KindleKaper's 2012 75-Book Challenge
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Book #1: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
Gangland meets the World of Fantasy...what a great read with which to usher out 2011!
I actually discovered this book on a discussion thread in a GRRM fan group. The topic of this thread was basically "What should we read while we're waiting for Martin's Winds of Winter to be published?" and many fans recommended Locke Lamora's tale, with comments like "it's freaking amazing!" So I couldn't resist and I couldn't agree more! Scott Lynch uses the typical fantasy-genre descriptiveness to create a vividly beautiful world, with sinister mafioso undertones. Like George R.R. Martin, he creates multi-dimensional characters whereby the "good guys" aren't always 100% good, and the "bad guys" have their "reasons" too. In any case, the Gentleman Bastards are slick theives with a heck of a lot of style! Looking forward to the next book in the series...
I still need to get to the Lynch book! Thanks for the reminder, Mimi!
Oh and by the way, welcome back and Happy New Year!
***waves hello to a fellow 12 in 12 Challenge member***
Found and starred!
Happy New Years, Mimi. Dropping a star and looking forward to a great reading year.
Ack! I don't know why I haven't picked up the Lynch book yet, but I definitely need to!
Book #2: Bleed by Ed Kurtz
An idyllic country cottage purchased by a seemingly innocent high school English teacher? A cannibalistic creature that grows out of a bloody stain in this cozy cottage? Blood? Gore? Murder? Nope, it's not Stephen King or Dean Koontz...it's debut author Ed Kurtz, who, based on this well-written horror novel, has definite promise as a future horror-genre superstar if he keeps writing books like this!
The first review I read about this book mentioned how Bleed is a brilliant throwback to the horror reads/flicks of the 1970s. I definitely felt that as I read this scary,gory variation of the haunted house tale...kind of reminiscent of The Amityville Horror, Little Shop of Horrors ("Feed me Seymour"/"Waaaltttt!!"), with a unique twist of its own. The book itself was well-written, and the creepy story kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time!
I would probably add that one to the BlackHole if I read horror, but it is the one genre I will not touch.
I am glad to see you enjoyed the book, Mimi!
I'm usually not a big horror reader, but I was kind of in the mood when I saw this one. Amazingly, I gave it 5 stars...sometimes something a little outside my norm really strikes me, especially when it comes from a quality debut author. It could make a really scary horror movie too! :)
(That being said, it was very bloody and gory...so if you truly don't like horror, you probably should pass on this one)
5 stars for a debut author is outside the norm! Congrats on finding such a treasure!
Book #3: Baghdad Country Club by Joshuah Bearman
This is a really interesting short non-fiction work about Casablanca-like bar right in the middle of the Green Zone of Baghdad. Not only was the bar as an oasis in a war-torn region explored, but we also get a look at some of the courageous folks who worked to make the BCC possible, even if it was only for a short period of time.
#15: I will have to see if I can find that one. Thanks for the recommendation, Mimi!
Argh! Went to Amazon to add Bleed to my wishlist, but they only have it for the Kindle. Rats.
Book #4: The Long Run by Mishka Shubaly
This was a very honest memoir from the point of view of Mishka Shubaly, a recovering alcoholic & drug addict who discovered his destiny as an ultra-marathon runner after being inadvertently involved in a bar brawl. A good portion of the book addresses the author's substance abuse...it's impact on his life and his ultimate road to recovery. Even though at times I was looking to read more about his ultra-marathon running experiences, I feel that the primary focus of this work is to delves into Shubaly's running motivation and show how someone can turn his/her life around through positive physical activity.
#18: I will have to look for that one. Thanks for the recommendation, Mimi!
18: I'm not much of a runner, but for whatever reason I kind of like running books. Will keep my eye out for this one, thanks!
Book #5: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
This is such a classic tale...one that I know well even though this is the first time I've actually read it. Growing up on Long Island, NY, I remember visiting Washington Irving's home in Tarry Town as a child and hearing the story of Ichabod Crane at that point. I also vaguely remember watching the 1948 Disney version when I was younger (and I just re-watched on youtube...amazing how much the coquettish Katrina resembles Disney's Cinderella! ;)). However, I am so glad that I finally read Washington Irving's story, effectively set in the framework of early post-Revolution America, with its beautiful descriptions of the Hudson Valley region and eerily suspenseful language which really leaves the reader wondering "What REALLY happened to Ichabod Crane?"
#21: It has been a long while since I read that one. About time for a re-read, I should think.
Book #5: Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving
Another one for my "Short but Sweet" list...
After reading The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and American folklore icon Ichabod Crane, I decided to continue the trend by visiting with another Washington Irving icon, Rip Van Winkle. Rip Van Winkle is another figure that I have "lived" with all my life through song, short films and the old-fashioned oral tradition and yet this is the first time I actually read the story itself. The lazy & henpecked Rip Van Winkle is so endearing and I am so glad that he got away from the shrewish Dame Van Winkle ultimately (I think he was glad too ;)!). I also think it is fascinating to speculate what it would be like to somehow sleep for 20 years and then discover a changed world upon waking....like Rip did when he fell asleep in Colonial America and awoke in the newly formed USA. Fun to read!
I think Rip was very glad to get away from Dame Van Winkle - even if he had to sleep for 20 years to do it!
Book #6: Knitting Mochimochi by Anna Hrachivec
Thanks to my 17-year-old daughter, who has taught herself to knit and has created some adorable knitted dolls herself, I have recently picked up the knitting needles after many years, and I am finally teaching myself to knit more than just the basic knit stitch and I have completed some fun projects.
I got a hold of a copy of this one because my daughter wanted it, and I enjoyed reading about how Ms. Hrachovec started knitting toys and why she continues to do so (I can definitely see her point about how you only need so many scarves...especially living in Florida! ;) ). ...and then, of course, there are those adorable pattern - from fierce (yet friendly) creatures and random objects to impractical wearables and nano knits... Lots of fun gifts to make in here (and toys for yourself too)!
And then there's the equally super cute "sequel" which I also read through - Teeny-Tiny Mochimochi by Anna Hrachivec which follows the same format as the afroementioned book. There are some very helpful how-tos for beginners in these books too.
Book #7: The Adventure of the Final Problem by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
I was inspired to read this infamous Sherlock Holmes adventure after watching the BBC modern day rendition of "Sherlock", aired this past Sunday (1/15/2012). Although Sir Arthur Conan Doyle meant this to be the final adventure of Sherlock Holmes, I'm glad he left the plot shrouded in enough mystery to allow for the eventual resurrection of this brilliant detective with definite personality issues. Additionally, although I may have found Conan Doyle's portrayal of James Moriarty frustratingly enigmatic, in retrospect I am glad he only painted a vague picture of this criminal mastermind because it now leaves the character open for more in-depth interpretation...and I think Steven Moffat & Mark Gatiss created a brilliant Jim Moriarty in their series.
Book #8: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
I want to start off by saying that I think this is an extremely well-written book that tells a poignantly beautiful tale of family, love, forgiveness and redemption, framed by the fascinating historical background of 20th-21st century Ethiopia and the overall immigrant experience. Told from the perspective of Marion Stone, we get to experience his relationships with his twin (and originally conjoined) brother Shiva, as well as his other familial connections, his passions and how his being is so intricately entwined with his practice of medicine.
My reason for giving this book 3 stars - although the overall story intrigued me and I truly found myself caring about the characters themselves, I found myself plodding through some of the more descriptive sections, particularly the in-depth descriptions of the medical procedures. I know this was important in conveying the medical theme in the book, I personally tended to skim through these sections so I could get back to the main story line.
But, overall, it is a unique story, leaving me with a lot to think about and I am looking forward to discussing some of the details with my book club!
Book #9: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
I'm always a fan of time travel-type books, especially when they include magical creatures and creepy monsters, so right there this book really grabbed me! This is a very creative story about time loops, "peculiar" folks and heroic young people who are willing to do what needs to be done to save both their own world and others like it. The creepy photographs also add a really cool dimension to this story and I am looking forward to Ransom Riggs' sequel.
I am also enjoying Ransom Riggs' blog at http://www.ransomriggs.com/...
I really like the look of your knitting Mochimochi books. I'm enthusiastic about starting craft projects - but not so good at finishing them. Maybe the Mochimochi would be small enough for me to actually finish something.
I've got Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children on the wish list already. I must get around to actually getting it.
SandDune - Mochimochi are definitely small enough! It takes me a while to complete projects at too, probably because I am usually working on several different ones at the same time. Although I just finished knitting my first successfully wearable hat! :)
Hi Morphidae! :)
Book #10: Charmed Knits: Projects for Fans of Harry Potter by Alison Hansel
I love Harry Potter...and I love knitting...so to me this book promises many hours of creative Harry Potter fun! I like the way the book is organized, with visits with the Weasleys, a knitter's exploration of Diagon Alley and a creative foray into Hogwarts, with all sorts of awesome magical patterns. So glad I was able to get a hold of this one for my collection!
#33: Oooh, I have that book, and I've even made a few of the projects - it's fantastic! I can't wait to make more of them, once my 3-year-old gets a little older, and (hopefully!) goes through an HP phase!
Amber (scaifea) - I have "Mrs Weasley's Bag of Stitch Witchery" on my to-do list :)
Book #12: Left Neglected by Lisa Genova
Wow...I never heard of left (unilateral) neglect and reading about Sarah's case of this after her traumatic brain injury really got me thinking of what like would be like after losing awareness of everything to my left. Lisa Genova did a wonderful job capturing the inner emotions of Sarah as she works towards adaptation, recovery and acceptance of this condition.
In addition to being a story about this debilitating medical condition, this is also the story of a Type A Harvard MBA business woman who is forced to re-evaluate her priorities in life. During her physical rehabilitation, she redefines her family relationships in a very touching way and even helps them "rehabilitate" their own self-images. A great story of a struggle overcome, acceptance, forgiveness and love!
Now I'd like to read Lisa Genova's first book - Still Alice.
Book #13: The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
A great read if your in the mood for an old fashioned ghost story, written in the traditional Victorian/Gothic style...I picked this up when my book club decided to read it for our February meeting (then, after our discussion, we get to go to the movies to see how Daniel Radcliffe does in his performance of Arthur Kipp! :) )
This is Arthur Kipp's tale of a horribly ghostly experience from his past that shook his outlook on reality and changed his life. Enjoyably creepy and it sparks my curiosity about Susan Hill's other works.
38: I would like to read that one. Tell us how the movie is! It's the only scary movie I've ever really wanted to go to and I'm not afraid to admit it's because Daniel Radcliffe is in it.
Book #14: Taft 2012 by Jason Heller
Seems like Presidential alternate-reality fiction has been popular lately as in the past year or so I have read about Abraham Lincoln as a vampire hunter, JFK as a survivor...and now William H. Taft as a potential candidate in the 2012 elections!
This was a 21st century version of Rip Van Winkle, this time with President Taft sleeping away his post-presidential years, making his reappearance, unchanged, in 2011/12. Although I would have liked to know what forces were at play in Taft's ability to inadvertently time travel, I enjoyed the author's ability to explore the technological, social & political changes of the past century in a light-hearted way, while making some interesting observations about America's current political scene.
Book #15: The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower, Book 1) by Stephen King
Ever since I finished reading Tolkien and George R.R. Martin, I have been at a loss in my search for my next great fantasy series. So when I saw how much my husband was enjoying "The Dark Tower", I figured that a Stephen King fantasy/sci fi/horror combo just might do the trick. So far, I am intrigued...
It's hard to review Book One knowing that, from what I've heard & read, the best is still yet to come. The story of Roland Deshain, a gunslinger on a mysterious quest leading him to the man in black and ultimately the enigmatic Dark Tower, starts off with a somewhat esoteric, at times even trippy, narrative. However, King does paint a detailed picture of the the Gunslinger's inner & outer world and I am going to dive right into Book Two to see where Roland's journeys lead me.
Book #16 The Drawing of the Three (The Dark Tower, Book 2) by Stephen King
Wow! Although I was drawn into Roland Deshain's quest even as early as the esoteric Book One of this series, I can definitely see what other readers mean when they say that this series gets better with each book. Stephen King is a genius when it comes to guiding the readers through multiple universes, creating lively, flawed and very human characters, which we see as Roland gathers some important travel companions, such as Eddie Dean & Odetta/Detta Susannah Holmes. This is a very exciting story, with elements of fantasy, sci fi, social commentary, suspense and horror, keeping me on the edge of my seat until the very end & leaving me ready to delve right into Book 3 - The Wastelands.
OK, so now I have to find and purchase Charmed Knits. We are a family of crazy Hogwarts fans. Thanks.
Book #17: The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower, Book 3) by Stephen King
I'll never be able to listen to ZZ Top's. "Velcro Fly" without getting totally freaked out again! ;)
After Roland Deshain starts his quest for the Dark Tower by assembling his ragtag crew of fellow gunslingers, this book really gets into the meat of the matter as they venture into Lud, which is a frighteningly post-apocalyptic image of New York City. There are so many intricately woven remnants of our own world in this story...from Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" to multiple "Wizard of Oz" correlations.Great writing, awesomely imaginative story!
...and with a cliff hanger ending like that, I'm just glad that I don't have to wait 6 years for the next installment of this tale!
Book #18: Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower, Book 4) by Stephen King
"Bird and bear and hare and fish"...oh my! ;)
From the time I read Book 2 of this amazing series, I had a distinct Oz-like feeling of deja vu ...and now I know why!
I really enjoyed this fourth installment of Roland & his Ka-tet's quest for the Dark Tower. I think it is very important that we understand the gunslinger's background, especially in regards to his relationships with the women of his past - from his tragically brave star-crossed lover Susan Delgado, to Rhea of Coos (the Wicked Witch of the East??), and of course, to his mother, Gabrielle Deschain. Stephen King did an awesome job incorporating this information in this story-within-a-story.
Next stop...Wolves of the Calla.
Book #19: Task Force: Gaea: Finding Balance (Volume 1) by David Berger
After discovering that my daughter's high school English teacher had written a fantasy novel based on Greek mythology, I couldn't resist both reading it and recommending it to my book club this month.
This book is intriguing on several levels. Greek mythology has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Growing up with my Mom, a high school English teacher with a special passion for Edith Hamilton, has something to do with that I suppose. ...and now, I teach early Western Humanities on the college level, so of course the belief systems of ancient civilizations are addressed in my classes. So to be able to immerse myself in a fantasy revolving around Apollo's world was of course lots of fun! The first portion of this book goes heavily into Greek mythology, so of course curiosity about this topic is a must here.
I especially like the contemporary Task Force characters and I enjoyed reading about how an archaeologist, a zoologist, an animal geneticist and a creative potter turn into Greek-like superheros who get to experience a whole space-time continuum paradox! I hope to read more about their lives and adventures in the next book in this series since we only get to spend time with them for a portion of the book.
The adventures of both the deities of the Greek pantheon as well as those of Danelos, Sarah, Brandon & Aleta would also translate REALLY well into a graphic novel.
A great debut novel by Mr. Berger!
Book #20: The Wolves of the Calla (The Dark Tower, Book 5) by Stephen King
After getting over my initial "Whoaaaa...that was messed up!" reaction to the conclusion of Book 5 (and I mean that in a good way, of course!!), I have to say that this series keeps getting better and better.
In this installment of The Dark Tower series, Roland and his ka-tet get waylaid along the Path of the Beam by the child-abducting "Wolves" who trouble the folken of Calla Bryn Sturgis. While honoring the gunslinger credo to help those in need, they once again encounter strange coincidences in all the worlds they visit that can only be attributed to "Ka". I just love the way King creatively incorporates pop culture and literary references from the reader's "level" of the Tower into the story.
Since this series was a written over a 33-year-period, it's fun to see how Stephen King's writing style evolves, and I can definitely see the difference between the first four books in the series and this one...I find that while I thoroughly enjoyed the earlier books, The Wolves of Calla is less bogged down with detail and has a grippingly faster pace than the others...that being said, it is also getting more and more surreal...but that intrigues me all the more!
Onward to Song of Susannah!
Book #21: Song of Susannah (The Dark Tower, Book 6) by Stephen King
Strange, yet brilliant! That is the best way for me to describe how I feel about this installment of the quest for the Dark Tower.
All roads lead to Susannah-Mio and her (they're?) child's pending birth in this one. As the characters are flung to different times and places by Black 13, we continue on this strange quest. Susannah and her alter-personalities battle with Mia for self-control while Roland & Eddie experience a raucous gunslinger-style showdown somewhere in, where else, Maine, after which they have an unusual encounter with someone who they believe may be key to their success in both saving Susannah and finding the Dark Tower itself. (The latter is one of the oddest, yet most intriguing, part of this story...never saw anything quite like that in literature! No spoilers though...)
This book's structure was also unusual, in an artistic sort of way. The narrative is actually a song, with each chapter representing a stanza, each section representing a verse, and always concluding with a COMMALA Chorus. The finale of Susannah's song was fraught with frightening drama, yet the reader is left hanging, so...
Up next, The Dark Tower!
Book #22: The Dark Tower (The Dark Tower, Book 7) by Stephen King
After living and breathing the quest of Roland Deshain and his ka-tet for the last two months, I am happy to say that I have finally finished the 7th book in the series!
The Dark Tower (Book 7) provided a creative, interesting, and heart-rending finale to this literary journey. Although many tears were shed as I read it, King does a great job dealing with the fate of each member of Roland’s ka-tet, showing the true courage and dedication of Eddie, Susannah, Jake and especially my favorite billy bumbler, Oy (also known as “Oy the Brave”). Roland’s quest is also concluded (sort-of…), although leaving the reader wondering about Roland’s ultimate fate…
As far as Stephen King including himself in his own story, I found that fascinating. Like he said at the end of the book, he was trying to use the Dark Tower series as a way of summing up a number of his other stories in this all-encompassing “uber tale” while at the same time showing how “life imitates art (and vice-versa).” While the parts of the story that focused on Roland’s interactions with sai King were admittedly surreal, I found them to add an important and thought-provoking dimension to the story. In addition to an awesome fantasy adventure story influenced by literature & pop culture such the poetry of Robert Browning and Dante Alighieri, The Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter & The Magnificent Seven, etc., the reader also gets to explore the 33-year evolution of a writer’s career, through both the changing writing styles in the different books to the inner thoughts of the fictionalized version of this author.
Looking forward to the release of The Dark Tower: Wind Through the Keyhole and curious to see if the movie/HBO series ever actually happpens...
Book #23:The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
This has been on my to-read list since it was first published and I finally had the opportunity to read it this month for my book club. On the one hand, this was a beautifully-written novel, in which descriptively poetic prose really draws the reader into an enchanted world dictated by an unusual competition as well as the power of true love. The idea that two people were thrust into this competition without any choice in the matter and then become star-crossed lovers was intriguingly frustrating as well as incredibly romantic.
While I usually enjoy a book that doesn't answer all the questions at the end, I found myself really wishing that more was said about as well as the Man in the Grey Suit and the nature of the competition itself. I kind of felt like I was missing out on something at the end...
However, I would really like one of Herr Thiessen's amazing clocks... :D
Book #24: Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
This is the first book I've read by Geraldine Brooks and overall I really enjoyed it. Told from the perspective of Bethia, the daughter of a colonial New England Puritan minister, this story traces her connection with Wampanaug culture with which she co-exists on what is now known as Martha's Vinyard. The defining moment in this connection for Bethia occurs as she first meets young Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, the fictionalized version of the first Native American to both attend and earn a degree from Harvard College. Although the title of this book focuses on Caleb and there is a great deal of discussion about the spiritual & physical conflicts accompanying the English incursion on American soil, Bethia's coming-of-age in a world where intelligent & outspoken women are frowned upon and even persecuted is truly central to this story.
In her narrative, Ms. Brooks creates highly believable characters who are emotionally complex. I really like the way we get to understand the motivations of characters such as Father, Grandfather and Makepeace, and, even if we don't agree with their actions, we get to see why they acted as they did within the historical context of the era.
My only criticism of the story is that there were times that I felt bogged down in some of the descriptive details. While Ms. Brooks painted an incredibly vivid literary picture of the landscape, I sometimes felt some of the details slowed down the pace of the narrative. In terms of the language used, although I had to get used to it initially, as the book progressed, it became much more familiar and it really made this portrait of 17th century colonial America quite authentic.
Book #25: Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross
This was a highly readable fictionalized interpretation of the legendary life of Joan Anglicus, who is thought to have served briefly as Pope during the 9th century. The author did a great job with the historical framework, showing the reality of the often harsh life in early Medieval Europe. Joan is portrayed as a courageously intelligent woman who was willing to risk life and love so she could pursue her dreams. Although there were certain "saved-by-the-bell" elements of the plot that seemed a bit far-fetched, the adventure, romance, political intrigue and intellectual debate found in this story kept me engrossed to the very end.
Book #26: Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d'Art by Christopher Moore
I have always loved Christopher Moore's laugh-out-loud, bawdy and often satirical humor, but unfortunately this one seemed to be lacking in this area. The concept of a satirical look at the art world is clever and the story had its moments, but I personally liked his earlier work better.
As a loyal fan, I'm still looking forward to the Author Guy's next book, of course :)
Book #27: The Wind Through the Keyhole (The Dark Tower, #4.5) by Stephen King
This was a great addition to the Dark Tower series in that it filled-in-the-blanks (or at least some of them) about Roland's past, clarifying his tragic relationship with his mother while immersing the reader in both a fantasy and a crime thriller. I always enjoy the "story within a story" literary technique, but only Stephen King can so successfully pull off a "story-within-a-story-within-a-story" and still bring everything together in a heart-rending conclusion.
...and it felt good to spend time with the ka-tet- Jake, Eddie, Susannah, Roland and Oy - again. To quote my husband, "it was like being back with old friends!" :)
...and if there is any award category for "Best Cover Art" for a book in 2012, this should absolutely be on top of the list...totally breathtaking!
Book#28: Stardust by Neil Gaiman
In his afterword, Neil Gaiman talks about the importance and everlasting impact of myths and fairy tales on our mind & hearts. This idea has been evident in the other Gaiman novels I have read thus far (American Gods, The Graveyard Book, and Good Omens), and I certainly see that in "Stardust."
This is an enchanting fairy tale, written for grownups, about a magical quest through Faerie in search of a fallen star, with those longing for love, identity, power and immortality. The fantasy world created by Gaiman, with its faeries, witches, ghosts and unicorns was awesome abdI found myself really hoping for the best for Tristran and Yvaine. Truly magical!
I am super behind on reading reviews, but holy wow, it's like you're reading everything I love/want to read. :) I also had similar feelings about The Night Circus and because everyone raved about it, I also felt like I had missed something. Glad it wasn't just me!
Book #29: Throne of the Crescent Moon (Crescent Moon Kingdoms) by Saladin Ahmed
Mix together the Arabian Nights, a dash of multi-generational sword & sorcery, and a pinch of Robin Hood and you get yourself a delicious new fantasy, written by a debut author!
Set in a world reminiscent of Aladdin & the Arabian Nights, this is the story of Adoulla, a 60-year-old ghul hunter and his mission to save Dhamsawaat from monsters and those who create them...of course with help from a fascinating array of individuals, including a young dervish, a feisty young tribeswoman who also happens to be a shape-changer, healers, etc... The author does a great job delving into the psyche of the characters, thus providing an understanding of the motivation and inner conflicts experienced. Additionally, the multi-generational aspect here was especially cool...it's not often I've read about middle aged-to-elder-characters out there battling ghuls & other evils in a fantasy novel.
I'm looking forward to Saladin Ahmed's next installment of this series...I hope to read more about the other characters in this story.
Book #30: Defending Jacob by William Landay
It's been a while since I read a crime drama, so this one was a special treat! A very well-written first-person story of a father who will defend his son, who has been accused of murder, no matter what. This story went beyond the standard law-and-order style court drama (although there was plenty of this as well)... it is really about how a family and a community reacts to the accusations that accompany a heinous crime. Mr. Landay really delves into Andy Barber's thoughts about his own family's past, his love for his son and his feelings about the justice system as a whole, while at the same time incorporating some fascinating information about criminal psychology & forensics within the subtext of the story.
This is one of those "I-can't-put-it-down" types of books that will keep the reader on edge until the very last page!
Book #31: Spud and Chloe at the Farm (Knit & Read Book) by Susan B. Anderson
A Knit-and-Read Book...fun idea!
This book includes a cute farm adventure, starring farmgirl Chloe & her sheep Spud, who are invited to Little Lamb's grass-tasting party at the farm, along with the patterns for. all the characters on the story. You can even knit the barn & the white picket fence!
I personally finished my own version of the brown cow, and I found the pattern to be well-written in that it was not difficult to follow and the finished product turned out as desired. Now I'm just trying to decide who h adorable farm critter to try next. :)
Book #32: Knitting With Balls: A Hands-On Guide to Knitting for the Modern Man by Michael Del Vecchio
I was browsing the knitting books in the library when the cute title of this book attracted my attention. So I spent some time perusing the patterns and found some great gift ideas for the men in my life. So many knitting books and magazines focus on patterns with a feminine appeal, that I find I really have to search when I want to make something for my husband, my Dad, etc...this was therefore refreshing. I really want to try that wallet/billfold first...some other great Father's Day ideas too!
Defending Jacob seems like a good book for me. I love a book that takes your mind away from life and won't let you go back!
You are my go to thread to get ideas for knitting books to add!
Book #33: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
I graduated from high school in 1985 and was a freshman in college in 1986....and all I remember of computers from that time were network word processors and maybe some remote talk about the up-and-coming Compuserve. Online grief counseling and computer searches for long lost friends were for the most part the stuff of science fiction back then. ...and Brandon Bruce Lee was still alive and kicking (pun intended), at least until 1993! Historical fiction should accurately depict the era being subtracted from the authenticity of the setting.
That being said, I did appreciate reading about this disturbing aspect of American History - the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. It's important to remember embarrassingly ethnocentric "moments" in our history so they are not repeated. The Romeo-and-Juliet/West-Side-Story aspect of the story was predictably sweet & Henry's growing relationship with his son after Ethel's death was touching, but my favorite relationship was the truly color-blind friendship that between Henry and Sheldon, his saxophone-playing friend. If it were not for some of the historical inaccuracies, I think this would be a great story to read in a middle school/high school English or History class.
Nice review, it made me think about this novel in a bit of a different way. I read it awhile ago, but remember that I completely fell in love with Henry and rooted for him at every turn. His place of being out of place in every situation in his young life got to me.
Book #34: The Poet by Michael Connelly
I recently discovered this book while browsing the book shelves at a nearby bookstore and the title combined with Stephen King's rave review in the Forward caught my attention.
This is actually a book that has been around for a while, originally published in 1997. This makes for a nostalgic walk down technological memory lane as both criminals & law enforcement utilize the then state-of-the-art dial-up internet connection, fax machines, and the budding digital camera. Although the 1990s technology may seem dated by today's standards when it comes to solving a series of horrible crimes, I still found this crime thriller, starring reporter Jack McEvoy, enjoyably intriguing with the suspenseful twists & turns keeping me on the edge of my seat up until the very end.
One of these days I need to get caught up on all of Connelly's books. If I remember right, the next with McEvoy is also the next in the Terry McCaleb series. I fell into those after seeing the excellent Clint Eastwood movie Blood Work a bit ago.
This is the first of Connelly's books that I have read. I'm looking forward to reading some more! :)
Book #35: Carrie by Stephen King
So, if you've ever considered bullying the outcast kid or not telling your teenage daughter what to expect when she officially hits puberty, this is the book that will change your mind forever! ;)
I saw the movie starring Sissy Spacek as Carrie many years ago, but since this was Stephen King's first published novel, I really wanted to actually read it. ...and as is the case with so many books-that-have-been-turned-into-movies, the book is so much better due the details provided, and the terrifying emotions evoked. I loved the way King alternated his writing styles, mixing third-person narrative with excerpts from legal depositions and first-person witness accounts, thus giving the reader opportunity to greater understand the events and psychology that led up to a nightmarish Prom Night in a small town in Maine.
Book #36: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
As a fanstasy fan, I always love turning to a Neil Gaiman novel when I occosionally want to read a really amazing fantasy that wraps itself up in one novel rather than a whole series of book tombs..."Neverwhere" is an amazing example of this!
Richard Mayhew is Neil Gaiman's Everyman...an Everyman whose inner and outer life changes forever when he becomes an unwitting hero as finds himself in London Below with the likes of Lady Door, the Marquis de Carabas, Mr. Croup, Mr. Vandemar, Rat People, Sewer People and other unusual fantastical characters. This is one of those fantasies that really grew on me the more I read andI look forward to watching the television series to see how it compares.
I love Neverwhere. It's one of my favourites. I didn't know there was a TV series - is it a new thing?
The tv series actually came before the book. I read that the reason that Gaiman re-wote it in book format was because he wasn't happy with the tv version and he wanted to regain artistic control over the story. I'm curious to see the difference.
Book #37: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
A really cool & unique fantasy always makes me happy...and the first installment of The Kingkiller Chronicle is a really awesome read!
I've seen comparisons made between Kvothe's somewhat Dickensian young adulthood & adventures at the University and Harry Potter's adventures at Hogwarts. While I definitely experienced some Potter-esque deja vu at times, there is so much more here. Told from the perspective of an adult looking back at his own life, the story includes an original approach to magic, "dragons" and other fantastical beings in a world where human nature is human nature and stories change depending upon the storyteller. I'm going to jump right into the next book so I can re-experience Kvothe's past right alongside him.
#37 - I'd forgotten about this one. I read The Name of the Wind a couple of years ago and enjoyed it as well. I must get on to the second one as well.
...and his third one is scheduled to be published in Spring of 2013 too! :)
Book #38: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
I felt like I was on an emotional roller coaster while I read this book. There were times when I just couldn't decide if I loved it or hated it, especially at the beginning when I was trying to understand the mindset of the three point-of-view characters, Oskar, Grandma & Grandpa. Once I was accustomed to each of their voices, the clues to the plot itself started to become apparent and I really became engrossed.
This story is both EXTREMELY sad and INCREDIBLY optimistic. I felt myself moved to tears as the story dealt with tragically violent deaths which resulted from World War II and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. These events forever linked together the characters in the books and they also encouraged both Oskar and Thomas Schell, Sr. to grow in positive yet unusual ways.
Since I read this one for my book club, I came across a helpful book discussion guide at http://www.rtlibrary.org/extremelyloud.pdf.
76: Oh man, I don't think I have the emotional strength to get through that one. Still, good review... maybe one day!
Book #39: The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King
Since I finished the entire Dark Tower series very recently, I was excited when this one was recommended for my July Book Club reading...especially once I realized that this is a prelude to the Dark Tower series, with its focus on In-World and the infamous Man in Black! ...and for those fans of The Stand, he's baaacckkkkkkk!!! ;)
This works well as a stand-alone story too. If you're a grownup who loves a good fairy tale, this is a magical fantasy, about two princely brothers, a dark magician, a dragon-slaying king, jealousy, false accusations, friendship and loyalty. If you are new to Stephen King's brand of fantasy, this would be an awesome place to start.
Book #40: The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
So Kvothe's story goes on, this time as he continues his education beyond the walls of the University, learning so very much from real world experiences. Surpassing book learning, Kvothe comes-of-age in a big way, via sexual awakening, familiarity with the rules & prejudices of so-called "polite society," understanding of the ways of the Lethani, & increased battle prowess.
Rothfuss once again does a great job making his world of fantasy seem real by giving seemingly academic & scientific explanations for alchemy and magic. ...and of course there are those elements that defy explanation, especially when it comes to Kvothe's intriguing encounter with Felurian & the Fae (my husband affectionately calls this part "H.R. Pufnstuf meets a Nudist Colony", which makes lots of sense for Children of the '70s like us! :D).
...and then there's that mystery at the end of the book...I hope I don't have to wait too long to find out what that's all about! ;)
Book #41: Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
It's funny because I initially started reading this one immediately after finishing The Lies of Locke Lamora back in January 2012 and for some reason I just couldn't get into it at that point (even though I absolutely loved Book One). However, when I picked it up this time, I couldn't put this amazing story down! Not only do we continue to read about the con-artistry & thievery of lovable anti-heroes, Locke Lamora & Jean Tannen, we also get some rip-roaring open-sea piracy, with some help from escaped prisoners and some absolutely kick-a**, brave & sensuous lady pirates!
This particular installment is incredibly complex, as Scott Lynch once again creates a vividly beautiful world filled with multiple layers of political & criminal intrigue, where the thieves and the politicians are often interchangeable. Piracy, of course, is a major part of the story, and even though I had to get used to all the pirate-speak, it really added authenticity to the tale.
A fantasy that combines swashbuckling adventures, monstrous creatures, political intrigue, love, friendship and, yes, even kitty cats surely can't be beat! I hope to read The Republic of Thieves soon.
Book #42: The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
My daughter will be attending the University of Florida in the Fall & this book has been assigned to all incoming first-year students as the annual "Common Reader"... Gayle Tzemach Lemmon will even be speaking at Freshman Convocation! Along with the students, family member have been invited to join in the Common Reader program and read this book as well...so that's what I did! This inspirational biography of Kamila Sidiqi, a young woman who exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit by running a successful sewing business in spite of Afghani Taliban oppression at the turn of the 21st century, provides tremendous motivation for incoming college students as they forge ahead toward their own aspirations.
The book itself is an easy-to-read piece of non-fiction that took me one day to read. Reminiscent of such spectacular books as Reading Lolita in Tehran and, from a fictional standpoint, The Kite Runner, this is refreshing because it introduces many readers to everyday life challenges in Kabul, beyond the news of political turmoil and military action. An incredible individual and a true survivor, I personally think it would be awesome if Kamila Sidiqi could come to Florida and speak to the students at UF's Freshman Convocation along with Gayle Tzemach Lemmon! ;)
Book #43: Fool Moon (The Dresden Files, Book 2 by Jim Butcher
Wow! I never realized there was so much to know about the while werewolves! Very cool. Another fast-paced fantasy/crime thriller smack-dab in the midst of contemporary Chicago...a Chicago where the supernatural exists in all realms of life, from the criminal underworld to the police department to the FBI.
This time Harry Dresden, private investigator/seemingly average dude/powerful wizard, is tasked with sifting through the many varieties of werewolves that apparently run rampant in the Windy City, to see which ones are responsible for the ensuing mayhem & murder.
While I really enjoyed Book 1 of this series, this second installment of the Dresden Files was even better - an awesome beach read for fantasy fans!
Book #44: The Fairy Godmother (Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms, Book 1) by Mercedes Lackey
This was one of those books that I really thought might be a nice diversion from my usual more gritty variety of fantasy, with what I saw as a more white-bread approach to the genre. I've always loved my fairy tales, and I enjoy the twisted fairy tale as well. However, even though the concept of a Mop Fair (as opposed to a Royal Ball)and a Fairy Godmother Apprentice is very cute, I found the story a bit lacking in the substance I have grown used to when it comes to fantasy & the predictability of the narrative led me to skim through much of the story.
I do, however, see how those who love fairy tales & would like to see more of wizardry, faeries and other magical beings incorporated into revised version of these tales in a happily-ever-after sort of way would enjoy this story and others written by Mercedes Lackey. Maybe, I've just grown too accustomed to the gritty fantasies...that what I get from spending so much time with the likes of G.R.R.M., Stephen King, Scott Lynch and Patrick Rothfuss in the past year! ;)
Yeah, Lackey isn't exactly known for grit. She's what I read when I want something light and fluffy.
Book #45: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
As an avid day-hiker on rustic wilderness trails, I always have a strong admiration for anyone who can complete a long thru hike on such trails as the PCT & AT. So I really admire Cheryl Strayed's ability to complete her hike, despite the fact that, in terms of hiking/backpacking expertise, she was a complete novice (so much so that I sometimes felt that one could create an effective "what-not-to-do-on-a-thru-hike" checklist while reading this memoir).
This memoir goes beyond the trials & tribulations of thru-hiking the PCT...it also addresses the healing nature of wilderness exertion & solitude. The author needed to come to grips with her life while grieving her mother's death and the subsequent disintegration of her family. It was a difficult road for Cheryl, filled with sexual promiscuity & drug use...until she found herself on the PCT, re-focusing her energy on the trail ahead.
This was indeed a quick read, although I still found myself skimming over some of the repetitive details as well as some of the forays into her own past. I personally feel that Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, detailing his thru-hiking experience on the Appalachian Trail provided a more thorough, less emotional perspective on such a hike. However, as a nature-loving geocacher who has day-hiked on both the AT & the Florida Trail, I enjoyed having my eyes opened to the PCT, a trail system about which I know little, via this memoir.
Nice review of Wild, I had considered picking this one up too because I loved A Walk in the Woods. Must go put myself on the hold list at the library.
I think I will also pick up The Name of the Wind. My husband is reading it and quite in love with it, which is a miracle because does not often love books.
#87 - Marie - Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail is good if you want a real honest life account intermingled with some trail hiking adventures. Cheryl Strayed definitely holds back nothing.
I also first discovered Name of the Wind from my husband, who loved Rothfuss' work.
#86: I am also a fan of Bryson's book, A Walk in the Woods. I will give the Strayed book a try. Thanks for the review, Mimi!
Book #46: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
One of my favorite literary quotes is Shakespeare's "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,/ But in ourselves." I've always thought of these as words to live by...but this book gives a new twist to this quote, showing how, at times, specifically when it comes to terminal illness, the fault indeed lies in our stars, or in the case of the likes of Hazel, Augustus & Isaac, our biological makeup.
To be honest, I really didn't know if I'd be able to give this book a high rating...heck, I didn't even think I'd be able to finish it at first as I generally have a hard time reading about terminally ill patients, let alone cancer-ridden teenagers. However, 16-year-old protagonist Hazel agrees that "Cancer Books Suck!" and as a result this became so much more than a cancer story. Instead it's a tale about teenagers who, while dealing with their illness, experience a beautiful star-crossed love affair and subsequently "live" to a greater extent with their limited mortality than many healthy adults ever live. Hazel Grace is a quietly heroic character, who faces her life and relationships intelligently & loyally...and while the obvious (no spoilers) brought me to mournful tears, her ultimate interaction with her parents added those truly bittersweet tears to the emotional mix.
Since I read this book for my Book Club, I came across some great reviews/discussion questions to share with my club...so I will also share them here:
'The Fault In Our Stars': Love In A Time Of Cancer
Lit Lovers: Fault in Our Stars (Green) - Discussion Questions
Reading Chapter One of The Fault in Our Stars
Chapter TWO of The Fault in Our Stars
The Topic of Cancer By LEV GROSSMAN
Book #47: The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye
A fascinating combination of historical fiction about gritty mid-nineteen century NYC and crime thriller!
Based in the Big Apple at the inception of the NYPD, this is the story of bartender-turned Copper Star-turned the first NYPD detective Timothy Wilde and his pursuit of a mass murderer of children. This is actually a pretty complex crime thriller, with a realistic portrayal of the issues surrounding the formation of law enforcement in New York at a time when Americans still feared the development of a standing army along with the influx of Irish Catholic immigrants. Once I got past the linguistic-style of the prose (especially "Flash"), which appropriately reflected the speaking style of the day, I enjoyed the story and I like the way it leaves it open for another Timothy Wilde adventure.
I recently read A Fault in our Stars. I was reluctant to get started, "Ah geez, YA about cancer. How depressing." It ended up being the best book I've read so far this year. It's so heartfelt and real.
Book #48: Furies of Calderon (Codex Alera, #1) by Jim Butcher
I've read the first two books in the Dresden Files series and really love the private investigator/wizard Harry Dresden created by Jim Butcher so I decided to jump right into his 6-book fantasy series, Codex Alera. I definitely was not disappointed!
The world created by Mr. Butcher differs from other fantasy worlds I've encountered in its focus on a magical version of the Ancient Roman Empire. Centurions and leaders titled "Gaius" exist side-by-side with water witches and furies of the earth and skies. Like the alternative Chicago in the Dresden Files, Alera is so well-written that I really found myself clearly visualizing both the setting and the plot as I proceeded through Tavi's tale.
Which brings me to Tavi...what a great character! A seemingly powerless 15-year-old boy in a world where magic abounds and everyone else has special powers...a young man who has to use his intelligence and individuality to survive heroically...I'm looking forward to reading more about him as well as characters such as Amara, Katai, Bernard, Fidelius, etc.
Book #49: Map of Time by Felix J. Palma
This is a hard review to write due to the complexity of this novel. The writing itself was a bit cumbersome at times, possibly due to the English translation of the story. However, in spite of that, I found myself drawn into each of the three inter-woven stories as I got used to the author's style.
I originally chose this particular book to read because I thought I would enjoy the whole historical fantasy/time travel motif that seemed to represent the novel. The Time Travel theme was a big draw for me as this topic always fascinates me...however, while I am extremely familiar with the Doctor-Who-Wibbly-Wobbly-Timey-Wimey/Terminator/Back-to-the-Future constructs of time travel, this tale was more about how the concept of time travel, as invented by H.G. Wells in The Time Machine, ignited the imagination of those living in the late 19th century. Interesting and unique...but I guess I am in the same league as those "fans of serious science fiction" mentioned in the Washington Post Book Review (June 28, 2011) who "may find the story too metafictional. (Others may object that it’s clogged with too many adjectives.)"
Here are some good links further discussing this book, as well as some book discussion topics:
Washington Post Book Review: The Map of Time
“The Map of Time” by Félix J. Palma (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)
Map of Time (Palma) - Discussion Questions
#94: I borrowed The Map of Time from my daughter but have not yet gotten around to reading it. One of these days I will, but probably not time soon. Thanks for the links. I will check them out!
Some interesting reviews up there :) I still have both series of Jim Butcher on my TBR pile.
Book #50: Academ's Fury (Codex Alera, #1) by Jim Butcher
I was disappointed by the very predictable second book in this series, which came ss a surprise to me since I really liked Book One. The beginning in which we find Tavi at the Academy under the tutelege of the First Lord was way too reminiscent of Harry Potter to me...references it to creatures such as direwolves a little to close to Song of Ice and Fire....and even the geographical & spiritual descriptions of the Realm and its inhabitants were too closely reiated to GRRM's writing. I realize that there are many similarities amongst epic fantasies and that's understandable....but these similarities. got too close for comfort to me.
At this point, I'm going to go back to reading Butcher's Dresden Files, in which Jim Butcher's writing talent really shines, in my opinion. Characters such as Harry Dresden are much more 3-dimensional than Tavi and his contemporaries and there is humor intermingled into those magical crime thrillers.
Book #51: The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
I have read many slave narratives and pieces of fiction from this era and I even took a course called "Literature of American Slavery", and while I've read ones written from the perspective of both slave and slave owner's wife, this is the first time I have read one from the point of view of a white indentured servant from Ireland. This created a uniquely powerful portrayal of an era combined with high drama surrounding slavery, the tragic results of child abuse, rape and incest and even commentary about the treatment of the mentally ill during the mid-19th century. I particularly enjoyed the way Ms. Grissom alternated between Lavinia's and Belle's first-person narrative, showing the same world from the perspective of a white indentured servant and an African-American slave...highly powerful and addictive reading!
Hi Mimi, I have The Kitchen House on my TBR shelves, looks like I can look forward to a good read when I get to it.
Book #52: The Angel's Kiss - A Melody Malone Story by Melody Malone (a Doctor Who story)
My husband surprised me this morning by having this delivered directly to my Kindle and it only took one sitting to read the whole story. At first I thought I would be reading a retelling of the final story of Amy and Rory, but I was pleasantly surprised that this was a unique Melody Malone detective tale, with a Weeping Angel lurking behind the scenes. A fun, quick read told in River Song's voice (which I could hear in my head the whole time) for Whovians!
Book #53: Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
Although there were times when the narrative diverted from the main story more than I would have liked, and sometimes the description was somewhat belabored, overall I really enjoyed reading this tale, which not only provided a powerful commentary on the tragic results of ignorance about & fear of contagious disease, but is also full of Hawaiian history and folklore.
Central to this story is Rachel, a young Hawaiian girl diagnosed with leprosy and subsequently exiled to the leper colony on Molokai. We join Rachel on her life journey as she experiences the pain of illness, alienation from her family, friendships, love, loss and ultimate redemption, while, at the same time providing a glimpse of the treatment of those afflicted from the perspective of the caregivers on the island as well. The sharp contrasts between the beauty of the natural landscape and what was then an incurable & disfiguring disease that the author made throughout the narrative are extremely powerful and I really enjoyed the way the changes in technology (from the phonograph and camera, to motion pictures,the automobile and airplane), as seen through the eyes of the residents of Molokai, was incorporated into the story.
Educational, highly readable, disturbing, bittersweet and inspirational - all qualities of a great piece of historical fiction!
Book #54: The Children's Hour by Lillian Helman
This is a powerful play that really confirms to me that more things change, the more things stay the same! As a result of Banned Books Weeks, I was reviewing the lists of banned/censored books/plays/poems and Lillian Helman's "The Children's Hour" caught my attention. The original play was written in 1934 and subsequently banned in Boston, Chicago and London for "hints of homosexuality." It's the story of how two women, best friends since childhood, have established a lovely and successful boarding school for girls. One of the girls, a little troublemaker, decides to cause problems for the women when she lies to her grandmother about the women's relationship. This child's lie has far-reaching consequences for both women, and in some ways reminds me of the devastating lies told by the young girls in Arthur Miller's The Crucible. The latter of course dealt with witchcraft, while this play deals with lesbianism, but both address the negative powers of lies & gossip, and even more so, the results of prejudice and intolerance towards those who are different.
The 1961 movie, starring Audrey Hepburn and Shirley McClain, was also controversal due to these issues addressed. However, the story was powerfully portrayed and Katherine Hepburn & Shirley McClain were brilliant! You can watch it on YouTube at The Children's Hour, Full Film, 1961.
Book #55: The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin
After reading so many fantasies in which the worlds created are based on medieval Europe and post-apocalyptic America, I really enjoyed exploring a world influenced by Ancient Egyptian and Nubian civilizations and folklore!
This is Book One of the Dreamblood duology and N.K. Jemisen does a beautiful job creating political intrigue in a world where the Dreaming Moon is head-goddess-in-charge and ultimate powers lay within dreams. Inspired by ancient mythology, Jungian psychology and an incredible imagination, the author writes an engrossing tale that engulfed me from beginning to end.
Other pluses – a helpful glossary at the end, a humorous & informative author interview (she interviewed herself :))…and just the fact that it is a duology, not a multi-book saga is a nice change of pace too ;) …
I’m going to jump right into "Book 2 – The Shadowed Sun."
Book #56: Backwoods Genius by Julia Scully
There are airplane books...and now there are exercise bike/elliptical books. Kindle Singles fit the latter category perfectly, and this short memoir is a perfect example.
This is really three tales in one:
1 - The story of Mike Disfarmer, one of those photographers whose photographs of real people gained fame post-mortem;
2 - The story of the persistent individual who did not give up on Mike Disfarmer and was responsible for promoting his photography; and
3 - The story of those residents of Heber Springs, Arkansas who were photographed by Mike Disfarmer during the era leading up to and including World War II.
I enjoyed all three of these aspects of this memoir, although I really would have liked to see a few more of the photographs discussed included throughout the book. They are incredibly soul-searching images of the Ozark "Everyman" (and "Everywoman").
Book #57: Gutenberg the Geek by Jeff Jarvis
A very interesting Kindle Single taking a look at the inventor of the printing press from a modern entrepreneur perspective! As we read this work, we see Gutenberg as a 16th-century techno-genius. comparable to the likes of Steve Jobs & Bill Gates, who was ultimately responsible for the widespread dissemination of the written word.
Book #58: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
With the aging of the population as a whole, I’ve definitely seen a surge of literature with over-60 protagonists, particularly male protagonists. What’s interesting to me is how each of these tales look at a different aspect of the aging process. Take, for instance, the Pixar flik,“Up” – this a compassionate & funny one for the whole family with its focus on Carl Fredricksen’s fantastical journey after the death of his wife that endowed him with the ability to not only carry on with his life, but to start a new and do things he hasnever done before. Another one is “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand”, written by Helen Simonson, a courageous romance in which Major Pettigrew allows his relationship with an Afghani storekeeper to flourish despite the closed-mindedness of his hometown. Then there is Harold Fry’s pilgrimage, which is both a physical and emotional odyssey.
The writing itself was excellent, but there were times when I found myself skimming through the descriptions of the landscape…I know the journey was essential to the plot since it was via Harold’s travels that enabled his personal growth, but at times it plodded along.
As far as the plot goes, at first I thought that this was going to be a light-hearted tale, filled with humorous anecdotes about Harold’s walking journey …a late-mid-life crisis, so to speak. While there are some such anecdotes (and I laughed out loud when I read about the man in the gorilla suit), the story is really an inner-journey necessary to heal Harold’s serious inner wounds that have accumulated since his childhood. As these inner wounds were revealed, the story really became quite sad. At the end I felt ambiguous about Harold’s future, but I did feel optimistic that things could only go uphill from here, with a hope that he might find happiness, or at least contentment, in his senior years.
Book #59: The Shadowed Sun: Dreamblood: Book 2 by N.K. Jemisin
An absolutely amazing duology, set in an African/Egyptian-style otherworld setting!
My Review for Book 1 - The Killing Moon -
After reading so many fantasies in which the worlds created are based on medieval Europe and post-apocalyptic America, I really enjoyed exploring a world influenced by Ancient Egyptian and Nubian civilizations and folklore!
This is Book One of the Dreamblood duology and N.K. Jemisen does a beautiful job creating political intrigue in a world where the Dreaming Moon is head-goddess-in-charge and ultimate powers lay within dreams. Inspired by ancient mythology, Jungian psychology and an incredible imagination, the author writes an engrossing tale that engulfed me from beginning to end.
Other pluses – a helpful glossary at the end, a humorous & informative author interview (she interviewed herself :))…and just the fact that it is a duology, not a multi-book saga is a nice change of pace too ;) …
...and now, Book Two - The Shadowed Sun -
Spectacular conclusion! This story takes place 15 years after Book One ends and Jemisin once again weaves magic with her words while showing how a political system evolves (devolves?) over this period time. There are troubles in Gujaareh, and the land is suffering from a dreaming plague. So the big question, to be answered by the Sharers, the Gatherers and an exiled Prince, becomes "What is causing this plague and how can it be stopped?" "Who can heal the Gujaareh?" "Who can bring peace to the land?" As these issues are explored, we become reacquainted with some of the Gatherers who were so important in Book One, and we are introduced to Sharer-Apprentice Hanani and the grown up Wanahomen, who become central to the story, and I really found myself drawn into their tale.
I want to say so much more, but I don't want to spoil this for others. Highly Recommended!
(...and I would also nominate both these books for most incredibly beautiful cover art...amongst other awards of course ;)- )
Book #60: The Stand by Stephen King
WARNING: READING THIS BOOK MAY INCREASE YOUR LEVELS OF HYPOCHONDRIA! IF YOU GET THE SNIFFLES WHILE READING THIS, DO NOT ASSUME YOU HAVE THE SUPERFLU! :P
But seriously, this has been on my to-read list for a long time, but the length of the 1988 updated version of "The Stand" has been a deterrent ...but after my husband kept telling me how much I would appreciate this book, especially after "meeting" Randall Flagg in the Dark Tower series, I decided to finally conquer this 1472-page Stephen King masterpiece. Despite the fact that at times I felt that this version is a bit TOO extended with unnecessary description, I found myself engrossed in this brilliant piece of post-apocalyptic fiction peppered with unlikely heroes as well as frightening villains.
This time "the end of the world as we know it", orchestrated by none other than the "Man in Black", results as incurable contagion infects the population, leading to widespread death and destruction. This is one of Stephen King's scariest stories that I have read so far because the "monsters" are real. With biological warfare a genuine possibility and new strains of disease constantly evolving, the idea of an incurable plague wiping out an entire population really doesn't seem so far-fetched. ...and then there's human nature itself...in "The Stand", King makes some interesting speculations about how a post-apocalyptic society would regroup and rebuild after such a devastating catastrophe.
Whether you read it in 1975, in 1988 or in 2012, "The Stand" will make you stop and think about whether or not something like this could really happen.
Book #61: Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines
I've always believed that books are magical, with their metaphorical ability to transcend space, time and reality. Well, Jim C. Hines really takes this literally in the first book of this series, in which stories actually contain magical powers that can be harnessed via libriomancy.
Isaac Vainio reminds me of a Harry-Dresden-Wannabe in the World of Libriomancy. Except instead of Bob the Skull, he has Lena the Dryad, who really adds a whole other dimension to the term "fantasy" when it comes to her role in this story! ;) Overall, I found the story, which seemed to read like a YA book in my opinion, cute and kind of entertaining, even if some of the action got a bit outrageous (i.e. - automatons on the moon, and such!) .
Book/Short Story #62: Eyes Do More Than See by Isaac Asimov
I came across this story while browsing science fiction nebula award winners and,as an Asimov fan, I was instantly interested when I saw that this won the award in 1966.
This story takes place hundreds of billions of years in the future when all physical life forms have evolved into non-physical, energy forms. Two of these entities are Ames and Brock and they are bored of the ongoing creative attempts to find new ways to manipulate energy, so they decide to re-create mass from energy. As they do this, Brock's memories of her physical life are ignited and the results are quite powerful.
A fast read, yet a thought-provoking piece of science fiction that is equally as inspiring today as it was in 1966!
Book/Short Story #63: Where Virtue Lives by Saladin Ahmed
Since each of the stories in Saladin Ahmed's Engraved on the Eye anthology is quite different, I've decided to review each one separately, as I read them.
Where Virtue Lives is the first story in the anthology, and appropriately so since it is a prequel to Ahmed's novel Throne of the Crescent Moon (Book #1). Once again we are immersed into the Arabian-Nights-esque world of the very human yet very powerful Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, “the last real ghul hunter in the great city of Dhamsawaat" and his holier-than-thou-dervish-apprentice (who also happens to be an incredibly skilled swordsman)Raseed bas Raseed. In this particular tale, the Doctor is fighting a wife-abducting ghul, although this is just as much about how Raseed and Adoulla meet and begin their mentor-apprentice relationship. ...and how Raseed indeed does learn that virtue can be found in the strangest places!
Book #64: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
I have read many excellent Holocaust books, the best of which include The Diary of Anne Frank, Stones from the River (Ursula Hegi), Second Hand Smoke (Thane Rosenbaum), Night (Elie Wiesel)& Sarah's Key (Tatiana de Rosnay) amongst others...and now The Book Thief absolutely goes on this list!
The thing I found most refreshing about this book was the change of perspective. Narrated by Death, who is absolutely confounded by humanity, we learn about life in Nazi Germany from the perspective of young Leisel Meminger. Usually the main character of the books I read is from the point of view of a German Jew (the only one of the above books that I mentioned in which this wasn't the case was Stones from the River, in which the main character, Trudi Montag, was born with dwarfism). Leisel is not Jewish, but a daughter of a Communist mother who ends up leaving her with foster parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann for her own protection. Through Leisel's eyes, we see the terror of Hitler's reign, the cruelty of those who ignored the inhumanity, and the heroism of those who were brave enough to rebel against the barbarism. A sad and moving that was powerful enough to inspire Death himself!
Two more things:
1- This book also goes on my list for "best-final-line-of-a-book-ever" - the other two I can think of (for very different reasons, of course)are Lord of the Rings and The Dark Tower series...but I won't give those last lines away either... ;)
2- You know your totally engrossed and vested in a book when your sitting in Subway eating lunch, finishing up a book...and sobbing! Kind of embarrassing...but in this case, well worth the tears!
Book #65: The Racketeer by John Grisham
Reading Grisham brings back memories of riding the Long Island Railroad to work in NYC back in the early 1990s...that's when I first found myself reading The Firm and particularly appreciating it as I was working as a paralegal at a high profile Wall Street law firm at the time. I probably read 3 or 4 of his other early books during that commute as well. Ahhh...memories! ;)
In any case, its been quite a while since my last Grisham read (probably Rainmaker was my last one), so I figured I was due for another one. ...And with the exception of The Firm and maybe Pelican Brief, The Racketeer definitely goes to the top of the list.
The first half of the book was good...once again we get a Grisham-esque view of the legal system, this time from the perspective of a white collar convict within the prison system. However, the plot really thickens in the second half of the book as we really get to know what Malcom Bannister is all about....innocent victim, guilty- as-charged, star witness or anti-hero? An exciting, fast read with edge-of-your-seat suspenseful action and vivid description...could make a great movie if done correctly!
Book/Short Story #66: "I Like Guys", a short story from Naked by David Sedaris
This short story caught my attention when I was reviewing ala.org's list of Banned and Challenged Books in 2009-2010, compiled by Robert P. Doyle (http://www.ala.org/advocacy/sites/ala.org.advocacy/files/content/ banned/bannedbooksweek/ideasandresources/free_downloads/2010banned.pdf). According to this list, the story was "pulled from a Litchfield, N.H. Campbell High School elective course classroom (2009) after parents voiced their concerns about a short-stories unit called “Love/Gender/Family Unit” that dealt with subject matters including abortion, cannibalism, homosexuality, and drug use. The parents said the stories promoted bad behavior and a “political agenda” and they shouldn’t be incorporated into classroom teachings. The Campbell High School English curriculum adviser said the short story was selected not only for its tone and style, but also its message
of respect and acceptance, not for advocating homosexuality. The English curriculum adviser eventually resigned."
I think this is an important short story about a young boy coming of age in an era when homosexuality was still considered a curable deviation. Autobiographical in nature, young David has been taught to deny his sexual orientation...until the sexual awakening he experiences during summer camp. I agree with the Campbell High School English curriculum adviser...this is so much more than a story about homosexuality and instead of promoting "bad behavior," it promotes tolerance and understanding in all areas of life.
Book #67: Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence
This has always been one of my favorite plays so I decided to revisit it after many years. Based on the Scopes Monkey Trial, this is the story of a biology tea her in a Southern town who is arrested for teaching evolution to his students. The drama really revolves around the trial and its impact on the town and its citizens. Every time I either read the play or see the movie, starring the late great Spencer Tracy as defense attorney Henry Drummond, I can't help thinking how some things never change. An amazing dramatization about a highly controversial issue!
Book #68: Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz
I read one or two Koontz books a number of years ago, and I remember really liking them. So I really don't know what took me so long to pick up another one of his tales...in any case, I'm glad Odd Thomas was the one I read first!
OK, so it's really no spoiler to say that like the boy in "The Sixth Sense", Odd Thomas sees dead people. The main difference is that he does something about it...something besides talking to them in many cases. I would best define this novel as a paranormal crime thriller, starring a damaged, sad, sweet, unintentionally funny and powerful short-order fry cook who aspires to possibly work in the tire business. Love the way Koontz weaves Odd's life story into the exciting and fast-moving plot.
I definitely plan to continue with the series.
Book #69: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
5 stars for a beautiful tale of the consequences of greed and every person's chance for redemption. I have known this story forever and seem so many incredible cinematic adaptations, from the truly dramatic to musical versions, the Muppets, Mr. Magoo, Doctor Who and many more....so I figured that it was time to sit down and read it.
That being said, 2 stars for Dickens writing style. I've always enjoyed his stories more than his paid-by-the-word prose, but I hoped it would be better in this short literary piece. For me, if was only better because I know the story so well that I knew when it was ok to skim.
So I guess that averages to a 3 rating...Still an important classic with an important message for those of all beliefs.
Book #70: Fall of Giants by Ken Follett
From the coal mines of Cardiff to the political, economic and social turmoil in Germany and Russia, to Woodrow Wilson’s America, this is an awesome epic stretching from 1911 to 1924 and incorporating such events as World War I, the Russian Revolution, the Women Suffragist Movement and American Prohibition. Within this complex and fascinating historical era, we meet many incredible character – heroic, anti-heroic, criminal, lecherous, self-serving, loving…and incredibly human. Follett does a spectacular job creating these characters whose destinies are inextricably linked, in one way or another. Loved it!
Book/Story #71: Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway
According to ala.org, this story was pulled from a Litchfield, N.H. Campbell High School elective course classroom (2009) after parentsvoiced their concerns about a short-stories unit called “Love/Gender/Family Unit” that dealt with subject matters including abortion, cannibalism, homosexuality, and drug use. The parents said the stories promoted bad behavior and a “politicalagenda” and they shouldn’t be incorporated into classroom teachings. The Campbell High School English curriculum adviser eventually resigned. Source: Sept. 2009, p. 154.
When I first read this story, I was a little confused about the symbolism in this story, but once I realized that Hemingway was addressing the abortion issue, the story became clear to me. Hemingway has an extremely unique style and I keep thinking how he creatively expresses the mixed feeling a couple might have about such an emotionally-charged subject as abortion. Very interesting read!
Book/Story #72: Survivor Type by Stephen King
I heard about this story as I was perusing ala.org's list of Books Challenged or Banned in 2009-2010. According to ALA, "this story was pulled from a Litchfield, N.H. Campbell High School elective course classroom (2009) after parents voiced their concerns about a short-stories unit called 'Love/Gender/Family Unit' that dealt with subject matters including abortion, cannibalism, homosexuality, and drug use. The parents said the stories promoted bad behavior and a 'political agenda' and they shouldn’t be incorporated into classroom teachings. The Campbell High School English curriculum adviser eventually resigned."
Here we have a fictional diary written by a surgeon who has been stranded on a desert island while smuggling heroin on a cruise ship traveling between the USA and Thailand. He is alone and starving...but since he sees himself as a "Survivor Type" he knows he must use all his resources to survive, even if it means amputation, drug use and self-cannibalism. Stephen King uses the first person perspective to delve into the horrifying question, "Just how far would one go to survive!"
Book/Poem #73: I Sing the Body Electric by Walt Whitman
I’m not sure what made me think of Walt Whitman this morning, but I found myself reading the poem “I Sing the Body Electric” (http://www.bartleby.com/142/19.html) for some reason. Included in one of my favorite poetry collections –Leaves of Grass – this is an absolutely stunning poem exploring the Body’s link to the Soul and the way the Body brings humanity together. Whitman was amazingly progressive in both his attitudes toward women (“Be not ashamed women – your privilege encloses the rest, and is the exit of the rest./You are the gates of the body, and you are the gates of the soul.”) and his abolitionist sentiment (“Do you know so much yourself, that you call the slave or the dull-face ignorant?/
Do you suppose you have a right to a good sight, and he or she has no right to a sight?/
Do you think matter has cohered together from its diffuse float—and the soil is on the surface, and water runs, and vegetation sprouts,/
For you only, and not for him and her?”)...as is obvious in this excerpts!
Book #74:Winter of the World by Ken Follett
I love Ken Follett's writing! He incorporates history, politics, espionage, war and romance into a engrossing, well-paced story, even if at times some of the fictionalized scenarios seem overly convenient in terms of timing. His writing is straight-forward and his characters draw the reader into this very volatile period of world history....what once again amazes me most is Follett's ability to make connections amongst multi-generational characters who are spread throughout the world.
This book begins 10 years after Fall of Giants, with the "election" of Adolf Hitler in Germany. Seen from the perspective of the second generation of Williams', Peshkovs, Fitzherberts and Dewars, we experience the events leading up to, including and immediately following World War II in Britain, Germany, Russia and the USA. We feel the heartbreaking and terrifying aspects of war, while delving into the perceived threat of Communism, the horrors of the Nazi regime, racism, American attitudes towards homosexuality and the heroism of those who have the courage to stand up to tyranny. I am looking forward to the conclusion of this trilogy, and I already find myself speculating which characters will be central in telling that tale.
The third novel in the Century Trilogy, provisionally titled Edge of Eternity, will be published in late 2014...so in the meantime, I guess I'll just have to read Pillars of the Earth and World Without End. ;)
Book #75: Silver Blaze by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Was in the mood for a bit of Sherlock Holmes so I turned to the first story in the collection Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes - Silver Blaze. The case that Sherlock & Watson need to crack revolve around a missing prize winning race horse and a dead trainer...and the curious incident of the dog in the night time. Once again, Sherlock Holmes, in his likeably obnoxious & condescending way, figures it all out and solves the mystery.
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