Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Everyday Cooking with Jacques Pepin - 54/81

Everyday Cooking with Jacques Pepin, food/cooking category

I love watching Jacques Pepin. His shows with the late Julia Child were especially fun. But I haven't read any of his cookbooks. This one was at the library, and it seems to be one of his earliest books.

It was a fun read - some very interesting recipes in here. Some were a little too interesting, like Lettuce Souffle. Um, icky! Not too many in here that were likely to appeal to my family. But I give him credit for the great pictures and the very clear instructions on the recipes. I haven't tried any in here, and I don't know that I will. But I would like to read another of his books and see what the more recent ones look like.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (20/81)

The carefully controlled and chess-like movements of polite society often conceal passionate hearts, keen minds, and rebellious wills. High-spirited Elizabeth Bennet attempts to stay true to her ideals while her meddlesome mother schemes to get all five Bennet sisters married and to secure their family's fate at all costs. Can a girl who refuses to abandon her independent and scrutinizing ways find true love and a faithful heart? More than one unexpected twist and shocking revelation await our heroine as she must choose between the dashing Mr. Wickham and proud, aloof Mr. Darcy.

Well it begs the question who doesn't love this novel ... From the opening lines of "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife" You just know that you are going to enjoy this book ...

It does take a little time to get used to the language but after that you get lost in in the Bennett household .... Gosh you wonder how people can be so stubborn and how a good line of communication is vital .... Our book club nite was great when we where discussing this novel we totally lost track of time ... But the overall view was that we all adorned the book .... And each of us in our way are married to OUR every own MR DARCY .....

This is a novel that will never go out of fashion it is just timeless ... We all know someone like Elizabeth who is not afraid to speak her mind .... Charlotte who will settle because she feels that is the best they can do .... A Mr Bennett who just wants a quiet life ... Mrs Bennett who we hope we will never have as a mother-in-law .... We all love those bad boys like Mr Wickham and we do get frustrated by men like Mr Darcy but ultimately we just want to be swept away and loved ....

This is truly a classic and if you have never read it you need to rectify that right away !!!

I rate this book 5*****

Ok there are may versions of this out there but I have to put this one in it is from Lost in Austen and is one of my favourite scenes ..... Enjoy xx

The Long Walk - 51/81

The Long Walk by Slavomir Rawicz, biography category

Slavomir Rawicz was a Polish cavalry officer in World War II. He came home on leave and found himself arrested by the Russians for the crime of, well, being Polish. He was kept in prison, but refused to confess. After a few months, he was tricked into signing a confession and shipped off to Siberia for 25 years hard labor. After a horrible trek up into the northern wilderness, he finds himself in a Siberian work camp.

He decides he's not about to spend 25 years there, and makes plans to escape. He enlists six other men, a Latvian, an American, other Poles, and they sneak out in the night. Their escape plan will take them through Mongolia, across the Gobi Desert, up and down the Himalayas, and through India.

It's an incredible story. I couldn't put it down once I got started. Sometimes there were gaps in the story, but it was absolutely gripping. Really worth reading.

#44/81 Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Although this book is deemed a classic, I was disappointed. I felt that the story was too over the top in many areas - Jane as the penniless orphan, Jane as the dowdy governess, Jane as the would-be bride, Jane as the surprise heiress. I'd heard so much about Mr. Rochester as a Romantic hero and all I saw was a self-important, self-indulgent man. Maybe back 150 years ago this was a great book, but I don't see it today.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (19/81)

The story’s unlikely heroine is Catherine Morland, a remarkably innocent seventeen-year-old woman from a country parsonage. While spending a few weeks in Bath with a family friend, Catherine meets and falls in love with Henry Tilney, who invites her to visit his family estate, Northanger Abbey. Once there, Catherine, a great reader of Gothic thrillers, lets the shadowy atmosphere of the old mansion fill her mind with terrible suspicions. What is the mystery surrounding the death of Henry’s mother? Is the family concealing a terrible secret within the elegant rooms of the Abbey? Can she trust Henry, or is he part of an evil conspiracy? Catherine finds dreadful portents in the most prosaic events, until Henry persuades her to see the peril in confusing life with art.

Well this is the book which is to blame for me not reading too many books this month ... I loved the cover and it is also hard backed .... With uneven pages which I loved !!!! .... I have had this sitting on my shelf for some time and have been itching to dive in ....

I cannot tell you how much I loved this book !!! I totally got lost in the Gothic period ..... And the reason it took me soooooo long to read it was because I just took my time and thoroughly got absorbed into the story and characters ..... So much so that I was actually saddened when I was finished and wanted to read it again !!! I love it when that happens !!!

The story is about a young girl called Catherine who really is coming of age and has lead a quite a happy sheltered life but this all changes when she goes to Bath for the first time .... You will have characters you will dislike and characters that you will fall in love with .... I have to say Henry is one of those characters !!! He is gentle, charming and funny and you do get swooped away !!! ..... The whole book is funny, lighthearted and makes you pause for thought that you should never jump to conclusions, because you might just be wrong !!!

I know that people love Mr Darcy ( I hasten to add that I am one of them ) but I just loved Henry Tilney from the moment he was mentioned ....... It must be the romantic in me !!! ....

This book has everything a girl could ask for Castles, Adventure, Romance and Danger !!!! With an adorable leading lady in Catherine and a most Charming leading Man in Henry !!! ... So if you haven't ever read this book before .... Lock your bedroom door ..... Get your husband to watch the kids and curl up with a wonderful book .... You will not be disappointed !!

Well I couldn't leave you without a couple of my favourite Quotes ...

"No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine"

"No young lady can be justified in falling in love before the gentleman's love is declared, it must be very improper that a young lady should dream of a gentleman before the gentleman is first known to have dreamt of her"

"Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pang of disappointed love"

"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid"

"I cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible"

I rate this book 5 *****

If you have never seen the BBC production of it ... it is well worth the view .... And you can swoon over Henry with a box of chocolates ....

My Man Jeeves (40/81)

My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
Category: Audiobooks

I seem to have been hearing a lot about the Jeeves and Wooster stories lately, and they were also a big part of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, I thought I should give the series a try. My Man Jeeves is a collection of short stories, most of which are narrated by Bertie Wooster, about the scrapes he and his friends get into and how his servant, Jeeves, always brilliantly saves the day. The middle stories were narrated by a guy named Reggie, who didn't have a servant to save the day, but were much the same otherwise (I was a little confused by this interlude, and wondered if there was an error in the audio file).

The stories were amusing but repetitive. I often found myself confused about where I'd left off, so it took me two weeks to finish even though it was a fairly short book. Simon Prebble was a good narrator who did an admirable job of using both British and American accents for a variety of characters. I think this is the first in the Jeeves and Wooster stories, but if these stories were any indication of the books as a whole, they can be read in any order. 4 stars.

Cross-posted at Born Reader.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Unwind by Neal Shusterman (27/81)

category: Children / YA
C2007 335pages 3.5 stars
read in tandem with avatiakh

The Bill of Life, written after the Second Civil War, changed how Americans dealt with their offspring. When the pro-life and pro-choice factions finished drafting the amendments, several things were put down in black and white. Like the rules involving Storking and the timeframe when a child can be Unwound. Even with the agreement, life continued to be very gray. One thing was for certain, whether you're a Tithe like Levi, or just a castoff, like Conner and Risa, Happy Jack Harvest Camp is the end of the line. A place where you enter as an individual and leave as a score of individual pieces, fodder for the organ and tissue market. When these three make a desperate bid for freedom they find that there is a place for Unwinds to go. But is it really any safer?

This may be a YA novel but it centered around some very heavy themes. Does every person have the right to live? How exactly do you define living? Is there more to a person than just their physical self? Do our tissues retain our memories once they're no longer part of our body? Can we increase the amount of organs and tissue available for those in need?
As I expected, Shusterman very creatively worked these ideas into the plot. I think it's a difficult task to work serious themes into a story without weighing it down, making it so black that the reader feels too much pathos and tunes out. He did a good job there. I kept reading, in fact, I read the book all in one sitting. That said, I did not enjoy this one as much as the previous two Shusterman novels I read, Everlost and Downsiders. Maybe I didn't fully swallow the Unwind process as something a pro-life faction would ever agree to. Or a society where parents would willingly put their child through that, no matter how badly they got along or how strongly they felt the pull of societal pressure. To the positive, I did really enjoy the way he handled tissue memory. That is something that has always intrigued me and I thought it was the bright spot in the story. So, all in all, not the cream of the crop for Shusterman but not the worst either. Worth a read and definitely worth pondering the issues raised.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Biblio Brat's Progress


This post will be updated and re-dated as I go along.

Historical Fiction
March by Geraldine Brooks
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

On TBR Shelf (for at least 6 months)

Award Winners

Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson
Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz


On A Whim

Non-American Authors
The House of The Spirits by Isabel Allende

Recommended by Friends, Family, or Bloggers
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

On 1001 Books To Read Before You Die List
The House of The Spirits by Isabel Allende (crossover)

#43/81 LADIES OF LIBERTY by Cokie Roberts

Ladies of Liberty shows the history of the United States through the eyes of some the most noted women of the historic age. The book starts at the time of the death of George Washington and sweeps over six presidencies, beginning with John Adams’s election in 1797 and ending with his son’s John Quincy Adam’s election in 1825. Using the personal correspondence of the women depicted, these women’s personal sacrifices are exposed along with their contributions to the success of an expanding nation.
The First ladies are not the only women represented in this book. Even though the primary women are Abigail Adams, Dolley Madison, and Louisa Adams, other notable women recognized are Sacagawea, Mother Seton, and Margaret Smith.
I was a little apprehensive when I realized that Cokie Roberts, the author, was actually going to be doing the reading (this book was on audio.). I was extremely pleased by her delivery and the enthusiasm with which she delivered the material. My only problem were with two small pronunciations but since they were quite frequent, it was a little irritating. (Cokie Roberts cannot pronounce New Orleans or Sacagawea properly. Both have a "ya" in her pronunciations.)
Nevertheless, this was an extremely enjoyable experience.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Regenesis by C J Cherryh (26/81)

category: Speculative Fiction
C2009 592pages 4 stars

18-year-old Ari 2 works hard to take on the mantle of the original Ariane Emory, studying under the tutelage of Justin Warrick and learning from Ari 1’s personal journals. When Justin’s original, Jordan, returns from exile the question of who actually murdered the first Ari reemerges, but at a difficult time. The Council of Nine is undergoing a brutal power struggle and Ari must decide if she should take control. And she can’t afford any mistakes or she’ll follow her genemother to the grave. This is the sequel to Cherryh’s Hugo Award-winning novel, Cyteen.

This story is interwoven between the original persons and their clones (often with the same name) so that it’s almost like playing chess with extra pieces. Or, maybe it’s like the 3-D chess from Star Trek. With such a large cast, it’s quite an effort to keep everybody straight and also to remember how they relate to one another. It’s certainly a very rich book and you can’t breeze through it. The political machinations are very complex as well. So, if I’m not a ‘hard’ sci-fi reader and I don’t enjoy politics, why did I bother with Regenesis? Because I enjoyed Cyteen and I was curious to find out who off’d Ari 1, in a Who-Shot-JR kind of way. The only reason I am able to tolerate the political nature of Cherryh’s work is because the way she writes interpersonal relationships is fascinating. Most of the major players are either politicians and/or scientists working on pyschsets – so these people are adept at working each other over. And this culture of who is manipulating who and for what purpose is dizzying. Honestly, if this is anything like what real politicians live with, I pity them. The claustrophobia and paranoia come through well in Cherryh’s writing and when the battle for dominance came to a head, I was ready for the resolution. The book felt long at times, but not so badly that I walked away from it. It’s an excellent sequel. It feels just like Cyteen and that’s saying something considering they were written 20 years apart.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (18/81)

Angelfield House stands abandoned and forgotten. It was once home to the March family - fascinating, manipulative Isabelle, brutal, dangerous Charlie, and the wild, untamed twins, Emmeline and Adeline. But Angelfield House hides a chilling secret which strikes at the very heart of each of them, tearing their lives apart... Now Margaret Lea is investigating Angelfield's past - and the mystery of the March family starts to unravel. What has Angelfield been hiding? What is its connection with the enigmatic writer Vida Winter? And what is the secret that strikes at the heart of Margaret's own, troubled life? As Margaret digs deeper, two parallel stories unfold, and the tale she uncovers sheds a disturbing light on her own life...

I have seen this book floating around for a while and when I saw the cover I just had to purchase it .... It is hard to believe that this is a first novel as it is written so well and grips you from the very first page!!!

This book is definitely a page turner and will have you guessing the whole way through!!! I really loved it ... It did remind me of Wuthering Heights but only not as depressing but surprisingly enjoyable and making you yearn to uncover the mystery ....

The characters are really likeable and the main Character of Margaret is a delight and you really go along with her as she tries to unfold the truth !!! There are many twists and turns in the plot which I loved and just when you think you have it figured you realise that you don't !!! I love reading Historical novels and getting whisked away into that time period !!!

So if you love mystery books, Gothic novels and a little suspense this book is well worth the read !!!

I rate this book 4 1/2 ****

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Behind the Scenes at the Museum (39/81)

Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson
Category: New to Me Authors

Ruby Lennox knew almost from conception that she was unwanted. Her mother Bunty, father George, and sisters Patricia and Gillian live Above the Shop that George and Bunty grudgingly own and run. Ruby insightfully narrates their lives, inserting "footnotes" between each chapter that detail the lives of her ancestors.

I'm finding it difficult to summarize my impressions. The story that unfolds of an ordinary family kept me reading primarily because of Ruby's voice rather than my interest in the characters (I was often annoyed with them) or the plot (internal and retrospective even while being narrated in present tense). At times beautifully descriptive, it was an often unsettling story that I found compelling even when I didn't enjoy it. 3.5 stars.

Cross-posted at Born Reader.

Once Upon a Marigold (38/81)

Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris
Category: Young Adult/Children's

Christian ran away from home when he was six. Living with his foster father in the forest for eleven years, Chris doesn't regret it for a minute - he has a happy (if isolated) life with his two dogs and distantly watches Princess Marigold through a telescope from outside his house. But now it's time for him to leave the life he's known and seek his fortune.

Though I enjoyed several aspects of this story, Once Upon a Marigold was clearly written for readers younger than me. The seventeen-year-old protagonists often seemed a bit young in their thoughts and actions and the narrator had a habit of making pronouncements in a way that irritated me. The direction of the plot was clear early on, though it was entertaining to see how it all came together. Edric the troll was a great character, and I enjoyed his merged sayings that seem to almost make sense. A quick, fun read that I would've enjoyed more fifteen years ago. 4 stars.

Cross-posted at Born Reader.

In the Hand of the Goddess (37/81)

In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce
Category: YA/Children's

*Spoiler warning* if you haven't read Alanna: the First Adventure.

The second in the Song of the Lioness quartet starts a few months after Alanna: The First Adventure ended. Alanna, now Prince Jonathan's squire, is traveling when a storm forces her to seek shelter. That night, she meets a new friend - a cat with eyes as violet as her own - and the Goddess herself, who gives her advice about what is to come.

I read the book in one evening. The plot seems meandering, but is really more of a journey, as Alanna prepares to become a knight. A couple of years go by very quickly, which sometimes makes events that were probably a bit slower to occur in the internal chronology happen very quickly. All my favorite characters - Alanna, Jonathan, George, and the rest - were back in this entertaining tale. 4.5 stars.

Cross-posted at Born Reader.

Dreamquake by Elizabeth Knox (36/81)

Dreamquake by Elizabeth Knox
Category: YA/Children's

*Spoiler warning* if you haven't read Dreamhunter.

The second book in the Dreamhunter Duet starts before the first ends - there's about 15-20 pages of overlap told from a slightly different perspective. From there, we learn where Laura went to hide after delivering a horrible nightmare that had been used to keep convicts in line to a large number of people in order to bring awareness to what Cas Doran and his Regulatory Body has been up to. Rose soon finds out that this isn't the only thing they're up to, so the fact that nobody seems to care that this nightmare is used on convicts quickly moves to the background.

Like Dreamhunter, Dreamquake starts a little slowly, but steadily builds momentum as the reader and characters discover just what is going on with dreams and the Place. I grew a little frustrated that I figured out a lot before the main characters did, but overall it was an enjoyable read. 4 stars.

Cross-posted at Born Reader.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Monster Island by David Wellington (25/81)

category: The Monster Mash
C2006 282pages 4.5stars

Gary, being a medical student, was fully aware of what was happening to New York City when the Epidemic hit. In his desperation to survive he performs an experiment on himself. Now Gary is the only zombie in New York capable of rational thought and curiously, he also has the ability to control his fellow undead. Gary's zombie army is organized and purposeful and ready to do his bidding. Can the few humans who are left bring Gary down? is there any hope for Monster Island?

I don't believe I've ever read a zombie book before. If I have, it didn't leave an impression in my braaainnn (sorry). I bought this book because last year I read the first two books in Wellington's vampire series and he blew me away with his originality. I was betting that he could do the same with the zombie milieu. Turns out luck was on my side.
It's hard to write why I liked the book without giving away spoilers. But let me just say that what Wellington has written is dead on... um, spot on. This book is like everything you love about a zombie film but more. So much more. It's modern and smart and funny and it also has heart. I can't wait to read the second one. Pass the popcorn.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Unless, 7/81

This book is the story of a mother's despair when she discovers her daughter has chosen to leave her comfortable, suburban existence and live on the street. Reta Winters is devastated to discover that her daughter Norah is spending her days on a Toronto street corner holding a sign that says "goodness." Her nights are spent in a shelter. Unless enters the interior world of a mother. We learn all of Reta's thoughts; what we learn very little of is Norah herself. Norah is arguably the most interesting character in the book. Instead we get Reta, reminiscing and thinking about all of the elements of her life, her marriage, and her children. Reta has spent her professional life translating the works of French feminist philosopher Danielle Westerman, and writing a chick lit novel of her own. We hear quite a bit about both the novel (which has a sequel in progress) and Westerman. This is far too much for a fictional philosopher whose contribution is never all that well explained, and novels are not especially interesting. Ultimately, Shields never really made me care about any of the characters except Norah, of whom I consistently wanted to hear more. This is one of those book where I suspect there are deeper things going on with the writing, but I simply couldn't engage enough to really investigate them.

Carol Shields, Unless (Random House Canada, 2003) ISBN: 0679311807

Category: Canadian Fiction, 1/9, 7/81

Dragonwell Dead, 6/81

I should start by stating that I am clearly not the intended audience for this sort of book. I read this book for the "tea" category in my 999 Challenge. This is the first book I've read in the "cozy mystery" genre, and everything about it was just a bit too cute for my taste. Much of the plot was highly improbable. The basic plot involves tea shop owner Theodosia Browning trying to figure out why a local orchid aficionado dropped dead immediately after winning a rare specimen at an orchid auction. There's not much else to say about the plot, so I'll get on to the elements I found unbelievable or troublesome. First, the prose is chock-full of description that seems to serve little purpose. Second, there's really no character development. The characters are entirely one-dimensional. Third, the elements of the story and completely implausible. What police chief allows a random civilian to drop off key evidence in a homicide investigation to him at her convenience? Finally, all the extraneous elements of the story are just a bit too perfect. Everything is the best and the nicest.- the nicest tea shop, the most popular bed and breakfast. The tea shop has an unflappable chef who can always make just the most perfect pastries. All this saccharine is more than a little tiresome. Nowhere have I seen a discussion (and an extensive discussion, at that) of a community of small businesses that suffer from none of the concerns endemic to business owners. Ultimately this was a quick read, but I got little out of the experience.

Laura Childs, Dragonwell Dead: A Tea Shop Mystery (Berkley, 2008) ISBN: 0425220451

Category: Tea, 3/9, 6/81

Something Wicked This Way Comes (16/81)

Something Wicked This Way Comes is like a little segment of nightmare, a dream-like tale of innocence threatened by a malignant evil. When a carnival comes to town too late at night and out of season, it is the kind of curious omen that cannot help but draw in two boys on the edge of adolescence, such as Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade. Cougar and Dark's Pandemonium Carnival shows up mysteriously, appears to go up just as mysteriously, and promises secret delights somehow just a little more extravagant than those of the average carnival. So, it can hardly come as a surprise when it turns out that the Hall of Mirrors or the Carousel conceal darker secrets.

Jim and Will are first drawn to the marvelous carnival but soon find themselves the only ones aware of its intentions. As they take action to stop its plans, they make enemies of the strange characters who populate it, especially the sinister Illustrated Man, Mr. Dark. To resist the sinister forces moving against them, they will require some outside help, but who will possibly believe them?

Bradbury has crafted a fine little work of fantasy. Though it's not particularly scary, it succeeds at creating a rather childlike sense of dark enchantment. There's an almost mythic quality to his portrayal of not quite innocent childhood confronted with the wider world. His prose is mostly perfect for the sort of nightmare adventure described, although it did have moments where he seemed to so commit to inflating an already overinflated sentence or metaphor that you lost all sense of what he was actually talking about. But overall, it's the sort of book that makes you wish yourself could visit Cougar and Dark's Pandemonium Carnival, even if just once, no matter the consequences.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

#41/81 LETHAL LEGACY by Linda Fairstein

This book, a further installment in the Alexandra Cooper series, centers around the New York City Public Library. A Conservator of rare books who is possibly sexually assaulted disappears after refusing to cooperate with an investigation. Alex's boss urges her to find the victim, Alex does just that but dead in the park.
The hunt that follows, leads Alex with her police comrades, Mike and Mercer, through the halls of the NY Public Library where a treasure hunt appears to be at the center of the murder. The investigation points to a special map of great historical significance. Anyone interested in in cartography and especially in the theft of maps from archives would be enthralled in this mystery.
Ms Fairstein focuses so much of story around the library and library procedures as well as the history of the NY Public Library. It was extremely enlightening for someone who loves to read but is not a librarian.
It was a delight to have this story with the characters we have grown to understand and care about show that even the quiet halls of the Public Library can turn deadly.

Downsiders by Neal Shusterman (24/81)

C1999 246pages 4stars
Category: Children / YA

Talon Angler breaks all the rules when he ventures Topside to obtain the medicine needed to save his sister's life. But he is soon discovered by Lindsay Matthias, a girl who finds him and his world as captivating as he finds her. Can Lindsay help Talon when The Great Shaft Disaster changes the Downside forever?

Shusterman's Everlost was one of the books that helped me to decide to continue reading YA fiction. So for my category this year it was a no-brainer for me to pick another Shusterman book. Like Everlost, Downsiders takes place in New York. Here we have the boy from the tunnels meeting the girl from the city. Sort of a YA Beauty and the Beast, for those of you my age who remember the television show. And when Lindsay goes Downside with Talon, you cannot help but think of Alice in that rabbit hole, a fact which Shusterman acknowledges by calling it as such. That's just the kind of tale it is. Shusterman has done a masterful job at bringing the Downside to life. It is so thoughtfully and beautifully detailed. At one point he writes "A world, regardless of which one it happens to be, is rather ordinary to the souls who inhabit it... It is human nature to take the most magical of worlds for granted, turning each one into a blank canvas upon which to paint the lives of those who would live there. Only an outsider can see a world's wonders for what they really are." And that is so true. That's why most protagonists are outsiders. So the author can build the world they're in and make you care about it. And I did care about the Downside. So when the Disaster came I was curious to see how Talon and Lindsay would handle it. Because like most YA fiction, I knew there was some growing-up to do. Shusterman didn't let me down, so I'll be reading more from him.

Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke (23/81)

C2008 683pages 4stars
Category: Children / YA

Inkdeath is the third book in the Inkheart trilogy. As it is a conclusion, I'm having difficulty writing a summary of it that doesn't give away a spoiler so I'm not going to. This book is a massive tapestry, there is so much going on. It's been awhile since I read Inkspell and for the first 100 pages I struggled to remember who several characters were and what most of them were doing when we left off. I wish I had known there was a glossary in the back. But having enjoyed Funke's previous novels, I persevered and was rewarded. After the long climb up, the rollarcoaster took off and I was grasping the grab bar and holding my breath. It is a pageturner and I began to resent interuptions like work and sleep. When people on LT ask me why I bother reading YA, invariably Funke's name comes up. She is such a wonderful storyteller. The details she includes really help you to become invested in the characters. I identified with so many, but curiously, not Meggie this time. I felt that Funke let Meggie fall by the wayside. Fenoglio was probably my favorite. At one point he asks "Were tourist visas (for his story) being handed out these days?" and I laughed so hard at that. I enjoyed both his awe and disdain at the world he had created, and how others were mucking with it. Inkdeath was more of an adult tale this time around and it was much darker than the other two. Not that the others didn't have serious things in them but I felt this one was particularly black. I guess it's similar to the Potter books in that way. I enjoyed it at least as much as Inkheart (maybe more, I'll have to do another reread) and definitely more than Inkspell. I felt it was a satisfying end but if Funke ever wants to write another Ink episode, you won't hear any complaints from me!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Alfred Kropp and the Thirteenth Skull, 49/81

Alfred Kropp and the Thirteenth Skull, by Rick Yancey, teen category

After saving the world from complete destruction twice, you'd think Alfred could get a chance to sit back and relax for a bit. Nope. This book takes up just minutes after The Seal of Solomon ends, and it's back into the fray for Alfred.

If you haven't heard of this series (and it seems to be a well kept secret), you are missing out. Alfred is an unlikely hero. He's a pretty normal guy. But he finds him self over and over again in extraordinary situations.

I don't want to say too much here, in case you haven't read the first two, but I will say that several characters are back. The most frightening this time around, though, is Special Operative Nueve, a complete psychopath who is either Alfred's only hope or his worst nightmare.

I love this series! Alfred is such a great character. I think what makes him so appealing is that he has absolute certainty that he really is no one special. But he's the only one who can do what he does. He makes the right choice, again and again, even if that is a tough choice for himself. He never fails. That's what I love about him.

Highly recommended. This is a violent series, with lots of religious references, but it would be great for most teens. Plenty of action, no real language, and a great hero.

Mendel in the Kitchen - 47/81

Mendel in the Kitchen: A Scientist's View of Genetically Modified Foods by Nina Fedoroff, cooking/food category.

Many people view genetically modified food with suspicion. 'I would never eat that stuff,' you might say. But if you live in the United States and have eaten apples, wheat, corn, potatoes, soy products, sweet potatoes, or papaya, you might just have eaten genetically modified food (GM food) without knowing it.

My mom and I had a discussion about GM food after I forwarded her this mailing I got from an organic food site. Did I realize, she asked, that strictly speaking, any hybrid food is genetically modified? That would include almost every apple grown in this country. Enjoy a Golden Delicious or a Macintosh? Try planting the seeds. What results will be nothing like the apple it came from. That's because most apple trees are created by grafting several varieties together. This has been going on for 200 years, and in that time, people have eaten a lot of apples.

But most people, when they think of GM food, think of the so-called Frankenfoods - the tomato with a fish gene in it, designed to help it withstand the cold. And yet, few of us outside the genetic research community really know or understand the process by which such a tomato is created. This book by Nina Fedoroff takes the reader step by step through the process of creating such a seed. She also answers the challenges of the opponents of such food with hard science, explaining why many of their complaints simply do not make sense.

Fedoroff, a leading geneticist and molecular biologist, makes a strong argument for the future of agriculture. I, like many consumers, thought that local, organic produce is the ideal kind of food. I still think that buying local whenever possible is a great way to help the environment and get the freshest, best tasting produce at the same time. But as Fedoroff points out, if every farmer switched to strictly organic farming methods, we would need another 2 or 3 planets just to feed the current population, to say nothing of projected population growth. And that would be cultivating every single arable acre of land, including those currently reserved for wildlife, the entire rainforest, and many other wildlife habitats. Organic farming simply can't come close to providing enough food for our planet.

So is GM food the answer? I have to admit that I'm coming around to her way of thinking. Scientist have developed some of these crops especially to solve nutritional problems. The book opens with Swiss scientist Ingo Potrykus coming up with a rice that contains a gene from a flower which contains the code for making beta carotene. The rice, Golden Rice, would be a simple way for even the poorest people to avoid the results of Vitamin A Deficiency, including blindness.

Potrykus wasn't hoping for fame, exactly, or fortune. He just wanted to help. Instead, he was vilified. Protesters went crazy. The term 'Frankenfood' was first used to describe this rice. Potrykus was at a loss. This was still rice. And today, 35 years after he started his research, not a single field anywhere in the world is growing Golden Rice. And Vitamin A Deficiency continues to cause blindness in third world countries.

I am not a scientist, so I would have a hard time putting Fedoroff's words into my own. And even other scientists still don't all agree with genetic modification. But she tackles their arguments, one a time, quoting other geneticists and plant breeders. I could go on and on, but there's not enough room.

Will I buy GM food in the future? Yes. I do admit I still feel a little uneasy about irradiated produce, such as strawberries, but in reality, such strawberries are safer than the produce in the recent E. Coli scare.

My only complaint about the book is that the illustrations and diagrams provided were a little too technical for me to understand. And I could have really used a glossary. Still, I didn't have too much trouble following along, even if I occasionally had to reread a paragraph once in a while.

In short, I have to thank my mom. If we hadn't had that discussion, I would not have noticed this book at the library. Now that I am a more informed consumer, I feel like I can make some better choices for my family. Highly recommended book for any American consumer.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I'm Just Here for the Food - 46/81

I'm Just Here for the Food, by Alton Brown, cookbook/food category

I am a big fan of Alton Brown's show on The Food Network, Good Eats. So I looked forward to reading his cookbook. But I have to admit this is not what I expected. The book is organized by cooking method, which seems a little strange to begin with. Then there are no pictures of any of the recipes. There are fun little sidenotes, and interesting tips, but the recipes are constructed in a rather strange way.

Then again, Brown has so many little quirks and extreme preferences that I don't intend to follow. So some of the recipes are not really of interest to me. And then, worst of all, no desserts! OK, maybe that's not really the worst, but I love dessert!

Still, I did find a few recipes and note a few tips I plan to try. I keep reading about how great a brine makes your meat taste, so I plan to try that one. Here's the most basic one, and yet, the easiest to try!

A Perfect Baked Potato

Preheat oven to 350. Wash and dry potato. Poke holes in it with a fork. Then rub lightly the entire potato with a little canola oil. This makes a crunchy skin on the potato. Sprinkle the outside with salt. Place the potato directly on the rack in the oven. Cook for about 1 hour.

I haven't tried it yet, but since I love baked potatoes, I will try it soon!

#40/81 CHARM CITY by Laura Lippman

This the second installment in Tess Monaghan series about an ex-reporter accidentally turned private detective. The series is set in Baltimore and the city life that is described throughout is charming - hence Charm City. Tess in this book is trying to investigate an unusual newspaper story that was printed without the proper editorial authority and could be libelous but before Tess can even get started with her investigation at the newspaper, the person involved turns up dead.At the same time as she is enmeshed in this ethical dilemma, her uncle leaves a dog in her care after he is severely beaten. There is a subplot throughout the book where along with trying to solve the newspaper printing of the unapproved story, Tess is also trying to figure out why she is being followed , assaulted, and kidnapped.As the story evolves, Tess finds blackmail, murder, and identify theft. The ending , for me was a surprise. The background of the city is what really brings this story to life, for me. The little details that tell a true life story could really be there behind the fiction.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Agyar by Steven Brust (22/81)

Category: The Monster Mash
c1993 254pg 4stars

Here we have a record of the days of Jack Agyar. He fills us in on his new residence, his roommate, his seduction of several local girls and his numerous half-cups of coffee. Oh, and also the ways his previous lover, Laura, is framing him for murder. Did I mention that Jack is a vampire? No? Well, you see the book doesn't specifically mention that either. And that's what is so very clever about it.

I really enjoyed this book. I had read that the v-word wasn't used anywhere in it and I wondered how Brust would pull that off. Now I know and I think that he did an excellent job. The character Agyar has a great voice. He is at times profound but also very witty and quite funny. As the story becomes more complicated the pace really picks up and I have to say, it ended before I wanted it to.

favorite quotes

"All I had to do was tell her - let her know. Hand her a silvered mirror and say, 'What is wrong with this picture?'"

"I am feeling well and fit, as if the trials of a week ago had not occurred, save for the wounds of experience, which bring strength, not weakness."

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Graveyard Book (35/81)

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Category: Award Winners

Nobody ("Bod") Owens, orphaned by a man Jack who killed everyone in the family but failed to kill the toddler, lives in a graveyard. The many residents of the graveyard have a hand in raising him, particularly his foster parents, the Owenses, and his guardian, Silas. Somewhere out in the wider world, however, Jack still wants to finish his job.

This year's Newbery Award winner is pretty much as odd as you would expect if you've read any of Neil Gaiman's other books (I mean that as an observation, not a criticism). I liked the premise and the details of life in the graveyard, such as the lessons that teachers long dead taught Bod and the addition of dates and inscriptions after the mention of various inhabitants. Some readers may enjoy the nods to The Jungle Book, but you don't have to be familiar with Kipling's work to enjoy this one. 4 stars.

Cross-posted at Born Reader.

Alanna: The First Adventure (34/81)

Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
Category: Audiobooks

Alanna and her twin, Thom, are not happy with their father's plans for them - Alanna to be trained as a lady and Thom as a knight. So Alanna cooks up a plan to switch places (their scholar father will never notice) so they can follow their dreams: Alanna to become a knight and Thom, a sorcerer. But what will happen if she's discovered?

I'm having a hard time talking about the story without giving spoilers, especially since it's such a short story. I usually take a long time on audiobooks, but this had only 4 tracks and was such an interesting story that I had a hard time falling asleep to it. While I found the story mostly predictable, I liked Alanna and the friends she makes, and enjoyed the stories about her training. I look forward to continuing the series. 4.5 stars.

Cross posted at Born Reader.

16 Lighthouse Road (33/81)

16 Lighthouse Road by Debbie Macomber
Category: Audiobooks

Cecelia Randall, grieving from the death of her daughter, decides to divorce her husband, Ian, who was unable to be with her when the baby was born, lived, or died because of his Navy obligations. This is one of several story threads that run through 16 Lighthouse Road, which also follows the stories of other Cedar Cove residents, including divorced judge Olivia and her friend Grace, over the course of several months.

I'm not really sure why I pushed through to finish this book, since it just wasn't clicking for me. I had trouble following all the different characters - while I could keep track of them all, the story shifts made it hard for me to care about one or the other because when I was getting close, the story moved again. Furthermore, these shifts meant that sometimes changes in a character that happened over weeks were summarized in a paragraph instead of shown through changes in attitude or behavior. A story I may have enjoyed more in a different mood. 2 stars.

Cross-posted at Born Reader.


This book is filled with the step-by step instructions to make several amusing figures by using Bath towels, face towels, hand towels and washcloths combined with safety pins. Some of the unusual figures that are illustrated are birthday cake, fan, windmill, skyscraper, palm tree, flower, lips, and heart. Ones that would perfect to make for a child's bath time or sleep over would be la ladybug, angel fish, dog, swan, monkey or elephant.
Your overnight guests will be amused by the hilarious creatures that you leave to welcome them to their sanctuary for the night.
This art form was first brought to my attention when I went on a cruise and each night a new creature greeted me when I returned to my cabin. It was one of the highlights of the trip because it was such a delightful surprise. Now anyone can do it themselves using this book.

Shakespeare Wrote for Money (32/81)

Shakespeare Wrote for Money by Nick Hornby
Category: Books about Books

The last in his collection of article written for The Believer, Shakespeare Wrote for Money is just as funny as the first two. The dates on the articles are from August 2006 to September 2008, and include a wide range of books read from YA titles to a biography of Shakespeare.

I love getting the perspective of someone that's intelligent and interesting and humorous and feels like a real reader telling a friend what they liked or didn't like about the books they've read lately. That's the main reason these books appeal to me. Even when I'm not all that interested in the books he's talking about, I enjoy reading about his experiences as a reader instead of reading a more objective, professional review that tells me lots about a book but little about someone's experience reading it. This was an immediate birthday list add. 4.5 stars.

Cross-posted on my blog, Born Reader.

Founding Mothers - 45/81

Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts, biography category

General Cornwallis of the British Army once lamented that even if he destroyed all the men in America, he'd still have the women to contend with. This book by Cokie Roberts profiles some of those amazing women of the Revolutionary era. Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Deborah Franklin, Mercy Otis Warren, Katy Green, and Eliza Pinckney are just a few of the women in this book.

Pros: The women! I enjoyed learning about their lives and struggles.

Lots of stuff I never heard before. History class tends to focus on the generals, the presidents, etc. But their wives and mothers were no less interesting, and in some cases, were even more influential.

Cons: The format. Roberts uses a chronological format, which helps tie each woman into her place in history, and gives you a feel for how they are related to one another, but it got confusing and yes, boring at times. I mean, I know who won the war. It's the women I wanted to read about.

Not enough pictures. In fact, the only pictures are one on the first page of each chapter. That's it. I wanted more.

Recommended for history buffs, especially female ones.

Memoria del fuego: Los Nacimientos (15/81)

The Memory of Fire trilogy, of which book is the first part, recounts the history of the Americas (with special emphasis on Latin America) through the unique device of breaking it up into bite-sized pieces. The short anecdotes that make up the book are drawn from historical sources, each one noted carefully, though Galeano dramatizes or condenses them to some extent. The result, far from being disjointed, provides a good idea of the history of the Americas.

The book starts with First Voices, which includes creation myths from several different pre-Columbian traditions, including the Maya, Aztecs and Toltecs, Inca, Haida, Araucan, and several other. Though not history in a literal sense, its inclusion starts the book off with a strong sense of the people and land that is about to be changed. It also sets up themes and imagery which will continue to echo through the history of the continent.

The clock starts ticking in 1492, in the section called Old New World, with Columbus' fleet and its sailors anxious to reach a destination, any destination. The arrival of Columbus in Guanahani brings change not only to the Americas but also to Europe, where the religious and political orders need to cope with and make the best of the discoveries that come from the new land that has been discovered. Columbus' few voyages give way to more and larger explorations. The news and rumors of gold, even cities of gold, makes the Americas a desirable destination, both for soldiers of fortune from Europe and the governments who perceive the advantage such a source of wealth can bring them.

Galeano's breaking of the history up into smaller segments proves quite powerful at giving a sense of the dynamic at work in the history of the Americas and also of some of the unique characters involved in those events.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M Cain (35/81)

Category: 1001 Books to Read Before You Die

This short book was my introduction to classic noir. It is the story of the dangerous passion between Frank, a drifter, and Cora, a married woman. Driven by their uncontrollable desires, they plot to murder Cora's husband, referred to only as The Greek.

It is one of those stories where you just know that everything is going to end badly for pretty much everyone and sure enough it does. Narrated by the amoral Frank, the reader is drawn into their world and almost feel some sympathy for them despite their wrong-doings, and this technique still works, but in other ways the book seemed incredibly dated. The dialogue that was supposed to show the intensity of their passion just made me want to laugh, which ruined the drama somewhat.

On reading this I could see why this and other noirs were made into films as I kept think how it would work better on screen than on the page.

The Man Who Was Thursday by G K Chesterton (34/81)

Category: New to Me Authors

Gabriel Syme is an undercover policeman who infiltrates a secret anarchist group who plan to bring down society. To protect their identities each member of the group is known by a day of the week, with Syme taking over the post of Thursday.

Another odd book (like The Third Policeman) that I enjoyed in part but am not entirely sure I fully understood and at times made me feel like I was going mad! It was very funny in places and absolutely ridiculous in others and up to a point can be enjoyed as an absurd adventure. But in the latter chapters there is higher allegorical meaning, which was lost on me.

So I was glad I read this and would encourage others to give it a try, but I don't think I'll be reading more of Chesterton in the future.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The New Moosewood Cookbook

The New Moosewood Cookbook, food/cooking category

I absolutely loved this book. I am not a vegetarian, but I love fresh tasting, ethnic foods made with great ingredients. I also love trying something new. This cookbook was just packed with recipes I wanted to try. I started copying the recipes I wanted to make, but gave up after I got to about 6, and realized that I just need to buy the book! The one recipe I did try, Spicy Peanut Soup, was so yummy. I made it for my poor sick hubby and he loved it too. I did copy the recipe for that and posted it on my blog.


My only complaint, and it's not really a complaint, is that there are lots of unusual ingredients in here that require a little shopping around. But I think it would be worth it! I just wish I was planning a trip to Ithaca to the original restaurant to try the food in person.

Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks by Christopher Brookmyre (33/81)

Category: Themed Titles – Animals

I loved Christopher Brookmyre’s early books and will admit to having a slight crush on his investigative journalist character, Jack Parlabane, but I was under-whelmed by some of his later books and I haven’t bothered with quit e a few of the recent ones. But if “Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks” is anything to go by, he is back on form. For anyone who isn’t familiar with his books, he has been described as similar to Carl Hiassen, but his stories are set in Scotland.

Once more it features the cynical journalist Parlabane, but this time he is narrating the book from beyond the grave, and the theme of the book is the paranormal and fake psychics. The title refers to some people’s unshakeable beliefs despite huge evidence to contrary. Essentially this is a crime novel, but the trickery of the celebrity mediums and the human psychology behind it makes for an interesting setting.

Yet again, this is a book with a split narrative. Parlabane is the main narrator and his deadpan Scottish humour will be familiar to anyone who has read Brookmyre’s other books, but he shares the narration with a student caught up in the events and a female journalist with opposing views to Parlabane. The parts by the latter are dryer in style than the rest and the opening chapter seemed to drag, but it is worth sticking with as the story soon picks up.

I guessed a couple of the twists before they were revealed but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this. A good light read.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Joy of Work (14/81)

The Joy of Work is the latest in Scott Adams' non-comic strip Dilbert books. The format combines Adams' writing with a few Dilbert strips to illustrate the points that he makes. In this book, Adams suggests that if you are unable to squeeze any more money from the disfunctional sadist who calls himself your boss, your best bet is to increase your enjoyment of the time you have to spend at work. Adams suggests several ways to achieve that end, from the absurd (cubicle yoga, pretending to be psychic) to the surprisingly not impractible (managing creativity). He also describes some of his own experiences in handling criticism, including strips of his which received surprising negative response and even responding to some of the claims of Norman Solomon. Adams' long-form humor is similar to that of his strips, a mix of sarcastic and silly, so if you read Dilbert, you have a good idea of what the book is like.

El Pozo - Los Adioses (13/81)

This book combines two different novels by Onetti.

The first is "El Pozo," which is a first-hand account from a man who has just turned forty years of age. Having turned forty he decides to write about his life, since that is the sort of thing a man should do at forty, "especially if he's lived an interesting life." The narrator turns out to be something of an existentialist character. He recounts something terrible he did when he was young, though he seems unable to grasp the gravity of his actions. He also relates his alienated wanderings around his city of residence. He feels a connection to only two people, a poet and a prostitute, but his attempts to communicate openly with them don't turn out how he expected. It's a brief but interesting sketch of a certain alienated personality.

"Los Adioses," the second story, is somewhat more complicated. The town of Santa Maria is a destination for people needing to convalesce. As the owner of the only market/bar in town, the narrator observes the arrival of a former basketball player who checks into the local hotel. Most of the narrator's knowledge of the basketballer is second hand. Even though the ex-basketballer comes often to the store to pick up beer and his mail, conversation with the narrator is virtually nonexistent. The player's stay brings a series of mysteries, such as the correspondence the player receives (consisting mainly in letters from two different people), why he decides to rent a nearby house, and the visitors he receives. Though the narrator tells us pretty much everything he sees and hears and all the gossip he is told, the mysteries tend to persist in this work of subtle power.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Big Clock - Kenneth Fearing (21/81)

Category: Noir/Hardboiled
C1946 175pages 5 stars

Pauline Delos is dead. But who killed her? The man spotted in the alley beside her building, or the one seen entering her apartment later that same night? The Big Clock is about a man hunt. Or more precisely, two men hunting each other. But they're not strangers. They know each other, even work together. They both know which one of them did the deed. The only question is who will take the blame?

This little noir is fast read, a real page-turner. The clock motif really helps with pacing; you feel the walls closing in on our protagonist(s). It's not a who-did-it but rather a how-did-they-get-away-with-it. It does feel dated, but truthfully, that's something you live with when you read in this genre. I am rather peeved at the Introduction, which gives away quite a bit of the story. I don't understand why they put that type of material in the front and not afterwards.

I picked this book because I read that it was the basis of the movie No Way Out. There was another, earlier, film made off of it too. I can see why they keep coming back to it, it's very clever. It reminds me of the movies The Fugitive and Out of Time and of Ira Levin's A Kiss Before Dying, which was one of my favorite books last year.

favorite quotes:

"The awfulness of Monday morning is the world's great common denominator. To the millionaire and the coolie it is the same, because there can be nothing worse."

"It came to me again that a child drinking milk has the same vacant, contented expression of the well-fed cow who originally gave it. There is a real spiritual kinship there."

Bone by Bone - Carol O'Connell (20/81)

Category: Favorite Author's Books I Haven't Read Before
C2008 340pages 5stars

Twenty years ago Oren Hobbs went into the woods with his brother, Josh, but came out alone. Now Josh has returned to the family's porch, bone by bone. The case is reopened, and so too are the wounds of the entire town. Will any of them be at peace when the facts are known?

It is intricate and compelling, as expected from O'Connell. She proves again that she knows how to work the scene; she knows exactly how to twist the knife. This is small-town drama at it's best, along the lines of her other works Judas Child and Stone Angel.

I have never been timid about my fangirl crush on Carol O'Connell. I think I've personally recommended her to at least a third of the members on LT. So why do I enjoy her work so much? I think it's the way her characters are connected and the details of those relationships. Some are so poignant and others sharp and edgy. My heart is bleeding and I'm high on adrenaline all at the same time. More please.

Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde (31/81)

Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde
Category: Recommended

Thursday Next has been the Bellman for a couple of years now, but she's ready to go back to the real world. Along with Hamlet (who's concerned about the outside world's perception of him as a ditherer), Thursday returns determined to get her husband Landen uneradicated and to send Yorrick Kaine back to the Bookworld where he belongs.

For months, my mom has been begging me to read this book, the fourth in a series that I first recommended to her. So she was pleased when I finally got to it, laughed at loud on several occasions, and promptly finished it only to revisit some favorite parts with her. I recommend reading Hamlet first, as it will make the bookish humor that much more enjoyable. 4.5 stars.

Cross-posted at Born Reader.

Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan (32/81)

Category: Retro – 1960s, Beats, Hippies and Counterculture

Although my fourth book in this category, this is the first example of writing actually from that period that I’ve read for the challenge. As an example of the weird literary experiments of the time, I think this is a good choice.

The book is made up of a series of short essays (for want of a better word) that are all vaguely around the idea of “Trout Fishing in America”. In some “Trout Fishing in America” is more or less what you would think it means, tales of fishing across the USA, but more often the phrase turns up to mean something completely different. It is often the name of a person, it is the name of hotel in one place and in my favourite story, it is a slogan written on school jackets.

There were parts of it that I enjoyed but other parts I found frustrating. Brautigan can obviously write and I would have liked to see his talent used in a sustained way rather than the fragmented style here. Very much of its time and therefore great for this category and I will certainly attempt more of his work in future.

#35/81 BALTIMORE BLUES by Laura Lippman

Tess Monaghan, an unemployed ex-reporter, starts investigating the fiancée of a rowing friend as a freelance job to pay the rent. Knowing her hometown of Baltimore, she thinks this is going to be a simple "find out what she's up to" tailing, but it turns into a desperate effort to clear her friend of murder charges. The ensuing investigation gets dangerous and nearly deadly.
The characters are entertaining and the story develops into a real page turner
As a Baltimore native, it was fun to hear of the changes that I remember - Friendship Airport becoming Baltimore Washington International, Hutzlers no longer existing and the building becoming the Department of Human Resources, McCormick plant leaving the city and the smell of cinnamon no longer in air- all this while telling a story that could have been set in any big city but is beautiful set in the Author's hometown. Can't wait for more.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy (31/81)

Category: Dystopia

In case you are one of the few people who hasn’t already read the Pulitzer Prize winning novel “The Road”, I will explain that it is about an unnamed father and son walk along a road in America in the post-apocalyptic future. It is a very bleak depiction of the future, with a barren landscape and society crumbled to horrific lawlessness and immorality.

The other dystopian novels I’ve read so far have all described the system in place to rule society and largely these are intended as utopias but that have gone wrong. But there is nothing of that here. Society has completely crumbled and it is pretty much every man for himself. This is by far the darkest portrait of the future that I’ve read, and yet at the same time it was the most effecting.

Amongst the horrors of the desolate landscape, there is the relationship between the man and the son, which is an incredibly touching portrait and despite the world seeming very alien, this relationship always felt real.

“The Road” is a difficult read, not because of the lack of punctuation around reported speech, but because of the raw emotions and terrifying vision it depicts. Highly recommended but best read in private as it has the power to reduce you to tears.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (30/81)

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Category: New-to-me Authors

In 1986, the current owner of the Panama Hotel begins remodeling, and finds possessions of several Japanese families who left Seattle in the 1940s when they were sent to internment camps. This discovery makes the news, and reminds newly widowed Henry Lee of his experiences as the son of Chinese immigrants in 1942. "Scholarshipping" in an all-white school, he makes a friend when Keiko Okabe transfers to his school and works alongside him in the cafeteria.

The narrative shifts between 1942 and 1986, and we see past and present from Henry's perspective. Ford evokes a rich sense of place in his descriptions of Seattle neighborhoods and the jazz scene in the 1940s. More a story of internal discovery than external events, the story and its characters insinuated their way into me until I found, to my surprise, that I cared enough to cry. 4.5 stars.

Cross-posted at Born Reader.

Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox (29/81)

Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox
Category: New-to-me Authors

Laura and Rose have been inseparable since birth. They are cousins, both the daughters of dreamhunters, and expect to soon be allowed into the Place to catch dreams themselves. Only certain people can enter the Place, and even fewer of them have the ability to catch dreams that can then be shared with the populace - exciting dreams like Wild River or healing dreams like Convalescent One. But there seems to be something inexplicably sinister about them...

This first book in the Dreamhunter Duet takes awhile to get going, but once it does it's a compelling read. The story sometimes gets sidetracked into history of dreamhunting or other explication, but the world Knox creates is rich as a result. Mostly told from Laura's perspective, we see her change from a young teen who follows her cousin's lead to someone who takes action. I look forward to seeing where the story goes in Dreamquake. 4 stars.

Cross-posted at Born Reader.

Then She Found Me (28/81)

Then She Found Me by Elinor Lipman
Category: Audiobooks

April Epner, adopted daughter of two Holocaust survivors, never really thought much about her birth mother. When her mother Bernice, local TV celebrity and drama queen extraordinaire, shows up out of nowhere, April's fairly quiet life as a single Latin teacher of 36 will never be the same.

By turns sweet and hilarious, this was a fun story set in Boston. The characters were great: I could sympathize with April's mixed feelings towards Bernice (who was sort of annoying but such a funny, wonderful character, too) while they get to know each other. The narrator, Mia Barron, did a fabulous job interpreting the characters and made the dialogue that much more enjoyable.

As an aside, this was my first time using a Playaway. Has anyone else had experience with this format? What was your experience with it? I found it a little frustrating because the sound quality was not great, and I couldn't bookmark at all. Each track was a chapter, I listened to the beginning of the one chapter that was 30 minutes long several nights in a row because I fell asleep without hitting pause and turning it off. Rating for format: 2 stars. Rating for story: 4.5 stars.

Cross-posted at Born Reader.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (27/81)

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
Category: Award Winners

Family and friends still see Frankie as "Bunny Rabbit," a good girl going to a good school who follows the rules and still needs to be protected. But Frankie doesn't see herself that way at all, and she's out to prove that she can think for herself and blaze her own trail. Frankie is a really likable heroine, and her relationships with schoolmates are believable and sympathetic. I found myself rooting for her even when I didn't 100% agree with her. I'm looking forward to reading more by this author.

The Disreputable History has been on several shortlists for awards, receiving a Printz Honor, National Book Award finalist, and made the Amelia Bloomer list. It also recently received the Cybil Award for young adult fiction. I can see why it would win awards, as it has a strong female lead and is a well-constructed story. But this is also one of those books that I think is just generally appealing, filled with fun pranks and true-to-life friend/boyfriend struggles. I could definitely see myself recommending it to teen readers. 4.5 stars.

Cross-posted at Born Reader.

Y: The Last Man (26/81)

Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan
Category: Graphic Novels (may change to Lost Book Club)

A phenomenon causes all men on the planet to die, except one. Yorick Brown, son of an English professor and a congresswoman, and his monkey Ampersand are apparently the last males living of any species. Nobody knows why. But maybe they can keep the human race from dying out - as long as none of the crazy gangs kill Yorick first.

I thought this set up a great "what if," and had a convincing way of exploring what could happen if most males died. Yorick is an interesting guy - escape artist, English major, and surprisingly well-adjusted for being named after a skull in a play. For you other Lost fans out there, this is the comic that Hurley brings on Flight 316. If I read the whole series (10 volumes), I may consider moving it over to that category. Recommended for fans of science fiction; I would rate it R, primarily for language and violence. 4.5 stars.

Cross-posted at Born Reader.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Yiddish Policemen's Union (12/81)

The Yiddish Policemen's Union is set in a world where the nation of Israel did not survive war with its Arab neighbors, but the US did provide Jewish refugees with a colony in Alaksa. This colony, which exists as a semi-autonomous region, has opted for Yiddish instead of Hebrew as the official language. As the novel begins, Sitka is also only a few weeks away from reversion, when it will return to US jurisdiction and all of its residents will have to find new places to live. (US citizenship or residency status being difficult to obtain.)

For homicide detective Meyer Landsman, this means a new imperative to resolve all the existing cases before reversion comes around. And as he is informed by his ex-wife and new commanding officer, said resolution can be either through solving the case or marking it as unsolvable. Which puts him into something of a bind, as he's recently acquired a new case that he may neither be able to solve nor willing to let go of. The junkie who was murdered execution-style in his own hotel room would not normally be a top priority for Landsman, but since the fleabag flophouse the junkie was killed in happens to be Landsman's residence as well, he's taking it a bit personally.

Landsman's investigation takes him through several strata of the Sitka's diaspora community, from a humble Phillipino doughnut shop to the highest reaches of the social and criminal worlds. Chabon creates a complex and plausible world, imagintively detailed. I especially liked his use of language, where Hebrew and Yiddish words have morphed into slang, providing the novel with its own unique style of pulp dialogue. (I could mostly pick up their meanings from context; if dealing with unfamiliar words intimidates you, there are some editions that feature a glossary.) The mystery turns out to be rather on the grand side, to the extent that the resolution threw the novel a little of balance, but most of the investigation and its exploration of all the different ins and outs of the invented community was quite fascinating.

Astor Piazzolla: A Memoir (11/81)

Astor Piazzolla holds an important spot in the history of twentieth century musicians. His nuevo tango, which incorporated jazz and classical elements into the traditional tango of Argentina, not only revitalized the tango, but also gave it a new international resonance, inspiring such artists as Yo-Yo Ma and Daniel Barenboim. What sort of person could create music so beautiful, poignant without being sentimental, modern yet with such depth? Wondering that, I had read Le Grand Tango, a very thorough account of Astor's life, and from what I've heard one of the better biographies written about him. But while Azzi and Collier do a good job of telling you what Piazzolla was up to throughout his life, they are somewhat less successful at giving you a sense of who he was.

That is one thing that made Astor Piazzolla: A Memoir such an enjoyable read. Piazzolla was apparently something of a difficult interview subject; Gorin compares him to Borges for his tendency to answer more in the spirit of provocation than information. However, Gorin seems to have managed to get Astor to open up about himself, partially because they were friends, and also one suspects due to some degree of doggedness or cleverness on Gorin's part.

The book is not a traditional biography, and it focuses mainly on certain times and themes of particular importance to Piazzolla. Quite a bit of time is spent on his musical inspirations, from growing up in New York, meeting Carlos Gardel, studying with Naudia Boulanger, and playing in the Orquesta Tipica of Anibal Troilo. So, too time is spent talking about Piazzolla's drive for innovation and his impulsive, sometimes tempestuous, personality which together led to his making enemies within the Argentine tango community. (And also to some short-lived experiments, such as Tango-Jazz and the Electronic Octet.) Piazzolla also talks about his private life, musicians he's played with, and his observations on the cultural milieu of which his music was a part. One gets a good sense of the intelligence of the man, his emotional turmoil, his devotion to tango.

It's a rich and fascinating portrait, one that I think any fan of Piazzolla would find interesting. That said, for the really interested, it is probably best to read a more traditional biography, such as Le Grand Tango, as well as Memoir in order to get the full picture.

Going Postal

I picked this one up after reading something somewhere on LibraryThing. I have never read anything by Terry Pratchett so Going Postal: A Novel of Discworld was a first. It is hilarious, a great read. I’m so glad I picked it up. It has been a fun interlude this week and has kept me from reading other things because I keep picking it up.

I don’t know much about Discworld, but I’ve read plenty of books in alternate worlds so it is easy to pick up information about the types of beings and organizations that populate this world. I am learning that this is a skill that is developed with practice. My nephew put down Ender’s Game because he couldn’t figure it out during the first chapter. He hasn’t read enough to know that it can take a chapter or two, nor does he realize the reward for his effort.

This book also has a great business and political side to it. We meet Moist von Lipwig on death row, realizing he is really going to die. Of course, since this is just the first chapter we know something is going to happen and sure enough it does. The leader/rule (tyrant?) of this city takes Moist, after he is hanged within a half inch of his life, and offers him a job getting the post office started up again. There is another choice, but it’s a quick death so Moist takes up the challenge, figuring he can find a way out of this mess pretty quickly.

Due to his curious and self-serving nature, Moist actually catches on pretty quickly and gets the post office going much faster than expected. This is a challenge to the semaphore/telegraph people who are charging a lot of money but delivering poor service to send short messages all over. Here comes Moist (looking to make a quick buck and not really invested in the long-term prospects) taking on the challenge of delivering long messages all over the world (it takes a bit longer but the semaphore lines are down a lot lately anyway) for pennies or maybe a dollar.

Throw in a variety of weird creatures and characters, plus a lady worth fighting for, and it’s all fun. And always remember, Moist can quit this respectable business any time he wants.

“fruit baskets is like life - until you’ve got the pineapple off the top you never know what’s underneath”

#34/81 Dante's Inferno

I read this book/Poem because I had always heard about it but had never read it. So I challenged myself to read this book. I chose the Pinsky translation for my read. The story was very thought provoking, and disturbing as to whether any of it could true. As a born and raised Catholic, I chose the time of the read for the Lenten season since this is not the type of literature that I normally appreciate and I'm not sure that I do appreciate it. I do, however, acknowledge the talent of the writer and his imagination but I was disappointed by the amount of politics involved in the story.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Field Guide, The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black (17/81)

Twins Jared and Simon Grace, and their older sister Mallory, move with their mother to a decaying Victorian house in the first of The Spiderwick Chronicles. There they discover a secret room, and clues which eventually lead them to an old, handwritten and illustrated book, Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You.

I have had these books for a while but to be honest they are my daughter's .... I have been reading alot of fantasy recently and really wanted to pick these books up and see how they rated with the movie which I quite enjoyed !!!

This is book 1 ... There are 5 books in total which make up the movie .... So I will review each book as I read them .... This is quite short only 107 pages in total but it is not only hard backed which I love but also illustrated throughout beautifully .... It was a real joy to read !!!

One of my favourite lines from the books was:
"He didn't want to find an old, dead body, even if there was something really cool inside it" pg 51

It is a story of 3 children finding a book which opens up a whole new world to them .... It allows them to see Faeries and another creatures that we humans cannot see !!! It is filled with adventure and every young teen would gobble this book up !!

I rate this book 5*****

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (16/81)

Twenty- four are forced to enter. Only the winner survives.

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Each year, the districts are forced by the Capitol to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the Hunger Games, a brutal and terrifying fight to the death – televised for all of Panem to see.

Survival is second nature for sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who struggles to feed her mother and younger sister by secretly hunting and gathering beyond the fences of District 12. When Katniss steps in to take the place of her sister in the Hunger Games, she knows it may be her death sentence. If she is to survive, she must weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Well who knew that walking in Big W the other day that I would come across a book that I have been after for a while now !!! And the thing was I was staring at it for a while before it registered that it was The Hunger Games .... I have come accustomed to a different cover ... But I have to say I am delighted with this cover and I couldn't put the book down .... I read it in one day and loved it .... The only down side to the whole thing is that it is a trilogy and the second part isn't coming out until September ...!!!

I have been reading alot of Young Adult reads lately and I am really loving it !!! I think I am going back to my own teen years ... when all I used to read was Fantasy Books ... And I have to admit I have missed them !!!

This is a brilliant first novel by Suzanne Collins ... That both a girl and boy could identify with ... And the front cover is really clever that you can change it to a boy or girl cover depending on what you want !! This book has it all action, danger and romance and you will be grounded to your seat until you finish it !!! It was definitely well worth the wait to receive it !!!!

I rate this book 5*****

A short movie of Suzanne talking about her book .... Enjoy :) It is nice to put a face to a name ...

The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho (15/81)

How do we find the courage to always be true to ourselves—even if we are unsure of whom we are?
That is the central question of international bestselling author Paulo Coelho's profound new work, The Witch of Portobello. It is the story of a mysterious woman named Athena, told by the many who knew her well—or hardly at all.
Among them:

"People create a reality and then become the victims of that reality. Athena rebelled against that—and paid a high price."Heron Ryan, journalist
"I was used and manipulated by Athena, with no consideration for my feelings. She was my teacher, charged with passing on the sacred mysteries, with awakening the unknown energy we all possess. When we venture into that unfamiliar sea, we trust blindly in those who guide us, believing that they know more than we do."Andrea McCain, actress

"Athena's great problem was that she was a woman of the twenty-second century living in the twenty-first, and making no secret of the fact, either. Did she pay a price? She certainly did. But she would have paid a still higher price if she had repressed her natural exuberance. She would have been bitter, frustrated, always concerned about 'what other people might think,' always saying, 'I'll just sort these things out, then I'll devote myself to my dream,' always complaining 'that the conditions are never quite right.'"Deidre O'Neill, known as Edda

Like The Alchemist, The Witch of Portobello is the kind of story that will transform the way readers think about love, passion, joy, and sacrifice.

This is the third book of Paulo Coelho that I have read ... And I have to say that The Alchemist is still my firm favourite ... I loved the cover of this novel ... And the concept to the story is very interesting as it is told from people who knew the main character of Athena ...

It is basically Athena's journey through life told from her friends and family ... Let me start by telling you the good things about the book ... It is littered with loads of stories and quotes which are as ever makes you stop and think ... Some of my favourites are

"What is a teacher? I'll tell you: it isn't someone who teaches something, but someone who inspires the student to give of her best in order to discover what she already knows" Pg 88

"Look at a skilled blacksmith working steel. To the untrained eye, he's merely repeating the same hammer blows, but anyone trained in the art of calligraphy knows that each time the blacksmith lifts the hammer and rings it down, the intensity of the blow is different. The hand repeats the same gesture, but as it approaches the metal it understands that it must touch it with more or less force. It's the same things with repetition: it many seem the same, but it's always different. The moment will come when you no longer need to think about what you're doing" Pg 91

"Money brings happiness. Fine. In that case, everyone who earns enough to have a high standard of living would be able to stop work. But then they're more troubled than ever, as if they were afraid of losing everything. Money attracts money, that's true. Poverty might bring unhappiness, but money won't necessarily bring happiness" Pg 144

Ok they were among my favourite quotes ... But I have to say that I did struggle to finish this book and it took me alot longer than I thought .... I do know that the book is centred around Athena but I found her quite selfish ... I know that it is her journey but it seems that was all she cared about and she really didn't care about how it effected the people around her ... I do appreciate that you can lose yourself in dance and mediation but I think I would have found her abit weird if every second you see her that she just danced around the place ...

I know alot of people love Coelho's novels and The Alchemist still remains one of my favourites but I have struggled with his other novels ...

I rate this book 2**

Paulo Coelho talking about his novel

Here's a link to his blog ::: http://paulocoelhoblog.com/