Sunday, December 30, 2007


I've been slacking off, but here's the update:

Good Omens - Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
We - Yevgeny Zamyatin
The Guardians - Ana Castillo (review is here)
The Plague Year - Jeff Carlson

To read by February:

Reading Lolita in Tehran - Azar Nafisi
High Fidelity - Nick Hornby

unless I come up with two alternates :-)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Challenge Wrap-Up

I finished early, but I thought I would post my wrap-up while it is fresh in my head. Thanks to Sycorax Pine for hosting!

The challenge: Read at least six books by authors you had never read before, from September to February.

My finished challenge books are:

A Woman in Jerusalem - A.B. Yehoshua
Girl in Hyacinth Blue - Susan Vreeland
God Is Dead - Ron Currie, Jr.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke
Eragon - Christopher Paolini
Esperanza Rising - Pam Munoz Ryan

The best book: That's really hard to say. I really enjoyed quite a few of them for different reasons. Esperanza Rising was a great children's/young adult book; but Jonathan Strange, God Is Dead, and A Woman in Jerusalem were all quite good as well.
What book could I have done without: Eragon. I am not a fan of Christopher Paolini's writing. I was also not impressed when I saw that he wrote the forward to a new release of John Steinbeck's The Acts of King Arthur and his Noble Knights. I debated picking up Eldest, but couldn't muster the energy.
Any new authors? They are all new to me, that's the point of the challenge!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Laura's Review - The Art of Mending

The Art of Mending
Elizabeth Berg
237 pages

First sentence: It is a photograph of a staircase that I took with my Brownie camera over forty years ago.

Reflections: Laura Bartone, a 50-something married mother of two, returns to her hometown for an annual family gathering with her parents, brother, and sister. When Laura's younger sister Caroline asks for a meeting with Laura and their brother Steve, the reunion begins to take on a different tone from past events. Caroline surfaces emotional events from their childhood, which differ greatly from Laura and Steve's experiences.

The Art of Mending explores family relationships; specifically, how children's views of past events affect their journey to adulthood, and the nature of adult parent-child relationships. Its title is a metaphor for healing, taken from a passage discussing the domestic pleasures of ironing and mending:
...there's an art to mending: If you're careful, the repair can actually add to the beauty of the thing, because it is testimony to its worth (p. 14)

Berg writes lovely descriptive prose. Yet while this book held promise, it did not live up to my expectations. The characters lacked depth, and none were particularly likeable. The plot was formulaic and predictable. Worst of all, this book was manipulative, blatantly tugging at the reader's heartstrings. I can do without that ... ( )

My original review can be found here.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Emporer's Children - Wendy's Book Review

"Well, then." Ludovic sat up against the headboard, cleared his throat. "As parents, we visit our complexes, whatever they may be, upon our children - our neuroses, our hopes and fears, our discontents. Just the way our broader society is like a parent, and visits its complexes upon the citizenry, if you will." - From The Emperor's Children, page 205 -

The Emperor's Children is an intellectual miasma about the superficiality of the privileged classes - and the subsequent collision of values between the haves and have nots. Set in New York City in 2001, the book explores the lives of five major characters: Marina - a rich and spoiled pseudo-journalist; Julius - a gay, confused free lance critic; Danielle - a television producer with attitude; Frederick "Bootie" Tubb - an idealistic and slightly creepy college drop out; and Murray Thwaite - a middle aged, liberal "emperor" who has made a name in journalism. The novel is narrated in alternating points of view and spans a period of half a year, tying together (with an artistic flair) the rather superficial threads of each character's motivations and lives. None of these characters is especially likable, but all are compulsively readable.

Messud creates a novel about the upper classes: their attitude of entitlement, their petty betrayals, their focus on power. In doing so, she reveals some interesting truths about humanity. I enjoyed her observations about higher education:

The Land of Lies in which most people were apparently content to live - in which you paid money to an institution and went out nightly to get drunk instead of reading the books and then tried to calculate some half-assed scheme by which you could cheat on your exams, and then, at the end of the day, presumably simply on account of the financial transaction between you, or more likely your parents, and said institution, you declared yourself educated - was not sufficient for Bootie. - From The Emperor's Children, page 55 -

...about raising children and giving them everything their hearts desire:

Murray Thwaite had little patience for this. He suddenly saw his daughter as a monster he and Annabel had created - they and a society of excess. - From The Emperor's Children, page 66 -

...and about high tech, computerized corporate America:

The company, it seemed, engaged in middle man activity, the procuring of rights - of abstractions - that permitted, elsewhere, the actual trading of information (also abstract) for huge sums of money. Which was, of course, itself abstract. It was a though the entire office were generating and moving, acquiring and passing on, hypotheticals, a trade in ideas, or hopes, to which value somehow accrued. - From The Emperor's Children, page 60 -

Messud has written a sharp, witty expose that intrigued me. Her writing is observant, her characters complex and well developed. Although this is not the type of book I usually enjoy, I found myself unable to put it down.

Rated 4/5; Recommended.

Slay Bells - Kate Kingsbury

This covered Christmas Challenge and Unread Authors Challenge. I hope to find the others from my list for this challenge, 'honor bound' to keep to my Christmas books this month. January and February will be for the new ones. I can only hope to find those under the tree, even if it's in giftcard form.
Slay Bells - Kate Kingsbury was okay. A holiday themed cozy mystery, it was what it was and not much more. If she has written any other holiday themed for this series, I wll read them, but not any of the rest of it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Challenge Complete (SuziQ)

I'm officially done with the Challenge - thanks for the fun. Here's a copy of my Wrap-Up post.

This was my original list:
· Tess Gerritsen - The Surgeon
· Erica Spindler – Forbidden Fruit
· Linda Barnes – A Trouble of Fools
· Chris Bohjalain – Buffalo Soldier
· Cory McFayden – Shadow Man
· Robert Crais – The Monkey’s Raincoat

But I ended up substituting the two Hometown Challenge books for the last two on the list so I could wrap up this challenge this month – so these two were included instead.
· April Henry - Circles of Confusion
· Chelsea Cain – Heartsick

The best book: Hard to choose because the genre differences make them hard to compare

What book could I have done without? Forbidden Fruit was my least favorite.

Any new authors? All were new authors by definition of the challenge

Books I did not finish: Finished them all. Even though I changed my original list, I still plan to read both of those books soon.

What did I learn? That I’m enjoying the fact that these challenges are making me actually pick up and read some of those books that have been languishing on my TBR list for far too long. A Trouble of Fools, The Buffalo Soldier and The Surgeon have all been on my list for a long time and I was glad to finally read all three of them.

Thanks to Por of Tor for the kick in the TBR

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Heartsick by Chelsea Cain - SuziQ's review

Published: 2007
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Pages: 324

I already knew of Chelsea Cain from reading her weekly column in the local paper. I had missed the fact that she’d written this book till
Joy clued me in about it. This was certainly not the same as her newspaper columns!

This thriller grabbed me in the first few pages and I hated to get off the train and go to work because I wanted to keep reading. Fair warning – it’s a bit gruesome in places.

Two years ago Detective Archie Sheridan was kidnapped and tortured for 10 days by the very serial killer he’d been hunting for years. That killer, Gretchen Lowell, is safely tucked away in prison, but Archie is called back from his medical leave to head up the team investigating a new serial killer in town. This time, hoping to fend off media criticism, a newspaper reporter is assigned to profile Archie and the investigation. Susan Ward is a pink haired smart mouthed young reporter who doesn’t necessarily do what she is told.

The story of Archie’s previous ordeal with Gretchen is interwoven with the present time investigation. There are plenty of familiar local references for Portlanders without being too insider-ish for folks not from this area.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Buffalo Soldier by Chris Bohjalian - SuziQ's Review

Published: 2002
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 420

Two years ago Laura and Terry Sheldon’s twin 9 year old daughters died in a flash flood. Now they are foster parents to a 10 year old African-American boy named Alfred. Terry and Laura are still dealing with their grief and guilt over the loss of their daughters. Alfred is a child of the system who has lived in too many households in his young life. He is a quiet loner who has never really felt like he belongs anywhere. Paul Hebert, the retired professor who lives next door to the Sheldon’s takes an interest in Alfred and they find a common interest in the story of The Buffalo Soldiers Cavalry unit.

This book is told in several different voices – Laura, Terry, Alfred, the neighbors and also the woman whose involvement with Terry threatens what remains of the Sheldon’s marriage. It’s not just about the foster care system, nor is it about a couple dealing with their grief, guilt and marital tensions. It is about each of the characters and their fears, doubts and needs in terms of what family means to them.

There is sadness in the loss of the Sheldon girls and the impact that has on their parents as well as people who knew them and even Alfred, who never met them. There is joy in the relationship between Alfred and Paul Hebert. There is heartache in many of the characters as their relationships are tested.
. . . and every minute he felt like he was walking on glass. You moved slow in this house, as if everything – and that included the people – was just about to break.
I thought this was a very good book. I found it to be touching in many places and thought provoking for many reasons.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

On Strike for Christmas - Sheila Roberts

Finished this last night. It makes for a super bedside book as it let me go to sleep with a grin on my face.