Sunday, May 31, 2009

Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris (34/81)

When cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse sees a man on the side of the road, she doesn't just drive on by. Turns out the poor thing hasn't a clue who he is, but Sookie does. It's Eric the vampire--but now he's a kinder, gentler Eric. And a scared Eric, because whoever took his memory now wants his life.

The 4th book in the Sookie Stackhouse series and I have to say I loved this book and couldn't put it down ... By far the best book of the series so far .......

You have your faithful characters in Bill and Amanda the Vampires .... Alcide the Werewolves ..... Sam the Shapeshifter and now you have the introduction of Witches and Were-Panthers ...... Great stuff ........

Sookie is hiding Eric the Viking Vampire from the Witches who are hunting him down and now her beloved Brother Jason is missing and she fears is dead ......... She cannot rely on Bill her ex vampire boyfriend as he is out of the country so it is basically up to her to protect Eric ....

Great story line ..... Couldn't stop reading ...... Looking forward to reading the next in the series ...

I rate this book 41/2 ****

Club Dead by Charlaine Harris (33/81)

Sookie's boyfriend has been very distant-in another state, distant. Now she's off to Mississippi to mingle with the underworld at Club Dead-a little haunt where the vampire elite go to chill out. But when she finally finds Bill-caught in an act of betrayal-she's not sure whether to save him...or sharpen some stakes.

The 3rd book in the Sookie Stackhouse Series and it doesn't seem that Sookies life is getting any easier .....

This is not my most favourite book in the series and in a few parts found it quite slow .... But it does introduce you to a whole new set of characters which you will love and namely ... Alcide the hunky were-wolf ..............

Sookie has to make a decision whether to go after Bill the Vampire or not? There are alot of action and fights in this book and if you loved the first couple of books then you will love this one :)

I rate this book 31/2 ***

Threads from the Web of Life, 28/81, 2nd round

Threads from the Web of Life, by Stephen Daubert, non-fiction category

This was a lovely collection of essays, each focusing on a different scene. From ocean to forest to jungle, this book ranged all over the planet, explaining why nature works the way it does and how it got that way. It's hard to pick my favorite essay, but one standout was the one on the migration of squid. I also loved to read about the mysterious UFO also known as the white pelican.

Sometimes the writing was a little too lyrical, but I loved the section at the end of each essay, telling about the science behind the story, and the section at the end of the book, giving the reader options for further reading. A wonderful book for any nature lover.

After Etan

After Etan: The Missing Child Case that Held America Captive
by Lisa R. Cohen

Grand Central Publishing
May 2009
400 pages (per amazon my copy has 367)

info on May 29m 2009: Sales Rank: #689 in Books

Popular in these categories:
#2 in Books > Nonfiction > True Accounts > True Crime
#3 in Books > Nonfiction > True Accounts > Murder & Mayhem
#24 in Books > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Sociology

There is a longer post on my blog, mainly the product description.

From John Miller, former co-anchor of 20/20: "The story of the disappearance of Etan Patz is a story that almost everyone remembers the beginning of and only a handful of people know the end of. For the first time, Lisa Cohen finally unravels a complex and tangled mystery while seamlessly telling the heart wrenching story of a family trying to cope with every parent's worst nightmare. The vivid descriptions and the incredible detail make you feel like you are there every step of the way. The book pulls you in. It can be painful at times and still, you can't put the book down."


"Julie walks Etan down the three flights to the front door. He isn't tall enough to reach the lock himself... She sees the familiar figures of other parents and their children beginning to congregate near the bus stop, which is just barely out of sight around the corner..." Her friend and neighbor, Karen, was going to pick Etan up from the bus stop after school. When 3:30 p.m. comes around, Julie's concerned but thinks the buses are delayed since it is the first week back since the strike. Finally, she phones Karen. Karen assumed that when Etan hadn't gotten off the bus he had gone to another friend's, as he often did, for a semi-regular playdate. With Julie on the line, she asked her daughter if she knew where Etan had gone after school. "Etan wasn't in school today".

At 3:50 p.m., on a Friday before a three-day weekend, she calls the police to report her son missing. Now it was almost 4:30 p.m. and the cops still hadn't shown up. You see, way back when, the cops first thoughts were custody dispute or run away. What's the hurry, you'll find him at a friends house, what's one more in a crowd of kids - some other mother just forgot to call you to say he was at her house. By the time the police get there, there is no one at the school office to confirm Etan's absence. Luckily, one of the officers remembered he knew the janitor and they were able to get in. Absence confirmed. Etan never showed up to school.

Twenty years later, they still don't know what happened to their little boy.

This is a heartwrenching story but also a story of survival and triumph, friendship and hope. May 25, 1979 may have been the day innocence died for many but it is also the day eyes were opened. Okay, not exactly on the 25th but Etan was the catalyst for many of our child safety laws, including the Center for Missing and Exploited Children. He's why we teach our kids "good touch, bad touch" and "stranger danger". It is a must read for all who work with or have children, not to make you paranoid, but to make you aware. In Julie's own words, "They have to grow and gain confidence in themselves. You can't lock them in the house or in class. They'll never learn how to fend for themselves. Walk with them. Teach them how to protect themselves. Give them a life." (page 346)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Hominids by Robert J Sawyer (8/81)

Category: Hugo Award Winners (3/9)

Hominids won the Hugo Award in 2003, which led me to pick it up to bring me a smidgen closer to completing my 999 Challenge. (My book list for the challenge is here.) I think that I have liked this one the best of the Hugo Award winners that I have read so far. I even wanted to continue reading the series that this book begins, but due to some unfortunate circumstances, neither of the two copies of the second book in my library system are available. But I suppose it will stay on my reading list, and maybe one day I'll finish the series.
Hominids is an excellent example of speculative science fiction. What if parallel worlds exist? What if there was some way to bridge the gap between worlds? What might we find? In Hominids, it is not the human race on the world as we know it that manages to bridge this gap. We are simply the recipients. It is a Neanderthal named Ponter Bodditt, a quantum physicist in his own world, who comes to our dimension. In his world Neanderthals were the surviving species, while Homo Sapiens died out. While in our world, Ponter must figure out how to communicate and survive (he is helped tremendously by an advanced piece of A-I technology that learns languages and can communicate for him), while the people he meets have to figure out what this means for our world. And back in Ponter's world, his best friend and business partner must fight off unexpected accusations of murder, stemming from Ponter's disappearence.
This really was an incredibly fascinating, enjoyable read. I loved reading about the Neanderthal's world, as created by Sawyer. He does an excellent job of giving the reader a glimpse of that world through the trial against Ponter's partner, Adikor. And reexamining the human race through the eyes of someone close to us, but not the same, brings up some really interesting questions. The story itself is fast-moving and very satisfying, all leading me to want to continue the series! Ah well, I'll just have to keep this one in mind.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Irregulars and Operatives, Spies, and Saboteurs

The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British spy ring in wartime Washington by Jennet Conant and Operatives, Spies, and Saboteurs by Patrick K. O'Donnell, non-fiction category

You would think that a real life book about espionage would be interesting, but two books in a row proved that not to be the case. Maybe it's because the author has to leave out too much, or because there is not enough good source information, so the author has to guess. But both of these were hard to get through. Too much boring detail to get through and not enough pictures. Too much politics, not enough action.

I really enjoy Roald Dahl as an author, so I was looking forward to The Irregulars. I had no idea that Britain was working so hard to sway American policy toward World War II and get Americans involved. This should have been an interesting book. But I got lost in all the names, and if anything interesting happened, I missed it. Two stars is being generous, but I did enjoy the biographical parts about Dahl's family life and early writing career.

The second book was about the OSS, organized by division. WAAAAAY too much detail. There were maps, but I was still confused about what was going on. The most interesting part to me was about the 'amphibious squadron' - sorry, I had a Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow moment. But you know what I mean, the forerunners of the Navy Seals. I also liked the part about how the OSS got started. But I basically skipped around in this one too. Neither is recommended unless you are a major WWII buff or a big fan of Roald Dahl's

Death by Cashmere

Death by Cashmere
by Sally Goldenbaum

An Obsidian Mystery
NAL, a division of Penguin Group
August 2008
294 pages plus scarf pattern

Isabel "Izzy" Chambers leaves her law career in Boston and heads to Sea Harbor, the quaint fishing town where she spent summer vacations as a girl. She opens a knitting shop where a diverse group of women begin congregating each week to form the Seaside Knitters.

Izzy rents the apartment above the shop to a returning home-town girl, even though it raises concerns and eyebrows. People thought Angelina was too big for the town and wondered why she would take a job at the local museum. Angelina saw everything in black and white and had a temper. She may have been unpopular with some of the townspeople but would any of them hate her enough to kill?

Have you ever had someone tell you a story where they put in so much detail you just want to shake them and yell, "get to the point already!"? This book was a little like that for me at the beginning. I almost felt like I was dropped in the middle of the story but that cleared up. This was a library book (that's one challenge), a new author (that's another challenge), and a mystery (that's a third challenge) and just interesting enough that I kept picking it back up. I am very glad I persevered. All the details filled in what life is like in the small town, how everyone fit together and how the death (murder?) of one pulls the weave off center.

I was very satisfied with how this one ended, how all the pieces fit together without loose ends or a big rush to the finish. I'm looking forward to reading the next book, Patterns in the Sand.

category: Mystery/Thriller/Suspense type
book 7
I will re-read this one but I won't pay full price for print.

This is a duplicate of my blog post.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume 1: The Pox Party by MT Anderson (7/81)

Category: National Book Award for Young People's Literature (1/9)

Well that title certainly is a mouthful. I do enjoy the fact that Anderson is not afraid to give his book a long title, if that's the title it deserves. And Octavian certainly has an astonishing life. In this book, the story is mostly told through "testimony" that is written in first-person by Octavian himself. But there is a great middle section where the story is told in letters, and we see what happens to Octavian during that time period through someone else's eyes. Octavian was raised, along with his very young mother, by a group of scientist/philosophers who refer to themselves as the Novanglian College of Lucidity. All of the men there are known by numbers, rather than their names, whereas Octavian, and his mother, Cassiopeia, are not. It takes Octavian (and the reader) some time to realize that he and his mother are actually parts of some of the experiments that the men of the college are studying. He also eventually learns that they are slaves, and are owned by 03-01, or Mr. Gitney, the man who runs the place.
This book takes place right before the Revolutionary War, in Boston. War actually breaks out during the course of the book, and Octavian learns that freedom means different things depending on who you are talking to and where you come from.
This was a fascinating, very quick read, and I am looking forward to reading the second book. Anderson's descriptions, and his storytelling, both through Octavian and through the letters, are intriguing, and even more so often because he is one of those authors that leaves a lot for the reader to fill in for themselves. It's more immersive than I would have thought, and I wonder how it will end for Octavian.

Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris (32/81)

All it takes is one delicious blonde and one small mistake for things to turn deadly : Sookie Stackhouse is in trouble again! Cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse is having a streak of bad luck. First her co-worker is killed, and no one seems to care. Then she comes face-to-face with a beastly creature which gives her a painful and poisonous lashing. Enter the vampires, who graciously suck the poison from her veins. The point is: they saved her life. So when one of the bloodsuckers asks for a favour, she obliges - and soon Sookie's in Dallas, using her telepathic skills to search for a missing vampire. She's supposed to interview certain humans involved, but she makes one condition: the vampires must promise to behave, and let the humans go unharmed. But that's easier said than done, and all it takes is one delicious blonde and one small mistake for things to turn deadly . . .

This is book two of the Sookie Stackhouse Series about Vampires in the South .... And it is an easy funny read about the adventures of Sookie and her Vampire boyfriend .... Nothing has ever been the same since Sookie starting dating Bill the Vampire ... It introduced her to a world of Vampires and Shapeshifters ...

Now that Eric the chief Vampire knows that she can read minds he sends her out doing various jobs for him .... And of course there is always danger .... I am enjoying these books but there are some sex scences in this book as well ... But if you love your Vampire books you will love this book :) ....

I rate this book 4****

Small Island by Andrea Levy, 13/81

Small Island tells the tale of two couples, one English, one Jamaican, whose lives interweave in surprising ways during and in the years following WWII. Queenie and Bernard Bligh are Londoners; Queenie is left behind when Bernard leaves to fight in India. Gilbert and Hortense Joseph are Jamaican. Gilbert comes to England to fight with the RAF, and in Gilbert prim and proper Hortense sees a ticket to the life in England of which she's dreamed. Fate first brings the two couples together, but this chance meeting cements their lives forever. Levy's novel switches among its four main characters in a series of chapters that span three continents. We hear from Queenie, Bernard, Gilbert, and Hortense. All of the characters find themselves dealing with the effects of war: Bernard and Gilbert as soldiers, Queenie in the midst of the London bombings and possible widowhood when Bernard disappears. For Hortense wartime cements her desire to create an English life and identity. But war also brings significant lessons on racism, empire, and what it means to live on a "small island," whether British or Jamaican. Levy does a good job portraying the horrors and deprivations of war. She moves easily among four very different characters, in different places. This is an accomplished saga of two families and their wartime experiences.

Andrea Levy, Small Island (Picador, 2004) ISBN: 0755325656
Orange Prize, 2004

Category: Award Winners 1/9, 13/81

Monday, May 25, 2009

Bozo Sapiens, 23/81 - 2nd round

Bozo Sapiens: Why to Err is Human, by Michael and Ellen Kaplan, non-fiction category

First of all - nice title. I probably wouldn't have picked it up if not for the title.

As the subtitle suggests, this is an attempt to explain human behavior, especially DUMB human behavior. Why do we take so many risks? Why do we procrastinate? Overeat? Cheat on spouses? Fall for get-rich-quick schemes? Succumb to mob mentality? There are a lot of reasons, but most of them have to do with the brain.

I enjoyed this book. The part about economics was interesting, in light of the current recession and my own financial bind. It helped me to see money a little differently, in terms of what I am using for and what I really want from my purchases. And the part about nutrition and eating habits was really useful, as I am on a diet - again - and trying to get serious about it this time. Apparently, the normal human condition is hungry. So trying to stuff that down with food every time it surfaces is going to inevitably lead to weight gain, because no matter how much you eat, you will still feel hunger now and then.

I enjoyed the book, and I did learn something from it. One minor quibble is that I would have liked to see an index, but maybe that will be there in the final edition, as I read the advance copy. Overall though, I'm not sure how much this book is as insightful as it wanted to be. It was fun, but I'm not sure it was deep.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris (31/81)

Sookie Stackhouse is just a small-time cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana. Until the vampire of her dreams walks into her life-and one of her coworkers checks out....

Maybe having a vampire for a boyfriend isn't such a bright idea.

A fun, fast, funny, and wonderfully intriguing blend of vampire and mystery that's hard to put down, and should not be missed.

Ok these books have been out a while and number 9 was just released this May ... They brought out a different cover which I prefer to the original covers ... ( You all know what a book snob I am when it comes to covers .... The original cover where very cartoonie and I would have just passed them over ) Last year they made this book into a TV series and it got quite the following so much so that they are making a second series based on the 2nd book ... Dead in Dallas ...

The book is an enjoyable read but be warned there are a couple of sex scenes in the book ... And it is classed as an Adult read .... But the story line and characters I just loved ... There are Vampires, Shape shifters and some other species in the book which makes for a good story line and an endless supply for future books ...

The character of Sookie is great she is not your ordinary human she can read minds ... Bill the Vampire is great who is very charming and old fashioned ... And there is mystery to solve as who is killing all the women in the town ..... Is it the Vampires ???

I rate this book 4 ****

Now how does the book compare to the TV Series .... I have to say I loved the characters and the story line to the series but it is definitely an Adult View .... There is alot of sex scenes and I mean alot and some are quite graphic ... So this series is not for everyone .... If there was no sex scenes in the series then it would actually be perfect ... I was abit curious whether the books would be the same way but I am pleased to say they do not .... The second series is going to be aired at the end of June 2009 .... The series is good .... Great characters ... Great Music ... And great story line ... But again very graphic and alot of swearing which is a shame ...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Dancing Girls, by Margaret Atwood 12/81

In this short story collection Atwood explores the mindset of women in a variety of situations. From an isolated grad student to an expectant mother, to a severely disabled girl at summer camp, these stories find women in deceptively ordinary situations, each with a slight twist. This collection is comprised of stories written early in Atwood's career, and that is clearly reflected in the details. Several stories focus on academic environments, with graduate student characters. The protagonist in the collection's namesake, "Dancing Girls," a Canadian graduate student in Cambridge, certainly brings to mind Atwood's own time at Harvard. Together this collection explores the expectations that follow young women in the late-1970s: sometimes restrictive, sometimes depressing, always present.

Margaret Atwood, Dancing Girls, (Bantam, 1985) ISBN: 0553341154

Category: Canadian fiction 4/9, 12/81

The Tricking of Freya by Christina Sunley, 11/81

Every summer of her childhood Freya Morris travels from her Connecticut home to the Manitoban resort town of Gimli. Gimli, an Icelandic-Canadian settlement, is home to Freya's entire maternal family. In Gimli Freya is immersed in the Icelandic culture her mother has neglected in their Connecticut life. Most appealing to Freya is time spent with her eccentric and troubled Aunt Birdie. As Freya grows older she learns Icelandic language and culture from Birdie. She also learns that Birdie is mentally ill, and can hurt those she loves on a whim. I wasn't really sure what to expect from this book. I knew nothing about Icelandic literature and myth, and I learned a great deal from this book. I also knew very little about Iceland, and Sunley's descriptions of the landscape are rich and evocative. She clearly illustrates Iceland's primordial landscape-- one of volcanic plains, geysers, and glaciers. Sunley also does an excellent job creating an Icelandic community in Canada. Again, I knew nothing of Icelandic migration to Canada, or of Icelandic enclaves in the prairies. While I was able to predict the plot's twist long before it was revealed I still found the book to be both engaging and enjoyable. It brought me into a world of the unknown.
Christina Sunley, The Tricking of Freya (St. Martin's Press, 2009) ISBN: 0312378777
Category: Canadian Fiction 3/9, 11/81

Friday, May 22, 2009

Dearly Depotted, 22/81, 2nd round

Dearly Depotted by Kate Collins, new mystery category

Abby's neurotic cousin, Jillian, is finally getting married and Abby has agreed to do the flowers and be a bridesmaid. She wasn't counting on dead bodies. But when the groom's grandmother discovers one under a table, Abby jumps in to investigate. The police already have a suspect - her friend's new boyfriend. But Abby thinks they are too quick to draw conclusions. Oh, and what's going on with her hottie escort?

This is the third in a fun series. I enjoyed this one and the others, but I just don't enjoy books like this as much as I used to. The idea of a amateur detective gets a little hard to believe after a while. And why can't she figure out what's going on with Marco? This is the third book and there's been an attraction between them the whole time. Then she FALLS ASLEEP when she finally gets to spend an evening alone with him? What's up with that? I'm all for taking things slow, but she hasn't even decided if they are dating or not. How long is that going to take?

If you like cozy mysteries, this is a fun series. I like the characters, although Jillian is a bit much, and there's not this shove-it-down-your-throat thing that a lot of the 'theme cozies' seem to have. Yes, she's a florist, but it's not a DIY book for aspiring green thumbs. For myself, I would probably read another in the series if I got the chance, but I'm not going to go out and look for one.

As They See 'Em by Bruce Weber (60/81)

As They See 'Em by Bruce Weber
Category: Nonfiction

Baseball has its fair share of books, but what about a book about the umpires? This is what reporter Bruce Weber sets out to do, starting with his stint at an umpire training school in Florida, and following with interviews with umps in the minor and major leagues. In between, he fills it out with some history (the changing strike zone, for instance) and recent events like the 1999 struggle between Major League Baseball and the umpires' union.

My dad has umpired Little League since I was very young, so maybe I'm a little biased when I say I thought this was a fascinating account of a part of baseball that's largely overlooked. As Weber makes abundantly clear, if umpires are noticed at all it's usually the shouted profanity type of notice, and little credit is given to them for keeping the game running smoothly and making good close calls. His conversational style makes the book run by fast. 4.5 stars.

Cross-posted at Born Reader.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Category: Award Winners and Honors
2009 Printz Award Winner

Taylor Markham's mother left her at the 7-11 on the Jellicoe Road. Six years later, Taylor is the House leader at her school and the school leader in the "territory wars" against the Townies and the Cadets. It doesn't help that the leader of the Cadets, Jonah Griggs, is someone Taylor has something of a history with. On top of all this new responsibility, Taylor freaks when Hannah, the woman who found her at the 7-11 and took her in for a time, suddenly disappears.

This well-crafted story is told in two parts - Taylor's first-person, present tense narration and another story, interspersed here and there, about the survivors of a car crash on Jellicoe Road 22 years before Taylor's story. Though at first confusing, seeing the two narratives come together was a lot of fun, even after I'd figured out much of the connections. The story and characters will stay with me for a long time. 5 stars.

Cross-posted at Born Reader.

The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan (58/81)

The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan
Category: YA/Children's

In this fifth and last installment of the "Percy Jackson" series, Percy's 16th birthday is fast approaching - and with it, the fulfillment of the Great Prophecy. When he returns to Camp Half-Blood, Percy finds a lot of things changed. Campers are gearing up for war with Kronos, and the Ares and Apollos cabins are at odds. Percy finally hears the Great Prophecy in its entirety, and is weighed down with its implications: Will his decision spell the end of Olympus?

I've so enjoyed this series of humorous Greek myth set in the United States and told from a boy hero's perspective. This one didn't disappoint, and though I'm sorry to see Percy go, the end seemed to leave open the possibility of more stories coming from Camp Half-Blood. 4.5 stars.

Cross-posted at Born Reader.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi (57/81)

Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi
Category: Graphic Novels

After leaving home to go to school in Vienna at the end of Persepolis, Marjane moves from one home to another, all the while trying to fit in with classmates. Beginning when she was fourteen, she recounts rooming in a convent, her first love, and finally living on the streets before returning to Iran.

Her story of adolescence and young adulthood is heartbreaking. Much of the story is the theme of fitting in - or not - among others. Too Western here, too Eastern there, and feeling separated because of the vast differences between experience of war or love or what have you. Though the particulars may not seem familiar, the universal themes are completely relatable. 4.5 stars.

Cross-posted at Born Reader.

Outcasts United, by Warren St. John (10/81)

Clarkston, Georgia: an Atlanta suburb, and a resettlement community for thousands of refugees from some of the most war-torn parts of the world. Outcasts United is the story of a youth soccer team (three teams, really) comprised of Clarkston's newest young residents. The teams, the Fugees, face nearly insurmountable odds. The players and their families have found themselves torn from home, in a foreign environment, with few resources. Backbreaking work schedules, few resources, and shell shock all haunt the resettled families of Clarkston. But many of the children from these families share a love of soccer. Under the direction of a dedicated coach, Luma Mufleh, a Jordanian woman looking to find her niche in the United States, the Fugees create a team, against seemingly insurmountable odds. The Fugees lack equipment and practice space, they also face significant opposition from the longtime residents of Clarkston, including the mayor and city council. Clarkston is clearly a town in transition, and one that is having a hard time handling that transition. In telling the story of Clarkston and the Fugees, St. John has crafted an engaging narrative that wraps hope and seeming hopelessness into a story in which its nearly impossible to not root for the kids. Throughout the book St. John remains sympathetic to all of the parties in the book. It's easy to cheer on the kids; the longtime residents of Clarkston are less sympathetic. Still, St. John does an admirable job of trying to understand the myriad of problems Clarkston's mayor, in particular, tries to manage as he deals with a growing population with diverse needs. This is a story about a community, but it is also important to note that this is a story about a soccer team too. For those who are not terribly interested in soccer (such as myself), I did find there to be quite a bit of discussion of the sport- the plays maneuvers used during the games. This I did not care for quite as much, and found myself thumbing forward a few pages for most of the in-depth discussions of game time. That said, there is still much here to interest the general reader of literary non-fiction. I was taken with the Fugees' story, and I am certain many other readers will be too.

Warren St. John, Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, an American Town (Spiegel and Grau, 2009) ISBN: 0385522037

Category: Literary Nonfiction- 1/9, 10/81

Good as Lily by Derek Kirk Kim (56/81)

Good as Lily by Derek Kirk Kim
Category: Graphic Novels

On Grace's eighteenth birthday, she is suddenly visited by...herself. At the ages of six, twenty-nine, and seventy-something, to be precise. These doppelgangers may just change her life, if she can keep them out of trouble in the meantime.

This is a story all about character, as we learn about Grace and exactly what she could teach herself at each of these ages, from love to friendship to sibling rivalry. There's humor (Grace has to keep her 29-year-old self from hitting on the hot young English teacher) and more serious elements. Directly after finishing it, I would have given it 3 stars - a quick, light story that I didn't love, didn't dislike. But the next day, I was still thinking about some of the connections between the title and the construction of the story and upon further reflection I give it 4 stars.

Cross-posted at Born Reader.

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley (55/81)

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
Category: Award Winners and Honors

When Harry Crewe's (don't ask her real first name) parents die, she has to move closer to her brother Richard and become the ward of Lady Amelia and Sir Charles. She falls in love with this wild Hill country and becomes embroiled in the political climate when Corlath, king of the Damarians, comes to parley with Sir Charles. Corlath's magic won't let him forget her, so he kidnaps her knowing only that she has some sort of part to play in the coming war with the Northerners.

I have no real complaints about this story: the characters were interesting (I especially enjoyed reading when Corlath was on-scene), the story well told. But I never felt fully invested in the story, nor did I feel compelled to read if the book were not already in my hands. Really more a case of mood than of any failing of the book, I give it 4 stars.

Cross-posted at Born Reader.

The Alchemyst by Michael Scott (54/81)

The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott
Category: YA/Children's

Sophie and Josh, fraternal twins living in California for the summer, walk in on a magical fight between none other than Nicholas Flamel and Dr. John Dee. Flamel is the keeper of a book called the Codex, which Dee has been trying to steal for his masters, the Dark Elders, for ages. Now, Dee has the book and Nick's wife, and Sophie and Josh suddenly find themselves in a world where magic exists and legends live.

Definitely a fun read, pretty fast-paced throughout, with all sorts of creatures and myths re-imagined. Set in modern-day U.S., my only real complaint is that references to "modern" movies, like when there's a reference to Sophie seeing Titanic, seem to be a bit old for her age. I'm not saying she couldn't have seen the movie, just that it seems to be an outdated reference since she would have been about one year old when it came out. But a small complaint about an overall enjoyable story - I've requested the second book from the library already. 4.5 stars.

Cross-posted at Born Reader.

Slow Reading by John Miedema (53/81)

Slow Reading by John Miedema
999 Challenge Category: Books about Books/Reading/Writing

Based on the title, I assumed that Slow Reading would tell me all the things I'm doing wrong. I read at a fairly fast pace, averaging about two books a week, and often chose teen books over Literature. I expected that, while having an interesting premise, I would ultimately disagree with the author if he told me I should slow down and read only "good" books.

That's not what this book is about. "Slow reading" is less about pace (though that tends to be a factor) that it is a deliberate mental shift from task-oriented purpose to pleasure: "The most obvious sense of slowness in reference to quality is temporal - we stop racing against the clock to better appreciate a meal or a book" (43). In five short chapters, Miedema calls for a return to this pleasurable savoring of books, Literature or no. He draws on such diverse subjects as the connection between religion and slow reading, the innate differences between online and from-the-page reading, and neuroscience to make his points. Besides agreeing more than I thought I would, I found myself slow reading his book as I stopped to ponder my own reading experiences, talk back about a point that struck me, or looked through the thorough list of references in the back to follow up an intriguing idea. I appreciated the thorough citations that allowed me to look into more books or articles regarding the subjects I was most intrigued by. 4.5 stars.

Cross-posted at Born Reader.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (30/81)

As an orphan, Jane's childhood is not an easy one but her independence and strength of character keep her going through the miseries inflicted by cruel relatives and a brutal school. However, her biggest challenge is yet to come. Taking a job as a governess in a house full of secrets, for a passionate man she grows more and more attracted to, ultimately forces Jane to call on all her resources in order to hold on to her beliefs.

Move over Mr Darcy here comes Mr Rochester ......

This is one of my favourite books and movies of all time .... I don't know how many times I watched Jane Eyre when I was growing up and Mr Rochester was always Timothy Dalton until the new version came out in 2006 ....

This novel is truly a classic ... And a novel which you can read with great ease and amusement ... Jane is such a wonderful character .... Even as a young child she knew her own mind even under such awful surroundings .....

I would truly call this novel a love story .... It is full of passion .... And it amazes me that it was written so long ago but yet is still so fresh .... I couldn't help but continually turn the pages to see what happens next ....

I feel this book has everything that you would require in a story ... Romance ( which sometimes you can feel the attraction between Jane and Edward was electric ) .... There was suspense and mystery ( What exactly was in attic? ) ... There was Ghosts and stately Mansions ( With beautiful gardens and women dressed in wonderful apparel ) ... There where the characters you loved to hate ( The wicked Aunt and Mr Brocklehurst ) .... The character who is the heroine ( Jane .... Plain she was not ) and no story would be complete without a brooding, Ruggedly Handsome Landing Man in Mr Rochester ....

I have so many favourite parts in this novel but here is but a few ....

"He rose and came towards me, and I saw his face all kindled, and his full falcon-eye flashing, and tenderness and passion in every lineament. I quailed momentarily - then I rallied." pg 329
(Swoon .... Swoon ... Swoon )

"My little friend!" said he, "I wish I were in a quiet island with only you; and trouble, and danger, and hideous recollections removed from me" ...... Can I help you, sir? - I'd give my life to serve you." .... "Jane, if aid is wanted, I'd seek it at your hands; I promise you that." Pg 244

"If one shook hands, for instance; but no - that would not content me either. So you'll do no more than to say Farewell, Jane?" ...... pg 271

"God pardon me!" he subjoined ere long, "and man meddle not with me: I have her, and will hold her" Pg 308

I cannot tell you how much I really love this book ... If you have not read it yet please do yourself a favour and go and get a copy !!! ..... You will not be disappointed ... You can really see how it is a Classic and remain one for many years to come ...

I rate this book 5*****

Ok we are doing this book as a book club and are going to settle down to watch the series .... So here is a wee teaser .... If you haven't seen this series it is well worth the watch :)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Suite Francaise (27/81)

Ever since picking up my first work by Nemirovsky last year, I've admired her talent for observing the human condition. There's something about her observation of people and their actions that suggests a balance between optimistic humanism and world weariness. In Suite Francaise, she trains her fine eye on the way that people react, and then adjust, to war, specifically Germany's invasion of France in WWII.

The book is divided into two sections. The first section begins as the news spreads through France that the army has been unable to stop the Germans. With the Blitz heading towards Paris, panic spreads, and people begin to flee to the countryside. Nemirovsky quickly introduces several people, including one family, and the preparations they make to leave. At first, the sheer number of characters made it a bit confusing, but as the story progressed, I got to know the characters better and became able to distinguish them.

As the Parisians flee, they often find themselves in pretty harrowing circumstances. The invasion has thrown things into disorder, and people who've led lives of privilege and prestige suddenly find the charmed existence that they enjoyed has suddenly disappeared. At first the Germans appear only as news on the radio, but then there are bombings and aerial strafing, followed by pitched battles. The story reflects the horror and confusion of war. As the first section ends, the government has fallen, the fighting has ended and people are in the process of putting their lives back together.

The second section begins in the countryside, specifically in one of the villages to which one of the Parisians had fled. The Germans have gone from being an invading army to an occupying one, and in the process have gone from being an amorphous threat to having a very human face. In fact, the presence of all the young men in a village which has seen its own boys killed or taken prisoner gives rise to a strange dynamic of affection and resentment. This section felt even stronger, as Nemirovsky probes all the fault lines, allowing for a much slower boil of conflicting emotions and allegiances.

Because Nemirovsky was sent to the death camps, she never finished the novel, so the second section of the novel ends somewhat abruptly. Though not part of the novel, I couldn't help but contrast Nemirovsky's eye for day-to-day humanity with the sheer inhuman evil of the Holocaust. I also couldn't help wondering how this chronicle of the war, with all its fine detail and observations, would have continued had she lived.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Sword of the Rightful King, 18/81, 2nd round

The Sword of the Rightful King, by Jane Yolen, found at the library category

I really like Jane Yolen and I love the Arthur stories, so this one seemed like a safe bet. However, I wasn't crazy about her Young Merlin trilogy. This one, happily, wasn't really connected with the Merlin stories. It revolved around Arthur, Merlin, Gawain and Morgause and a newcomer to court, the confusingly named Gawin.

Morgause is her normal rotten self, Gawain was a hero as always (he's my favorite, really), and there was much intrigue. I wound up only giving it 3.5 stars though, because the plot was just too complex to be believable. Arthur here was very easy to like. If you enjoy the Arthur stories, I think this one would be a fun one.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Arise and Shine Forth by Relief Society (29/81)

A Collection of talks from the 2000 Women's Conference - Sponsored by Brigham Young University and the Relief Society

Is it good for women to be alone - the answer is no .... Women need other Women ...

I was unfortunately never in Salt Lake City whenever the Women's Conferences where on so this is the next best thing for me ... The Book with all the talks enclosed !!!

It is so refreshing to read the experiences of other women in the Church ... Each year they have a theme and in 2000 it was "Arise and shine Forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations" Doctrine and Covenants 115:5 ... It says that it is a bold call and a sacred responsibility for all those who answer it, whether it be a parent, teacher, grandparent, leader, sister, or friend .. How do we answer the call? How do we "arise and shine forth"?

I love this book and re-read it often especially if I have a talk or lesson coming up ... There are 54 talks included by different women all from different backgrounds ... If you are lucky enough to attend the conferences I am abit jealous .... But if you are like me and cannot but still wish to feel the spirit then these books are the next best thing ...

I rate this book 5*****

Friday, May 15, 2009

Lady Susan, 14/81, 2nd Round

Lady Susan by Jane Austen, historical fiction category

If you think Jane Austen was all about the good girls who got their man, this little book would set you straight. Lady Susan is not a good girl. She is a manipulative, lying hypocrite. She is still quite good at getting her man, or someone else's man, or just about anything else she wants.

The story is told in letters back and forth, some by Lady Susan, some to her, and all of them about her. Lady Susan has made London a little hot for herself, so she has invited herself to stay in the country with her late husband's wife and family. This might have been awkward for some people. After all, she did try to persuade her brother-in-law not to marry. But she sails right in and makes herself at home. In no time, she has bewitched her hostess's brother and is making plans for her daughter's marriage.

I really enjoyed this one. It was very short, but it was a fun book that I couldn't put down until I got to the end. I was hoping Lady Susan would get what was coming to her, but I won't tell you what happens.

Wildwood Dancing, 15/81, 2nd Round

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, fantasy/myth category

Jena and her 4 sisters have a secret. Every full moon, they find a portal into the Other World and dance the night away. But things are changing. Their father must leave their home and spend the winter away for his health. He leaves the castle in the care of Jena and her older sister Tati, and reminds them to ask their uncle for any help they need. But after he leaves, their uncle is killed in a hunting accident and their cousin Cezar takes over. And wow, does he take over. Suddenly the girls have little control over anything, because Cezar knows best.

Add to this the twist that Tati falls in love with one of the other visitors to the Other World, one who hangs around with a suspicious crowd. Vampires, anyone? Jena's own companion, a frog, starts acting differently too. It seems like just when things can't get any worse for the family, they do.

I really enjoyed this book. It's a mix of vampire folklore (it's set in Romania), the 12 Dancing Princesses and The Frog Prince, but it works surprisingly well. I really liked Jena, despite her flaws, and I loved the ending. Then I found out there's a sequel, Cybele's Secret, which might not be out yet. This one was a lot of fun.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Graceling by Kristin Cashore (28/81)

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight--she's a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king's thug.

When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change. She never expects to become Po's friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace--or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

With elegant, evocative prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, debut author Kristin Cashore creates a mesmerizing world, a death-defying adventure, and a heart-racing romance that will consume you, hold you captive, and leave you wanting more.

Love, Love Love the cover .... I am going through a teen stage at the moment it seems .... As a majority of books I have picked up are all from this range .... Not that I am complaining because I am not I am loving the books ...

It is great to see a strong female character ... And Katsa is definitely that .... I completed this book in a couple of days .... I loved it ... The chemistry between Katsa and Po is electric to say the least ... And it is interesting to see the character of Katsa discover who she really is ... And to realise that even though you are capable of doing everything yourself it is good to let other people in to help ... And that it is not considered a weakness ...

For a first novel the book is very well done and flows beautifully and you do get carried away into her world ... There are loads of adventures and of course the romance ..... I would have rated this book 5 stars if it wasn't for the fact that the end of the book left me abit deflated ... I know I am probably being petty but the whole book was quite fast paced until you get to the last couple of pages .... Is Kristin going to do a follow up book? .... It would be a shame not to do another book as the characters are wonderful ...

In saying that if you love fantasy, adventure and a touch of romance then you will love this book ...

I rate this book 41/2 ****

I would say this would make a brilliant movie so here is a wee clip to wet your appetite - done by a fan !!!

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Host by Stephenie Meyer (27/81)

In this tantalizing SF thriller, planet-hopping parasites are inserting their silvery centipede selves into human brains, curing cancer, eliminating war and turning Earth into paradise. But some people want Earth back, warts and all, especially Melanie Stryder, who refuses to surrender, even after being captured in Chicago and becoming a host for a soul called Wanderer. Melanie uses her surviving brain cells to persuade Wanderer to help search for her loved ones in the Arizona desert. When the pair find Melanie's brother and her boyfriend in a hidden rebel cell led by her uncle, Wanderer is at first hated. Once the rebels accept Wanderer, whom they dub Wanda, Wanda's whole perspective on humanity changes. While the straightforward narrative is short on detail about the invasion and its stunning aftermath, it shines with romantic intrigue, especially when a love triangle (or quadrangle?!) develops for Wanda/Melanie.

This is Stephenie Meyer's Adult book about Aliens coming to our planet Earth and turning us into their hosts !!! .... It is a big book with over 600 pages but I have to say I loved it !!!

I did find it abit slow to start off with but then it just started to flow better !! ... I does rise some questions as to the lengths you would go to in order to save your friends and family from being HOSTs ... The relationship between Wanda and Melanie is very well done.

There is abit of violence in this book which probably is the reason for it being an Adult book but nothing too graphic ... It mostly deals with peoples emotions and how they re-act to having an Alien in their company .... If you are into Aliens and Fantasy then you are going to love this book ... And the way that it has been left there is the possibility of another book ....

There my not be any Vampires in this book but there is still Adventure, Romance and abit of Aliens thrown in for good luck ...

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

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch (26/81)

"We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand."—Randy Pausch

A lot of professors give talks titled "The Last Lecture." Professors are asked to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them. And while they speak, audiences can't help but mull the same question: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? If we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy?

When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give such a lecture, he didn't have to imagine it as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the lecture he gave—"Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams"—wasn't about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because "time is all you have…and you may find one day that you have less than you think"). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.

In this book, Randy Pausch has combined the humor, inspiration and intelligence that made his lecture such a phenomenon and given it an indelible form. It is a book that will be shared for generations to come.
Ok when I heard we where reading this book and read what it was about I thought it was going to be really depressing !!! ..... Boy was I wrong .... I really liked the book and it is inspiring !!!

I was really pleased that as a book club we had the opportunity to read this book and overall I think most of us really liked it ...

It is an easy read ... With small chapters and fun inspiring stories ... I laughed with the air balloon ( mainly because that would be something that would happen to me ) and loved the car stories ... If anything this book made me think about the importance of journal writing ... It is the only think that we can actually leave behind in order for future generations to really get to know us !!! ... And don't take life to serious and reach for your dreams .....

This is a great wee book that turned into a wee gem !! So if you want a pick me up book this is it !!!

I rate this book 4 ****

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Waiting for Godot, 6/81, 2nd round

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, play category

Let me start by saying that I do not like angst-ridden or depressing books. Several of my family members and myself have all dealt with depression, and some of us are still struggling. I do not need to read more about depressed people. Really, I just don't. So why did I put this book on my list? It wasn't like I didn't know what it was like. No, it was because I saw part of it, the first act, on TV and I was mesmerized. I couldn't get it out of my mind. But I never got around to reading it until this year.

The plot is simple. Two men, Estragon and Vladimir, are waiting for a third man named Godot to arrive. That's it. While they wait, they try to pass the time. Godot never arrives.

It sounds like a pointless play, doesn't it? But it adds up to so much more. I am not a theater critic, but I found so much to connect with in this play. This play, to me, is about the human struggle to find meaning in life, and about what happens if you NEVER find that meaning. What then?

This is a line I loved, from Estragon to Vladimir.
"We always find something, eh Didi, to give us the impression we exist?"

I am a person with a great faith in my purpose in life. And yet, I think because of that perhaps, I am also a person who knows what it means to question whether there really is any meaning at all in my own life. I think that a person of faith has greater doubts than a person without. A person of faith knows that God exists, but knows that He is not present for us. A person without faith knows that there is no God, and doesn't expect anything else. So for me, I have struggled over and over with trying to find my own purpose here in this life.

The blurb on the front reads, "One of the most noble and moving plays of our generation, a threnody of hope deceived and deferred but never extinguished." The two characters wait for something to happen. In the meantime, they fuss with their clothes, they have a little something to eat, they meet other people and try to interact, but above all, they do nothing, because there is nothing to be done. And yet, they keep coming, every day, to wait.

Not everyone will appreciate this play. I tried to explain it to my daughter and she just didn't see the point in it at all. I'm not sure why it appeals to me. I think it is the fact that at the end of the play, Vladimir and Estragon are still waiting.

I know that waiting.

Enthusiasm, 5/81, 2nd round

Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman, found at the library category

This was a fun teen romance that was neat little twist on Jane Austen. Julie's friend Ashleigh is always having these phases, or 'enthusiasms.' Suddenly Ashleigh discovers Jane Austen, and decided to go all out. Julie finally persuades her not to wear long dresses to high school, but agrees to go along to a boys' school dance, where they can meet their Mr. Darcys.

Like I said, it was a fun book. Ashleigh reminds me of several people I know, but fortunately, not quite so obsessed. And just about every reader will spot where the story is going almost from the beginning. The fun is in seeing HOW we get there.

Julie is a good character, with a complicated family, complicated emotions, and I really wanted her to get what she deserved. Recommended for teens or adults.

Friday, May 8, 2009

I Think Therefore Who Am I? by Peter Weissman (46/81)

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

I was not born in the 1960s, but have always had a fascination with this period; the music, the fashions and the politics, and I've had a sense of having missed out on something special. But Peter Weissman's memoir of his experiences in 1967 put some of my yearning into perspective.
The author's memories do not portray the time as a golden age, but at the same time he doesn't renounce it or downplay its personal significance.

My overall impression of this book is of the honesty of the author in description himself and his experiences. He unflinchingly describes his younger self as shy, naive and unsuccessful with women at the start of the book, and then as he begins to change through his LSD experiences, he is still portrayed as often foolish and not quite as worldy as he would like to think.

And of LSD taking, here is another of the writer's strengths as he avoids the pitfalls of over-glamorising or over-dramatising the experiences. Again the best way to describe his approach is honest.

'I think therefore who am I?' is essentially a coming of age story and although some of the specifics relate to that time and place, much of it struck a chord with me despite having been born a couple of decades later.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Wife of the Gods - 2/81, 2nd round

Wife of the Gods, by Kwei Quartey, Global Reading category

Detective Inspector Darko Dawson has been sent out to the countryside of Ghana to investigate the murder of a young woman. When he arrives, he must deal with the local healer, the rural police, and the local fetish priest, as well as reconnect with his extended family he hasn't seen since his mother's disappearance years earlier.

There are plenty of murder suspects, and the more Dawson looks, the more complications he finds. And his own temper isn't doing him any good either.

I've seen the book description, which compares this to the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books by Alexander McCall Smith. Perhaps. But I think that a better comparison would be to Inspector Morse. This is a darker book. Don't let the lush Ghanaian setting fool you - this is a brooding, imperfect police detective dealing with some morally complicated issues.

I really enjoyed the chance to read this book. There were some format issues I spotting that proofreading ought to take care of. But the story, the characters, the setting - all make this a great book to read. I hope this is just the first in a good solid series.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Reimagining Shakespeare for Children and Young Adults (52/81)

Reimagining Shakespeare for Children and Young Adults, edited by Naomi J. Miller
Category: Nonfiction

This collection of essays discusses various adaptations of Shakespeare for children, critical viewpoints of Shakespeare's plays and adaptations, and pedagogy in teaching Shakespeare to grades K-12. Because this book is primarily and plays and teaching methods, I decided to put it in my Nonfiction category rather than Books about Books. Probably most useful for teachers (though part 1 about adaptations could also be of interest to parents and librarians), I found in reading these essays that I had a definite opinion about my own approach to Shakespeare, story, or really any sort of convention that becomes ingrained. Each author has his or her own unique perspective, but agreed most with those who would "play" with Shakespeare's words or story, arguing that this is exactly what Shakespeare himself did when he rewrote the works of those who came before him. If his work is not entirely original, do we really have to hold his work up as untouchable?

I enjoy reading and watching Shakespeare's plays, and I've enjoyed historical fiction like The Shakespeare Stealer and stories that play with Shakespeare like Lords and Ladies. So this exploration of Shakespeare and teaching was a fun read for me even though I am not a teacher and would not find the pedagogy portion of this useful in any practical way. I still managed to add a handful of books to my TBR list, from young adult novels like King of Shadows to more academic works like Shakespeare, the Movie. 4.5 stars.

Cross-posted at Born Reader.

The Monstrous Regiment (51/81)

The Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett
Category: Audiobooks

Polly Perks runs off to join the army, disguised as a boy, in an attempt to find her brother. Her country of Borogravia has been at war since nobody knows when and appears to be on its last leg when this group of recruits starts its journey. Pratchett explores serious subjects of war and gender relations while telling a story with his trademark humor and wit.

I'm having trouble summarizing the book and describing my thoughts, mostly because it took me almost a month to complete it and I can't remember how far along in the story certain things were revealed. I enjoyed the story, even in its goofiness and even when I could see where things were going. This seems to be another standalone in the Discworld series, though the three books I've read have all been parts of different mini-series, so unrelated to each other. I might try reading them in order now. 4.5 stars.

Cross-posted at Born Reader.

The Uncommon Reader

I added The Uncommon Reader: A Novella because I kept reading great reviews about it. I’m so glad I did. It’s a short read, but very funny and well done. Reading does change a person, especially if they stay at it and begin to do it with some purpose and organization. It is also well done with a friend or guide. The plot is that the Queen of England is walking her corgis one day and comes upon a traveling library van. She checks out a book to be polite and checks out one more the next week. This second one hooks her and she soon becomes a voracious reader, even at the expense of her other duties.

Anyone wholoves to read can recognize this - every conversation goes on too long because you could be reading. Any task or meail takes too much time when there is a good book to get back to. He does a good job showing the transformation that many readers make as all the reading makes them think and apply lessons to their own life.

So, well done. There are two crude phrases in the book that could have been left out of an otherwise pleasant read. I’m not a prude, and I understand that language helps define a character, but sometimes foul language is just unnecessary.

Krakatoa by Simon Winchester (50/81)

Krakatoa by Simon Winchester
Category: Nonfiction

In 1883, the volcano on the island of Krakatau shocked the world by literally blowing the island apart. In this detailed account that starts with trading and the Dutch control of the area, describes the science of plate tectonics (which wasn't fully understood until some 80 years after), and then gives various eyewitness accounts of the eruption itself.

It's a fascinating account, and there is a lot of information packed into this book. I was rather surprised by the breadth of topics covered (trade, plate tectonics, even some biology) over a couple of hundred years (1600s-1900s). Still, Winchester writes engagingly without many technical terms, and there are ample pictures and graphs to aid as well. 4.5 stars.

Cross-posted at Born Reader.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Bar Code Tattoo - 78/81

The Bar Code Tattoo, by Suzanne Weyn, teen category

The government knows everything about you. Where you live, where you work, your entire genetic code. And they keep track of you. But only for your own protection, of course. You have no reason to complain - unless you have something to hide. Right?

Kayla is a high school student with a talent for art, but when she refuses to get the bar code tattoo, her defiance starts making trouble for her in all kinds of unexpected ways. Who can she trust? Where can she hide?

This dystopian novel for teens is so close to reality on so many levels, that it makes for a slightly uncomfortable read. Could this really happen? I like to hope not, but I may of course be wrong.

I enjoyed the world in this one. The setting was very well done, and the ramifications well imagined in their chilling consequences. But the characters were not as well done, so I'm only giving it 4 stars. Still, a quick read that will still have me thinking for days to come.

The Carthage Conspiracy - 79/81

The Carthage Conspiracy, by Dallin H. Oakes, LDS category

Despite the clear title, Carthage Conspiracy: The Trial of the Accused Assassins of Joseph Smith, I was expecting something different. I guess I was expecting a biography of the people involved, and maybe some reflection about the ultimate fate of the church, the Smith family, etc. But what I got was just what the title suggests - the trial. First the effort to identify the people responsible. Then all about the legal system of Hancock county Illinois at the time, and the political and social makeup of the area. Then finally the actual trial process. If I were a legal scholar, it would probably be interesting. But I am rather bored by the whole trial process. The part before and after is what I was interested in, so I don't think that I will finish this one. I may give it another glance through, but that's it. If you are a Latter Day Saint and want to know about the actual trial, then I would recommend it. Otherwise, it's kind of a dry read.

Are you ready for 999 x 2?

If you're running ahead of the pace, and want to add to the challenge, try the 999 x 2 - pick another group of 9 categories (use them for spillovers - whatever!) and join in the fun.