Monday, December 29, 2008

(My) Best Books of 2008

(in the order that I read them)

  1. Court Duel by Sherwood Smith.  I love this story; I love the world Sherwood has created, I love the characters, I love Mel and how she's trying to do what's right and what she should while also trying to find her way.  I love Danric and everyone else and I really, really, want more about these characters.  (YA)
  2. Bloom by Elizabeth Scott.  Another book whose main character I absolutely loved. Lauren doesn't live her life so much as she just goes with the flow.  It isn't until a guy she knew when she was kid comes back into her life that Lauren realizes how much she's been missing in her life.  And that's when things start to get sticky and Lauren realizes that going after what she wants and what makes her happy could be the hardest thing she does. (YA)
  3. Inda by Sherwood Smith.  Hee.  Another book by Smith, but with totally different characters.  Almost a different world, but not really.  Inda is set centuries before Court Duel.  Full of families, royal strife, betrayals, war, pirates, and one boy's honor, it was an amazing story and I was thrilled to find out that there were three more parts.  The fourth (and last) book in this series should be out in 2009 and I can't wait. (YA)
  4. The Spymaster's Lady by Johanna Bourne is amazing.  Yes, I know it's a romance novel. Yes, I know it's a historical romance novel.  Yes, I know that the cover has a shirtless man on the front and that that has nothing to do with the plot.  I don't care.  This is one gripping, intelligent, funny, and twisty story and I love it.  I've read it four times now, and each time I'm picking up something that I glossed over or missed the first time around.  There are clues about the characters that I didn't get until after I'd finished the novel.  Such a great book.  (HR)
  5. The Host by Stephanie Meyer.  OK, say what you will about the Twilight series (yes, I have all the books; yes, I enjoyed the books; no, I haven't seen the movie although I will once my roommate finishes the first book), The Host was awesome and I'm kicking myself for waiting so long to read it.  The whole aliens thing turned me off (because, haha, I don't really like space soap operas/aliens/funny green men who want to eat my brain books) and it wasn't until I was moving this summer that I picked this up.  And promptly spent the whole night reading it.  I was engaged, I was cheering, I was so angry for Wanda that I could have spit, and I almost cried several different times.  I really, really hope that Meyer continues this series.  (SF)
  6. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  Go forth and read it now.  It's a cross between a post-apocalyptic world meets The Girl Who Owned a City plus The Lottery with violence and bravery and honor and survival at all costs thrown in (ala Kate, from Magic Burns) and it was so, so good.  I've heard rumors that this was the first book in a three-part series and I really hope that's true. (YA)
  7. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta.  Taylor was abandoned at age seven by her mother at the 7-11 on Jellicoe Road and she's spent her whole life since alternately trying to find her mother and to forget her.  Her final year at the foster home she lives in, the closest thing she has to a mother (Hannah) vanishes, people from her past show back up, secrets that Taylor has forgotten return, and Taylor realizes that the life she's living has been lived before by people she's never met, but has read about in Hannah's unfinished novel.  (And yeah, did my summary confuse you too?  Try Amazon's; it's much better.) (YA)
(Other books that I really enjoyed reading this year: Cast in Shadow (SFF), Magic Burns (UF), Black Ice (F/R), The Fox: also by S. Smith (YA), Black Ships (YA), Perfect You: also by E. Scott (YA), The King's Shield: also by S. Smith (YA), Good Omens (F), The Rites of Spring(Break) (F), Steelflower (SFF), and The Graveyard Book (SFF))

Two things of note.
  1. My theme of the year: YA.  No, seriously.  YA this year rocked.
  2. I really need my niece to be at least eight years older already.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

To everyone that celebrates, I hope you have a very Merry Christmas!

Or, I hope you have a happy fifth day of Hanukkah, a wonderful Solstice, or just a great 25th!

PS: my roommate got me "The Tales of Beedle the Bard" for Christmas and I can't wait to read that later tonight.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

To be productive

Means that very soon I will have to get out of my warm bed and get ready to face this day.  I have a to-do list that's as long as my arm and I really feel like everything on their needs to be done today.  Le sigh.  'Tis the season, and all that.

I'm not getting as much read on Bleak House as I wanted too; right now I'm trying to knit as much as possible and unfortunately, I need my hands for both reading and knitting.  Still, I'm getting at least a chapter read each day.  Right now, the cousins and the orphaned governess are on their way to the home of Mr.  Jarndyce, their mysterious benefactor/cousin/I don't know yet.

It's very exciting.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A light on the horizon

This story, about Harper Collins and Borders, is giving me a teensy bit of hope.  

Teensy. Bit. Of. Hope.

Starting Bleak House today

Well, I'm starting it if I can ever drag myself out of bed.  Unable to fall asleep + slight cold = very much wanting to stay in bed all day long.

ETA:  I've started Bleak House and I'm enjoying it, although I have several hundred pages to go.  It's very detailed and the perfect thing to read when I'm stuck on the subway, stopped somewhere between home and work.  I find I'm very interested to know about the Jarndyce & Jarndyce case; I want to know what the dispute is about and how all the characters (that we've met so far) relate to it.  

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Looking ahead to the coming year

I find I need new challenges.  I can of course challenge myself to read new, interesting books, but it's a lot more fun when I have something (like pride) on the line.

First thing Google gave me when I typed in "2009 reading challenges" was J.Kaye's list and damn! That is a comprehensive list of challenges for 2009.

I think my search might just stop here.

(later)

Paranormal 999 Challenge.  Heh, no brainer.  Of course I'm doing this one.  I could probably do this one the first month.
The 2nd Book Challenge.  OK, again, one I'll probably do without trying, so why not?
Young Adult Book Challenge.  Once again, no brainer.
Support Your Local Library Challenge. I'll be doing the third challenge, and again, no brainer.  I

OK, it's time to join some challenging Challenges, because what's the point of joining things I'm going to do anyway?

Christian Readers 09 Challenge.  Excellent.  I'm not sure what I'll be reading yet, but I know C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters will be the first book.  I started this years ago, but never finished it.   
Genre Challenge.  Oh, this one already started (Nov to Nov), so I'm behind, but it looks like fun.  And I can totally catch up. =)

I'm not going to do the 100+ Challenge that I see mentioned everywhere because I know I'll read 100+ books.  Nope, instead I'm going to challenge myself to read 10 books more than the total I read this year.  

Hee, the 42 Science Fiction Challenge is so going on my list.
Hmm, this challenge could be interesting:  War Through the Generations.
I need a nonfiction challenge... and I'm still looking for one.  Maybe I could just challenge myself again?  I did that this year and I've read seven (I think) nonfiction books.  

That's it!  I challenge myself.  OK, here goes.

I will read six (I think) nonfiction books this year.  The catch: they have to be about something/someplace/some person in New York museums.  Awesome.

My six books are:
So, I need on on either the V&A or the British Museum, one for Greece, one on the Louvre, and one more.  I want it to be about a museum I've been to...

(even later)

Oh, I can't help myself!  I like the looks of the Read Your Name Challenge.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

And now that NaNo is done

I find that I still have no time (or energy) to post! Haha, I *love* my life.

Random things:
  • Sassymonkey's post (back in November, yes I am *that* far behind) about how much money she saves a year by getting books from her library was very thought provoking. One the one hand, I am all for saving money, especially now that I have so very little of it. I'm also running low on space for books, so getting books that I can't keep is great for me. But... I want to get into book publishing (it's why I moved from Seattle to New York) and book publishers are not having a great year. (That is an understatement.) It's been said by many, many people already in the past few months about how book publishers (and book stores) need people to buy books, so I guess I almost feel guilty for the happy feeling I have inside, estimating how much money I'm saving. (Almost. I really like saving money.)
  • For Christmas this year, 95% of the gifts I'm giving are books.  (Books  I bought.  At a bookstore.)
  • I want to buy The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins for people for Christmas, but I don't know a single person that I think would like it. That makes me sad. I also want to buy Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, but same problem. Very sad. I need my niece to be eight years older. Or friends who like YA novels. 
  • I need friends who like science fiction and fantasy. None of my friends do and it makes me very sad, because I can't talk to them about all the great books I'm reading, because they're all "eh, I don't like science fiction." I'm trying to trick them with novels like The Time Traveler's Wife and Tam Lin, but it's slow going.
  • I am slogging my way through Generation Kill on the subway and I really think I should be more disturbed by some of the things the soldiers say/think/do, but... I'm *of* this generation. I watched violent movies, played first-person shooter games, and watched the Gulf War on TV. I read Ender's Game at age twelve (and every year after, I reread it) and it wasn't until this past summer, when a friend I'd given it to pointed out that it disturbed him because the kids were being raised to war, that I got "it." I was all, uh-huh, yeah, violence. It took me way too long to understand that that fact disturbed him. I just read it as normal. 
  • Marg, of Reading Adventures, posted a link to Kim's 2009 Blog Improvement Challenge; it looks like an interesting idea, and I think that it might help me to remain excited about posting. It's not that I don't want to post more than I do, but I always think I'll have time "tomorrow" and I don't.  I also think that I'll have more energy "tomorrow" and I don't. 
  • I really want to change my blog format around now.
  • I think Bleak House is going to be the next book I read on the subway.  I've wanted to read it forever and it'll last me a while, but it's big and heavy and do I really need an additional five pounds in my bag?  Yes, I think I do.
  • I really like the Cast in series by Michelle Sagara (West), but I'm slightly annoyed that the plot of that series has yet to move in the direction I'm waiting for it to move in.  There was all this build up, all this great tension... and then she picked up another plot.  Maybe in the fifth book, she'll get back to "my plot" and I can rejoice.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Also to be reviewed, once NaNo is over

Three Cups of Tea, One Bullet Away, Midnight's Daughter, and Cast in Fury.

*Note: two of those books are nonfiction, which means I have indeed read six nonfiction books this year!*

ETA: The Graveyard Book (wonderful), Jellicoe Road (beautiful and gripping), Saving Francesca (engaging), and A Foreign Affair (plucky) need to be reviewed too.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Awesome

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Amazing. Just... amazing.

Go. Read.

I'll have a more coherent review later.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Nonfiction books

Huh. I just realized that I've read three four nonfiction books so far, and I'm in the midst of reading two more! Will wonders never cease? Will I actually read five six nonfiction books this year?

In an incorrect order...

Looking for Trouble: One Woman, Six Wars, and a Revolution by Leslie Cockburn
The Pirate Queen: In Search of Grace O'Malley and Other Legendary Women of the Sea by Barbara Sjoholm
The Floating Brothel: The Extraordinary True Story of an Eighteenth-Century Ship and Its Cargo of Female Convicts by Sian Rees
The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman
Excellent. I finished two books a few days ago and look, I'm here posting in the same week. Awesome sign, totally evidence that I'm gong to do better....

Except NaNoWriMo starts in nine days and I won't have any time to read. Hmm, this might be a problem.

The Floating Brothel by Siam Rees was really interesting, if not what I thought it was going to be. In the beginning of the book, the author mentions how some of the female convicts who were sent to Sydney's Cove (Australia) became founding women of the colony there and I thought that I'd learn more about that. That didn't really happen; we do learn how some of the women end up, if they married someone there or found a way to return to England, but most of the book was from the memoirs of the ship's agent, who had been "married" to one of the women on board and who fathered a child on her. He'd always planned to go back for her, but he actually never made it and she married someone else. Like I said, interesting book with a lot of great detail. Got a bit dry sometimes, but I liked the subject material.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman was a very quick, very exciting read. I'm glad I finally picked it up; I'd started it a couple of years ago, and then for some reason never finished it. Carl's R.I.P. challenge was just the motivation I needed though to pick it up again. It's about Coraline, a young girl who moves with her family to an old house in the country. The house has been turned into a couple of flats, with two sisters, both retired actresses, living on the ground floor with their terriers, and an old man, who trains mice to play musical instruments, living upstairs. There is also a cat.

Exploring the inside of her new home, Coraline realizes that there's a door that leads to nowhere, bricked over as it is. Unable to leave it alone though, Coraline goes back and unlocks it one day when her parents are out and finds the bricks gone. Exploring (yes, that is a theme for Coraline), she goes through the doorway and finds herself in her other-apartment, with her other-parents (with creepy black button eyes), and her other-neighbors. There is also the cat.

Coraline's other-mother desperately wants Coraline to stay with her/them, but when Coraline refuses, she lets her return to her family...only for Coraline to find them missing. With no other choice, Coraline has to go back through the door and rescue her parents, facing down her other-mother at the same time.

It's the perfect blend of creepy and exciting, with great little details, that make it such an excellent book. I've said it before: I don't like Gaiman's "adult" books, but I love the ones he writes for kids. I wish my niece was old enough to read this, but she's only six and I think it'd give her nightmares. It's that awesome. You know that Coraline is going to be OK, but at the same time there's a good chance that the nightmare will get her and that is what makes it awesome, in my opinion.

I've just started One Bullet Away by Nathaniel Fick and it's really interesting. I don't usually like memoirs, but this one came highly recommended.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

*headdesk*

Oh, I was going to do better this time about writing and reading and, oh, I don't know, posting, and yet...

At least I've been reading. Currently it's The Floating Brothel by Sian Rees, a nonfiction account of 18th century women prisoners who were shipped off to Australia in an attempt to a) help colonize the country and b) reduce the nation's expenses. I'm about half way through it and I'm in turns fascinated by these women's lives and completely horrified by what was considered "normal" by the sailors--and other men--who were in charge of these women's lives. Seriously, the hypocrisy is enough to make me want to slap someone, but of course they're all long dead.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Still with the non-reading

I don't understand why, but every now and then I just don't feel like reading. I don't know if it's the stress of life, the overwhelming stack of books I have piled everywhere, or just a slump that happens every now and then, but when it happens I don't read. At all. No magazine, no newspapers, no flyers posted on the walls, and definitely no books.

It makes me sad just thinking about it, but at least I have the satisfaction of knowing the slump is over (for now). I've torn through two books in as many days, liking one and being kind of meh about the other. I'm lucky that one of these totally counts as a R.I.P. read; way behind on that challenge as well.

The Night Villa by Carol Goodman was the meh book. I know I've written about her before and I'm a big fan of her earlier books, the ones set somewhere in upstate New York. They've got a lyrical quality to them, in my mind, and I love the say she describes things. Sadly, I've not gotten that feeling from her later books and I think it might time for me to back off reading her for a bit. The Night Villa is set in Austin, TX, briefly, before moving to Naples, Italy, and the island of Capri. Professor Sophie Chase is chasing (not an intentional pun, I promise) too many things; her past-involving her ex who turned into a cult-worshiping freak, her ex lover-a fellow professor and the head of the expedition, and her thesis-involving the life of a female slave that Sophie feels very close to. There are the usual complications-mysterious bosses, whispered conversations, sly looks-, a gorgeous setting, and of course the main plot, which is discovering what secrets survived the volcanic explosion centuries ago that covered the island in layers of ash.

Maybe it was the fact that it read like her past books that turned me off, or maybe it was that because it read like her past books and I could see what was going to happen before it did that turned me off, but I think this might be my last Goodman for a while.

The other book was Faefever by Karen Marie Moning, the third book in her latest series. Mac, a sidhe-seer, is trying to survive the ever-encroaching darkness that the Unseelie fae are spreading while juggling both her boss/mentor/enemy Jericho Barrons and V'lane, the death-by-sex Seelie Prince that is her mentor/enemy/friend. She's in way over her head, being lied (Barrons, V'lane) to and betrayed (Rowena, head of the other sidhe-seers) by pretty much everyone she comes into contact with, and nothing she does seems to matter when the Lord Master--who seems to be both Fae and human and who also seduced and killed Mac's older sister--decides that he's going to bring down the walls the separate Earth from the Fae realms. It's on Halloween night, Samhain, when Mac finally figures out part of what's going on; it's too late at that point though to try and save anyone and the most she can do is try and save herself.

I liked the first two books in this series more that this one; Mac seemed way to slow-mentally-this time. There were several obvious clues that she should have picked up on, or at least mentioned, but she's spending so much time trying to juggle Barrons and V'lane that she seems to forget. She's also way to dependent on other people; not necessarily her fault though, as no one will tell her anything, or it's doled out in such tiny pieces that it doesn't do much good. It also didn't help that this time, Mac kept "breaking into" the story to tell us stuff, like this is important, or I'm really embarrassed by this bid. Those breaks kept throwing me out of the story; I really hope book four and five have less of those Mac-moments.

Now to go outside and celebrate the changing season for a bit; I love Fall.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A lack of reading

So, I managed to catch one of those summer colds and the damn thing won't clear up and go away. No, instead I'm left with a lingering cough and the inability to do anything but sleep. This thing is even affecting my desire to read; how unfair is that? The only book I've managed to read this past week is Wren's Quest by Sherwood Smith.

Second in the series, we find the orphaned Wren staying with her best friend Teressa, the long-thought dead princess of Meldrith. Studying the art of magic, Wren is all set to take her first exam before heading off to seek out information on her long-lost family. Focusing on her studies, Wren doesn't see the trouble that's springing up in the court; people are picking fights and causing trouble in record numbers. Attacked herself during her exam, Wren sets off with young Prince Connor as her companion, leaving Teressa behind with her family and fellow magician Tyron. However, leaving the court behind doesn't solve any problems, and those seeking to cause trouble at the court aren't willing to let Wren and Connor leave without a fight.

It's another cute tale, focusing a bit more on Connor this time, with Wren learning a bit more about her family history and Tess learning how to deal with court life. There's also the usual villian--whom I spotted early on--but it's interesting how Smith ties the bad guy in to Tess's family; it isn't resolved either, so I'm sure we'll be seeing more of that story in the following books.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

R.I.P. Challenge

So, as previous mentioned, Carl is doing his annual R.I.P. Challenge again and I am determined to complete this one. I've always started them, but halfway through I switch my reading "schedule" and don't finish it "in time." This year, that will not happen.

I'm going to do Peril the First:

Read Four books of any length, from any sub-genre (mystery, suspense, thriller, dark fantasy, gothic, horror, supernatural) of scary stories that you choose.

First up: Dead Until Dark (of which the review was just posted) by Charlaine Harris, followed by Coraline by Neil Gaiman (just posted the review), The Laughter of Dead Kings by Elizabeth Peters Faefever by Karen Marie Moning (just posted the review), a collection of short stories by Shirley Jackson and I think I might reread Macbeth this year. I know that's five titles, but it never hurts to have options, right?

Of course, I'm completely open to suggestions...

Dead Until Dark

I picked up and read Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris last night after watching the first episode of True Blood on HBO. It's about Sookie Stackhouse, a waitress in a small town in Louisiana. Working her shift at the local bar, one night a vampire named Bill comes in and everything changes for Sookie. 'Cursed' all her life with the ability to hear people's thoughts, Bill is a rarity to Sookie because she can't hear him. Her determination to spend more time with Bill, and his choice to spend more time with her, causes upheaval in their small town, as most folks aren't too keen on mixed relationships. There's also the recent rash of murders lately, with two local fang-bangers ending up dead...and all marks point to Bill.

I was never interested in the series before then--despite my love of vampire novels--and sadly I'm still not. I thought the episode was OK, had the makings to be great, and I really like Anna Paquin, so I'll probably watch at least the next few episodes, but I doubt I'll read any more of the books. It just didn't draw me in at all and none of the characters were very interesting to me. Has anyone read them? Do the books get better? I really wanted to like this, and I think Pam sounds like an interesting character, but the rest of them just left me bored.

Reviews, reviews, reviews

Who knew that standing on your feet all day was so exhausting? I sure didn't, but I do now! It's hard, and I have no idea how people do this all the time; give me an office job any day. I was so tired by the end of the day that the idea of doing anything but lying down made my head hurt, hence the lack of posting.

But, that's all over now, and I can post reviews on the eight books I read in the past few weeks.

First up, Looking For Trouble by Leslie Cockburn. It's her memoir of her time in the investigative news business. She was one of the first women reporters/producers to cover Third World stories. She went everywhere, covered everything from wars to famines to drug lords--entering countries without permission at times--and she did it while pregnant (she has kids).

It was an interesting read; I learned a lot about things (wars) that I'd never really heard about before and it was inspiring to read about her adventures.

Next, The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett. I read this one, my second by Hammett, because I thought the story sounded interesting. Nick and Nora are a wealthy, married couple on vacation when they run into the daughter of an old acquaintance of Nick's. It seems that her father has gone missing, two people are dead, and she wants Nick, a former investigator, to find him. Others get word of this, including the ex-wife, the mobsters, and the cops, and suddenly Nick (and Nora) are forced to look into this disappearance whether they want to or not.

I enjoyed it, but I wasn't really interested in it; it's probably going to be my last Hammett for a while.

The Disreputable Files of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart was a cute story, although I was less than happy with the ending. Frankie, a sophomore at a private high school in New York, undergoes a dramatic change from unattractive wall flower to knock out over the course of a summer. When she comes back to school, she gets the guy she's always wanted, but finds that 1) she can't really be herself and 2) he's keeping secrets from her. Following him, she finds that he's part of a secret guys-only society; pissed off, she makes herself a member without anyone being the wiser. Well, except for the guy she's impersonating.

It was cute, clever, and funny, but the end just didn't sit well. I won't tell you what happens because that would ruin it; I just thought there would be more.

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud is the first in three-book series, telling the story of a djinn named Bartimaeus and a young magician named Nick. It's set in an alternate England, where magic is quite common, science less. Magicians don't really have magic powers; what they have is the ability to call on magical creatures and command them to do things for them; like steal an amulet from someone else. Nick, angry with being treated like a child, secretly calls up Bartimaeus and forces the djinn to do several tasks for him; however it ends up backfiring and Bartimaeus and Nick are forced to work together to save their lives, much less the lives of the magicians of England.

I liked reading Bartimaeus' side of the story, Nick's much less. He was something of a whiny kid, and he could be incredibly stupid at times too. I'm not sure if I'll read the next two books; I only read the first one because a friend of mine recommended it. Maybe I'll see what he has to say about the next one.

Hunter's Prayer by Lilith Saintcrow was a book that I was eagerly anticipating. Sadly, it didn't live up to quite what I wanted it to be, although it was very good. It's set two years after the previous book (which was one of the things I didn't like) and Jill and Saul are now in an established relationship. Jill, the Hunter for her town, is called in when eviscerated prostitutes suddenly start appearing. Looking into that, she's also got to deal with the Sorrow who killed her mentor; a woman who is part of a cult to bring back the banished Elder gods. Turns out that the murdered women and the reappearance of the Sorrow might just have something in common, if only Jill can figure out what it is before she ends up chained to slab.

Again, I was disappointed when it turned out that this book was set two years into the future; I was really looking forward to reading about Jill and Saul's growing relationship. I was also surprised when Jill let the Sorrow live; it seemed slightly out of character. Other than those two points, I really did enjoy this book; there were plenty of side-stories that kept it interesting (showing us more about Jill's life) and a couple of plot twists that I didn't see coming.

The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman is a non-fiction book about Jan and Antonia Zabinski, Polish zookeepers, who, during World War II, hid hundreds of people in their house and the remnants of their zoo. It was really interesting, pieced together from Antonia's diaries and letters, as well as interviews with their son and the few remaining survivors. Sickened by what was going on around them, Antonia and Jan decided to hide both Jews and members of the Polish Resistance, some of whom ended up staying with them for years. Calling them by the names of former animals, the Zabinski's were 100% successful, even with a German camp in the zoo.

In between the stories about hiding people, we also get to read about their zoo-keeping habits (they had one of the better zoos in Europe), we also get to read about Jan's adventures as a member of the resistance, and about their animals, several of which Antonia would raise in the house, alongside her son. It's a very detailed story--with a happy ending--and I think that anyone who likes history, animals, or non-fiction accounts of WWII would like it.

Jhegaala by Steven Brust, is the eleventh book in the Vlad series and I'm honestly slightly confused into where it falls in the timeline. One of the other reviews I read said that it belongs after Phoenix and before Athyra. Either way, I liked it. Vlad is on the run from the price on his head and decides that it's time he took a vacation. Seeking out his mother's side of the family, Vlad ends up in the middle of a three-way war, with all sides thinking he's the enemy. Vlad, who just wants to find his relatives, doesn't really get involved until it's too late. Then, he's thrust into the middle of it, trying to decipher history from legend from hate, all the while keeping himself alive.

Reading it only reaffirms my decision to reread all eleven books in order, because it's been years since I've read any of them and I'm slightly hazy on the details.

Women of the Silkby Gail Tsukiyama is the story of a young girl who's father sends her to a silk-making factory at a young age; the family is very poor and the village fortune-teller doesn't see marriage in Pei's future. Left alone by her family, Pei struggles to make her way in the silk factory, while rumors about Japanese soldiers and the coming war haunt everyone. She's surrounded by other girls from similar backgrounds, some of whom become friends, as well as Aunt Yee, the mother figure to every girl their. It's a very quiet story--nothing major or loud really happens--but it's very beautiful as well. We get the points of view from some of the other girls and women there at the silk-making factory, and each one is intwined around Pei's life. I wouldn't say that it has a happy ending, but it does have a satisfactory one.

Now to catch up with everyone else's post from the past few weeks.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Catching up

*waves*

Right, so I had every intention of posting when I came back from Mass, but then I started my new job as a runner in a bookstore and have been completely drained of energy every day. I had no idea how exhausting it was to be on my feet for eight hours; my legs and feet are going to hate me by the time this job ends. But, pain aside, I like it. It's a fun, fast, hectic job, but I get to spend it surrounded by books and I get to climb on shelves.

As for books though, I've got five to post about, one of which is Hunter's Prayer. I found it last night at B&N, after searching two other stores for it.

Post are going to have to wait though...I have some long-overdue editing work to finish up. Before I go though, I wanted to point out that Carl's R.I.P. Challenge is starting up (thanks, Danielle, for posting that) and that they're going to be releasing a movie version of Blindness by Jose Saramago. I'm not sure how I feel about this; the book was very interesting, if disturbing and I think that some of that might be lost in a movie version.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Steelflower

So, Hunter's Prayer doesn't come out for another eight days, but I did find Steelflower on the shelves, which almost makes up for it. I've been waiting to read this book for ages now; I had to wait until it came out in print, since I'm not a fan of e-books.

Kaia Steelflower has lived by her skills and her sword for the past eleven years, ever since her house threw her out for not having any magical ability. She doesn't care, though, really, she gets by just fine on her own. Well, she did, until she picked the wrong person's pocket and ended up with a flawed necklace, a gigantic barbarian, hordes of assassins, and a prince from her homeland; none of whom will leave her alone. It's going to take more than her sword to get her out of this one, and even that's if she's lucky.

Kaia is one of the blessed people--others call them elves, a term they hate--and at the age of five underwent the ritual testing for power. Every member of the blessed people have power, so when Kaia unexpectedly fails the test, she's shunned. At sixteen, she leaves with nothing but the sword on her back and sets off to make her own path with the outsiders. She's got herself convinced that she's not lonely, she doesn't need her people, the G'mai, or any power to survive. It's a long, lonely road that Kaia walks, but she isn't willing to leave it. Instead, she gets forced off it when the barbarian, whose pocket she picked, decides to tag along with her after she saves his life in two different fights. Unable to get rid of him, she's even more stunned when Darik shows up, chasing the necklace that she stole.

It seems that Darik has been using the necklace to find his twinmate, something that every G'mai must find if they want to survive. Kaia had always believed she was exempt from this, since she had no power anyway. But Darik, having found his twinmate, isn't willing to take no for an answer, and Kaia finds herself the leader of this ever-growing band.

It's a pretty engaging story, with an interesting group of characters. Everyone has issues they're trying to work through, none more than Kaia, and we get bits and pieces of everyone's pasts as the story goes along. This first book ends on a small cliffhanger, and although Saintcrow hasn't written the sequel, she's made noises on her blog about doing so. I really hope she does. I'd love to see more of Kaia and Darik and the rest of the group. (By the end, there are four more people tagging along. Kaia isn't exactly happy about that.)

And THAT ends the Olympic mini-challenge for me. Now, I'm off to Worcester, MA, for a bridal shower.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Victory of Eagles

OK, so I have this thing about hardcover books; I tend not to buy them if they're part of a series that, prior to this book, has been coming out in paperback. I just don't like the way it looks on my shelves. This in turn is a problem for me, because then I have to wait for the book to come out in paperback before I can buy it. Thank God for public libraries, or I'd still be waiting to read A Victory of Eagles, by Naomi Novik.

Starting out just after the previous book, we find Temeraire stuck in the breeding grounds in Scotland, while Laurence is held, waiting his execution, in the brig. Both are miserable because of their situation and the separation they're going through. Temeraire at least has the other dragons in the breeding grounds to talk to--some of whom he finds quite intelligent and interested in the same sort of things that he is--while Laurence is despised by everyone for his "treason." Napoleon's breeching of England's shores--destroying a good chunk of England's Navy--changes that, as the men in charge realize that they need a dragon with Temeraire's skills right now and that Laurence is the only man who can captain him.

What they hadn't planned on though was Temeraire deciding he'd had enough of the whole waiting around thing; he convinces the other dragons in the breeding ground to fly out with him, and naming himself Commodore Temeraire, goes off to fight the French Army. (It doesn't hurt that the dragons are tired of the French stealing their cows, either.) It's only by a timely rescue that Laurence and Temeraire are able to find each other; Temeraire believing that Laurence is dead, while Laurence has been unable to find the band of dragons.

It's not a bad story; most of the usual characters are included, although there wasn't enough of Lily, Maximus, or Emily Roland for me. The bond between the three dragons is one of my favorite parts of this series and while it was there in this book, I was expecting more. (If you don't remember from the first book, the three dragons become quite good friends and make a pact that they will come whenever needed to protect the others' captains. Maximus does bring it up, "whispering" to Laurence that they haven't forgotten their pact, much to the dismay of Maximus's crew.) There also wasn't a whole lot with Emily in the book; I really enjoy reading about her, since it's through her that we see how the Corps, as a whole, works. All of the other captains have grown up in the system, Laurence and Temeraire are both stumbling their way through it, but Emily is currently in the system.

There's plenty of action and brilliant fights, although Laurence's ongoing depression--through most of the book--really started to wear on me. I understand why he feels the way he does, but he cuts everyone off, including Temeraire, and goes on to make horrible decisions. There was also way to much of Iskierka; she's so annoying to me and I really want someone to just smash her. She even manages to get herself kidnapped and then tries to play it off.

Out of the five books in this series, I have to say that this one and the previous one were my least favorite. I have high hopes for the sixth book--our duo will be off, pretty much on their own--and hopefully that'll bring some of the spark back for me.

This pretty much ends the Olympic Reading Challenge for me--unless B&N has Hunter's Prayer--and I'm mostly satisfied with it. Four books isn't so bad.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Wow

Congratulations, Michael Phelps, on more gold medals than anyone else.

Congratulations, Natalie Coughlin, on more medals than any other US women.

Congratulations, Dana Torres, on getting the silver. And they said you were too old.

Congratulations, Constantina Tomescu, of Romania, for winning the women's marathon. And they said you were too old.

Congratulations to everyone; you made it to the Olympics and I'm so very proud and happy for you all.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lazy days of summer

Being unemployed is almost like being a kid again during summer break.  Wake up late, snack throughout the day, spend some time outside, and read, read, read.  Eventually though, even I got bored with that, which is probably why my mother would send me to do something for awhile.  I guess that urge to do something has stuck, because starting next week summer will be over for me.  Yup, that's right, I found myself a (temporary) job at a bookstore as a runner.  

It should keep me occupied.

But, in the meantime, I still have oodles of time on my hand and two, that's right, two books to review.

Cry Wolf, by Patricia Briggs, is a follow up to her short story in On the Prowl, entitled The Alpha and The Omega. It introduced us to Charles, Mercy's second-oldest foster brother, and Anna, a submissive werewolf in a Chicago pack.  Recognizing Alan MacKenzie (the boy from the first Mercy book, Moon Called), Anna realizes what happened to him was her Alpha's fault, so she calls Bran, who in turn sends Charles to investigate.  I don't want to give too much of that story's plot away (although once I start reviewing Cry Wolf you'll probably get the gist of it), but Anna and Charles end up somewhat together.  Charles is all about claiming her as his mate, but Anna went through a lot at the hands of her former pack and she's not all that sure about Charles.

(Now, if anyone has read the Mercy series, this story is set at the end of the first book, when the whole Gerry & Carter Wallace things happens.  Samuel is back for the funeral, Bran is grieving for his friend, and over in Spokane, Adam is still dealing with Mercy. (Heh.) If you haven't read the series, well, some of the side plots might not make sense, but that's OK.)

Now, in Cry Wolf, we find Anna with Charles in Montana, where Anna is trying to come to grips with everything (she's not submissive, she's an Omega, Charles's wolf has claimed her as his mate, and Anna's wolf feels the same way) and it's a bit overwhelming.  Then there's Charles, who is still seriously injured and trying to heal himself while making Anna feel comfortable. The funeral the next day doesn't help matters; Anna's thrust into a new pack that's both grieving and angry at their recent losses and not ready to welcome anyone, much less a new female.  The attentions of Asil, a Spanish wolf somewhere around Bran's age, don't help matters between Charles and Anna, as Asil tries to flirt with Anna as well as get under Charles' skin.  

There's also the troubling rumors of a rouge werewolf up in the hills; the first sighting was written off, but the second missing body can't be ignored and Charles and Anna are sent out to find out what's going on.  They end up dealing with more than anyone thought; someone old, insane, and with powers that threaten not just the pack, but every wolf in North America.  

It was an excellent story and I'm really hoping that we get another book featuring Charles and Anna, although not at the expense of Mercy!

The second book I finished was The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett.  From the back:

A treasure worth killing for. Sam Spade, a sightly shopworn private eye with his own solitary code of ethics. A perfumed grafter named Joel Cairo, a fat man named Gutman, and Brigid O'Shaughnessy, a beautiful and treacherous woman whose loyalties shift at the drop of a dime.  These are the ingredients of Dashiell Hammet's coolly glittering gem of detective fiction, a novel that has haunted generations of readers.


What more can I say?  Sam Spade is exactly what I pictured him to be, a tough, sly, gritty man, stereotyped in every black and white film I've ever seen, who cares about nothing and no one but himself.  When a recent case, brought to them by a crying redhead, ends up being the reason his partner is killed, Spade takes it upon himself to figure out the why and the who.  Everyone involved has a secret they'd kill for and everyone, everyone is lying.  Spade doesn't seem to care though, letting them tell their lies and hide their secrets, while calmly picking the whole thing apart.  I won't tell you that it's a happy story, and there's no happy ending here, but there is a satisfying one and this won't be the last book by Hammett that I read.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Hmm, doesn't this look like fun

Granted, I'm starting three days behind everyone else, but this Olympic mini-challengeby Annie looks like a lot of fun.

First seen on Marg's site, the challenge is as follows:

So you want to support your country this Olympics but the extent of your sporting expertise is running from bookstore to bookstore searching for the latest Philippa Gregory novel? Well then do I have a challenge for you!

For the entire period of the Olympic Games (08 August 08 till 24 August 08) I'll be hosting a unique mini-challenge. It's country against country in the battle to prove your reading patriatism. The ultimate prize will be awarded to the individual who earns the most gold medals - a US $20 Amazon.com Gift Voucher. The runner up will receive a $5 Amazon.com Gift Voucher. Both 1st and 2nd place will also receive a special 'winner' badge to place on their blog.
How it Works...

1) You are to read as many books possible written by authors from your own country during the period the Olympics are on. The genre and length of the books will be up to you.
2) Each time you finish a book, post your name, country, blog address, book title and author as a comment on the bottom of this post. That will earn yourself and your country a silver medal. If you do all the above plus post a link to your review of the book you earn yourself and your country a gold medal.
3) A running country medal tally will be kept down the right hand side of this blog as well as the individual currently topping the leader board.
4) To win the Amazon Gift Voucher, you must be a gold medal winner (ie you must have submitted a review).
5) I don't mind if you've read the books before or were half-way through when the challenge started either.


Granted, I'm a bit behind the curve, but seeing as how I'm UNEMPLOYED and therefore have OODLES OF TIME on my hands, well, if I can't manage a book a day, I will have to hang my head in shame.

And luckily, I just finished a book today, Devil's Due by Rachel Caine, author of the Weather Warden series.  Romance/supernatural/fiction, and it's 290 pages long.

Now, Devil's Due is a sequel to Devil's Bargain, a book I haven't read. The public library here in Brooklyn doesn't have a copy and I didn't really have the urge to buy it. Luckily in this case, since Devil's Due isn't a book I plan to read again.

From the author's website:

Everything you do matters.

Lucia Garza opened a detective agency with Jazz Callender, and discovered a whole new, eerie world of precognition, coincidence, and chaos. There's a chance that Lucia and Jazz can escape their fate, but it's risky. They need people they can trust ... but can Lucia trust Jazz's old partner, Ben McCarthy? Or is he working for the other side?

Worse ... is their side really the right one?


Now, while I might be missing some things--due to not reading the first book--what happens is this: Lucia and her partner Jazz get these little red envelopes with a note inside that they absolutely, without fail, have to follow. Or else. Or else people die. Or else people don't die. Or else they die. You see the dilemma they're in? They started their detective agency with the help of a secret benefactor; all the cash they need in exchange for doing whatever the little red envelopes say to do. Only things start going sideways when Lucia realizes that Ben McCarthy's, Jazz's old partner and a man who's just had his triple homicide conviction overturned (due to some oh-so-timely evidence showing up), isn't as innocent as he seems. Meanwhile, Jazz's lover is still working for the Cross Society (that's the society that's funded the agency) and Lucia is really starting to think that no one is safe to trust, not even Jazz.

Without giving away the entire plot, the main thing is that the Cross Society and the Eidolon Corporation were founded by a psychic who can see all the probable futures that each one of us has...and every probable future that comes about after we make a decision. And so on. It's enough to drive a sane person nuts. And so the Corporation, and then the society, were founded to try and control the future. Starting out with the best of intentions--to save lives, etc.,--things quickly start going the other way, which is when Lucia and Jazz get drawn into the mix. The Cross Society has "seen" that they're important, so they get them involved. As it turns out, Lucia is a bit more special then most; it's imperative that she be kept alive, although no one is willing to tell her why.

There were a lot of plot holes in this story, and I don't think it's because I hadn't read the previous book. Lucia's past is hinted at a lot, but we're never actually told what she used to do for a living. Nor or we told why she did those things or why she got out, although that is hinted. There is also a scene in the last third of the book that makes my stomach crawl and I'm so angry that Lucia is, at the end, all fine and dandy with it. However, Lucia does have all the makings of being an awesome character. She's rich, with a dubious background, well-dressed at all times, and knows a great deal about hurting people by hand or with a weapon. I mean, it's hard to dislike the woman who takes out the valet because she sees something shiny in his hand.

And the ending of the book is left completely open for a follow up, but there aren't any more central characters to write about. And that irks me, because I'd love to see more of Gregory, with or without Lucia. Yeah, she and Ben are OK together (you did see that coming, right?), but I think she and Gregory would be a whole lot more fun, especially since he also has a rather dubious background. Of course, he's evil and mean and hurt Lucia at one point (and I'm not in favor of that!), but still, way more chemistry between them.

Because again, I'm too busy watching the Olympics to read

ETA: In light of my next post, this title is clearly a blatant lie.

Stolen from Danielle at A Work In Progress, the 100 Favorite Mysteries of the 20th Century

Let's see how well I do:

Allingham, Margery. The Tiger in the Smoke
Ambler, Eric. A Coffin for Dimitrios
Armstrong, Charlotte. A Dram of Poison
Atherton, Nancy. Aunt Dimity's Death
Ball, John. In the Heat of the Night
Barnard, Robert. Death by Sheer Torture
Barr, Nevada. Track of the Cat
Blake, Nicholas. The Beast Must Die
Block, Lawrence. When the Sacred Ginmill Closes
Brand, Christianna. Green for Danger
Brown, Frederic. The Fabulous Clipjoint
Buchan, John. The 39 Steps
Burke, James Lee. Black Cherry Blues
Cain, James M.. The Postman Always Rings Twice
Cannell, Dorothy. The Thin Woman
Carr, John Dickson. The Three Coffins
Caudwell, Sarah. Thus Was Adonis Murdered
Chandler, Raymond. The Big Sleep
Christie, Agatha. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
Connelly, Michael. The Concrete Blonde
Constantine, K.C.. The Man Who Liked Slow Tomatoes
Crais, Robert. The Monkey's Raincoat
Crispin, Edmund. The Moving Toyshop
Crombie, Deborah. Dreaming of the Bones
Crumley, James. The Last Good Kiss
Dickinson, Peter. The Yellow Room Conspiracy
Doyle, Arthur Conan. The Hound of the Baskervilles
DuMaurier, Daphne. Rebecca
Dunning, John. Booked to Die
Elkins, Aaron. Old Bones
Evanovich, Janet. One for the Money
Finney, Jack. Time and Again
Ford, G.M.. Who in Hell Is Wanda Fuca?
Francis, Dick. Whip Hand
Fremlin, Celia. The Hours Before Dawn
George, Elizabeth. A Great Deliverance
Gilbert, Michael. Smallbone Deceased
Grafton, Sue. "A" is for Alibi
Graham, Caroline. The Killings at Badger's Drift
Grimes, Martha. The Man With the Load of Mischief
Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese Falcon
Hare, Cyril. An English Murder
Harris, Thomas. The Silence of the Lambs
Hiaasen, Carl. Tourist Season
Highsmith, Patricia. The Talented Mr. Ripley
Hill, Reginald. On Beulah Height
Hillerman, Tony. A Thief of Time
Himes, Chester. Cotton Comes to Harlem
Innes, Michael. Hamlet, Revenge
James, P.D.. An Unsuitable Job for a Woman
Kellerman, Faye. The Ritual Bath
Kellerman, Jonathan. When the Bough Breaks
King, Laurie. The Beekeeper's Apprentice
Langton, Jane. Dark Nantucket Noon
le Carre, John. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird
Lehane, Dennie. Darkness, Take My Hand
Leonard, Elmore. Get Shorty
Lochte, Dick. Sleeping Dog
Lovesey, Peter. Rough Cider
MacDonald, John D.. The Deep Blue Good-by
MacDonald, Philip. The List of Adrian Messenger
Macdonald, Ross. The Chill
Maron, Margaret. Bootlegger's Daughter
Marsh, Ngaio. Death of a Peer
McBain, Ed. Sadie When She Died
McClure, James. The Sunday Hangman
McCrumb, Sharyn. If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O
Millar, Margaret. Stranger in My Grave
Mosley, Walter. Devil in a Blue Dress
Muller, Marcia. Edwin of the Iron Shoes
Neel, Janet. Death's Bright Angel
O'Connell, Carol. Mallory's Oracle
Padgett, Abigail. Child of Silence
Paretsky, Sara. Deadlock
Parker, Robert. Looking for Rachel Wallace
Perez-Reverte, Arturo. The Club Dumas
Perry, Thomas. Vanishing Act
Peters, Elizabeth. Crocodile on the Sandbank
Peters, Ellis. One Corpse Too Many
Pronzini, Bill. Blue Lonesome
Queen, Ellery. Cat of Many Tails
Rendell, Ruth. No More Dying Then
Rice, Craig. The Wrong Murder
Rinehart, Mary Roberts. The Circular Staircase
Robinson, Peter. Blood at the Root
Rosen, Richard. Strike Three You're Dead
Ross, Kate. A Broken Vessel
Rozan, S.J.. Concourse
Sayers, Dorothy. Murder Must Advertise
Sjowall & Wahloo. The Laughing Policeman
Stout, Rex. Some Buried Caesar
Tey, Josephine. Brat Farrar
Thomas, Ross. Chinaman's Chance
Todd, Charles. A Test of Wills
Turow, Scott. Presumed Innocent
Upfield, Arthur. The Sands of Windee
Walters, Minette. The Ice House
White, Randy Wayne. Sanibel Flats
Woolrich, Cornell. I Married a Dead Man

Huh, four. Four five out of one hundred.

How did you do?

What I'm not doing

OK, so I have to confess that I've never been a big fan of watching the Olympic. I just don't enjoy watching sports on TV and while I always watch some of events, it's more of a turn on and watch for ten minutes kind of thing.

But for some unknown reason, I am HOOKED on them this year. I can't stop watching, have no desire to do anything else (like read, buy food, look for a job), and I can't understand why.

Oh, it's men's swimming and Phelps is up. I have to go, you understand, right?

Saturday, August 09, 2008

When I said "tomorrow"

Well, I meant to post the last four one-paragraph reviews, but I was lazy and didn't. Heh.

So, catching up now while I wait to find out which US woman wins the fencing crown...

The Rites of Spring (Break), by Diana Peterfreund is another perfect beach read. Following the previous two books in the Ivy League/Rose & Grave series, we find Amy and the rest of the Diggers (get it, Grave, Diggers? Yeah) on their way to their island off the Florida coast to enjoy their spring break, following a long winter. See, there are these other secret societies and while the Diggers were almost successful in pulling off a heist, Amy was "caught" and then WW3 broke out, all directed at her. But, she gets to go to a semi-private island and it'd would be great if not for three things. One, her mortal enemy from the first book is also at the island; two, someone is trying to hurt/kill/embarrass the Diggers, focusing again on Amy; and three, the guy she loves to hate...yeah, he's there too. And Amy will be damned before she admits she likes how he looks in a pair swimming trunks.

Oh, hey, Zagunis won fencing. Congrats!

The Host, by Stephanie Meyers (yup, two books by this author so far this summer) was much better (in my opinion) than Breaking Dawn, although it took me a while to get into this story. Basically, Earth has been taken over by alien parasites and it's pretty much a done deal before anyone has any idea what's happening. However, some humans realize what's going on and form rebellions; Melanie is one of those rebellious humans, and when she realizes she's been found out, tries to kill herself to protect the others. However, the "souls" as they call themselves, manage to save her and Wanderer is placed inside Mel to try and find out where the others are hiding. Mel is tougher than anyone expects though and Wanderer is forced to share Mel's body and memories with her. I don't want to say much more about this, since that would give away some of the amazing plots in this story, but I will tell you that nothing happens the way you think it will, that Meyers made me cry three times, and that if she doesn't write a sequel to this story (I've heard she will) I will be very mad.

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett was hysterically funny. I have a real love-hate relationship with Gaiman (as in I love his children's books and short stories, but don't really like any of his adult novels), so I put off reading this book for the longest time. (I've never read anything by Pratchett, so right now, nothing but love.) If you like dry humor, satirical humor, and British humour, then you're going to love Good Omens. Angels and demons are collaborating together to stop the apocolypse and enjoy a good meal or two, the Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse are running around causing havok where ever they go, there are witch(es) and WitchFinders, a book of amazingly true prophecies floating about, and a young boy called Adam, who, as it turns out, is the Anti-Christ. And in seven days he's going to bring about the apocolypse, whether he wants to or not.

Also, there is Dog. I like Dog. Dog is a hell hound. I always wanted one of them as a pet.

Ink Exchange, by Melissa Marr is the sorta-sequel to Wicked Lovely. I say sorta-sequel because it's not, not really, a sequel, but it involves characters from her first book and some of the plot lines from there, so if you haven't read Wicked Lovely first, you might be a bit lost. Or maybe not. Leslie is trying to salvage what she can of her now-horrible life by getting a tattoo. She's spent months looking for just the right one, and it isn't until Rabbit (the tattoo artist) pulls out a book of "special" tattoos that she finds herself called to a particular one. Only what Leslie doesn't know is that this isn't just a tattoo, but an ink exchange, where, at the end of the tattoo Leslie will find herself unwilling bound to Irial, King of the Dark Faries. She's his know, to do with as he wills, and no matter how she feels about it or who she'd rather be with. (Basically, Leslie goes from an admittedly horrible situation into an even worse one, and it's going to be up to her to find the strength to not only survive, but to get herself out of it.)

Ta-da! Only a day later than I'd planned, so it's really a win compared to my previous track record. Now, I think it's time to eat something (hello 12.30) and maybe get ready for the day. It looks nice outside, although it looked nice yesterday and I still got caught in the rain. Brooklyn is turning out to be a lot like Seattle, except for this God-awful humidity.

Also, I totally lied. I haven't started Victory of Eagles yet; instead I'm reading Looking For Trouble by Leslie Cockburn and it's great. It's a memoir from one of the first women to break into "boys-only club" reporting the Third World.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Reviewing

Let's compare this to speed-dating, shall we? I'm going to review the books I liked (from the fifty-one I've read during the most recent hiatus) in a paragraph each.

The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness (Emma) Orczy was an absolutely wonderful story. Set during the French Revolution, we have a band of Englishmen, led by the Scarlet Pimpernel, who are snatching aristocrats from le guillotine and stealthily sneaking them into England. Citizen Chauvelin, a French spy and sworn enemy of the Scarlet Pimpernel, is tired of looking like a fool each time a French aristocrat is saved; fortunately for him, he stumbles onto a few members of the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel, one of whom happens to be the very dear brother of Marguerite St. Just, a beautiful French ex-actress, and new bride of Sir Percy Blakeney, an English baron. The marriage is an unhappy one as Sir Percy thinks his wife is rather immoral (she said some things in private that were used to behead two men), while Marguerite couldn't care less what her husband thinks because she believes him to be a brainless idiot. Blackmailed into betraying her husband, Marguerite is forced to choose between saving her brother's life, or sentencing the Scarlet Pimpernel and several French aristocrats to their horribly painful deaths.


Black Ships, by Jo Graham was another great read. A re-telling of The Aeneid, it's from the point-of-view of Gull, daughter of a captured Trojan slave. After she's injured in a chariot accident, Gull is useless as a house or field servant, so her mother takes her to the temple, giving her to the Pythia to serve the Lady of the Dead. It's meant to be however, as Gull begins to have visions, proof that the Lady of the Dead has another purpose for Gull. Becoming Linnea, as Gull is renamed, she is trained in the ways of the Lady and eventually becomes the Pythia herself. It isn't until after she assumes this role that her first vision comes true: black ships on the horizon and they get closer every day. The ships are full of what's left of the free Trojan people, and led by Aeneas, Prince of Troy, they have come to reclaim their stolen kinsmen. Upon meeting them, Pythia is forced to make a decision that will forever alter her fate and that of the people of Troy.

Perfect You, by Elizabeth Scott was almost as good as Bloom, in my opinion. Kate had a pretty decent life going; parents who loved each other, an annoying older brother, and a fantastic best friend. That all changes though, when her father decides to quit his job at a software company and start selling Perfect You vitamins at the mall and when Anne, her best friend, suddenly decides that she wants nothing to do with Kate and starts hanging out with the mean, but oh-so popular girls instead. Everything is horrible, her parents are fighting, Kate has no friends anymore...and yet, well, there's Will. Will, the popular, handsome guy she can't believe likes her. Will, the guy she doesn't want to like, for the aforementioned reasons. Will, who she can't admit to liking because he's Will, but does anyway. Kate has a choice to make: does she let life back in to her life, or does she shut it all out so that nothing can ever hurt her again?

Everyone Worth Knowing, by Lauren Weisberger, was a nice, quick read. The perfect lazy summer afternoon book, when the only ambition you have is to drink down an entire pitcher of fresh-squeezed lemonade in the shade. Bette's a twenty-something living in New York, working the corporate job she despises, and gossiping with her best friend on their stolen lunch breaks when, after one too many e-mails from her boss, quits her job and decides to live life unemployed. That goes over SO WELL with her family, especially her uncle Will and his lover Simon. Taking her ever-so-lightly in hand, Will gets Bette a job with his old assistant Kelly, who has her own PR firm. Suddenly Bette finds herself being paid to go out at night, drink lots of alcohol, and dance with incredibly hot men. It's only after her own life starts ending up in the gossip blogs that Bette realizes she might need to make a few changes...one of which might be dumping the super wealthy, too-gorgeous-to-be-real British boyfriend for the bouncer.

The King's Shield, by Sherwood Smith.
OK, I can't review THIS BOOK in just one paragraph, but since I said I would...
Inda is finally going back home, leaving his once forced-on-him pirate lifestyle, along with Tau and JeJe. He's going back to warn his best friend, the King, of the upcoming Venn attack. Pressed into being the king's shield, Inda is forced into fighting a land battle that he can't win (as he hasn't had any military training since he was a child), except that he has to (because no one else can). There's infighting and lying, personal sacrifice, love, betrayal, a wedding, blood, tears, and pain and again, Sherwood, you made me cry. Anyway, this is a brilliant book, and it's only the third book in the Inda series, so stay tuned for Treason's Shore (and let me tell you that that title is giving me all kinds of ideas), where Sherwood will conclude this amazing story.

...one day, I'm going to have to post about these books, but in sections. Like, in Inda, do Inda's life as a Tevi at the academy, then do his life as a pirate, etc. It's the only way I'm ever going to be able to write about these books coherently...

Night Shift, by Lilith Saintcrow was pretty good. Set in a less gritty setting than her Dante Valentine series, JIll Kismet works the night shift, hunting demons, devils, Traders (with demons), and everything in between. She, and hunters like her, is what protects us from the things that crawl out in the middle of the night. Jill, still reeling from the loss of her one-time mentor and lover, is shoved onto a case that no one can get a handle on. Forced to team up with an FBI were-team and a fresh-off-the-farm were, Jill ends up battling to save not just the city she protects, but the lives of everyone she cares about. It's too bad she looses her own heart in the process. *grins*

Breaking Dawn, by Stephanie Meyers is apparently something of a hot item in the blog world. Personally, while I didn't love everything in this book, I really enjoyed it. I hadn't spent a lot of time deciding where I wanted the story to end (although I did assume that Bella would become a vampire and there would be a run in with the Voltaire) and I didn't let myself get sucked into this fandom (like I did with Harry Potter OMG DON'T YOU DARE PUT HIM WITH HERMIONE! ahem), which might have had something to do with it. Anyway. Bella, freshly engaged to her beloved Edward, has to put together a wedding, survive her honeymoon, and deal with the heart break of her best friend, the werewolf Jacob...and oh yes, survive being turned into a vampire was well.

OK, so I have four books left to review (The Rites of Spring (Break), The Host, Good Omens, and Ink Exchange), but honestly, if I spend one more minutes in front of my computer I might just have to scream. So tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow.

When I put my mind to something...

Wow, talk about an unexpectedly-long hiatus!  

When I wrote my last post, I assumed to myself that I'd be back shortly, updating my books list, or posting about something of interest that I'd read, but I clearly that wasn't the case as it's been three months since my last post.  

At least I have a good reason for this hiatus: I've moved.  

Yup, I gave notice in late May and left my job and life in Seattle to take a chance on starting a new one here in New York.  It's only been two weeks since I actually moved, but it's starting to feel like two months.  

I've read fifty-one books in the meantime (thank you little notebook for not getting lost in the move) and I plan to put (slightly-late) reviews up, once I get a bit more organized here. And yes, by organized I mean buy a dresser because this living out of a suitcase is getting old!




Tuesday, May 06, 2008

I'm not going to join any more challenges

but if I was going to, I think that this one, the 1% read challenge, would be really interesting.

And even though I'm not going to join, if I were, my choices would be...

Cryptonomicon – Neal Stephenson
Wild Swans – Jung Chang
If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler – Italo Calvino
Casino Royale – Ian Fleming
The Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammett
Lady Chatterley’s Lover – D.H. Lawrence
The Forsyte Saga – John Galsworthy
The House of Mirth – Edith Wharton
The Awakening – Kate Chopin
Bleak House – Charles Dickens

(Optional)
The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
North and South – Elizabeth Gaskell

(I did a quick tally of the books from the list and it looks like I've read exactly 5%. And if I I tally up the books I've started and won't finish, it's almost 2%.)

Monday, May 05, 2008

I’ve been splitting my time between a couple of books recently, reading The Twisted Citadel (for reviewing purposes) and The Scarlet Pimpernel. I’m enjoying them both a great deal, although they’re nothing alike. The Twisted Citadel is a dark fantasy novel, with legacies of power, winged warriors, and an evil menace that is perfect in its creation, while The Scarlet Pimpernel is about the French Revolution and a group of Englishmen who saved French aristocrats from the guillotine.

I picked up The Scarlet Pimpernel after a few years of avoiding it (and I can’t remember why I was avoiding it) and am very glad I did. I’ve been reading a lot of swashbuckling, sword-wearing, death-before-dishonor novels lately and everyone was suggesting The Scarlet Pimpernel as a book I’d enjoy reading.

I also just finished Birds of a Feather, the second Maisie Dobbs novel. Quite a good read, and even though I’d figured out who the “bad guy” was, I enjoyed the entire novel. Set in England fifteen years (or so) after the end of World War I, I was startled to come across a reference to Baroness (Emma) Orczy and her participation in The Order of the White Feather, a theme that features heavily in Birds of a Feather.

I knew about the practice of passing out a white feather to men who weren’t in uniform (during WWI), but I hadn’t realized there was an actual order of women…

And although I have no time to read (which has never stopped me before!), these books all sound very interesting:

A Kiss Before the Apocalypse by Thomas E. Sniegoski
A Magic of Twilight by S.L. Farrell
Black Ships by Jo Graham
Bring Down the Sun by Judith Tarr

Fallen by Tim Lebbon
Gladiatrix by Russell Whitfield
Grimspace by Ann Aguirre
Heart of Light by Sarah A. Hoyt
Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr
Madapple by Christina Meldrum
Midnight Never Come by Marie Brennan
Mind the Gap
and Poison Ink by Christopher Golden
Soul by Tobsha Learner
The Queen’s Bastard by C.E. Murphy
Waking Brigid by Francis Clark

and, a non-science-fiction/fantasy novel, Mistress of the Revolution by Catherine Delors

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Review: Peony in Love

Based on a true story*, Peony in Love, by Lisa See was an amazing book. Just wonderful. I've only read one other book by Lisa See before (Snow-Flower and the Secret Fan) and while I enjoyed that one, I think this one is just a bit better. (Maybe because there is less on the foot binding?)

Set in 17th century China, it tells the story of Peony, a sixteen-year-old girl betrothed from birth, who, emulating her favorite opera character, dies from being lovesick over a man she's just met.

Peony has been raised in the traditional ways (trained to obey her parents, honor her relatives, be seen and not heard, and to always, always bring honor to her family), but she's also been raised to read and think. At a young age, she fell in love with the opera The Peony Pavilion (about a young, sixteen-year-old maiden named Li-niang who takes control of her destiny in the only way she can: she starves herself) and reads it constantly, longing for a life (and love) like Li-niang's.

For Peony's sixteenth birthday, her father puts on a showing of The Peony Pavilion and it is there that Peony spies the man she instantly knows she will love. Secretly meeting him one night, she's both thrilled and terrified to realize that he feels the same way about her, although he too is engaged to marry a woman he's never met.

Despairing over the fact that she'll never be with "him," Peony stops eating and instead focuses on writing her critique of The Peony Pavilion as she wastes away. She tells herself that after she finishes writing her critique, she'll start eating again and become the good wife that she has been raised to be, but unfortunately, she doesn't get the chance. Dying, she realizes the mistakes she's made, but has no time to fix them.



(here there be spoilers, and I explain why I wanted to smack Peony!)



As it turns out, Peony's soon-to-be husband was "him." At the opera, Peony's father brings Ren (that's him) up on stage to introduce him as his future son-in-law. But Peony, in such silent despair over the fact that she'll never be with the man she loves, doesn't look out past the curtain. (And this is reason why I wanted to smack her. If she'd just looked all of this pain could have been avoided and she's have had the happy, full of love life that she wanted! Ugh, teenagers.)

It's after her death that Peony begins to realize just what's she's done by killing herself. Her mother and father, both stricken with grief, never dot her ancestor tablet, which means that Peony's soul can never be reunited and she is forced to roam the earth as a hungry ghost. Also, as she died an unmarried maiden, no one will pay her the proper ancestor respect, which means that she will continue to starve and waste away as a ghost. (It's really this part of the novel that fascinated me. I liked learning about the Chinese afterlife, the rituals for judging the dead, and the ways the ghosts were both free and bound by unbreakable rules. Apparently, in China, ghosts can't do corners, which is why bridges zig-zag. It keeps the ghost away.)

Ren also moves on, marrying a different girl after a few years have gone by. Heart-broken, Peony alternately tortures the girl in her dreams while also trying to force her to be the perfect wife for Ren. Ren's second wife eventually dies and Peony blames herself, leaving Ren's home and wandering for a while. It's during this time in her afterlife that Peony begins to grow up. Meetings with her long-dead grandmother clue her in to certain family secrets that Peony had never known, while other meetings with other lovesick maidens reinforce Peony's love in Ren and her deeper desire to be heard. It takes being reunited with her mother's ghost to really, truly, push Peony into the woman she wanted to be and to help her find the love that she'd always wanted to with Ren.

I won't spoil the ending for you because Peony's journey as a ghost and as a young woman in love is something I think you should read for yourself. It's a wonderful story, full of rich details about both 17th century China and the Chinese afterlife, about a girl who truly just wants to be heard, and a love that will transcend even death.

*This novel is based on the real-life story of three woman, wives, who wrote The Three Wives’ Commentary, the first book to be written by women. Lisa See used the names of these women, as well as all the details of their lives' (and their husband Ren) that she could in crafting this story. The Peony Pavilion is also an actual Chinese play that is still censored in China due to it's influence on young woman. A few years ago, the Chinese government temporarily delayed the production that was going to be held at Lincoln Center because they didn't want certain censored scenes to be produced.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A List

So I've been thinking about what books I want to read for Joy's Non-Fiction Five Challenge and I think I finally have it narrowed down.

In no particular order:

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon. Yes, this is the abridged version; I wish I had the time to read all six volumes, but unfortunately, I've yet to find a safe way to clone myself. Alas.

Granuaile: Ireland's Pirate Queen by Anne Chambers. OK, now don't tell, but I started reading this book this morning. OK, tried to read this book, but I was so bored! I'm going to substitute this book instead: The Pirate Queen: In Search of Grace O'Malley and Other Legendary Women of the Sea by Barbara Sjoholm.

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson. I've had this book on my shelf for a year now, always meaning to pick it up.

Nothing But Red.

I'm not sure what the fifth book will be. I'm reading a couple now that would qualify (The Western Canon, The Well-Educated Mind, The Meaning of Sunglasses, and The Child That Books Built), but maybe I should keep this last spot "open," in case something else comes along.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Expanding my horizons

So, clearly I didn't get around to posting all of the reviews that I wanted needed to, not if I want to stay caught up anyway. Oh well, gives me something to look forward to tonight, right?

In the meantime, I've been thinking about my reading habits and what they say about me. If you look at the list of books I've read this year, you will see that most of them are of the science fiction/fantasy/historical fiction/young adult genre...and not a whole lot else. Normally, I'm OK with this, but every now and then I wonder what I'm missing out on. It's not that I don't like books in other genres (like literary fiction), it's just that I don't like them as much.

Again, like I said, I'm normally OK with this, but every now and then this preference of mine seems to rear up and I find myself struggling to read anything that's not one of my above preferences. For instance, my rl book club is reading Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. It's a best seller in Japan and it's gotten a ton of praise here, but I'm struggling to get in to it. (I suppose part of the problem could be that I know I need to have at least half of it read by tomorrow afternoon...) I keep wondering when the action is going to start, if the field they are walking through is really part of the local pack's territory and the weres are going to get pissed at them for trespassing. But then I remember that this isn't that type of book...

Still, I will preserve and read as much of it as I can, and I will continue to try and read outside of my preferred genres. Which, brings me to the latest reading challenge that has caught my eye: Joy's Non-Fiction Challenge. Running from May to September, the rules simply state to read five non-fiction books. Doing that, reading non-fiction, has been a yearly goal of mine, but it's usually one that I don't meet. Hopefully though, being "challenged" will keep me interested.

Not quite sure what I'm going to read (or even if I'm going to formally sign up-June through September is going to be incredibly busy for me), but I'm thinking that my books will be of the historical slant. I have a dozen or so on my TBR shelf at home, but these books have also caught my eye.

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (This one I have on hold at my library)
The Spartans
(I read Gates of Fire last year and loved it. The Spartans sound like an incredible society of people and I want to know more about them.)
Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won Children's Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became An American Icon Along the Way (This seems like a good choice, seeing as how I'm planning on quiting my current job soon and moving into publishing.)
Nelson's Purse: The Mystery of Lord Nelson's Lost Treasures (Ever since reading the Temeraire series, I've been increasingly interested in Lord Nelson.)
Books on Fire: The Destruction of Libraries throughout History (Ohh, book burning fills me with rage. This should be interesting.)
The Dragon Seekers: How an Extraordinary Circle of Fossilists Discovered the Dinosaurs and Paved the Way for Darwin (This sounds interesting. As a kid, I spent hours trying to dig out an enormous rock in my parent's backyard, convinced it was a dinosaur bone. Plus, it features a woman scientist, which is always nice to read.)
The Zookeeper's Wife (Nazi resisters in Poland, who hid 300+ Jews in a zoo.)
Four Queens: The Provencal Sisters Who Ruled Europe (I didn't know that the Queen of England (Elanor), the Queen of France (Marguerite), the wife of the Holy Roman Emperor (Sanchia), and the Countess of Anjou (Beatrice) were all related.)
Seafaring Women: Adventures of Pirate Queens, Female Stowaways, and Sailors' Wives (Hmm, pirates! I've always liked pirates, plus they feature in Inda, which has reawakened my interest.)
Granuaile: Ireland's Pirate Queen C. 1530-1603 (Grace O'Malley has long been a person of interest for me, as I think she was the first female pirate.)
A Treasury of Foolishly Forgotten Americans: Pirates, Skinflints, Patriots, and Other Colorful Characters Stuck in the Footnotes of History


Of course, my first book is going to be Nothing But Red.

P.S.
humorous pictures
see more crazy cat pics