Category: Book Blog (page 10 of 27)

2014 Book #2: The Master and Margarita

masterandmargaritaI don’t even know where to begin with this one, except that, strangely, The Master and Margarita is what I expected The Magus to be, and vice versa. I hadn’t read anything by (or even heard of) Mikhail Bulgakov before The Master and Margarita, which I think might have been another Goodreads recommendation. I think the devil-causing-mischief idea intrigued me. I’m not sure why I waited so long to read it since it’s been on my list for a while.

At the most basic level, here’s what happens: the devil goes to Moscow and causes mischief. It’s also a political satire about society in the Soviet Union and its relationship to religion. Jesus and Pontius Pilate make an appearance, along with various fun demons and a shape-shifting black cat named Behemoth. I thought this book was supposed to be magical realism, but it’s pretty hardcore fantasy and is similar to Faust. There isn’t quite selling-of-souls, but there’s talk of selling-of-souls, and there’s an afterlife judgment-of-sorts. The devil likes some people and doesn’t like others, and the latter come to often grotesque (but, really, just) ends. Those he likes come to ambivalent(?) ends. It’s a really complex book almost in the form of a fairy tale. The demonic characters are great – and strangely hilarious.

Note the almosts and the not-quites. Again, I’m not sure what to do with this book. As soon as I finished it, I wanted to read criticism about it to get an idea of what other people think about it, but that just allowed me to procrastinate: writing this post isn’t as easy as it seems it should be, and since I’m writing this for pleasure (okay, so I don’t forget everything about this book), I’m not going to analyze. I just read the Wikipedia article.

So. I’ll say that The Master and Margarita is a winner and that it provokes thought. It’s a fun romp through Moscow and the Underworld (did I mention Satan’s ball? No?). There’s broom-flying and cat-shooting. Good times are had by all. There’s also Pilate’s guilt over allowing Jesus to be crucified and the…interesting end of the title characters, who I didn’t even mention in my not-quite-summary. Which all means that you should definitely read it, but plan to spend some time afterward thinking about it. You might not know what to do with it, either.

A quick search, by the way, reveals some pretty awesome covers:


It also reveals that Behemoth is the best character.

This second section of blog posts has become a photo-scrolling activity. I look through the photos I took while I was reading this book and post a few because it’s nice to remember, and I won’t otherwise. That, and this is a blog about books, not so much about other things. Anyway. Here’s what I did while I read The Master and Margarita:

According to my camera roll, I ate lots of things and fought with my blood sugar. In that order.

Palmer and I finally made it to Twisted Root Burger Co. We tried a few times right after it opened, but the line was always out the door, so we went elsewhere. A week or two ago, it wasn’t, so we went in. Here’s what we got:


Mine was on the left: a basic bacon cheeseburger with caramelized onions and no fries. Palmer’s is a hamburger salad. He liked his better than I liked mine, which was something, I guess, because neither of us were impressed. The meat was super-processed and tasteless. We won’t be going back.

Otherwise, since Palmer has been home so much (he usually is around the holidays), we’ve been running around working on house stuff. You’ve seen (an early version of) our library results. We also changed our Friday-night hangout because Ivan’s got too loud and full of d-bags. Our new bar is so much better.

And, finally, I made my first king cake in almost two years. It was glorious.

That probably won’t be the only one I make this year. If only I could eat twelve pieces instead of one.

And maybe I should mention that I darkened up the text on this page just a bit. While I love this theme, it seemed a bit hard to read.

I finished The Master and Margarita a few days ago, and now I’m about a third into A Bloodsmoor Romance by Joyce Carol Oates. While it’s really, really good, it’s taking me forever to read.

Oh! I should also note (are we at the P.P.P.P.S. level, yet?) that The Master and Margarita is the first book I’ve read toward the Roof Beam Reader’s 2014 TBR Challenge. That’s 1 of 12, if you’re playing along. (Here’s a link to my page and my original post.) Not a bad start.

What I *might* read in 2014

Sweeping pine needles into fun shapes: a post-Christmas tradition.

Sweeping pine needles into fun shapes: a post-Christmas tradition.

The holidays are over, our ginormous Christmas tree is no more, and my life is settling down into its more normal patterns. Shortly before the new year, I wrote my grand post about what I’d read in 2013, and I thought it might be fun to continue that with what I might read in 2014. I make no promises because I tend to read like I watch movies on Netflix: if it looks good and the timing is right, I’ll read it instantly. If it’s not available, I might reserve it at the library, though by the time I get it, I’ve usually lost interest. I guess that’s what e-books (and working in a library) have done to me. All this means that I’m not good at making to-be-read lists and sticking with them.

That said, I’m putting in a little effort this year: I’ve joined the Roof Beam Reader’s 2014 TBR Challenge. I’ve already posted about that, though, so I won’t repeat myself. So there’s twelve that I’ll probably read. I’m off to a good start, anyway, with The Master and Margarita. Anyway.

So beyond those twelve books, I guess this is a list of what I’d like to read this year, though I probably won’t get through most of these books because of my apparent reading-choice ADD. Here we go, in no particular order:

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, by Haruki Murakami. According to The Guardian, the English translation will be released sometime this year. As Murakami is one of my favorite authors, I can’t wait to read this one.

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt. It’s all over the internet, and it looks interesting.

Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. So many people have suggested I read this book. It’s high on my list, but I’m waiting until I’ve read…

A Dance with Dragons, by George R.R. Martin. I’m not sure how I’ve lasted so long, though it probably has something to do with there not being another Song of Ice and Fire book to pick up after I finish it.

The Girl Who Fell beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, by Catherynne M. Valente, because I loved The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making so much.

Wolves of the Calla, and possibly Song of Susannah and The Dark Tower by Stephen King. While I’m on the subject of various series, let me add this one to the pile. I’ve read the first four of the Dark Tower series, so the rest of them are on the horizon. I’m certainly choosing more long books for 2014.

The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker. Another word-of-internet winner.

Doomed, by Chuck Palahniuk. I read (and generally liked) Damned after I’d won Doomed in a drawing. Doomed is still sitting on my bookshelf, waiting patiently. I’ll get to it eventually.

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, by Barbara Demick. North Korea fascinates me, and I’ve heard that this is a good book.

The Childhood of Jesus, by J.M. Coetzee. It’s been on my list since before it came out, but there I’ve read reviews on both sides, and I’m not sure how much I’ll like it once I get into it. I liked Disgrace, but it was a little sappy.

Jesus’ Son, by Denis Johnson. Here’s another one that friends have recommended. I saw the movie years ago and loved it. I’m bad at picking up short story collections, though.

Discworld novel, or two, by Terry Pratchett. Because I love them. I’m slowly reading them chronologically, and next up is Reaper Man.

A Tale of Two Cities or Great Expectations. The former was the first book I read after I graduated college and is one of my favorites, and I tried to read the latter a couple years ago, but failed. Holiday time is Dickens time, so one of these will probably happen next December.

And that’s all I can think of at the moment. It’s funny how most of the books I want to read are fantasy, though most of the books I actually read are not. We’ll see what happens this year. I make no promises.

Also: Somehow, I neglected to post a photo of a certain orange kitteh on his TENTH birthday! I can’t believe he’s ten.

And, finally, thanks to Palmer for the pine needles photo and the awesome sweeping skillz!

2014 Book #1: Snow Crash

snowcrashI hate to start 2014 on a negative note, but MEH. It’s not even that Snow Crash is a terrible novel (though it’s not an especially good one); it’s that it’s not my kind of novel. In some ways, it’s like a Dan Brown novel, and in others, it’s like I imagine a Clive Cussler or James Patterson bestseller might be. (Neither of which I’ve read or plan to read. Ever.) I’m just not a fan.

Neal Stephenson has been on my radar for a while: Cryptonomicon is supposedly a really good novel. I heard of Snow Crash when Palmer read it. He told me that he really liked it and who wrote it, and I figured I’d give it a try. Then, of course, I put it off for a few books. I picked it up again when it kept coming up in conversation.

It’s a dystopian thriller set in an alternate mid-to-late 1990s, when what sounds like Second Life or OASIS, the online world of Ready Player One. It’s not especially advanced. At the beginning of the novel, Hiro Protagonist (I know. Ugh.) is delivering a pizza for the mafia. Governments all over the world have been taken over by private companies – you can go from one neighborhood to another and need a passport to get into both. Barcodes are plastered on characters’ bodies and their retinas are regularly scanned. Anyway, something goes wrong at the pizza place, and Hiro only has 20 minutes to deliver a pizza to avoid Big Trouble with the mafia. He ends up crashed in a suburban backyard, and a 15-year-old girl, who calls herself Y.T. and rides a magnetic skateboard that attaches to cars, saves him by delivering the pizza (barely) on time. Thanks to her favor for the mafia and Hiro’s katana (I know) and hacking abilities, they end up in a mess that involves a computer virus called Snow Crash that fries the computers and the brains of infected users. And said virus has its roots in Sumerian myth and religion is rooted in viruses and so on into ridiculousness.

The structure alternately annoyed and bored me. It’s action! action! action! followed by a loooooong exposition in which Hiro discusses things with his computer wikipedia-style, explaining the religious stupidity I mentioned a second ago. I think my main problem with it is specific to me: I don’t like action books just like I don’t like action movies. (For some reason, I don’t hate Dan Brown, but that’s neither here nor there.) There’s a lot of violence and some gore in Snow Crash that I just didn’t care for. And the action went on and on. I was bored with the action even before I was bored with the exposition. I guess all the actiony bits were why I wasn’t as fond of Ready Player One as I might have been – though I’m convinced that Ready Player One is simply a better novel, anyway. You won’t believe the stupid deus ex machina in this book. It’s just silly and bad.

And there’s some stupidity that should be edited out, like this whole bit from the perspective of a souped-up dog named Fido, talking about all of the nice doggies barking at the mean people. Seriously. The more I write about this novel, the more I dislike it, and I didn’t like it in the first place.

So. You might like this novel if you’re into action, especially of the technological sort. Like if Blade Runner is your favorite movie (the book is soooo much better). And maybe if you like James Patterson or Clive Cussler, though I could be way off about what their books are about. Maybe Cryptonomicon is better, but I’m in no hurry to find out because I bet it has a lot in common with Snow Crash.

In other news, Palmer and I painted my library! I still haven’t finished hanging up photos and cleaning up, so I haven’t taken the Official Super-Awesome Photos yet. But here’s a somewhat distorted panorama of three (empty) walls for your enjoyment. The walls aren’t as yellowy as they seem here.


On New Year’s Eve, we went to a small party at our friend Sara’s house. It was the best one I’ve had in several. Here’s a short video of what happened when Palmer popped the champagne cork:

And here’s our obligatory blurry Instagram selfie.

We had such a good time! Yay, 2014!

2013: The Year in Books

Here we are, at the end of 2013.  It’s time for my Grand Book List, which I skipped last year (as I skipped reading for the most part, but that’s a long story). I’ve read more this year than I have in the past several. It’s possibly the most I’ve ever read. I’m not quite sure how it happened since I have a job, and such. Palmer says reading is a waste of time and a way for unhappy people to forget that they’re unhappy, but I don’t think it is. I’ve had a good year, all told. There is, of course, the Elephant in the Room, which makes everything difficult, but I’ve been dealing with it long enough, now, that it’s not that big of a deal. Reading does help me forget about that, sometimes, which is both good and bad. But I digress. Here, by the way, is an excellent article from Slate about the psychological and moral benefits of reading. So there.

For the past three years, I’ve set a quota for myself: 50 books. I started because, at the end of 2010, I realized that I’d only read about twenty books, which seemed ridiculous. I thought that if I set a goal, I could get my reading back on track. And I did! I squeezed in at the wire, but I did, and I was very proud of myself. In 2012, I set the same goal, but I didn’t even get close. I blame the Elephant – I was sick, my vision was blurry, and I was exhausted. After July of 2012, my world stopped for a while. This January, I decided I could no longer use ye olde Elephant as an excuse, so I jumped in for another fifty. If you pay any attention to my blog, you’ll know that I easily surpassed that number this year. I’m not sure why or how, especially since so many of thee books I read were huge.

Which leads me to a title for 2013: The Year of Long Books. Until this year, I hardly read books over three or four hundred pages because I didn’t think I could get through them. Jumping into A Game of Thrones and getting hooked cured me of that, I think, and I think I’ve decided that I love long books the best because I can get more into them without feeling rushed. That’s not always easy to do with this quota, though.

So here’s my list. Yes, it’s long. I’ll use the same system I used for my 2010 and 2011 lists: Bold means I really liked it, and italics means I really disliked it. If it’s neither of those, it was good enough.

So there you have it. I read some pretty good books this year. But which one is the best? In 2010, the prize went to David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, and in 2011, One Hundred Years of Solitude won. Last year, there was no winner, as, well, you know. Elephant. What could I possibly have chosen this year? Drumroll please…


Yep, Stoner. If you read this blog regularly, you probably saw it coming. Stoner is the best, most amazing novel I’ve read in years. It’s perfect on just about every level. I was crying and entirely speechless by the end of it. Oh, so good.

But Stoner wasn’t the only good novel I read this year, so I’m adding a couple of runners-up. I liked these novels almost as much, though they weren’t quite as mind-blowing as our winner.


First, there’s Orlando, which is hilarious and fantastic and addictive. I want to read it again. After some reflection, it definitely wins my top spot in the list of Virginia Woolf‘s novels. I know that a Discworld novel, of all things, probably doesn’t fit in too well, but I absolutely adored Eric, and I can’t help myself. It’s definitely my favorite Discworld novel so far. There’s also The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which is no my favorite of Neil Gaiman‘s because it’s an overwhelming fairytale that I couldn’t quite have understood when I was a child. This one qualifies as mind-blowing, too. I’ll make myself stop there, though I’m having a hard time not adding more.

2013 was definitely a good reading year. So many books make for so many interesting experiences, most of them good. Next year, I’ll do the same, and it’ll be especially pleasant because my super-awesome husband made me a library out of what had been a storage-bedroom in our house. It’s beautiful, but I still need to clean up a bit and hang art before I post official photos. I’ll be spending lots of 2014 curled up in my papasan, feet propped up and reading. I can’t wait.

2013 Book #60: Bleak House

bleakhouseBleak House has been languishing on my bookshelf for years, firmly established in the tl;dr pile. I’m pretty sure it’s even longer than the Game of Thrones books. It certainly took me longer to read. I decided to give it a try after I blazed through several books and wanted to slow down with a long one. That, and Dickens seems to be perfect Christmas-time reading. At some point when I was in high school, I read A Christmas Carol – or enough of it, at least, to pass a test on it. I liked it well enough. I also read Hard Times because a teacher I really respected recommended that I read it. When I was in college, I read exactly zero Dickens, which seems strange to me. The first book I read after I graduated with my English degree, though, was A Tale of Two Cities. Which I loved. I should read that one again, in fact. A couple of years ago, I tried reading Great Expectations, but I couldn’t get through it. And I think I tried David Copperfield at some point, also unsuccessfully. Last year, I reread Hard Times and thoroughly enjoyed it. Anyway.

I started reading Bleak House without really committing to it. It’s really long, and I thought it would be boring. It begins with a long explanation of a civil suit called Jarndyce and Jarndyce. Except it’s funny. I was hooked almost immediately. The plot is so long and complicated that I’ll just note the (early) highlights. There are two points-of-view: an omniscient third person and one from Esther Summerson in first person. Esther is a young orphan who lives with her very severe aunt until said aunt dies, and then she is taken by John Jarndyce, who refuses to be directly involved in said lawsuit, though it affects him. At the same time, he takes in two Jarndyce-related wards, Ada and Richard, who fall in love. We follow these characters and at least a couple dozen more through their lives, all somehow related to Jarndyce and Jarndyce. The title comes from John Jarndyce’s house, which is in no way bleak. We eventually find out where Esther came from, and every little thing is interconnected and resolved neatly by the end. Too neatly, I think, though I guess that’s what I should expect from Dickens.

I loved this book so much, which is especially surprising since I didn’t think I’d even make it through. I certainly didn’t think I’d enjoy every page. There weren’t even rough patches that bored me. My only problem with it is the end because perfectly tied-up endings annoy me. Bleak House made me want to reread A Tale of Two Cities and give David Copperfield another try. I don’t know why this one isn’t up there in popularity with the likes of A Christmas Carol and Great Expectations, except that it’s long as all hell. After reading so many long books this year, I’m amused that I avoided them so much in the past. But I’ll talk about that in my next post.

Also in my next post: the big reveal! Palmer and I have been repainting and otherwise upgrading the front room of our house, which fairly recently became my library. Here’s our grand beginning:

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Painting time is fun time.

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The cats played Kitteh Fort with my displaced books. Much fun was had by all.

Here’s the damage. I’m hoping most of them will be back on their shelves by the end of today.


In other, non-book-related news, OpenEmu, a video game emulator (okay, an emulator platform?), was released for mac. This thing is beautiful and super user-friendly. I’d even taken the trouble to compile it when it was still in beta. Now I can play so many of my favorite games – like Zelda: Link’s Awakening. I still had the game, but I didn’t have a Game Boy old enough to play the original games. Fun!


Now, to finish my library so I can read in it!

Merry Christmas!


Okay, I haven’t finished my book, so this isn’t a review because I don’t have anything to review yet. In my defense, Bleak House is an especially looooong book, and somehow Dickens doesn’t read as quickly as George R.R. Martin. I’ll probably finish by the end of the year. (I guess now’s the time to write my big end-of-the-year post, anyway. Which I skipped last year. I know.)

So. Since it’s taking me a long time to read this behemoth, and I haven’t posted in a while, I figured I’d offer a Christmas update (in the last half-hour before Doctor Who makes me cry. But that’s neither here nor there). So here goes. And since this post will be mostly photos (and thus very long), I’ll add a Read More here… Continue reading

I’m joining the 2014 TBR Pile Challenge. Yay Reading Things!


Wait, you say. Lindsay doesn’t participate in anything, especially when it’s book-related. Book clubs? Bah! Comments? Hellz, no. Reading other people’s blogs? Only when looking for similar (often unpopular) opinions.

Well, in 2014, I want to change that, if only a little bit. I think that the reason I’ve kept this blog for so long is that I write it so selfishly: I started writing in earnest when I realized that I never remember what I’ve read for very long. You know, the time I got halfway through Franny and Zooey before realizing that I’d read it less than a year before? Yeah. It really started after Katrina, when I really got into digital preservation of memories, especially photos, since they can easily be lost. Remembering what I’d read came shortly after, but that was before the days of Goodreads, so I think I started with AllConsuming or, possibly, Shelfari. When I finally switched to Goodreads, I think I transferred all of that there. But the hurricane happened in 2005, and I didn’t start writing about every book I read until 2011. That’s a lot of years, and sometimes I forget what I have and haven’t written about.

Anyway. My blog is very insular because I generally don’t participate in the book-blogosphere since I’m only really writing for myself (except I’m explaining all of this to you, and you aren’t me, so…). In 2014, I’ll give it a whirl. In the beginning, at least. I think I found a good place to start: Roof Beam Reader‘s 2014 TBR Pile Challenge, which aims to help me get through some of the books that have been languishing on my to-be-read list for a while. Here are the basic rules: I have to choose twelve books (and two alternates, in case I can’t get through a couple of them) that have been on my tbr pile for at least a year, which means that they couldn’t have been published in 2013. I have more than enough books like that to fill such a list, so here goes:

  1. The Master and Margarita (Bulgakov)
  2. Under the Net (Murdoch)
  3. The Shadow of the Wind (Zafón)
  4. The Children of Men (P.D. James)
  5. The Ambassadors (Henry James)
  6. The Slynx (Tolstaya)
  7. Still Life with Woodpecker (Robbins)
  8. Pedro Páramo (Rulfo)
  9. Demons (Dostoyevsky)
  10. Ragtime (Doctorow)
  11. Wicked (Maguire)
  12. The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories (Clarke)

And the alternates:

  1. Warlock (Hall)
  2. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Riggs)

We’ll see how I do with these. They’ve all been on my list for a while, but, for whatever reason, I haven’t gotten around to reading them. I’ve been careful not to choose all long books, and I haven’t chosen books I know I’ll read like Wolves of the Calla or Dances with Dragons because I’d have read them anyway. What will be most challenging to me is planned reading: I’m the Netflix type. After I finish a book, I like to pick up whatever strikes my fancy at that very instant. Working in a library definitely helps, but you can get your hands on almost anything pretty quickly with an internet connection.

I own physical copies of the vast majority of these books, and if I don’t, they’ve been sitting on my Kindle or Nook for at least a year. I think what I’ll do, though, is put them all in one place: the sparkly new iPad Mini my awesome husband is giving me for Christmas. Tracking down digital copies of most of these shouldn’t be a challenge – and I have no qualms about not paying for a digital copy of a physical book I paid for. Paying once is enough, and at some point, I have paid for every one of the books listed above. Yay, Calibre (which organizes, converts, and transfers to various reading devices. You’re on your own for downloads).

I’ll also mention that I found the Most Awesome iOS eBook Reader Ever: Marvin. I wanted a wireless way to transfer non-Kindle books from my Macbook to my iPad, and somehow I ran across their website. It’s the most powerful reader app I’ve seen. As far as I know, the Kindle reader app only opens books you’ve bought from Amazon, and you have to plug in to transfer books you haven’t purchased from Apple into iBooks. Not cool. With Marvin, all you have to do is link it to your Dropbox account, and all of the epub books you have stored there show up on the screen, ready to download. And it even syncs your pages between devices! Better yet, it’ll sync with Calibre, which boggles my mind. End of gush.

So there’s my plan. I’ll stick with the 50, but at least twelve of those will be books from my tbr list, specifically the list above. I’m pretty sure I can do it with just a little reading discipline, especially since I’ll have most or all of them right in front of me in my handy-dandy Marvin app.

I can’t wait to start!

2013 Book #59: Snow Country