July 26th, 2007


Book 35: One of year's best

White Man's Burden: Why The West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good - William Easterly

Having good intentions is not enough when you never carry through on doing them.

That's the basic premise of this clever and insightful book by a former World Bank economist. Now a college professor, Easterly sees a huge difference between the folks who have grand ideas and vague goals (the Planners) and the people who solicit feedback on the ground for smaller, measurable projects (Searchers.) In the most basic of economic terms, Planners arrogantly decide what to supply, while Searchers are rewarded by figuring out the demand.

To Easterly, his means that the Planners have not helped the first tragedy of the world's poor (that they have no resources to deal with so many calamities facing them) and often worsen the second tragedy (that the relatively cheap solutions to those woes are not reaching those who need them).

Along the way, he offers empirical evidence and personal anecdotes to back up his assertions that the grandiose schemes failed in large part because they didn't account for the complexity of facts on the ground and local customs and institutions.

It can be a little overwhelming, especially when he notes that some of the grand ideas did, in fact, work - when they dropped a lot of pretense and make the piecemeal improvements he insists are the way to get things done).

And that, of course is Easterly's point. He isn't against aid or even larger projects, or so ideological that he insists the poor should just "search" for their own solutions without help. He just wants us to recognize that our cure can be worse than the disease, so it's time to try something new. He expands on this with a critical eye of other Western types of aid, such as forced regime change (Iraq anyone?) and nation building, always coming down with the same conclusion that any Grand Idea from afar just won't work on the ground.

The jargon and graphs can be a little intimidating when you're not up on your economics terms. That's why one of the best parts of the book is Easterly's use of asides and pop culture references, to make sure we all get it. Who couldn't get the message when the ruthless Jonas Savimbi's link to democratic ideals to Paris Hilton's acquaintance with chastity?

The book makes me wish I had Easterly as an economics prof, instead of a right-wing apologist who soured me on the discipline after just two courses. That's right: Easterly is so good, I would voluntarily return to a classroom to talk about inputs and incentives and try to learn once and for all how to read a graph. How's that for a good recommendation?

curling rock

Done 34 books now

So I started back to reading Gods and Legions by Michael Curtis Ford right after I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by Rowling.  Of course I had to scan the first 100 pages that I read to recap what happened before I stopped reading it for two days.  I finished last night because there was a thunderstorm just as I was getting reay for bed and couldn't sleep.  It was good and I really enjoyed the book.

Then I started reading The Eagle's Prophecy by Simon Scarrow.  This is the next book in the Cato series that I have been reading.

No. 59 & 60

59. "Married by Morning" by Shirley Jump. I am such a dork, I didn't realize this was the second in a series of two books, so I read this one first. It was cute, and a very quick read, but it didn't suck me in the way some of her other books have. I loved Shirley's other books, and she seems like a great person, so hopefully this was just because of the confines of writing a particular Harlequin series. Here is a link for the plot.

60. "How to Be Cool" by Johanna Edwards. I liked this book very much. I believe this is the third major book this author has written, and all of her stories talk about women who have had or are currently having issues with their weight. This particular story is about Kylie, who lost 75 pounds and has made herself over to be a "cool coach." She shows people how to come out of their shells and be less nerdy, and more popular. The only problem is she still feels like a nerd herself on the inside, and a series of events make her really question herself and what she is doing with her job.



17 Dark to Mortal Eyes by Eric Wilson

I had trouble staying with this one. I don't think it was the books fault so much as what was going on with me. I think if I read it within a week (instead of over a month) I would have enjoyed it more. Josie, one of the main characters, was really the only one I cared about. A lot of the story evolved chess, I never really got chess so some of that was lost on me. I did like though book though. This is the first in a series of five. I'll probably read the next one, but I'm not in a hurry to get to it.

The books of my numberless dreams (23)

Title Sandman 4: Seasons of the Mist
AuthorsNeil Gaiman



Subject 2007, comics, Dave McKean, dreams, the endless, fantasy, fiction, Neil Gaiman, graphic novel, Lucifer, magic, Morpheus, mythology, sandman, series, urban fantasy, VertigoRating A+++
Why PickedIt is my continuing obsession with reading everything Neil Gaiman.
Summary from AlibrisRealizing that condemning his lover Nada to Hell 10,000 years ago was perhaps not the most courteous response to her rejection of him, Dream decides to return to Hell to free her. When he arrives there, Lucifer, King of Hell, announces his decision to abdicate, empties Hell, locks all its gates, and hands the Key to Hell to Dream. Now, a host of assorted deities and other otherworldly entities are turning up in Dream's realm, hoping to persuade, bribe, or coerce him into giving the Key, and thus the rule of Hell, to them. Meanwhile, the multitudes of damned souls, freed from Hell, are turning up on Earth. This story arc is particularly important because it introduces one of the main themes of the series, which is that while other characters embrace the possibility of change, of reinventing themselves, Dream is incapable of following suit, although on some level, he clearly wants to. To do so would mean abandoning his responsibilities and that would be inconceivable for him--a point of view which has tragic consequences later in the series.
Review Travel to Hell only to get there and find it is closed and you are the new owner??? Dark, deep. profound storytelling. This is what made me find the Lucifer series by Mike Carey.
First Line

1. Dies the Fire by SM Sterling
2. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
3. Valiant by Holly Black
4. Ladies of Grace Adieu and other stories by Susanna Clarke
5. Cell by Stephen King
6. The Watchmen by Alan Moore
7. Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall by Bill Willingham
8. Strands of Starlight by Gael Baudino
9. Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan
10. Gossamer by Lois Lowry
11. Earth Power: Techniques of Natural by Scott Cunningham
12. I'm Proud of You: My Friendship with Fred Rogers by Tim Madigan
14. The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
15. Armageddon Summer by Jane Yolen and Bruce Coville
16. Winkie by Clifford Chase
17. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
18. New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
19. Daughters of the Moon: Into the Cold Fire by Lynne Ewing
20. The Power of Patience by Mary Jane Ryan
21. Transmetropolitan 6: Gouge Away by Warren Ellis
22. 1602 by Neil Gaiman

Total Books
13 /23
Graphic Novels
Young Adult
Page Total
book windowseat

Changes in the wind...

Having the community on moderated status for this past week has forced me to take a much harder look at how the community is functioning, and I've decided that it's time for a few changes. As of the writing of this entry, membership stands at 6,251 readers. Wow. I never expected a community that I started to keep track of my reading goals and for my friends and I to share book ideas would ever expand exponentially to be one of the largest reading communities on LJ (of course, being in the LJ Spotlight back in January played a big role in that).

I noticed some things this past week, though...while the community is still generating 25-30 entries a day, 60% of those entries get no comments. Of those that *do* get comments, another 25% get 2 comments or less. For those of you playing along at home, that's 85% of the community entries that get get less than 3 comments. You only have a 15% chance of posting an entry to this community that will evolve into anything approaching, in the most liberal sense of the word, a discussion. To me....well, that's not much of a community. Isn't the entire point of the community *discussion*?

Why is this happening? Well, I have a few theories. One is that the sheer size of the community and volume of posts has driven the community off of most people's Friends Lists. That means that although a lot of people are participating by *posting* entries, very few people are *reading* those entries. Another thing that has become apparent to me as I've been forced to review each individual entry in the moderator queue is that a large percentage of the posts I see are what I think of as content-free.

How do I define content-free? Lists. Entries that consist of nothing more than a list of what you've read (often with a progress meter tacked to the bottom) with no descriptions of the books read, commentary on whether you enjoyed the book or not, etc. are useless from a community standpoint.

Please don't get me wrong...I in no way want to discourage people from participating in the community. In fact, the changes I'm making are intended to produce the exact opposite result. I'm not expecting people to write a master's thesis on the content of every book that they post to the community. However, the honest truth is that entries that simply list the books you've read with no other content A) take up room on people's FLs and thus force them to drop the community from their reading list and B) are rarely actually read by anyone who *is* following the community. I'd like to start seeing entries that people feel that they can participate in instead of yadda yadda scroll scroll right past. If the quality of the entries improves, I'm hoping that people will find it worthwhile to add the community back to their regular reading list, and we can get some discussion activity going rather than just lonely entries.

Where am I going with this? Well, I'd like to try to raise the awareness of what sort of entries are appropriate to post in a community and what entries are best left to your personal journal. One of the other issues I've noticed is that because so few people read the community in its entirety, many of my moderation posts go unnoticed/unread by a huge segment of the community. I've decided that now is a good time to head in this new direction, since the community is on moderation and I'm in position to force people to listen to me. ;)

In case you aren't aware, moderation in a community has an option to release members on a one-by-one basis to unmoderated posting privileges. This is going to be the new world order in 50bookchallenge. In order to be released to unmoderated status, you will need to submit an entry that meets the new standards that I'm going to lay out below. Entries that I think no longer meet the parameters of where I'd like to see this community head will be rejected (and invited to repost, of course!) with a link to this entry explaining the new guidelines:

Posting guidelines - Effective 7/26/07:

  1. Before you post, ask yourself this question: Is what I'm about to post potentially useful/interesting to a good portion of 6,000 people?

  2. You are still welcome to post updated lists of your progress to date, but I ask that you place lists of books you're not discussing in the current entry behind a cut.

  3. For the benefit of the community readership, please include some detail on the current books that you're posting about. As I said above, I don't expect a full dissertation in every entry, but at minimum, the following would be helpful:
    • The book's genre. I still encourage tag usage, but if you review 5 books in an entry and have 5 tags, it can be difficult for anyone unfamiliar with your books to know which tag goes with which book.

    • A brief description of the subject matter, preferably in your own words, but you may link to someplace like amazon.com or C&P an outline from another site as long as it's credited as such.

    • Whether you enjoyed it and/or recommend the book to others.

  4. Entries consisting of lists only with no other discussion/content should be posted to your personal journal.

  5. Plot spoilers must still be posted behind a cut, regardless of the age of the book.

  6. While plot spoilers must be cut, try to avoid cutting the entire review of your book simply because it contains a spoiler. Doing so prevents people who might have otherwise been interested in the book from benefitting from your review. Do your best to put only the specific spoiler details behind the cut.

  7. Tag usage isn't required, but it is appreciated, as it increases the utility of the community for other members. Please note that if you do elect to use tags, only include tags that are relevant to the current books that you're reviewing, not tags that relate to prior books in your list (provided you're including that sort of list behind a cut in your entry). Tag links only pull the last 100 entries that used that tag, so using it on an entry where there's no discussion of a book in that genre decreases the usefulness of that tag for people looking for book suggestions.

If you're confused by the "lists behind a cut" requirement above, here's an example of how I see this working:

Entry subject

Hai guyz, I haven't updated in a while, here's what I'm up to!

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6. Book Title/Author - [genre] - [plot summary] - [personal thoughts]
7. Book Title/Author - [genre] - [plot summary] - [personal thoughts]
8. Book Title/Author - [genre] - [plot summary] - [personal thoughts]

ETA: To sum up, I just want to be clear...the above guidelines are what I would *like* to see in your day to day posts. I will not, however, be moderating every single entry in perpetuity. Once a member has submitted an entry that demonstrates to me that they understand what an appropriate community post is, they'll be released to unmoderated status and all of their future posts will post directly to the community, bypassing the moderator queue. What this means to you is that I'm trusting you to make *future* posts in the same manner. I don't want this to turn into an overly regimented "So and so didn't include the genre on his 25th book!" sort of environment. I don't have 12 hours a day to spend here watching every single word that gets posted, and I don't think YOU guys want that sort of oversight. This community has always been relatively drama-free, and I hope it stays that way. :)

So...what do you guys think? Too odious? Too restrictive? Utter genius and you love me forever? ;)

#66 and 67

Title: The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession
Author: Mark Obmascik
Publisher: Free Press
Year: 2004
Genre: Biography, birdwatching
 268 pages
4/5: See my review here.

Title: Charlie Bone and the Beast (Children of the Red King #6)
Author: Jenny Nimmo
Publisher: Orchard Books
Year: 2007
Genre: Children's/young adult, fantasy/science fiction, disappointing
 399 pages
1/5: See my review here.

Read all of my reviews at shoshanapnw.
did you know you could fly?

(no subject)

Book #64 -- Barbara Cohen and Bahija Lovejoy, Seven Daughters and Seven Sons, 220 pages.

Novelisation of an Iraqi folktale in which a young woman dresses as a man and goes into business to support her poor family and earn dowries for her sisters. The only thing she didn't plan for was to fall in love with the prince. This is one of the books I read for the bibliography I'm writing. It turned out not to meet my criteria, bit it was a good book nonetheless, and very interesting given the current political climate to read a Muslim folktale that has a strong female as the main character.

Progress toward goals: 207/365 = 56.7%

Books: 64/100 = 64%

Pages: 20972/30000 = 69.9%

2007 Book List

cross-posted to 50bookchallenge, 15000pages, and gwynraven
Irish Saints

Week 30, Book 23

Previous list here.

Diary by Chuck Palahniuk

I "read" the audiobook version, which was narrated by Martha Plimpton.

This book is in keeping with the previous Palahniuk books I have read (Fight Club, Haunted, Survivor) as it details the life of a sort of social reject or otherwise "lonely" person. It fulfills his RDA of sexual perversity and gore, emphasis on the gore.

I find that I am really enjoying his writing style and was able to pull some decent quotes from it.

I was somewhat disappointed by the ending. Maybe disappointed is the wrong word. Apathetic, maybe? I was really interested in the ending and I listened intently through the second half of the book, waiting for the outcome. . .but when it was over, I was thinking "Why did I read this?" I didn't dislike the book, just was left feeling kinda used and dirty.

Which is, I think, Mr. Palahniuk's intention.
frost rose

(no subject)

Himalaya by Michael Palin, 2004

This excellent travel book, a companion to former Monty Pythonite Palin's BBC series on the Himalaya, follows his journeys through Pakistan, India, Nepal, Tibet, China, Bhutan, and Bangladesh. Yes, I know that Tibet is part of China, but Palin treats it as the Tibet Autonomous Region, which is how the Tibetans prefer to view it. He also treats Nagaland and Assam, far flung parts of India which are on the border with Bangladesh, as separate entities from India. The book and the photographs, taken by Basil Pao, are terrific, and I enjoyed my vicarious journey thoroughly. The author and crew climbed up to the Annapurna and the Everest Base Camp, quite a feat for a man from Sheffield, the former mountain causing Palin some really nasty altitude sickness, but by the end of the book he's as healthy as a horse at any altitude. I highly recommend reading any of Palin's travel books, especially this one, and Sahara, which I read earlier this year.

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
159 / 250

2007 Books 26-30

26. Girls Night Out by Various Authors - Chicklit authors (like Meg Cabot) submit stories for charity. As with most collections, some stories were good and others sucked. I do enjoy the genre of short stories though; it is perfect if you don't have a lot of time to read. I was finishing up the school year and preparing to move when I was reading this so it was a great book for that time.

27. The Grim Grotto by Lemony Snicket - Only two more of these to read. I've been tired and frustrated with the writing style of these books since the third or fourth one, but feel compelled to see what finally happens to the Baudelaire orphans. The submarine captain annoyed the piss out of me though and I wanted to chuck the book against a wall several times.

28. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech - On a trip with her grandparents, a girl tells stories about her best friend and slowly unravels the mystery of what happened to her mother. I still like Ruby Holler best of Creech's works, but this was a great read.

29. Hitler Youth by Susan Campbell Bartoletti - I had briefly heard of Hitler Youth, but knew next to nothing about it. This children's book tells the story of Hitler's rise to power, WWII and the Holocaust from the perspective of Hitler Youth members (who were preadolescents and teenagers). A lot of touching personal stories are used and there were lots of photographs. Talk about history coming alive.

30. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling - Reread in preparation for Book 7.
stock- budding flowers

The Deathly Hallows

Book #16
Book Title: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Author: J.K. Rowling
Genre: fiction; fantasy; children's literature
# of pages: 759
My rating of the book, F- [worst] to A [best].: A+
Short description/summary of the book: (taken from amazon.com): Readers beware. The brilliant, breathtaking conclusion to J.K. Rowling's spellbinding series is not for the faint of heart--such revelations, battles, and betrayals await in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that no fan will make it to the end unscathed. Luckily, Rowling has prepped loyal readers for the end of her series by doling out increasingly dark and dangerous tales of magic and mystery, shot through with lessons about honor and contempt, love and loss, and right and wrong. Fear not, you will find no spoilers in our review--to tell the plot would ruin the journey, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is an odyssey the likes of which Rowling's fans have not yet seen, and are not likely to forget. But we would be remiss if we did not offer one small suggestion before you embark on your final adventure with Harry--bring plenty of tissues.
The heart of Book 7 is a hero's mission--not just in Harry's quest for the Horcruxes, but in his journey from boy to man--and Harry faces more danger than that found in all six books combined, from the direct threat of the Death Eaters and you-know-who, to the subtle perils of losing faith in himself. Attentive readers would do well to remember Dumbledore's warning about making the choice between "what is right and what is easy," and know that Rowling applies the same difficult principle to the conclusion of her series. While fans will find the answers to hotly speculated questions about Dumbledore, Snape, and you-know-who, it is a testament to Rowling's skill as a storyteller that even the most astute and careful reader will be taken by surprise.

My Thoughts: Wow...just simply an AMAZING end to such a great series. I cannot believe that it is truly over and done with. This was one of the best books of the series...the best being the very last chapter, IMO.

16 / 50 books. 32% done!

Next read(s): I am sorry to say that I won't be looking forward to any more adventures with Harry Potter, so I am about to start Step on a Crack by James Patterson.

X-posted to my book community, bookz_n_07 and a whole lot of other places! ;P
book windowseat

How about some content instead of moderator blather? :D

I'm still behind pace for 50 books this year, but this may be one of the best years I've had in recent memory. I think I only hit 25 for the whole year in 2006, so I'll take what I can get.

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  1. Drowning Ruth, Christina Schwartz - A book about family secrets centered around a young single woman (Amanda) whose sister has died and left behind her daughter Ruth for Amanda to raise. The circumstances of her sister's death are the secret that Amanda cannot bring herself to reveal, and it shapes the lives of everyone around her. I believe this selected for Oprah's Book Club. My thoughts: It was engaging (I think I read it in under 2 days), but this sort of plot occasionally makes me want to reach into the pages and shake the main character and yell "JUST TELL SOMEONE YOUR SECRET ALREADY SO WE CAN GET ON WITH IT!!" Of course, if they did that, there's be no plot and hence no book, so there's that.

  2. The Road, Cormac McCarthy - A post-apocalyptic novel about a man and his son travelling alone though a grey and grim (and dangerous) world as they make their way towards the coast in search of "the good guys", of which there are few left in this dystopican future. I like Cormac McCarthy's style, and I'm a huge fan of dystopian fiction, and this book didn't disappoint. The book focuses on the relationship between the father/son and explores the power of hope and will to survive. I mostly enjoyed it, however...the anal and pedantic part of me occasionally had a hard time getting past the paucity of detail about what had happened to the world. I know that this was deliberate on McCarthy's part, but I had a hard time imagining what could have happened to result in the world he described and it interfered with my suspension of disbelief.

  3. All the Pretty Horses (The Border Trilogy, Part I), Cormac McCarthy - A young man in post-WWII Texas finds himself aimless after his grandfather passes away and his mother sells the family ranch. He sets off for Mexico with his best friend and their horses, hoping to find a future for himself, but finding instead heartbreak and hardship. Again, I'm really enjoying McCarthy's style, and I couldn't put this book down. I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.

  4. Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Marisha Pessl - A teenage genius (Blue) and her father, an itinerant professor of poli/sci, settle down in a small town in NC for her senior year before going off to Harvard. Blue meets a mysterious teacher named Hannah, who is murdered (not a spoiler, this is set up in the intro) and sets off a chain of events that turn Blue's life and future upside down. Easily one of the best books I've ever read. Pessl's use of language nearly makes me weep with gratitude. Descriptive and clever without making you feel like she's showing off having memorized the thesaurus. Hundreds of sneaky little pop-culture references, and a page-turning plot that will have you unable to put the book down after page 250 or so. I look forward to her future works.

  5. Hannibal Rising, Thomas Harris - A novel covering Hannibal Lecter's childhood and the horrors he suffered during his family's exile during WWII and the genesis of his eventual madness. This book had potential, but I think Harris is painting by numbers at this point. I read this in the span of a few hours on a bus trip to the Watkins Glen Wine Festival, chosen solely because I knew it would be fluff, and I was right. One of the inherent problems with a prequel is that we already know Hannibal Lecter, so there's absolutely no tension in the scenes where his fate might be at risk. There are also some contradictory things going on in Hannibal's mind (what leads how down the path to cannibalism) that are just a little hard to believe, considering how intelligent and self-aware Hannibal is purported to be. I give it a giant "Meh."

  6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling - Yes, I succumbed. Blew through it in about 10 hours, now I don't have to worry about having it spoiled while I moderate your entries. ;) That's all I have to say about that.

In progress: The Crossing (The Border Trilogy: Book II), Cormac McCarthy
Colone Patchwork is LOVE!!!

Books 21-25

21. Spökflickan (original title: Ghost Girl) by Torey Hayden (non-fiction)
Torey Hayden is a psychologist who specializes in mutism in children. She also writes books about her experiences with some of her charges. The "ghost girl" of the title is an eight-year-old little girl who has never spoken in school. But when she does start to speak, the things she says are nothing if not disturbing, as are her actions on the rare occassions she acts out. Whatever it is that is bothering the girl, it's certainly not good news.
I found the book interesting, as most of Hayden's writing, but it was frustrating that events got no real resolution; there is just no telling what really happened to the girl, if the things she claimed had been done to her really had happened, or if they were just the product of a mentally ill child's imagination.

22. Burpojken (original title: Murphy's Boy) by Torey Hayden (non-fiction)
Another result from my "I got a gift card" book shopping spree. I liked this one better than the previous book, as it has a definite end, as far as any story about a still-living person can have an end. Kevin, a boy in his mid-late teens, is plagued by fears and spends most of his time hiding out under tables, pulling up the chairs against the table to form a protective cage. When Torey Hayden comes into his life he hasn't spoken in several years, and has been institutionalized since his mother gave up her parental rights when he was eight. Further complicating things is the lack of information about him in his file.
And when Kevin finally does start speaking again and is able to shed his fears, the things he says and does are enough to make his therapist wonder if releasing him from the cage under the tables really was for the greater good...

23. Bara barnet (original title: Just Another Kid) by Torey Hayden (non-fiction)
The tale about Hayden's final class, before she moved to Britain and got married. She was talked into taking the group of children on while waiting for her permanent visa. In addition to the children, three of whom are scarred by having lost family members to the violence in Belfast, she also finds that she has to take care of her classroom assistant: the alcoholic mother of one of the children.
What annoyed me the most about this book is the shoddy translation job. The Swedish title more implies "just a child" as used when expressing sympathy for a child that's seen too much or similar, whereas I'm guessing the original title is a reference to Ladbrooke, Hayden's helper who is herself in dire need of help. What's even worse is that the name of a popular children's book figure (Curious George) was translated literally rather than to the character's established Swedish name. From what I can tell, the book was first translated in 1989, and I am reasonably sure Curious George was translated by then, having grown up with those books.

24. Misstänkt (original title: Half Moon Ranch 10 - Little Vixen) by Jenny Oldfield (young adult/horse/mystery)
I forgot to cancel a Pony Club package, so I ended up with this book in my mailbox. It's a decent enough book, I suppose, about what I expect of Pony Club books, and not much more. The plot is pretty "blah" and railroady; there's only about one twist in the entire thing, and it feels like most of the book goes from point A to point B and not much more. If I'm going to read YA mysteries, I much rather be reading Nancy Drew files.
A famous reining rider with huge debts comes to Half Moon Ranch for a week as a guest instructor, along with his horse Little Vixen. After he has a huge fight with the ranch owner's son, the barn catches on fire and Little Vixen is almost caught in the flames, leading to suspicions that he might have started the fire to get the insurance money.

25. Aprilhäxan by Majgull Axelsson (fiction)
Desirée was born in the 50's with severe celebral palsy and epilepsy, and has never been able to walk or stand as her legs don't function. Her mother sent her away to an institution for deformed and retarded children, advised to do so by doctors who insisted Desirée would never be able to learn to even eat on her own. All of her life was spent in the hands of doctors, some of them kind and caring and some of them treating her like an interesting case study and not much more. She has another gift, however, which allows her to experience the world she can never go out into: she is an April witch, and she can insert her self into birds or people or even a drop of water, if she wishes to.
She is also obsessed with the thought that one of the three girls her birth mother fostered after she was abandoned lives the life that was really meant for her, and at first her intervention in their lives is a matter of trying to figure out who stole what was rightfully hers. As time passes, however, her focus changes to simply finishing the story the doctor she is in love with has asked her to tell: what happened that afternoon, when he found Ellen, Desirée's birth mother, collapsed on the floor, with all three girls standing in shock around the body?
I've previously read bits and pieces of this book, but it wasn't until I read it through properly now that I realized I never got around to sitting down and reading it from start to finish. I should have, as it is a very interesting read.

one long update

I've been so busy reading (and catching up), that I've neglected by book updates.
My ratings system:
0 stars - don't bother
1 star - eh
2 stars - liked it
3 stars - loved it
4 stars - life, mind or outlook changing

14. The Guy Not Taken by Jennifer Weiner

3 stars  - loved it
I loved almost all of the stories; the title story was the only one I did not enjoy.  It's a fascinating collection because it covers Weiner's writing from college to the present.  There are some of the same characters from her novels, and there is a story that was an early incantation of one of her novels.  Seeing the evolution of Weiner as a writer and the evolution of her characters throughout life was fascinating.

15. Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar
2.5 stars - liked it a lot
I wanted to read this novel in preparation for the television show. I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Yes, it's teen literature, but it's fun and rather naughty.  There is rampant sex, drinking and drug use, but it's a world of fantasy that's fun to glimpse.

16. Make Him Look Good by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez
3 stars - loved it

This book is a vacation to Miami all by itself.  It's a smart and fun look at a seemingly unconnected pop star, firefighter, sisters who are opposites, and those around them. I admire authors who seamlessly transition multiple narrators and manage to make all the characters have authentic voices. I plan to read more of her books, and I've started reading her blog.

17. You Know You Love Me by Cecily von Ziegesar

3 stars - loved it
Gossip Girl gets better!

18. Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indridason
2 stars - liked it

Indridason's first Icelandic mystery, Jar City, is a gem. I eagerly awaited the follow-up, Silence of the Grave, but it took me over a month to actually finish the not-quite-300-page novel. It's a good book, but it's not a great book. The characters remain darkly real and conflicted with life and the case, but the mystery at the center of the book is not terribly riveting. I do look forward to the third book being translated from Icelandic to English.

19. The Innocent Man by John Grisham
3 stars - loved it

I never would have picked up a John Grisham book on my own, but after reading the first few chapters with my email book club, I was hooked.  It's a fascinating and terrifying look at the justice system of one small, Oklahoma town and men who were wrongfully incarcerated.  It's both a human story and a cautionary tale of injustice on a grander scale.

20. All I Want Is Everything by Cecily von Ziegesar
3 stars - loved it

More Gossip Girl fun.

21. Strapped: Why America's 20- & 30- Somethings Can't Get Ahead by Tamara Draut
2.5 stars - really liked it

Many of Draut's arguments and evidence weren't new to me, as a late-twenty-something, but it's a fascinating book.  The crux is how the world has changed in so many large ways over the last forty years that impact our sense of adulthood.  I highly recommend this book.

22. Because I'm Worth It by Cecily von Ziegesar
3 stars - loved it

I'm still into Gossip Girl.

23.  Skylight Confessions by Alice Hoffman
4 stars - mind changing

I didn't love this book right away, and I even thought the first twenty pages or so would make a lovely short story. I wasn't sure the story had much more to tell.  Alice Hoffman is a superb writer I don't read enough, and this book is beautiful.  It had me in tears so suddenly I left the coffee shop I was reading at because I was attracting attention.  It's a book I will reread and cherish.

24. I Like It Like That by Cecily von Ziegesar
2.5 stars - really liked it

After Alice Hoffman, how can one love another Gossip Girl novel?  I find a way...

25. The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz
3 stars - loved it

It's rare to find a laugh out loud, touching family story and mystery all in one.  Lutz has a sense of humor that borders on wicked from time to time, but she is both talented as a writer and brilliantly funny. I can't wait for the next novel.

26. You're the One That I Want by Cecily von Ziegesar
2.5 stars - really liked it

Yep, still reading Gossip Girl.

27.  Last Seen Leaving by Kelly Braffet
4 stars - mind changing

This book had my mind racing throughout. It is beautifully written, articulate about the realities of life and family.  I can't get this book out of my head, and I look forward to reading Braffet's other novel.

28. Paris Hangover by Kirsten Lobe
1 star - eh

I loved the first 100 pages, and I tolerated it until about 200 pages in. Then, the narrator became whiny and irritating to me. The book is far too long, and the story lets so much time pass without explanation that the constant stream of men all seem the same.

29.  Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
4 stars - life-changing

One of the most beautiful books I've ever read. I love Gilbert's outlook on life. I am a devotee. 

30. Nobody Does It Better by Cecily von Ziegesar
2 stars - liked it

31. City of Fire by Robert Ellis
3.5 stars - loved it so much

Perhaps the best mystery I've ever read, but definitely in the top five.  I love the narrator, Lena.  It's both a great book and a great mystery.  I recommend it to all

And I'm caught up. I promise to do shorter installments in the future
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61. Cry For The Strangers - John Saul - 416 pages. A psychologist decides to write a book and wants to get away from the big-city-bustle of Seattle. He and his wife take off on a road trip to find a quiet coastal town to stay in while the books gets written. They arrive in a small fishing village that just doesn't seem quite right. This novel includes ghost stories, serveral murders, intrigue, shunning of strangers in a small town and plenty of action. There also remains enough pages to thoroughly understand several of the main characters.

61 / 120 books read and 22,741 / 50,000 pages read

29. Moonraker by Ian Fleming & 30. Night by Elie Wiesel

29. Moonraker by Ian Fleming  (Fiction/Espionage)

This Bond novel had 007 staying at home in an unusual twist of events. I liked the premise, but the book fell flat in the middle before picking up again. The first bit was good, as was the last, but in between was lacking.


30. Night by Elie Wiesel (Nonfiction/Holocaust/Memoir)

Somehow I've never gotten around to reading this one until now, and Wiesel's work is certainly unbelievable. So much so that I am inclined to agree with his statements in the prologue - unless you were there, it is impossible, even through reading about it, to truly understand. The acts were so despicable, I had trouble accepting them at times, despite the fact that I know them to be true.


9,736/15,000 = 64.90% of the pages
30/50 = 60% of the books
56.44% of the way through the year
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New, just starting this challenge, ect.

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling
Well, everyone knows what this one's about. I liked it well enough, though I was disappointed with the ending.

2. Three Girls in the City: Self Portrait - Jeanne Betancourt
Teen lit
Three girls, all taking the same Photography class in New York City. They're completely different, and get paired up into a group together for a project. It's takes off from there. This was a reread for me, and I enjoyed it just as much as I did the last few times. It's not that long, only 162 pages. I don't have much else to say about it.

3. Hitler's German Enemies: Portraits of Heros Who Fought the Nazis - Louis L. Snyder
Just what the title says-- it's all about Germans who stood up against Hitler. All in all, very entertaining and informative, though there were areas that confused me. I would probably enjoy it and understand it more if I reread it.
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Book #65 -- Isaac Newton, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy and System of the World, 680 pages.

Finally I've finished this. I freely admit I didn't understand half of it. But the half I did understand -- incredible! It was fascinating to read things that we learn in grade school now as facts being presented merely as theories, and unpopular ones at that. To know that here was the first time many of these things had been proposed. This was very difficult going, but what a learning experience!

Progress toward goals: 207/365 = 56.7%

Books: 65/100 = 65%

Pages: 21652/30000 = 72.2%

2007 Book List

cross-posted to 15000pages, 50bookchallenge, and gwynraven

Book number 3

Deja Dead by Kathy Reichs

I read this book because I've been watching "Bones" on TV and the series is supposedly based on Kathy Reichs' books, although on the evidence of this one, it's very loosely based indeed.

Which is not to say that it's a bad book, just that the character of Temperance Brennan is very different. This is a competent whodunnit/medical police procedural but it felt very "stretched out" at times, as if the author had to make a certain page count before revealing particular clues.  Not a bad book, but not an outstanding one either.

First Post (Book 27)

27. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. Overall, pretty good. It's a fantasy novel based on the complications a teenage girl faces when she falls in love with a vampire. I loved some of the minor characters (the vampire's family and Jacob Black), but it didn't live up to all of its hype. It's good, but it's not fantastic. Don't expect something life-altering.

26. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling. I'm pretty sure a genre and explanation isn't needed here. :P I loved the book. If you liked the others, you'll enjoy the last one.

And because I joined a little over half-way through, recommendations!

If you enjoy fantasy, I recommend:
1. Anything by Neil Gaiman (the man is a genius).
2. The Princess Bride by M.S. Morgenstern. A fairy tale about true love with a very odd, endearing sense of humor.

If you like satire:
1. Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk. It's unlike anything I've ever read before. The last survivor of a religious cult becomes a celebrity and chaos ensues. Very witty and original. Fans of Fight Club (the movie or the book) should read it.

And for aspiring writers:
1. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. An instructional writing book infused with quirky humor and stories about being a writer. If you're looking for straight rules or mechanics, I wouldn't recommend it. But if you'd like a funny read sometimes instructing and sometimes showing you how to write well, I highly suggest reading Bird by Bird.

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26 down

Without Feathers by Woody Allen

I got the idea to tackle this book when I read another challenge member's positive review of Getting Even. I was very much prepared to love this book, as I am an embarrassingly huge fan of Woody Allen films. But the latter genre may work better for Woody Allen's style. Some of the "observations" were a little over the top. A lot of it was wonderfully funny, cynical and absurd in the usual way, poking fun at the institutions of religion, the intellectual elite, marriage, etc. My favorite part was the play, Death. Very funny.

Grade: B-

Next up:
I must finish a colossal collectiopn Fitzgerald short stories that has been marinating on my shelf for months.
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Books 96 and 97

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling. I don't think I need to get into too much background here. Without giving too many spoilers away, this was a great conclusion to this series (the epilogue was a bit sappy, and there were no major surprises). It was a roller coaster ride: tense one moment, humorous the next -- before knocking you flat on your back with some surprise or other. This is a lot darker -- a LOT darker -- than the previous books, so parents should be forwarned. 

The Crystal Shard, by R.A. Salvatore. A friend recommended these fantasy books, so I finally decided to give it a go. Not the best I've ever read, not the worst. It's very readable and pretty fast-paced. A lot of the material is "been there, done that," but you have to like Drizzt, the dark elf hero. 

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97 / 150