Sunday, October 28, 2007

Another Scott Westerfeld Novel

I decided to read Pretties, the second book in the Uglies trilogy - which somehow now has four books - as my second book for this challenge. (I've posted a very brief review here.) I am enjoying Westerfeld's work and plan to finish the Uglies series as part of this challenge.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Completed 6 books, but still going... (3M)

I finished this challenge with 6 books of new-to-me authors. I'll continue to post links to reviews here, though, of new, unread authors until the end of February. I should have most of the list below completed by the end of December, with even more new-to-me authors through February.

1. Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset
2. Buying a Fishing Rod for my Grandfather by Gao Xingjian
3. Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
4. History of Love by Nicole Krauss
5. Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
6. Mr. Ives' Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos


Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller FINISHED
Bud, not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis FINISHED
The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad FINISHED
Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright FINISHED
Middlesex--Eugenides FINISHED
Half of a Yellow Sun by Adichie FINISHED
Never Let Me Go--Ishiguro
The Hours by Michael Cunningham
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Complete Tales of Nikolai Gogol Vol. 1 FINISHED

Friday, October 19, 2007

Another book finished!

Keri Arthur. Full Moon Rising
Date read: 10/5/2007
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Paranormal Romance/Fantasy

My thoughts:

This was a good mix of paranormal mystery and romance. At times I worried that Riley's urges would hinder her, but she was able to use them to her advantage or resist them when she needed to. I also liked many of the characters, specifically Riley, Quinn, Rhoan, Jack and Liander. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, Kissing Sin.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Thirteen Reasons Why

Asher, Jay. 2007. Thirteen Reasons Why.

Hello, boys and girls. Hannah Baker here. Live and in stereo...No return engagements. No encore. And this time absolutely no requests...I hope you're ready, because I'm about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended. And if you're listening to these tapes, you're one of the reasons why....I'm not saying which tape brings you into the story. But fear not, if you received this lovely little box, your name will pop up...I promise. (7)
Before Hannah Baker ended her life with an overdose of pills, she wanted to leave behind a message. She recorded seven tapes--thirteen sides--that revealed bit by bit her drama and why she, in the end, felt like she had no other options. Clay Jensen is one of the tape's recipients. He is our narrator or guide through this listening experience. We hear Hannah's words alongside his thoughts and words. Hers are italicized. His aren't. He came home from school one day to find this package--a shoebox wrapped in paper and mailed--on his front porch. And from the time he first hits play...his life will already never be the same.
I wish I'd never seen that box or the seven tapes inside it. Hitting play that first time was easy. A piece of cake. I had no idea what I was about to hear. But this time, it's one of the most frightening things I've ever done. I turn the volume down and hit play. (9)
Clay Jensen at first feels like it's some kind of mistake. He never did anything to Hannah. He worked side by side with her at the movies. They made small talk. And one night--at a party--they made out. That's it. Why would he be to blame for her death? He couldn't, could he?

As the story unfolds, the reader learns that some actions have unforeseen consequences. A bit of gossip here or there, a rude word there, etc. Some were quite malicious--like her first boyfriend whose imagination got carried away with him. He ruined her reputation after their very first date. And why? Because he liked to talk big with the guys. Or how about the guy who labeled her the hottest a** in class? From then on, guys who were practically strangers tried to get away with grabbing her butt. Or how about the peeping tom who stalked her outside her bedroom window? Some people on the tapes are evident creeps and jerks...others seem more shocking.

Thirteen Reasons Why is without a doubt one of the best books of the year. Why? It isn't because it's sad. It isn't because it's about suicide. It isn't because it's dramatic. It's because it's well-written; it's real. The characters--from Hannah and Clay through all of the minor characters that come up as "reasons" such as Justin and Brent and Jenny--are so real, so well-developed, so human. The story is haunting and it's easy to understand why Clay's life will never be the same. How Hannah's death and life have changed him. Clay couldn't stop until he'd heard the tapes; I couldn't stop from reading til her story was through. It was very gripping, very haunting.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell
Author: Susanna Clarke
Country: UK
Year: 2004
Rating: A-
Pages: 782 pgs.

Review can be found here.

This is my third book for the Unread Authors Challenge, halfway there!

Girl in Hyacinth Blue - Susan Vreeland

Title: Girl in Hyacinth Blue
Author: Susan Vreeland
Country: America
Year: 1999
Rating: C-
Pages: 242 pgs.

First sentence: Cornelius Engelbrecht invented himself.

Review can be found here.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Moving Right Along

I have two challenge books under my belt. So glad I chose both of them.

The Tunnels - Michelle Gagnon is a debut novel and a very well done thriller. I cannot wait to read everything else she writes.

Better Than Chocolate - Bruce Golden surprised me. I expected to like it, but I really liked it. I like science fiction from time to time and I love mysteries. This one was a super combo of the two and funny to boot. The author emailed me after he saw my blog comments. I thought that was pretty nifty.

I am looking forward to my other choices in the very near future. Lord help me, I hope I kept my list's so much fun to be blonde.....

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Kristen' Review -- The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie on Amazon
by Muriel Spark :: Everyman's Library :: 2004 :: 512 pp. :: $18.69

I don't know what I was expecting from this novel. Something prim and old-fashioned, from the "Miss Jean Brodie," something long-drawn-out and Dickensian, from "Prime"; really, I sort of expected to be bored. This was why Spark had remained on my list of authors to be read for so long.

In any case, I was very much not bored. The novel does take place at a prim, old-fashioned boarding school and spans a long period of time, but it's far from prim or old-fashioned itself. Rather, it reads like (what it is:) a New Yorker story stretched out into a novel. Spark tells of the five girls who make up the "Brodie set," a group of young women being educated by a woman named Miss Jean Brodie, who is in her prime, and who is, essentially, the school nutcase. The mystery of the novel is which of the girls betrayed Miss Brodie.

Really, though, far from a mystery, this is a sort of group coming-of-age novel. The girls' minds are opened by Miss Brodie to all sorts of insights about life -- particularly love and sex -- that they are not quite ready for. At first Miss Brodie is their absolute hero. Then, as they grow older, they learn to be skeptical. They learn to judge for themselves. And it's never quite clear whether Miss Brodie herself got crazier, or whether the girls just couldn't recognize it before.

The voice is quiet and sure and graceful in its quirkiness. It describes the five girls of the "Brodie set" in terms of what they are famous for, repeating each often -- whether they are famous for sex, stupidity, mathematics, etc. -- and this is certainly one of the most memorable stylistic tics of the book. In general the narration is distant and playful, not quite omniscient, but close to the girls' perspective, drawing closer, later on, to the mind of one of them without quite entering it.

I don't want to describe this book too much for fear of giving it away, and yet the only way I think I can tell why I loved it is to... give it away. Let me leave off the review with a quotation, one of the most memorable passages in the book. It describes the death of one of the girls years after the main events of the novel (we find out the futures of the other girls, too, though not quite as memorably as this).

"...[She] never again referred her mind to Miss Brodie, but had got over her misery, and had relapsed into her habitual slow bewilderment, before she died while on leave in Cumberland in a fire in the hotel. back and forth along the corridors ran Mary Macgregor, through the thickening smoke. She ran one way; then, turning, the other way; and at either end the blast furnace of the fire met her. She heard no screams, for the roar of the fire drowned the screams; she gave no scream, for the smoke was choking her. She ran into somebody on her third turn, stumbled, and died. But at the beginning of the nineteen-thirties, when Mary Macgregor was ten, there she was sitting blankly among Miss Brodie's pupils."

It's this kind of thing, this strange telescoping through time, that made the novel so magical. As if all the things that happened in the girls' lives, though completely separate and not causally related, were still, somehow, contained and made meaningful within each moment of their childhoods.

In Summary: Highly recommended when you're in the mood for something different.

My original review is here.

Laura's Review - When the Emperor was Divine

When the Emperor was Divine
Julie Otsuka
144 pages

First sentence: The sign had appeared overnight.

Reflections: Imagine that a member of your family is taken away in the middle of the night, wearing only his robe and slippers. When the Emperor was Divine tells the story of a Japanese-American family immediately following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Each chapter is written from a different point of view: the mother who, after reading a public notice, systematically packs belongings and hides beloved family treasures. The daughter, travelling by train to the internment camp. The son, coping with daily living in the camp. And both children, upon returning to their home, school, and town:

We used to try and imagine what it would be like when we returned home. Our phone would ring off the hook. (How was it?) Neighborhood ladies bearing angel food cakes would line up at our front door to welcome us back (Yoo hoo, we know you're in there!). ... We would accept all invitations. Go everywhere. ... But of course it did not happen like that.

Julie Otsuka's slim novel captures the emotion and trauma of this dark period in American history. The country was reeling from an attack on its own soil. Those resembling the attackers were considered evil spies. Citizens of specific ethnic origin were rounded up and sent to camps -- prisons, really -- ostensibly to protect the American people.

Is this really any different from the country's response to the events of September 11, 2001? Will we ever learn? ( )

My original review can be found here.

My first review..

This is the first one on my list that I completed. Wow! I have never read any thing by John Connolly and this was a wild ride. I also never really read books of this genre but I had given the book to my husband for Christmas last year and he kept urging me to read it. It was very gruesome at times but the plot had me hooked from the get go.
A young English boy loses his mother to a long illness just as WWII begins. His mother has passed on a love of books and books become magic to him--magical books that he can hear whispering all around him in his room. To escape a terrible relationship to his new step-mother and step-brother he enters a secret portal in to a different world...a world where famous fairy tales play out, but with little twists. David must find a way back home and along the way he learns lessons in bravery, loyalty and honor.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Jailbird (Kurt Vonnegut)

Hi everyone! I just finished my first book of the challenge, Jailbird by Kurt Vonnegut, and my review is up at my blog. My original list is here and I had listed Cat's Cradle for Vonnegut, but it was checked out of the library, so I ended up with this one, which I enjoyed but wasn't 100% impressed by.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Plague Year - Jeff Carlson

My review is up at my regular blog. Next up: The Guardians.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz

I’ve recently finished reading Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz as part of a round-robin in which I’m participating, and opted to use it as my second selection for Pour of Tor’s Unread Authors reading challenge as well.

you can read my full review, here

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Two-thirds done!

So far, I've read 4 out of 6 books:

Patrick Suskind. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
Date read: 9/9/07
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Historical Fiction/Thriller

My thoughts:

Jean-Baptiste Grenouille - human or monster? Both? Just when I found myself feeling sympathetic to this young man who grew up without human kindness, the monster side of him would emerge and I could sense his scorn for people he fooled with his pretense of humanity. This was a beautifully written book about the importance of smell that we all take for granted and how one man with an incredible gift took advantage of people.

David Sinclair. Sir Gregor MacGregor and the Land That Never Was

Date read: 9/21/2007
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: History/Biography

My thoughts:

This was an informative account showing how one persuasive man with a well-written, descriptive document exploited people's greed and gullibility. Other major topics include the independence movements in Central and South America in the early 19th century and the eagerness of Europeans to help militarily and financially. Sinclair wraps up the book nicely in his analysis of how MacGregor started becoming caught up in his own fantasy towards the end.

Gena Showalter. Awaken Me Darkly
Date read: 9/22/2007
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: SF

My thoughts:

This book was a good mix of police procedural and science fiction. It had a futuristic setting featuring aliens alongside humans with a nice dash of romance. I liked learning Mia's history along with her as her powers are gradually revealed.

Emma Bull. War for the Oaks
Date read: 9/29/2007
Rating: 4* = great
Genre: Urban Fantasy

My thoughts:

This is a beautiful written book that is both poetical and fantastical. liked the mix of music and magic. All the characters were well defined, and I especially liked Eddi, Willy and the phouka.