As many of you may know, I am no longer a New Yorker, so please check out my new blog A Library of My Own. If you are just reading Life and Times, you are missing out. Thanks!

Friday, January 30, 2009

A Princess of Mars

I decided to read A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (of Tarzan fame) for Carl's Sci-Fi Challenge. And boy was this a great pick. It's so classic Sci-Fi it's great. It was written in 1911. Wow. That was a while back, huh? It's the first in a series which I might have to pick up.

So the premise is this:

John Carter is a vet of the Civil War. With only a handful of useless Confederacy currency in his pocket, he decides to go prospecting for gold in Arizona. He and his buddy strike it rich but someone has to go and get supplies and more men for the dig. On the way they run into trouble with some Indians. While hiding out in a cave, he somehow gets transported to Mars.

While on Mars he comes across a couple of different Martian races. The first group are large, war-like, and green. Think of the sterio-typical green martian and this is where it comes from.

They are at war with another group who look more like humans...except they are skin is bright red. And the green Martians have just captured a beautiful red Martian lady...the princess of a tribe of red Martians.

So of course there's the trouble John Carter gets into and out of, the little love story between the princess and John Carter, and of course a battle or two. It's definitely something a young adult could enjoy.

It was a quick and easy read and thoroughly enjoyable. I read through the library's e-book section but I found a ton of fun covers online.
These first two look more ancient Egyptian/Roman or something:

And I love the depictions of the green Martians in these:

Dystopian Novel Challange

I'm currently reading Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake and am definitely loving it. It's sort of for Carl's Sci-Fi Challenge even though it's not full Sci-Fi. Which brings me to the difference between Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and dystopian novels. Do you think dystopian novels count as Sci-Fi books? Hmmm..

Anyway, I mentioned to my husband that he should read it but he said he's never read a dystopian novel...not 1984, A Brave New World...nothing! So I got to thinking and I came up with:

The Dystopian Novel Challenge

1. Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood (Finished January 30, 2009)

2. 1984 - George Orwell (Finished April 15, 2009)

3. A Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

4. The Road - Cormac McCarthy

5. Neuromancer - William Gibson

6. We - Yevgeny Zamyatin

7. Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut (Finished February 06, 2009)

8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep - Philip K. Dick

9. Life as We Knew It - Susan Beth Pfeffer (Finished February 5, 2009)

10. World War Z - Max Brooks (Finished February 18, 2009)

11. The Unit - Ninni Holmqvist (Finished July 6, 2009)

12. The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins (Finished October 24, 2009)

Already reviewed:

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

Do you have any suggestions or must-reads for the list? I'm re-reading A Brave New World and finally reading all of 1984. I've already read Fahernheit 451 and probably won't re-read that one.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mom Days 2

We took my mom to some fun tourists places and saw the sites. But she really wanted to see where and how we lived. Fun I know. :)

So here's typical us walking the dogs:

And here is my little odd family in our park:

And here's a blurry Charlies and me at home. This is the one trick he knows. He "dances" with me :)

Hope you enjoyed the photos!

Mom Days

So I just realized that I have some photos to post from when my mom came to visit over New Year's weekend. (Since I blog at work...yeah I know...I usually don't have photos on hand to post.)

This is me and my mom in Times Square. Remember it is and was FREEZING.
And this is me and my husband: And here's a random street scene of us. I swear, for being a tall guy I lose my husband a lot:
Another random-ish one at Bryant Park. My mom should have been a paparazzo (singular for paparazzi...I looked it up).

Saturday, January 17, 2009

To the 6th power...

Brainella the Librarian tagged me on this...

The Rules
1. go to your documents/pictures
2. go to your 6th file
3. go to your 6th picture
4. blog about it
5. tag 6 people to do the same
6. smile
This is just a random photo taken near our apartment. This is Broadway Street going under the 1 Subway Line. At around Dyckman Street it goes from underground to above ground. Shortly after this intersection, Broadway runs across the Broadway Bridge over the Harlem River and you enter the Bronx.  

Check out Brainella's post because her picture just cracks me up. 

Who to tag...

1. YOU! (If you love to do meme's, play along and let me know!)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

After Dark - Haruki Murakami

I'm currently trying to start up a book club with some fellow co-workers here in NYC. We all love reading and I thought it would be fun to get out of the office once a month and meet for coffee or wine or something. So our first pick was After Dark by Haruki Murakami. I've read Norwegian Wood by Murakami already and thought he was an amazing writer.

After Dark is a short novel which takes place in Tokyo one night between the hours of midnight and dawn. Each chapter tells the time so you really feel like the night is inching by. The night, the dark, and the early morning hours felt more like a character than a setting. The story focuses on nineteen-year-old Mari who's reading alone in a Denny's. During the course of the night we meet a trombonist, the staff of a "love hotel", a prostitute, and a computer buisnessman. The reader also encounters Eri, Mari's "Sleeping Beauty" sister. How their stories weave is something only Murakami can do and only he can tell. It definitely feels like a long short story but he fleshed out all the characters so well in such a short amount of pages.

If you've never read Murakami before, After Dark is a great way to be introduced to his writing. However, I would definitely recommend Norwegian Wood, it's just an amazing book. I will definitely be reading more Murakami in the future.

Now for book covers:

This one is very beautiful:
But I kind of like the version with the full moon and the city better:I'm not too big a fan of this one. It just doesn't really fit in with the story:
I think this one is pretty popular and it's ok:And for some reason, this one is just kind of creepy to me:
***Which version do you like the best? Have you read any Murakami? Which one(s) and how do you like them?

Also Reviewed By:

In Spring It Is The Dawn
Caribous Mom
Stainless Steel Droppings
Books and Border Collies
Stuff as Dreams are Made On

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Scent of Sake - Joyce Lebra

Harper Collins has a great program called First Look where a person can sign up, check out their upcoming books, and request to read and review one. I've requested a few books but I was finally picked to read and review The Scent of Sake by Joyce Lebra.

First of all, it's historical fiction (which I love). Second, the title is just awesome. And third, my husband and I love to go out for sushi and sake. Mmm.

The book takes place in the mid-1800's Japan and follows the life of Rie Omura, the daughter of the owner of a large sake brewing company called the White Tiger. After a tragic accident involving her young brother, Rie becomes the sole heir of the company. Instead of marrying out, her husband comes to live with the family and trains to take over the White Tiger. But it's an arranged marriage and the two never hit it off. On top of that, her husband doesn't have the business sense that Rie has. And Rie is one smart business lady. But it's 1800's Japan and women aren't supposed to be heads of companies. So Rie maneuvers and manages the house and essentially becomes the main decision maker.

Obviously this creates problems within the family. Her husband feels alienated and finds comfort with geishas. Rie has problems conceiving an heir so her husband's children by geishas are adopted into the family. (Seriously, it starts sounding like a Jerry Springer show with tons of children all by different mothers and fathers.) But through Rie's management, the White Tiger rises as a top sake brewer in the country.

OK. So that's sort of a convoluted synopsis. There are tons of things I loved about the book. I loved that it showed a different segment of Japanese society that I have not read about. It focuses on the wives and families instead of the glamorous geishas. And it portrays the business aspects of sake brewing which I loved reading about. And inserted here and there are snippets of history encroaching the Omura family. The fall of the shoguns and samurai. The arrival of European outsiders on steam ships. The technological and cultural changes which inevitably changes Japanese life forever. And I loved Rie's tenacity to put everything on the line for the benefit of the Omura house and company.

But sometimes I just couldn't relate to Rie. Sometimes I understood why her family had problems because she was a little too business-like, strong-willed, and well, bossy. And there were so many characters in the family I sometimes had to stop and refer to the front page where there was a character list (very helpful).

In the end, it's a book I could have loved. It's a good read and I'd recommend it, but I wanted to dig a little deeper into the characters and love them a bit more.

Thank you to Harper Collins for sending me the book to review. The book will be available February 17, 2009.

Also Reviewed by:

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cold Day in NYC

Well it's Saturday and I'm holed up in our apartment. It's snowing out. We are supposed to get 4-6 inches. Brr. So I'm sitting at our table, looking at the wind and snow blowing outside and sipping on some freshly brewed coffee.

And I thought I'd post some photos from a few weeks ago when my friend came to town. I finally got to do the Top of the Rock thing and it was a pretty cool view. Even the cheesy lights, music, and glass topped elevator was kind of fun. It was a freezing cold day.

I love the old viewers or whatever they are called. It reminds me of an old movie.
Everything that day was dusted with a layer of snow. So pretty:
Poor Central Park. It looks so small and dead in the winter. Can't wait until spring!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Should Have Read (But Didn't) Challenge

After seeing so many great challenges floating around the blog-o-sphere, I've decided to make my own challenge. A personal challenge. Keeping myself honest. Here it goes:

This challenge is to read all those books I was supposed to have read back in high school (or whenever) that I should have read but didn't. One I pretended to read (Lord Jim) while others I never finished. (I know you are shocked!! I hope my old English teacher isn't reading this.) I have all 2009 to finish this challenge.

So without much ado, the list:

1. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller

2. The Red Badge of Courage - Stephen Crane

3. 1984 - George Orwell (Finished April 15, 2009)

4. Lord Jim - Joseph Conrad

5. The Last of the Mohicans - James Fenimore Cooper

6. Tender is the Night - F. Scott Fitzgerald


7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte (Finished but hated so I should re-read.) (Finished February 17, 2010 and loved it!)

8. The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway (Never required but why wasn't it?)

9. Anna Karneina - Leo Tolstoy (Because I'm halfway through and need to freakin' finish it.)

***Did you ever pretend to read a book you didn't?
***Excuse the picture...the Paint program only takes you so far.

Woo Hoo Won!

So today, Friday, was shaping up to be a "eh" kind of day. I am super groggy because the Charles decided to get sick three times during the night. Not something you want to wake up to. And then I was a wee bit late to work. Not too bad. know, it is just one of those days.

But I got my new jacket in the mail(from American Eagle if you're interested)...hopefully I like it:

And new slippers for mucking around the apartment:

And I just found out I won FIVE books from the blog Jane Austen Today. If you're a fan of Jane Austen, check out the blog and the sister blog Austenprose. Thanks ladies!!!

My win:

The Pemberley Chronicles

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Shack - William P. Young

My brother bought my sister, my mom, and I copies of The Shack by William P. Young this year for Christmas. He works at a bookstore and said this is a pretty big best seller right now. Oh and he bought himself a copy as well.

So I made it my nightstand book and read it in two nights. And I really enjoyed it!

Ok, back up. When I first heard about this book, I thought it looked like a scary novel. A murder mystery. A horror book. Something along the lines of Stephen King. Definitely no.

Here's the plot:

While Mack's family on vacation camping in Oregon, his youngest six-year-old daughter is abducted. Her body was never found but it's assumed she was murdered from evidence found in a nearby shack. Four years later Mack receives a letter in the mail box, from "Papa" (his wife's nick-name for God), inviting him to come back to that shack for a talk with God.

This novel packs a lot of punch. The first part is so agonizing. It's more novel detailing the vacation and his daughter's abduction. It's heart wrenching. But the second half is definitely more philosophical and theological. It addresses that hard questions. Those "why do bad things happen to good people?" and "why does God allow it?" and "how does one forgive?".

It's definitely a Christian based book. And it might not appeal to everyone and will be pretty controversial. But for me, well it got to me and it's definitely going to be a re-reader. I am really curious what the rest of my family thinks. There are some really great points but then there are some that I'm not sure I agree with. So it's a great discussion book. My one complaint is the writing is a bit too simplified for me. I guess that's meant to draw in a wider audience but I kind of like my books to have a bit of meat to them.

Also Reviewed by:

Maggie Reads

Books I Done Read

Devourer of Books

She is Too Fond of Books

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Because it's stuck in my head

After posting that I'm joining The Dream King Challenge...I now have a song stuck in my head. So because it's in my head, I'm posting it...

"If you need me
Me and Neil'll be hangin' out with the dream king
Neil says hi"--Tori Amos

***My work's computer has no audio so I hope it's the right song.

***I wish I could pull off dressing like Tori Amos.

The Dream King Challenge

I've realized that I love challenges. They make me read more and they make me narrow down what to read from my huge list of TBR books. So I've decided to sign up for The Dream King Challenge which is to read Neil Gaiman books. Woohoo! The challenge lasts all year and there are different levels and categories.

I've already read and loved Neverwhere, Stardust, Coraline, and Anansi Boys. And I've watched the movie Stardust and the mini-series Neverwhere.

Here are the levels:

Neophyte: Read one work and watch one movie
Acolyte: Read three works (from three different categories) and watch one movie
Devotee: Read six works (from six different categories) and watch one movie
Zealot: Read twelve works (from at least six different categories) and watch one movie.

Amanda's Completed Devotee List:

1. Neil Recommended: The Good Fairies of New York - Martin Millar (Finished April 24, 2009)
2. Movie: Coraline - Beautiful and creepy! (Watched September 22nd, 2009)
3. Short Stories: Smoke and Mirrors (Finished November 3, 2009)
4. Young Adult: The Graveyard Book (Finished November 12, 2009)
5. Novels: American Gods
6. Comics/Graphic Novels: The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes (Finished November 20, 2009)

Amanda's Neil Gaiman Devotee List Choices:

1. Neil Gaiman Audio Collection (read by Neil Gaiman)
2. InterWorld (not read by Neil)

Short Stories
3. Fragile Things (audio read by Neil Gaiman)
4. Smoke and Mirrors

5. American Gods
6. Good Omens (w/ Terry Prachett)

Comics/Graphic Novels
7. The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes

Young Adult
8. M is for Magic (audio read by Neil Gaiman)
9. The Graveyard Book

Neil Recommended
10. The Good Fairies of New York

Stardust (I own it so this is easy)

***For any Neil Gaiman fan, what book/comic/etc. is your favorite or what would you recommend??

***Thanks Fyrefly for recommending getting audio books read by Neil himself. I'm looking forward to commute to work will go by a lot faster :)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Hmm. Deja Vu

So I'm reading Isaac Asimov's book Foundation for Carl's Sci-Fi Experience Challenge...and wouldn't you know it, I've read this book before. I must have picked it up sometime way back during high school from my dad's sci-fi collection. I remember liking it and lately wondering what book it was. Now I know :)

Oh, and for those of you who don't like sci-fi, you can check out Asimov's Guide to Shakespeare. I have a copy at home and love it. It's goes along with the plays and gives you little insights into the terminology, phrases, places, etc. which contemporaries of Shakespeare would have known but we modern folks might not.

Monday, January 5, 2009

2008 Books Read List

I've decided to keep a list of all the books I've read each year. In 2008 I read 73 books. I think that's quite good! Obviously I didn't start out the year intending to read so much and blog about them all. But after reading some great book blogs and joining up in a few challenges, I ended up reading quite a few books. My goals for 2009 are to read at least 100 books and the Bible.

Challenges Completed:
1% Well-Read Challenge
Historical Fiction Reading Challenge
Classics Challenge
R.I.P. III Challenge

Challenges Almost Completed:
Amanda's-in-the-middle-of-too-many-books-challenge (shy of just one!)

1. The Queen's Bastard - Robin Maxwell
2. The Memory Keeper's Daughter - Kim Edwards

3. Atonement - Ian McEwan
4. My Dream of You - Nuala O'Faolain
5. Twilight - Stephenie Meyer
6. The Purpose Driven Life - Rick Warren

7. Anansi Boys - Neil Gaiman
8. Remember Me? - Sophie Kinsella
9. People of the Book - Geraldine Brooks
10. Chasing Windmills - Catherine Ryan Hyde

11. The River King - Alice Hoffman
12. The Book of Air and Shadows - Michael Gruber
13. The Last Boleyn - Karen Harper
14. I Just Want My Pants Back - David Rosen
15. The Color of a Dog Running Away - Richard Gwyn
16. Bel Canto - Ann Patchett
17. Norweigan Wood - Haruki Murakami

18. The Rossetti Letter - Christi Phillips
19. Full House - Janet Evanovich
20. One for the Money - Janet Evanovich
21. The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood
22. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy

23. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
24. The Light of Day - Graham Swift
25. The Yiddish Policeman's Union - Michael Chabon
26. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
27. Galileo's Daughter - Dava Sobel
28. The Madonnas of Leningrad - Debra Dean
29. The Colour - Rose Tremain
30. The Birth of Venus - Sarah Dunant
31. New Moon - Stephenie Meyer

32. Eclipse - Stephenie Meyer
33. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
34. The Blood of Flowers - Anita Amirrezvani
35. Sexing the Cherry - Jeanette Winterson
36. Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston
37. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
38. The Last Summer (of You and Me) - Ann Brashares
39. The Lace Reader - Brunonia Barry
40. Summer - Edith Wharton

41. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
42. These Old Shades - Georgette Heyer
43. The Penelopiad - Margaret Atwood
44. The Spanish Bow - Andromeda Romano-Lax
45. The Richest Season - Maryann McFadden
46. The English Patient - Michael Ondaatje

47. The Steppe and Other Stories - Anton Pavlovich Chekhov
48. Like Water for Chocolate - Laura Esquivel
49. Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen

50. The Terror - Dan Simmons
51. The Turn of the Screw - Henry James
52. The Best Place to Be - Lesley Dormen
53. The Manikin - Joanna Scott
54. In the Woods - Tana French
55. Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde
56. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - Lisa See
57. The Golden Compass - Philip Pullman

58. The Ice Queen - Alice Hoffman
59. Away - Amy Bloom
60. Run - Ann Patchett
61. The Fall of the House of Usher - Edgar Allan Poe
62. The Septembers of Shiraz - Dalia Sofer
63. Chez Moi - Agnes Desarthe
64. National Geographic Traveler: Egypt - Andrew Humphreys
65. When We Were Gods - Colin Falconer

66. Scot on the Rocks - Brenda Janowitz
67. Jack with a Twist - Brenda Janowitz
68. The Green Beauty Guide - Julie Gabriel
69. Who by Fire - Diana Spechler
70. The Sunday Philosophy Club - Alexander McCall Smith
71. The Cloud Atlas - Liam Callanan
72. Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict - Laurie Viera Rigler
73. The City of Ember - Jeanne Duprau