July 20th, 2011

Eric in Robe

No. 41 for 2011

Title: City of Bones
Author: Cassandra Clare
Rating: 4/5
Book: 41/50 (82% completed)
Pages: 485 pgs
Total Pages: 16,485
Version: Book
Next up: Not sure yet

There were things that I did and did not like about this book.

I did like the character, Jace. He's complicated. He has angst and he's a pretty cool character.

Clary.....she kind of reminds me of Bella Swan but I'm not going to pass judgment until I read book two.

The writing was what irked me the most. I know the author is a fan fiction writer and it is my opinion that you can tell. The writing, at times, felt like nothing more than glorified fan fiction.

I still enjoyed the story and the universe and I will definitely be reading the rest of the series.

xposted to 50bookchallenge, 15000pages and bookworm84

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Title: Badass: The Birth of a Legend
Author: Ben Thompson
Details: 353 pages
Genre: History/Humour
Book #: 3

Back excerpt:

Since the beginning of human history people have created myths, tall tales, superheroes, and arch-villains - men and women who embarked on insane adventures, performed extraordinary feats of unparalleled awesomeness, and overcame all odds to violently smite their foes into bloody pulp.  In Badass: The Birth of a Legend, Ben Thompson compiles these fantastical tales from the beginning of time to today and tells them in the completely over-the-top manner in which they were intended, including:
- Rama: The Indian god-king who led an army of monkeys against the King of All Demons
- Thor:  The Viking god of thunder and awesome hair, who crushed the skulls of giants with a ridiculously huge hammer
- Beowolf:  An Anglo-Saxon hero so hardcore he could arm-wrestle monsters' joints out of their sockets
- Moby-Dick:  The hate-filled literary behemoth who obliterated ship hulls with his face
- Skuld:  The Norse nercomancer queen who summoned a horde of zombie berserkers
- Dirty Harry Callahan:  The prototypical modern-day antihero and very embodiment of

Comments:  Okay, I have a little bit of a bias here because I'm a rather big Ben Thompson fan.  But that aside, I loved this book.  First thing of note that is that if you happen to be someone of the Christian, Hindu, Native, etc. etc. religion and offend easily, this is not the book for you.  Thompson presents all the people/animals/gods/beasts/etc. as if they aren't true, irregardless of the religion (if there's one involved).  However, his over-the-top hyperbole and hilarious modern-day comparisons make this an easy read.  If you've ever wanted to get interested in history but find most history books or texts dull, dry and labourious to read... this and Ben Thompson's first book Badass are the place to start.  He also runs the website badassoftheweek.com if you want to check out his writing style before reading his books. 

Title: Speaker for the Dead
Author: Orson Scott Card
Details: 382
Genre: Science-Fiction
Book #: 4

Back excerpt:

  In the aftermath of his terrible war, Ender Wiggin disappeared, and a powerful voice arose:  the Speaker for the Dead, who told the true story of the Bugger War.
  Now long years later, a second alien race has been discovered, but again the aliens' ways are strange and frightening... again, humans die.  And it is only the Speaker for the Dead, who is also Ender Wiggin the Xenocide, who has the courage to confront the mystery... and the truth.


Of all the sci-fi series I know of out there, very few have the ability to capture and hold their audience with intensity for more than three (give or take a book depending on the series) books, and often the sequels are horrible as well.  Despite the fact that the Ender series (including the Shadow half of the series) now equals 11 books in total, and for me this 7/11 that I've read and I'm still just as interested as when I started reading the original years ago.

It's also exceptionally hard, as Card points out in his introduction, to introduce new characters into books.  Or have 5+ 'main' characters in a book because of the amount of relationships between characters.  And yet somehow Card is able to have an active list of main characters to tops 10 and does it with grace.

I could go through a list of things I loved about this book, but it would be rather long.  But so would the list of things I didn't like.  So I'll stick with the basics; I hated the amount of years that jumped between Ender in Exile and Speaker for the Dead.  There are so many questions left wide open and you just have accept the way Ender is despite not knowing exact what happened during those years.  Also, introducing yet more foreign languages is hard on a reader... the Brazilian slang from Ender's Game no longer applies but now we have Portuguese (I know they are the same thing, but slang and the actual language are usually vastly different) and the reoccurring Nordic (Swedish) words.  That being said, the basis of the book and the actual title; Speaker for the Dead is something that I've been looking for for years.  I always hated that when someone dies, they automatically become saints.  They can do no wrong, they were perfect angels in life and you can no longer bad-mouth the dead.  Pardon my French here, but I've always found that to be complete bulls**t.  But Card gives it a name, when someone speaks the truth about the life of the dead... it's called a speaking, done by the Speaker for the Dead (duh).  And I can definitely say that when I die, I want a speaking, not some eulogy that glosses over the fact that people are not divine, we make mistakes and our mistakes make us who we are.  Card realizes that, and so does Ender.

One note though; I still don't get the cover picture.
did you know you could fly?

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Book #52 -- A. LaFaye, The Keening, 224 pages.

Lyza knows her father is a bit odd. When he's carving in his workshop, he often forgets to eat or sleep unless her mother makes him come in. His words don't always make sense, and it's sometimes like he sees a whole different world than the rest of them. But Lyza loves her father, and she wouldn't do anything to change him, no matter what the village kids say. But when Lyza's mother dies suddenly of an illness, Lyza's world is turned upside down. Without her mother there to ground him, Lyza's father seems to drift further away into that other world, and some of the people in the village are talking about sending him away to the workfarm where all the crazy people go. If Lyza wants to keep them together, she has to decipher the clues her mother left behind to protect her family. But that other world has its claws in Lyza too.

Book #53 -- Lilith Saintcrow, Night Shift (Jill Kismet, Hunter, Book 1), 352 pages.

This is pretty much just pure brain candy. It's your typical kick-ass chick fights the monsters that go bump in the night story. The style is a bit too cinematic - there's only so many times I need to read that Jill's trenchcoat swirls around her ankles as she turns or that the charms in her hair tinkle. Also, the action gets a little bogged down when the author stops to describe every single motion in some kick-ass martial arts move. Narrative quirks aside, it's still an enjoyable representation of the genre.

Progress toward goals: 200/365 = 54.8%

Books: 53/100 = 53.0%

Pages: 16982/30000 = 56.6%

2011 Book List

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

Books 19 - 34 / 75

19. Appalachian Trail Guide to North Carolina-Georgia, Thirteenth Edition – Jack Coriell and Nancy Shofner, editors
          A very detailed guide of part of the Appalachian Trail.  I was the only person I met who carried these, but I found them to be extremely helpful.  I highly recommend them to hikers.

20. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH [reread] – Robert C. O’Brien
             I was actually thinking about this book, which I last read in elementary school, while I was hiking, and was over-joyed to find it at a friend's house.  Really, it's a great book, and the ending (Justin!) was just as sad as I remembered it.

21. Appalachian Trail Guide to Tennessee-North Carolina, Thirteenth Edition – V. Collins Chew, editor
               Another section guide.  Also good.

22. A Clash of Kings: A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 2 [reread] – George R.R. Martin
                   Re-reading these books has led me to some theories about certain characters and their importance in the story line.  I'm excited to keep reading, but I'm being cock-blocked by everyone and his grandmother currently reading the books as well.  There must be 50 holds on these books at the library.

23. Appalachian Trail Guide to Southwest Virginia, Fifth Edition – Tom Dillon, editor
              This guide is not as good as I could have asked for.  I was mostly put out by the fact that part of the Trail went over the worst terrain I had seen so far, but there was no mention of that in the guide book!

24. The Story of Forgetting – Stefan Merrill Block
                 I picked this up because it was $3.00 in a local grocery store.  It's a book about Alzheimer's, specifically, a genetic early-onset version.  The main characters in the book are a young teenager, whose mother starts showing symptoms in her early thirties, and an old man who lives alone.  You're not supposed to know who the old man is and how he's related to the other characters, but it's pretty obvious by the 20th page or so.
                 This is the first book by the author, and it shows.  Not so terrible that I couldn't finish, but not so good that I would keep an eye out for future books.  Some people might like it, but I wouldn't recommend it.

25. Appalachian Trail Guide to Central Virginia, Second Edition – Irma Graf, editor
                 This guide was o.k., but I found some of the descriptions and distances to be off.  The signs on the trail and my other guide book both had different mileages than this book, and I have no idea who was right.

26. Hatter Fox - Marilyn Harris
                A "love story" about a young American Indian girl and a white doctor.  The girl, Hatter Fox, is a reject from society, a victim of racism and genocide,  who can't conform, and the doctor is set on saving her from herself.
                I found it strange that this book is billed as a love story, since the characters hate and distrust each other for all but the last ten pages.  Then there's a non sequitur love declaration that left me cold.  I didn't believe it in the least, because the author did nothing to set it up.  The doc is a selfish jerk right up to the very end and his behavior is disingenuous.  

27. Around the World in Eighty Days - Jules Verne
                  I liked this a lot more than I thought I would.  I figured it would be boring, but I was genuinely engaged and concerned about the outcome.  I was cheering for Phileas Fogg the whole time, which, considering the fact that he has almost no personality, is a testament to the writing.  

28. The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother - Amy Chua
                 The author writes about her parenting style and the resulting relationships with her two daughters.  She is a proponent of being a "Chinese mother," a style that she obviously associates with being Chinese, but which means to be pushy, demanding, critical, and focused on excellence.  She raised her daughters like show animals, which worked well for a time, until her youngest started to rebel.  
                 This was a fascinating book.  I've been thinking about parenting styles for a while, wondering if it's good for the parents to push their kids.  I've certainly felt that my parents should have pushed me more.  The flip side of that, of course, is that I don't get along at all with my pushy, critical mother, and Chua's description of her fights with her daughter Lulu are pretty much exactly like my childhood.  Except that I was never an award-winning violinist.

29. Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows [reread] - J.K. Rowling

                 I started re-reading this after watching part one of the Deadly Hallows and finished it right before watching part two.  It didn't disappoint as much on a second reading.  

30. The Emperor's Children - Claire Messud
                This book is about three friends living in New York in 2000-2001, turning thirty and wondering how their lives ended up the way they did.  
                 It got rave reviews, which is why I picked it up, but I was so happy to put it down at the end.  I hated the author's style.  I'm not a huge fan of that run-on-sentences, big-words-no-one-uses (pullulate? Really?), and-not-nearly-enough-punctuation style.  The dialogue was pretentious as hell.  Who talks like that?  It was like every line had to be a Line, and so people were just talking over and around each other, just talking to be talking.  No one was likable and I felt relieved to by shut of them.  Ugh.

31. O, Pioneers! - Willa Cather
               A story about, well, pioneers, in Nebraska.  The main character is Alexandra Bergson, a scrappy Swedish immigrant who takes over the farm when her father dies.  
               It always strikes me that Cather's love is the land.  When you read her, that's what you truly have the relationship with in the books.  She's a poet, and makes me long for places I know I would never like in reality. I really enjoy reading her writing.  

32. Lucky - Alice Sebold
              This is about the author's rape when she was 18.  The first 20-30 pages give a squirm-inducing, extremely detailed account of the rape itself.  The rest of the book is about what came after: how she was treated, how she reacted, and how the rapist got caught.  
                It's intense, but I recommend it.

33. Stumbling on Happiness - Daniel Gilbert

                The author is a professor of psychology at Harvard, and the book is about our brains and happiness: how our brains perceive happiness, why it's evolutionarily essential for us to be happy, and how our brains keep us on an even keel.  
                 It's very accessible and the author is very funny.  I enjoyed reading it and learned a lot about psychology that I didn't know before.  

34. Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood
                 A dystopian novel from the point-of-view of the last Homo sapiens, who calls himself  "Snowman."  As far as he knows, he is alone with a variety of genetically altered animals and a new race of people, also created in a lab.  The story of how he got there is told through flashbacks.
                  I was bored for the first third of the book, but got more invested as the flashbacks got closer to the present and the catastrophe that left Snowman alone.  There were various foreshadowings that piqued my interest and started me reading as fast as I could to find out what happened.  I'm not usually one for end-of-the-world-through-scientific-meddling scenarios (unless we're talking zombies), but I liked that Atwood wrote this from the perspective of one of the oligarchs.  It occurred to me that a lot of dystopian novels are very much about the People, and not so much about the Mad Scientist.  
team damon, vampire diaries

Book 69-70: Vampire Diaries: The Return Shadow Souls and Midnight by L.J. Smith

Book 69: The Return: Shadow Souls (Vampire Diaries 06).
Author: L. J. Smith, 2010
Genre: Paranormal Romance. Young Adult.
Other Details: Paperback 512 pages. Unabridged Audiobook: Length: 16 hours, 28 mins. Read by Rebecca Mozo.

In June 2010 I read the first in this new Vampire Diaries trilogy and had a bit of a rant about it (My 2010 Book 62). There was a fair amount of silliness in Nightfall and I approached this novel expecting more of the same.

I decided to ignore Smith's reconning of the series by updating from the 1990s to current day even though it continued to slightly bother me every time the internet or mobile phones were mentioned. Her tendency to over describe scenes also continued, which slowed the pace down to a snail's crawl at times.

Without giving any real spoilers for previous books, in this one Elena and Damon undertake a road trip in order to rescue Stefan from the situation he got himself into in Nightfall. This involves entering the Dark Dimensions accompanied by other members of their Scooby Gang. I found that despite my quibbles Smith's story telling skills did carry me along and being a firm member of Team Damon I was pleased with the focus upon the dynamic between Elena and Damon. I enjoyed it enough that I immediately moved onto Book 7 on audio, keeping as usual the paperback to hand as well.

Book 70: The Return Shadow Souls (Vampire Diaries 07).
Author: L. J. Smith, 2011
Genre: Paranormal Romance. Young Adult.
Other Details: Paperback 458 pages. Unabridged Audiobook: Length: 15 hrs, 48 mins. Read by Rebecca Mozo.

This completes the trilogy with the story line about the kitsune, their threat to Fells Church and excursions to the Dark Dimensions coming to a conclusion. Again, I set aside my quibbles and just enjoyed the story. I did find the ending a little contrived but could appreciate that Smith wished to set up for future books and perhaps to put to rest some aspects introduced in Nightfall.

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I know I'm unlikely ever to warm to Elena (in the novels) or Stefan but I am fond of Bonnie, Meredith and, of course, Damon. I was planning to read her new series when in appears in paperback. However, on hearing that Smith has been removed from writing further books in the series (they will bear her name but will be ghost-written), I feel ambivalent. It is quite obvious from her February 2011 blog entry that this was not her choice and while she asks readers not to boycott the new books but to give them a chance, I feel a certain outrage about the decision to remove her. Hopefully, the publisher's continued use of her name as author means that she will at least continue to get some income from her creation.