Archive for January, 2009


For many years I proclaimed that F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s work didn’t interest me and I avoided it. I knew I wouldn’t like it. (Hear the snickers?)

Finally about a year and a half ago the stars aligned in such a way that I borrowed a copy of The Great Gatsby to listen to in the car. I was reluctant, but it fit a couple criteria I was wanting at the time. After finishing the book I revised my opinion of Fitzgerald’s work. (The snickers get a bit louder.)

A new movie came out a few weeks ago that caught my attention, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I immediately thought of the book I enjoyed so much a few years ago, The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer. I wondered if Benjamin Button was a revised version of Max Tivoli so did my librarian thing and did some research. Benjamin Button was originally a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Me, being me, had to find the short story. I recommend Max Tivoli all the time (it’s a well done, poignant book) and wanted to read the short story that helped spark the novel almost 100 years later. So I put Before Gatsby on hold at the library. It’s a collection of “the first twenty-six stories” by Fitzgerald (written or published? I didn’t check). Again, this is me. I didn’t just flip to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I started reading from the beginning.

These stories may be Fitzgerald’s early work, but they demonstrate the quality of the writer (now the snickers are loud chuckles – they told me so). Somewhere in the introduction it is mentioned that these stories are dated because they rely on the themes of the Jazz Age in the 1920’s America. In one way that is true. Fortunately each story comes with an explanation of terms to help the modern reader understand the allusions. In another way, these stories are timeless. Because while times and environment change, people don’t. There are few women who haven’t met the mean-spirited Marjorie from Bernice Bobs Her Hair. I was glad Bernice gave her a come uppance at the end of the story. Then there’s the pathos at the end of Head and Shoulders that rings so true. I’ve enjoyed the humor of The Camel’s Back and the irony of The Cut Glass Bowl. In some of them I just don’t get the point – in my opinion you can skip Mr. Icky. But for the most part I now understand why my fellow reading friends told me to try Fitzgerald.

I did and I’m glad of it.

(Some one else has the book on hold at the library and it’s due tomorrow. I guess I’m paying a late fine because The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is the last story and I’m not there yet.)

Good Bye, Nick

Posted January 24, 2009 By Jandy

Looking For Something New to Read?

Posted January 20, 2009 By Jandy

We have our favorite places to discover something to read – the best seller’s list in the New York Times or LA Times, Amazon, scanning the library shelves, walking in to our favorite book store, reading friends’ blogs or web sites, etc. My friend Kharmonghia put me onto a new website of lists.

Flashlight Worthy has (according to their home page) 312 lists of books. Since today is Inauguration Day here in the United States, they have highlighted two of their lists:

What Barack Obama Reads and Recommends
Every Book of Elizabeth Alexander, the Poet for Obama’s Inauguration

There are lists of all books by an author, the best books by an author, graphic novels, famous people’s reading lists, awards lists, etc. You can submit lists for them to add, as well. Here’s another site to make Mt. Bookpile grow.

Reading Oddities – Part 2

Posted January 17, 2009 By Jandy

Last spring I talked about how reading themes tend to cross themselves. I’ve had that happen again and it was very unexpected.

At work I am listening to The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan. It’s a fun, adventurous children’s novel in a series about the Olympic gods in the current day. It’s an easy read that I can listen to while working. Its main theme is the Greek Labyrinth including the Minotaur and Daedalus.

In the car I’m listening to Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. The narrator, Cal, is a hermaphrodite who tells his family’s story from the early 1900’s in Greece to Detroit. There is an important scene with the early years of Cal’s grandparents that includes a play featuring the Labyrinth and the Minotaur.

The two books are very different. But you know that from now on the two books will be tied together in my head.

Romantic Novel of the Year 2009 Shortlist

Posted January 14, 2009 By Jandy

The Romantic Novelist’s Association in the United Kingdom has announced their short list for the Romantic Novel of the Year Award 2009. I’m pretty sure all the romance novels I read in the past year were from the U.S., so I have not read any of these. I like Cecelia Ahern, though, and should look up her newest.

Tastes Change

Posted January 11, 2009 By Jandy

Not that long ago, I wouldn’t touch books that I considered horror novels. With a few exceptions I stayed away from Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and the like.

Of course the dislike of horror goes way back. At Friday night slumber parties, I was the kid who took a book into another room when all the girls were gathered round the television watching the cheesy B horror movies. The first time I watched the movie Jaws was on a 13″ black and white television. I was able to sit through Poltergeist once (again on television although in color this time), but never again, thanks.

I could neither read nor watch Carrie (and still won’t). I’ve always felt that way about The Shining as well, but recently someone almost convinced me that the book is worth it despite the horror scenes after he goes crazy.

I said this in my book review – I wouldn’t have read Dean Koontz’s Twilight Eyes if I had seen it 20 years ago when it was first published. I found it in audio format when looking for something to “read” at work while working on routine tasks. By now I’ve read enough Koontz to know that his work comes from all sorts of angles. So I tried it.

I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t want to see this book on screen. I can only imagine what Hollywood would make of the goblins hiding in human skin, let alone what they would look like when they shed the skin.

I liked this book, though. No, Twilight Eyes is not one of Koontz’s best, but it is an interesting read. I liked the way he develops the main character, Slim, as a young man just out of boyhood who sees and understands more about life than any of us want to know. The carnival is a good backdrop. It gives Slim the chance to be accepted and to get around to find the goblins.

Now I’m agreeable to read books that fall into the horror genre. But I don’t want too much blood, gore, or fright. Instead, put a good story around it and I’m willing to try. (I still won’t read Carrie, though.)


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie BarrowsIt’s a wonder how a book can sneak up on you and grab you by the throat. I was pulled into this novel immediately because of the writing style of using letters between the characters involved. Those kinds of books can be puzzles to piece together as well as enjoy the story. That’s certainly the case in The Guernsey Literature and Potato Peel Pie Society.

This covers one of those incidents during World War II that was not widely known – it’s certainly never been mentioned in any of the history books, non-fiction, or fiction books that I have read that center on that war. I had not realized that the islands in the English Channel had been occupied by the Germans. (I’m still smarting from not knowing Guernsey is an island…)

This book is a low key book that makes your eyes open wide when you finally put all the pieces together and get the full picture of the occupation. It remains matter-of-fact, doesn’t have any overt violence, and a romance that is secondary to the major story.

Read The Guernsey Literature and Potato Peel Pie Society. I’m glad my friend lent it to me and I had to read it before she returned to the East coast. Otherwise who knows how long I would have put it off.

Ain’t It the Truth!

Posted January 4, 2009 By Jandy

“–booksellers really are a special breed. No one in their right mind would take up clerking in a bookstore for the salary, and no one in his right mind would want to own one–the margin of profit is too small. So, it has to be a love of readers and reading that makes them do it–along with first dibs on the new books.”

From The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Note: If you like the format of 84 Charing Cross, you’ll enjoy this. It’s written in the same letter writing style.

999 Challenge

Posted January 1, 2009 By Jandy

A couple months ago I posted about Becky’s Challenge blog site and all the different book reading challenges you can find there. One challenge stuck in my head and I’ve decided to follow it up with my own extra twists. (The Sardonic Girl taking on this challenge helped push me, I’ll admit.) I’m not going to officially join the 999 Challenge Group at Library Thing and I’m not going to choose my titles yet – I’ll probably do that as I go.

One major twist I’m putting on myself is that the books to read for the list have to come from Mount Bookpile – with the exception of the new books published in 2009. I haven’t bought any of those yet even though I bought 3 more books today. (Mysterious Galaxy runs a 25% off all in stock books sale on New Year’s Day.) Also, if I don’t have 9 books that meets the criteria on Mt. Bookpile (doubtful), then I can go to the library or shopping. I’ll allow myself 5 books that may cross over two lists.

Here are my categories:
1) New books published in 2009
2) Books with a place name in the title
3) Time travel books
4) Books with a facial feature in the title
5) Books originally published before 1900
6) Books with the word “heart” in the title
7) Books by an author whose last name starts with “Y”
8) Stand alone mystery novels (not part of a series)
9) Books that are translated into English from another language

Why did I choose authors beginning with “Y”? Why did I choose to have a facial feature in the title? Why the word “heart” in the title? Why not? After I chose my list I remembered we are reading Hawaii by James Michener for book club this summer – that’s one that will be ticked off the list.

I finished Somewhere in Time today by Richard Matheson. So that’s one book from that list. I think I’m going to have fun with this.