June 28th, 2010

Bookwyrm

Books #24-29

24) Distory: A Treasury of Historical Insults compiled by Robert Schnakenberg (history/humor, 192 pages)
This was a quick and hilarious read. There are some true gems here. What famous people said about other famous people. 3/5

25) Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson (Mainstream Fiction, 368 pages)
Utterly charming tale of two people who defy societal and familial conventions and opinions to become friends, and maybe something more. I really enjoyed this book - though I didn't much care for many of the background characters who displayed the fact they were too stupid front and center. I did appreciate that some of those characters did redeem themselves (some more than others) by the end of the book. Lovely. I'm very glad I read this one. 4/5

26) The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival by Ken Wheaton (Mainstream Fiction, 304 pages)
I like quirky books, and this one was definitely quirky (as if the priest leading a circus elephant on the cover couldn't clue you in). This was a fun book and overall I liked it. But yet... something kept me from *really* liking this book (and bumping this up to the coveted four star position). For all that the characters are complex and the story is multi-faceted, in the end, the book was still too simple. The resolution of the one-upmanship contest with the Pentacostal church was too simple and seemed almost a cop out. As was the ending of the book -- not that I had a problem with the ending, but it felt like the author took the easy way out and ended the book THERE so he wouldn't have to deal with the repercussions. But, the book made me laugh. And almost made me cry. Which, in the end, is really all I had wanted from the book. 3.5/5

27) Forget-Her-Nots by Amy Brecount White (Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy, 384 pages)
Cute idea somewhat lacking in the execution. I really really liked the concept of Flower-speaking and using that as a backdrop for a coming of age story. Overall, I liked the plot but the characterizations were very weak (and in some cases, utterly incomprehensible to me) and stereotypical (e.g., mean girl, jock, nerdy girl, etc.). What could have been a fantastic and deep YA story ended up shallow and fluffy. 3/5

28) Changing the World and Other Tales of Valdemar edited by Mercedes Lackey (Fantasy Anthology, 352 pages)
Overall, an enjoyable set of stories. I can't think of any that I outright *disliked* - I may even be in the minority in that I appreciated the last oddball story of an interview with a Companion. 4/5

29) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (Mainstream Fiction, 512 pages)
It took a long time to read this book -- not because I didn't like it but because I didn't have a lot of reading time. But every time I picked it up, I was immediately sucked into Francie's world and it was always jarring to leave it. This was Smith's love letter to the Brooklyn that she grew up in -- poor and shabby but still very beloved. I only wish I had read this book earlier. 4/5
Leaf on Book

Books #30-36

30) Changeless by Gail Carriger (Steampunk Fantasy, 374 pages)
Alexia is back in the follow up to the delightful Soulless. Now Lady Maccon and mujah, she finds she has a whole new set of problems to deal with - starting with the regiment camping out on her front lawn and a mysterious humanizing effect that turns supernaturals human. And then there's her wayward husband, her tag-along sister, and Ivy's hats to deal with. But she does get a lovely new parasol and a dirigible ride out of the bargain. Too bad it seems someone is out to get her... More corsets, dirigibles, werewolves, and steampunk goodness than you can shake a parasol at. Eagerly awaiting the next book! 4/5

31) 1984 by George Orwell (Dystopian Fiction, 328 pages)
This was okay. A pretty fast read until Orwell started having pages and pages of political griping and teeth gnashing. A good read but I will admit I started skimming towards the end. 3.5/5

32) Enchanted, Inc. by Shanna Swendson (Chick-Lit Fantasy, 320 pages)
This book was so much fun! It was pure escapism fluff and I loved every word of it. 4/5

33) Schooled by Gordon Korman (Young Adult, 224 pages)
A very quick, enjoyable read. Cap is a commune kid for whom modern life is completely foreign. After his grandmother's accident, he ends up enrolled at a public school... and elected class president. I really liked this one, though felt the ending was just a little too abrupt. 3.5/5

34) Once Upon Stilettos by Shanna Swendson
35) Damsel Under Stress by Shanna Swendson
36) Don't Hex With Texas by Shanna Swendson
The follow-up books to Enchanted, Inc., which I tore through one after the other. I really enjoyed this series. Not since Jennifer Estep's Bigtime superhero romance books have I torn through a set of books so quickly, and with so much enjoyment. It was nice to see Kate's progression as a character. 4/5
Default Ron

Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soulless by Gail Carriger
Pages: 384

Synopsis

Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she's a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire — and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London's high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

SOULLESS is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking.

Although I enjoyed The Dresden Files, I wasn’t sure about a book dealing with vampires and werewolves, but after seeing the cover and realizing it was set in Victorian England, I was intrigued and picked it up at the store.

Best decision ever.

This book is hilarious. Alexia Tarabotti is one of the wittiest and developed heroines I’ve read in quite a long time. The alternative history where werewolves and vampires helped shaped the English Crown is brilliant. There was not a single moment this book didn’t captivate me.

Books completed: 12/50
Pages completed: 3,597/15,000


Default Ron

Changeless by Gail Carriger

Changeless by Gail Carriger
Pages: 400

Synopsis

Alexia Tarabotti, the Lady Woolsey, awakens in the wee hours of the mid-afternoon to find her husband, who should be decently asleep like any normal werewolf, yelling at the top of his lungs. Then he disappears - leaving her to deal with a regiment of supernatural soldiers encamped on her doorstep, a plethora of exorcised ghosts, and an angry Queen Victoria.

But Alexia is armed with her trusty parasol, the latest fashions, and an arsenal of biting civility. Even when her investigations take her to Scotland, the backwater of ugly waistcoats, she is prepared: upending
werewolf pack dynamics as only the soulless can.

She might even find time to track down her wayward husband, if she feels like it.

This book was a fantastic follow-up to Soulless, although a bit slow at times and a little bit too much technobabble for my tastes. However, that being said, I will definitely read it again and recommend it to others. The introduction of Madame Lefoux was genius. This is a character who I hope we more of in future novels. She gels with Alexia seamlessly and their verbal and silent exchanges had me rolling with laughter.

I thought the resolution to the problem presented in the story was well executed, although I was NOT happy with the cliffhanger ending. The newest book, Blameless, comes out in September, and I’m eagerly waiting for it.

Carriger’s characters have more zingers than a Hostess snack truck, and they deliver each one with deadly accuracy. I’m looking forward to the next installment – if nothing else than to simply prove our heroine’s innocence.

Books completed: 13/50
Pages completed: 3,997/15,000


Neglecting my book reading and posting #3-8

In a random order as I look at my book self

#3 Fallen by Lauren Kate
www.amazon.co.uk/Fallen-Lauren-Kate/dp/0385618026/ref=sr_1_1

3.5/5

#4 The Secret Circle Vol 1 by L.J Smith
www.amazon.co.uk/Secret-Circle-Initiation-Captive-v/dp/0340999543/ref=sr_1_2

3.5/5

#5, 6, 7 Tithe, Ironside and Valiant by Holly Black
www.amazon.co.uk/Tithe-Holly-Black/dp/0689860420/ref=sr_1_1
www.amazon.co.uk/Ironside-Modern-Faerie-Holly-Black/dp/1847380638/ref=sr_1_1
www.amazon.co.uk/Valiant-Modern-Faerie-Holly-Black/dp/1416901191/ref=sr_1_1

4.5/5 for all of them

#8 The Blue Girl by Charles de Lint
www.amazon.co.uk/Blue-Girl-Firebird-Charles-Lint/dp/0142405450/ref=sr_1_1

3/5

Half way through Silverthorn by Raymond E Feist (got distracted by other books) and currently reading The Ambassador's Mission by Trudi Canavan.

I was hoping to do better this year but not looking like I'm going to get anywhere near as many reads as last year.
!

Books 27,28 and 29

Book 27
I Know I Am, But What Are You? - Samantha Bee

There is an old chestnut, that comedians tell jokes to hide the sadness inside.
Samantha Bee appears to fit that tough-on-the-outside routine to a T. This darkly comic memoir tries to be sweet and occasionally even bright. But, what really comes through is not the weirdness of her life growing up but how that dysfunction has shaped her satire.
Not to say this isn't a funny collection of vignettes, too. I can't wait to steal her line about bathing - civilized people take baths; in showers, the water attacks you.
It's funny stuff. There is something to be said, though, for knowing why she thinks that way.


Book 28
Quiet, Please - Scott Douglas


Among my friends, I count four librarians. I know another, though friend might be too generous a characterization.
See what I did there? How I cleverly turned my words on someone, making you come along for the ride?
It isn't that difficult to do. So I'm hard-pressed to be impressed with Douglas' memoir of life working in a public library. He manages to bemoan the lack of civility and the general decline in others' intellect and experience by using those very civil short-cuts from his own narrow view of the world.
In short, this is a memoir of a young librarian who still lives at home - in Anaheim - who has the strange insistence of looking down on others for not being as worldly as he. Did I mention he still lives with his parents?
Oh, I'm sure this isn't how the book was pitched. The book editors and agents were told this was a story about a young man who decides to become a librarian at just the moment public libraries are entering the digital age.
It's supposed to be a funny and insightful look at a dusty old world, confronted by such a hipster (note: hipsters have always liked to read, so suggesting that you can't be a hipster because you're a bookworm negates the likes of Kerouc and Ginsberg, but I digress).
Sure there are some good descriptions of the kinds of people who find libraries to be safe havens – the mentally ill, the mentally challenged, the elderly, especially. But did I mention Douglas has to belittle them, repeatedly, before he ends with, “But of course, I learned a valuable library lesson from them,” whether he did or not.
ArtBoy presented me this, as a gift. He tells me the origin of the book was a blog for McSweeney’s.
A blog would explain the inevitable narcissism. It doesn’t explain why a book billed as absurd and hilarious is so bland.
It’s not bad, but it’s not memorable. And when you’re writing a memoir, you should totally go for memorable.


Book 29
Fat Vampire - Rex Adam


Team Doug. It's nothing like Team Edward.
Doug is 15, chunky and awkward when he is turned into a vampire. He will remain a geeky teen, then, for all eternity.
This is the premise of the least romantic and swoon-worthy vampire populating current fiction. In fact, Doug is not all that likeable. He may try to avoid his need for blood by leaching off random large mammals instead of humans, but being undead doesn’t affect his ability to be cruel to his one true friend or his reaction to a crush who doesn’t return his affection.
But it’s hard not to root for Doug when the Vampire Hunter TV host (think an even worse Geraldo) is on his trail. Or when he gets as a mentor the only vampire more strange than he.
The humor never stops, up to the final, ambiguous last page. Good stuff.
amy poehler

(no subject)

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21. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho - It was okay, I was kind of expecting to be better because I've heard such great things but it was just okay. Nice message though.

22. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins - I love these books, I can't wait for the 3rd one. This one leaves you on such a cliffhanger though it's like "what!?! what's going to happen!?" So good! The next book series to be made into movies I bet.

23. The Modern Monologue: Women - Just a book of monologues for auditions and stuff. Nothing special, some are good, some are blah.

24. The Bedwetter by Sarah Silverman - Loved it. It was a memoir and all the stories were great. She's so funny! It made me love Sarah Silverman even more.
El Corazon

180. Seize the Day

Seize the Day
by Saul Bellow

Started: June 25, 2010
Finished: June 28, 2010

Just an absolutely perfect short novel. I don't think it could have been written any better. 118 pages. Grade: A+
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Total # of Books Read in 2010: 180
Total # of Pages Read in 2010: 45,580
pensive

(no subject)

I'd just like to take a moment to let you all know how very lucky you are that, on Saturday when I came home, a couple of glasses of wine worse for the wear and fully intending to write a long post about how much I hated O Lost, I got distracted and never got around to it. Thus it is that you're getting a rather more sober and measured post about how much I hated O Lost.

O Lost: A Story of the Buried Life by Thomas Wolfe made me furious and I'm still trying to sort out why. Part of it, doubtless, was that I needed to read it by today and only left myself a week to do it in. It's a pretty long book: 660ish pages of smallish print and it sort of wanders in vast spirals, which makes it hard to follow if you're in any kind of a hurry. It's also a rough draft. The final version, much edited (I guess, I haven't read it), was published under the title Look Homeward, Angel. This version is, I'm told, a bit racier, and he hadn't changed the names for any of the characters except himself (it's semi-autobiographical, I guess), but it also lacks cohesion. The main reason, though, I think, is that I can't for the life of me understand the allure of reading a book about highly flawed people doing highly flawed things and ending up right where they started. Me, I like books with spaceships or zombies. I like murders and heroes and people who DO things. I like to read about people I can look up to. O Lost is about a dysfunctional family in a southern town slightly before (and during) WWI. The father drinks; the mother complains; the children drink and complain. In the end they're all older but still, basically, the same. I'm not, I promise, a complete boor. I liked Jane Eyre and loved The Brothers Karamazov, hell, I even liked Middlemarch but in this book, where I could find not one single character who set an example, and not one single truly memorable thing happened... it just upset me. It also upsets me that this is the kind of book I see so often being praised to high-heaven.

Deep breath. There I'm done.

On the other hand, I loved The Likeness by Tana French. Ms. French has only recently come to my attention and I am so very very glad she has. I'm also intrigued by the way she seems to be in the habit of taking a peripheral character from one novel and making that one the main first-person character in the next. It pulls her books together without tying her to anything. The Likeness did not draw me in as powerfully and immediately as In the Woods, but it still did a damn fine job. I don't know what it is about Ms. French's writing, but I can SEE the places she talks about. I can HEAR her characters' voices. It's really only a matter of time before I go out and buy copies for everyone I know (including myself, since I borrowed them). In this one, Cassie (Rob's ex-partner from the first book) is sent to work undercover to determine who murdered a girl who looks just like her and who has somehow acquired the false identity she used while working undercover previously. What I like best about Ms. French's work is the subtle undertone of weirdness to what are, otherwise, straightforward detective novels.

So that's the very worst and the very best. I also read two other books that fell somewhere in the middle.

The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle is about an expedition to South America to discover a raised plateau on which prehistoric beasts still live. The beginning was brilliant and the ending was unexpected (and therefore pleasing) but the middle got a bit dull. Edgar Rice Burroughs is my one true adventure-novel love and I found it difficult to get enthralled in an adventure novel where there were no pretty ladies getting captured by a race of pterodactyls.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larson is one of those books that, suddenly, everybody is reading, and with good reason. A discredited investigative journalist is hired to discover what happened to a girl who went missing thirty years ago, while a young female hacker investigates HIM. There were a few flaws in the novel which I think can be put down to translation issues (a few sentences I read over and over without extracting meaning) but, on the whole, it's a gripping story. I liked the hacker-chick better than the journalist and paid a bit more attention to her parts. (Cutting for possible triggers)Collapse )

56/105.