February 7th, 2011

Reading - South Park Style

January Books

I'm trying something different this year. Instead of posting to both this community and my own journal, I'm going to post my monthly summaries here with links to the write-ups in my journal for anyone who is interested. Of course, it would help if I remembered to post the summary.

1. Tony Hillerman, The Fallen Man, 294 pages, Mystery, Hardback, 1996 (Navajo Mysteries, Book 12).

2. Tony Hillerman, The First Eagle, 278 pages, Mystery, Hardback, 1998 (Navajo Mysteries, Book 13).

3. Tony Hillerman, Hunting Badger, 275 pages, Mystery, Hardback, 2000 (Navajo Mysteries, Book 14).

4. Tony Hillerman, The Wailing Wind, 232 pages, Mystery, Hardback, 2002 (Navajo Mysteries, Book 15).

Books #8-13

8) Underfoot in Show Business by Helene Hanff (Memoir, 177 pages)
The problem with finding a new author you love who happens to be deceased is that you know he or she won't be producing any more books for you to read. The problem if that author is Helene Hanff is that she only wrote five memoir books, and another book that collects the transcripts of some radio program she did. Totally unfair, I say. I only discovered Hanff a few weeks ago and have already sped through three of her six books, and it makes me sad to think there are only three more left to go.

This was a delight. Hanff really brought to life what being an out-of-worked, unknown, starving playwright in the 40s and 50s was like. I know that I wouldn't have lasted a month in that life, but she made it sound so fun that I was half tempted to give it a try myself. 4/5

9) The Betrayal of the Blood Lily by Lauren Willig (Historical Fiction/Romance, 401 pages)
While I liked this, I felt very little emotional attachment to the characters and mainly kept reading to find out what happens. This is one of the more lackluster books of the series, in my opinion. Not enough spy daring-do, too much moping around or being seethingly resentful, and while Penelope had a backbone, I would have liked her to exhibit it much earlier and more forthrightly than she had. It also doesn't help that I read the books so far apart I can't remember what happens from one to the next. 3/5

10) Mozart's Blood by Louise Marley (Historical Fantasy, 422 pages)
Louise Marley takes a stab at reinventing the vampire myth in this gorgeous story of a opera singer who was turned in 1787, and her werewolf assistant, Ugo. The book weaves scenes from throughout the two characters' history to provide back story and supplement the present-day scenes. Honestly, the contemporary plot line is not very compelling. It's the historical plots that kept me engaged and intrigued. The book made me want to listen to some opera. 4/5

11) Alice at Heart by Deborah Smith (Contemporary Fantasy, 320 pages)
I had zero expectations going into the book. I'd heard of the author before but hadn't read anything by her. I have had a review copy of Waterlilies #2 on my shelf forever, so decided I should finally get around to reading the first in the series.

I really liked this book. It's a very different take on mermaids, and had a very sensual, lush narration. I really liked how Alice and Griffin were both finding themselves together, and how the plot line ties into very intriguing backstories of the sisters.
I thought the endnotes by "Lilith" were a little too cutesy, but did appreciate the extra information about the Water People.

12) Changeling: A Novella by Nancy Jane Moore (Contemporary Fantasy, 90 pages)
(I received a free ebook version from Book View Cafe through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.)
What an odd story. I wasn't sure exactly what I was expecting when I first started reading this, but what I found sure wasn't it. The story is deceptively simple, but extremely haunting at the same time. I normally wish short stories are longer, more fleshed out, but this one seemed just right. The pace and episodic nature reflected Maggie's dreams. I liked it. 3.5/5

13) Do Tampons Take Your Virginity?: A Catholic Girl's Memoir by Marie Simas (Memoir, 164 pages)
(I received a copy of this book via Goodreads giveaway program from the author.)
I started reading it as soon as I got home and saw it in the mail, and finished it a little over two hours later. Overall, I really liked the book. It was quirky, a bit gut-wrenching, disturbing, and hopeful all at the same time. But I can't get over the title. It's an interesting title, a unique title, a title that is sure to make someone do a double take. Unfortunately, it's also, in my opinion, a horrible title for this book as it completely gives the wrong impression about what the book is about. This was not a memoir of a Catholic girl writing about weird questions she had to deal with. It was a memoir of a girl, who just happened to be Catholic (though religion isn't a big part of this book at all), writing about growing up with an extremely abusive and horrendous father and moving past that.

Simas tells a compelling story. I was a little thrown at first by the episodic nature of the book, but it becomes clear just why she chose that structure at the very last few pages of the book. She writes about some truly traumatic and horrific experiences defiantly, catharticly, and with a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor I admired. I don't know if I could have survived in her family and emerged half-way functioning. 3.5/5
El Corazon

20. Alfred Hitchcock: Interviews

Alfred Hitchcock: Interviews
edited by Sidney Gottlieb

Started: February 3, 2011
Finished: February 7, 2011

This is a book of interviews with Alfred Hitchcock from various sources dating from the 1920s to the 1970s. I recently read another book in the same series that focused on John Huston, and I have the same reservations about this collection as I did with the Huston one. Hitchcock was an interesting man and a great interview, but because these interviews came from a variety of sources you tend to read some of the same stories over and over again. This lessens their impact somewhat. Still, this was basically a good read. 212 pages. Grade: B-
Total # of books read in 2011: 20
Total # of pages read in 2011: 5,112

Books 3 & 4

Title: The Kite Runner
Author: Khalid Hosseini
Topics: Afghanistan, Fathers/Sons
I'm not sure what to say about this novel. It's hard to sum up because it is such a rich and heart-breaking tale. Hosseini deserves every accolade he has received for this amazing novel, and it is definitely a must read. 

Title: Practical Magic
Author: Alice Hoffman
Topics: Magical Realism, Love, Women
Alice Hoffman is a comfort to me. She is one of my favorite authors. I just love the magical realism and the strong female characters. If you've only seen the film of Practical Magic and never given the novel a try you are definitely missing out. 
Book Smooch

Books 7 and 8 for 2011

8 / 50 books. 16% done!

Book #7 was Secrets of the Tudor Court: By Royal Decree by Kate Emerson

From Amazon: Bess Brooke is sent to the court of King Henry VIII, where she momentarily captures the monarch’s attention. For a young woman, the aging, bloated king is repugnant, so she is relieved when he looks elsewhere for his next wife. However, life at court is very appealing, and she is grateful to become a lady-in-waiting, thanks to her mother’s connections. There she meets William Parr, the new queen’s brother. As a divorced man, Will has nothing to offer a virtuous woman until his former wife dies because only the king can remarry if the former spouse is still living. Bess tries to stay away even as her heart leads her to Will. Meandering their way through the maze of court life, Will and Bess strive for happiness, battling the whims of Henry VIII, King Edward, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, and all who hope to gain power at their expense. Emerson captures the pageantry and the politics of the Tudor court, portraying real-life characters who negotiated turbulent times, and giving historical-fiction fans a first-rate read. --Patty Engelman

My thoughts: The least strong of the trilogy, though it still had its good parts. The first 2/3 of the book is taken up with the set up for the love affair between Bess and Will, and with their "honeymoon period." Bess's discussions of the machinations at the Tudor court is engaging, and the descriptions of the court itself are rich. After Henry's death (which is treated in a couple of pages), it all goes downhill. Emerson takes us on a whirlwind tour of some of the most significant events in English history in the last third of the book, and doesn't do any of them justice. The story is taken up with Bess's urgency to save Will from charges of treason, which is well and good -- but Bess comes off as whiny and needy, not heroic. I will probably read future installments in this series if they are published, because they're good brain candy, and I hope that this one was just a blip for Emerson.

Book #8 was My Year of Meats by Ruth L. Ozeki

From Amazon: At first glance, a novel that promises to expose the unethical practices of the American meat industry may not be at the top of your reading list, but Ruth Ozeki's debut, My Year of Meats is well worth a second look. Like the author, the novel's protagonist, Jane Takagi-Little, is a Japanese-American documentary filmmaker; like Ozeki, who was once commissioned by a beef lobbying group to make television shows for the Japanese market, Jane is invited to work on a Japanese television show meant to encourage beef consumption via the not-so-subliminal suggestion that prime rib equals a perfect family:
FROM: Tokyo Office
DATE: January 5, 1991
RE: My American Wife!...

Here is list of IMPORTANT THINGS for My American Wife!

1. Attractiveness, wholesomeness, warm personality
2. Delicious meat recipe (NOTE: Pork and other meats is second class meats, so please remember this easy motto: "Pork is Possible, but Beef is Best!")
3. Attractive, docile husband
4. Attractive, obedient children
5. Attractive, wholesome lifestyle
6. Attractive, clean house...

1. Physical imperfections
2. Obesity
3. Squalor
4. Second class peoples

The series, My American Wife!, initally seems like a dream come true for Jane as she criss-crosses the United States filming a different American family each week for her Japanese audience. Naturally, the emphasis is on meat, and Ozeki has fun with out-there recipes such as rump roast in coke and beef fudge; but as Jane becomes more familiar with her subject, she becomes increasingly aware of the beef industry's widespread practice of using synthetic estrogens on their cattle and determines to sabotage the program.

Cut to Tokyo where Akiko Ueno struggles through the dull misery of life with her brutish husband, who happens to be in charge of the show's advertising. After seeing one of Jane's subversive episodes about a vegetarian lesbian couple, Akiko gets in touch and the two women plot to expose the meat industry's hazardous practices. Romance, humor, intrigue, and even a message--My Year of Meats has it all. This is a book that even a vegetarian would love.

My thoughts:  I was assigned to read this for my Politics of Motherhood course, and I found myself unable to stop reading it. I finished it two weeks ahead of my class simply because I could not put it down. Ozeki's voice is believable and has just the right amount of snark -- think Chuck Paliahuik -- and her characters win your heart. There are some serious social issues underlying this book, but it never feels preachy. The writing is sensual, like biting into a great steak or a ripe peach. And you care about what happens to the characters, even the ones you end up hating. This is not a book for the squeamish -- I won't be eating red meat for a while, or at least not red meat that's not local and organic! -- but it is so worth your time.
Eric in Robe

No. 10 for 2011

Title: Secrets to the Grave
Author: Tami Hoag
Rating: 5/5
Book: 10/50 (20% completed)
Pages: 449 pgs
Total Pages: 3,748/15,000 pages (24.99% completed)
Version: Book
Next up: Spiritbound by Richelle Mead

I loved this book! I could not put this one down! I love Hoag's work but this one was exceptional! It kept you guessing right to the very end. You thought that you knew who the murderer was and Hoag throws in a new twist that leaves you right back at square one! I definitely recommend this one to everyone!

xposted to 50bookchallenge, 15000pages and bookworm84

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