February 9th, 2010

colours

Book 14: The Lady in the Tower: the Fall of Anne Boleyn by Alison Weir.

Book 14: The Lady in the Tower: the Fall of Anne Boleyn.
Author: Alison Weir, 2009.
Genre: Non-fiction. Biography. History
Other Details: Hardback, 416 pages.

In The Lady in the Tower Alison Weir focuses upon the imprisonment and execution of Queen Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII's second wife, in 1536, an event unprecedented in English history.

Weir has reaccessed the evidence from primary and secondary sources and overall provides a highly researched and richly detailed portrayal of the last days of Queen Anne Boleyn. Obviously a work such as this does have a tight focus, rather than being a full biography.

This was a splendid book and one I'd been looking forward to reading ever since I'd heard it was being published early last year. One of the pleasures of The Lady in the Tower is that Weir's emphasis upon primary sources allows the reader to evaluate these alongside her in almost forensic detail. There were plenty of notes, references and a bibliography to please my inner historian and is written in a style that is scholarly yet highly readable.
El Corazon

78. On the Road With Bob Dylan; 79. Cyberpunk...; 80. Freaky Deaky; 81. Talk About the Passion...

On the Road With Bob Dylan
by Larry "Ratso" Sloman

Started: January 31, 2010
Finished: February 2, 2010

A decent read with a lot of great insight into Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue. It did get a bit long-winded about halfway through when Sloman dropped the first person narrative and started writing in the third person about "Ratso." That sometimes made it hard to figure out just what exactly was going on. 462 pages. Grade: B-
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Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier
by Katie Hafner and John Markoff

Started:
January 31, 2010
Finished: February 3, 2010

This was published in 1991, so its main focus was the more infamous hackers of the 1980s. It was good solid reporting. I liked the two hacker stories based in the US more than the West German tale. 346 pages. Grade: B
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Freaky Deaky

by Elmore Leonard

Started: January 31, 2010
Finished: February 4, 2010

An enjoyable thriller but not Elmore Leonard's best. The characters all seemed a bit flat, like slight caricatures of previous Leonard works. Still, like I said, it wasn't a bad read, just wasn't anything special either. 341 pages. Grade: B
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Talk About the Passion: R.E.M., an Oral History

by Denise Sullivan

Started: February 1, 2010
Finished: February 4, 2010

This book is hurt by the fact that the members of R.E.M. didn't talk to the author. Still, it does a good job of conveying the atmosphere of Athens, Georgia, in the early 80s. 186 pages. Grade: B
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Total # of Books Read in 2010: 81
Total # of Pages Read in 2010: 17,591
El Corazon

82. Henry Huggins; 83. The High Window; 84. Bully...; 85. The White Hotel; 86. Bad Blood...

Henry Huggins
by Beverly Cleary

Started: February 3, 2010
Finished: February 4, 2010

A simple book but it holds up remarkably well for a book about kids 60 years ago. Doesn't really seem dated at all except when there's talk of dime allowances, etc. Minor gripe: this was a new copy and they changed all the illustrations to show more "contemporary" kids, I guess. I liked the old illustrations better. 176 pages. Grade: B-
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The High Window
by Raymond Chandler

Started: January 31, 2010
Finished: February 4, 2010

I think this is my favorite of the Philip Marlowe novels. The rare coin plot just appeals to the packrat in me, and the mystery comes together very smoothly. Also, it's probably the most humorous/sarcastic of the Marlowe novels. 191 pages. Grade: A+
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Bully: Does Anyone Deserve to Die? A True Story of High School Revenge
by Jim Schutze

Started: February 4, 2010
Finished: February 5, 2010

This was an interesting book, but I didn't like that even though it was non-fiction the author constantly wrote very specific details about how the main characters looked at each other or the tone in the voices, basically details that he wouldn't know since he wasn't there. Though I think it was a pretty factual book, it read more like a novel than a piece of reporting. 289 pages. Grade: B+
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The White Hotel
by D.M. Thomas

Started: February 4, 2010
Finished: February 6, 2010

A novel about a fictional patient of Sigmund Freud's told from her point of view when she was crazy, from Freud's case writeup, and from her point of view after she was "cured." Strong writing especially the sensual stuff in the first part. I didn't much care for the last short chapter but I know what the author was trying to do there. Overall, I liked this. 274 pages. Grade: B+
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Bad Blood: The Life and Times of the Horrell Brothers
by Frederick Nolan

Started: February 4, 2010
Finished: February 6, 2010

This book bored me. After also not being impressed recently with Nolan's book about Billy the Kid, I'm wondering if I'm misremembering how great his The Lincoln County War: A Documentary History was. It's been a long time since I read it, but I've always listed it as one of my all-time favorite non-fiction books. This book was good research, but the writing had no life to it. 161 pages. Grade: C
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Total # of Books Read in 2010: 86
Total # of Pages Read in 2010: 18,682
El Corazon

87. Henry and Beezus; 88. Wrecking Crew...; 89. Nothing's Fair in Fifth Grade

Henry and Beezus
by Beverly Cleary

Started/Finished: February 6, 2010

These books are at their best when Ramona's around. A fun, quick read. 201 pages. Grade: B+
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Wrecking Crew: The Really Bad News Griffith Park Pirates
by John Albert

Started: February 4, 2010
Finished: February 6, 2010

The true story of a Los Angeles adult rec league hardball baseball team comprised of aging punk rockers, macho drag queens, wannabe actors and screenwriters, and former and current addicts and alcoholics. A great read. 279 pages. Grade: A-
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Nothing's Fair in Fifth Grade
by Barthe DeClements

Started/Finished: February 7, 2010

I've been rereading books that I liked when I was 8-9 years old, thinking about writing something geared to that age group. This is a kid's book that really seems to know and understand its young characters. 137 pages. Grade: A
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Total # of Books Read in 2010: 89
Total # of Pages Read in 2010: 19,299
El Corazon

90. The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan; 91-95. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8: Volumes 1-5...

The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan
by James T. Farrell

Started: February 4, 2010
Finished: February 7, 2010

One of the best written, most realistic looks at a man's imperceptible descent into alcoholism, into living a wasted life, that I've ever read. Truly great novel. 369 pages. Grade: A+
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Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8
edited by Scott Allie

Started/Finished: February 7, 2010

Volume 1: The Long Way Home

A big improvement over the previous Buffy comics now that the writers (Joss Whedon in this case) don't have to try and fit their stories within the television show's time frame but can branch out and look to the future. 132 pages. Grade: B+

Volume 2: No Future For You

I really, really liked the Faith/Giles teamup, didn't care much about the other story contained here. 132 pages. Grade: A-

Volume 3: Wolves at the Gate

Another good collection. I'd read this once before when it first came out and remember not caring for the whole Buffy experiments with lesbianism subplot, but, i don't know, it made sense and worked this time when I read it. I especially liked the Xander-Dracula interplay. 134 pages. Grade: A-

Volume 4: Time of Your Life

Never having read Fray, this collection didn't hold my interest like the last two did. It wasn't bad, just wasn't great either. 136 pages. Grade: B-

Volume 5: Predators and Prey

A bunch of B-level stories, nothing special here. 144 pages. Grade: B-
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Total # of Books Read in 2010: 95
Total # of Pages Read in 2010: 20,346
El Corazon

96. Motley Crue: The Dirt...; 97. Tapping the Source

Motley Crue: The Dirt, Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band
by Tommy Lee, Mick Mars, Vince Neil, and Nikki Sixx with Neil Strauss

Started: February 6, 2010
Finished: February 8, 2010

I may not give much of a crap about Motley Crue's music, but this might be the best rock and roll autobiography ever written. Great structure, great stories, and some real honesty shown even if their stories sometimes conflict with each other. 428 pages. Grade: A
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Tapping the Source
by Kem Nunn

Started: February 6, 2010
Finished: February 9, 2010

I absolutely loved this novel about a young man who goes looking for his lost sister amid the surf culture of 1980s Huntington Beach. Nunn just does a fantastic job of setting up the atmosphere of the beach and creates some interesting characters along the way. Great book. 300 pages. Grade: A+
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Total # of Books Read in 2010:
97
Total # of Pages Read in 2010: 21,074
!

Books 6 and 7

Book 6
Making Rounds With Oscar - Dr. David Dosa


Like many cats, Oscar isn't much for socializing. But the three-year-old tabby does make time for the patients at Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center - as long as they're dying.
Oscar made headlines when word of his apparent ability to sense imminent death, and comfort for the dying, got out. Now Dosa, a geriatrician at the center, tells the stories of the families who witnessed the cat firsthand, often getting the call that their loved ones were dying because a nurse or assistant noticed the cat's behavior.
It helps that Dosa is not a cat person and was a skeptic of the feline angel of death. He is won over by the repeated stories of how the cat seemed to sense what many, even in a nursing home, are unwilling to face. Moreover, he comes to believe that the cat is simply tending to his "family" at the center - Oscar is among several cats who live there - and may have the ability to smell the chemicals given off when cells, and people, die.
it's hardly a scientific book, though. It's ultimately about connections and living in the moment and learning to cope with the realities of death. To that end, Oscar appears to have much to teach.


Book 7
The Nylon Road - Parsua Bashi


This graphic novel acknowledges the groundbreaking Persepolis for a memoir of life in Iran.
But unlike that book, which focuses on a childhood in Iran, this book looks more at the adult life of a woman who fled Iran, struggles to learn German and English in her new life in Zurich and tries to learn from a past marked by the Iranian Revolution, the Iraq-Iran War, a rushed marriage that ended with many women's worst fear and overall life as an educated woman in a strictly religious world.
Her decision to showcase her current self talking with who she used to be at those points helps crystallize the daily life of a woman in Iran, the hurdles to staying or to going and, by drawing comparisons to her current life, showing how unfair or uneducated Western minds can be when trying to understand.
It's a perceptive and quiet book that I'd recommend to anyone. This is not a voice we get to hear often.
If you're interested, the first chapter is available here: us.macmillan.com/CMS400/uploadedFiles/Nylon_Road_-_chapter1.pdf
eeps

Book 10

10. Title: Three Days to Dead
Author: Kelly Meding
Genre: Urban Fanasty
Pages: 405

Summary: "When Evangeline Stone wakes up naked and bruised on a cold slab in the morgue -- in a stranger's body, with no memory of who she is and how she got there -- her troubles are only just beginning. Before that night she and two other members of her Triad were star bounty hunters, mercilessly cleansing the city of the murderous creatures living in the shadows, from vampire to shape-shifters to trolls. Then something terrible happened that not only cost all three of them their lives but also convinced that the city's other Hunters that Evy was a traitor -- and she can't even remember what it was. Now she's a fugitive, piecing together her memory, trying to deal with some serious justice -- and discovering that she has only three days to solve her own murder before the reincarnation spell wears off. Because in three days Evy will die again -- but this time there's no second chance . . ." ~Jacket copy

Thoughts: So far, this is one of the best books I have read so far. It is an urban fantasy without all stereotypes of urban fantasy (Thanks, Hamilton!). The story is engaging, the characters real, and a wonderful plot. I could hardly put this one down! Meding has created a spiffy alter reality with creatures like gargoyles, bridge trolls, etc. She was able to build their own factions that added a depth to the story. My only problem is the ending felt a little too rushed. The final confrontation felt as though it was too easily tied up. *shrug* I enjoyed it!

Currently: Deadtown by Nancy Holzner
Pages-to-date: 2979
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the fountain

Book 1: Everything is Sinister by David Llewellyn

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Everything Is Sinister by David Llewellyn

'Violence is the new language. Celebrity is the new currency.'

Written in 2008, this novel is set in 2010 and portrays a realistic bleak viewpoint of a London that is not a million miles away from how we see it now. Our narrator Ed Raynes is a showbiz journalist of The Voice Of The People; a trashy rag that I likened as an equivalent to our The Daily Mail. Ed is told a disturbing secret about one of the contestants of the nation's favourite reality TV shows, Lockdown. As the contestant is also the favourite to win, Ed realises the consequences of what is about to happen and as it is his job to keep the secret under wraps until the show is over, he begins to have a mental breakdown. Becoming a recluse in his flat, he observes the workers of London from his balcony and knows that there is 'something wrong with people'. It becomes his mission to put an end to the madness before it spirals out of control.

A dark witty story that grips the reader throughout, it is in parts reminiscent of Orwell's 1984 and has touches of Bret Easton Ellis and Chuck Palahniuk here and there. It comes complete with a fantastic little twist at the end and showcases how shallow and self-consumed modern society has become (or what direction it is heading to in this case). I will definitely read David Llewellyn's debut novel, Eleven and look forward to keeping on eye out for his new books. [9/10]
Foucault Thoughtful
  • boixboi

Book #4

4. Jitterbug Perfume -- Tom Robbins

Three different groups of people are trying to develop the same basic perfume-- one is a major fragrance house in Paris, one a small perfume shop in New Orleans, and one is a waitress with a small apartment in Seattle. Each group believes it can make a fortune off the scent if they can perfect it. Interwoven with these stories we find the ongoing adventures of an 8th century Bohemian king. It's hard to say too much without giving away the more intriguing points of the plot, but in short, the book is about how these fragmented stories come together.

This is the second Tom Robbins novel I've read, the first being Still Life with Woodpecker. I would say that I liked it better than Still Life, but it had the same basic problem-- the book's conclusion was rather disappointing. It's a great book, cleverly written without being too much in awe of its own clever nature, but the last 30 pages or so seemed to erase much of the building suspense. Instead of coming to a head, the action just...petered out. It was a very enjoyable read, though, and a deeply thought out book-- I'd recommend it to just about anybody. 8 out of 10.
the fountain

Book 2: The Eyes Of The Dragon by Stephen King

"A kingdom is in turmoil as the old king dies and his successor must do battle for the throne. Pitted against an evil wizard and a would-be rival, Prince Peter makes a daring escape and rallies the forces of Good to fight for what is rightfully his. This is a masterpiece of classic dragons-and-magic fantasy that only Stephen King could have written!"

Quick review: I absolutely HATED this book. It felt like a chore to read and I just wasn't interested in the story and eventually skimmed my way through the last quarter. I picked it up as it's not the usual kind of book I would go for but I didn't like it and doubt I will be reading anything in this genre again and will stick to Stephen King's horror novels in the future. [1/10]
Bibliophile
  • slickmc

Books 15 - 16 / 100

15. The Road - Cormac McCarthy
              Bleak, depressing, nothing much happens besides the end of the world and the human race. 
              I loved it.  Such great descriptions.  Some really scary scenes, and honestly, it was scarier for the lack of explanations.  Made it seem more like a nightmare.  

16. Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything in Italy, India, and Indonesia - Elizabeth Gilbert
              I didn't think I'd like this book.  But then I read an interview with the author and she was just so rockin' that I started reading the book right away.  And it was great.  First, she's funny.  Normally, I wouldn't be too interested in someone else's spiritual journey, but it never felt preachy.  Even when she was talking about serious stuff, she made me laugh.  But second, I found her story of depression and recovery to be compelling and true to my experiences.  I recommend it.
alyzon_whitestarr

The next books...

Book 2: The Sign of the Four - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Genre: Mystery

Plot: After Mary Morstan's father disappeared, each year a pearl arrived in the mail. Now, she has recieved a letter regarding the mysterious disappearance and "justice" and would like Holmes to assist her in untangling the mystery. Watson is instantly smitten and Holmes jumps at a case that might just relieve the boredom that has sent him back to his old habit.

My thoughts:In this book, we met Watson's Mary. It amused me how terrified he was that she might inherit some money and become "above him". Does this mean that the Hound of the Baskervilles may just be the next Holmes movie? I will have to keep reading to find out.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Book 3: Guardians of the Keep - Carol Berg

Genre: Fantasy

Plot: After Tomas' death, Seri keeps her promise and goes to tell his son how proud of him his father was. However, she is soon drawn back into residence at Comigor in order to sort out the tangle of affairs left by Tomas' death. Enter Dassine and Aeren...(so hard to write a blurb when anything I say spoils the prev. book)

My thoughts: I couldn't put it down...and read it in an evening. I was disapointed though, by how out of character Exegret seemed based on descriptions in the previous book (Son of Avonar).
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)

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anemone
  • cat63

Book 12 for 2010

C Is For Corpse by Sue Grafton

Kinsey Millhone is doing physical therapy for a broken arm in her local gym when she meets Bobby Callahan. Bobby is also doing physical therapy for far worse injuries he sustained in a horrendous car crash nine months previously.
The crash damaged his memory as well as his body, but Bobby is sure that someone tried to kill him and he hires Kinsey to find out who. But before she can make much of a start on the case, Bobby has another crash, this one fatal. Kinsey has taken a liking to the young man and resolves to solve the case, even though her client is dead.

 Meanwhile Kinsey's retired but sprightly landlord has a new girlfriend, and Kinsey instinctively distrusts the woman.

I like first person narrators and detective stories and this series is both. That said, I liked the first two Kinsey Millhone books well enough to keep reading the series, but wasn't overly delighted with them. I thought this one was a fair bit better than the first two. I'm not sure if Grafton had hit her stride in the series, if it's because we learn a bit more about Kinsey's past in this one or simply that Kinsey herself cares far more personally about the case in this book. In any case it's enough that I'll be looking for the fourth book in the series.

There's still something about Grafton's style that doesn't entirely gel for me though. Her prose simply doesn't seem to flow as well as some people's does. So I'll be looking for book 4 in charity shops and on Bookmooch rather than buying it new.
reading is cool, books are good

Book 15: A Mind to Murder by P.D. James

Book 15: A Mind to Murder (Adam Dalgliesh Book 2).
Author: P.D. James, 1963
Genre: Police Procedural. Murder mystery.
Other Details: Paperback 225 pages.

While attending a literary party thrown by his publishers, Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh is summoned across the square to the Steen Psychiatric Clinic. The body of the clinic's administrator has been found in a basement office stabbed with a chisel through the heart. There are plenty of suspects for Dalgliesh to consider in his investigation to uncover the murderer.

This was a short, easy read that I was able to complete in a single afternoon. The book develops Dalgliesh's character further in terms of revealing his feelings about his deceased wife and son as well as his literary career as a poet. The politics of the clinic are well realised and there are plenty of twists and turns that kept me guessing to the end.

On a side note it was quite amusing to read references to patients at the clinic receiving lysergic acid diethylamide as part of their treatment. In the early 1960s when the book was written, LSD was being used as a experimental therapeutic tool. Of course, a few years later its unregulated use within the counter-culture led to its being classed as an illegal drug.

A very satisfying mystery.