January 4th, 2010

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#1 The Writing Class


The Writing Class


Jincy Willett




Amy Gallup has taught many University Extension writing courses over the years, but this class is quite different. First of all, the generally misanthropic Amy discovers that she seems to like this particular class. Then, there's The Sniper. Someone in the class is playing malicious pranks on others in the class, and even on Amy, herself.


When The Sniper's pranks turn deadly, the class decides to continue to meet, and together they try to discover the identity of The Sniper, in spite of the fact that he is still among them.


The Writing Class is extremely clever and well-crafted. The characters were written with real depth, and the fascinating plot moved forward beautifully. The fact that it was set in the area in which I live was a fun bonus, and I can attest to the accuracy of the setting.


This was a fun read, but at the same time it had real substance; something generally lacking in light, fun reads.


This was an excellent book, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good mystery, or to anyone just looking for an outstanding read.

did you know you could fly?

(no subject)

Book #1 -- Victoria Hanley, Violet Wings, 361 pages.

At twelve, Zaria becomes one of the most powerful fairies in Feyland. But when she begins to discover a conspiracy that will rock the very foundations of Fey society, she begins to realize that great power isn't all it's cracked up to be, especially when she's only barely learning to use it. This is definitely a YA book -- older, more discerning readers will find the plot contrived and unoriginal -- but the characters are decent, and it's a relatively quick, enjoyable fluffy read.

Progress toward goals: 2/365 = 0.5% (yes, I finished it two days ago)

Books: 1/100 = 1.0%

Pages: 361/30000 = 1.2%

2010 Book List

cross-posted to 15000pages, gwynraven
  • krinek

63. Fool Moon by Jim Butcher (2009 books)


Title: Fool Moon
Author: Jim Butcher
Year: 2001
# of pages: 342
Date read: 12/24/2009
Rating: 3*/5 = good


Description:

"Business has been slow. Okay, business has been dead. And not even of the undead variety. You would think Chicago would have a little more action for the only professional wizard in the phone book. But lately, Harry Dresden hasn’t been able to dredge up any kind of work—magical or mundane.

But just when it looks like he can’t afford his next meal, a murder comes along that requires his particular brand of supernatural expertise.

A brutally mutilated corpse. Strange-looking paw prints. A full moon. Take three guesses—and the first two don’t count…" -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

Although it's been a while since I've read a Dresden Files book, I had no problems getting back in the magical world of Harry Dresden. I enjoyed all the twists and surprises, and I liked Harry learning about different types of shape shifting. I look forward to reading the next Dresden Files book, Grave Peril.
El Corazon

5. Tintin in America

Tintin in America
by Herge
 
Started: January 3, 2010
Finished: January 4, 2010
 
Ok, this was an improvement over the first two Tintin books. Not a huge improvement, but it was better. I think it was just paced slightly better--there wasn't necessarily a full cliffhanger every 10-12 panels, sometimes the cliffhangers took a full 16-18 panels before they were reached. Plus the visual gags of the lynch mob hanging Snowy right next to Tintin and the cow standing on the conveyor belt at the cannery were the funniest things I've seen yet from these books. Like I said, this isn't great, but you could see that Herge was starting to grow slightly as a writer. 64 pages. Grade: C+

Total # of Books Read in 2010: 5
Total # of Pages Read in 2010: 1,319
  • krinek

64. Murder in Retrospect by Agatha Christie (2009 books)


Title: Murder in Retrospect
Author: Agatha Christie
Year: 1985 (original: 19410
# of pages: 216
Date read: 12/24/2009
Rating: 3*/5 = good


Description:

"Amyas Crale had been famous as a painter...and infamous as a lover. His fiery wife, Caroline, had been jealous as she was devoted. So naturally it was she who was tried and convicted for his murder. Now their daughter, Carla, presents the brilliant Hercules Poirot with the greatest challenge of his career - to clear her mother's name by finding the fatal flaw in what, after sixteen years, appears to be the perfect crime!" -- from the backcover

My thoughts:

Not only can Poirot solve a recent crime, but he can solve one sixteen years later! I liked how he knew how to behave with each person, making him or her feel comfortable enough to share what they saw and believed.
Girl with Owl

1. American Parent: My Strange and Surprising Adventures in Modern Babyland

Title: American Parent: My Strange and Surprising Adventures in Modern Babyland
Author: Sam Apple
Page #: 290
Year Published: 2009

Summary: American Parent details not only Apple's personal journey into parenthood, but the cultural history of parenthood in America. It discusses circumcision, Baby Einstein videos, attachment parenting, evolution, and pouring tear-free shampoo into your own eyes to see if it's truly tear-free.

Thoughts: I loved this book. Apple's frequent displays of neurosis and hypochondria were in turns heartwrenching (I can relate!) and endearing. The historical perspective on why we parent the way we do was fascinating. I'm not a parent yet, but my stepmother recently had a baby, and it was interesting to see what she's going through, through a wider cultural lens. The book was as entertaining as it was informative, and I managed to get through it in a few short days.

1/50
anemone
  • cat63

Book 1 for 2010

Vampire$ by John Steakley 357 pages

There's quite a good story buried in this book somewhere, but it's been badly mangled in the telling.

I decided that I need to explore more fully my reasons for liking or disliking the books I review, so I'm making my first attempt with this book.

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  • dj_89

Entire List for 2009, goals for 2010

1. Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke
2. Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke
3. Dracula by Bram Stoker
4. Spirits in Bondage by Clive Hamilton (aka C.S. Lewis)
5. Brisingr by Christopher Paolini
6. The Last Tycoon (An Unfinished Novel) by F. Scott Fitzgerald
7. Out of Africa by Karen Blixen
8. English Passengers by Matthew Kneale
9. The Alchemist by Ben Jonson
10. The Last Jew by Noah Gordon
11.Castle in the Air by Diana WynneJjones
12. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
13. Liar! and other modern stories by Various Authors
14. A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
15. Phantastes by George Macdonald
16. From the Cradle to the Graves: Short Stories by various authors
17. The Jupiter Myth by Lindsey Davis
18. A Room With a View by E.M. Forster
19. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
20. The Day of Creation by JG Ballard
21. Flight of the Fire Thief by Terry Deary
22. The Alchemyst: the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott
23. Flight by Sherman Alexie
24. The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes
25. Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones
26. Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones
27. Trigun 1 by Yasuhiro Nightow
28. Trigun 2 by "
29. Eve: A Novel of the First Woman by Elissa Elliott
30. The Thief Lord by cornelia funke
31. Skin and Other Stories by Roald Dahl
32. Chosen by Ted Dekker
33. King of the Pygmies by Jonathon Scott Fuqua
34. The Rosetta Key by William Dietrich
35. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Leguin
36. The Pilgrim's Regress by C.S. Lewis
37. The Light Princess and Other Fairy Stories by George MacDonald
38. The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. LeGuin
39. Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf
40. House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones
41. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
42. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
43. Scattered Crumbs by Muhsin Al-ramli
44. Christmas in Mabeleland by Stuart Cloete
45. Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
46. The Way to Rainy Mountain by N. Scott Momaday
47. Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce (reread)
48. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams
49. A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
50. Like Water for Chocolate by ....
51. Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda
52. Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
53. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
54. Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce
55. The Game by Diana Wynne Jones


So I did read more than this but i neglected to write them down. I finished the More then compelte hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy which is 3 more books other than the ones i wrote down, so really i read about 58 books this year. I am so astonished! i never realized before how many books that is! I also posted this whole list because it is neat to go back through the whole year and see what i read and remember where i was when i read them. I am already working on about four books right now and i think i am going to shoot for 75 books for 2010. here's the first one!!!!!

1. The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. LeGuin
This is the third and final books of the Earthsea Trilogy. I like LeGuin's Stories and her writing style but it is slow. It isn't slow in a bad way though it is just steady. There is a lot of action but the way she writes it makes it seem so normal, like dragons and mages are part of everyday life and it shouldn't surprise you that these adventures are occurring. IT is a very interesting way to write and it engrosses the reader in the world very well. I would like to read some of her other works now as well.
El Corazon

6. Homage to Catalonia; 7. Cigars of the Pharaoh; 8. The Blue Lotus

Homage to Catalonia
by George Orwell
 
Started: January 2, 2010
Finished: January 4, 2010
 
What a fantastic read. I knew nothing about this book going into it. It's non-fiction and gives Orwell's take on his serving in the militia during the Spanish Civil War. It's not a "war is hell" memoir but also not a "going to war was a lark" memoir either. It's just darn good writing. One thing it did make me want to do is see if there are any books on Orwell's wife since she was also in Spain the whole time he was off serving in the militia. 232 pages. Grade: A

Cigars of the Pharaoh
by Herge
 
Started/Finished: January 4, 2010
 
This is the fourth Tintin book and it was even slightly better than the last one. This one actually had a decent central plot instead of just being Tintin and Snowy's random adventures in a strange place. It still had some weaknesses--mainly way, way, way too many convenient plot devices. 64 pages. Grade: C+

The Blue Lotus
by Herge
 
Started/Finished: January 4, 2010
 
And this is the first of the Tintin books that I can say I pretty much enjoyed. The story was much tighter, the secondary characters weren't just straight stereotypes. My only big gripe is that a lot of the Chinese characters looked identical to me because Herge had them all wearing that same blue outfit. That made it hard to keep up with the story every now and then. 64 pages Grade: B

Total # of Books Read in 2010: 8
Total # of Pages Read in 2010: 1,679

Currently Reading: John Barleycorn, or, Alcoholic Memoirs by Jack London; More Tintin
Reading Soon: More Tintin; All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy; Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens; The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler, The Voyeur by Alain Robbe-Grillet

1. I Never Promised you a Rose Garden - Joanne Greenberg

1. I Never Promised You A Rose Garden - Joanne Greenberg
My first book of 2010 which I actually started at the end of last year. It is about a 16yo girl with schizophrenia and takes us through the three years she spends in a mental hospital. It is based on the author's own experiences but has been fictionalised.  I had heard good things about this book and normally like books about mentall illness (such as The Bell Jar and Girl, Interrupted) but I found this one to be slightly underwhelming, despite the cover saying that it is a classic bestseller. I could not relate to the protagonist at all for the first half of the book and began wondering what the point of the story was. The second half was much better as the plot gained direction and as she heals, she becomes a more accessible character.

Given its modern classic status I would recommend it to people who already have an interest in this sort of fiction but would not recommend it too people who are new to this genre - I would definitely recommend The Bell Jar or Girl, Interrupted before this one. The end of the book somewhat makes up for its beginning.

3/5

July to December Backlog - Sorry!: 24-48

I didn't quite make it to 50 books in 2009, I confess. Possibly some sort of page quota, since many of the books were sizeable.

24. Margaret Atwood - The Tent (2006) (156 pp)
25. Alison Weir - Eleanor of Aquitaine (1999) (427 pp)
26. Wendy Northcutt - The Darwin Awards 4: Intelligent Design (2006) (292 pp)
27. Alison Weir - Queen Isabella (2005) (c. 328 pp)
28. Alison Weir - Katherine Swynford (2007) (356 pp)
29. Elizabeth Hay - Late Nights on Air (2007) (368 pp)
30. Gregory Maguire - Wicked (1995) (538 pp)
31. Gregory Maguire - Son of a Witch (2005) (357 pp)
32. Gregory Maguire - A Lion Among Men (2009) (312 pp)
33. Alison Weir - Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses (1995) (441 pp)
34. Edward Rutherfurd - The Rebels of Ireland (2006) (863 pp)
35. Alison Weir - The Princes in the Tower (269 pp)
36. Alison Weir - Henry VIII: The King and His Court (2001) (618 pp)
37. Alison Weir - The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1991) (619 pp)
38. Alison Weir - Children of England (1996) (376 pp)
39. Alison Weir - Elizabeth the Queen (1998) (515 pp)
40. Alison Weir - Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Murder of Lord Darnley (2003) (666 pp)
41. Mark Pearson - Christian Healing (2004) (329 pp)
42. Mark Pearson - Why Can't I Be Me? (1992) (224 pp)
43. Diana Gabaldon - Lord John and the Hand of Devils (2007) (303 pp)
44. Diana Gabaldon - An Echo in the Bone (2009) (821 pp)
45. Terry Goodkind - Phantom (2006) (675 pp)
46. Terry Goodkind - Confessor (2007) (757 pp)
47. John Brookes - Garden Design (2001) (384 pp)
48. Franz Kafka - The Trial (1925 (Der Prozess); tr. 1994 by Idris Parry) (178 pp)


Margaret Atwood's The Tent was extremely disappointing. It had been a Christmas present from friends; otherwise, I assure you, I wouldn't have bothered. It's a collection of short pieces, some less than a page long, and smelt of a publisher's greed. What next? A slim, sensitive volume of Margaret Atwood's dry cleaning receipts?

This was, for me, the Year of Alison Weir. I made my way through all her historical biographies, starting with Eleanor of Aquitaine and finishing with Mary, Queen of Scots (though, in the latter case, it was only a few years of her life covered by the book). I had originally only intended to read the three on Eleanor, Isabella (wife of Edward II, he of the poker up the butt), and Katherine Swynford, John of Gaunt's wife, but then I found I couldn't quite bring myself to stop. Weir is an eminently readable historian. The earlier books, however, aren't rigorously footnoted (perhaps at her publisher's request to make them easier reading); it's clear, however, that she is no slouch in the research department. Weir's main interest is really "social history" -- the day to day lives of these figures. As a result, she pores over household account books (digging up some extremely interesting information or evidence from time to time) and gives the reader a great sense of their way of life. The true benefit of Weir's books is the research she does regarding female historical figures. Despite their social status, a good deal of these queens' and paramours' lives goes unrecorded. The men in their lives enter the history books because of their deeds, while these women are recorded almost solely because of they brought forth children. The book on Katherine Swynford was the weakest of the books -- to be honest, it was really more about John of Gaunt. But that is to be understood, given that primary sources on Katherine Swynford -- first mistress, then wife -- are almost nil. (I was interested to learn while reading the books on Katherine and on Isabella how closely Geoffrey Chaucer was linked to Swynford's family.) Reading the series of books on the Tudors might have been old hat for me, given that I grew up (literally) on a steady diet of Tudor biographies, but Weir was able to make even those lives stand out in sharp relief with new facts and new arguments. (For instance I had no idea Henry VIII seemed to have been as covetous of property as he was of women! In another era he could have been a playa in real estate!)

Elizabeth Hay's Late Nights on Air I read at the insistence of my sister in law. It wasn't the sort of book I'd normally read, but I was interested to read something set in the Northwest Territories, as my brother in law lived there for ten years and I've never been. It tells the tale of several lost souls working a radio station deep in the frozen Canadian north. The book won a major literary prize in Canada and is indeed beautifully written and worth a read.

I had read Wicked several years ago, but rereading it was a rich and rewarding experience. The first time round I kept expecting it to be more like The Wizard of Oz and felt somewhat annoyed when it didn't do what I "wanted" it to do, I'm ashamed to admit. This time, I was more at ease and let the book simply be what it was. The experience was altogether different, and I was dazzled by the depth of Maguire's political criticisms and the originality of his imagination. Son of a Witch took a while to get going for me, and while it will never reach the mastery of the first volume, in the end became a worthy companion. A Lion Among Equals, while a good read, again, fell short of the heights of Wicked. I wonder if Maguire has more to say about Oz?

Edward Rutherfurd's The Rebels of Ireland -- well, it's not Leon Uris's Trinity, let's just say that. Sometimes the cast of thousands thing works, and sometimes it doesn't. The first one was OK (partly because the pre-Christian Ireland section was so intriguing), but Rutherfurd will never live up to James Michener's panoramic legacy. If you want to read a superb novel using this timeline device, read Michener's The Source.

The two Mark Pearson books I read because they had been given to me by my mother and late father. The book on Christian healing was all right, though I found the psychobabble a bit tiresome. Why Can't I Be Me? is designed for people who have done the Myers-Briggs psychological tests and who also are actively involved in their church. I didn't find his insights as to how to use INTJ's and ENFP's in church settings to be terribly interesting, to be honest.

Diana Gabaldon is one of my very favourite authors and she seldom disappoints. Her eighteenth-century Lord John series takes a minor character from her more famous Outlander series and uses him to solve mysteries. Lord John is a fascinating and fully fleshed out character in his own right, and the short stories and novella in this collection are well worth a read. Like many others I had waited impatiently for An Echo in the Bone to come out. It's fabulous. I'm completely biased. I adore this series, and am coming to conclusion that Gabaldon could write about Jamie and Claire playing cards for 800 pages and it would still be interesting. So there.

As for Terry Goodkind, he of the Wizard's First Rule series, I am happy to say that, having waded my way through all twelve (thirteen if you count Debt of Bones) books in this series, I WILL NEVER READ ANOTHER BOOK BY TERRY GOODKIND AS LONG AS I LIVE. His books are pompous, poorly written, politically reactionary, and I will shoot myself if I have to listen to Richard bloody Rahl blather on and on for EIGHT PAGES ever again. The sad part is that the first couple of books were great. Then he took off his mask....

John Brookes' Garden Design is an updated version of a long-loved book. After Goodkind's tripe, it was lovely to sink into beautiful photographs of fritillaria and ferns and enjoy a walk down Gardening Fantasy Lane. LOL.

Of Kafka's The Trial, I can only say this: what was I thinking? My brain hurts!

So, thus was 2009 for me. After a week of reading up on old issues of Style 1900, Chatelaine and old alumni magazines, I have returned to Reading Books, and am starting 2010 by rereading Of Mice and Men. I didn't make it to 50 books this year, but I did read a lot of memorable history!

48/50
20716 pages
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New Year, new list

Okay, so I actually started my challenge in March, so I technically have a few more months left on my year, but these last few months have been CRAZY! and I fell way behind in my reading. I graduated with my bachelor's degree in December, so I got caught up in the grad school and job search and my reading list got a little neglected. I would be on book 30 for the year...

So, I'm prepping for grad school, looking for a new job, and starting a new year, so I am going to restart my book list for 2010. Hopefully, life will settle down for me a little for a few months at least. lol

Book 1

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

I loved, loved, LOVED this book. I've always loved the movie, so I decided to finally sit down and read the book. Crichton keeps the pace up but gives the reader a lot to think about at the same time. I'm definately going to look up a few more of his books. I also like comparing the book to movie and see what changes were made. I have to admit, there is one change they made in the movie that I was actually very happy about, but I won't say what so I don't spoil anything. lol
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  • maribou

Children's Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie (unabridged audiobook)
Compelling. Alexie has the gift of making tragedy funny, and this book was even better read aloud by the author's own voice. I found myself listening to this without even doing something else to keep my hands busy, a very good sign. Top notch.
(1/200)

The Children's Book, by A. S. Byatt
It is rare that I love being immersed in a book so much that I find reasons to put off reading it when I get close to the end, just because it will be over way too soon. Byatt is one of my favorite writers and I think this is the book I've always been hoping she would write. Beautiful language and characters I will be mulling over for days. I think this is what I wanted The Magicians to be (even though that's cheating since this one has the advantage of being set Victorian-through-WW1 instead of being contemporary). Love love love love.
(2/200)
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  • gerbie

Mickey Spillane - Bloody sunrise

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Mickey Spillane – Bloody sunrise


Once upon a time, almost a quarter century ago, one of my classmates showed us a book by Spillane. Something special. When James Bond became interesting, the camera turned away. Other detectives seemed more human. Mike Hammer, the hero of many Spillane book, certainly was. Interesting stuff for teenagers.

Somehow, I really can’t remember when I bought the book, this book was still on my shelf. The hero is Tiger Mann, but the idea remains the same. Mann works for an agency without a name. More secret than the FBI and CIA. If the problems become really big, his agency saves the country.

Inbetween killing several guilty and innocent parties, Mann also manages to deal with several beautiful women, but inadvertently both police and secret services are after him. While saving the country he became the villain, how ungrateful can a country be?

Typical one dimensional cold war thriller. No need for a second layer, no need for a proper story, just action around a Soviet refugee.

Quote: “We’re pretty sure he’s been on some of the major blowups of world policy in the last few years and although nobody really knows him, he has access to almost anything through the Commie spy network. If we could break up that chain it would be a big job.” (p.115)

Number: 09-061
Title: Bloody sunrise
Author: Mickey Spillane
Language: English US
Year: 1965
# Pages: 157 (12971)
Category: Thriller
ISBN: n/a