January 6th, 2010

got books? [books busy]
  • sio

new decade, new challenge!

so i failed miserably to keep track of my books read here. this year, i hope to do better. for me, i'd like to read 100 NEW books (not counting re-reads, though i will mention notable/favorite rereads from time to time).

kicking off....

#1 - Jake by Leigh Greenwood [Cowboys series]
#2 - Pete by Leigh Greenwood [Cowboys series]

i cannot say enough praise-wise about Mr. Greenwood and his novels. Seven Brides is by far my favorite series of his, but the Cowboys is trying to surpass that.

the premise of the series (copied from author's website--the words are his)
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working on:
The Wise Woman by Philippa Gregory - Alys, young apprentice to a rumored witch, flees and joins an order of Catholic nuns. when the abbey is ransacked, leaving Alys the sole survivor, her life takes a very different turn. very enjoyable thus far.
Alexander the Great: Murder in Babylon by Graham Phillips - historical mystery study....was one of ancient history's most famous rulers, who dropped dead at the young age of thirty-two, possibly the victim of foul play? author explores the events leading up to the day Alexander died and presents eight people that he considers could be suspects. slow reading in some spots, but very interesting idea. recommended for students, as each chapter has at its end a section that seems to be of use for study guides, research/book reports and the like.

# 2 Kindred


Octavia E. Butler

Dana is a "modern" young black woman living with her husband, Kevin, in Los Angeles, 1976. Suddenly, she finds herself in Maryland, 1819, where slavery is a way of life. She sees a young, white, red-headed boy struggling in a river, and realizes that she must save his life.

She figures out that he is her ancestor, Rufus Weylin, and she must keep him from danger until he has children with her other ancestor, the slave, Alice; thus ensuring her own existence.

Life is, of course, extremely dangerous for a black woman in the South of the 1800's, and Dana finds that when her life is threatened she is sent back to 1976. Yet, any time that Rufus is in danger, she is called back to the past.

Gosh, where to begin? This was an amazing book! Butler was such a talented writer! She never once lost the voice of any of the dichotomous characters, whether Dana or Rufus; it was as if the characters were speaking directly, telling their stories, while the author retreated into the background. Even among great writers, it is a rare talent for the author to completely disappear, IMO.

What a powerful novel! It was painful to read, and...important.

The symbiotic relationship between Dana and Rufus seemed to stand for the relationship, in general between slave and master. The way that Dana acclimated herself to the 1800's and the realities of slavery, and the other methods she found to cope were all very telling.

This book leaves the reader with so many thoughts and ideas; has so many points for discussion, that it would be the perfect read for a book club.

I urge not just book clubs, but everyone, to read this important work!

Default Ron

Book 1

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Pages: 608


B&N Synopsis


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.

A spectacular finish to a phenomenal series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a bittersweet read for fans. The journey is hard, filled with events both tragic and triumphant, the battlefield littered with the bodies of the dearest and despised, but the final chapter is as brilliant and blinding as a phoenix's flame, and fans and skeptics alike will emerge from the confines of the story with full but heavy hearts, giddy and grateful for the experience.

It’s been a few years since I read this, and I remember it being so dark and heavy, that I thought it would be a while before I came back to reread it. But after two years, I was ready to give it a go, and I’m glad I did. It’s just as good as I remember, and because it’d been a while, there were several things I’d forgotten. Definitely one of the better books of the series, even if it is horrifically sad.

Books completed: 1/50

Pages completed: 608/15,000


Book #1: Ellen Foster

I thought my first book of the year was going to be Northanger Abbey as I'm halfway through it on audiobook. However, I picked up Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons yesterday and finished it up last night. My review from goodreads:

The almost stream-of-consciousness style of this novel allows phrases of perfect veracity to be slipped into the narrative, which, when noticed, offer striking revelations straight from the jumbled mind of an abused child (who is but more clever for it). Infused with this authenticity, the narrative follows her brief first-person account of two eventful years of her early life. Compared in the cover blurb to Holden Caulfield, I find Ellen to be more reminiscent of her contemporary, Lily Owens (The Secret Life of Bees), and the atmosphere of racial tension often adds to this. Ellen, like Lily, is matter-of-fact and somewhat brash, yet she remains unceremoniously likable. Her candid reflections turn what would be a run-of-the-mill story into a sturdy, resounding narrative.

Books 1 and 2

Book 1
There Is No Freedom Without Bread - Constantine Pleshakov

In the fall of 1989, I had just started a class that was to look at the politics of the Cold War. As turmoil in the Eastern European countries began to boil over, the professor told us to all take back our books and instead buy subscriptions to national newspapers. We would watch history unfold, and he would fill in the back story on his own.
This historian's take on the collapse of communism for the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall falling is to some revisionist. The chestnut that somehow President Reagan brought about the transformative change with his strong stance is the one best served when looking through American politics.
But to have paid attention to each country, and its unique history, is to see that the each place had internal struggles that were bound to erupt and put pressure on an economic system that was quickly running out of resources.
Pleshakov attributes the entire fall to a long uprising in Poland that mixes nationalism with Catholicism. In his mind, the elevation of Pope John Paul II did more to kill communism than any political speech made by either the east or the west.
That is not to say that he doesn't give credit to leaders like Reagan, for inspiring many, or even to Gorbachev, whose insistence that each Soviet country had to handle its own affairs he credits with freeing the GDR.
In the newspapers of the day, each incremental change was viewed as momentous. But looking back, it's easy to see why Pleshakov titled his book with wordplay from the Solidarity movement (There is no bread without freedom).
For as much as the Eastern Europeans wanted the freedom provided by capitalism, they did not want to jettison the security offered by communism. That those two cannot be easily reconciled is clear enough to see when not looking through the prism of politics.
In the end, throwing off communism was not an action but a process that continues today.

Book 2
Closing Time - Joe Queenan

Joe Queenan, whose acerbic wit can sometimes be simply described as bluntly cruel, came about his cynicism the old-fasioned way. He earned it.
His memoir could be seen as explaining those years earning it, in the shadow of a vicious drunk of a father and wraithlike absent mother who moved him and his three sisters in and out of public housing and rough neighborhoods in 1950s and 1960s Philadelphia.
But this is also a coming-of-age tale, an homage to two blue-collar men who stepped in and helped when Queenan needed them most in his bid to escape poverty, the underclass and, most of all, his brutal father.
Sadly, for as much as he shares, there are many gaps in the telling of his story. Near the end of the book, he mentions that his mother has a wonderful sense of humor. This aside runs counter to the book's entirity, wherein she is seen as someone who doesn't love her husband, never wanted children and hides whenever the man she married savages his children with belts, hands, bottles or whatever might be lying around.
Similarly, for all the tale of moving from various Catholic parishes and details of his time in a junior seminary, Queenan drops on his reader,w tihout explanation, that he does not believe in God. Again, this comes near the end of the book, set up in a dependent clause with no additional information.
Queenan is at his best, though, when he is in rant mode. He rails against poverty and those who find redemption in it. He rants against his family and hose who could have helped but did not.
And, like in the essay that made him famous, he attacks the notion of substance abuse as a disease in general and the AA 12-step program in particular. The most angry he ever was at his father, he writes, is when he attempts a scripted apology from the 12-step program.
Compared to the mundane lives that pass for fodder in memoirs these days, this one stands out. it is not Queenan's best work, but it will do.
  • krinek

65. A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie (2009 books)

Title: A Murder is Announced
Author: Agatha Christie
Year: 1990 (original: 1950)
# of pages: 237
Date read: 12/29/2009
Rating: 3*/5 = good


"A murder is announced, and will take place on Friday, October 29th, at Little Paddocks, at 6:30 pm. . .

The ad in the local paper is a joke, of course. In bad taste, of course.

But none of Miss Blacklock's friends can resist calling on her at the appointed hour. Certainly not Miss Marple. . .

At 6:30 precisely, the lights go out. . ." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

This was a good mystery with lots of twists. I liked how Miss Marple and the Detective Inspector Craddock gradually put together the truth surrounding the murder announcement.


65 / 100 books. 65% done!

20485 / 30000 pages. 68% done!
  • noachoc

(no subject)

When I said that I had topped out 2009 with exactly 100 books, it turned out I lied. I was poking about online and came across a novel entitled A Rebellious Heroine by a gentleman named John Kendrick Bangs. I'd never heard of either novel or author, but the title amused me and I figured it might be worth a shot. It turns out to be the story of an author who is trying to write a story about a woman. This author prides himself on realism and finds his characters by going into a sort of trance and plucking them, fully formed, from the ether. He's supposed to be writing a book to entertain young American women, so he puts a lot of thought into the hero, making him just the sort of man that young American women would like, but, unfortunately, doesn't pay quite enough attention to the heroine who, it turns out, hates the hero, knows she's in a novel and resents it, and absolutely refuses to do what the author wishes. This sends the poor author into fits as he strives to find a hero she WILL accept. It's... actually very clever, and really quite funny and the ending is probably one of the better endings I've ever come across. I wholeheartedly recommend it. If you feel so inclined you can find it, in its entirety, here. It doesn't take very long to read and it's definitely worth it.

The goal for 2010 is to read 105 books. I know it's a silly number but I so barely made it to 100 in 2009 that I'd like to add a bit more padding this time around. Also, as an entirely undefined and therefore generally useless goal, I'd like to read more books that are actually useful to brain development. That is, more non-fiction and less books about zombies.

On that note, the first book I got through in 2010 was The Living Dead by Jeffrey Goddin. It was surprisingly not horrible. In fact, it was actually pretty good. It wasn't as good as World War Z of course, but it was a surprisingly entertaining novel about zombies and voodoo and things in New Orleans. I don't really have much more to say about it than that. I went into it expecting so much to hate it that liking it at all made it a huge success.

  • dj_89

Book 2 of 75

2. The Solitaire Mystery by Jostein Gaarder
reading this made me want to read Sophie's World again. Gaarder does an excellent job of mixing just enough intriguing plot and characters with his philosophy that you never get bored. I actually liked this a lot better than sophie's world, but that is probably just because i read that one in high schooland reading a history of philosophy in high school is a bit overwhelming. This story is about a boy named hans thomas who is travelling with his father to greece to find his mother who left him when he was four years old. On the way he receives a tiny book and a magnifying glass with which to read it. his father used to be a sailor and loves philosophy. what i loved about this story was that even though you could piece together all the connections before the end, it was still impossible to put down and kept my full attention until the very end. this book not only is a wonderful fantasy but it makes a lovely story about family legacies as well as making you truly think about life in general. i would definitely recommend it to anyone.
SPN: Dodge

Books 1 - 3 of 2010

1] Isis - Douglas Clegg
Summary: A novella about a girl named Iris and the lengths she would go to to be with her brother, Harvey.
Thoughts: Though it was short, and I read it as a last-ditch effort to complete my challenge from last year (I only made it to 49), I loved this little book. The story was a haunting, beautifully written tale of love, loneliness, and loss. The illustrations were gorgeous, and they seemed to add so much to the story. This is truly a jewel of a novella and I think everyone should read it.
Rating: 9/10

2] Beastly - Alex Finn
Summary: A modern re-telling of Beauty and the Beast from Beast's perspective, set in New York City.
Thoughts: I liked this book. It took me a while. At first, the obnoxious superficiality of Kyle (Beast) in the way that he saw the world made me disgusted, but as the novel progressed and he grew as a character, the writing became much better and in the end was a delight to read. The love story between Kyle/Adrian/Beast and his Beauty was very sweet and made me smile on several occasions. I enjoyed both the characters of Kendra and of the tutor, whose name escapes me. When I looked up this book on Amazon, I was surprised to find that it has been made into a movie that will be coming out in July. Do not judge the book by the trailer. The Beast in the book has fur and claws and teeth and looks like the Disney version. In the trailer, he has weird spidery veins and no hair anywhere. Don't know why they would want to do that, but oh well. That's Hollywood for you.
Rating: 8/10

3] The God Box - Alex Sanchez
Summary: High school senior Paul has dated Angie since middle school, and they're good together. They have a lot of the same interests, like singing in their church choir and being active in Bible club. But when Manuel transfers to their school, Paul has to rethink his life. Manuel is the first openly gay teen anyone in their small town has ever met, and yet he says he's also a committed Christian. Talking to Manuel makes Paul reconsider thoughts he has kept hidden, and listening to Manuel's interpretation of Biblical passages on homosexuality causes Paul to reevaluate everything he believed. Manuel's outspokenness triggers dramatic consequences at school, culminating in a terrifying situation that leads Paul to take a stand.
Thoughts: I was engrossed in this book from page two. Being a non-practicing Catholic who has mild skepticism for "Bible Thumpers", I didn't think I was going to be able to handle all the scripture that goes into this novel, but I really enjoyed it. It sort of made me want to pick up my own Bible just to read further into the passages Sanchez talks about. The struggle inside Paul was compelling and made me ache to give him a hug and tell him that everything would be all right and that it was perfectly fine and natural to be a homosexual. Overall, I really enjoyed the novel and I think it will be a great help/comfort to teenagers who are both deeply religious and also struggling with their own sexuality.
Rating: 10/10

I'm feeling really good about my chances of not only completing the challenge this year, but possibly exceeding it. I've finished three books within the first week of the year, and am 75% finished with two audiobooks. WooHoo!

3 / 50 words. 6% done!

601 / 15000 words. 4% done!
  • maribou

Magical Snowflake

The Magical Christmas Cat, by Nalini Singh, Erin McCarthy, Linda Winstead Jones and Lora Leigh
Okay, so I vaguely knew these were romance authors and the picture on the cover is all sweet and fluffy - a white cat with a snowglobe. So I thought this would be light romance novellas with a dash of fantasy and a Christmas theme. Something cheerful and fluffy for the holidays. No, no, no, no. Paranormal romances, mostly VERY hot and heavy, featuring changelings, demon cats, etc. (yes, each one is vaguely Christmas-related - that's the only thing I got right from the cover/title.) Goodness gracious!! I could not have read it on public transit without feeling uncomfortable (I guess maybe that is why the cover was so innocuous). That said, I do think I will read some more Nalini Singh one of these days (good characters, fun fluff) and the others were quite competent. Not sure I would've enjoyed all of them if I was healthy enough to notice the plot holes and clunky writing - but the one that felt clunkiest was also the one with the hottest sex... *fans self, changes subject*.

The Art of the Snowflake, by Kenneth Libbrecht
Very beautiful pictures of snowflakes. With just enough text that I didn't completely zone out staring at all the pretty pretties.
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Book #2 - The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder

Book #2: The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder - Rebecca Wells (2009, 395 pages)

Rebecca Wells strays from her famous YaYas in her 2009 novel The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder, and while it is often hard for authors to pick up a new set of characters, Wells does it wonderfully.

As a young child growing up in La Luna, Louisiana, Calla Lilly Ponder realizes that she has a unique gift, that she's only ever seen before in the hands of her mother. Not only can she produce beautiful hair, but she can help soothe the souls of those who come utilize her beautician services.

The book follows Calla Lily throughout  the first thirty-some-odd years of her life, stopping at all of the major points such as her first love, the death of her mother, going to beauty school in New Orleans and marrying. Throughout her life, she is watched from above by the Moon Lady, a spiritual guide Calla Lily's mother taught her about as a young child.

Wells tells Calla Lily's tale beautiful, giving the readers a wonderful narrative that is often hard to put down. The only part of the novel that I struggled with was the ending, which seemed a bit too easy, especially considering what Calla Lily had experienced. But that little niggle aside, this is a wonderful story, which is why I give it a strong four out of five moonlit skies.

Total Books Read: 2 / 50 (4 percent)
Total Pages Read: 718 / 15,000 (5 percent)
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Dresden Dolls Flowers

My first books of 2010

I decided to do the 50 book challenge again in 2010. Mostly because my reading has been tapering off, due to theatre, video games, knitting, and various other pursuits, and I am trying to motivate myself to read more.

1. Black Swan Green by David Mitchell

This is quite different from the other two books of his I've read (Cloud Atlas and Ghost Written), but I still loved it. It's basically a coming of age story, but it's done really well. It appears to be semi-autobiographical, and Mitchell really captures adolescence and the ways people hide themselves to fit in better, without sinking into being maudlin.

2. Survivor by Octavia Butler

This is part of her "Patternist" series, which is not my favorite thing she's ever written, but is still intriguing. Butler also says that this is her least favorite novel she ever wrote. Overall, I liked it well enough, but I do think it lacked the depth and freshness of some of her other works.
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2010 #1-3

Thanks to my extended X-mas holidays and some half-started reads, here are my first 3 books of 2010! :D

#1. "A Christmas Carol (and "a crichet on the hearth") by Charles Dickens
I can't believe I had never got around to reading this. I think that I've seen so many adaptations that I thought I knew it inside out! Loved it, was actually surprised to find how funny some of it was!

#2. "The Art of Happiness" By HH. Dali Lama and Howard C Cutler.
Initially I found this a very hard read to get into but ultimately I really enjoyed it. It focuses mainly on how somw Quasi Buddist teachings are combined with psychological principles for everyday use.

#3. "Vernon God Little" by DBC Pierre.
Unpredictable, unfair and unbelievably enjoyable. More than anything the author's style of writing and turn of phrase made me finish this book within a day. For a novel that deals with some serious and terrible real life parallels, its focus is perfect. Sometimes Gritty, sometimes hilarious. Highly recommended!

Lets hope the rest of my reads are this satisfying... :D
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