already swamped with our list (and occasionaly we do have other life outside the list too..) so we might not be joining in on every read but will definitely jump in if they are picking something off of our list or something we just have to add to our reading schedule.

So, loads of fun things happening out there, go and join in ya'll!!

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

ii:

Ah... the book I've been waiting for! A book that challenges, charms and comforts all in one go. And in what a way! Such a beautiful and charming book by Barbery.

Seriously though, what started as a reading assignment turned into a love affair. I loved this book. Barbery managed to create before us characters so beautiful in all their flaws that you couldn't help feeling for them. Yes, some of them were rather clichéd but that too was done with a tongue-in-the-cheek way that made it possible to laugh at their silliness.

I should read this book again... Mads, please tell me you liked it too!

M:

I did. Maybe not as passionately as you, but that's just your fault for building it up so much... ;) I really liked the style, with two different narrators and short chapters. It gave the reader time to think, created natural pauses in the book so that the reader had time to process what had just been said. Also, the study on movement bits were often hilarious. The little stories about the absurdity of situations (e.g. the battle for panties) made me chuckle.

I must admit though that the ending killed me. I have been feeling really depressed lately (it's that time of the year when it's getting darker and colder by the minute) and this wasn't very uplifting. Realistic and somehow beautiful but sad.

ii:

Yes, the ending was terrible! But in a way, it again made sense. After all, it did echo the Anna Karenina by Tolstoy, the book Renée loved so much.

The observations of Paloma were hilarious. She had a sharp eye and wit, she was so knowledgeable about the world, yet she was just a child. A child, trying to make sense out of the world.

M:

Yes, well, I haven't read Anna Karenina (yet, I'll give it another go soon, first time I was done in by Levin and his field ploughing and planting and tossed the book...). See, one's again a very solid reason to keep on with this project; you can't understand the references unless you've read all the classics. Now I'm bummed. And feel a little stupid.

What I also liked about the book was the way the writer treated the characters. Even though the book was essentially about Paloma and Mme Michel, the reader got a very good idea about the other characters as well, even though they weren't really even discribed. Know what I mean?
(The picture on the right is Josiane Balasko as Renée, in the 2009 movie adaptation by Mona Achache.)


ii:

Ah, maybe that's why I liked the book. It made me feel smart 'cause I have read Tolstoy so I got the references. Haha No, but really, it made you think. It challenged you. And that's what I love in a book. It's all there, just not all in your face.

Yes, I do! The earlier book by Barbery, The Gourmet (the book of the morning coffee teaser I posted a while back) is about the food critic that dies in this book, so I guess Barbery had the characters all made up in her head already. But I hadn't, and I don't think you need to have, read The Gourmet before this book. This was a complete story.

Incidentally, by the way, also K [editors' note: we claim to protect the innocent around here, so no names] loved the book. "It's the best book I've read in a long long while" is the more-or-less direct quote.

So people, don't just take our word for it. The Elegance of Hedgehog is a great book!

M:

I dind't know that! Fascinating, it all makes sense now. Barbery knows all the characters, what they're like and what do they think about things and therefore it just comes through in her writing without saying much. I love it, it's so effortless! So, dear readers, the verdict's in, the jury has spoken and now ya'll have to go and read it too!

We earned another 15 points in The 4 Month Challenge in the category "Read any book and then post a review" from this one.

Incidently, if you wish to read more, here is the New York Times story about the book.

Voting Wednesday, Oct 27

Voting Wednesday*

We're hosting weekly thing (I hate the word meme) called "Voting Wednesday" where we make a voting ballot for each Wednesday and invite y'all to voice your opinion on whatever book related (or unrelated, we're not making any promises) issue we happen to pick.

So, here's the rules:

You form an opinion taking sides in the issue voted upon.

You voice that opinion on the comments, either as a short reply or by a link to your blog where you can make a stand.

Easy, eh?

So, the question of this week is:

How do you arrange your books?

Do you have a shelf? Are they arranged by genre or alphabetically? By author or name?

* Don't you know that Thursday's the new Wednesday? I'm sorry, I had a gazillion other things yesterday, so this is a bit late. Sorry!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Teaser Tuesday, Oct. 26

Teaser Tuesdays are a weekly book-themed meme, hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. The rules are as follows:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share two (2) "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page.
  • Be careful of spoilers! Don't ruin the book to others by revealing important plot developments. (So the last words of a dying central character are probably not okay...)
  • Share the title and the author of the book as well, so that other Teaser Tuesday participants can look up the book and add it to their TBR list.
Here's our teaser for this week:
He hated it when you called him a moron. All morons hate it when you call them a moron.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, p. 44

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Voting Wednesday, Oct 20

Voting Wednesday

We're hosting weekly thing (I hate the word meme) called "Voting Wednesday" where we make a voting ballot for each Wednesday and invite y'all to voice your opinion on whatever book related (or unrelated, we're not making any promises) issue we happen to pick.

So, here's the rules:

You form an opinion taking sides in the issue voted upon.

You voice that opinion on the comments, either as a short reply or by a link to your blog where you can make a stand.

Easy, eh?

So, the question of this week is:

Are you lured in by the cover?

In other words, do you find yourself drawn to some particular cover style? Do you have preferences as to the cover?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Teaser Tuesday, Oct 19

Teaser Tuesdays are a weekly book-themed meme, hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. The rules are as follows:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share two (2) "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page.
  • Be careful of spoilers! Don't ruin the book to others by revealing important plot developments. (So the last words of a dying central character are probably not okay...)
  • Share the title and the author of the book as well, so that other Teaser Tuesday participants can look up the book and add it to their TBR list.
Here's our teaser for this week:
Miz Rain say we almost finished for the day, say she wanna spend some time with each student in little office room to side before we go. Say she gonna call us out one by one in alphabetical order. I feel panicking panicking - I don't know alphabetical order - whas that!

Precious by Sapphire, p. 51

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Voting Wednesday, Oct 13

Voting Wednesday

We're hosting weekly thing (I hate the word meme) called "Voting Wednesday" where we make a voting ballot for each Wednesday and invite y'all to voice your opinion on whatever book related (or unrelated, we're not making any promises) issue we happen to pick.

So, here's the rules:

You form an opinion taking sides in the issue voted upon.

You voice that opinion on the comments, either as a short reply or by a link to your blog where you can make a stand.

Easy, eh?

So, the question of this week is:

One particular bookmark or just some random scrap of paper/bus pass/dollar bill?

In other words, what do you use for a bookmark? Or are you one of those who dare to fold the corner?? 'Fess up!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Teaser Tuesday, Oct 12

Teaser Tuesdays are a weekly book-themed meme, hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. The rules are as follows:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share two (2) "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page.
  • Be careful of spoilers! Don't ruin the book to others by revealing important plot developments. (So the last words of a dying central character are probably not okay...)
  • Share the title and the author of the book as well, so that other Teaser Tuesday participants can look up the book and add it to their TBR list.
Here's our teaser for this week:
But Pearl, who was a dauntless child, after frowning, stamping her foot, and shaking her little hand with a variety of threatening gestures, suddenly made a rush at the knot of her enemies, and put them all to flight. She resembled, in her fierce pursuit of them, an infant pestilence - the scarlet fever, or some such half-fledged angel of judgement - whose mission was to punish the sins of the rising generation.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, p. 86

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Been around the blogs...

We're trying to think of new fun things for the blog. The books are advancing at a slower pace (mostly due to me, I admit that freely) than we though and lately it has seemed that all we post are Teaser Tuesday and Voting Wednesday posts. So I thought I'd try something else this time. If you have any ideas or preferences of what you'd wish to read or how we could improve the blog, please tell us! We're always looking for ways of improving.

There are a lot of book-related blogs we follow, and sometimes even comment. But I thought I'd share with you some of the thoughts I got while surfing through the blogs this morning. How's that for a new fun thing?

On the website of a Finnish TV channel MTV3 I stumbled upon a list of ten classics you should read, at the very least.
The list is as follows:

1. Don Quijote by Miguel Cervantes Saavedran (1605)
2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)
3. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (1857)
4. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (1862)
5. Crime and Punishment by F.M.Dostojevski (1866)
6. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoi (1875–1877)
7. The Master and Margarita by Mihail Bulgakov (1940)
8. 1984 by George Orwell (1949)
9. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (1952)
10. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1967)
Now, I've read some of them (2, 6, 10), dropped in the middle of the book some (3, 4, 9) though more due to time than lack of interest, at least 7 is on our list and there are few we've discussed. Should we update, Madeline?

Matt at A Guy's Moleskine Notebook raised an interesting question of self-censoring. Do you care about the image and vibe you give out to the world by your book choices? Do you only mention to people the "smart" books you read and not the fluffy trash ones?

Allie at A Literary Odyssey blogged about her strategy for the 24-hour read-a-thon. I think I'm having a small crush on her husband now. What a darling he is!

Kylie posted about a project and website that immediately caught my interest: the PostSecret. It's an "ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard." Check it out, it's touching, hilarious and a little bit scary at the same time.

While reading a post about Jude Deveraux's The Duchess at The Lit Connection my mind wondered off on a tangent (that's very common, believe me. That's how Madeline and I manage to carry on five different conversations at once. We do the same tangents.) on lines. T.Y. wrote that "Trevelyn was THE MAN by which I measured all fictional men" and I started thinking of The Line, and the one piece of writing that I have that I compare everything to: The letter from Captain Wentworth to Anne Elliot in Jane Austen's Persuasion. That letter, especially the beginning, and the line "You pierce my soul." has been my measuring stick to everything romantic and beautiful and heart wrenching. If you don't like it, or get the beauty of it, I don't want to be your friend.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

ii:

Okay, a classic. A quick to read classic. I like those! All joking aside, I positively adored this book! It gave such a beautiful description of an age long gone, yet it could have been about today. Isn't the hedonism and disregard to consequences similar to the ones in the book what people on all major discussion forums and newspaper readers' sections are complaining about?

I loved how Fitzgerald was able to say so much in so little. After all, the book gives a very clear, comprehensive view into the emptiness of these peoples lives, yet it's really simple and short, there's rarely any embellishment. The simplicity of the text is a nice contrast with the objects it describes, actually. I guess that helped to get the feel of emptiness and lack of substance in the people and their activities. It all looked very glitzy and glamorous on the outside, but beneath the surface there really wasn't anything there.

M:

I'm quite torn about this one. I did get the character of Gatsby with all his parties and glamour and the way it all played out in the end. I did understand Daisy and her reasons and reactions. I liked the way Fitzgerald told it from the point of view of Nick and I loved the way Nick considered Gatsby; his thoughst about Gatsby were pretty much the same as mine.

Still, the book left me a little cold. I didn't really feel much. And that kinda sucks. I wasn't immersed in their world and even though I enjoyed reading it, I was left with feeling a bit "whatever". Maybe it's just the fall creeping in and bumming me out, I'll give this one another go later. And I did just finish reading the book, maybe the feelings towards it will develop over time and it'll grow into being a long and happy relationship. It can't be love at first sight everytime, right?

ii:

No, it can't, as proved by me feelings towards the Liaisons. But you have to admit ol' Fitzy did an awesome job on describing the air-headed society and all the glitz and glamor of the Golden Age.

I didn't really feel anything towards Daisy. I was kind of disappointed at that, as I was expecting her to be something special (and no, not the "special" kind of special!) after all the references made to her. Daisy didn't come across, to me at least, as this tragic beauty worthy of undying love and devotion. You know?

I read somewhere that Gatsby's yarning for Daisy is a metaphor for the American Dream. But if that's the case, what's the poor couple then? Reality?

M:

Erm... Well you're feelings towards the Liaisons was more like 'kill me now and don't force me to read this any further'... I actually think there's promise in this one, I'm just a little disappointed at the lack of feeling it provoked in me. Or rather didn't. I didn't dislike it, far from it, I just was hoping for love and instead I only liked it.

I know! That's exactly what I thought Daisy was going to be too! Although I sort of liked this way better, she wasn't something fabulous and celestial, just plain, insecure and unsure of herself. It was more real this way you know?

I think this assesment of Gatsby is very true. Daisy was the embodiment of the higher class, expensive houses and easy living to Gatsby. He pursued it all his life and after getting the money he still needed to get Daisy to complete the picture he had created in his mind of the good living. The Wilsons in my mind showed very nicely the way Mr. Wilson was quite content to live a modest life, opposed to his wife who was not happy with her lot and wanted something more out of life.

ii:

I only hated it while reading it. Now I'm fairly happy you're such a book nazi and forced me to finish it, I'm liking the book as an afterthought. You know? It's better in hindsight, only tedious as an activity.

So... basically Daisy could be anyone? I kind of like that thought. I mean, we're well above all that but that means there's hope for everybody else, too! Haha

But Wilson was the downfall of Gatsby, so is it to say that reality and contentment are the death of dreams and ambitions? I'll have to think this over more...

M:

Exactly! It was just Gatsby's idolisation of her lifestyle and fortune that put her above of everyone else.

I think Gatsby's idea of the American Dream was slightly skewed. Gatsby got too fixed on the goal and lost his integrity and got mixed up in all sorts of shady business. He was trying to reach the Dream desperately by any means only to realize he had lost it all in the end. Even Daisy wasn't the grand prize he had imagined but just an ordinary girl who's in love with someone else, the all conquering love he had idolised and imagined his whole life just wasn't real. So maybe in the end it was his (wrong) methods of pursuing the happiness that destroyed the good man (Wilson)? Not being happy with what you got destroying the things you already have achieved? Or that getting brought face to face with reality will make you realize the true nature and reality of your dreams?

ii:

But it was Daisy who destroyed Wilson, it was her driving, after all, making Gatsby in the end just collateral damage. So maybe the commonplace and the glitzy dream couldn't co-exist? The innocent got the sticky end of the deal in this one. So in the end Gatsby got done in by his Dream (due to what Daisy did). That's some un-poetic justice right there. And I think this discussion proves why this book is still read, decades after it was written.

M:

Aah, but why was Daisy driving? Maybe because Gatsby was unable to deny anything from her and therefore it was his fault in the end? Yes, it is very clear that this book provokes a lot of thought and discussion and is also an enjoyable read. Some books really deserve their status as classics!

With this one we increased our score by 20 points in The 4 Month Challenge in the category "Read a book from The Modern Library Top 100".

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Voting Wednesday, Oct 6

Voting Wednesday

We're hosting weekly thing (I hate the word meme) called "Voting Wednesday" where we make a voting ballot for each Wednesday and invite y'all to voice your opinion on whatever book related (or unrelated, we're not making any promises) issue we happen to pick.

So, here's the rules:

You form an opinion taking sides in the issue voted upon.

You voice that opinion on the comments, either as a short reply or by a link to your blog where you can make a stand.

Easy, eh?

So, the question of this week is:

Electronic readers, yes or no?

Have you tried? Are you interested? Can you see yourself going all high-tech on books? Elaborate at will. Debate if you can.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Teaser Tuesday, Oct 5

Teaser Tuesdays are a weekly book-themed meme, hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. The rules are as follows:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share two (2) "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page.
  • Be careful of spoilers! Don't ruin the book to others by revealing important plot developments. (So the last words of a dying central character are probably not okay...)
  • Share the title and the author of the book as well, so that other Teaser Tuesday participants can look up the book and add it to their TBR list.
Here's our teaser for this week:
It's a delightful feeling to be not yet quite awake, taking a few silent moments to enjoy the fact of not being subject to the laws of work, rubbing your eyes in a display of sympathy for yourself and, when the palpable aroma of hot coffee rises, you finally sit down before your steaming bowl and give a friendly squeeze to the brioche as you tear it apart; then you slowly dip a piece in the bowl of caster sugar in the middle of the table and with your eyes half closed you acknowledge - and no need to tell yourself as much - the bittersweet quality of happiness.

The Gourmet by Muriel Barbery, p. 84

[Editors note: I opted to go with only one sentence today, because, and I'm sure you agree, it's rather enough by itself.]