Welcome to 2013!

Hey, everyone! After taking a two-day vacation from books, I decided it was time to start the third year of my 100-book challenge. Before I posted my first review (I just finished The Reader by Bernhard Schlink about an hour ago), I wanted to declare my intentions for this year.

The 2013 challenge won’t be much different from last year. I’m going to try to finish the Stylist reading list I set for myself last year (since I did so miserably with that in 2012). I still have 27 to read, which leaves 73 of the 100 books to be chosen by me. If you have any of the books on the Stylist list, please send them to me. It would make me quite happy.

In terms of the books that I can read this year, the same rules as the previous two years still apply:
1. I have to read 100 books or more.
2. I must keep a record of everything I read.
3. Books I’ve read before are not allowed, unless the last time I read them was 5 or more years ago.
4. Recommendations are welcome, but let’s face it — every year I say I’ll read what people recommend, and I never do. Unless you actually hand me a book to read, I’ll probably just read the books I want to.

I’m also including a list of the books I know I’ll read this year, because I own them. Here are the first 18 books of 2013!

1. The Reader — Bernhard Schlink
2. The Drowning — Camilla Lackberg
3. Easy Money — Jens Lapidus
4. Things I Want My Daughters to Know — Elizabeth Noble
5. Anna Karenina — Leo Tolstoy
6. The First Deadly Sin — Lawrence Sanders
7. The Pilot’s Wife — Anita Shreve
8. Charlie Wilson’s War — George Crile
9. A Widow for One Year — John Irving
10. What We All Long For — Dionne Brand
11. The Lost Wife — Alyson Richman
12. The Dressmaker — Kate Alcott
13. Sweet Tooth — Ian McEwan
14. Blue Monday — Nicci French
15. Mrs. Kennedy and Me — Clint Hill
16. Some Girls, Some Hats, and Hitler — Trudy Kanter
17. The Imperfectionists — Tom Rachman
18. The Reluctant Fundamentalist — Mohsin Hamid

(This isn’t the order I’ll read them in. That’s really based on my feelings at the time.)

– Kelsey

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Feature: BBAW Interview with myself


Photo courtesy of the Ryersonian. Yes, this is me. Yes, I am this glamorous.

Hey all! It’s Book Blogger Appreciation Week, and so I thought I’d sign myself up and do a little interview. (I know what you’re all thinking: is it really fair to call me a book blogger right now? And the answer is yes. I’m offended that you would even question it!)

Anyway, here’s everything you (n)ever wanted to know about me!

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack?
Sometimes, but not if the book I’m reading is a real page turner (need my paws free for reading). If I’m snacking, it’s usually an iced chai tea latte from Starbucks and some chocolate, or sometimes I just want to have cheesies. Varies day-to-day.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
I don’t write in them, but if something strikes me I do mark it with a post-it note, or dog-ear the page to the point where the quote/scene occurs.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open?
Dog-ears all the way, man. Sometimes I use bookmarks to mark my place, but only if I leave off at the beginning of a new chapter. Otherwise it would be too confusing. If I take a temporary break (like 5-10 minutes), I’ll lay the book flat open.

Fiction, non-fiction, or both?
Mostly fiction, but I’ve read some really compelling non-fiction. It’s just not typically my genre of choice unless it’s an (auto)biography or memoir.

Hard copy or audiobooks?
Hard copy all the way! I can’t listen to my books. It’d just be too weird, and wouldn’t feel as rewarding to finish.

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point?
I need to finish the chapter before I put it down. The only time I can stray from that is if I have to get up mid-read — i.e. on transit.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?
I put it in the context of the sentence to guide me for meaning, and if the word is confusing/interesting enough I’ll look it up later.

What are you currently reading?
The Last Coyote by Michael Connelly. It’s really good…when I get to actually sit down and read it!

What is the last book you bought?
The Last Coyote, The Closers, and 9 Dragons, all by Michael Connelly. I was in the bookstore with my sister and happened to see them, and since I’m trying to finish the Harry Bosch series I just had to buy them all.

Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time?
I used to be able to do more than one at a time (not that it was a preference), but now I just can’t do it. I can’t keep the plots straight, and with all the stuff outside of reading that I have going on, it’s tough enough to remember where I am in the first book I’m reading. Forget about trying to read two!

Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read?
Not really, but I find that my job at the call centre is pretty conducive to good reading; often it’s sitting for long periods of time with only a dial tone to keep you company. Otherwise, I can read pretty much anywhere/time.

Do you prefer series books or stand alone books?
I have no preference really. I like stand-alone books probably just as much as series fiction. But there’s something great about a series, either waiting for the next book to come out or seeing set of characters progress over the years.

Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?
I often recommend Daniel Kalla’s The Far Side of the Sky, Nina Sankovitch’s Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, Hillary Jordan’s When She Woke, and Stephen King’s 11/22/63. I’ll also recommend the Stieg Larsson trilogy, and almost anything by Michael Connelly.

How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?)
I organize them kind of peculiarly: by size. I line them up and then order them based on height and spine width, because I have to see what I will be able to easily get through in a short period of time. If I have a shorter, smaller book waiting for me beside a taller, fatter one, I’ll choose the tinier one every time to shave off some reading time on this challenge.

Hope you enjoyed the interview! And hopefully I’ll be able to post a new review relatively soonish. I might be coming into some reading time in the next couple of days!

– Kelsey

Welcome to 2012!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Now that we’re hours into 2012, I guess it’s time for me to declare my next book-related challenge. This year I’m planning to read 100 books again, but with a somewhat twist/added challenge.

I was on Stylist magazine’s website a while ago, just looking around, and I found their list of the Top 50 Most Romantic Lines from Literature. After reading through it, I decided that I would read all of the books on that list, partially because I’m such a romantic at heart, and partially becase a lot of them are typically referred to as “classics,” and I have read precisely none of them.

After closer inspection, though, I realized I’d have to eliminate a couple from the list: there were three (Wuthering Heights, Hamlet, and Romeo and Juliet) I’d already read, and a few were lines from poems, which were included in anthologies (and I don’t like poems therefore won’t be reading any of them). That left me with 38 books that I’m willing to read. So I’ll be reading 38 books with the most romantic lines in literature, and the other 62 will be my choice.

Same rules as last year apply:
1. I have to read 100 books or more.
2. I must keep a record of everything I read.
3. Books I have read before are unacceptable, unless I’ve read them 5+ years ago.
4. Recommendations are welcome, and this year I will actually try to read the ones you suggest.

Anyway, for anyone who is interested, here is the list of books I know I will be reading this year (the first 38 are from the aforementioned list).

1. Anna Karenina — Leo Tolstoy
2. Gone With The Wind — Margaret Mitchell
3. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin — Louis de Bernieres
4. Persuasion — Jane Austen
5. Brokeback Mountain — Annie Proulx
6. Cyrano de Bergerac — Edmond Rostand
7. Les Miserables — Victor Hugo
8. The Notebook — Nicholas Sparks
9. Clarissa, or, The History of a Young Lady — Samuel Richardson
10. Doctor Zhivago — Boris Pasternak
11. Pride and Prejudice — Jane Austen
12. Love in the Time of Cholera — Gabriel Garcia Marquez
13. Dangerous Liasons — Choderlos de Laclos
14. Lady Chatterly’s Lover — D.H. Lawrence
15. North and South — Elizabeth Gaskell
16. Maurice — E.M. Forster
17. Prometheus Unbound — Percy Bysshe Shelley
18. The Great Gatsby — F. Scott Fitzgerald
19. Our Mutual Friend — Charles Dickens
20. Possession — A.S. Byatt
21. The Portrait of a Lady — Henry James
22.The Road — Cormac McCarthy
23. The Rover — Aphra Benn
24. Vanity Fair — William Makepeace Thackeray
25. Winnie The Pooh — A.A. Milne
26. Beloved — Toni Morrison
27. Adam Bede — George Eliot
28. Jane Eyre — Charlotte Bronte
29. The White Company — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
30. The Age of Innocence — Edith Wharton
31. The God of Small Things — Arundhati Roy
32. Sense and Sensibility — Jane Austen
33. David Copperfield — Charles Dickens
34. The English Patient — Michael Ondaatje
35. Far from the Madding Crowd — Thomas Hardy
36. Unaccustomed Earth — Jhumpa Lahiri
37. The Map of Love — Ahdaf Soueif
38. Atonement — Ian McEwan
39. The Very Picture of You — Isabel Wolff
40. My Dear I Wanted To Tell You — Louisa Young
41. The Night Circus — Erin Morgenstern
42. 44 Charles Street — Danielle Steel
43. The Surrogate — Tania Carter
44. The Creeper — Tania Carter
45. Lethal — Sandra Brown
46. A Home at the End of the World — Michael Cunningham
47. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks — Rebecca Skloot
48. Best Friends Forever — Jennifer Weiner
49. First Impressions — Nora Roberts
50. Into the Heart of the Country — Pauline Holdstock
51. Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes — Kamal Al-Solaylee
52. Currently untitled Terry Fallis book to be released this year

So as you see, I have 48 book slots available. As I said before, I’m going to really try to read the books that are recommended to me this year. If you have books that you think I would love (or even ones you think I would hate and want to torture me with), and you don’t mind loaning them to me, please do so. I will love you and kiss your face.

See you after I finish the first book!

– Kelsey

In defence of the romance genre

I like to mock the romance genre as much as the next self-proclaimed feminist. All in good fun, of course, and I only mock the truly terrible ones (or, at least, the truly terrible parts of books from that genre).

However, it really just grinds my gears when I’m personally mocked for what I read, romance or otherwise. A little teasing is all in good fun (especially when the book I have in hand is legitimate shit, as has happened occasionally this year), but an aggressive persistence to debase my reading choices because they don’t fall in line with someone else’s isn’t fun. I don’t like feeling like I need to explain myself to other people, nor do I like putting on a face that says “yes, I agree with you, this is utter trash” when I don’t believe one word of what I’m saying, to avoid being the butt of a joke.

At any rate, in defence of the romance genre, because sometimes it does need someone to go to bat for it, it is actually the best-selling genre on the general whole — it beats out mysteries, crime fiction, science fiction, fantasy, the “classics,” auto/biographies, and the like. Its more popular writers, like Nora Roberts, for example, regularly hit number one on the New York Times best seller list. Numbers don’t lie.

It is my own personal belief that the genre gets mocked so much purely because it is so feminine, and directly marketed to a female audience. (Maybe I’m wrong here, but I don’t know many guys who would go into Chapters, pick up something with the title The Next Always — the book I’m currently reading, by the way — and proudly slap it down on the counter in front of the cashier.) Not to open up the whole big male vs. female debate, but you get mocked twenty times more for exhibiting female characteristics, or in this case enjoying female-oriented literature, than you do for any characteristics (or reading material) that are “masculine” in nature. And why? What is so wrong with liking, or being, feminine?

Well. I can answer that for you. Where men have been associated with intellect, reason, and critical thinking (over time, of course), women have been given associations to emotions, nurturing personalities, and family. Nothing wrong with that at all! Hell, I love being thought of as nurturing. (It’s not remotely true, but you can pretend all you like.) But, of course, that has translated to the incorrect belief that anything feminine, therefore, is lower in intellect. I.e. the entire romance genre. I beg to differ — that is not the case.

Any reading is good reading, because you will learn something every time, whether it’s a new word or finding out more about your own personal preferences. It has been suggested a couple of times that certain books I have read — the ones in question were romance, naturally — should be struck from my list purely because they are “trash.” No, I’m not going to strike them. No, just because they are feminine does not make them trash. Pick it up and read it before you make a snap judgment. And some will, unquestionably, be shit. But some are cute.

I will, loudly and proudly, declare that I love romance. I love romantic comedies, and I love romance books, as long as they aren’t horribly cheesy (and even when they are sometimes I can get past it). And, to be clear, just because my choices in reading are not in line with yours does not mean that I “only read trash.”

Please forgive the personal rant, but I felt that on behalf of all females (or, hey, the occasional male) who have been made fun of for their reading choice, it needed to be said. Er, written.

Anyway, I’m off to read my next “trash” book. (In reality I love it, and I think it’s adorable.) Oh, and since we’re talking about books (when are we not?), I am going to need more to make sure I get through the hundred. Is anyone willing to lend me some? All manners of trash accepted.

– Kelsey

(Oh, and for anyone who’s interested, here’s another interesting defence of romance.)