January 13th, 2011


#1 Path of the Eclipse

Path of the Eclipse

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

This series is about St. Germain, who is a vampire who has lived for centuries, and witnessed many historic events. In this, the 4th book in the series, he falls in love with a warrior princess in 12th Century China, flees heartbreak and Ghengis Khan's Mongol hordes, befriends a child god in the mountain kingdom of Tu Bo Te, and may finally lose his life at the hands of a bloodthirsty Maharani who is a devotee of the goddess of Kali, the goddess of both fertility and destruction.

I loved this book! I admit, that when I first was offered this book from Bookcrossing, I accepted with some trepidation, since I am so not into the current vampire craze. However, it was so well-written, and the historical aspect blew me away! The vampirism didn't get in the way of a great story at all, and was only one aspect of a character that was also really well-written. One of my favorite historical subjects is that of the exploration of the Silk Road, which is what caught my interest in the first place. That aspect of the book was extremely satisfying, but there was so much more I enjoyed as well, that I definitely plan to read more in this series! This book was so terrific, that it pulled my out of a New Year's reading slump!

Dead Dog Cat

#2, 3

Over the last couple of days, I've finished reading two books.

The first was written by Algis Budrys, and is called Writing to the Point: A Complete Guide to Selling Fiction, which has some good points about story construction, and manuscript preparation in it. It's a very small book and a quick read.

Another quick read which I got out of the library was The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett, which is a short novel about QEII finding a mobile library while she was out recapturing her dogs. The Queen borrows a book, and starts in on reading in wholesale fashion, and the book describes what happens next. Humorous.

Bookworm totals for 2010

BOOKS for 2010
84 books.
29 Non fiction (11 on running or fitness; 9 biographies, miscellaneous etc..)
55 Fiction (30+ some horror, supernatural (including entire Sookie Stackhouse series), or thrillers; 6 Young adult; 3 graphic novels, miscellaneous etc..)
2 re-reads (lol, one of which I didn't realize until I was about halfway through it again!)

Best Book:
Cory Doctorow. MAKERS.

Other Favorites:
Jean Turner. DUST.
China Meiville. KRAKEN.
John Lundqvist. LET ME IN.

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Book Number Two - The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson

Published:  2010
Genre: Christian Historical Romance?
Pages: 272
Medium: Kindle e-book
Acquired: Free download from their limited popular offerings
Normal Cost: 10.00

This book was billed as a romantic historical retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Since I love fairy tales, I was greatly interested. The book started out well enough. Rose - the lead character - is a bright, compassionate and believable character. Her wish to not be forced into marriage was realistically portrayed, as was heer observations of the clas diffierences. She maintained proper protocals while showing spunk and determination. The male lead characters of Wilhelm and Rupert Hamlin were also fully fleshed out.
The first half of the book was delightful and interesting. The characters experienced a few adventures and had to fight growing attractions. These scenes were well written. But the second half of the book had a jarring shift. Suddenly the book became VERY religious and the main characters stopped acting. They changed the way they did things and instead of trying to solve their own problems, they prayed about them instead. Please do not mistake what I am saying. I am not upset about the religious nature of the book. I just wish that it would have been consistent one way or the other throughout the book and was not saved for just the last half. The insertion of the idea that waiting for God to resolve your problems through prayer became the overarching theme and was used to resolve problems and plot devices. It felt as though the author got lazy.
It was not bad. But it could have been so much better. I would recommend passing this one by.

Books Read: 2/50
Page Totals: 748
Money Saved: 21.00
b/w unicorn

Book #1

Happy 2011 everyone! I did really well last year - managing 67 books, 42 of which were new, 25 of which were re-reads. You can check out my full list here if you like.

Book #1

Title: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
Author: Susanna Clarke
Genre: fantasy
Pages: 1006
Book Blurb: All is going well for rich, reclusive Mr Norell, who has regained some of the power of England's magicians from the past, until a rival magician, Jonathan Strange, appears and becomes Mr Norrell's pupil, in a witty fantasy set against the backdrop of nineteenth-century England.

The blurb doesn't even begin to do this book justice. It is, in a word, amazing. I read this book once a few years ago and knew that I had to reread it this year. I read a lot of fantasy and this is the only book where the magic felt so real that it was almost jumping off the pages. A word of warning - this thing is huge! It does tend to drag in places, but it also will not let you put it down. English Magic is given a rich, textured history - in fact at times, you feel like you are reading a history instead of a fiction novel. It is beautifully written. I highly, highly recommend it.

1 / 50 books. 2% done!

1006 / 15000 pages. 7% done!

Cross-posted to 15000pages and personal journal.
A Alice

Books 1-5 of 2011: Neil Gaiman, Hunger Games, Jane Austen, young adult biography

"Let me tell you something, Dream. And I'm only going to say this once, so you'd better pay attention. You are utterly the stupidest, most self-centered appallingest excuse for an anthropomorphic personification on this or any other plane!"--Death to her little brother, Dream.

"What power would Hell have if those here imprisoned were not able to dream of heaven?"
1. The Sandman Volume 1: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman The first graphic novel/comic book I've ever read, naturally drawn by Neil Gaiman (who's novels I've nearly exhausted). Morpheus (Dream) is captured and his three mantels stolen. He must retrieve them from mortals, demons, Hell, and the Dreamworld itself. Clever and imaginative, definitely left me wanting more. Grade: A-

 2. Catching Fire by Susan Collins (391 pages) Really, the Hunger Games, again? This book is the very definition of a disappointing sequel: the same thing, again. All that was refreshing and exciting of the first book (the brutal, violent dystopic games, a protagonist jaded, confused, and simply struggling for survival), becomes, frankly, boring, as it is all just done again. There is little to no character growth or plot development (except a bit of predictable revolution, a bit of a movement in a wider scale). Besides the three main characters, the characters remain flat red shirts. Peeta, Katniss, and Haymitch, though, keep the book readable and interesting. The climax/cliffhanger almost redeems the book. Still a great, exciting, fresh young adult novel. Just not truly engaging for adult readers. Grade: C

"Who wins? Not us. Not the districts. Always the Capitol. But I'm tired of being a piece in their Games."
"Katniss will pick whoever she thinks she can't survive without."
"It's like a game. Repetitive. Even a little tedious after more than twenty years. But there are much worse games to play."
3. Mockingjay by Susan Collins (392 pages) The final book of The Hunger Games series finds Katniss playing an even more dangerous game: war. A war between the rebels and the tyrants of the Capitol. Again, she is dressed up and used as a pawn, again she is forced to endure the most horrific violence, but perhaps finally she will be able to find her freedom and independence, find love, find peace from her perpetual struggle to survive. The ending of the series is definitely on par with the strong beginning, filled with action, emotion, character (particularly in the refreshing, original, flawed and complex heroine), even poignancy on the tragedy of war and the futility and childishness of violent games. I wish there had been more character (besides Katniss, the characters are flat and difficult to feel much for, Haymitch most of all could have been so much more), more plot, more theme, and less fashion and gratuitous (by which I mean, boring) violence (really, does our heroine have to get knocked out and wake up in hospital every other chapter?). The Hunger Games though is a strong, engaging read for young adults, a dystopian fantasy on par with Uglies and The Giver, with a truly wonderful, original, and human heroine at its center. Grade: A-

 4. The Double Life of Pocahontas by Jean Fritz (96 pages) Well-researched and well-told young reader biography of a complex woman who suffers the clash of two worlds. May be difficult for some young readers, but an engaging and important historical biography. Grade: B

5. Jane Austen: The Girl With the Magic Pen by Gill Hornby (90 pages) Young reader biography of the brilliant author, Jane Austen, simplifies her life, yet paints an engaging portrait of both her character and times. Lively, well-written, humorous prose at a low reading level makes this an interesting read, though I'm not sure if such young readers could truly "get" Austen. Grade: B

 2011 Page Total: 969



There is much to ponder about the persistence in prosperous, technology based division of labor societies of ancient superstitions and belief in the implausible. It was with that in mind that I purchased Charles P. Pierce's Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free. The back cover was provocative enough. Collapse ) It did, however, make for a quick Book Review No. 2, as I was able to read it in the course of a frustrating quest for hobby shops and have time for a nap on the train home.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)
Hearts Neil

Books 1-3

Dreams From my Father, Barack Obama
Summary: There are three parts to Obama's narrative. He begins with his childhood in Hawaii/Indonesia, moves to Chicago to work on public service projects, and more or less ends his memoir in Kenya where he visits relatives on his father's side of the family. Young Obama struggles with identity, race, and family.

Whatever you think of Obama's politics, this book was impeccably written. (And if you'd rather not read about politics, it is just about absent from this book. He touches upon some work he does Chicago, but it doesn't overwhelm the narrative.) The amount of detail is wonderful. Obama's characters (mostly relatives) are complex, human, and often funny. Obama's struggle to find a place in the world and scheme of things was extremely refreshing and easy to relate to.

Vile Bodies, Evelyn Waugh
Summary: A choir of not-so-wholesome angels and troupe of random characters struggle to make do in a jaded, financially unstable society. It's difficult to say more than that without giving away specific plot points.

This is a pretty hilarious satire. I grew rather fond of some of its characters, which is why it was disappointing when they struggle and continue to struggle at the end of the novel. The characters never get the resolution I wanted, and it was frustrating at times. I couldn't decide whether the lack of resolution was realistic or cynical (or perhaps both). I mostly enjoyed it, but I wouldn't read it again.

Howl's Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones
Summary: A witch curses a young girl - Sophie - who is then forced to contend with her new circumstances. Circumstances lead her to reside in a moving castle with the notoriously feared wizard Howl, his apprentice Michael, and a fire demon named Calcifer. The novel follows Sophie's struggle to break the curse.

This was a re-read, and it is one of my favorite books. The characters are wonderful. Jones creates touching, entertaining characters, and I was very eager to find out what happens to them. The story is poignant and funny. It's a great read, and I highly recommend it!
Book Smooch

First Two for 2011

I totally failed at updating last year, but I'm resolving to do better this year. At any rate, I've finished my first two for the year.

Book #1 was Blanche on the Lam by BarbaraNeely.

From Amazon: Blanche, a street-smart black domestic on the run from the sheriff for passing a bad check (again), winds up cooking and caring for edgy Miz Grace, her husband Everett, her wealthy, reclusive Aunt Emmeline, and her somewhat retarded Cousin Mumsfield at their summer home in Hokeysville, North Carolina--in a quirky mystery debut that pits Blanche against a Faulknerian cast of oddballs who may be trying to kill each other off to claim a southern fortune. Did Everett murder his first wife for her money, and does he have similar plans for his second? Is Grace trying to con her feeble auntie into signing a new will discounting Mumsfield and exalting her? Does auntie have a drinking problem, or is she the sweet, old woman Mumsfield remembers? Is the sheriff blackmailing Everett or vice versa? As Blanche wrestles with these problems, including what's in the cellar of the family's winter home, she communes telepathically with Mumsfield, phones home regularly to make sure her Mama and her two kids are all right, and ties in several other murders before heading off for the peace (she hopes) of Boston. Prickly view of class-clashes, race relations, and family foibles, in a somewhat forced, folk-talk style. Primarily for southern gothic aficionados. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. 

My thoughts: I know this book won some awards, and it had its charming moments, but overall I was sort of meh about it. I read it for a class (and will be reading another in the series for class this semester) and probably wouldn't have picked it up otherwise. Blanche is an engaging character, but the mystery is a bit like playing a game of Clue with people who don't know how to bluff very well. The picture Neely paints of race relations in the South is a good one, and I do like that she paints Blanche as a person with agency.

Book #2 was Secrets of the Tudor Court: Between Two Queens by Kate Emerson.

From Amazon:
Emerson's second in her Tudor court series (following Secrets of the Tudor Court: The Pleasure Palace) begins with Jane Seymour's death after giving birth to a son, Edward, and follows the fortunes of one of her maids of honor, Nan Bassett. Concerned about her position now that her queen is dead, Nan catches Henry VIII's eye almost at once, a dangerous position for a young maid. When her family becomes embroiled in treason and scandal, it is all she can do to stay alive and must balance the desires of a king with the desires of her heart. As in her first Tudor novel, Emerson skillfully crafts a strong heroine who maintains careful command of her sexuality and her independence. Nan's behavior is as brave as it is scandalous for the time, and Emerson makes readers appreciate the consequences of Nan's choices. An in-depth view into the later years of Henry's court with the charismatic king gone to seed, makes him a character, in Emerson's capable hands, to be feared and in some ways pitied.

My thoughts: Pure brain candy, but incredibly well written. I will be reading the rest of this series. Emerson does a nice job painting the era so that the reader feels immersed, surrounded. Her characters are believable, and it is clear that she has done her research and spent time with the primary sources. If you like Philippa Gregory''s work on the Tudor wives, you'll enjoy this book immensely.