My Challenges (timed)

See my list here
Completed 8 of 9

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Completed 2 of 3

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Completed 2 of 4

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Completed 71 of 81

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Completed 9 of 10

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Completed 34 of 50

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Completed 1 of 2

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Completed 1 of 2

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Completed 1 of 5

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Completed 3 of 5

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Completed 5 of 100

My Challenges (perpetual)

See my list of stories read here

See my list of stories read here

See my list of books read here

See my list of books read here


See my list of books read here

See my list of books read here

See my list of books read here


New York Times Book Review: 6/40
New Yorker: 0/36
New York Review of Books: 0/20
Vogue: 1/16
Email: 841/1373

Friday, May 30, 2008

My list for Book Awards II Challenge

Man Booker winners:

1. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

2. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

National Book winners:

3. The World According to Garp by John Irving

Nobel winners:

4. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez: Márquez won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982.

PEN/Faulker winners:

5. Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

PEN/Hemingway winners:

6. The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton

Pulitzer winners:

7. A Fable by William Faulkner

8. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

9. The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos

10. Tales of the South Pacific by James Michener

National Book Critics Circle Award winners:

Replacement for A Fable: Atonement by Ian McEwan

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Book Awards II Challenge

I loved participating in the Book Awards Challenge, so I was thrilled to see that Michelle (a/k/a 3M) is hosting it again. I'm not quite ready to put up my list, so I'll have it in another post. In the meantime, here's the scoop:

The challenge for Book Awards II will be slightly different. First of all, it will last for 10 months instead of 12. Since we had over 100 participants last time, there wasn't room for everyone on the blog site due to blogger's limitation of only 100 contributors. Taking off those two months will allow Michelle to clean up the site and set up the next challenge. On July 15th, Michelle will be deleting the participants from the first challenge UNLESS you've signed up for the new challenge. Your reviews won't be deleted, you just won't be able to post at the blog site anymore.

Challenge Rules:

1. Read 10 award winners from August 1, 2008 through June 1, 2009.

2. You must have at least FIVE different awards in your ten titles.

3. Overlaps with other challenges are permitted.

4. You don't have to post your choices right away, and your list can change at any time.

5. 'Award winners' is loosely defined; make the challenge fit your needs, keeping in mind Rule #2.

6. SIGN UP here using Mr. Linky.

7. Have fun reading!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

101 in 1001 - Goal #36 Complete

Goal #36 - Double my current donation to

I first learned about this organization when former President Clinton was on Oprah to discuss his book, Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World. So what is Kiva? Kiva is a microlending website that allows individuals to lend money directly to entrepeneurs throughout the world who would otherwise be unable to get loans. The people seeking loans through Kiva and other microlending organizations are those at or below the poverty line living in the less-developed parts of the world. The majority are women, and all are trying to run small businesses to provide for their families. Kiva works by matching up those in need with those that have money to lend throughout the world, using microlending financial institutions as the go-between - the financing institutions determine which applicants are good credit risks, and they process the loan and the repayment.

Through the Kiva website, you can search for which person(s) you want to lend to by gender, area of the world, amount of loan sought, etc. Most loans are between $500 to $1,500 and the average repayment seems to be about 6-12 months. The repayment rate is currently 96.3% of $31+ million loaned, which is outstanding. Once a loan is repaid, you can either relend it to someone else, donate it to cover Kiva expenses, or withdraw it. And the minimum loan amount is $25, which makes this available to practically everyone.

I can't say enough about this organization. It's a wonderful way to help those with less than us, which I believe is what we are all meant to do. If you're looking for a way to make a difference, even a small one, check out

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Weekly Geeks #3 -- Children's Books

Okay, so this post is a week late, my bad. This week's theme was to write about our memories of childhood books.

I've always loved books and can remember reading the same ones over and over as a child. I was also into lists even back then. I remember having a binder of loose-leaf paper with my list of books that I had read. It was several pages long. I wish I still had that list -- it would be interesting to see what was on it. I know there would have been a lot of Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. I had inherited my mother's Trixie Belden books from when she was a child and I loved them. I also owned an extensive collection of Nancy Drew, probably 60 or 70 books. I don't think I ever got around to reading the higher-numbered books in the series, there were too many choices at the library (one of my all-time favorite places, even then) and eventually I outgrew Nancy Drew. Maybe one day I'll go back and read a few again, although I'm leery of doing that -- what if I don't like them anymore?

There's a couple of books that I fondly remember before I was old enough for Nancy Drew, et al. One was Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey. I don't know why I liked this book, exactly. I don't have specific memories of reading it, but I saw it in a bookstore a few years ago when I was shopping for my little nephew and I remembered it from my childhood. All I can say is that it gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling when I looked at it.

Petunia at Educating Petunia reminded me of a book that I loved (at least I think the book she wrote about in her blog is the book I remember). It was called The Fourteen Bears in Summer and Winter by Evelyn Scott. I googled it after reading her post and it brought back such good memories that I'm going to buy myself another copy. The pictures in this book are great, so colorful and of course the bears are adorable. What little girl wouldn't love it?

I know there's several more, I just wish I could remember them. We didn't have much money growing up, but I always had books, and I can recall how happy I felt sitting and looking at them for hours at a time. I'd love to own some of them now, so that I can sit and look and feel like a little girl again.

Another challenge -- The Wind-Up Book Chronicle

This challenge struck me as a wonderful idea. Us bookies always have at least a few books that we start but never get around to actually completing. If this sounds like you, consider signing up for:


The rules of the challenge are:

1. To participate, you must use books that you've read more than 50 pages of BEFORE MAY 1 but never finished.

2. The challenge will run from May 15 through November 15, 2008.

3. Books can overlap with other challenges.

4. Your list can be changed at any time, BUT you must use the 50 page rule to books read BEFORE May 1, 2008.

5. There is no minimum number of books required.

6. You must sign up for this challenge by June 1, 2008. Sign up using Mr. Linky at The Wind-Up Book Chronicle -- the Linky will be closed on June 1.

7. Read your selections and feel great about finishing what you started!

A Confederacy of Dunces by Robert Kennedy Toole

Synopsis from Barnes & Noble:

"The best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning classic hailed by The New York Times Book Review as "a masterwork . . . the novel astonishes with its inventiveness . . . it is nothing less than a grand comic fugue." A Confederacy of Dunces is an American comic masterpiece. John Kennedy Toole's hero, one Ignatius J. Reilly, is "huge, obese, fractious, fastidious, a latter-day Gargantua, a Don Quixote of the French Quarter. His story bursts with wholly original characters, denizens of New Orleans' lower depths, incredibly true-to-life dialogue, and the zaniest series of high and low comic adventures" (Henry Kisor, Chicago Sun-Times)."

It's difficult for me to know what to write about this book. I enjoyed it and found myself not wanting to put it down because I had to know what was going to happen next. The writing style was good, it moved quickly and I didn't get bogged down at all. That said, I didn't find the book as funny as I've always read and heard that it is -- there were numerous times when I found myself smirking at something or thinking, "That was clever," but only 1 or 2 times I actually laughed. I guess my main difficulty is in reconciling how this book is considered one of the "great books of the 20th century." I read somewhere that the author has been compared to Jonathan Swift ("Gulliver's Travels") but I don't get it. I'd really like to know if I'm just missing something or if this book has an undeserved reputation. I'm going to do some research and see if I can get a better grip on it. But like I said, I enjoyed it. I would read it again and I have no problem recommending it to others -- I just question how others have categorized it.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - May 15

Following up last week’s question about reading writing/grammar guides, this week, we’re expanding the question….

Scenario: You’ve just bought some complicated gadget home . . . do you read the accompanying documentation? Or not?

Do you ever read manuals?

How-to books?

Self-help guides?

Anything at all?

I guess it partly depends on what you consider a "manual" -- if it means the pictures of how to hook up something with a lot of wires or how to assemble a bookcase, then yes. But if it means the detailed book that comes with stuff, generally no, unless something goes wrong (although I might skim the parts of how to program something, such as when I got my Sirius radio receiver).

I don't really go in for how-to books. I have a couple of gardening books but I've never cracked them. As for self-help guides, I've read a couple of financial ones, but most others I find too banal.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Read-a-thon 2008 is coming!!

I just read about this and I'm so excited!! Dewey at The Hidden Side of a Leaf is again hosting a 24-hour Read-a-thon this June. That's right, 24 hours straight of glorious books. Can you imagine anything better? The specific date has not been announced yet -- you can vote for which date(s) work(s) best for you through a survey link on Dewey's blog. You can sign up as a Reader or a Cheerleader (or both, I suppose). You can also check out what happened in last October's Read-a-thon here. This will be a great opportunity to make some progress in your TBR, as well as interacting with the book blog community. Even if you can't do a full 24 hours, I encourage everyone to join in and share their love of books!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Books for 1% Well-Read Challenge

I've finally decided which books to include in list for the 1% Well-Read Challenge. I decided to take it easy on myself and include books that I've already got for other challenges, so I ended up only adding 3 more to my total. The books I picked are:

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Invisible Man

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Main Street by Sinclair Lewis

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Friday, May 9, 2008

How pretentious are you?

I saw this on a couple of other blogs and thought it sounded fun. I've added two criteria of my own as well.

The Top 106 Books Most Often Marked As “Unread” By LibraryThing’s Users.

Strikethrough for books I’ve read before.
Italics for books I’ve read before (or currently reading) but haven’t finished.
Put in parantheses if I have current plans to read -- added by me.
Asterisks if I own but have no current plans to read -- added by me.
Copy and paste on your blog to see how “pretentious” you are. (Although there is no indication of how you’re supposed to calculate your pretentiousness based on the list.)
And, remember, it’s all in good fun.

**1. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
2. Anna Karenina
3. Crime and Punishment
(4. Catch-22)
(5. One Hundred Years of Solitude)
6. Wuthering Heights
7. The Silmarillion
(8. Life of Pi)
9. The Aeneid
10. The Name of the Rose
**11. Don Quixote
12. Moby Dick
13. Ulysses
14. Madame Bovary
15. The Odyssey
16. Pride and Prejudice
17. Jane Eyre
18. The Tale of Two Cities
**19. The Brothers Karamazov
20. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
21. War and Peace
22. Vanity Fair
(23. The Time Traveler’s Wife)
24. The Iliad
25. Emma
26. The Blind Assassin
27. The Kite Runner
**28. Mrs. Dalloway
29. Great Expectations
30. American Gods
31. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
32. Atlas Shrugged
33. Reading Lolita in Tehran
34. Memoirs of a Geisha
35. Middlesex
36. Quicksilver
37. Wicked
**38. The Canterbury Tales
(39. The Historian)
40. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
41. Love in the Time of Cholera
42. Brave New World
**43. The Fountainhead
44. Foucault’s Pendulum
**45. Middlemarch
**46. Frankenstein
47. The Count of Monte Cristo
48. Dracula
49. A Clockwork Orange
50. Anansi Boys
51. The Once and Future King
(52. The Grapes of Wrath)
53. The Poisonwood Bible
54. 1984
55. Angels & Demons
56. The Inferno
57. The Satanic Verses
**58. Sense and Sensibility
59. The Picture of Dorian Gray
60. Mansfield Park
61. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
**62. To the Lighthouse
63. Tess of the D’Urbervilles
64. Oliver Twist
**65. Gulliver’s Travels
66. Les Misérables
**67. The Corrections
68. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
69. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
70. Dune
71. The Prince
72. The Sound and the Fury
73. Angela’s Ashes
**74. The God of Small Things
75. A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present
76. Cryptonomicon
77. Neverwhere
78. A Confederacy of Dunces
(79. A Short History of Nearly Everything)
80. Dubliners
81. The Unbearable Lightness of Being
82. Beloved
83. Slaughterhouse-five
84. The Scarlet Letter
85. Eats, Shoots & Leaves
86. The Mists of Avalon
**87. Oryx and Crake
88. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
89. Cloud Atlas
90. The Confusion
91. Lolita
92. Persuasion
93. Northanger Abbey
94. The Catcher in the Rye
95. On the Road
96. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
97. Freakonomics
**98. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
99. Watership Down
100. Gravity’s Rainbow
101. The Hobbit
102. In Cold Blood
**103. Treasure Island
**104. David Copperfield
**105. The Three Musketeers

Okay, so let's look at the numbers:

Books read: 33 of 105 (31.4%)
Books read before or currently but not finished: 6 of 105 (5.7%)
Books currently planning to read: 7 of 105 (6.7%)
Books owned but not currently planning to read: 18 of 105 (17.1%)
Total of all categories: 64 of 105 (60.95%)

Conclusion: I am well on my way to being pretentious, although I prefer to look at it as being well-read. After all, just reading certain books isn't an indication of a character flaw:)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - May 8

"Writing guides, grammar books, punctuation how-tos . . . do you read them? Not read them? How many writing books, grammar books, dictionaries–if any–do you have in your library?"

These types of books aren't really my thing. I have a dictionary that my grandmother gave me years ago, but that's it. Well, kind of. I have 4 dictionaries in my office, all of them acquired from the scavenger hunt that always ensues when someone quits or otherwise moves. I didn't need them, didn't especially want them, but somehow they're mine anyway. One of them is a law dictionary -- I'm a lawyer, so that one gets used the most often. Another is the complete Oxford English Dictionary, which I wanted because you can't get the OED online without a subscription. I also have a few other legal writing books in my office that I use occasionally, but only because that type of writing is so specialized. But for grammar and the like, yuck. And most definitely not at home. And for work, all our writing gets reviewed by someone much better at grammar and punctuation than me, even with the help of a book, so I say let him have it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

How many challenges are we up to?

I read about this challenge over on Stephanie's blog, and I just couldn't pass it up. Besides, I'm not in nearly as many challenges as other bloggers I know of, so therefore I do not have a problem (that's what we're going with).

The newest challenge is the

Here's the deal:

The goal of this challenge is to read 10 books in 10 months from the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list. For you non-math people, 10 out of 1001 is approximately 1%, hence the title. The challenge will run from May 1, 2008 through February 28, 2009. You may change your list at any time and cross-posting to other challenges is permitted. The only requirement is that your ten book choices must be on the ‘1001 List‘. Go here to sign up.

After checking the list, turns out I've read 61 already, which sounds like a lot to me except that it's only 6.09% of the total and, based on actuarial tables, I'll need to read 21 a year to finish before I die. Hmmm. But it also turns out that 7 book from my other challenges are on the list, so that's something. Can't decide if I want to count them toward this challenge or pick a brand new set of 10 -- I'll think about it and post my choices later.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Mayada, Daughter of Iraq: One Woman's Survival Under Saddam Hussein by Jean Sasson

Synopsis from Barnes & Noble: "From personal meetings with Saddam Hussein and Chemical Ali to raising two small children as a single mother, Mayada's life was at once privileged, yet carefully balanced. But life can shift quickly in Iraq and Mayada finds herself thrown into a small cell with seventeen other women. The shadow women. The women rally around each other to share their unbelievable stories and in so doing gain the strength to survive. The names of the shadow women are scrawled in charcoal onto the cell wall in the hopes that one day one of them will make it out to tell others of their existence. This is Mayada's courageous story, but also that of her sisters."

What an incredible story! Like many Americans, I've had some idea that life in Iraq under Saddam Hussein was terrible, but I had not given any specific thought to what that life was like. And I had absolutely no idea of the way the Iraqi people were arrested for no reason, held indefinitely with no rights, and worst of all, the torture that was inflicted on them. Ms. Sasson does a wonderful job of describing people and places, and she tells Mayada's tale in a way that allows the reader to feel an emotional connection with her and her former cellmates. While I don't agree with the continued involvement of the U.S. in Iraq, I can certainly agree that Saddam was a sadistic dictator who needed to be removed in one way or another (although it's our shame that we chose to remove him to protect our interests rather than because of any humanitarian motives). This book helps to remind us that those of us who live in the U.S. and other western countries should be grateful every day for the freedoms and protections we enjoy and the lives that we are able to lead.

Monday, May 5, 2008

101 in 1001 - Goal #67 complete

Goal #67 - Go geocaching with husband

What is geocaching, you ask? Basically, it's a high-tech treasure hunt ("treasure" is a liberal term - there are no pots of gold here). You use a GPS device -- my husband uses a Garmin eTrex Legend -- and you input the waypoints (i.e., longitude and latitude) into your GPS and then go search. A great site is, where you can learn about geocaching, find caches in your area, and download waypoints. When you find the cache, the etiquette is to take something, leave something in return, and leave a note in the logbook. You can also generally go back to the website where you got your original download from and leave comments there.

So husband, teenage son, and I went on a hunt this past weekend. Useful tip #1 - make sure your GPS has the adequate road software for the area to be traveled. Otherwise, like us, you can end up going miles out of your way because the unit will not know any shorter routes. Useful tip #2 - make sure that someone actually knows how to work the GPS unit. Enough said. We found the general area without too much trouble, mostly because we picked a cache nearby and knew the area that the cache creator was referring to. Finding the cache itself is a bit trickier, and the GPS is not too helpful with that -- it is accurate to within a few meters, but the caches tend to be quite small. This one was a vitamin container wrapped in duct tape. Useful tip #3 - pay attention to extra clues that may have been provided by the creator or other hunters so that you don't spend hours wandering around and not seeing the cache that's right under your nose.

I wasn't sure how much I was going to enjoy this goal, but it was quite fun and can be an excellent way to get out and spend some quality time with loved ones. Keep in mind that it's the search that's important -- the "treasure" is not the point. For instance, this time the cache contained a rubber band and a golf tee. I'll definitely do it again, with the caveat that I'm going to learn how to use the GPS beforehand and the next cache we pick will be in the city and not the country -- too many bugs!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II by Iris Chang

Synopsis from Barnes & Noble: "In December 1937, in the capital of China, one of the most brutal massacres in the long annals of wartime barbarity occurred. The Japanese army swept into the ancient city of Nanking and within weeks not only looted and burned the defenseless city but systematically raped, tortured, and murdered more than 300,000 Chinese civilians. Amazingly, the account of this atrocity was denied by the Japanese government.

The Rape of Nanking tells the story from three perspectives: that of the Japanese soldiers who performed it, of the Chinese civilians who endured it, and finally of a group of Europeans and Americans who refused to abandon the city and were able to create a safety zone that saved almost 300,000 Chinese."

I have had this book on my TBR pile for a few years now, and while I knew the subject was horrible, I was expecting the book to be excellent. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. The author covers the topic thoroughly, but you never feel any real connection with any of the people. Much of the evidence is presented in a very bare-bones fashion, sort of a "just the facts" way, which may be accurate but doesn't arouse feelings of empathy for the victims or understanding of why such events occurred-- something that should always be included in books of this type. The thought that kept occurring to me while I was reading was that the book reminded me very much of a college term paper. There's no doubt that the book was incredibly well researched, but the material had the potential for so much more. My final impression of the book is that it does no more than an adequate job of presenting the issue, and I am ambivalent about recommending it to anyone. Perhaps Ms. Chang will revisit the issue in the future and the result will be better.