food fanatic.bookaholic.mommy

Posts tagged ‘book awards II’

The White Darkness

The White Darkness The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean



rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Sym, the main character in The White Darkness, is not your typical British teenager. For one thing, she is extremely knowledgeable about Antarctica. She is hearing-impaired, socially awkward and often teased by her classmates. She has inner conversations with Titus Oates, an explorer who died in Antarctica almost 100 years before.  One day Sym is whisked away on a surprise trip to Antarctica by her Uncle Victor (not a blood relative, just a family friend). The whole situation is definitely a little bizarre, since apparently Victor did not have Sym’s mother’s permission. From that point on, the reader knows that things just aren’t right. Sym’s adventure picks up as they join up with a tour group on their way to Antarctica. Victor is convinced that there is a hole in Antarctica that leads to a hidden world inside the Earth.

The White Darkness was obviously very well researched with lots of facts and information about Antarctica and the history of exploration there thrown into the text. The book is wonderfully written but I didn’t fall 100% in love with it. Part of it could be that I found the book to be a bit long. The prose could have been trimmed a bit to make it a more enjoyable read. I also found Sym’s naivete to be a bit grating. The reader clues into the situation way before Sym ever does and I felt like smacking some sense into her.

The White Darkness was awarded the Michael L. Printz Award in 2008.

View all my reviews.

Out Stealing Horses

Out Stealing Horses: A Novel Out Stealing Horses: A Novel by Per Petterson


rating: 4 of 5 stars

 Out Stealing Horses is a  quiet tale about  Trond Sander, a 67-year old Norwegian man who after running into a former neighbor begins reminiscing about his life. In particular, his flashbacks focus on a summer from when he was a teenager during World War II and lived with his father in a remote area of Norway near the Swedish border.   During this time, their neighbors  experience a traumatic event that also effect Trond and his father. The prose is stark and bleak and seamlessly transitions between the flashbacks and the present day as Trond goes about his solitary days working around his cabin.

It is important not to be careless about supper when you are alone. It is easily done, boring as it is to cook for one person only. There must be potatoes, sauce, and green vegetables, a napkin and a clean glass and the candles lit on the table, and no sitting down in your working clothes. So while the potatoes are boiling I go into the bedroom and change my trousers, put on a clean white shirt and go back to the kitchen and lay a cloth on the table before putting butter into the frying pan to fry the fish I have caught in the lake by myself.

 Two of my book clubs selected Out Stealing Horses as their March book. The two different clubs were very aried on their opinions of the book–one book club didn’t like it very much at all and the other one did.  I personally found the book very readable and enjoyed it.  Everybody needs a little bleakness in their leisure reading now and again. 😉 Others found it “boring and depressing.” 

Out Stealing Horses was the winner of the IMPAC Dublin Award. It was also named on the The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of the Year.

View all my reviews.

December: A month in books

I didn’t get as much reading done in December as I would’ve liked, but it was a great month regardless.

  1. Across the River and Into the Trees by Ernest Hemingway
  2. A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas
  3. The Music of Chance by Paul Auster
  4. Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho
  5. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
  6. Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore
  7. The Boat by Nam Le
  8. Malinche by Laura Esquivel

Reading Challenge Progress:

1% Well-Read Challenge
GOAL: read 10 books in 10 months from the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list
DEADLINE: February 28, 2009
COMPLETED SO FAR:

  1. Junky by William S. Burroughs — September ’08
  2. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath — September ’08
  3. The Accidental  by Ali Smith — October ’08
  4. Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons — October ’08
  5. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami — October ’08
  6. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka — October ’08
  7. Play It as It Lays by Joan Didion — November ’08
  8. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain — November ’08
  9. The Music of Chance by Paul Auster — December ’08
  10. Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho — December ’08
  11. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle — December ’08

REMAINING: COMPLETED!  –into bonus round: +1 book

Book Awards II Challenge
GOAL: read 10 award winning books in 10 months
DEADLINE: June 2009
COMPLETED SO FAR:

  1. American Gods by Neil Gaiman– September ’08 —WON: Hugo Award, Nebula Award and Bram Stoker Award
  2. The Accidental by Ali Smith — October ’08 — WON: Whitbread Prize for Best Novel
  3. Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons — October ’08 — WON: Hugo Award for Other Form
  4. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami — October ’08 — WON: World Fantasy Award 2006
  5. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz — November ’08 WON: Pulitzer Prize 2008

REMAINING: 5 more books to read in 6 months

November: A Month in Books

In the super busy & hectic month of November, I finished the following books.

  1. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Waoby Junot Diaz
  2. Don’t Get Too Comfortableby David Rakoff
  3. A Carnivore’s Inquiry by Sabina Murray
  4. Play It as It Laysby Joan Didion
  5. Meeting Evil by Thomas Berger
  6. Waiter Rant  by Steve Dublanica
  7. La Cucina by Lily Prior
  8. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

 Reading Challenge Progress:

1% Well-Read Challenge
GOAL: read 10 books in 10 months from the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list
DEADLINE: February 28, 2009
COMPLETED SO FAR:

  1. Junky by William S. Burroughs — September ’08
  2.  The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath — September ’08
  3. The Accidental by Ali Smith — October ’08
  4. Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons — October ’08
  5. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami — October ’08
  6. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka — October ’08
  7. Play It as It Laysby Joan Didion — November ’08
  8. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain — November ’08

REMAINING: 2 more books to read in 3 months

Book Awards II Challenge
GOAL: read 10 award winning books in 10 months
DEADLINE: June 2009
COMPLETED SO FAR:

  1. American Gods by Neil Gaiman– September ’08 —WON: Hugo Award, Nebula Award and Bram Stoker Award
  2. The Accidental by Ali Smith — October ’08 — WON: Whitbread Prize for Best Novel
  3. Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons — October ’08 — WON: Hugo Award for Other Form
  4. Kafka on the Shoreby Haruki Murakami — October ’08 — WON: World Fantasy Award 2006
  5. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Waoby Junot Diaz — November ’08 WON: Pulitzer Prize 2008

REMAINING: 5 more books to read in 7 months

Reads: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

rating: 4 out of 5

One of the best short story collections that I read last year was Drown by Junot Diaz.  Diaz has a great voice and really brings his characters alive. Drown is a collection of gritty short stories about young Dominican men’s experiences coming of age in both the Dominican Republic, New Jersey and New York. The tales’ immigrant experiences include absent fathers, drug-use, interracial dating, and shoplifting. Since reading Drown, I have been eager to read Diaz’s first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. One of my books selected Oscar Wao  as its November pick, so I at last had a reason to squeeze it into my reading schedule.

In The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Diaz’s central character, Oscar, is a young Dominican man growing up in Paterson, New Jersey. Oscar is overweight and a huge fan of all things dorky: sci-fi, Dungeons & Dragons, and comic books. He yearns for true love and a girlfriend.   The passion and energy that I loved in Drown is very much present in Oscar Wao.  There are a lot of common themes between Drown & Oscar Wao.  The story moves back and forth between New Jersey and the Dominican Republic and back and forth in time through several generations of the deLeon family and the “fuku” curse that they have.. The novel weaves in a good deal of 20th century Dominican history, telling of the reign of the dictator, Rafael Trujillo, who ruled the small nation for around 30 years, and the affect that his rule had on the residents of the Dominican Republic.  We learn of how the fuku has affected several generations of the deLeon family giving them misfortune after misfortune, culminating in the lonely, love-starved life of Oscar. Despite his name being featured in the title of the novel, Oscar’s story almost takes a back seat to the story of his mother and his grandparents.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys immigrant experience stories or multi-generational family epics. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2008. It will count towards the Book Awards II Challenge  that I am participating in.

October: A month in books

I didn’t read quite as many books as I’d hoped to this past month. I blame work. I had a big deadline this past month that caused me to work a lot on weekends…Now that that’s over maybe I can finally return to what’s important…cooking and reading. 😉

My favorite book that I read this month would have to be Kafka on the Shore  by Haruki Murakami. Murakami has been one of my favorite authors for awhile now and I’ve been eager to read this relatively new novel of his for over a year. I finally got around to it and it was worth the wait.

I finished the following books:

  1. The Accidental by Ali Smith
  2. Hannah’s Dream by Diane Hammond
  3. Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
  4. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
  5. The Believers by Zoe Heller
  6. The Emperors of Chocolate by Joël Glenn Brenner
  7. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka

 Reading Challenge Progress:

1% Well-Read Challenge
GOAL: read 10 books in 10 months from the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list
DEADLINE: February 28, 2009
COMPLETED SO FAR:

  1. Junky by William S. Burroughs — September ’08
  2.  The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath — September ’08
  3. The Accidental by Ali Smith — October ’08
  4. Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons — October ’08
  5. Kafka on the Shoreby Haruki Murakami — October ’08
  6. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka — October ’08

REMAINING: 4 more books to read in 4 months

Book Awards II Challenge
GOAL: read 10 award winning books in 10 months
DEADLINE: June 2009
COMPLETED SO FAR:

  1. American Gods by Neil Gaiman– September ’08 —WON: Hugo Award, Nebula Award and Bram Stoker Award
  2. The Accidental by Ali Smith — October ’08 — WON: Whitbread Prize for Best Novel
  3. Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons — October ’08 — WON: Hugo Award for Other Form
  4. Kafka on the Shoreby Haruki Murakami — October ’08 — WON: World Fantasy Award 2006

REMAINING: 6 more books to read in 8 months

Reads: Kafka on the Shore

Kafka on the Shore Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

 rating: 4 out of 5

Haruki Murakami is one of my favorite authors. I read my first novel by him four or five years ago and it was pretty much love at first sight. Since then I’ve read 6 or so more of his books and enjoyed each of them. Murakami’s writing ropes me in from pretty much the first page. I always get completely lost in the story, which is always unique and dreamlike.

The hero of the novel is Kafka Tamura, a 15 year old runaway from Tokoyo. Kafka is a loner who has a deeper relationship with books than he does with other people (not that there’s anything wrong with that!).  Kafka’s father, a famous sculptor, makes an Oedipal prophecy about his son: Kafka will kill his father and sleep with his mother. Kafka’s mother abandoned him when he was only 4 years old and took his older sister with her. Kafka hasn’t seen his mother or sister since.  The book starts as Kafka flees his home and makes his way to the island of Shikoku where he creates a new routine of spending his days reading in a private library.

The chapters of the book alternate between 1st person accounts told from Kafka’s point of view and 3rd person accounts about Nakata, an old man who can talk with cats. As a boy, during World War II, Nakata collapsed while on a school outing and lost much of his mental capacity. Now, as an elderly man, Nakata lives on subsidies from the government and makes some extra cash by using his cat-talking skills to work as a for-hire cat finder.

The pages of Kafka on the Shore are filled with strange events and encounters.  The stories of Kafka, Nakata, and the other characters meld together more and more as the story continues. I how effortlessly Murakami weaves cultural references into his books. Other authors who try this often end up sounding forced or cheesy. Murakami can drop in music, food, or movie references in a way that seems to be part of the story versus the author trying to sound hip & modern. 

I highly recommend this book!  (and all other Murakami ones as well) Kafka on the Shore may not be my favorite Murakami book but it was still a great read.

Kafka on the Shore won the World Fantasy Award in 2006. This book counts towards both the 1% well-read challenge and the Book Awards II Challenge.

Reads: Watchmen

Watchmen Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons

rating: 4 out of 5

My coworkers have all been reading and raving about Watchmen lately. This graphic novel tells the story of several generations of masked heroes. I have read several graphic novels in the past but never a “super hero” one. I am not much of a comic book fan either, so Watchmen was new territory for me in many ways.

I also read Watchmen because one of my book clubs selected Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I’ve been told that the lead character in that book is a fan of Watchmen. I figured I would read Watchmen to get better character insight for Diaz’s book.

I didn’t know much about the story of Watchmen before I started reading it. The “present day” in the novel is 1985 (which was around when the book was written) and superheros have been banned. America is also on the brink of a nuclear war with Russia. The story flashes between 1985 and stories of superheros from the 1940’s and 1970’s.  In 1985, several superheros are showing up dead. The story is dark and pessimistic. The characters know that the world is approaching disaster and seem to have little if any hope of saving it.

In Watchmen, only one of the “superheroes” has a true super power. The rest are regular people who decided to become a masked hero. Moore did a good job of showing us the psychology of superheros–why different people make the decision to don a mask and costume. Some do it for fame, some for power, some to fight, and some to try to make the world a better place. The book makes you ask questions like what is good and what is evil? do the ends always justify the means? and of course… what would my superhero costume look like? 😉

Watchmen is considered a classic of the genre and I am glad that I’ve read it. It won the 1988 Hugo Award. I probably won’t rush out to buy and read more superhero graphic novels, but if one happens to mysteriously land on my to-read pile, I would read it.

******************

Watchmen counts towards 2 reading challenges that I am currently participating in: 1% Well Read Challenge and the Book Awards II Challenge.

Reads: The Accidental

The AccidentalThe Accidental by Ali Smith

  rating: 4 out of 5

 I found The Accidental to be a fun book to read. It lets the reader into the thoughts and minds of the 4 members of the Smart family. The Smarts have rented a summer house in Norfolk, England. A mysterious 30-ish woman calling herself Amber shows up and embeds herself in their lives. Each chapter alternates between the main characters. Astrid is an angsty 12 year old girl that is obsessed with her camera and spends most of her time filming the world and people around her. Her 17 year old brother, Magnus, mopes in his room and wallows in his own guilt over a classmate’s suicide. Their mother Eve is a writer who spends her days locked away in a shed with a typewriter trying to overcome writer’s block and write her new book. Eve’s husband Michael is a pretentious English professor who has regular flings with his female students. Each member of the Smart family is fairly isolated from the rest of the family. Not one of them knows what is truly going on in each other’s lives. Their family is very dysfunctional. Then the stranger, Amber, shows up at the summer cottage and shakes up each of their lives in different ways.

I really enjoyed Ali Smith’s writing style and how she switched that style around in each chapter to give different voices to each character. I can see how some people could get irked by the stream of conscious, the sentence fragments, the minimal punctuation and the lack of quotation marks. I rather enjoy offbeat narrative styles, so The Accidental was right up my alley.

Smith did a great job giving each of the Smarts a distinctive personality. My favorite were the chapters that focused on Astrid. Astrid spends most of the summer trying to capture “beginnings” and “ends” with her camcorder. At one point Astrid ponders what the end of the world will be like.

 She is not afraid to imagine the end. There will be burning chipmunks and skunks hurtling through the air, glowing red in the dark like chipmunk-sized live coals, there will be skunk-firebombs and burning bits of that bridge from San Francisco or bits of film studios and that castle and the fake rides in Disneyland and the Empire State Building, glowing like huge embers, burtling thousands of miles up into the air and down again for miles, gaining speed and then smashing into the clockface of Big Ben, smashing into the House of Parliament, and Waterloo Bridge, and the Eye toppling on its side and all the people in it being thrown about inside the falling capsules like they’re on the inside of snowglobes, and the buildings all on fire, Tate Modern on fire, the art burning, the restaurant buring, the shop burning.

My least favorite chapters were the chapters told from Amber’s point of view. These were the only chapters told in the first person and they didn’t pull me in at all.

The book makes you ask: what in life is accidental and how well do we know the people in our lives?

 The Accidental won the 2005 Whitbread Prize for Best Novel. It was also a 2005 Booker Prize Nominee and on the 2006 Shortlist for the Orange Prize.

I read The Accidental for book club AND for the 1% Well-Read Challenge and the Book Awards II Challenge.

September: A month in books

Time to summarize my reading for the month of September…

I finished the following books:

  1. Stuff White People Like by Christian Lander
  2. Women Who Eat: A New Generation on the Glory of Food edited by Leslie Miller
  3. The Last Summer (of You and Me) by Ann Brashares
  4. Junky by William S. Burroughs
  5. The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve
  6. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  7. Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
  8. Run by Ann Patchett
  9. American Gods by Neil Gaiman

 Reading Challenge Progress:

1% Well-Read Challenge
GOAL: read 10 books in 10 months from the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list
DEADLINE: February 28, 2009
COMPLETED SO FAR:

  1. Junky by William S. Burroughs — September ’08
  2.  The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath — September ’08

REMAINING: 8 more books to read in 5 months ( I can do it..now stop distracting me!!)

Book Awards II Challenge
GOAL: read 10 award winning books in 10 months
DEADLINE: June 2009
COMPLETED SO FAR:

  1. American Gods by Neil Gaiman– September ’08 —WON: Hugo Award, Nebula Award and Bram Stoker Award

REMAINING: 9 more books to read in 9 months