April 5th, 2010

Books 7, 8, 9 and 10 - 2010

Book 7: Swallowing Darkness by Laurell K. Hamilton – 365 pages

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I think I enjoyed this one as much as Kiss of Shadows right back at the beginning. It actually had a plot which has become rare in the Merry Gentry books (or was it always rare – I’m not sure, I think it debatable) and I have to admit when I got ¾ in and there was no sex scene yet I was a little like ‘huh?’. Needless to say, Hamilton doesn’t leave us hanging though – that just wouldn’t be her style! This book also really felt like an end. I have Divine Misdemeanors, the 8th book, sitting on my book shelf, and whilst I’m glad she’s gone on because I love Doyle and Frost and Rhys and Galen, I do kind of wonder where it is she can go. The resolutions reached in this one really wrapped up a lot of the outstanding issues in the series, so my only thought is that Hamilton has decided on a new story arc – but then I might be giving the series more credit than its due! Either way, it’s still my guilty pleasure and though it definitely has things that annoy me, I’ll still keep reading – as I always say, Twilight for grown ups!

7 / 50 books. 14% done!

2280 / 15000 pages. 15% done!

Book 8: Hatter M: Volume 2: Mad with Wonder by Frank Beddor and Liz Cavalier; illustrated by Sami Makkonen –204 pages

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Love, love, love Looking Glass Wars and totally love Hatter – of an already awesome cast, he’s definitely one of my top three – I love the totally different take on the Mad Hatter (and I’m a big fan of the original too, so for those who think that Beddor’s story doesn’t do justice to the original I must say I disagree wholeheartedly); Hatter M will always remind me of my favourite Dragonball Z character, Vegeta – the tough, violent, emotionless shell filled up with all those gorgeous vulnerabilities (I have a soft spot for these kind of characters – they were partly the inspiration for my main character in my own book, except I did a gender switch). But anyway, on with this particular addition to the Hatter M universe. I must say I prefer Ben Templesmith’s artwork in the previous volume than I do Makkonen’s in this one. Templesmith’s was more clean and easier to interpret, I felt myself getting a little lost with this one. I don’t think the story was always as clear and it sometimes took me a few go’s to get what it was trying to tell me. In respect of the story itself, Beddor is very clever at explaining real events (in this case, the American Civil War) by virtue of events in Wonderland. I can’t say my knowledge of the American Civil War is particularly extensive (being Aussie, we generally study European, Asian or Australian Aboriginal history. I studied Modern History at high school and the only American history we looked at was in reference to the British – ie. The Boston Tea Party) which made things a little hard to understand, but from what I could tell, it was done well. There were a few points I kind of took issue with, but for the most part I think that was me having to let go of my preconceived notions of the character of Hatter. All in all, I don’t think this one was quite as good as the previous volume, but I still enjoyed it. Having said that, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have read the Looking Glass Wars simply because it is assumed within the text that you know the background of Beddor’s interpretation of Wonderland.

8 / 50 books. 16% done!

2484 / 15000 pages. 17% done!

Book 9: Divine by Blood by P.C. Cast – 443 pages

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Hmmm, what to say about this book? This is the final in the Divine trilogy (Divine by Mistake, Divine by Choice, Divine by Blood) but instead of following Shannon, the protagonist in the first two books, it follows her mirror-image’s daughter (got that? Lol!) 18-year-old Morrigan. I have to say that Morrigan was a very difficult character to like. She was a very typical teenager, self-righteous, self-absorbed and certain that she knew all. I spent half the book wanting to slap her. The other problem with this story was the fact that it took ages to get anywhere. The blurb implies that the story is about Morrigan trying to fit into Partholon but this actually doesn’t become an issue until the last quarter of the book. I felt rather like I got halfway through the book before anything interesting happened. I definitely feel that these books work better when the centaur character (in this one, a High Shaman called Kegan, in the previous two a High Shaman called Clan Fintan) is present. I don’t get interested until they appear and when they leave, the story becomes boring again. Maybe it’s the fact that they’re so different, maybe it’s the fact that Cast seems to write these characters so they’re quite amusing, I’m not sure. All in all, I liked this book, but definitely not as much as the first in the trilogy. It kind of felt like Cast had rehashed the same story from the first one but taken out half the plot. Oh well!

9 / 50 books. 18% done!

2927 / 15000 pages. 20% done!

Book 10: He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut and 49 other double standards every woman should know by Jessica Valenti – 213 pages

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I think this book would have been really good but for a few failings that are too crucial to ignore. Valenti raises several issues that are really significant and she definitely brought to my attention a few things I’d never considered (I have a degree in sociology and I did lots of subjects on gender studies within that course). However, if you’re going to argue for wide-spread, significant change to the way the genders interact and respond to each other, you really need to have decent back up for your argument. Valenti doesn’t. Her references to other material are minimal at best, and often she’ll provide no support for why she believes something is wrong. Regularly throughout the text she’ll refer to a piece of research that contradicts her claim, and in dispute of this research simply says its ‘crap’, but research that supports her argument isn’t crap. If she had genuine support for why the former research was crap I’d totally agree with her, but just saying something is crap doesn’t suffice as an argument. This happened time and time again within the book and it really annoyed me. And Valenti kept repeating the same issues over and over again and just putting a new spin on it. And she really did nothing for opposing the whole ‘feminists have no sense of humour’ claim with some of the things she took issue with – some things are just a joke! I consider myself, if not a feminist, than a supporter of gender equality (if you were to ask my brothers you would be told I’m a psycho feminist bra-burning, non-shaving crazy lady, but that’s a little extreme if you ask me – I’m all for bras!) but I’m not going to accept an argument if it isn’t valid and fair, I just feel that while Valenti probably has both a valid and fair argument, she simply doesn’t present it properly. Either way, I think I’ll track down some of her other books because I’m interested to see what else she has to say, with the hope that she tries for some better, more supported arguments.

10 / 50 books. 20% done!

3140 / 15000 pages. 21% done!

Currently reading:
- From Modernism to Postmodernism: An Anthology
edited by Lawrence Cahoone – 600 pages
- Next
by Michael Crichton – 540 pages
- The Constant Princess
by Philippa Gregory – 486 pages
- Divine Misdemeanors
by Laurell K. Hamilton – 333 pages

And coming up:
- Angels and Demons
by Dan Brown – 620 pages
- The Glass Castle
by Jeannette Walls – 341 pages
- Nobody’s Princess
by Esther Friesner – 305 pages

I am now 539 pages through the Modernism anthology. Yay!
did you know you could fly?

(no subject)

Book #20 -- Jacqueline Levering Sullivan, Annie's War, 186 pages.

It's 1946 and the War is over, but for Annie, the troubles are just beginning. Staying with her grandmother for the summer, Annie's world is almost immediately thrown into chaos, as her grandmother takes in a new tenant - a young black woman named Gloria Jean Washington. Annie loves Gloria Jean and the way she quickly becomes like a part of the family, but Annie's 19-year-old uncle, fresh from the war, isn't so pleased. Faced with overt racism for the first time - not just from the town but within her own family - Annie must learn how to stand up for herself, her principles, and her friendship with Gloria Jean. Meanwhile she's worried about her father, who was reported missing in action last year, and her mother, who seems to have given up hope. This is a beautiful and well-written story of a young girl growing up in difficult times.

Progress toward goals: 94/365 = 25.8%

Books: 20/100 = 20.0%

Pages: 5173/30000 = 17.3%

2010 Books

cross-posted to 15000pages, 50bookchallenge, and gwynraven
bear jew

(no subject)

Title: Leaving Paradise
Author: Simone Elkeles
Year of Publication: 2010
Genre: YA
Pages: 303
First Line: "I've been waiting a year for this moment."
Summary: Caleb Becker spent the past year in juvenile detention.

Maggie Armstrong spent the past year in hospitals and physical therapy.

Two teens who were scarred one fateful night are going to have to face their greatest challenge yet -- meeting up with each other again.

Source: Back of book

Review: LOVE. I picked up this book because I had read another of Elkeles' books and loved it. This one was just as good. There was only one thing I disliked about the book (discussed in "worst part"). Other than that, there were only a few predictable plot elements and such. But I highly recommend this book and dearly look forward to reading the sequel, which is due out this summer.

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Best part: Hmmm. Caleb.

Grade: A-

Other Books by This Author: Perfect Chemistry.

25 / 50 books. 50% done!
hand, butterfly

Book Giveaway

Hello all.

I'm trying to get ready to move, and I don't have enough room to take all my books with me, so I'm giving some away. There's a list on my journal. If you live in Southern Colorado, I can probably drop off your book(s) for free, but if you live elsewhere, I am asking for a small amount to help cover shipping costs. It's negotiable, but I'm thinking $5/shipment for 2-3 books, more if you get more books. I have a paypal :) Feel free to check it out.



12. Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The reason behind the rhyme/Chris Roberts

A book about the probable meanings behind various nursery rhymes. Contains a slang dictionary for those of us that aren't English. I liked this book it was funny and silly. Not high scholarship but the author is very knowledgeable. And some of these things we will never really know so it was good to see a few theories.

13. The Greatest Show on Earth/Richard Dawkins

The first book that Dawkins has written about the whole of the evidence for evolution. His other books deal all in some facet of or particular point of evolution. I haven't read all of his books but he does refer to them often. Highly recommended.

14. A Touch of Dead/Charlaine Harris

I enjoyed this collection of short stories more than I did many of the books themselves. I am a big fan of the short story, though. It had been suggested that some of these would fill some of the gaps in between books and in histories of esp. the fairies. I didn't really find that to be the case but an enjoyable read.

15. I was told there'd be cake/Sloane Crosley

A collection of short essays about the authors life. Sometimes amusing. Mostly boring.

Books 14-24 of 2010

14. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (359 pgs)
I had read several places that Bacigalupi was a lot like William Gibson, and I can see why those people drew the comparison, but I don't agree. To me, despite the interesting settings and scenarios Gibson writes, what draws me in are his characters with their strengths and quirky flaws. What makes Gibson great is where Bacigalupi flounders - there is no main character in this novel. You follow a series of characters throughout the book and although they are on opposing sides (sometimes in surprising ways) the writing doesn't engender any sort of loyalty to any of them.

I almost quit reading it twice, but the Windup Girl herself made an appearance at the end of chapter 3 and then again around pg 100. These were the most interesting spots, and I was eager to see what happened with her, and that kept me reading. The story does become less disjointed as the characters' stories start becoming intertwined. The ending was surprising in a good way, and I almost hope for a sequel, like maybe that was the stride he wanted to hit.

15. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John LeCarre' (379 pgs)
This book is definitely a product of its time, when the spy game was an old boy's network, where manners almost mattered more than your alliances. Smiley is trying to find who the Soviet mole in the British "Circus," all the while dealing with the betrayal of his wife on a more personal level.

The second half of this book is far more entertaining than the second.

16. Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby (406 pgs)
Like most Hornby, a good story, quick read, I won't remember it a month from now.

17. The Annotated Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott (239 pgs)
As a person who wished she'd gone past Calculus in math, and has even been known to read biographies of mathematicians, this was a great read. The annotated version is better than the original - so many little things explained and context added for more of it.

"What can it be to run against a Woman, except absolute and immediate destruction?"

"To be self-contended is to be vile and ignorant ... to aspire is better than to be blindly and impotently happy."

18. Black Mountain College: Experiment in Art ed. by Vincent Katz (328 pgs)
A beautiful, heavy book chronicling the story of Black Mountain College from several different perspectives. The Brody chapter on music had the best information on the early 1950s and the music created by Lou Harrison and John Cage that I've found anywhere.

19. The Arts at Black Mountain College by Mary Emma Harris (315 pgs)
A great capture of the history of the college. I'd like to add this to my personal collection.

20. A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You by Amy Bloom (163 pgs)
Possibly the best short stories I've read - there is an amazing partnering of interesting situations and knowing the internal life of the characters. Touching and reflective.

21. A Palpable Elysium by Jonathan Williams (175 pgs)
A beautiful book of portraits, accompanied by anecdotes, poetry, and memories the author/photographer has from meeting the artists, poets, and composers he features in the pages. Most of them are connected to him in some way, most from the era when he was at Black Mountain College through the ten years afterwards. I had seen this book at the Black Mountain College Museum and was struck by it then, and enjoyed reading it more closely. The portraits, though, are the thing.

22. The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman (325 pgs)
Definitely not my favorite Hoffman so far. The themes are similar - women in the same family who are connected in strange ways, women who make bad decisions with men but are saved through somewhat magical ways, and sadness. But the story of the sisters seems to drag on, and the interesting parts (Madame Cohen and her story, Paris, and the grandmother Natalia) are minor in the scheme of things.

This could have been a lot tighter. I'm currently trying to find a recipe for Honesty Cake.

23. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (274 pgs)
"Intelligence and education that hasn't been tempered by human affection isn't worth a damn."

A cautionary tale from the 60s of what happens when you Mess With Science, told through the diary of Charlie who has an operation to improve his intelligence.

24. Away by Amy Bloom (240 pgs)
This story was unique, surprising, and the main character of Lillian Leyb was interesting and unpredictable. The ending threw me off a bit, but I liked how even as Lillian left different characters behind, Bloom would fill us in on their stories and endings.

I now have all of the rest of Bloom's work on my to-read list, and am still slogging through 2666.

Book 18

Book 18 : The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson
Genre: Thriller

Plot: Mikael Blomkvist is a highly respected Financial Reporter who has just been convicted for publishing a story that isn't true about a powerful financier. He decides it's in his best interests - and those of Millennium, the magazine he co-owns - for him to take some quiet time, away from the media spotlight. Then, an elderly former CEO - Henrik Vanger - offers to give him information that will allow him to prove to the world that he wasn't barking up the proverbial wrong tree in exchange for writing his family history. Of course,this isn't the only thing Henrik Vanger wants. His niece, Harriet Vanger, disappeared 40 years ago. As part of his investigations into the family history, Blomkvist is to ask questions about that day 40 years ago when the 16 year old disappeared...

My thoughts: I finally gave into the hype surrounding this series and bought the first one. I enjoyed it very much although it wasn't at all what I expected. I can understand the whole debate about Lisbeth Salander's character...not really sure what I think of her. The other characters were believable and likeable. The plot had some interesting twists and turns. I will definitely hunt up book 2.

Rating:4 stars (out of 5)

18 / 50 books. 36% done!

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