January 24th, 2010

Book 1: Storm Front by Jim Butcher



1. Storm Front - Jim Butcher - 352 pages (3 of out 5 stars)


I've been meaning to get around to this series for years, as I've heard rave reviews. After reading it, I'm lefting feeling how I almost always feel when I read a really popular mass market mystery series like this: Eih, it's okay.

After reading the book, I don't have much of a sense of who Harry Dresden is. He likes women. He's a wizard. He did something naughty in the past and the White Council and some shadow thing is dogging his steps. He's a private investigator.  A couple of people have been killed mid-coitus with their hearts ripped out and Harry must find out whodunnit. He's a vehicle to move through the plot, rather than a fully-realized character within himself. Perhaps we learn more about him later on, but I like to know who my characters are right away.

Perhaps it's because I'm writing a mystery myself, but the formula seemed clunky and obvious to me. I guessed whodunnit pretty early on. The plot was event after event, and none of the characters jumped out at me other than his skull-computer-helper-spirit, Bob.

That's not to say I hated it; I just didn't find it anything special. It was entertaining enough that I could finish it, but I'm unsure if I'll ever bother reading the rest of the series.
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Update Book 5 - Against All Enemies

Start: 12/20/09
End: 12/19/10

1. Into the Path of Gods by Kathleen Cunningham-Guler. 4/5
2. Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve. 4/5
3. The Triumph of the Moon by Ronald Hutton. 3.5/5
4. The Greener Shore by Morgan Llewellyn. 5/5
5. Against All Enemies by Richard Clarke. 4.5/5 -- The critics claim that he had an axe to grind against Shrub's Administration for not appointing him to a position in their Administration. After reading the book, you can definitely say that -- for about 30 pages in the book. The other 273 pages detail a lot of the failings of four Administrations (the current Administration is not included in this book, simply because they weren't running for office in 2004). At several junctures, Clarke points out that America has not been good about keeping events from happening, but thrives on responding to an event in the aftermath. That sort of jives with the supposed commentary of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto after the bombing of Pearl Harbor: "A military man can scarcely pride himself on having 'smitten a sleeping enemy'; it is more a matter of shame, simply, for the one smitten. I would rather you made your appraisal after seeing what the enemy does, since it is certain that, angered and outraged, he will soon launch a determined counterattack."

While a large portion of the book outlines the entire path that lead to the rise of Radical Islam, as well as detailed failures in the strategies set forth by Shrub and his cabinet after their election; Clarke does an outstanding job of providing realistic recommendations on what should take place after the 2004 election. Some of his prognostications, such as the fall of the House of Saud as a political entity in the Gulf region, did not take place; while it can be argued whether or not Pakistan has made clear steps forward into a government that embraces religious freedom or has become the smoldering sparks of a potential Caliphate based on 14th century concepts (also suggested in the book). "Against All Enemies" provides an excellent historical accounting of just how America had reached that particular point in the so-called "war on terrorism". It is far from a complete accounting, and is subject to the bias of one individual - the author himself, and was acknowledged over and over by him throughout the book's various explanations.

Some people will proclaim the book to be nothing more than one individual's posturing in order to absolve himself of critical failures in an intelligence service that refused to acknowledge a danger from a foreign entity on American shores. Others, myself included, see this book as the start of a post-mortem study on a process that needs critical, judgmental eyes focused upon it as America steps forward into battling a foe that is not as easily defined or choked off through financial spending as the Cold War foes had been. Whichever the case may be for each individual reader, "Against All Enemies" is merely one piece of the puzzle. By no means should it be treated as a "Be-All, End-All" examination of what has and has not been done in counter-terrorism operations. If anything, it can be treated as an excellent starting place which opens many more avenues of examination, which may or may not bear out what has been set forth by Clarke. Like any good forensics examination, corroboration of information from secondary and tertiary sources is what should be considered before stamping the information as "patently false", "wishful thinking", "pure fantasy" or "unvarnished truth".

6. Beyond Fear by Bruce Schneier. [In Progress]
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Books 1 - 4

Year 8! I cannot believe I have been doing this for 8 years. But here we go!

The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl - This started out a little slow, and I wasn't sure if I would get into it or not, but it really picked up about 75 pages in and I loved the rest of it. It was a little like reading historical fanfiction. I do wish I knew more about Dante before I started reading it, but everything was explained well. I now want to read the second book, The Poe Shadow.

Another Day in the Frontal Lobe: A Brain Surgeon Exposes Life on the Inside by Katrina Firlik - Autobiographical account of the author's years as a neurosurgical resident. Interesting, but not too in depth. I read a chapter of this a night before going to sleep.

The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance: A Memoir by Elna Baker - This was a much better memoir than I thought it would be. It made me laugh.

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman - Very cute story. I read this as a kindle edition, and the illustrations did not show up well. But the story was good.
hedwig
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Book #5 - I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence

Book #5: I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence - Amy Sedaris (2008, 304 pages)

I wouldn't know how to party if it weren't for Amy Sedaris. Okay, well, that's not fully true. Actually, it's not even remotely true.

In her first book, the comedienne grants us a birds-eye view into her life of pet rabbits, imaginary boyfriends and how to do nice things for yourself and others. She is the down-to-earth equivalent of Martha Stewart (seriously, when has Martha ever offered such creative ideas as a F*ck It Bucket?), and her practical ideas are laced with Sedaris' unique brand of humor.

The book not only gives great recipes and party ideas, but it also tells readers how they can cheer up friends in need of a smile, offer sympathy and even be a good house guest. And it's all done in a way that is definitely...different, which is what I appreciate about Sedaris.

I enjoyed this book, but I will admit that it is hard if you're wanting to read it cover to cover (that feat actually took me about four months because I'd grow bored rather quickly), as it can be tedious. I recommend breaking it up into chunks or reading what is relevant to your immediate needs now and picking it back up when you need something else. That's why I had to give it three and a half out of five party poopers.

Total Books Read: 5 / 50 (10 percent)
Total Pages Read: 1,661 / 15,000 (11 percent)
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1. The Alchemist's Daughter by Katharine McMahon

alchemist's daughter
Title: The Alchemist's Daughter
Author: Katharine McMahon
Year: 2006
# of pages: 338
Date read: 1/2/2010
Rating: 4*/5 = great


Description:

"There are long-held secrets at the manor house in Buckinghamshire, England, where Emilie Selden has been raised in near isolation by her father. A student of Isaac Newton, John Selden believes he can turn his daughter into a brilliant natural philosopher and alchemist. Secluded in their ancient house, with only two servants for company, he fills Emilie with knowledge and records her progress obsessively.

In the spring of 1725, father and daughter begin their most daring alchemical experiment to date--they will attempt to breathe life into dead matter. But their work is interrupted by the arrival of two strangers: one a researcher, the other a dazzling young merchant. During the course of a sultry August, while her father is away, Emilie experiences the passion of first love. Listening to her heart rather than her head, she makes a choice.

Banished to London and plunged headlong into a society that is both glamorous and ruthless, Emilie discovers that for all her extraordinary education she has no insight into the workings of the human heart. When she tries to return to the world of books and study, she instead unravels a shocking secret that sets her on her true journey to enlightenment.

The Alchemist’s Daughter is a gripping, evocative tale. Set against the backdrop of eighteenth-century London society, it is an unforgettable story of one woman’s journey through a world of mystery, passion, and obsession." -- from the inside flap

My thoughts:

This was a great book to read at the end of one decade and the beginning of another. I liked how gradually Emilie learns how her isolation has left her ignorant of not only the city life in London but how others perceive her.
El Corazon

45. Pulp Stories; 46. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus, Volume 6; 47. Seasons in Hell...

Pulp Stories
by Raymond Chandler

Started: January 20, 2010
Finished: January 24, 2010

This was a collection of all the stories written by Raymond Chandler that he didn't later turn into novels. I absolutely loved it. Even though all of the 13 stories, like most of Chandler's writing, were very similar, they were all thoroughly engrossing. These were also pretty long stories, probably averaging 50 smaller-type pages each. 583 pages. Grade: A+
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Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus, Volume 6
edited by Scott Allie

Started/Finished: January 24, 2010

On the whole, the stories contained in this collection were a bit stronger than most of those in the previous ones, but there still wasn't anything just amazingly fantastic. 392 pages. Grade: B+
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Seasons in Hell: With Billy Martin, Whitey Herzog and "The Worst Baseball Team in History"--the 1973-1975 Texas Rangers
by Mike Shropshire

Started: January 23, 2010
Finished: January 24, 2010

Probably the funniest baseball book ever written. Shropshire does a great job of recreating the profane, drunken, earthy feeling of being a sportswriter in Dallas-Fort Worth in the early 1970s. A great read if you love baseball. 233 pages. Grade: A+
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Total # of Books Read in 2010: 47
Total # of Pages Read in 2010: 9,287

Total # of Non-Comic Books Read in 2010: 16
Total # of Non-Comic Book Pages Read in 2010: 5,350

Currently Reading: Seasons in Hell by Mike Shropshire; Chronicles, Volume 1 by Bob Dylan; Cities of the Plain by Cormac McCarthy
Reading Soon: More Tintin; Raymond Chandler novels; Cities of the Plain by Cormac McCarthy; The Thirsty Muse: Alcohol and the American Writer by Tom Dardis; Chuck Klosterman IV;  More Detective Comics/Batman; World Made By Hand by James Howard Kunstler
Chaos Star

Book #2 of 2010

2. Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, with illustrations by Philip Smiley, 319 pages, Horror, Paperback, 2009.

This book feels like it sprung from the twisted imagination of someone who was reading Jane Austen while marathoning “Kill Bill Vol. 2” and decided that everything is better with ZOMBIES! I was a little annoyed in how easily Elizabeth Bennet considers killing those who offend her or her family’s honor. I also was not pleased with the illustrations; while the zombies were done well, the women were not often in Regency era clothing. There also seemed to be some confusion that some things are universally Oriental, instead of strictly Chinese or Japanese. As a fan of “Pride and Prejudice” in its original form, I found it lent itself quite well to the inclusion of Zombies and do recommend it as fun book to read.

1st book of 2010 - Beyond Green Gables


I've been watching for over a year and decided to make the plunge this year and try the challenge for 2010.

The first book for 2010 is Beyond Green Gables by Budge Wilson. In short, the book fills in the backstory of Anne's life starting with her parent's life just before she was born until she steps off the train to meet Mathew.

As a fan of the Anne books and movies, I was thrilled to discover this story as a prequel to the book series I loved as a child. The book did a great job capturing Anne, not as perfect as the original, but a great job none the less from someone other than Montgomery. I laughed and cried just like in the original. I would definately recommend this to any fans of LM Montgomery's work!  (And my 13 year old daughter is set to read this one next, as it is appropriate for all ages of Anne fans!)
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