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Tragedy and Comedy

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I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

All other things being equal (good writing, enthralling story, etc), which would you rather read—something serious, angsty, and tragic? Or something light, fluffy, and fun? Or a blend of both? (Since, really, isn’t that how real life works?)

I like to read something different to balance out my readings. For example, after I finished the tome that Under the Dome is, I need to read a more quiet, contemplative literary fiction like Instructions For A Heatwave. A heavy historical fiction on the Second World War like like The Gods of Heavenly Punishment would be countered by a by something with a smaller scope, such as the current book, The Why of Things, although the subject matter is nonetheless lighter. A long story short: I usually don’t read the same genre back-to-back. So I need a Tom Wolfe after Toni Morrison.

“It’s Personal”

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I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

Do you have a preference between “person” in the books you read? Do you prefer third-person to first-person? Or don’t you care?
And … why??

I don’t have a preference as long as the book is coherent. I do feel differently reading a third-person narrative from a first-person one. First-person is more intimate but usually less reliable. The perspective is also more constraining and claustrophobic. Unlike in first-person narration, where the narrator is a character in the story, the third-person narrator does not describe his or her role in the action. A third-person narrative is rich in description and the prose more contemplative and lyrical. Third-person narrator is often omniscient narrator, who is able to recount things that could not have been known by any of the participants in the story, as when they relate the unexpressed thoughts of several characters. If I have to pick, I’ll prefer mystery in first-person and literary fiction third-person.

New Books

I checked in at the Musing Mondays blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).

After the satisfying Under the Dome, I was back at the bookstore looking for The Stand. When I was seen reading Under the Dome, people asked if I have read The Stand. I was piqued to include it on my list. It’s another science fiction/horror hefty 1400-pager. In 1978, science fiction writer Spider Robinson wrote a scathing review of The Stand in which he exhorted his readers to grab strangers in bookstores and beg them not to buy it. That probably furthered the book’s popularity. The first edition released in 1978 was 823 pages long. Recently, King and Doubleday are republishing The Stand in the gigantic version in which, according to King, it was originally written. It is an end-of-the-world scenario: a rapidly mutating flu virus is accidentally released from a U.S. military facility and wipes out 99 and 44/100 percent of the world’s population, thus setting the stage for an apocalyptic confrontation between Good and Evil.

The other book is lesser known to me—Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin. It’s a crime thriller set in medieval England. It introduces the compelling Adelia—abandoned as a child, adopted by doctors, trained in Salerno (a center of learning), and now a woman of modern sensibilities. She is summoned by King Henry II to investigate a series of gruesome murders that has wrongly implicated the Jewish population, yielding even more tragic results. As Adelia’s investigation takes her behind the closed doors of the country’s churches, the killer prepares to strike again. I picked this one up because I like the historical setting and that it reminds me of The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco.

“Moving”

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I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

My best friend is moving across country, heading back to the East Coast for the first time after years of living in California, and one of the things she’s lamented was the whole packing-the-books thing. Having moved a few years ago myself (whittling down my 3000-volume library to 2000-volumes and still ending up with something like 50 boxes of books), I sympathize.

So … the question is––what kind of moving experiences have you had with your books? (Or, just in general if you’ve got good Moving Day stories–and who doesn’t?) Did having to pack and move your books cause any changes in your book-collecting habits? Make you wish you had everything on an e-reader? Feel free to discuss!

I’ve had only one moving experience, that is, moving back to the city from college. It’s only a short 12-mile drive over the bay on the Bay Bridge from Berkeley to San Francisco. After 4 years, I accumulated about 1,000 volumes, mostly fiction, and were packed into 40 banker boxes grouped by alphabetical order. Spines up and stacked. Before packing, I held a joint garage sale with my house mates to weed some of the books and I ended up hauling 40 boxes up two flights of steps to my apartment. The moving by no means dampened my spirit in collecting books. Now I amount to about 2,000 volumes and I won’t dread about my next move which hopefully would be my own property. As for e-reader, I won’t dispute the sheer convenience and portability of the device. But I still prefer holding a book in my hands and turning the pages. I defer some of my readings to the e-reader when I travel. Gone are the days of schlepping a luggage full of books since airlines are scaling down weights allowance. I’ll have a few paperbacks in my personal belonging and a few more in my checked bag. No more than 6 or 7 books. All the rest I read from e-reader.

Dogs and Pets

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I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

My dog just had his birthday (12 years old, thanks), so … how do you feel about books about dogs or pets? Fluffy stories of fluffy family members? Solid books on training them or taking care of them? Touching reminiscences of trouble and the way a person’s dog (or pet) has helped get them through?

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I love books on dogs but I get sad and become a wet rag sometimes. It’s like seeing all the dogs and cats waiting to be adopted at the park or at the pet stores. Marley and Me by John Grogan, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron—these are all my favorite dog books. There is Show Dog, the chronicle of how an Australian Shepherd became the Westminster show winner. The famous library cat Dewey from Iowa also made a deep impression in me. I’ve got the John Steinbeck’s classic Travel With Charley and Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know by Alexandra Horowitz waiting this summer.

Summer Disaster

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I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

It’s time for summer reading, so … today’s question? What’s the worst thing you ever did to your reading material? Sand in the bindings from the beach? Dropped into the pool? Covers smeared with sunscreen?
And, if you’ve never done actual summer-time damage … have you EVER damaged your book/magazine/paper? Dropped it in the bathtub? Used it to kill a bug? Spilled with coffee?

Although I am very fastidious and meticulous with my books, I have my share of disaster. Once in Thailand, I fell asleep on the hammock and my book careened off my lap and fell right into the pool. Knowing I won’t be able to replace that book since it just came out in the States, I resorted to the most time consuming, desperate measure: to blow-dry page by page. I hardly go to the beach because sand is a problem. Sand gets into every crease and ridge. But I did manage to ward off sand from my books when I sit under the giant umbrella in Pattaya. Thailand again! Did I mention I really love Thailand? In Palm Springs I usually sit by the pool so the books stay dry. But I have to make sure I don’t leave books out in the sun because they would be dog-eared. As for sunscreen, I always wash my hands after applying sunblock. I don’t like that nasty sticky-icky feeling on my hands let alone on my books. As for food, I try not to nosh when I read because greasy fingers damage the paper. Kill a bug? That’s going a bit overboard, isn’t it?

Choosing

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I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

What makes you choose the books you read?
Genre? Reviews? Certain authors? Covers? Recommendations?

1. Bloggers’ recommendations: If my favorite book bloggers make a buzz about a book, I’m off to he bookstore.
2. Genre: I tend to read predominantly within a genre—literary fiction, translated literature, and contemporary classics (i.e. 20th century).
3. Literary Awards: I follow Booker Prize and choose my readings from the long- and shortlists.
4. Bookstore: Browsing is fun. I always look at the new book table at my local bookstores. Sometimes I’m surprised by the fruit of random browsing. The latest find is Mama’s Child by Joan Steinau Lester.

Perfect Experience

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I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

I want you to think about your ideal reading experience. Think about the location. (Your bed? Favorite chair? The beach? Indoors or outdoors?). Think about the sounds. (Is there music playing? Happy children playing in the background? Utter silence?) Is there a snack or beverage nearby? Are you alone or with friends/family (presumably being quiet enough for you to read in peace)? What kind of lighting is there? Are you dressed in something ultra-comfy? What’s your position? Curled up? Stretched out?

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My perfect experience is one in which I can completely concentrate on the words, free of any noise, distraction, and interruptions. No music, unless it’s light instrumental such as jazz or classical. Absolutely no children around—this is why I have limited to browsing at the library, where playgroup and nursery rhyme time are now hosted. A nosh would be wonderful but I have to watch the carbohydrate abound in most munchies. Usually I read alone but friends know not to be intrusive when I have company. I prefer to read in plenty of lights—at home or away. At the coffee shop I occupy the alcove basked in light. At home I sit by the window, usually upright by a table with access to stationery. The picture, taken recently, sums up the perfect reading experience. My semi-retired friend’s hilltop condo in Pattaya, Thailand is the reading haven for me. Up I wake early in the morning before dawn and workout. Then I would sit on his wrap-around balcony every morning and read, with a bowl of tropical fruits and coffee handy. For hours on end I devour the pages until they have breakfast ready and we set up the table to eat on the balcony!

50/50

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I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

My brother-in-law turns 50 this weekend. So, in his honor, please pick up your nearest book or whatever book you’re currently reading, and turn to page 50 and then share the first 50 words with the rest of us.

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The book is Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen. A new chapter begins on page 50:

I woke the next morning determined to take Belinda up on her other suggestion—the one for gainful employment. Armed with Belinda’s glowing recommendation, I sat facing the head of personnel at Harrods. He was eyeing me suspiciously and waved the letter in my direction. “If you had indeed proved so satisfactory, why did you leave this position?”

This book is the first of Royal Spyness Series. Unlike the Maggie Hope Series by Susan Elia MacNeal, (I just finished the second book, Princess Elizabeth’s Spy), Rhys Bowen’s a lighter mystery with a touch of humor and clever satire. She’s recruited by Her Majesty, not MI-5, to spy on the divorced American woman who is the latest flame of her son. Bowen’s is more an old-fashioned whondunnit, less the twists and turns of MacNeal’s internationally plotted conspiracy against the throne.

(A Bit of) Book Rant

I checked in at the Musing Mondays blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s). What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it! Also tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.

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(Picture: Leigh’s Favorite Bookstore in historic downtown Sunnyvale, 40 miles southeast of San Francisco. Fabulous indie bookstore but no Bowen mystery series.)

It all started with Mrs. Queen Takes the Train, the story of Her Majesty taking a trip to Scotland on a whim without royal escort or equerry. After that I’ve been searching for books set against England and the royalty. I stumbled upon Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, a typist who discovers and breaks the Nazi code that points to specific attacks, including the assassination of the prime minister. Now I’m burying my nose in the sequel, Princess Elizabeth’s Spy, in which this typist-turned-agent, Maggie Hope, disguised as the princess’s governess, is to investigate any espionage activity in Windsor Castle. Over the weekend I got behind the wheels looking for a similar series by Rhys Bowen but with no success at first. What do you do when your local indie doesn’t have books in stock? I drive around and check inventory. I don’t mind purchasing online but I don’t want to give my business to Amazon, which was under fire for perceived anti-gay policy. I think Amazon can totally decide what they want to sell and not to sell, but if you want to sell a LGBT book, you need to allow reviews. It’s like a business that wants the money from gays but is ashamed of its gay customers. To make a long story short, many of the indies don’t have Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness Mysteries series in stock (not even used copies) and I ended up buying the entire series at Barnes & Noble. This is how far I would go to find my books, because I don’t like waiting for packages that always come when I’m not home. It’s frustrating that you have to buy everything online and not be able to look at the item. Many stores offer free return but truth be told, I rather just get the book and be over with the hassle.