February 16th, 2010

Books 6-8

Proven Guilty
White Night
Small Favor
Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

I love, love, LOVE this series!!!!

Proven Guilty continues the story with Dresden as a Warden. Movie monsters begin coming to life in Chicago and the White Council asks him to check out the status of the Faerie Courts with regards to the vampire Red Court. There is a warlock in the city of Chicago, who the White Council must find and bring to justice, but the identity of the warlock turns out to be someone much to close to Dresden.

White Night - the magic practitioners of Chicago are being hunted down and killed. All evidence points to Thomas, but Dresden knows he cannot be guilty. Determined to clear Thomas' name, Dresden tangles with the White Court.

Small Favor - Mab, Queen of the Winter Court of Faerie, calls in her second favor from Dresden - he is to be her Emissary and find John Marcone - the crime boss of Chicago. Marcone's disappearance is the least of his worries, however, as the Denarians return to town with a plan that could bring about the end of the world.

I honestly think that this is the best sci-fi series I have ever read. I love Butcher's writing style and his stories are always intense and well executed.

First post of 2010

Summaries taken from back of books.

1. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Summary: Chinua Achebe's first novel portrays the collision of African and European cultures in people's lives. Okonkwo, a great man in Igbo traditional society, cannot adapt to the profound changes brought about by British colonial rule. Yet, as in classic tragedy, Okonkwo's downfall results from his own character as well as from external forces.

Genre: African literature

Thoughts: I really enjoyed this story. The last time I read African literature within colonialism was during my Bachelor's. Achebe has a very lyrical beautiful way if writing. The character of Okonkwo reminds me a bit of Wang Lung in The Good Earth. He isn't a very likable character, IMHO. his eldest son and eldest daughter are by far the most sympathetic of the characters. Still a very very interesting, especially the way Achebe connects Okonkwo's own downfall with the tribe. He does an excellent job of keeping the story character-driven but still providing commentary on colonialism and tribal life.

Rating: 4 out of 5.



2. The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons

Summary: Leningrad 1941: the white nights of summer illuminate a city of fallen grandeur whose palaces and avenues speak of a different age, when Leningrad was known as St Petersburg. Two sisters, Tatiana and Dasha, share the same bed, living in one room with their brother and parents. The routine of their hard impoverished life is shattered on 22 June 1941 when Hitler invades Russia. For the Metanov family, for Leningrad and particularly for Tatiana, life will never be the same again. On that fateful day, Tatiana meets a brash young man named Alexander. The family suffers as Hitler's army advances on Leningrad, and the Russian winter closes in. With bombs falling and the city under siege, Tatiana and Alexander are drawn inexorably to each other, but theirs is a love that could tear Tatiana's family apart, and at its heart lies a secret that could mean death to anyone who hears it. Confronted on the one hand by Hitler's vast war machine, and on the other by a Soviet system determined to crush the human spirit, Tatiana and Alexander are pitted against the very tide of history, at a turning point in the century that made the modern world.

Genre: Romance, Epic, World War II

Thoughts: I love this story. I must warn anyone who hasn't read this you need a tissue box. Epic is a fantastic way to describe this. At first glance you think it's going to be a standard "girly-book" like my brother would say. But it's sooooo much more. I still cannot get the images of starvation, and the cannibals in the streets out of my head. LOVE IT! It is very bittersweet and even though I cannot wait to read the other two in the series I needed to take a break from all the heartache. Tatiana and Alexander are great together but there is sooo much more than than just a love story. Simons doesn't shy away from reality of the WWII. There's no sugar-coating or glossing over.

Rating: 5 out of 5.


3. Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire

Summary: Ten years after the publication of Wicked, beloved novelist Gregory Maguire returns at last to the land of Oz. There he introduces us to Liir, an adolescent boy last seen hiding in the shadows of the castle after Dorothy did in the Witch. Bruised, comatose, and left for dead in a gully, Liir is shattered in spirit as well as in form. But he is tended at the Cloister of Saint Glinda by the silent novice called Candle, who wills him back to life with her musical gifts.

What dark force left Liir in this condition? Is he really Elphaba's son? He has her broom and her cape -- but what of her powers? Can he find his supposed half-sister, Nor, last seen in the forbidding prison, Southstairs? Can he fulfill the last wishes of a dying princess? In an Oz that, since the Wizard's departure, is under new and dangerous management, can Liir keep his head down long enough to grow up?

Genre: Fairy tale retelling, Sequel

Thoughts: O.K. I wasn't the biggest Wicked the book fan. I think it mostly had to do with my preconceived notions of what I expected the book to be and what it actually was. I enjoyed this book so so much more. I like Liir. Interesting character. I also like how Maguire doesn't 100% clear up Liir's parentage. The vagueness works remarkably well. Also the idea of Elphaba in this book is, for me, more interesting than the way that Maguire describes her in the first book. The ending...Collapse )

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

A good start to the new year.
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Books 26 - 30

26. All Together Dead, by Charlaine Harris
Genre: Supernatural, Mystery
Rating: 4/5

I had complained before about her not putting in clues for her mystery aspects, and I think that was settled pretty well in this one. I loved the interactions between both Sookie and Eric and Sookie and Quinn, and the deviousness of the queen added an extra element to the plot. I think this is one of my favorite books in the series, and I really wonder how Sookie is going to manage in the next book based on where she stands at the end of this book.

27. From Dead To Worse, by Charlaine Harris
Genre: Supernatural, Mystery
Rating: 3/5

This one was very piecemeal... there seemed to have been a whole lot of things just randomly thrown together because no cohesive plot thread could be thought up. Still, some things are explained and doors are opened for future books.

28. Dead and Gone, by Charlaine Harris
Genre: Supernatural, Mystery
Rating: 3.5/5

Much better as a whole than book 8, but the ending seemed horribly rushed. Don't get me wrong, the plot was a good one, and at least this had a nice mystery to go along with it, but I feel like a lot more could have been said to make the ending more grand and... neat. I'm glad that book 10 isn't out, because I need a break from this series, however much I've enjoyed reading it (able to read two books in as many days because they keep me so interested).

29. Mr. Cavendish, I Presume, by Julia Quinn
Genre: Romance, Historical Fiction
Rating: 2/5

I've fallen in love with Julia Quinn for reasons I can't explain. I had read The Lost Duke of Wyndham a while ago, and this was the accompanying book in the series. As a stand-alone book, I imagine it's relatively good, though not much in the romance department, but since I had read the other a while ago, I felt I knew the whole story and that this wasn't focused enough on Thomas, but rather on Grace and John. I think if Quinn had taken the time to expand the plot and drag it on well after the end of the other book, it would've made a good novel. But it just doesn't work here.

30. Irresistible Forces, by Brenda Jackson
Genre: Romance
Rating: 0.5/5

The premise of this romance was that Taylor wanted a baby, and decided that Dominic was the best for the father. They go away to an island to conceive and are supposed to part ways afterward, but both find themselves drawn to the other too much. Honestly, there was next to no plot in this one. It was certainly worth what I paid for it, which would be nothing.
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5 and 6

5. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry -- Mildred Taylor

Genre: Children's/Young Adult, Historical Fiction

Set in the American South after Reconstruction but before the civil rights movement, this book tells the tale of a black family who own their own private farmland, and their efforts to keep that land while battling racism and (to a lesser degree) the hardships of farming life. I read this book when I was younger, and in re-reading it for my children's lit. class, found I still liked it a great deal. I'm not sure if that was a factor in my perception or not, but I found that it tugged at my heartstrings very easily, and had me near tears at times. At times, it can be a little heavy-handed, but it explores numerous worthwhile themes and even made me consider re-reading the sequel. 8/10.

6. How to Read Literature Like a Professor -- Thomas C. Foster

Genre: Literary Analysis and Instruction

The title pretty much gives it away. This book tries to explain how to see patterns and symbols working under the surface of a literary work. If that were all this book had to say, I might've loved it; certainly, I found much of the information useful, and it has to some degree adjusted how I see literature.

A great deal of the book, however, is devoted to the question "does the author really mean that?" Foster believes, and insists, and demands, and shouts that the answer to this question is always yes. I have a lot of problems with this; first of all, many great authors will tell you that the symbolism some see in their work is simply not something they intended. Second, I'm not sure I agree that the answer to this question even matters most of the time-- I personally find that authorial intent is only a minor part of what should interest us about a literary work. Much of the text here is carried out as a pseudo-dialogue between Foster and what he imagines his readers to say in response, which is another problem. As always, when a writer tries to guess his audience's response, they come off as more than a little condescending. Finally, Foster perpetuates the false notion of deconstruction as "joyless" and suggests that since some postmodern critiques of literature are stupid, no postmodern or deconstructionist theory could be worth talking about. So. Great for its explanations of how to look at literature from a classical point of view, not so great for Foster's ramblings, which unfortunately take up a great deal of the book. 5/10.
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