Teaser Tuesday and Where Are You? 06-30-09: The Invention of Everything Else

Should Be Reading - Miz B - hosts this weekly event. We throw out a couple of sentences from our current read (without spoilers, of course) to entice you to read the book.

This week my teaser is from The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt. I'm bending the rules a bit, but could not resist this teaser from Page One. It needs to be longer than a couple of sentences too.
Take for example the dust here in my hotel room. Each particle says something as it drifts through the last rays of sunlight, pale blades that have cut their way past my closed curtains. Look at this dust. It is everywhere. Here is the tiniest bit of a woman from Bath Beach who had her hair styled two days ago, loosening a few small flakes of scalp in the process. Two days it took her to arrive, but here she is at last. She had to come because the hotel where I live is like the sticky tongue of a frog jutting out high above Manhattan, collecting the city particle by wandering particle. Here is some chimney ash. Here is some buckwheat flour blown in from a Portuguese bakery on Minetta Lane and a pellicle of curled felt belonging to the haberdashery around the corner.

If the rest of the book is half this good, I'm in for a treat!

It's Tuesday, Where Are You? is hosted by an adventure in reading.

I am in a hotel in Manhattan. I've lived here a long time. I have pigeons who come and keep me company. Read More!

Weekly Geeks 2009-24: Trivia!

Suey hosted WG this week and invited us to play trivia games of our choice (with a literary focus, of course).

I drew on one of my favorites from last year -- below you'll find seven partial book covers (all are well known books). All you have to do is come up with the titles and put your answers into a comment. Have fun!







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The Sunday Salon: Orange July!!!

The Sunday
Last year my friend Jill over at The Magic Lasso came up with the brilliant idea of Orange July. It was her personal commitment to read books that had won or been short or long listed for the Orange Prize; she invited anyone who was interested to join in at any level, whether you chose to read just one of the books or a dozen. It turned out to be such a popular challenge that we repeated it in January. And now it's almost time for the second annual Orange July.

Why Orange Prize books? I think they are the best contemporary women's fiction being written today. Of the seven I read last July, one received an average rating (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) and the rest were all 4 to 5 star books. The Orange prize books are consistently among my favorite reads of the year.

On deck for me for this year's Orange July are:

Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani
Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros
Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels
The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett
The Colour by the beloved Rose Tremain (I'm savoring her books, reading one every six months or so)
What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt
The Mammoth Cheese by Sheri Holman

And today I received in the mail from the publisher (LOVE free books!) another one that made this year's short list: The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt.

What about you? Have you read any of these books? Have a suggestion which one I should start with? Are you reading Orange this July?

Links of interest:
The Orange Prize Project
Official Orange Prize website

Whatever you're reading, I hope it's enjoyable!
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Friday Fill-ins 06-26-09

Janet is our stellar host for this weekly event.

My responses are in italics.

1. She had a great smile that drew me to her immediately.

2. Lady Luck is by my side, always.

3. I know this: life is unpredictable.

4. Silent, peaceful, still.

5. These words apply to me: coffee addict.

6. When I woke up this morning the sun was shining.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to a quiet evening reading, tomorrow my plans include game night with a friend and Sunday, I want to read up on puppy raising; she arrives next week!

Photo from Google Images

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Booking Through Thursday - Unique Sorting

Deb at Booking Through Thursday says:

Browsing through my blog, I found a link to this post about the “Sorted Book Project.” Go read it. I’ll wait.

The idea is to take a few books and physically sort them in such a way that the titles make some kind of sense … something that I’ve never quite gotten around to doing and photographing, but which fascinates me.

What title/combinations can you come up with? (Bonus points if you actually assemble the books and photograph them, like in the original post.)

Oh I love this sort of word play! I came up with several, and started reorganizing my bookshelves to boot! Hm, maybe I should organize them by phrases.

The Map of Love Written on the Body

A Fine Balance: Sacred Hunger, Sacred Time, Sacred Hearts

Trail of Crumbs In the Kitchen: What's Eating Gilbert Grape?

Bleak House, The Unconsoled, The Well of Loneliness: When Will There Be Good News?

Edited to add (sorry, no photo):

What the Body Remembers: Great Expectations

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Weekly Geeks 2009-23: Reading Challenges

This week's Weekly Geeks topic was suggested by Sheri of A Novel Menagerie. She writes:

Reading Challenges: a help or a hurt? Do you find that the reading challenges keep you organized and goal-oriented? Or, do you find that as you near the end of a challenge that you've failed because you fell short of your original goals? As a result of some reading challenges, I've picked up books that I would have otherwise never heard of or picked up; that, frankly, I have loved. Have you experienced the same with challenges? If so, which ones? Do you have favorite reading challenges?
This is the first time I've attempted reading challenges other than the 100 books a year or the perpetual Booker and Orange awards challenges the last couple of years. I had mixed feelings about starting in on a bunch of challenges - would it take away the enjoyment of reading? Would it feel too much like being back in school, when I never got to choose what I wanted to read?

But then a couple of them really sparked my interest - especially What's In A Name? This challenge has a list of categories, such as "a book with a building in the title; a book with a medical condition in the title." The categories change every year. I found this one easy and most of the books I chose were already on my TBR shelves. It was fun to match titles with categories. I finished this one (6 books) by mid-February.

I also enjoyed the challenge to read five books that Dewey (the originator of Weekly Geeks) had read and reviewed. We had pretty similar tastes in books, so it was easy for me to find five that I could enjoy and probably would have read anyway.

I can't say that the challenges are introducing me to many books I wouldn't have read; that's a bigger picture for me -- book blogs and Library Thing have been the motherlode of new authors for me in the last two years.

I usually save this for the last Sunday Salon of the month, but this is a good time to do an update on my reading challenges.

What's in a Name: completed 6/6 DONE!
Decades Challenge (one book from each decade of the 20th century): completed 6/10.
The Orange Prize and Booker Prize challenges are perpetual, but I've set a personal goal to read 12 of each this year (some are crossovers). Orange Prize: 11/12; Booker Prize: 7/12. With Orange July just next month, I'll be able to knock that one off easily! I already have seven books chosen for that month.
Dewey's Books: 5/5 DONE!
Pub Challenge (reading books published in 2009): 8/9
Short Stories: 21/25
Essays: 0/20
Jane Austen: 0/1
Classics (other than Austen): 4/4 DONE!
These last two are personal challenges. By my definition, Classic is any book older than me that has a high level of notoriety. There are a few exceptions (e.g. To Kill A Mockingbird).

I'm doing pretty well on these! The one I'm running behind on is my 125 book challenge - at the midway point, I've read 47 books. So I might just make it to 100 unless I blog less and read more!

And no, I don't feel like a failure if I don't meet my goals. They are just goals, not requirements.
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Teaser Tuesday and Where Are You? 06-23-09: All Over Creation

Should Be Reading - Miz B - hosts this weekly event. We throw out a couple of sentences from our current read (without spoilers, of course) to entice you to read the book.

From All Over Creation by Ruth Ozeki, page 259:
He sailed in, staying low and light on his board, ducking and weaving. By the time the CEO saw him coming, Mr. Potato Head had achieved what was later judged to be perfect pie proximity. Frankie drew back his arm and let the pie fly.

It's Tuesday, Where Are You? is hosted by an adventure in reading.

I am in Liberty Falls, Idaho, near Pocatello on a potato farm. Controversy is brewing between farmers, agribusiness and those opposed to genetically modified plants. I'm learning a lot about the politics and the science of GMOs and about the future of food and seeds.

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TSS: Something Beyond Greatness - Book Blog Tour and Book Giveaway

TLC Book Tour:
Something Beyond Greatness

In Something Beyond Greatness: Conversations with a Man of Science and a Woman of God, the authors conclude:
What the world needs now is not only individual moments of greatness or even individual lives of greatness, but whole communities of greatness. We need to move beyond admiring greatness in the other to becoming like that ourselves.

This slim volume, written by Judy Rodgers and Gayatri Naraine, explores what it means to do great things and what qualities are commonly possessed by people who have done selfless deeds or who live their lives dedicated to the service of others.

The woman of God in the subtitle refers to Indian spiritual leader Dadi Janki, a leader of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University. The man of science is Humberto Maturana, professor of biology at the University of Chile and founder of the Laboratory for Experimental Epistemology and the Biology of Cognition. The two of them reach a similar place, though they take different paths to get there.

I was particularly intrigued by Maturana's discussion of linear thinking and acting. He points out that our goal oriented cultures cultivate linear thinking and acting.
We want success; we want efficiency; we want perfection....But when we configure our thinking in such a linear way, we fail. Linear thinking, pursued to its extreme, unavoidably leads to the destruction of humanness, because it leads to the blind destruction of the systemic conditions of life - the biosphere and the anthroposphere that make human existence possible. (Page 97)
It is this linear way of being that prevents the big picture way of viewing life and therefore prevents us from acting spontaneously "sometimes in ways that we later can only explain as miracles." One of the examples cited was Wesley Autrey who jumped onto the New York subway tracks in front of a train to save a man who had fallen. He acted spontaneously. "Whatever he saw in that moment ... evoked an instant response in him. Maturana and Dadi Janki would likely call it love."

Though nods are certainly given to universally known people of greatness - Mother Theresa, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. - most of the examples are people who are relatively unknown, people who commit single acts of greatness, like Mr. Autrey, or those who devote their lives to "improving the life and/or awareness of others with no self-interest," such as Hafsat Abiola who "works to promote women, youth and democracy in her home country of Nigeria" through several initiatives that she founded.

The stories of most of the people they interviewed were sparse, and there was a fair amount of repetition in the book. Overall, this is an inspiring, thought provoking book that left me wanting more.

Links of interest:
Something Beyond Greatness blog
Dadi Janki discussing Something Beyond Greatness (YouTube)
Humberto Maturana discussing Something Beyond Greatness (YouTube)

Book giveaway! The publishers kindly sent me an extra copy of Something Beyond Greatness. To sign up for a chance to win, send an email to: with the subject line "Reading, Writing and Retirement contest."
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Book review: The Woman in White

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Book review.

I wonder why I'd never heard of Wilkie Collins before. This was a thoroughly enjoyable read, complete with mystery, intrigue, betrayal, love, Victorian morals and much humor. His writing is on par with his contemporary, Charles Dickens, and one of my favorite contemporary writers, Sarah Waters, has obviously been inspired by Wilkie Collins' writing.

Collins has peopled his book with some flamboyant, fussy and farcical characters. One of the most flamboyant, Count Fosco, narrates part of the tale and declares, "What a situation! I suggest it to the rising romance writers of England. I offer it, as totally new, to the worn-out dramatists of France."

Another of the most memorable characters, Uncle Frederick Fairlie, laments "It is the grand misfortune of my life that no one will let me alone."

The story is narrated by a number of different people through journal entries, letters, and straight narration as if it were an epic inquest. Collins was probably one of the first to use this technique in English literature. It works very well in this tale. Some of the voices are a bit too similar, but others, such as Fairlie and Fosco, lend a wonderful color to the narration.

I have another Collins book on my shelf - The Moonstone -- and look forward to reading it. I'm also itching to read some Dickens now. Collins has managed to start me on a path from which I may not return for quite awhile!
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Teaser Tuesday and Where Are You? 06-16-09: The Woman in White

Should Be Reading - Miz B - hosts this weekly event. We throw out a couple of sentences from our current read (without spoilers, of course) to entice you to read the book.

From The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, page 193:
The main body of the building is of the time of that highly-overrated woman, Queen Elizabeth. On the ground floor there are two hugely long galleries, with low ceilings lying parallel with each other, and rendered additionally dark and dismal by hideous family portraits - every one of which I should like to burn.

It's Tuesday, Where Are You? is hosted by an adventure in reading.

It's 1850 and I'm at Blackwater Park, Hampshire, England. My sister Laura has married Sir Percival Glyde and I am living with them at his estate.

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Friday Fill-ins 06-12-09

Janet is our amazing host for this weekly event.

My responses are in italics. we go!

1. I grew up thinking I couldn’t have my own opinions; but I got over that!

2. Library Thing was the last website I was at before coming here.

3. Why don't you do something nice for yourself today?

4. Reading helps me relax.

5. Thanks for the Friday Fill-Ins, Janet!

6. People who think they have all the answers are very off-putting.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to spaghetti dinner with friends, tomorrow my plans include reading and Sunday, I want to read! Read More!

Booking Through Thursday - Niche Books

Deb at Booking Through Thursday asks:

There are certain types of books that I more or less assume all readers read. (Novels, for example.)

But then there are books that only YOU read. Instructional manuals for fly-fishing. How-to books for spinning yarn. How to cook the perfect souffle. Rebuilding car engines in three easy steps. Dog training for dummies. Rewiring your house without electrocuting yourself. Tips on how to build a NASCAR course in your backyard. Stuff like that.

What niche books do YOU read?

Looking at my Library Thing tags, there are 118 books I've tagged Spirituality. These cover a pretty wide range within that category including Buddhism, meditation, paganism, tarot, recovery, goddess religion and yoga.

I'm beginning to collect quite a few books on photography, my newest passion. They're mostly how-to books and some on specific types of photography, such as macro and portrait. And I have a fair number of gardening books, even though I've mostly just photographed the garden in the last couple of years.

And, yes, Dog Training for Dummies! Since the puppy will be arriving in a few weeks, we've been boning up (pun intended!) on how to raise the little bundle. Dog ownership has changed over the years - now it's more like adopting a child, including doggy day care! So we have much anxiety about doing it right and have checked out a bunch of books and videos from the library. Wish us luck!

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Teaser Tuesday and Where Are You? 06-09-09: The Monsters of Templeton

Should Be Reading - Miz B - hosts this weekly event. We throw out a couple of sentences from our current read (without spoilers, of course) to entice you to read the book.

From The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff, page 88:

When I was small and easily wounded, books were my carapace. If I were recalled to my hurts in the middle of a book, they somehow mattered less. My corporeal life was slight; the dazzling one in my head was what really mattered. Returning to books was coming home.

It's Tuesday, Where Are You? is hosted by an adventure in reading.

I've returned to my hometown of Templeton in upstate New York after a disastrous love affair in the Alaskan tundra. Read More!

Friday Fill-ins 06-05-09

Janet is our amazing host for this weekly event.

My responses are in italics. we go!

1. The beach is my home away from home.

2. My favorite thing for dinner lately has been dessert.

3. I hope we won’t be hearing this from our new puppy: bark! bark! bark!

4. A nice long walk is what my body could use.

5. We could really use some good news about the planet.

6. When all is said and done, add a full stop.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to reading or watching movies, tomorrow my plans include reading and watching some movies and Sunday, I want to take some photos and read some more!

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Booking Through Thursday: 15 Books

Deb at Booking Through Thursday asks:

I saw this over at Shelley’s, and thought it sounded like a great question for all of you:

“This can be a quick one. Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.”

Here are mine, in no particular order:

1. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
2. Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
3. Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
4. Beloved by Toni Morrison
5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
6. Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams
7. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
8. The World According to Garp by John Irving
9. The Kite Runner by Khaled Husseini
10. The Brothers K by David James Duncan
11. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
12. A Midwife’s Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
13. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
14. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
15. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

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Teaser Tuesday and Where In the World Are You? Cranford

Should Be Reading - Miz B - hosts this weekly event. We throw out a couple of sentences from our current read (without spoilers, of course) to entice you to read the book.

From Cranford by Elizabeth Glaskell (originally published in 1853), page 3:

The Cranfordians had that kindly esprit de corps which made them overlook all deficiencies in success when some among them tried to conceal their poverty. When Mrs. Forrester, for instance, gave a party in her baby-house of a dwelling, and the little maiden disturbed the ladies on the sofa by a request that she might get the tea-tray out from underneath, every one took this novel proceeding as the most natural thing in the world, and talked on about household forms and ceremonies as if we all believed that our hostess had a regular servants' hall, second table, with housekeeper and steward, instead of the one little charityschool maiden, whose short ruddy arms could never have been strong enough to carry the tray upstairs, if she had not been assisted in private by her mistress, who now sat in state, pretending not to know what cakes were sent up, though she knew, and we knew, and she knew that we knew, and we knew that she knew that we knew, she had been busy all the morning making tea-bread and sponge-cakes.

It's Tuesday, Where Are You? is hosted by an adventure in reading.

I'm in Cranford, a village near London. It's the mid-1800s, and the village is dominated by women who, though quite independent, have a strict but unusual set of etiquette rules one must adhere to.

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