Sunday, September 30, 2007

The White Road by John Connolly

My first selection for this challenge was John Connolly’s “The White Road”, and while I found it to be an intensely interesting tale, I would not recommend that others who are unfamiliar with Connolly’s writing begin with this one.

You can read my review, here

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Woman in Jerusalem - A.B. Yehoshua

Title: A Woman in Jerusalem
Author: A.B. Yehoshua; translated from the Hebrew by Hillel Halkin
Country: Israel
Year: 2004
Rating: A
Pages: 237 pgs.

First sentence: Even though the manager of the human resources division had not sought such a mission, now, in the softly radiant morning, he grasped its unexpected significance.

A Woman in Jerusalem, a novel by A.B. Yehoshua, takes place in Jerusalem around 2002. An immigrant woman is killed by a suicide bombing at her local market. Her body lies unidentified for a week, the only clue to her identity a bloody pay stub from a local bakery. After a tabloid newspaper article is written about the bakery's callousness towards her death, the human resource manager is sent on a mission to identify the woman and return her body to her family.

The complete review can be found here.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

This wasn't on my original list, but I did add it later as an alternate, and naturally read it first. The review is here.

Catching Up

I've finished Long Ago in France and reviewed it here. Also finished Season of the Witch and posted my review.

Started Emily Dickinson is Dead, but I didn't like it at all, so it has been discarded. I'd looked forward to this mystery, but found it just plain silly.

Still reading The Art of Eating by M.F.K. Fisher, but this one will take a while to complete since it contains 5 of Fisher's books in one volume.

I'm making progress, but will have to make a substitution for Emily Dickinson Is Dead.
  1. Long Ago in France: The Years in Dijon M.F.K. Fisher (finished)
  2. The Art of Eating M.F.K. Fisher
  3. Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales Marie-Louise von Franz
  4. Emily Dickinson Is Dead Jane Langston (discarded)
  5. Dissolution C. J. Sansom (finished)
  6. Season of the Witch Natasha Mostert (finished)
I'm enjoying checking out everyone else's books. Leading to more Unread Authors!

My list::

I am joining a bit late but am finally getting my act together and my list!
Here it is:

When Light Breaks

the Dandelion clock

The True Story of Hansel and Gretel

The Book Of Lost Things

One Hundred Million Hearts

The Yokota Officers Club

A Fall Together

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Laura's First Two Books: The Yacoubian Building, and Ex Libris

I just finished my first two books for this challenge:
  • The Yacoubian Building, by Alaa Al-Aswany. This was an interesting account of contemporary Egyptian culture. I recommend it for a more balanced view of middle eastern people. You can read the full review on my blog.
  • Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, by Anne Fadiman. This is a "book about books," a delightful collection of essays which I thoroughly enjoyed. Here's my review.
It's unlike me to read more than one book at a time, but it worked for me with Ex Libris. As a collection of essays, I found it more enjoyable to read just a few at a time and really savor them, and contemplate them for a day or two, before reading more.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

No man knows till he has suffered from the night how sweet and how dear to his heart and eye the morning can be. (46)
I chose to read Dracula for many reasons. But here are the top two: 1) My friend, Julie, is directing Dracula at the local community theater this October. She's been talking about it for weeks. (This is her first time to direct in this community.) And she's been telling me how wonderful it is...and how much I'd love it. How the writing, the language, the imagery, is just incredible. And I do want to be a supportive friend and all. And she's never disappointed me before when she's recommended a book. 2) It is one of the 'perils' in the R.I.P. II Challenge.
All men are mad in some way or the other; and inasmuch as you deal discreetly with your madmen, so deal with God's madmen too--the rest of the world. (115)
Let me say this now, it was SO good and SO different from how I expected. I'll admit that the first chapter didn't hook me. The format--letters and diaries--took a little bit of getting used to. (I'm not used to suspense being dispensed in that way.) But soon enough, I was hooked. I had not realized this story was told through so many narrators--and each one is unique and well-developed. I read most of it on Saturday afternoon/evening in fact. I didn't want to put it down. But I couldn't finish the last hundred pages or so until the next day. But I did finish it last night, Sunday, and it was just incredible. It was so intense, so suspenseful, so teasing, so memorable, so haunting, so tragic, so good. It was just a WOW book for me.

We have been blind somewhat; blind after the manner of men, since when we can look back we see what we might have seen looking forward if we had been able to see what we might have seen! Alas, but that sentence is a puddle; is it not? (300)

Tamar by Mal Peet

Peet, Mal. 2007. Tamar.

This book is the WINNER OF THE CARNEGIE MEDAL. It says it right there on the front cover. So I won't feel too badly for being honest in my review of it. It's already won an award. It is already being talked about as a good--if not great--read of the year. It's not that I hated Tamar, which is "a novel of espionage, passion, and betrayal." It's that I felt uncomfortable with it. Two young men are working undercover in Nazi-occupied territory. Tamar is the story of what happens when they both fall in love with the same woman. Also what happens when insanity takes control of a person. Not just one of the main characters, but in some of the minor ones as well. I suppose it falls under the heading of 'war changes a man and makes him do things he never thought he was capable of.' Tamar is the code name for one of the men. So decades later, when the son of one of these two men is expecting a baby, the father makes a name the baby (if it's a girl) Tamar. This causes a very strange reaction from the soon-to-be-grandmother. Though it's not quite apparent to the readers why.

The big secret is revealed slowly and suspensefully within both timeframes. The undercover spies provide the narrative in 1944-1945. And the grandaughter Tamar provides the narrative in 1995 and 2005.

Mal Peet's Carnegie Medal-winning masterpiece is a story of violence and resistance, love and deception, loyalty and betrayal.

If violence, deception, and betrayal sounds like a good way to spend the afternoon....then Tamar may be the book for you.


Reading about murder--even if it is belatedly related to a crime of passion--has never really been my cup of tea. So to watch this plot unfold chapter by chapter was just painfully uncomfortable for me. It wasn't that it was poorly written. It was that I didn't want to go where it was taking me. It was well written. The characters were well developed. I just had a hard time liking most of them.

Does My Head Look Big In This by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Abdel-Fattah, Randa. 2007. Does My Head Look Big In This?

I have mixed feelings about Does My Head Look Big In This? My enthusiasm for the novel was not particularly consistent. (I liked the first third, I really liked the middle third, and I loved the last third.)

Amal Mohamed Nasrullah Abdel-Hakim is both your typical and untypical teen. As a Australian-Muslim-Palestinian, she feels she got "whacked with some seriously confusing identity hyphens" (5). To question one's identity is fairly typical--very standard--in YA literature. To deal with questions of race, prejudice, and faith is again fairly typical. But in most cases the race and faith in question is not Muslim (and Middle-Eastern). Hence why she is both typical and untypical. This makes the book good, but at times difficult to evaluate. Amal is a character that at the same time wants to be like everybody else, but she wants to be seen as special, unique, and one-of-a-kind. She wants to not stick-out in a crowd as being 'the Muslim' yet she is very proud of her culture, her religion, her faith. She wants to have it all. She doesn't want people to point, stare, and laugh. But she wants to be noticed. She wants to stand out. Again, I think that all teens--all people--go through a stage where they feel that the whole world is looking at them, staring at them, evaluating them, critiquing them, judging them, laughing at them, etc. I think every teen has the feeling that everyone is noticing them--watching for all the little flaws, waiting for them to make a mistake, etc. This sense of heightened awareness and the feeling that everything they do is more important that what it actually is. It is like going through life--your whole day, your whole week--like every moment could potentially be your most embarrassing moment ever. [Does that make any sense at all? What I'm trying to say is that they might be *imagining* the world is laughing at and judging them when one is really paying that much attention.]

Amal is ready to wear the hijab. Inspired by an episode of Friends, where Rachel braves the crowd to perform Copa Cabana after an embarrassing walk down the aisle, Amal has made her decision. Her first day of school--in what is essentially her junior year in high school--will be the first day she'll wear the hijab (and be covered) in front of her classmates at McCleans Preparatory School. What the book does not mention until halfway through--and what really makes a difference in appreciating the novel--is that this school year is 2002. It has only been a year since the 9/11 attacks in America. (That anniversary is covered in the novel.) So this is when tension--global tension--is at an all-time high. This attack is still fresh, the wounds still on the surface. There has been no healing. So prejudice is in many ways more out in the open than one would naturally expect.

Amal doesn't know quite what to expect from her classmates--boys and girls--she doesn't know if she'll be teased, laughed at, ridiculed, called-names, etc. For the most part, her close circle of friends accept her. They're proud of her. Embrace her with open arms. It takes the rest of the class a few more days--to get used to this new image--before they're minds are made up one way or the other. But let's just say her circle of friends expands through the year, it is not that they're not kids who give her a hard time--there is the typical bully who likes to slander and ridicule and mock all the lowly students she deems unworthy--but she finds a great support system.

But this book is about more than being a Muslim. It is about being a teen. It is about being not quite grown-up and having growing pains. Of wanting more freedom than parents are willing to allow. It is about friendships. Amal hangs out with her friends. All the time. Friends are what her world revolves around at times. And the book does a great job in fleshing out these characters and their families.

So the issues faced are in many, many ways that of a typical teen. She is a teen with problems and issues that most kids can relate to and understand. But she is unique too. It's all a balancing act between being 'just like everyone else--especially your friends' and 'being yourself.' Which again I think is fairly normal stuff. At times Amal seems mature, and at other times immature. Sometimes she seems wise, sometimes she seems foolish.

Anyway, what annoyed me at times was Amal's behavior. At times she was disrespectful to her parents and to authority figures in general. And the same things that annoy me about other teen heroines--such as Georgia Nicolson--annoy me about Amal. She can be at times a bit whiny in spots. She can be disrespectful and sarcastic in her narration. But overall I do like her. And I did enjoy this book.

Dragon's Keep by Janet Lee Carey

Carey, Janet Lee. 2007. Dragon's Keep.

I loved Dragon's Keep. It was just so good. Rosalind is a princess. That means her life must be perfect, right? Doesn't royalty bring with it perfection? Doesn't being a princess make you entitled to having EVERYTHING you ever wanted? Not if your Rosalind. Rosalind and her mother, the Queen, are keeping a secret. A big secret. Rosalind's 'wedding finger' is a dragon claw. It's a shameful secret hidden behind golden gloves. Rosalind has more than the pressure of a shameful secret weighing her down though, her mother reminds her constantly that she is the one--Rosalind is the one--that will fulfill Merlin's six-hundred-year prophecy about bringing peace to the kingdom and restoring everything--everyone. Her destiny--her future--may just be tied up with her left hand--though she doesn't know it. The Queen is always searching for cures, for healers--even if those "cures" come from whether dark and creepy sources like the mountain witch. But the cures aren't working, and at times Rosalind feels she's being punished for her mother's crimes. Rosalind's destiny weighs heavy on her. Because of it, men--good men--are sent to war AND sent to fight and kill the dragon.

Rosalind is a princess with a heavy burden and some difficult choices. Her story is exciting and one-of-a-kind.

This book reminds me of The Last Dragon by Silvana de Mari, Bella at Midnight by Diane Stanley, and Goose Girl by Shannon Hale.

Becky's List

Here is my list:

1. Tamar by Mal Peet
2. Total Constant Order by Crissa Jean Chappell
3. Before, After, and Somebody In Between by Jeannine Garsee
4. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
5. Dragon's Keep by Janet Lee Carey
6. Does My Head Look Big In This by Randa Abdel-Fattah


1. Dracula by Bram Stoker
2. Leonardo's Shadow by Christopher Grey
3. The Book of Time by Guillaume Prevost
4. Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell
5. A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban
6. Memoirs of A Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

My First Read: A Morbid Taste for Bones

I've finished one of the books from my list: Ellis Peters' A Morbid Taste for Bones. I really enjoyed it, and it's nice to have another series to look forward to reading! If you're interested, I wrote a review as well.

Looking forward to my next challenge pick, which will probably be The Stolen Child. I'll wait until next month, though!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

I've yet to make more than a preliminary list of the authors I'm going to read for this challenge, but I did read my first book this week: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. My 16-year-old daughter has read many of Westerfeld's young adult novels, and I've been meaning to check them out - so this challenge provided the perfect opportunity. I've posted a review of Uglies on my book blog (click here). I definitely enjoyed the book and am looking forward to reading more from this new-to-me author!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Booklogged's List

Hello fellow challangees! As I look over the names in the sidebar I feel like I'm in very good company. I do know that you are going to review books that I'll be anxious to add to my every growing and incredibly, already long, TBR list. That's the risk with doing a challenge, isn't it?

I was on vacation when Sycorax Pine announced her Unread Authors Challenge. There are so many books on my shelves by authors I haven't read yet, so I should be able to do this and read some of the books glaring at me. I've decided to read books by 6 different authors.

1. Lily Dale: Awakening by Wendy Corsi Staub
2. Book of Atrix Wolfe by Patricia McKillip
3. Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett
4. Random PassageBy Bernice Morgan
5. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Morrell by Susanna Clarke
6. Colony of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne Johnston

I'm looking forward to reading these books. Thanks to Pour of Tour for the much needed kick in the rear.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

I looked forward to reading this book because there is so much hype about it. Well, if some movies can be described as an art, then I shall say the same for this novel. The Road is gripping, haunting and thought provoking. I'm not sure about the other readers, but the lack of punctuation drives me crazy (although I understand the author's aim to do so intentionally).

Here are the two examples I selected from some pages:

He said: If he is not the word of God God never spoke.

He was a long time going to sleep. After a while he turned and looked at the man. His face in the small light streaked with black from the rain like some old world thespian.
Can I ask you something? he said.
Yes. Of course.
Are we going to die?

But as I read further, I began to get used to the writing style and get into the story quickly.

The opening line is dark and grim. This is a tale about a father and son's journey to survival set in a post-apocalyptic America. Nothing appears to be living in the world for everything is covered with a grey cover of ash, although there are a few living species struggling for survival. Food is hard to come by, and they are forced to dig as much as they can find. Leftovers or even a dry and shriveled apple one would consider as garbage is something more than they can bargained for.

Throughout the story, I could feel the strong protectiveness and deep love he harboured for his son. The father trusts no one, for fear of cannibals who would take them down while the son has a compassionate heart, because there is a scene where he asked his father if he could allow another boy to go with them (and of course the father has to say no. They couldn't even help themselves so how could they even help another being).

I think the author has done a great job in describing the grave situations; and I have to admire the father and the son's determination throughout the journey because it is no easy task. Although I enjoyed the story, I felt there are some unanswered questions, such as: How did the world come to a state like this? What has caused it, and why? etc. Nevertheless, this story will stay in my mind for some time.

(Note: This book was the pick of the Oprah's BookClub and a Pulitzer Prize Winner.)

[X-posted at my blog.]

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Dissolution by C.J. Sansom

I've finished my first book for this challenge (and it also qualifies for the R.I.P. challenge)! Two down for R.I.P. and one down, one in progress for Unread Authors.

I really enjoyed Dissolution and my review is here.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Good Omens - Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

I loved this book! It's funny, clever, witty and entertaining. It reminds me of both Douglas Adams and Piers Anthony in its tone. The authors' notes at the end describe how people bring beat-up, well-loved copies to books signings, or new copies because friends keep "stealing" their old copies. I can understand this: I will definitely keep this on my "keeper" shelf, but I also want to recommend it to all of my friends who like this sort of book.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Eva's Reading List

I decided to use the Unread Author challenge to get around to some books I mooched awhile ago. :)

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
This was one of my very first mooches, since I think I'm the only one in the blogging community that hasn't read it yet! It keeps calling me from the bookshelf, but I've been distracted by challenge reads. It's time to make time to see what all the fuss is about. :)
A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters
I mooched this, because it sounded like a great mystery! I'm always ready to discover another good series.
That Night by Alice McDermott
I mooched this after a good review by litlove (I think it was litlove). It's a skinny read, but I'm looking forward to it.
Kim by Rudyard Kipling
I recently realised that the last Kipling I read was that mongoose story in 7th grade. Shame on me. Plus, I have to include at least one classic in the list!
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
The heft of this one makes up for the slimness of the McDermott. A friend recommended this to me, and I'm very excited to actually get around to it. My bookmooched copy is just gorgeous!
The Stolen Child by Keith Donahue
I didn't mooch this one; instead, I bought it when I saw it in paperback, because I was so excited. For some reason I thought it was still in hardcover!

Well, that sums up the plans. This month, I'm hoping to read A Morbid Taste for Bones-I'll post the review when I'm done!

Damnation Street by Andrew Klavan

The reason I bought this book because the blurb intrigued me:

“Scott Weiss is a weathered P.I. based in San Francisco, an ex-cop with a basset hound's face, a romantic's soul and an empath's ability to read others. He's holded up in a hotel room, thinking of the girl he should have left alone and waiting for the Shadowman, the hitman he knows is stalking him.

Jim Bishop is a young, good-looking livewire with a taste for violence, drugs and loose women. Bishop is holed up too, three-days-drunk with the blonde who nearly killed him on his mind and the cops on his tail.

Bishop used to work for Weiss, until he screwed him over for stolen cash. Now he is Weiss's only hope...”

I didn't know this is part of a series (following Dynamite Road and Shotgun Alley, which features Scott Weiss as the head of San Francisco PI agency Weiss Investigations, and Jim Bishop who is formerly one of his operatives) , although this can be read alone in my opinion. Anyway, this third installment is packed with action and intrigue. I could only describe the story like a cat playing hide and seek with the mice, which is leading the cat to the cheese. My description might sound a little absurd, but this is the impression I get from the story.

I don't understand why Scott, the protagonist appears to be besotted with Julie Wyant, who is after all works as a prostitute and that he can be her father considering their age gap. Perhaps he is a little too sentimental, that's why I can understand why he thinks he should save her from the stalker who is known as John Foy aka The Shadowman. It seems like Foy is obsessed with her too, and that explains why he is following Scott closely so that he could lead him to Julie. Earlier on Julie has begged Scott not to trail after her, but of course Scott refused to listen.

And enters Jim who feels he owes Scott in a way and hoping to save him from the killer. Jim is a "troublemaker" himself, having been estranged from Scott and was charged with a link to murder thanks to his 'girlfriend', but this doesn't stop him from finding Scott and saving him from the Shadowman.

Added to the plot, there is also a first person POV featuring the anonymous narrator having an affair with Sissy, an older woman working in Scott's office. But he isn't in love with Sissy, instead he has his eyes on Emma McNair whom he has left behind and now, her father hires him to spy on her.

All these scenes add up to more confrontal situations which is the climax of the story. Although I still find Scott's 'obsession' a little ridiculous, overall this story is a great read.

(X-posted at my blog.)

Monday, September 3, 2007

A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George

My first read for the challenge!

In the Yorkshire village of Keldale, a young woman is found in her family’s barn, wearing her Sunday best and sitting next to her father’s headless corpse. Her only words are, “I did it. And I’m not sorry.” Scotland Yard is called in, and Superintendent Webberly assigns Inspector Thomas Lynley, eighth earl of Asherton, as well as Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers, to the case. Lynley, handsome, wealthy, titled, and charming, is the last person most people would expect to be a good match for bitter, aggressive, unpleasant DS Havers.

I enjoyed A Great Deliverance quite a bit. George got me interested in Lynley and Havers quite early in the book (in fact, it was reading Barbara’s thoughts in an excerpt of the first section that attracted me to the book in the first place.) The mystery was intriguing, and I found the ending fairly satisfying. Unfortunately, the plot featured a few too many coincidences, and there were rather too many breakdowns resulting in confessions and outpourings of emotion.

I could also have done without Lynley’s last two confrontations; the first of them was fully justified, but something about Lynley’s attitude during it bothered me. As the second involved him delivering judgement on a woman who was practically a total stranger, on an issue on which he had very little (if any) moral high ground to stand on, I wasn’t too impressed with him.

I would also have liked to see a little more exploration of the things revealed when the mystery was solved; once the truth was discovered, the end felt rushed, as though the author was frantic to tie up every loose end any way she could, as quickly as she could.

Nevertheless, A Great Deliverance is a mystery novel I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to any fan of the genre, or even a number of people who aren’t. I’m looking forward to hunting up the next books in the series.

(X-posted at my blog)

Alisia's List

Here is my list, although I may add in a few more alternates depending on my mood. The first one I plan on reading is Girl in a Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland.

Books Chosen:
1. Independent People - Haldor Laxness
2. Sarah, Plain and Tall - Patricia MacLachlan
3. A Woman in Jerusalem - A.B. Yehoshua
4. The Giver - Lois Lowry
5. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke
6. Girl in a Hyacinth Blue - Susan Vreeland

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - Lisa See
The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
Eragon - Christopher Paolini
The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
Climbing the Mango Trees - Jaffrey Madhur
The Road - Cormac McCarthy

Janiejane's list

Hi everyone! I'm very excited about this challenge!
My preliminary list is:

Angel's Town - Ralph Cintron
Reading Lolita in Tehran - Azar Nafisi
Wicked - Gregory Maguire
Switchcraft - Mary Castillo
Good Omens - Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (this one is a two-fer; I haven't read either author)
The Guardians - Ana Castillo
High Fidelity - Nick Hornby

We - Yevgeny Zamyatin
The Plague Year - Jeff Carlson

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Sarah's (Loose Baggy Monster) List

I thought I would try to pull from my shelves as much as possible for this challenge. As a result, most of the books on these lists are ones that I already own and have shamefully neglected. These lists are subject to my admittedly capricious nature, however, so there's a good chance they will change at some point:

Initial Choices:
  • Naguib Mahfouz ~ either Palace Walk or Children of the Alley
  • Ernest Hemingway ~ A Farewell to Arms
  • Jean Rhys ~ Wide Sargasso Sea
  • Amos Oz ~ Tale of Love and Darkness
  • Saul Bellow ~ The Adventures of Augie March
  • Ellen Wood ~ East Lynne

Possible alternates:

  • Penelope Fitzgerald ~ either The Bookshop or The Blue Flower
  • E.M. Forster ~ A Passage to India, Where Angels Fear to Tread, or Howard’s End
  • Julian Barnes ~ Flaubert’s Parrot or Arthur and George
  • W.G. Sebald ~ Austerlitz
  • Paula Fox ~ Desperate Characters
  • Katherine Mansfield ~ Stories
  • Thomas Hardy ~ Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Return of the Native, or Jude the Obscure
  • William T. Vollmann ~ Europe Central
  • Rebecca West ~ Black Lamb and Grey Falcon
  • Vladimir Nabokov ~ Speak, Memory
  • Joseph Heller ~ Catch-22
  • D.H. Lawrence ~ Lady Chatterley’s Lover
  • Matthew Kneale ~ English Passengers
I'm already tempted to change things around, but I'll resist for the time being. I'm really looking forward to seeing what everyone is reading!