May 1st, 2014

50BookChallenge2014

March and April reads

March was a pretty slow month for, just knocking two books out, but here they are:

What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast by Laura Vanderkam

This was a short read that provided insight into what successful CEOs do before beginning their work day. Bottom line is that the most succesful people tend to be those who get up early and set aside time for exercise, meditation/prayer and family. I enjoyed reading it and learned a few things to incorporate it into my daily routines.

Prince of the Elves (Amulet series #5) by Kazu Kibuishi

This was a great entry in this series with a compelling storyline and beautiful art. I'm enjoying it, even though it is a little too YA for me. But, I'll finish it out since I've invested time into it.

April

Otherwise Engaged by Amanda Quick

This is my obligatory, once-a-year romance read, but I was pleasantly suprised by this year's entry. Amanda Quick *finally* moved away from paranormal romance (a blah for me) and went back to her bread-and-butter historical mystery. I loved the storylien between Benedict and Amity. The dialogue was great, the plot moved quickly and the book kept me engaged. A solid read for anyone who is a fan of Quick's books.

The Walking Dead Vol. 19: March to War by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard (artist)

Rick, Jesus and Ezekial must join forces if they want to remove Negan and his band of Saviors from their lives. In this installment, the three men work diligently to implement a plan that will finally give the three communities freedom from the extortionist band of maruaders. But something goes terribly wrong and now, the three men and their groups face all out of war.

As always, TWD offers a compelling look into what a world without rules might look like. As more and more people look to Rick for leadership, he questions whether he's making the right choices. In addition, he must work to ensure Carl's safety. Beautiful, stark and often horrifying art complement this volume.

The Walking Dead Vol 20: All Out War (Part One) by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard (artist)

Alexandria, the Hilltop and the Kingdom have joined forces to launch an attack against the Sanctuary, where Negan and his band of men have gathered. Rick's preemptive strike doesn't go quite as planned, though, and Negan retaliates against Alexandria, forcing Rick and company to find safety elsewhere.

This volume was definitely action driven, with panel after panel of gunfire, grenades and not a whole lot of zombies. That last distinction is important, as we see humanity fighting not against the undead, but rather themselves - a theme that becomes prevalant in the next issue.

The Walking Dead Vol. 21: All Out War (Part Two) by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard (artist)

In this volume, Rick and his group face one final battle against Negan and the Saviors. The latter invent the post-apocalypse version of the dirty bomb - taking their weapons and rubbing and rolling them in zombies, thus infecting them with whatever accelerates the zombie mutation.

As they advance to the Hilltop for one last stand, Rick and his army must decide how to meet them on the battlefied.

I really enjoyed this final installment in the war trilogy. I feel like Rick has finally found himself again and is becoming comfortable with a leadership role once more. Carl is still struggling to regan his humanity, but Rick is there to guide him along. As the survivors come together, they must decide whether they'll continue to fight one another or band together to unite against the zombie enemy.

Blood Royal: A True Tale of Crime and Detection in Medieval Parisy Eric Jager
B&N synopsis
A riveting true story of murder and detection in 15th-century Paris, by one of the most brilliant medievalists of his generation.

On a chilly November night in 1407, Louis of Orleans was murdered by a band of masked men. The crime stunned and paralyzed France since Louis had often ruled in place of his brother King Charles, who had gone mad. As panic seized Paris, an investigation began. In charge was the Provost of Paris, Guillaume de Tignonville, the city's chief law enforcement officer--and one of history's first detectives. As de Tignonville began to investigate, he realized that his hunt for the truth was much more dangerous than he ever could have imagined.

A rich portrait of a distant world, BLOOD ROYAL is a gripping story of conspiracy, crime and an increasingly desperate hunt for the truth. And in Guillaume de Tignonville, we have an unforgettable detective for the ages, a classic gumshoe for a cobblestoned era.

This book started off slowly. I wasn't sure what to expect, but initially, it read like an interesting, but dry, history lesson; however, as the scene was set, the story began to pick up pace and become more intriguing to me. I enjoy history, so I'm sure that helped me get through it during the slow parts.

I really enjoyed this book, learning more about France's history - much of it was new to me - and discovering the underlying factors which led to the French Civil War. If you're a history fan, I recommend reading it.

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

If you like post-apocalyptic books, read this book. If you're an animal lover, read this book. If you love Colorado, read this book.

Peter Heller has crafted one of the best-written, post-apocalyptics stories I've ever read. It's evident he's a Colorado resident. He paints his state with reverance and care, instantly transporting the reader to plains and mountains that dot the landscape. The story centers on Hig, a pilot who flies a 1957 Cessna, and his blue heeler, Jasper, as they navigate life after a flu and blood-disease wipe out most of the American population. Living on an airfield with a gun fanatic named Bangley, the two take life day by day, protecting their small refuge while trying to retain some semblence of humanity.

This book could have easily been just another PA-book, but instead, Heller infuses it with love, warmth, danger and sadness. I'm not going to lie. There was a part where I sat and cried for a solid five minutes, even though I knew the part was coming long before I got to that page.

Do yourself a favor and pick up this book. It's worth the time and tears.

Books completed: 16/50
yellow roses

April 2014 reading

April 2014 reading:

9. Three Line Poetry: Issue 23 (56 pages)
Uh, so this is actually what got me an author profile on GoodReads. This is a literary magazine that features, as the title indicates, three-line poetry, sometimes inspired by haiku/senryu.

10. Oh Myyy!, by George Takei (244 pages)
George Takei has actually been a fixture in my life since I discovered Star Trek when I was 11 and being bullied. I read To The Stars around that age. Later, as I was coming to grips with my identity, there he was again, welcoming me into a community. It's only fitting that he's a companion on Facebook, where the memes he shares always lighten my mood. I found this book to be a satisfying mix of humor, interesting anecdote, and sociological musing. I read it in bits to keep the fun coming. To many more years, Uncle George.

11. Haiku Journal: Issue 26 (56 pages)
A journal of haiku. Got it and read it after being published in it.

12. 50 Haikus: Issue 5 (114 pages)
Another journal of haiku. Again, published.

13. Other Worlds Than These, edited by John Joseph Adams (564 pages)
This was a really interesting anthology, filled with extremely creative stories of travel between worlds, dimensions, universes. I really enjoyed most of the stories, and chose to savor the reading over several months. Different stories explored different aspects of how the worlds were different. One I particularly liked, "The Goat Variations," dealt with George W. Bush in various worlds at the moment of reading the goat story on 9/11. Overall a fun, if long, read.

14. A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin (819 pages)
This was the result of a couple-day reading binge. I have to say I'm hooked and if the show is half as good as the books promise to be from this first one, I'm in trouble! I love how Martin weaves the tale, and the little nuances he adds, such as Rhaenys's black kitten and the mean black cat caught by Arya. I have suspicions on a few of the plots, but I'm looking forward to more information and red herrings along the way!

15. A Clash of Kings, by George R.R. Martin (770 pages)
Despite my resolve to wait until the end of the semester to read more, that didn't pan out. Less than a week later I had this book finished as well, the urge to learn the resolutions to certain cliffhangers too great. This one did not keep me on a one-night reading binge, but was extremely engaging and very enjoyable. Definitely one of the best fantasy series I've gotten into in a while!

April pages: 2,623

Pages to date: 3,580

Progress: 15/52


April 2014 comics/manga reading:

155. Shout Out Loud!: Volume 3, by Satosumi Takaguchi (190 pages)
156. Boy Princess: Volume 4, by Seyoung Kim (174 pages)
157. Descendants of Darkness: Volume 11, by Yoko Matsushita (208 pages)
158. The Quest for the Missing Girl, by Jiro Taniguchi (336 pages)
159. Puella Magi Oriko Magica: Volume 2, by Magica Quartet (160 pages)
160. Skip-Beat!: Volume 2, by Yoshiki Nakamura (208 pages)
161. Ceres: Volume 11, by Yuu Watase (200 pages)
162. Ceres: Volume 12, by Yuu Watase (200 pages)
163. Kekkaishi: Volume 20, by Yellow Tanabe (208 pages)
164. Kekkaishi: Volume 21, by Yellow Tanabe (208 pages)
165. Sakura Hime: Volume 12, by Arina Tanemura (216 pages)
166. The Walking Man, by Jiro Taniguchi (155 pages)
167. Tegami Bachi: Volume 16, by Hiroyuki Asada (200 pages)
168. Claymore: Volume 1, by Norihiro Yagi (208 pages)
169. Dance in the Vampire Bund: The Memories of the Sledgehammer: Volume 1, by Nozomu Tamaki (192 pages)
170. Rosario Vampire Season 2: Volume 6, by Akihisa Ikeda (192 pages)
171. Black Butler: Volume 16, by Yana Toboso (176 pages)
172. Gate 7: Volume 3, by Clamp (185 pages)
173. D.N. Angel: Volume 3, by Yukiru Sugisaki (192 pages)
174. Blood+: Volume 2, by Asuka Katsura (208 pages)
175. Dengeki Daisy: Volume 4, by Kyousuke Motomi (200 pages)
176. Dengeki Daisy: Volume 5, by Kyousuke Motomi (191 pages)
177. Steampunk: Drama Obscura, by Joe Kelly & Chris Bachalo (176 pages)
178. Fairest in All the Land, by Bill Willingham (160 pages)
179. Blue Exorcist: Volume 11, by Kazue Kato (210 pages)
180. Bleach: Volume 25, by Tite Kubo (210 pages)
181. Bleach: Volume 26, by Tite Kubo (216 pages)
182. Bleach: Volume 27, by Tite Kubo (200 pages)
183. Durarara!! Saika Arc: Volume 3, by Ryohgo Narita (192 pages)
184. Young Miss Holmes: Casebook 5-7, by Kaoru Shintani (560 pages)
185. What a Wonderful World!: Volume 2, by Inio Asano (210 pages)
186. The Wallflower: Volume 22/23/24, by Tomoko Hayakawa (576 pages)

April pages: 7,117

Pages to date: 37,663

Progress: 186/365
Kiefer_Sutherland

Book #24:The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle



Number of pages: 153

The part I found particularly shocking about this Sherlock Holmes novel was that fact that in the opening chapter, Holmes was portrayed as a cocaine addict. I'm not sure what the public view towards cocaine was back in 1890 when this book was first published, but certainly the sight of Dr. Watson catching Holmes using it in this book is somewhat alarming.

However, this is largely irrelevant in a story that introduces the character of Mary Morstan, who has been receiving pearls from some unknown person. So, inevitably I assumed I was reading a book about a stalker.

It turns out I was wrong about that...

The discovery of the sender leads Holmes and Watson to a tale involving murder and stolen treasure, which Mary is apparently entitled to a share in. This all discovered, the story turns into a standard Sherlock Holmes novel, with Dr. Watson narrating the events, and I found it just as enjoyable as any others that I had read.

The structure of this book was a bit strange in that the main plot was more or less wrapped up about three quarters of the way in, with the final chapter (which is longer than the others) dealing with the truth behind the initial discovery of the treasure; a safari story almost reminiscent of King Solomon's Mines.

There were also a few plot twists, some more unexpected than others:

[Spoiler (click to open)]

1. The treasure chest turning out to empty at the end, and no one knowing where the treasure was.
2. Mary Morstan ends up as Watson's lover (it is hinted early on that he has a crush on her), and they end up engage; I suspected this would happen from seeing the BBC series.



Overall, a decent novel and worth reading; it is very short too, and shouldn't take long to read.

Next book: The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon by Washington Irving