February 22nd, 2010

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Book 21: Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

Book 21: Twenties Girl.
Author: Sophie Kinsella, 2009
Genre: Chick Lit. Contemporary romance with supernatural twist.
Other Details: Paperback. 480 pages

Lara Lington is a 27-year old Londoner whose business partner has unexpectedly gone to Goa leaving Lara to cope with their floundering company. She's also has been dumped by her boyfriend though is frantically hoping that he'll realise she is the love of his life and they'll get back together. When her 105 year old Great-Aunt Sadie dies after residing for many years in a nursing home, Lara really isn't keen to attend the funeral. However, her parents insist. There are only a few people in attendance including her Uncle Bill, an arrogant self-made millionaire, and his spoilt daughter, Diamanté, who at 17 has her own trendy fashion label, Tutus and Pearls, that caters to young celebrities and those who wish to emulate them.

Lara suddenly hears a voice asking 'where is my necklace?'. No one else seems to have heard the voice and when it happens again Lara becomes quite concerned. Then she sees a girl about her own age with dark, bobbed hair wearing a slinky dress, who repeats the question. Lara soon realises that she is the only one who can see the girl, who introduces herself as Sadie Lancaster. Sadie demands that Lara stop the funeral until the necklace is found and returned to her. Lara manages this in a very funny scene and subsequently undertakes to help Sadie find her dragonfly necklace. This treasure hunt soon takes an unexpected turn and begins to uncover long buried secrets. As Lara spends time with Sadie, she also learns more about her early life and in turn Sadie helps Lara sort out her life.

Kinsella writes about the book: I've always loved the glamour and spirit of the 1920s, and the idea came to me of a flapper ghost. A feisty, fun, glamorous girl who adored to dance and drinks cocktails and get her own way. I wanted her to be a determined character who would blast into the life of someone with no warning and cause havoc. I then decided she should haunt a thoroughly modern girl, with all the culture clashes and comedy that would bring.

As with other Kinsella books, this was a delightful read, full of charm, quirky characters and laugh out loud moments. Yet I found it much more than a fluffy romp; there was an intriguing mystery at its heart and a coming of age story . It also offered some heart-warming and poignant reflections on life, love and growing older. As much as I enjoy her Shopaholic books, I really appreciated the greater depth of this one and consider it her best novel to date.
Bunsen Honeydew

A few more graphic novels

Still reading Geoff Johns' take on The Flash as well as the Brave and the Bold. I have found a couple of new (to me, anyway) authors that I like, one being William Diehl.

1. Primal Fear, William Diehl. Seeing the movie beforehand spoiled the book for me, but it's still a taut thriller.
2. Show of Evil, William Diehl. Sequel to Primal Fear. There's a third book called Reign in Hell that I want to read.
3. Skeleton Justice, by Dr. Michael Baden and Linda Kenney Baden. Offbeat thriller featuring a pathologist hero and his partner, a litigator, who solve mysteries. Dr. Baden's been featured on the HBO series "Autopsy." What made this book interesting is the killer's reveal; there's a lot of 20th century history here primarily involving Argentina and its infamous "Dirty War" of the 1970s.
4. Teen Titans: Lockdown, by Judd Winick. Jericho has invaded the Titans' headquarters and attempts to possess his former teammates. This volume collects Titans #7-11.
5. The Brave and the Bold #1: The Lords of Luck by Mard Waid, George Perez. Funny teamups abound in this comic (Supergirl/Lobo FTW!) that features Batman, Blue Beetle, the Legion of Super-Heroes, Green Lantern and Adam Strange. Loved it.
6. The Flash: Wonderland, by Geoff Johns. Wally West is now on a parallel Earth similar to the real Earth but with one major difference: the Speed Force doesn't exist. In order to return home, Flash must seek help from the Rogues Gallery (notably Mirror Master and Captain Cold).
7. Batman RIP, by Grant Morrison. Anytime the Joker shows up, blood will be spilled. That's a given in the Batman comics, and this is no exception. Batman, Robin and Nightwing face off against The Club of Villains, an alliance that raises murder to an art form and may include Alfred Pennyworth.
8. Wonder Woman: Misson's End, by Greg Rucka. Set pre-Infinite Crisis, Wonder Woman has just battled Superman and now faces the wrath of the world for killing Maxwell Lord; she agrees to surrender herself, but then faces the Omacs as they try to destroy her Paradise Island home.
9. JSA: Thy Kingdom Come, Part 1: Geoff Johns, et al. Sequel to the "Kingdom Come" miniseries.
10. Wonder Woman: Beauty and the Beasts, by George Perez. Late 1980s comics which feature Wonder Woman battling Circe, Darkseid, and attempting to date Superman.
11. The Flash: The Human Race, by Grant Morrison. Excellent story that sees Flash racing his childhood (invisible) friend, Kraakl, in order to save the Earth from malevolent aliens.
12. The Brave and the Bold: Without Sin, by Marv Wolfman. Two stories here: Supergirl and Raven try to overcome their pasts in order to save another man's life in "Fathers" and Green Lantern, the Phantom Stranger, and Green Arrow in "Without Sin", another great story that features the Purge, an entity who wants to eradicate all life in the universe.

Why do you like Twilight?

I just finished Eclipse and I still have absolutely no idea what everybody sees in the twilight series that I don't see. Bella is needy, clingy and dramatic. Edward is boring. Alice is loud and annoying. The characters are not likable. Even worse, they are not BELIEVABLE. Stephenie Meyer created characters that can not exist in real life and they are so close to being one dimensional. The only only interesting likable character of the series is Jacob except for his apparent blindness to be in love with Bella.

I know many of you here like the Twilight series, so please answer my question What do you like about it?

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El Corazon

38. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus, Volume 3; 39-40. Detective Comics #31-32

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus, Volume 3
edited by Scott Allie

Started: January 21, 2010
Finished: January 22, 2010

This was the weakest of the three Buffy comic volumes I've read so far, but I think that's because this volume was actually the one that reprinted the very first of the comics so the artists and writers hadn't quite figured out yet how to make a comic that still appealed to fans of the television show but wasn't a total copy either. There's nothing just horribly bad in the comics reprinted here, but there's just a whole lot of minor stories that don't really grab you either. Plus the puns they have coming out of Buffy and Xander's mouths are excruciatingly bad at times. Still, this was a fast, light read that I can't say I didn't mostly enjoy. 304 pages. Grade: B-

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Total # of Books Read in 2010: 40
Total # of Pages Read in 2010: 6,962

Total # of Non-Comic Books Read in 2010: 13
Total # of Non-Comic Book Pages Read in 2010: 4,315

Currently Reading: Pulp Stories by Raymond Chandler; The Voyeur by Alain Robbe-Grillet
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; Seasons in Hell by Mike Shropshire; More Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus; More Detective Comics/Batman
Leaf on Book

Books #10-17

10) Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman (Urban Fantasy, 400 pages)
This wasn't as good as American Gods, though that was an impossible act to follow. Still, I enjoyed Gaiman's story of Fat Charlie, Spider, and their trials with each other, the memory of their father, and a murder. 4/5

11) The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo (Children's Fantasy, 201 pages)
This is a very sweet fable of a boy, an elephant, and how wishes do come true. 4/5

12) Under the Dome by Stephen King (Science Fiction, 1074 pages)
A thinly-veiled allegory of the Bush/Cheney years, overlaying a pretty strong environmental and social message. This was a good book, but I felt like I had whiplash after I finished it. So many characters, plot lines, subplots, etc. And while it did drag at times, I still liked it overall. 4/5

13) The Art of French Kissing by Kristin Harmel (Chick-Lit, 288 pages)
I really liked this one -- a fun, fluffy, and quick escapist read. Emma was a very likable character and the supporting cast of characters (especially the eccentric celebrity) fleshed out the story nicely. Though the author tried a little *too* hard to show that she had done her research on Paris, and there were several points where I felt like she was just including famous places or Paris history to prove she could. 3.5/5

14) Disappearing Nightly by Laura Resnick (Urban Fantasy, 416 pages)
Urban fantasy fluff. A good book for when you're stuck in the subway tunnel for two hours because your train derailed. This is a mystery, but Resnick doesn't really do that very well. Read it for the urban fantasy, and don't think too hard about the mystery. 3/5

15) Dopplegangster by Laura Resnick (Urban Fantasy, 400 pages)
This is the sequel to Disappearing Nightly, and while it's more original than the first, the mystery is even less mysterious. A fun read. 3.5/5

16) Wild Orchid: A Retelling of the Ballad of Mulan by Cameron Dokey (YA Historical Fiction, 256 pages)
I generally liked the idea, though this suffered from being a YA novel - it was too short, the character development is rather shallow, as was the entire narrative. I wanted more depth to the entire book. Which is a shame because I really like fairy tale retellings. 3.5/5

17) The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba & Bryan Mealer (Memoirs, 288 pages)
I had wanted to read this book for the longest time. William's story is amazing, and given the obstacles he overcame to not only build his windmill, but to survive, his story is nothing short of miraculous. A very inspiring story of perseverance, tenacity, overcoming adversity, and the power of learning. 4/5

Books 9 and 10

Book 9
The Aquanet Diaries - Jennifer Niven

The memoir of a girl whose high school years coincided with the questionable luster of the 80s - big hair, a penchant for glam music (even if you weren't destined to be a queenie gay man) and a surprising amount of innocence - seemed right up my alley.
Sure, Niven is a bit older than I am. And yes, her Richmond, Indiana experience meant the big city was Dayton. Dayton! But I thought there might be something to this book.
Too bad it was just a retelling of all sorts of random things Niven did in her quasi-rural youth, things she and her high-school buds no doubt found *hilarious* even in the retelling but just seemed tone deaf to my ears. This is a woman who apparently saved every note that she and her BFF - an alternately mean and geeky boy who appears to have found his inner queen gay man as adult - ever passed in the hallways and class.
But nowhere in her obsessive note-taking and reminiscing is there any real emotion. Bad enough that it rings hollow when she tries to portray herself as too smart and clever to be truly popular (this from the girl who traded boyfriends repeatedly and went to all the cool kids' parties, by invite). But even her retelling of how her parents' break-up happened sounds off.
If this were a high-school essay, the kindest thing a teacher could do would be to let her re-write it.

Book 10
First Contact - Evan Mandery

One of the most memorable passages in any book I have ever read involved a surefire, two-step method to learn how to fly.
Step One: Throw yourself from a high building or perch and aim for the ground.
Step Two: When you aim, miss.
Clearly, it's the second part that most folks have trouble doing properly. But if that tangent from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy makes you laugh, you will adore this book. I sure did.
Rare is a book that makes me laugh out loud, especially a science fiction book. Here, Mandery tells the story of what happens when an advanced alien race contacts Earth, to warn of impending doom. It doesn't help that the President of the United States, who takes it upon himself to handle things, is more concerned with his underwear riding up than the consequences of an unprovoked nuclear strike.
Mix in a handful of Simpsons references, the author's decision to break the fourth-wall and insert himself into the novel and the satire of Vonnegut (minus all the condescending racial and gender asides) and you have a fantastic book.
It's an easy and fun read. I'd recommend it to just about anyone. But first, I have to send it to my friend, Justin, who years ago turned me on to Douglas Adams. It's my only way to repay him ... finally.
El Corazon

41. The Red Sea Sharks

The Red Sea Sharks
by Herge

Started/Finished: January 22, 2010

Yeah, I'm officially tired of Tintin. I really think I'm just too old to be reading these for the first time. I have the four remaining (well, there's five counting the one released posthumously) books checked out for another fifteen days so I'm going to take a break from them for the next week, see if I feel better about the next adventure after that. This wasn't a horrible book, but it was just more of the same old same old for the most part. 64 pages. Grade: C+
Total # of Books Read in 2010: 41
Total # of Pages Read in 2010: 7,126

Total # of Non-Comic Books Read in 2010: 13
Total # of Non-Comic Book Pages Read in 2010: 4,315

Currently Reading: Pulp Stories by Raymond Chandler; The Voyeur by Alain Robbe-Grillet
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; Seasons in Hell by Mike Shropshire; More Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus; More Detective Comics/Batman

#1 and 2

Yeah at last I can finally post....

#1 Magician (Riftwar Saga) - Raymond E. Feist

At Crydee, a frontier outpost in the tranquil Kingdom of the Isles, an orphan boy, Pug, is apprenticed to a master magician -- and the destinies of two worlds are changed forever. Suddenly the peace of the Kingdom is destroyed as mysterious alien invaders swarm the land. Pug is swept up into the conflict but for him and his warrior friend, Tomas, an odyssey into the unknown has only just begun. Tomas will inherit a legacy of savage power from an ancient civilization. Pug's destiny is to lead him through a rift in the fabric of space and time to the mastery of the unimaginable powers of a strange new magic.
- Amazon.co.uk

Finished at last.  This book is a roll over from last year and it has taken me having a week off work to finally finish it.  What a fantastic book!!! With it's tiny print and nearing 700 pages it has taken a long time with just the night time reading. The world and characters are amazing and the keep your attention through out.  I was a little disappointed to find Silverthorn is half the size.

#2 Hush,Hush - Becca Fitzpatrick

A sacred oath, a fallen angel, a forbidden love...This darkly romantic story features our heroine, Nora Grey, a seemingly normal teenage girl with her own shadowy connection to the Nephilim, and super-alluring bad boy, Patch, now her deskmate in biology class. Together they find themselves at the centre of a centuries-old feud between a fallen angel and a Nephilim...Forced to sit next to Patch in science class, Nora attempts to resist his flirting, though gradually falls for him against her better judgment. Meanwhile creepy things are going on with a mysterious stalker following her car, breaking into her house and attacking her best friend, Vi. Nora suspects Patch, but there are other suspects too - not least a new boy who has transferred from a different college after being wrongly accused of murdering his girlfriend. And he seems to have taken a shine to Nora...Love certainly is dangerous...and someone is going to have to make the ultimate sacrifice for it. - Amazon.co.uk

Oh no I was disappointed! I really should stop reading the books aimed more for teenagers, but you do sometimes get a gem. I though that is was lacking in excitement and passion and the descriptions where at times so over the top I would find myself skim reading. The story however was really good and it may end up being one of those books that will make a great film. It was a bit of light relief following a big intense read and only took 6 hours to finish.

Now on to:  Fallen -  Lauren Kate and Silverthorn - Raymond E. Feist
  • cat63

Book 14 for 2010

The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz

I think the one of the main problems with this book is that it doesn't really know what it wants to be. It can't seem to decide whether it's "chicklit" (vile term) or a hardboiled detective novel and as a result it doesn't really manage to be either of them at all convincingly.

Another problem I had with it was that I found it hard to muster up much empathy for the main character. I usually rather like rebellious protagonists who defy authority, but usually they're doing it for a reason - Izzy Spellman seems to do it for the sake of doing it and I find that unsympathetic. Towards the end of the book I found I had more sympathy for Izzy than for any of the other characters, but that really wasn't saying much.

It doesn't help that the story is told in a disjointed series of flashbacks, especially since another book I'm currently reading (Beloved by Toni Morrison) uses a similar technique much more effectively.

On to the plot, such as it is. Izzy Spellman is literally born into detective work and inherits her parents' natural aptitude for it. But she also has a rebellious streak a mile wide and her whole family are borderline insane - following each other, tapping phones and generally giving each other no privacy. Izzy finally snaps and wants out. Her parents insist she should work one last case. She agrees.

It's hard to say much more than that without spoiling the rest of the story, thin though it is. I think the Spellman shenanigans are supposed to be funny, but they struck me as pathetic (in the original sense). These are tragic people, incapable of living normal lives.

There is, apparently, a sequel in the works. I don't think I'll bother.
El Corazon

107. A Room With a View; 108. W.A.R.: The Unauthorized Biography of William Axl Rose

A Room With a View
by E.M. Forster

Started: February 19, 2010
Finished: February 21, 2010

Writing as good as anything Jane Austen ever did but with characters who don't make me pull my hair out because they're so damned proper even when it's against all common sense. I'd never really read any Forster before this but if the rest of his novels are anything like this, he will quickly become one of my all-time favorite novelists. A truly fantastic read. 182 pages. Grade: A+
W.A.R.: The Unauthorized Biography of William Axl Rose
by Mick Wall

February 21, 2010
Finished: February 22, 2010

A decent look at the history of Guns 'N Roses with a focus on Axl Rose. The book suffers in the last 50 or so pages when the author has obviously had no contact with people personally involved in Rose's life so he was reduced to reciting facts about the band's recent doings. A decent book but nothing special. 341 pages. Grade: B-
Total # of Books Read in 2010: 108
Total # of Pages Read in 2010: 24,395