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Enraptured's Books for 2010

75 Books Challenge for 2010

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1Enraptured
Edited: Dec 29, 2009, 10:34am Top

Hi! I participated in the 50 Book Challenge group in 2007 and 2008; this year I'm migrating over here. I expect to read at least 200 books this year, actually; I'm a fast reader, and get a lot of reading done while I exercise.

I have a wide variety of specific tastes in books :P You can read my introduction here.

My reading goals for the year:
-Do more reading and less aimless internet browsing
-Get at least two books off my TBR pile - finished, set aside in disgust after ten pages, posted on PaperBackSwap, whatever - for every book I buy (I'm not sure whether I'll stick to this one, but I'll see how it works)

My book-rating system:
5 stars: I adored this book. Something about it was exceptional - it was very well-written, or fit my interests exactly, or I couldn't put it down.
4 stars: A solidly good book. It met my expectations, and I'm glad I read it.
3 stars: Meh. It wasn't bad, exactly, but I'm not sure I liked it that much either. I wouldn't want to read it again.
2 stars: I didn't like it.
1 star: This book was awful. Something about it really bothered me, whether it was the quality of writing, the plot, or something else.
no rating/unrateable: I have no way to rate this book. I read it for writing research and found it useful but didn't enjoy reading it, or it's a sacred text, or it wasn't a bad book but something about it really offended me.

A list of everything I've read so far in 2010 can be found here.

2drneutron
Dec 29, 2009, 11:59am Top

Welcome! Last year one of our folks put together a Halloween reading list with some books that might have been up your alley. I'm pretty sure we'll be doing another list this year, so please join us!

3Deskdude
Dec 29, 2009, 12:49pm Top

Hi! - I'm curious as to how you get a lot of reading done while exercising because I'd like to be doing both myself this year. Is it simply a matter of listening to audiobooks, or can you actually read while on a treadmill or stationary bike as I've seen some do? I haven't tried it yet, but it just seems that holding a book and reading while walking or pedaling would just be too challenging and headache-prone. lol I won't knock it until I try it, but do you have any tips?

4jasmyn9
Dec 29, 2009, 1:41pm Top

I have read on a treadmill...it takes some practice to get used to the bouncing, but once you get the hang of it, it really isn't too bad.

5Enraptured
Dec 29, 2009, 4:18pm Top

I read while I'm on the treadmill and on my exercise bike... the treadmill can be tricky, but like jasmyn9 said, you do get used to it. I've found that once I get into a good rhythm it actually improves my exercise, because when I'm exercising without a book I get bored, and when I get bored I get lazy. If I get absorbed in my book, I sometimes go on autopilot and end up exercising longer than I meant to :) I know it slows some people down, though, so it really depends on what works best for you.

6eddiemerkel
Dec 29, 2009, 4:38pm Top

Well since I need to do more of both, read AND exercise, I am willing to give it a go :)

7alcottacre
Dec 30, 2009, 3:45am Top

Welcome to the group!

8meredithfl
Dec 30, 2009, 4:48pm Top

I love the goals that you've set for yourself this year! Your second one is pretty similar to my "rule" for the year, and I should probably add your first one too! Good luck on them!!

9Enraptured
Jan 1, 2010, 9:54pm Top

First book of the year!

#1: ePistols at Dawn by Z.A. Maxfield
5 stars
Why I chose it: I read a glowing review of it on dearauthor.com (I don't visit there too often, since they focus on romances and that isn't a genre I read very much of, but I occasionally stop by to read their posts about ebooks and publishing)
It's obvious the author had a great time writing this book. The premise goes like this: Kelly wrote a gay coming-of-age novel called Doorways almost twenty years ago that is practically sacred to a lot of gay men, including Jae. Jae reads an e-published satire of Doorways, and it makes him furious - he's sure it's written by a female author pretending to be a man, because no gay man would ever mess with Doorways. So he poses as a woman online in order to expose the author of the satire as a fraud. But the author of the satire is, of course, the original author of Doorways (and that's not a spoiler; we know it from the beginning). So this is an e-published novel about gay men written by a woman, about an e-published novel about gay men written by a man that somebody thinks is written by a woman posing as a man. Very twisty :) I don't normally read many romances, but I'll pick one up if it looks interesting and original, and I'm glad I picked this one up. The fun twisty plot was the main draw for me, but I also really liked the two main characters, especially Kelly.

10Enraptured
Jan 2, 2010, 7:09pm Top

#2: The Unanswered Question by Dusk Peterson (offsite link)
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: I read the other two books in the series back in November
This isn't technically long enough to be a novel; it's a novella, published online. But I'm counting it anyway, since I'm not trying for a specific number of books, just trying to keep track of what I read. This is a prequel to Rebirth and Transformation, the first two books in the Eternal Dungeon series. It's an odd series - it's set in a fantasy world with no magic, influenced by Victorian culture, about torturers who have the best interests of their prisoners at heart... and it's a gay romance. My favorite aspect of the series is Layle's inner conflict, and how it intertwines with his relationship with Elsdon (so many romances in books follow a well-worn path and are easy to predict, but this relationship is nothing like anything I've seen before, which is a lot of why I love these books so much). Elsdon isn't in this book, since it's a prequel, but this story does a great job of showing how Layle became so important to the Eternal Dungeon, and of giving more insight into his character. Something interesting I noticed: The plot in this book was very similar to something that happened in An Exchange of Hostages by Susan R. Matthews. (I won't give it away, because it would be a major spoiler for this entire story.) Maybe the author read that book years ago; on the other hand, it could also have been a complete coincidence. Both options seem equally possible.

11alcottacre
Jan 3, 2010, 2:25am Top

You have had a great start to your reading year! Congratulations.

12Enraptured
Jan 3, 2010, 11:08am Top

#3: Angel: After the Fall: Volume One
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: I got it as a Christmas gift; I've been meaning to pick it up for a long time, since I'm a huge fan of Angel

I feel kind of traitorous not giving a high rating to something Joss Whedon is involved with, but I have mixed feelings about this comic. On the one hand, it was good to see another story with the characters from Angel, and to find out what happened after the battle at the end of Season 5. On the other hand, I'm having issues with the plausibility of Los Angeles being sucked into hell (does the rest of the world not notice this?), and the main characters seem to have split apart from each other in an uncharacteristic way. The story was also kind of hard to follow, especially since so much seems to have changed between the end of the show and the beginning of the comics. And the tone just doesn't seem quite right; it doesn't quite match the tone of the show. It wasn't awful by any means, but I wanted to like it more than I did.

13Enraptured
Jan 5, 2010, 10:40am Top

#4: Death Note Vol. 2 by Tsugumi Ohba (writer) and Takeshi Obata (artist)
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I loved the anime

I don't have much to say about this one - not because I didn't like it (I liked it a lot, actually), but because I've seen this story before. The first volume of the manga was identical to the anime, right down to the dialogue, and so was this volume. It's a good story, so I'm enjoying going through it again, but I'm looking forward to when the manga starts deviating from the anime. I've heard the anime actually simplified the story, and considering how complex the story is in the anime, I'm curious to see what the original version is like.

14Enraptured
Edited: Jan 7, 2010, 2:15pm Top

#5: Shadow Puppets by Orson Scott Card
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I've been catching up on the new Ender books

The new Ender books aren't as good as the three original sequels, of course - that would be really difficult - but I'm still enjoying them a lot. This was another good installment; it also shows what a good writer Card is that I enjoyed this book and didn't get bored with it even though so much of it revolves around military strategy, a subject I don't exactly find thrilling. I did have two problems with this book, though. First, the fact that Peter brought Achilles out of China (not a spoiler, since it happens at the beginning of the book) - I would have thought he'd be too smart for that, and also too afraid of the threat to his own power. Second, the Peter in these books is not the Peter from Ender's Game. I suppose he's grown and changed; to a certain extent, that's plausible. But this Peter shows very little evidence of the original Peter's sociopathic tendencies. Although you could make the case that Peter appeared that way in Ender's Game because that's the way Ender saw him, even if it wasn't necessarily who he was. I seem to remember seeing a few passages from his and/or Valentine's perspective(s) that corroborated Ender's view of him, though.

15Enraptured
Jan 8, 2010, 9:48pm Top

#6: The Stalin Epigram by Robert Littell
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: It was recommended to me on Amazon when I looked up a sequel to a book I really enjoyed, and it looked intriguing

This book is apparently based on the true story of the poet Osip Mandelstam, who was arrested for writing a satirical poem about Stalin. At first I thought I wasn't going to like it, because it's written in a more literary style than I tend to like, but soon i was absorbed in the story. I have mixed feelings about the book, though. The first two-thirds of the book was really good. Not only were the characters vividly portrayed, so was the dystopian atmosphere of the Soviet Union, in all its dark absurdity. But in the last third of the book, the story seemed to sort of trail off into nothing. It's a tragic story, both in reality and in the book; that's not the part that bothers me, though. I don't need my stories to be happy. But something about the last third of the book felt... off. It felt almost like a long epilogue. It's still a good book, though, and I'd recommend it.

16Enraptured
Jan 8, 2010, 9:54pm Top

#7: Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: I needed to read something light and fluffy after finishing The Stalin Epigram

I love amnesia stories, and this was an intriguing one. The main reason I kept reading was because I wanted to know how Lexi's life - and Lexi herself - had changed so drastically in the three years she didn't remember. But as for Lexi herself... she didn't bother me or anything, but I really couldn't relate to her. Reading this type of book is like being back in school listening to other girls talk - it's not that I object to their existence (the girls' or the books'), but for the life of me I can't understand what's so special about having a certain type of handbag or pair of shoes. It's kind of like reading science fiction, only without the cool worldbuilding. That said, it was a fun story, and made me laugh - and like I said, I love amnesia stories.

17duskpeterson
Edited: Jan 9, 2010, 8:24am Top

Regarding The Unanswered Question:

"The plot in this book was very similar to something that happened in An Exchange of Hostages by Susan R. Matthews."

I read "An Exchange of Hostages" after I wrote "Rebirth" and "Transformation," but before I wrote "The Unanswered Question." If there's a plot coincidence between "The Unanswered Question" and "An Exchange of Hostages," I totally blame it on my Muse, who is a rabid magpie. Care to drop me an e-mail and tell me what the coincidence was?

Thanks for the nice review and for adding my novella to LibraryThing.

18Enraptured
Jan 10, 2010, 7:29pm Top

Care to drop me an e-mail and tell me what the coincidence was?

Email sent! :)

19Enraptured
Jan 10, 2010, 7:55pm Top

#8: The Soul of the Child by Michael Gurian
2 stars
Why I chose it: I got it off my wish list on Paperback Swap; I don't remember how I found it originally.

I had high hopes for this book, and at first it looked really good. I liked the idea of seeing children as spiritual beings and raising them from that perspective. But it soon turned into standard overdone alarmism dressed up in spiritual language. It talks about things like the dangers of junk food and video games and the media, and how much better things were when we lived in tribal societies; not only do I not believe in most of that, but they aren't new ideas. There also seems to be a heavy emphasis on blaming parents - from what this book says, if a child is put in daycare or raised by a single parent or even not held enough, it damages his soul, and could even turn him evil. (One of the cures presented for damaged souls is antidepressants - something I would have expected to see in the list of dangers instead, given the tone of the book.) Also, according to the book, all children want to spend a lot of time doing physical activities (the author should have talked to my mother; she could have told him how she had to practically drag me away from my books), obese children have souls that shine less brightly, and polytheism no longer exists in the world (and was the cause of many religious wars, which is why it's good that monotheism rescued us from it. Ummm...). I gave the book two stars instead of one because I do like the basic perspective it was written from - that of raising children with their spiritual nature in mind. I just didn't like where the author went with that idea.

20alcottacre
Jan 11, 2010, 3:16am Top

#19: There also seems to be a heavy emphasis on blaming parents - from what this book says, if a child is put in daycare or raised by a single parent or even not held enough, it damages his soul, and could even turn him evil.

I am so glad the author wraps everything up so neatly and simplistically - NOT.

21Enraptured
Edited: Jan 12, 2010, 9:37pm Top

#9: SuperFreakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: I enjoyed their first book

This book wasn't quite as good as Freakonomics - it seemed more unfocused, and the conclusions were, at times, more obvious (for example, the idea that prostitutes can't get away with charging as much money now because there's more sex available for free). But I'm still giving it five stars, because of how entertaining it was. I love the writing style, and I loved finding out things that make sense but that I never would have thought of. I found the section on possible solutions for global warming especially fascinating... and the section on hospital hygiene especially horrifying.

22Enraptured
Jan 12, 2010, 9:46pm Top

#10: Death Note Vol. 3 by Tsugumi Ohba (writer) and Takeshi Obata (artist)
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I've been reading the series

As with Vol. 2, I don't have much to say about this one, although I did enjoy it. I'm curious to see when the story will start to branch off from the anime... I'm really enjoying the story in its own right, though, even though I'm already familiar with it. I'm especially glad that we're seeing more of L now - he's definitely my favorite character.

23Enraptured
Jan 15, 2010, 9:05am Top

#11: The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout
Rating: 2 stars
Why I chose it: It caught my eye in the bookstore; it wasn't compelling enough for me to buy it, but I put it on my Paperback Swap wishlist

On the one hand, this is a intriguing (and kind of scary) look into the roots of conscience and what happens when somebody doesn't possess it. On the other hand, there were a bunch of things that bothered me about the book.
- I'm not sure I believe the author's assertions that 1 in 25 people is a sociopath - although I have to admit I do know somebody who fits her definition.
- Something about the writing style made me feel oogy, although I'm not sure why.
- The author laments the way people will turn a certain group into "its," thinking of them as something fundamentally different from normal people and possibly other than human, in order to make it easier to hate and kill those people... but that's the way she talks about those she deems sociopaths.
- While it's frightening to think that 4% of people might have no conscience, the idea that there's a certain number of Bad People responsible for most of the bad things in the world seems too simplistic to me.
- I'm sure instinct plays a significant part in recognizing a sociopath, but not everyone who seems "off" in some way is a sociopath, as the author seems to imply at times. For example, what about people on the autism spectrum? (Especially since the author, oddly, says that having obsessions is a symptom of sociopathy.) I'd hate for someone to read this book and then get to know an aspie and think, "He doesn't seem to understand how other people feel sometimes... he get obsessed with weird things... and he just feels off somehow. He must be a sociopath!"
- The chapter "Groundhog Day" left a bad taste in my mouth; it was supposed to be a vignette showing a group of caring people triumphing over a sociopath, but to me the neighbors seemed to be caring only for others within their group, while closing ranks against the outsider. I could easily imagine them reacting to a non-sociopath the same way, and so while I wasn't rooting for the sociopath, I also had a hard time rooting for them.
The book does have some fascinating ideas about conscience, morality, evil, and human nature, and if you're interested in exploring those ideas, it might be worth it to read the book - but as something to spark questions, rather than as a source of answers.

24mstrust
Jan 15, 2010, 1:30pm Top

It sounds so interesting, but I think if I read this book I would be looking out for sociopaths everywhere!

25Enraptured
Jan 18, 2010, 9:27pm Top

#12: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I was looking for something easy to read while I was sick

I really enjoyed this book. It seemed heavily influenced by Harry Potter and Star Wars, but didn't feel stale or like it was just a rehashing of old ideas. I'm intrigued by the Shadowhunters and the world the author created. I also like the subversion of the usual love triangle - at first I thought it was going to be the same romance subplot I've seen plenty of times before, where the main character ignores the love interest I like and chooses the one I don't find appealing (I can only guess that I just have weird taste in men)... but instead the author did something I didn't expect at all. I bought the second book in the trilogy, although I haven't started reading it yet.

26Enraptured
Jan 18, 2010, 9:57pm Top

#13: Soul by Tobsha Learner
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: It was one of the free ebooks Tor.com offered a while ago; I found it when I was organizing my ebooks

This book switches between two characters: one is a modern scientist dealing with a divorce while researching a genetic variation that enables people to kill without remorse, and one is a woman in the 1800s frustrated by her husband's lack of interest in her and her inability to find an outlet for her intelligence and curiosity. The characters were interesting, but both plots moved very slowly. I also felt more connected to Lavinia (the historical character) than to Julia (the modern character); more seemed to happen in her plot, and I got a better sense of who she was. It was more literary than the books I normally read, and I was left at the end with the feeling that there was some deeper meaning that I should have picked up on but didn't.

27alcottacre
Jan 19, 2010, 2:11am Top

#25: I enjoyed the entire trilogy. I hope you do too.

#26: I hope your next read is better for you.

28Enraptured
Jan 20, 2010, 9:54pm Top

#14: The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines
Rating: 2 stars
Why I chose it: I was proofreading it for Bookshare

I thought this looked like a fun lighthearted fantasy that I might enjoy, but I just didn't end up liking it that much. Part of it was probably that I was proofreading instead of just reading; also, I was reading on the computer screen, which I don't like doing. It also didn't help that I misunderstood the book description that I read, and thought it was about an author meeting the characters he's created. Whatever the reason, the story just didn't grab me. It wasn't a bad book, objectively speaking, but it wasn't something I would read again.

29alcottacre
Jan 21, 2010, 12:37am Top

Looks like you have had a couple of duds in a row. Here's hoping the next one is better!

30Enraptured
Jan 22, 2010, 2:10pm Top

#15: Baghdad Burning II by Riverbend
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I read the first one back in 2006 or 2007; this one has been sitting on my shelf since then

It was odd reading the sequel so much later than I read the original; when I read the first one, Iraq was much more on people's radar, and there was also more opposition to the war. Both this book and the one that came before it are unnerving to read - because of the dystopian elements in what is a true story, because unlike most memoirs in this genre (I've read quite a few of them) the villain is my own country, and because of the vivid descriptions of everyday life in an occupied country. This book spans a longer period of time than the previous one, because the posts are more spread out; that, as well as the tone of the writing, shows the author's discouragement and growing despair at the situation. I do wonder what happened to her; she left Iraq for Syria in 2007 and hasn't updated her blog since then.

31Enraptured
Edited: Jan 22, 2010, 2:17pm Top

#16: Ask and Tell: Self-Advocacy and Disclosure for People on the Autism Spectrum, edited by Stephen M. Shore (no touchstone)
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: This has been sitting on my shelf for years! I figured it was about time I read it

This is a collection of essays; the reason I rated it three stars is because I didn't find all of them useful. But some of them, individually, deserve 4 or 5 stars; Kassiane Sibley's essay, in particular, had great information for both autistic people and those who know them. Another of my favorites was Phil Schwartz's essay about autistic culture and the role of non-autistic allies. And the essays I didn't find useful weren't bad, either; they just weren't applicable to my own situation (the one about IEPs, for example). I'm glad I held on to this book.

32Enraptured
Jan 22, 2010, 2:33pm Top

#17: Rethinking Thin by Gina Kolata
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: I saw it recommended on Shapely Prose (which used to be a fat acceptance blog, though it's now mainly about feminism; there's a lot about their approach to feminism that I don't agree with, but I do tend to agree with their fat-acceptance posts)

I already knew some of what the book said about dieting and natural weight ranges, but it still had a lot of things I'd never seen before; I really enjoyed hearing about the history of weight-loss methods, from a nineteenth-century version of the Atkins diet to modern research on obese mice. The story of the dieters in the study the author was following was interesting too, though bittersweet as they went from initial excitement to frustration and discouragement. Some of the Amazon reviews of this book called the author's viewpoint hopeless, because she talks about how most people can't keep weight off permanently because their bodies will desperately try to return to a certain range, but I didn't find it hopeless at all. After all, Kolata doesn't just talk about how hard dieting is; she talks about how being fat probably isn't as dangerous as it's made out to be. I was already approaching the book from this standpoint, but this could be an eye-opening book for someone who's never encountered that perspective. In addition to being informative, it was a gripping book to read; I'm not sure why, exactly, but I just couldn't put it down.

33alcottacre
Jan 23, 2010, 1:01am Top

#30: I read the first Baghdad Burning book. I did not realize there was a second. I will have to look for it. Thanks for the mention, Zoe.

34Enraptured
Jan 23, 2010, 10:01am Top

#33: Glad I could help! :)

35Enraptured
Jan 25, 2010, 8:48pm Top

#18: Unwind by Neal Shusterman
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: I love dystopias, and I kept hearing good things about it

It took me a long time to start this book after I got it, because the worldbuilding was just so implausible. The premise is that after a civil war fought over abortion, the two sides come to an agreement: abortion is illegal, but parents can choose to "unwind" teenagers - send them off to be harvested for spare parts; the rationale is that they're still alive, just in a divided state. I see no way in which that could legitimately happen. I had this problem all through the book; every time some bit of worldbuilding appeared, it threw me out of the story, because it was all just as implausible and suspension of disbelief only goes so far. That said, however, I did keep reading the book even though I expected not to get very far into it, because I really liked the characters and the story kept me interested. The tone was too creepy for my taste at times, but for the most part, I liked the story enough to keep reading despite the implausible world.

36Enraptured
Jan 25, 2010, 8:54pm Top

#19: The Prophecy (Animorphs #34) by K.A. Applegate
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I was proofreading it for Bookshare

I loved the Animorphs books when I was younger. So when I saw this book in the list of books on Bookshare.org that needed proofreading, I took the opportunity to reacquaint myself with them. I wasn't sure how I would feel about this one, since I gave up on the series just a few books after this one (#38 was the last one I read), and this is a Cassie-POV book from after the female characters got weird. But I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. There's something great about going back to something you loved when you were a kid; these books are short and simple, but they're fun, and reading this one reminded me of all the things I used to love about the series. I've been thinking for a while about hunting down the books that I never read, and finding out how the series ends; after rereading this one I'm even more interested in doing that.

37alcottacre
Jan 26, 2010, 4:55am Top

#35: I put that one in the BlackHole last year. I may just take it right back out again!

38Enraptured
Jan 27, 2010, 2:06pm Top

#20: Farthing by Jo Walton
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: It was one of Tor.com's free ebooks from a couple of years ago

I wasn't sure whether I would like this or not. It's a mystery about British high society in the 1940s - not my kind of thing at all. But it's also an alternate history where England made peace with Hitler, and that's the kind of story that fascinates me. It took me a long time to get around to reading it, but I'm glad I finally did. I loved it. Lucy's voice came across very well, and I really liked her; it helps that I have a thing for misfit characters. The world was somewhat hard to adjust to - I'm not used to reading things set in that particular time and place, so I kept thinking it was set a couple of centuries ago and then getting tripped up by references to cars and Hitler and so on - but that didn't bother me. The end was chilling, and made me eager to read the next one. (Unfortunately, hunting down the next one was a huge pain! It's not available as an ebook, and the paperback - though not the hardcover - seems to have gone out of print.)

39Enraptured
Jan 27, 2010, 2:19pm Top

#21: The Hidden (Animorphs #39) by K.A. Applegate
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: I used to read these books when I was a kid; now I'm finishing the series, so that I can find out how it ends

This book both made me eager to read the series again and made me remember why I stopped reading them in the first place. Somewhere along the line, the plots started getting simultaneously weird and bland, like the author was running out of ideas (or rather, authors; they were pretty much all ghostwritten by this point). The plot of this one was pretty forgettable... but it was an Animorphs book, and so it reminded me of reading them when they were first coming out.

40alcottacre
Jan 27, 2010, 10:03pm Top

#38: I have that one set aside to read this year. Glad to see you liked it!

41Enraptured
Feb 2, 2010, 1:44pm Top

#22: The Other (Animorphs #40) by K.A. Applegate (no touchstone)
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: I'm finishing the series

Yep, another Animorphs book. This one was better than the last one. Not as good as some of the earlier ones in the series, but a fun bit of nostalgia. (It was also - for lack of a better term - kind of slashy, albeit in a subtle way.)

42Enraptured
Feb 2, 2010, 1:49pm Top

#23: The Familiar (Animorphs #41) by K.A. Applegate
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: I'm finishing the series.

And another Animorphs book. This one was excellent. It was an Animorphs book, yes, but it was really good brain candy, and I loved reading it. I know if I had kept reading the series when I was a kid this would have become one of my favorite books in the series. It takes place in a dark near-future world where the Animorphs have failed in their mission to save Earth from an alien invasion - and I do love dark worlds. Also, the character weirdness I noticed in the later books in the series was definitely present in this one... but it was done right. Instead of some of the characters (namely Jake, Rachel, and Cassie) seeming like caricatures, they seemed realistically changed by the war. I bet this is what it was supposed to look like in those other books, as well, but it just wasn't written as well as it was in this one.

43Enraptured
Feb 2, 2010, 1:54pm Top

#24: Back to Before (Megamorphs #4) by K.A. Applegate
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I'm finishing the series

The last Animorphs book for now. This was one of the Megamorphs books, which are a bit longer than the regular ones and have chapters from all the characters' points of view. The premise was that Jake accepts a deal that sends the characters back to when they first got their morphing powers, only this time they walk home a different way and never get their powers or find out about the alien invasion - but they end up getting involved in the war anyway. It was a fun book; I enjoyed seeing the different paths the characters' lives might have taken.

44Enraptured
Edited: Feb 2, 2010, 2:01pm Top

#25: Warchild by Karin Lowachee
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: I saw it browsing books online; it then sat on my wishlist for a year before I got around to buying it

This book was amazingly good. It follows a boy as he grows up in the middle of a war between humans and aliens; it's about the malleability of children, and war, and trauma, and cultural differences, and morality, and trust. It's about finding who you are and where you belong. I loved the voice of the main character - both he and his struggles felt very real.

45alcottacre
Feb 2, 2010, 2:16pm Top

#44: Adding that one to the BlackHole. Thanks for the recommendation, Zoe.

46mamzel
Feb 2, 2010, 3:19pm Top

re: Unwind
Without any spoilers I have to say that was the toughest last book chapter I ever had to read. It was worth reading for just that last part.

47Enraptured
Feb 8, 2010, 7:59pm Top

#26: Hyperthought by M.M. Buckner
Rating: 1 star
Why I chose it: I was proofreading it for Bookshare

I thought this looked like an interesting post-apocalyptic story with philosophical overtones, but I didn't think it delivered on that promise. The plot seemed unfocused (I didn't think the plot with the main character's boyfriend being experimented on meshed very well with the subplot about the war), and I never warmed up to the main character (especially after she decided to abandon the people in the war so she could rescue her boyfriend). And when it was over, I wasn't sure what it was supposed to mean, what was supposed to have changed (besides Jolie's job) because of the events of the novel. I just didn't enjoy it.

48Enraptured
Feb 8, 2010, 8:12pm Top

#27: Take Off Your Glasses and See by Jacob Liberman
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: This has been on the TBR pile for years! I think I borrowed it from my boyfriend several years ago; he never needed it back. He lives with me now, which will make it easy to return the book.

I'm still not sure how I feel about this book. I would be tempted to write the author off as a flake if I hadn't already experienced some of what he talks about. I know my eyes don't measure the same in an eye test than they do in everyday life, for instance; my vision is about 20/45, but it measures at about 20/200. I've been experimenting with the vision exercises in the book; I haven't noticed any improvement from them, but it's only been a few days. (And there's the chance, too, that I may not have any farther to improve. I may have done it on my own by not wearing my glasses very often; I only need them to see distances, and can't wear them to look at close-up things, so usually I only wear them if I'm driving or taking the dog for a walk or something.) At some points the book gets too flaky for me, and at other points I just didn't agree with it (the chapter on thinking comes to mind - the author seems to be saying that focusing on the unified whole is effortless while zooming in on smaller details is hard, but I've found the opposite to be true, both in thinking and in the vision exercises). If you're interested in improving your vision, you might as well check it out - but take it with a grain of salt.

49alcottacre
Feb 8, 2010, 11:38pm Top

Looks like you are due for a good book after a couple of not-so-good ones in a row! Let's hope your next one is better, Zoe.

50Enraptured
Feb 12, 2010, 9:30pm Top

#28: Ha'penny by Jo Walton
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I loved the first book in the trilogy

At first I thought I didn't like this one that much. What the author did with the first book that made it so powerful couldn't really be repeated; besides, I didn't find Viola as engaging a character as Lucy. But about halfway through, when the plot really started to pick up steam, I started getting a lot more into it. I didn't like it as well as the first one, but I did like it, especially the new developments with Carmichael's character.

51Enraptured
Feb 12, 2010, 9:38pm Top

#29: Veracity by Laura Bynum
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: It's a dystopia! I love dystopias.

I had mixed feelings about this one. I liked the ideas it presented about the power of language, and the relationship between language and freedom. I also liked the psychic element; that kind of thing used to be a major interest of mine, and I used to read a lot of novels about psychic people. Some aspects of the world didn't seem quite believable, though - for example, I don't think it would be possible to convince people that the rest of the world is uninhabited when in actuality there are hundreds of other countries out there. And all the mentions of rape as a punishment for rebelling, and the intimation that this only applied to women, made me wonder what happens to male rebels.

52ronincats
Feb 13, 2010, 12:16am Top

Let me suggest the Psion series by Joan Vinge, and if you like books about the power of language, the Native Tongue series by Suzette Haden Elgin.

53Whisper1
Feb 20, 2010, 1:40am Top

Post #35
I'm reading Unwind and thus far I think the writing is very creative.

Thanks for your comments.

54Enraptured
Feb 20, 2010, 10:32am Top

52: Thanks for the suggestions! The first one sounds familiar, and I think someone else recommended the second one to me a couple of years ago.

55Enraptured
Feb 20, 2010, 10:40am Top

#30: The Other Side of Desire by Daniel Bergner
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: I'm interested in sexual psychology and the weirder aspects of sexuality

This book is made up of four profiles of people with decidedly non-mainstream sexual interests - a man with a foot fetish, a female sadist, a man infatuated with his preteen niece, and a couple who came together via her leg amputation and his fetish for amputees. The author didn't just stand at a distance from these people and point and laugh, or watch in horrified fascination, the way I was afraid he would; he painted them as sympathetic multifaceted people, and tried both to get to know them and to figure out how their interests came into being. I had a couple of problems with the book - for example, I don't understand why a man with a foot fetish was in the same book as a pedophile - but on the whole I really enjoyed it. This is a good book to read if you're interested in the diversity of human sexuality.

56Enraptured
Feb 20, 2010, 10:46am Top

#31: Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy by Martin Lindstrom
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I'm interested in this type of psychology/pop culture book

This was an interesting and at times disturbing book that looks at what goes on in people's brains that make them choose one brand over another. For example, did you know that when people view images associated with popular brands, like Apple, they use the same parts of their brains that they use when viewing images associated with organized religion? Or that sex in advertising can actually make the product less memorable? I've always been kind of interested in advertising, and this book gave me a lot of insight into why it works the way it does - and also why it sometimes doesn't affect me the way it's supposed to.

57Enraptured
Feb 20, 2010, 10:56am Top

#32: Half a Crown by Jo Walton
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I read the other two books in the trilogy

Like the second book, this one was slow to get started, but I really liked it once I got into it. It seemed less focused than the others - it was less about an investigation of Carmichael's and more about what's happening to England under its alternate-history fascist government - but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. And I really liked Elvira's narration - both her personality and the creepiness of her blithe acceptance of her fascist society. (The one thing that drove me crazy about her character was how much time she spent describing clothes! Those passages made my eyes glaze over.) I have to say, though, I didn't like the ending. It had too much of a deus ex machina feel to it, and didn't fit the tone of the trilogy. Other than the last few pages, though, I liked this book a lot.

58alcottacre
Feb 20, 2010, 11:36pm Top

#57: I really have got to get Farthing read this year! I have owned it for a while now and want to read the entire trilogy before all is said and done.

59Enraptured
Mar 4, 2010, 3:42pm Top

#33: A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: It was assigned for a writing class I'm taking

At first I didn't think I would like this book; I wouldn't have picked it up if not for the class I read it for. It's a medieval-style fantasy written like a historical novel, and I don't tend to read either medieval-style fantasy or historical novels. But the more the book went on, the more I liked it, and by the end I was hooked. The characters are fascinating, and the story is wonderfully dark. I'll definitely be picking up the sequel.

60Enraptured
Mar 4, 2010, 3:47pm Top

#34: Boston Marriages: Romantic but Asexual Relationships Among Contemporary Lesbians, edited by Esther D. Rothblum and Kathleen A. Brehony
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: I've been interested in asexuality lately

This book wasn't what I thought it would be, and it wasn't what I was looking for. That's not the book's fault, and I feel bad for giving it a lukewarm rating. Its essays talk about the phenomenon of sexless relationships - often relationships where at least one partner is dissatisfied with the lack of sex - in the lesbian community. What I was looking for, I realized as I was reading, was something about romantic relationships among asexuals. The two topics have some overlap, but not as much as I would have hoped. This did give me some interesting insights into the lesbian community, however, although I felt a bit left out at times because it seems to be written mainly for a lesbian audience.

61Enraptured
Mar 4, 2010, 3:51pm Top

#35: The Journey (Animorphs #42) by K.A. Applegate
Rating: 2 stars
Why I chose it: I'm finishing the series

Not one of the better Animorphs books. I don't think I've liked any of the books involving the Helmacrons, actually. I don't know why they keep being brought back into the series, but I hope they don't come back again. The concept of tiny arrogant aliens is amusing, but I just don't find the stories involving them that interesting.

62Enraptured
Mar 4, 2010, 4:02pm Top

#36: The Test (Animorphs #43) by K.A. Applegate
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: I'm finishing the series

I didn't like the previous one very much, but I really liked this one! No surprise there, since it's written by my favorite of the Animorphs ghostwriters. It's dark and full of inner conflict and it's about my favorite character. My one complaint was that the characters got a warning that they were walking into a trap... and then ignored it. That seemed uncharacteristically dense. Still, I enjoyed reading this.

63Enraptured
Edited: Mar 4, 2010, 4:19pm Top

#37: Fair Game: How a Top CIA Agent Was Betrayed by Her Own Government by Valerie Plame Wilson
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: I put it on my PaperbackSwap wishlist - I don't remember why - and it was offered to me

I was familiar with the Valerie Plame scandal when it was going on, of course, but only in a vague way. This book gave me the opportunity to learn more about what happened, as well as the author's own reactions to the scandal and how it affected her life. A lot of the information in this book has been redacted by the CIA, but the afterword in the back fills in the missing pieces.

64Enraptured
Mar 4, 2010, 4:28pm Top

#38: The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
Rating: 2 stars
Why I chose it: I enjoyed the other Dan Brown books I've read

I think there's only so much Dan Brown you can read before all the books start to look the same. The book was okay, but I think I'm burned out on Dan Brown.

(Not that this has anything to do with the quality of the book, but I noticed a good deal of product placement in this book, including repeated mentions of a character's iPhone and what seems to be an ad for another book.)

65alcottacre
Mar 5, 2010, 1:16am Top

I hope your next read is better for you!

66Enraptured
Mar 6, 2010, 3:24pm Top

#39: Burndive by Karin Lowachee
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: I loved the first book in the trilogy

This book showed me just what a good author Karin Lowachee is. Ryan isn't as likeable a main character as Jos, the main character from Warchild - in fact, for a large portion of the book he's spoiled and angsty. And yet the author makes him completely sympathetic. She gets as deeply into his head as she did with Jos, and even though the writing style and the themes are similar, the books are written such that it would be very difficult to mistake a passage from Jos's perspective for one from Ryan's perspective.

67Enraptured
Mar 6, 2010, 3:27pm Top

#40: The Illusion (Animorphs #33) by K.A. Applegate
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: It was my favorite Animorphs series from back when I was reading the books as they came out, and book #43, which I read recently, references it heavily... plus, the power was out for several days and I needed something light to read

I liked this one almost as much as I did when it first came out. It's one of the darkest Animorphs books I've read, and not coincidentally, it's also my favorite. I love the character of Tobias, and how deep the author gets into his identity in this book. Rereading this was a good bit of nostalgia.

68Enraptured
Mar 6, 2010, 3:32pm Top

#41: My Own Kind of Freedom by Steven Brust
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: The power was out for several days and I needed something light to read

This is a novel-length work of fanfiction set in the Firefly universe, written by a professional writer. I enjoyed it a lot. It's been ages since I've watched Firefly, and it was fun to get into a new story set in that world. The author did an excellent job of portraying the characters; I was especially impressed at how well he wrote River's character.
It's available for free here, if you're interested: http://dreamcafe.com/firefly.html

69alcottacre
Mar 7, 2010, 12:22am Top

#66: I am going to have to find that trilogy - especially since you gave both the first and second books 5 stars each!

70Enraptured
Mar 13, 2010, 2:00pm Top

#42: Rapture Ready!: Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture by Daniel Radosh
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: I like books like this in general, and I'm interested in evangelical Christian culture

This is a mostly-humorous look at some of the weirder aspects of Christian pop culture. The author visits the Creation Museum, goes to a Christian pro-wrestling show, and takes part in an anti-semitic Passion play (hiding the fact that he's Jewish), among many other things. I liked the author a lot - he was funny without seeming mean-spirited, and although the book is humorous, he was also genuinely willing to try to understand the culture he was looking at. He goes looking for the really crazy fundamentalist Christians he's heard about, and while he finds some people who certainly might qualify, he also finds that most of the people he meets don't fit that stereotype at all.

71dk_phoenix
Mar 13, 2010, 10:35pm Top

Well now! I wish I'd come to your thread sooner!!!! You're taking HTRYN too, I see... I haven't read Game of Thrones yet, but the copy is on my coffee table and I plan to start it this week (though I passed lesson 12 already... eee)... what's your name on the forums? Mine is dark_phoenix :) I'll take a look for you over there!

72Enraptured
Mar 14, 2010, 9:04am Top

71: Good to see another HTRYN student around here :D I'm Enraptured on the forums, the same as here. I finished Thrones early, actually - I thought that since it was so long I should start it as soon as possible, but I didn't take into account that with my monster of a broken book all the lessons are taking me forever. I'm slogging through Lesson 5 now; I'll get to Lesson 12... oh, sometime in the next few months :P

73dk_phoenix
Mar 14, 2010, 8:00pm Top

Oh, I feel your pain! I started with a very, very broken book and just couldn't muster up the spirit to continue... so I switched to a different mss and have been enjoying it much better. I figure I'll come back to the *really* awful mss after this one is done and I have a better handle on the process. Good luck with lesson 5! Conquer those conflicts!

74Enraptured
Mar 23, 2010, 7:35pm Top

#43: Winter's End by Jean-Claude Mourlevat
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: I thought it looked interesting when I saw it in a batch of Early Reviewers books a few months ago; I didn't win a copy, so I put it on my PaperbackSwap wishlist

I always like finding a new dystopia, and this one had some intriguing elements; it was also very atmospheric, with a subtly creepy tone throughout. But something about the world didn't feel right to me. I think it's how little of the background we actually saw. We know that the dystopian regime killed the main characters' parents, so it would make sense for the characters to fight them out of revenge... but that's not their motivation - they choose to fight because the regime is bad in general. But we don't get too many hints about what makes it bad until much later in the book, and even then we don't get more than a vague idea of what this world is like. I don't know, this may not be the book's fault; I've read so many dystopias that I'm kind of picky about them now.

75Enraptured
Mar 23, 2010, 8:33pm Top

#44: Not in Kansas Anymore by Christine Wicker
Rating: 2 stars
Why I chose it: After reading Rapture Ready, I thought it would be interesting to read a similar book about an opposing subculture, especially since it's one I'm a lot more familiar with

This book was odd in a few ways. The author talked about her need to remain an objective observer, but in some ways, the book was more of a memoir than a collection of objective observations. (I'm not sure the author herself realized this; she said at one point that she couldn't relate to any of the common ways people ended up involved with magic, but the way she portrayed herself in the book, she definitely fit the "rebellious disciple" path that she outlined - throughout the book she, like the rebellious disciples she wrote about, explores spirituality and struggles with the religion she was born into.) She also spent a lot of time on Hoodoo, which seemed to be an odd focus for a book billed as an exploration of American magical culture in general. And she seemed to have a knee-jerk reaction against anything involving BDSM. I also ran into a problem where I sometimes knew more about her subject than she did - I expected to have more familiarity with it than she did, but while reading I actually found a few places where she got stuff wrong. All in all, not what I was looking for.

76Enraptured
Edited: Mar 24, 2010, 10:34am Top

#45: Orbital Resonance by John Barnes
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: Someone recommended it to me ages ago; I was trying to clear off my TBR pile the other day, and started reading this one just to make sure I didn't want to keep it, and ended up wanting to keep reading

This was a view of a disturbing world told through an innocent voice. The setting is a spaceship filled with children who are being molded to be perfect employees of the company that owns the ship; the character's blithe acceptance of her world, her casual mentions of alien-seeming attitudes, and her complete shock as she finds out what her real purpose on the ship is, are what makes this book so interesting. I didn't like the ending, which seemed rushed and unfinished, but I really enjoyed the rest.

77Enraptured
Mar 23, 2010, 8:47pm Top

#46: The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I honestly don't remember

This was a collection of columns by Nick Hornby, each about the books he's read over that particular month. He and I don't have similar tastes in books at all - although he did mention a couple that looked interesting - but I still enjoyed reading his thoughts on the books he read, and on reading in general. I could relate to a lot of it, from his berating himself for buying more books than he can read to his wishing more books were both interesting and meaningful.

78alcottacre
Mar 24, 2010, 3:10am Top

#76: I am adding that one to the BlackHole. It looks pretty good.

#77: I got a copy of that one about a month ago. I need to get it read!

79Enraptured
May 16, 2010, 10:53am Top

Wow, I'm really behind in posting reviews here! Let's see if I can get caught up.

#47: Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People: The Dynamics of Torture by John Conroy
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: As research for a novel I'm writing

This book explored three incidents of torture - in Israel, Britain, and Chicago - and their aftermath. Reading this was slow going, both because it was a bit dense and because of the grim subject matter. But it was a fascinating analysis of why and how people become torturers. There was also a chapter near the end that impressed me quite a bit; it talked about what happens when torture occurs in a society that doesn't normally condone it, and although the book was published years before Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, I recognized nearly every step the author outlined.

80Enraptured
May 16, 2010, 10:56am Top

#48: Nowhere on Earth by Michael Elder
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: I was proofreading it for Bookshare

This book involved both something that fascinates me (dystopian societies) and something that used to fascinate me (psychic powers), and yet I couldn't really connect to it. I'm not sure why. I never got a real sense of who the characters were, and although the story was intriguing, whenever I stopped reading it always took me a long time to pick the book up again. Of course, I don't know how much of my reluctance to read it came from the fact that the file I was proofreading had a LOT of errors in it...

81Enraptured
May 16, 2010, 11:01am Top

#49: Cagebird by Karin Lowachee
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I loved the other books in the series

This is a hard one for me to rate, because while I love this trilogy - mainly for the complicated characters, the world, and the author's introspective writing style - I didn't like this book as well as the other two. The character didn't interest me as much, and his story felt less wrapped up at the end than Ryan's and Jos's (especially Jos's) had at the end of their respective books. It was a good book, and I enjoyed it, but it's hard not to compare it to the other books in the series. (Especially the first book. I miss Jos's narration. He is by far my favorite character of the three.)

82Enraptured
May 16, 2010, 11:16am Top

#50: Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: It was briefly mentioned in The Polysyllabic Spree alongside a description of a book that sounded really interesting, so when I decided to check that one out, I looked this one up too

This is a... well, I'm not sure it counts as a graphic novel since it's not really fictional. The author is sharing his experiences as a journalist in Bosnia, and the stories he heard from the people he met there. The visual style makes the stories in this book more powerful than words alone would have been. I don't know much about the war in question, but I was able to understand the book anyway, and it made me interested in learning more. Certainly not a light read, but one I'd recommend.

83Enraptured
May 16, 2010, 2:02pm Top

#51: Caliphate by Tom Kratman
Rating: unrateable
Why I chose it: I saw it while I was browsing the publisher's ebook store, and bought it because I love dystopias

This book joins the Twilight series in my "unrateable" category. Like I said, I love dystopias, and this one was very dark and (in some ways) morally ambiguous. On one side of the world, a powerful Islamic empire enslaves non-Muslims and rapes Christian children; on the other, America obliterates countries that refuse to bow to its whims. But although I like dark worlds, this one seemed cartoonish at times, and over the top - was it really necessary to make sure we know the Evil Cackling Muslims are evil by showing us so many instances of them raping children and torturing Christians? And sometimes America was portrayed as being as bad as the Islamic empire, but sometimes it was portrayed as the one light in the darkness; this may have been intentional, to create moral ambiguity (another thing that I like in books), but it just left me confused.

My opinion about the book fluctuated wildly as I was reading it. Sometimes the plot drew me in; sometimes the bleakness of the world got too overwhelming and I had to put it aside for awhile; sometimes I got frustrated by the fact that it seemed like it was written as a way to show that Muslims are dangerous (an idea that was confirmed by the afterword); sometimes I wanted to read it just to find out what happened to the two children who were introduced at the beginning of the book (the book takes place over several years of their lives, and although other characters are introduced, none of them held my interest as strongly as the two kids did).

And then there's the afterword. Generally, when an author's worldview is different from mine it doesn't get in the way of my enjoyment of their books (Dean Koontz is a good example; from the hints I've gotten in his books I suspect our worldviews are quite different, but I love his books). But this author's list of things Europe needs to do to keep from being overrun by Evil Cackling Muslims left a bad taste in my mouth.

84Enraptured
May 16, 2010, 2:04pm Top

#52: The Customer Is Not Always Right, edited by A.J. Adams
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: I'm a regular reader of the blog it's based on

This book is a collection of stories of horrible customers from the blog Not Always Right. Most of the stories in the book were new to me, and they made me laugh, which was exactly what I was looking for. There are some very stupid people out there.

85Enraptured
Edited: May 16, 2010, 2:11pm Top

#53: American Jesus by Stephen R. Prothero (for some reason the touchstone isn't showing up)
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I saw it on someone's PaperbackSwap wishlist a couple of years ago, and was intrigued enough to put it on my own wishlist

This was a fascinating look at how the perception of Jesus has changed over the course of American history, and how that perception has been influenced by changes in American culture. I'm interested in how religion influences and is influenced by culture, and I learned a lot of things I didn't know - including why the "moneylenders in the temple" story got so popular! I'd be interested in reading another book on the topic, though, to get a better idea of how much of what's in this book is simply the author's opinion.

86ronincats
May 16, 2010, 2:22pm Top

American Jesus sounds interesting--onto the wishlist it goes!

87alcottacre
May 16, 2010, 11:56pm Top

Wow! You have been busy.

88iansales
May 17, 2010, 4:18am Top

#83 that book sounds like a hate crime.

89Enraptured
May 18, 2010, 8:00am Top

#54: Lessons from a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles
Rating: 2 stars
Why I chose it: It ended up on my PaperbackSwap wishlist; I don't remember how

This book followed a girl over the period of several years, first as a child and then as a teenager, as she struggles to deal with her best friend's sexual abuse of her and to understand why her friend did what she did. Because it was fairly short and covered so much time, I never really felt like I got much of a chance to get to know Laine, the main character; the book would touch down briefly on an incident in her life, but before I got a chance to connect with her the book would move on, with Laine having changed and gotten older. I know a lot of people loved this book, though, and didn't have any problem connecting with the character, so I think it's largely a matter of personal preference.

90alcottacre
May 18, 2010, 4:15pm Top

#89: I hope you enjoy your next read more, Zoe!

91Enraptured
Edited: Nov 15, 2010, 1:48pm Top

Eek - I'm almost 100 books behind in my reviews! I have books to review that I read back in April! I'm not sure if there's any point in trying to get caught up at this point, but I'll try...

#55: This is Serbia Calling: Rock 'n' Roll Radio and Belgrade's Underground Resistance by Matthew Collin
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: It was mentioned in The Polysyllabic Spree

I wasn't sure whether or not I would like this one. I'm fascinated by books about oppressive regimes, but have never been interested in the culture of music and/or radio, and I wasn't sure which side this one would fall more on. As it turned out, though, I found it really interesting. I learned more about a time and place I didn't know that much about, and from a unique perspective.

#56: Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I honestly don't remember how it ended up on my TBR pile in the first place; I might have seen it on Paperback Swap. But I was especially curious to read it after I saw the different perspectives on it in this group.

It's been months since I read this book, so my memory of it has faded a bit. What I remember is mostly favorable, though, and I gave it four stars, so I must have liked it. What I remember most is the voice of the main character; it's what initially hooked me in, and I found it easy to care about her. Unfortunately, I also remember the ending, which I didn't like nearly as well as the rest of the book; it didn't seem to fit. The story it resolved wasn't quite the same as the story the rest of the book told.

#57: The Compound by S.A. Bodeen
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: I found it while browsing Amazon

I can't read horror novels. It's not about the plot; it's about the tone. I read a book last year (The Boys Are Back in Town by Christopher Golden) that I probably would have really liked if it had had the same premise but had been written in an urban-fantasy tone rather than a horror tone. But the horror writing style creeps me out, and not not in a way I can enjoy. (This is probably also why I have such a hard time seeing Dean Koontz as a horror writer - some of his plots fit into the horror genre, yes, but none of the ones I've read use that particular writing style that says "horror" to me.) The Compound isn't horror - it's dark middle-grade/YA - but I had the same problem with it. Going purely by the premise, I should have loved it - and there were a lot of things about it I enjoyed. But something about the tone was just a bit too creepy for me. That doesn't make it a worse book - I know most people wouldn't be bothered by the tone. But it's the reason why, even though I loved the premise, I'm still not sure how I feel about this book.
(Speaking of creepy, I'm pretty sure I found a place where the author originally wrote it one way and then the publisher said, "Um, no, this is a middle-grade novel. Change it." I could be wrong, of course; it's too bad there's no way to find out.)

#58: Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: I stumbled across it at the bookstore

Sometimes I wish I hadn't learned so much about writing fiction over the past few years; it's made me a lot pickier about my books. Take this one, for instance. A few years ago, it probably would have appealed to me a lot more; I wouldn't have looked any further than the dystopian setting. But now... the world just didn't ring true for me. The reasons behind the things the villains were doing left me more confused than convinced. So even though I liked a lot of things about this story - the main character, for example - I had more and more trouble getting into it as the book went on.

#59: Signspotting III: Lost in Translation, edited by Doug Lansky
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I enjoyed the first two

Books like this are always fun. I read this one with my fiance, over the course of a few days.

#60: Changes by Jim Butcher (no touchstone? really??)
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: I've been following this series for years

It gets frustrating when I'm reading a series as the books come out, one every year or so, because I forget so much of what's happened before. So there were some things in this book that confused me because it's been so long since I read the rest of the series. But despite the confusion, this was a good solid Dresden book. Some series start to drag and get stale when the books get into the double digits; the Dresden books just keep getting better.
...And then there was the END. When is the next book coming out again??

92Enraptured
Nov 15, 2010, 1:58pm Top

#61: The Things That Keep Us Here by Carla Buckley
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: I forget how I found this one; I might have seen it while browsing Amazon

It's been so long since I've read this book that I only remember my vague impressions, and not necessarily the reasons for those impressions. I thought I would like this one more than I did; I like women's fiction, and I like apocalypse novels, and while the combination seems unlikely, I'd love to see it done more often. But this book didn't grab me like I was hoping... and unfortunately, I can barely remember why. I think the main character was a big part of it; I seem to remember not finding her all that sympathetic. She also would not stop believing that her extranged husband was sleeping with his research assistant, even though everything suggested that he wasn't; after a while, her relentless paranoia about the two of them really started to get on my nerves. (I also have a hard time taking bird-flu pandemic books seriously. Remember that bird-flu pandemic we were absolutely positively going to have three or four years ago?) However, I did like the juxtaposition of the two genres, and seeing an apocalypse story that focused on an ordinary family trying to cope. (It reminded me a little of Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer in that way.)

93Enraptured
Nov 15, 2010, 2:00pm Top

#62: The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I read another book by the author last year

I like finding someone who's as obsessive as I am. I'm not interested in the same things as she is - history has never been an obsession of mine, for instance - but her writing is engaging and funny, and makes even unlikely things sound interesting.

94Enraptured
Nov 15, 2010, 2:06pm Top

#63: The Unexpected (Animorphs #44) by K.A. Applegate
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: I'm finishing the series

These books started varying so widely once ghostwriters started writing the series. This was one of the lackluster ones. It relies on the unusual (for Animorphs) setting - Australia - to keep people interested, but that generally isn't enough for me, so I found this one pretty dull.

95Enraptured
Edited: Nov 15, 2010, 2:37pm Top

#64: Between Two Worlds by Roxana Saberi
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I found it while browsing at the bookstore

This memoir, about the author's time in prison in Iran, was chilling. While in Iran to write a book, she was arrested and accused of being a spy. She was threatened with execution, and finally sentenced to eight years in prison. I could all too easily imagine what she went through; she was able to convey her experiences very well, and the book wasn't at all dry or stilted, unlike some memoirs in this genre. Fortunately, the efforts other people made on her behalf finally got the Iranian government to release her.

96Enraptured
Nov 15, 2010, 2:41pm Top

#65: Thicker Than Water by Mike Carey
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: I loved the other books in the series

This is much darker than the first three Felix Castor novels - and that's saying something. These books remind me a bit of the Dresden Files series, except without the humor and with added grimness. This one was just as good as the first three. The way Mike Carey plays with language is amazing; his writing was more pared down in this book (possibly because this one was unusually personal; he based a portion of it on his childhood memories), but still very good. He's an excellent writer, and this is an excellent series.

97ronincats
Nov 15, 2010, 2:52pm Top

Sound like you've been doing a lot of reading in the meantime. Don't feel you have to review every book, but do list them so we can ask if we have questions about a book!

98Enraptured
Edited: Nov 15, 2010, 3:03pm Top

#66: House Rules by Jodi Picoult
Rating: 3 stars (though I'm still considering switching it to "unrateable")
Why I chose it: I really like Jodi Picoult, and am interested in books with autistic main characters

I'm still not quite sure how I feel about this book, to be honest. After what I read online about it, I was prepared to hate it. But Jacob wasn't as stereotypical, and his mother wasn't as intolerant of her son's differences, as the reviews led me to expect. It's no The Speed of Dark, but it's not nearly as one-dimensional as I was afraid it would be. The mother's attitude did bother me in a lot of ways (for example, talking about how Asperger's is a description not of characteristics her son has, but things he's missing... or hindering his growth by avoiding meltdowns at all costs, to the point of calling the electric company to demand that their power be restored because Jacob has to watch TV at a certain time every day), but it's nothing worse than what I expected, and in some cases better.

I had the "surprise twist" figured out very early on. This may be because I've read so many of Picoult's books that I've started to learn her patterns by now.

While a lot of people didn't like the book because they thought Jacob's character was too stereotypical, I found him to be less so than other autistic characters I've read. But... he did a lot of things that didn't make sense. It's like the author needed him to act a certain way to hold the plot together, so she just relied on his Asperger's to explain every strange thing he did. That seemed like lazy writing to me, and I found it disappointing.

99alcottacre
Nov 15, 2010, 3:13pm Top

What Roni said @ 97!

100Enraptured
Nov 16, 2010, 3:38pm Top

#67: Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: I think I spotted it while browsing Amazon

This graphic novel (graphic memoir?) gave a good - and disturbing - look at North Korea, and managed to be hilarious at the same time. Highly recommended; unfortunately, it seems to have gone out of print between when I read it and now.

101Enraptured
Nov 16, 2010, 3:42pm Top

#68: Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I was looking for books about... well, about ordinary lives in North Korea

More North Korea, without the humor this time. The author weaves together the life stories of several North Koreans who eventually escaped to South Korea - including a woman who used to be a fervent supporter of the regime, and a man and woman who had been dating in North Korea and who each secretly made their own plans to leave the country without the other's knowledge. A fascinating book.

102Enraptured
Nov 16, 2010, 3:48pm Top

#69: Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Rating: unrateable
Why I chose it: I forget where I stumbled across this one, but I snapped it up because I'm always interested in books with autistic main characters

What I liked about this book: I like books about autistic characters, and books about writers, and this one combined both. The character was fairly well-developed and not horribly stereotypical, and I felt for him a lot; the book made me cry at one point.

What I didn't like: The ending. Agh. I don't want to get into specifics, but can I just say that I'm sick of what keeps getting done with romantic relationships or potential relationships where one of the characters is on the autism spectrum? When I read this, I had recently watched two movies that did pretty much the same thing, and I was really hoping it wasn't going to happen in this book. But it did. Sigh.

103Enraptured
Nov 16, 2010, 3:55pm Top

#70: The Naming of the Beasts by Mike Carey (no touchstone)
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: I loved the other books in the series

Another excellent Felix Castor book; this one resolves the Asmodeus storyline that's been a part of the series since the first book. It looks like this is probably the last book in the series, since it wraps up the major plot threads; that's disappointing, but I'm still glad he was able to give it a satisfactory conclusion. And who knows, I could be wrong about it being the end.

104Enraptured
Nov 16, 2010, 3:59pm Top

#70: Fullmetal Alchemist: Volume 3 by Hiromu Arakawa
#71: Fullmetal Alchemist: Volume 4 by Hiromu Arakawa
Rating: 4 stars and 3 stars, respectively
Why I chose them: I was sick and needed something light to read

To be honest, I don't remember much about these. I was sick; I needed something light and fun. I know I enjoyed them, and I know I liked Volume 3 better than Volume 4, but... that's about it. Originally I planned to go through the entire series, but almost two years went by between reading the first two and reading these two, and now... I don't know, I just don't have that much drive to read the others.

105Enraptured
Nov 16, 2010, 4:04pm Top

#72: Not Even Wrong: A Father's Journey into the Lost History of Autism by Paul Collins
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: I forget where I originally saw it; it sat on my Paperback Swap wishlist for months before I finally got impatient and bought it

Memoirs by parents of autistic children are always a roll of the dice. This one was fantastic. It interspersed stories about the author's son - and the author himself, who is also on the autism spectrum - with chapters about the history of autism. I liked the author, I liked his attitude towards his son, and I liked learning more about autism throughout history.

106Enraptured
Nov 16, 2010, 6:52pm Top

#73: This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: I liked the other two books in the series

I enjoyed this continuation (and probable conclusion) of the series, for the most part; I liked seeing what had happened to the two main characters, and bringing the two of them together. Like the second book, though, it didn't have the emotional power of the first book. And there was an incident later on in the book that I disagreed with the main character on; it's not that I think what she did was completely wrong, but I think the other person involved should have been given a choice, and it bewilders (and frustrates) me that that didn't happen.

107Enraptured
Nov 16, 2010, 6:57pm Top

#74: Stuff White People Like by Christian Lander
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I occasionally read the blog it's based on

Entertaining and enjoyable - and sometimes painfully accurate. There were several entries that fit me... and a whole lot more that fit my parents. In a lot of ways, my parents are quintessential white people, at least according to this book.

108Enraptured
Nov 16, 2010, 7:01pm Top

#75: After Dachau by Daniel Quinn
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: I think I may have stumbled across it while I was looking for Nazi-victory alternate histories

I wasn't sure whether to read this, because from what I'd heard about Daniel Quinn, he mainly writes stories that are intended to get some kind of point across, and I don't like novels that preach at me. But this book combined dystopia with reincarnation, two things that interest me, so I decided to check it out. It wasn't nearly as preachy as I was afraid it would be, and I did find the story interesting... but I thought the world was completely implausible. No matter how much the culture has stagnated, there's no way the world can stay exactly the same for 2000 years. It's just not possible.

109Enraptured
Nov 16, 2010, 7:04pm Top

#76: A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: I've been reading the series

The second book in Martin's fantasy series, after A Game of Thrones, and just as good as the first. (In fact, I enjoyed it more than the first book, because with the first book it took me awhile to warm up to the genre and the story.) His characters are amazingly well-written. I don't read much fantasy anymore, but this was excellent.

110Enraptured
Nov 16, 2010, 7:11pm Top

ronincats and alcottacre, thanks for the comments! I think I'm going to keep trying to review them, if only so I have the notes for myself in the future, but I'm not sure whether I'm going to manage to do all of them.

111drneutron
Nov 16, 2010, 7:14pm Top

Congrats for hitting 75!

112ronincats
Nov 16, 2010, 8:37pm Top

Well, we appreciate the effort, anyway! You're really making progress. And congratulations on reading the 75 book mark!!

113Enraptured
Nov 17, 2010, 7:06am Top

Thanks! Because I'm so behind in reviews, I'm actually up to something like 150 at this point... lots of reviews left to go!

114Enraptured
Nov 17, 2010, 7:09am Top

#77: For the Win by Cory Doctorow
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: I enjoyed the other YA book I read by Cory Doctorow

I had picked up two books by Cory Doctorow before this one. I loved the first one (Little Brother); I didn't finish the second. So I wasn't sure how I would feel about this one... but since it was a YA like Little Brother, I thought I'd give it a try. And I did enjoy it, although not as much as Little Brother. It was interesting to see from the perspective of gold farmers in games, who are generally reviled. The book was a little heavy-handed (the message: Unions Are Good), and the end wasn't enough of a resolution for me, but overall this was a good story.

115Enraptured
Edited: Nov 17, 2010, 7:17am Top

#78: Sarah Palin: Vampire Hunter by Dan McGirt
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: The title!

How could I resist a book with a title like "Sarah Palin: Vampire Hunter"? This is a Twilight Parody starring none other than Sarah Palin. It wasn't as funny as I had hoped (I'm very picky about humor)... but I'm always up for an excuse to poke fun at Sarah Palin and/or Twilight, so I got plenty of enjoyment out of it just based on that.

(On the subject of Twilight... I still can't decide how I feel about that series. It has so many problems, and yet the books are strangely addictive. I don't understand it.)

116Enraptured
Nov 17, 2010, 7:27am Top

#79: A Corpse in the Koryo by James Church
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: More North Korea

I don't read many mysteries, but the idea of a mystery set in North Korea sounded interesting, and the sample I downloaded drew me in. The setting was indeed interesting, and at first the plot really held my attention, but as the book went on it started dragging more and more. By the end I had gone from "I have to know what happens next" to "am I almost to the end?"

117Enraptured
Nov 17, 2010, 7:39am Top

#80: You Can Read Anyone by David J. Lieberman
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: It was a bargain book at Barnes and Noble

I wasn't sure how I would feel about this one. As it turned out, it was actually pretty interesting. It talked about things like people's levels of confidence, self-esteem, and ego, and how they affect people's behavior; it also described ways to tell whether someone is lying, how to gauge their opinion on things, and so on. The downside is, it presents a simplistic system and then claims that said system can explain every aspect of human behavior and personality.

118Enraptured
Nov 17, 2010, 1:32pm Top

#81: Cordelia's Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: I saw the series recommended in a lot of places

This is the first book of (or the prequel to) the Miles Vorkosigan series. It sat on my shelf for ages before I finally picked it up; I wasn't at all sure whether I would like it, since I'm iffy on adventure-story science fiction. But after just a couple of pages, I was hooked; I loved the clean simple writing style and the way the book landed right in the middle of the action. And the more the book went on, the more I liked the main character; I had been afraid it would be light on character development, the way this type of book sometimes is, but it was quite the opposite. The characters are the main strength of this book (and the series).

119ronincats
Nov 18, 2010, 12:10am Top

So you read both books included in Cordelia's Honor (Shards of Honor and Barrayar)? No, Bujold's books are NOT light on character development--in fact, that is one of her major strengths! Didn't you love the shopping trip?

Welcome to the world of the Vorkosigans! And don't forget to try out Chalion as well.

120alcottacre
Nov 18, 2010, 2:06am Top


121Enraptured
Nov 18, 2010, 7:56am Top

So you read both books included in Cordelia's Honor (Shards of Honor and Barrayar)? No, Bujold's books are NOT light on character development--in fact, that is one of her major strengths! Didn't you love the shopping trip?

Yep, I read both of them - I was able to buy all the books in omnibus editions (except Memory and Cryoburn), which I suppose is one advantage to reading the series after it's been around for awhile. She really is fantastic at character development. I've read all the books in the series by now (reviews coming soon); Curse of Chalion is on my TBR list, but I think I've been avoiding it because I'm afraid of being let down after the wonderful Vorkosigan books.

122Enraptured
Nov 18, 2010, 8:07am Top

#82: Young Miles by Lois McMaster Bujold
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: I loved the first book in the series

This is the first book that introduces the character of Miles Vorkosigan. I can see why everyone loves him - even after this book, he was turning into one of my favorite fictional characters. And he's so much fun to read about; he pretty much defines audacity.

There are two books in this collection; I didn't enjoy the second one quite as much as the first, but I still liked it a lot, and especially liked getting more insight into Gregor.

123Enraptured
Nov 18, 2010, 8:11am Top

#83: Them: Adventures With Extremists by Jon Ronson
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: I ran across it on Paperback Swap

I picked this up expecting a funny look at various conspiracy theories. It turned out it wasn't nearly as funny as I had hoped, and starts partially believing in the conspiracy theories he's investigating. A better and funnier book that explores the same theme (how people whose beliefs we tend to see as ridiculous or extreme aren't actually that different from the rest of us) is Rapture Ready by Daniel Radosh.

124Enraptured
Nov 18, 2010, 8:16am Top

#84: Miles, Mystery, and Mayhem by Lois McMaster Bujold
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: Reading through the series

More Miles Vorkosigan. The books in this collection both have to do with genetic manipulation. The first, Cetaganda, gave some interesting insight into the Cetagandans, who I had been curious about. Of course, now that I've learned more about them, I'm even more curious... The second, Ethan of Athos, doesn't have Miles in it at all, but is still excellent - and I was glad the author didn't do what I thought she would do with the main character. He didn't end up with the character I thought he would end up with, and I thought that was a good move on the author's part.

125Enraptured
Nov 18, 2010, 8:20am Top

#85: Expecting Adam by Martha Beck
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: Got a sudden craving to reread it

I'm not sure why I suddenly wanted to reread this memoir, but I enjoyed it just as much as I did the first time. The book describes her spiritual experiences while she was pregnant with her son Adam, who has Down syndrome. The author has a friendly writing style, and the story, although far-fetched, is believable.

126Enraptured
Nov 18, 2010, 8:25am Top

#86: Leaving the Saints by Martha Beck
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: I had just reread the author's other book

This is a sequel of sorts to Expecting Adam, in that it's the author's second memoir and takes place several years after the first. But it deals with much darker subject matter - the author's break with the Mormon church and her gradual recognition that she had been sexually abused as a child. Although it's considerably darker than Expecting Adam, the author manages to make it into an ultimately uplifting story, both through her writing style and the growth she demonstrates.

127Enraptured
Nov 18, 2010, 8:40am Top

#87: Hidden by Cathy Glass (no touchstone)
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I read another book by the author a couple of years ago

Cathy Glass is a foster parent in England; this book tells the story of one of the children she took in. I was amazed by the ending; it wasn't at all what I expected, and made this story considerably happier than most books in this genre.

128Enraptured
Nov 18, 2010, 8:48am Top

#88: The Soul of Autism by William Stillman
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: I liked another book by the author

I loved Autism and the God Connection, which I read a couple of years ago; although I would hesitate to go as far as the author does in talking about the spiritual nature of autism (after all, there are a lot of autistic people who have no interest in anything spiritual), the fact remains that I could relate to a lot of what he said both about autism and spirituality. I thought this sequel would be more of the same. But I could barely relate to any of the stories in this book, and the author goes pretty far in some of his assertions, like that telepathy is the natural form of communication for people on the autism spectrum (so where are my telepathic powers already?). There was also a rant about Terri Schiavo near the beginning that put me in a less-than-receptive mood towards the rest of the book. While I did appreciate the author's general view that autism isn't something that should be eradicated and autistic people don't need to become neurotypical (the author is on the autism spectrum himself), the rest of the book left me wondering what had happened between the previous book and this one - did the author change or did I?

129Enraptured
Edited: Nov 18, 2010, 4:34pm Top

#89: Miles Errant by Lois McMaster Bujold
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: Reading through the series

This is my favorite of the Miles collections, and the second book (Mirror Dance) is my favorite book in the series. I love the transformation of Mark from a villain into a fully realized character. He's very different from Miles, but compelling in his own way, and he actually brought me to tears at one point in Mirror Dance (and books don't normally make me cry). This book also revealed more of the theme of accepting people s they are that I saw a hint of in Ethan of Athos. Mark didn't have to Get Better in order to overcome his problems and become a relatively well-adjusted person (key word "relatively"...), and that made me happy.

130Enraptured
Nov 18, 2010, 4:22pm Top

#90: Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: Reading through the series

This book was brilliant. The author took the fun adventure aspect of the previous Miles books and twisted it, using it to all but destroy Miles. More proof that she's a highly skilled storyteller. The ending was perfect for the character, too, and sent the series in a good new direction.

131Enraptured
Nov 18, 2010, 4:24pm Top

#91: The Diet Myth by Paul Campos
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: I saw it recommended on a blog years ago

I'm always glad to see someone challenging the common assumptions about obesity. Paul Campos uses an engaging writing style to state his case, and everything he says both makes sense and seems well-researched. It's frustrating how much people ignore because of the unquestioned assumption that the fatter you are, the unhealthier you are.

132Enraptured
Nov 18, 2010, 4:32pm Top

#92: My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: I enjoyed the author's other books (yes, I read Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants), and I have a soft spot for love stories that span multiple lifetimes

I loved the premise of this book, but the actual book fell flat for me. It took me most of the book to figure out why I wasn't enjoying it as much as I should have been. I finally realized it was the characters. Lucy isn't well-developed; she's sweet, and friendly, and likes to garden... and that's about it. As for Daniel, his sulkiness and angst through his previous lifetimes put me off; instead of seeming romantic, his two-thousand-year fixation on Lucy came off as immature. I really tried to like this book, because of how much the premise appealed to me, but in the end I couldn't give it more than three stars.

133Enraptured
Nov 19, 2010, 6:59am Top

#93: Miles in Love by Lois McMaster Bjuold
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: Reading through the series

It took me a while to warm up to Ekaterin and see her as a well-developed character (honestly, I think part of it was that she liked to garden just like Lucy from My Name is Memory, and so I kept thinking of that character), but by the end of this collection I liked her a lot. And the dinner party scene from A Civil Campaign has got to be the funniest scene in any of the Miles books.

134Enraptured
Nov 19, 2010, 7:02am Top

#94: Miles, Mutants, and Microbes by Lois McMaster Bujold
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: Reading through the series

I actually read Falling Free, the first book in this collection, a couple of years ago, but it was just as good the second time around (although I didn't like the romance subplot; the relationship just didn't feel believable to me). The second book, Diplomatic Immunity, was another solidly good Miles book.

135Enraptured
Edited: Nov 19, 2010, 7:10am Top

#95: The Revelation (Animorphs #45) by K.A. Applegate
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: Finishing the series

It amazes me how uneven this series is from book to book (although I suppose it's not that surprising, seeing as they were all ghostwritten by this point). The last one I read didn't interest me, but I really enjoyed this one. Over the course of the series, Marco went from my least favorite character to one of my favorites, and this book includes the double-life aspects that are one of my favorite things about the series. This book also starts the series moving towards its conclusion; irrevocable things happen, and I could see the plot building up to the planned ending of the series.

136Enraptured
Nov 19, 2010, 7:20am Top

#96: Right Ascension by David Derrico
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: The author posts on a forum I occasionally visit

I love science fiction that deals with philosophy and moral ambiguity, and since that's exactly what this book was described as, I had to check it out. I didn't enjoy it as much as I had hoped, though. The beginning drew me in, but the moral issues didn't break any new ground, and there were too many cliches for my taste. It's not a bad story, but it wasn't what I had hoped it would be.

137Enraptured
Nov 19, 2010, 7:23am Top

#97: The Patron Saint of Butterflies by Cecelia Galante
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: I forget where I originally saw it, but it caught my eye because stories about cults intrigue me

Another one that wasn't what I had hoped. I'm not even sure why, but this one never really drew me in. Intellectually I could see that the story was tense and emotional, but I never really felt it.

138alcottacre
Nov 19, 2010, 7:23am Top

I am enjoying your reviews, Zoe. I like the 'why I chose it' part too.

139Enraptured
Edited: Nov 19, 2010, 7:36am Top

#98: The Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: I love dystopias

The YA-dystopia genre has been increasingly popular lately (good news for me, since I'm writing one!), and this is one I had my eye on for awhile. But like the previous book, I never really got drawn in; I never got much of a sense of just who the main character was. (It also didn't help that the formatting was terrible; in the ebook version - at least the one from Barnes and Noble - the entire book is in italics! That's not the book's fault, of course, but it did make it harder to read.) Then, at the end, the author included an afterword which warns children to be skeptical about environmentalists' claims of global warming. I thought the concept of a dystopia based on militant environmentalism was a nice twist - I don't think I've seen that done before - but I'm not a fan of indoctrinating children. (Maybe I would have felt differently if she were pushing a point of view I actually agreed with, but probably not.)

140Enraptured
Edited: Nov 19, 2010, 7:47am Top

#99: The Freak Revolution Manifesto by Pace & Kyeli Smith
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: I saw one of the authors commenting on a blog I read (Awful Library Books)

Pace and Kyeli are fantastic. This was my first introduction to them, and I was immediately struck by just how friendly their writing sounds. And while I've never used the framework they use to describe the problems with the world - a struggle between the control paradigm and the connection paradigm - it made a lot of sense to me. What I liked most was the talk about how we aren't meant to trudge through lives doing things they don't even care about, we're meant to spend our lives doing things that matter to us. That's something I've always felt strongly about, and it made me happy to see somebody else who felt the same way. I didn't agree with everything in this book - there were some hints of libertarianism (which I don't tend to agree with) and food politics (which I generally avoid) - but a lot of it felt like one of those conversations where you meet someone new and discover just how much common ground you share.

Shortly after I read this, the authors changed the name of the Freak Revolution Manifesto to the Connection Revolution Manifesto. I haven't read the new version, but the authors have said it's almost exactly the same as the old one. You can download it for free here: http://connection-revolution.com/manifesto/

141Enraptured
Nov 19, 2010, 7:47am Top

I am enjoying your reviews, Zoe. I like the 'why I chose it' part too.

Thanks! I'm glad you're enjoying them. I started including "why I chose it" because I wanted to keep track of how I ended up with some of the stranger books I read; it's interesting to look back on later.

142alcottacre
Nov 19, 2010, 8:17am Top

That is a good idea!

143Enraptured
Nov 20, 2010, 7:00am Top

#100: Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: Orson Scott Card is one of my favorite authors

At first I found the premise - that by going back in time and preventing Christopher Columbus from coming to America, the main characters could create a utopia - a bit too eyeroll-inducing. Sure, Columbus wasn't the greatest guy, but he is by no means responsible for all the suffering in the world. However, partway through the book, the characters discover something (that I won't give away here), that redeemed the book for that aspect. Even when it was making me roll my eyes, though, I loved this book. I'm not even sure why. It felt comfortable and optimistic and friendly. I don't think the ending would actually have worked in real life, at least not to the extent it did, and I didn't particularly like the role Christianity played... but regardless of the book's problems, after I finished it I felt like I could have started reading it again right away.

144Enraptured
Nov 20, 2010, 7:10am Top

#101: Breathless by V.J. Chambers
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: The author posts on a forum I sometimes visit

I wasn't sure whether this would be good or awful, to be honest. It's YA paranormal, so I was worried it would turn out to be a Twilight clone. But it turned out to be nothing of the sort. The premise was one I hadn't seen before, and the characters had plenty of personality - and there wasn't a vampire in sight. And the writing style kept the story moving fast. Definitely recommended if you like paranormal books but are tired of seeing the same old story over and over.

145Enraptured
Nov 20, 2010, 7:13am Top

#102: Trembling by V.J. Chambers (no touchstone)
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I read the first book in the trilogy

You know how I said this wasn't a Twilight Clone? It's still definitely not - but the more of this book I read, the more I got the impression that the author had read the Twilight books and written this trilogy at least partially in response to all the things that annoyed her about them. The relationship between Jason and Azazel went in a direction I really didn't expect - I always like when an author can surprise me, especially in a genre that's filled with formulaic stories. This book was heavy on the angst, but still a good story.

146Enraptured
Nov 20, 2010, 7:16am Top

#103: Tortured by V.J. Chambers
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I read the first two books in the trilogy

Even heavier on the angst than book 2! Again, though, still a good story. I thought it wrapped up a bit too fast, and had a hard time believing that all the issues (especially with Jason and his ambiguous potential) were resolved... but I found out recently that the author is writing a new book featuring the same characters, so maybe they're not resolved after all.

147Enraptured
Edited: Nov 20, 2010, 7:21am Top

#104: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: I kept seeing it around, and I read some stuff from the author's blog that I liked

I liked the author's idea of testing out different ways of being happier over the course of a year. But I found the book ultimately unsatisfying. I think it's that the things she did were too specific to her in many cases – all those crafts! – to be useful as a road map, but at the same time the book didn't share enough about her to be a good life story.

148alcottacre
Nov 20, 2010, 7:27am Top

#143: I really enjoyed that one too. Glad to see that book 100 turned out to be such a good one for you, Zoe!

149Enraptured
Nov 20, 2010, 7:32am Top

#105: Handfasting and Wedding Rituals by Raven Kaldera and Tannin Schwartzstein
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: I'm getting married in February, and my fiance's (pagan) mom lent me this book to give me ideas for writing the ceremony

This book did have some useful ideas - but it also had some of the strangest wedding ceremonies I've ever seen! I think I'll skip staging a mock abduction, peeing into a bowl, having a friend cross-dress to read a blessing about androgyny, or anything prefaced with "do this on private property, someplace where it will be easy to clean up any blood."

(And yes, my fiance's mom thought the book was as strange as I did! She's the one who pointed out the peeing-in-a-bowl ceremony; I had somehow missed that one.)

150Enraptured
Nov 20, 2010, 8:48am Top

#106: Way of the Pilgrim by Gordon R. Dickson
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I was looking for books where Earth had been conquered by aliens

It took me a while to warm up to the writing style of this book, but once I did, I enjoyed it a lot. The stakes were huge - the freedom and survival of the entire human race - but at the same time, most of the focus was on the main character and his inner growth, and how his changes and discoveries in turn made it possible for humanity to be saved. The tone was more melodramatic than the books I usually read ("melodramatic" isn't quite the word I'm looking for, but I can't find a better one. more epic? less subtle? more grandiose?), but the tone fit the book well.

151Enraptured
Nov 20, 2010, 8:53am Top

#107: First Meetings by Orson Scott Card
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I really like the other books in the Ender series

This was a quick read, but satisfying. It gave some insight into the backstory behind the characters in the Ender books; I especially liked getting a look at Ender's parents.

I liked the part where Ender's father, as a kid, is bewildered when somebody is making a big deal out of the fact that he can read at college level: "College level? John Paul thought that was ridiculous. Once you knew the letters, reading was reading. How could there be levels?" I thought it sounded familiar :) After all, I still vividly remember the time when the school librarian tried to stop me from reading a chapter book because kids my age weren't ready for chapter books...

152Enraptured
Nov 20, 2010, 8:56am Top

#108: Promises to Keep: Crafting Your Wedding Ceremony by Ann Keeler Evans
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: Looking for inspiration for my wedding ceremony

This was a good look at the meaning behind the different aspects of a wedding ceremony, and ways those aspects can be tweaked to suit your individual needs. It gave me some good ideas, and some insight into the structure of wedding ceremonies in general.

153Enraptured
Nov 20, 2010, 8:58am Top

#109: Working for the Devil by Lilith Saintcrow
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: Rereading the first book in the series so I can read the others

I read this book last year, but never got around to reading the other books in the series. I picked up book 2 this year, but as soon as I started reading it I realized I needed to reread book 1 first - I had forgotten so much that I didn't understand any of what was going on in book 2. I liked it as much the second time as I did the first time; the world is a fascinating mix of science fiction and urban fantasy.

154Enraptured
Nov 20, 2010, 9:01am Top

#110: Dead Man Rising by Lilith Saintcrow
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: Liked the first book in the series

I'm glad I reread book 1 before starting this one; I never would have been able to understand it otherwise. This book was as good as the first one; once again, the world was the most fascinating part, but I also enjoyed reading about Dante Valentine, a tough urban fantasy heroine who actually feels real (as opposed to the cardboard-cutout tough urban fantasy heroines that are so common these days).

155Enraptured
Nov 20, 2010, 9:08am Top

#111: The Wedding Ceremony Planner by Judith Johnson
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: Looking for wedding ceremony ideas

Another good book of ceremony ideas - but this one was useful in a completely different way than Promises to Keep. While Promises to Keep analyzed the structure of the wedding ceremony, this book gave a lot of samples for each part of the ceremony, to mix and match as you see fit. I didn't end up using any of it verbatim, but it did give me ideas for how to word things and for the types of things I wanted to include.

This was designed as a book for people who want a spiritual wedding ceremony but don't necessarily want a Christian ceremony. A bunch of the amazon reviews complained about the references to God, Spirit, etc., but I thought the book description made it clear that it had a spiritual tone. I was a bit confused, though, by the ceremonies that talk about "the Lord," since they're not supposed to be Christian ceremonies; I'm pretty sure that phrasing is a Christian thing, unless they're referring to Lord Shiva...

156Enraptured
Nov 20, 2010, 9:13am Top

#112: The Devil's Right Hand by Lilith Saintcrow
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: Liked the other books in the series

The world these books are set in is still fascinating. There's so much more I want to know about it, and there are so many unanswered questions; I'm tempted to read the next book just for that. But I won't be reading it for the characters; they fell apart in this book, and from the reviews I've read, the fourth book is just more of the same. Dante has been hijacked by huge amounts of relationship angst, and as the book goes on, it only gets worse. The "I love him... but I hate him... but I love him..." stuff got really tiresome after awhile. And neither Dante nor Japhrimel were at all appealing in this book; they were both acting like jerks.

157Enraptured
Nov 22, 2010, 8:01am Top

#113: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: I liked the first book in the series and knew the third one was coming out soon

Okay, I actually read this right before The Patron Saint of Butterflies, but I somehow skipped over it when I was going through my list of books to review, so I'm reviewing it now instead.

I liked this book just as much as the previous ones. Some people complained about the fact that this one didn't focus on the arena as much as The Hunger Games did, but that was one of the things I liked; I was glad to get to see more of the world of the story. Katniss is a believable character, too, and keeps getting put into impossible situations. It takes a lot to make it hard for me to put down a book, but this one was definitely hard to put down.

158alcottacre
Nov 22, 2010, 8:06am Top

#157: I will be reading that one shortly. Glad you liked it!

159Enraptured
Nov 22, 2010, 4:09pm Top

#157: I will be reading that one shortly. Glad you liked it!

I hope you like it as much as I did!

160Enraptured
Edited: Nov 22, 2010, 4:18pm Top

#114: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Rating: 5 stars (I think)
Why I chose it: I loved the other two books in the trilogy

I'm still having mixed feelings about this book. Writing-wise, it was excellent; it kept me just as hooked as the previous two did. And the themes really started to become clear in this one - the parallels between the different people all using Katniss for their purposes, and the parallels between the Hunger Games and the world's larger conflict. It's the ending I'm not sure of. I'm going to have to be vague here, so as to avoid spoilers. I was impressed with the way she ended it; it wasn't what I had expected, and was considerably more complex than what I had anticipated. But when I think about how the ending relates to everything that came before it, I'm not sure I like the feeling I'm left with.

161alcottacre
Nov 22, 2010, 4:22pm Top

#159: Me too!

#160: That one is following shortly too.

162nancyewhite
Nov 22, 2010, 4:24pm Top

Thanks for the reviews on the wedding ceremony books. My partner and I are thinking of getting married in 2011 and I want a meaningful but not traditional ceremony so this is very helpful

163Enraptured
Nov 22, 2010, 4:24pm Top

#115: The Splinter by Remittance Girl
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I'm really not sure! I think I saw someone online recommend the author

Like I said, I'm not sure what possessed me to read this, especially since I'm not a fan of erotica in general. But once I started reading, I was pleasantly surprised. The story is about sex, yes, but it wasn't written for the purpose of turning readers on. (There's nothing wrong with books that are written for that purpose, of course; I just don't tend to like them.) It's about sex and mysticism and confused people, and it's dark and complex and haunting. The author managed to pack a lot into such a short book. Recommended if you're not squeamish about sex, religion, or intersections of the two.

164Enraptured
Edited: Nov 22, 2010, 4:28pm Top

#116: Devil's Descent 1: Purgatory by Claudia D. Christian (no touchstone)
Rating: 2 stars
Why I chose it: I ran across it while browsing Smashwords

The world of this book, and the main character's complicated history with Julian-the-evil-vampire who turned into Ian-the-good-vampire and then turned into Julian again, confused me until I realized that this is basically Buffy/Angelus fanfiction (that's Buffy/Angelus, not Buffy/Angel) with the names changed. After I figured that out, everything made sense. Okay, so someone wanted to see what a Buffy/Angelus relationship would look like; I can respect that. But it was honestly tedious. It was worse than The Devil's Right Hand with the "I love you, but I hate you, but I love you" stuff, and it never really went anywhere. And the characters were both so unpleasant. I know that was part of the point of the book; I went into it expecting a seriously dysfunctional relationship, not a sugary romance. But their sheer unlikability made it difficult to like the book.

There's something I'm wondering. The main character is "the Resurrector" (or she was before she died and came back to life). Do the other books in the series explain who or what a Resurrector resurrects (I don't think resurrecting herself counts, because I got the impression her death meant she was no longer the Resurrector), or did the author look for synonyms for "Slayer" and end up with an antonym instead? I suspect it's the former, because I think she healed a potted plant at some point early on in the book, but I found the parallel interesting.

165Enraptured
Nov 22, 2010, 4:33pm Top

#117: Lovelock by Orson Scott Card and Kathryn H. Kidd
Rating: unrateable
Why I chose it: Orson Scott Card is one of my favorite authors

I can't say I enjoyed reading this book. All the characters were jerks, which made the book a struggle to finish. There wasn't a single sympathetic character in here (except for one of the minor characters, and there may have been something that made me dislike her too). BUT. Once I finished it, I really wished I could recommend it to people, because I was dying to discuss it with somebody! I was thinking about the book for days after I finished. Alas, I couldn't bring myself to recommend it to anyone, because of how little I'd enjoyed reading it. There's no way I can rate this anything but "unrateable."

166Enraptured
Nov 22, 2010, 4:37pm Top

Thanks for the reviews on the wedding ceremony books. My partner and I are thinking of getting married in 2011 and I want a meaningful but not traditional ceremony so this is very helpful

Congratulations! :) If you're writing your own ceremony, definitely check out Promises to Keep - and The Wedding Ceremony Planner is good for concrete examples.

167ronincats
Nov 22, 2010, 5:55pm Top

I actually had Lovelock on my shelf for about 10 years. At first, I was waiting for the sequel to come out, and then after it looked like that wasn't going to happen, I simply could not get into the book enough to care about the the story. So I traded it off. Sorry I can't discuss it with you.

168Enraptured
Nov 23, 2010, 7:51am Top

I actually had Lovelock on my shelf for about 10 years. At first, I was waiting for the sequel to come out, and then after it looked like that wasn't going to happen, I simply could not get into the book enough to care about the the story. So I traded it off. Sorry I can't discuss it with you.

I certainly understand not wanting to read it after that - and to be honest, even though it didn't matter to me that the rest of the trilogy wasn't going to come out, I still had a hard time getting into it.

(Besides, it's been a few months since I read it, so at this point my memory is kind of fuzzy on what I wanted to discuss anyway!)

169Enraptured
Nov 23, 2010, 8:04am Top

#118: Strange New Feet by Shannon Esposito
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I saw the author posting on some forum or other

I wasn't sure what this one would be like; it's from Smashwords (a site for self-published ebooks), and the quality of books I've gotten there has ranged from absolutely fantastic to barely literate. Luckily, this was one of the good ones. It's books like this that keep me going back to Smashwords despite the bad stuff I've gotten there.

The basic premise is that a group created a child who is half human and half bonobo, and now the main character is trying to protect her while others try to kill her or use her to advance their own agendas. The book had a few problems - the writing was a bit rough in some places, and some of the effects of the character being half-bonobo didn't ring true for me (I don't think she would actually be covered in patches of human skin and patches of bonobo skin, for example; also, bonobos are notoriously sex-obsessed, and while I can see why the author didn't want to give that trait to a fourteen-year-old at the mental level of a seven-year-old, it seems implausible that that aspect of her bonobo genes would not have come through in her at all). But the story - especially the moral aspects - kept me interested, and got me to read the author's other book (review pending).

170Enraptured
Nov 23, 2010, 10:17pm Top

#119: The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I was looking for dog books when we got our puppy last year; I stuck this one on my Paperback Swap wishlist, and it finally got offered to me

This was a fascinating look at dog behavior, human behavior, and the miscommunications that arise from the fact that dogs are canines and humans are primates. Recommended for people who want to understand dogs better - and to make themselves understood to their dogs.

171Enraptured
Edited: Nov 23, 2010, 10:27pm Top

#120: Sahara's Song by Shannon Esposito
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: I liked the author's other book

This was one of the strangest books I've ever encountered. There are the experiments about using sound waves to make plants grow faster, which are actually a cover for something much more sinister. There are the main character's visions of an Egyptian woman and her favorite author. There's her creepy promiscuous mysterious ally. There are the even more mysterious angels/aliens. And that's not even all of it; that's just all I can say without giving away too much of the plot.

I liked the author's other book, but this one didn't appeal to me the same way. It went in too many different directions, I never got much of a feel for the main character, and the ending was a bit too cheesy for me. Still, it had some good parts, and the plot, though convoluted, was intriguing.

172Enraptured
Nov 24, 2010, 7:49am Top

#121: Noah's Wife by T.K. Thorne
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: I saw the author posting somewhere online, and noticed that the book had an autistic main character

The character of Na'amah was my favorite part about this book. She was more nuanced and less stereotyped than a lot of autistic characters I've run across; she was missing some of the common traits that authors like to use, but still had a distinctly autistic feel. And her Asperger's syndrome wasn't presented solely as an obstacle to overcome. The rest of the book, though, wasn't as engaging. I don't tend to like books that pit the apocryphal ancient universal matriarchy against power-hungry patriarchal religious figures (The Mists of Avalon is an exception, because the story is so well-told), and if I'd known that was what this was, I might not have read it. Still, I'm glad I got to see a somewhat different, yet still believable, portrayal of a character with Asperger's syndrome.

173Enraptured
Nov 24, 2010, 7:55am Top

#122: The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life by Steve Leveen (no touchstone)
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I ran across it while browsing Amazon

This was a friendly ode to the pleasures of books. Some of it I didn't find useful - for example, I do agree that audiobooks are a great invention, but I can't see myself listening to very many of them in the future, simply because I have a lot more trouble absorbing a story that way - but even in those parts, it felt good to hear the thoughts of a fellow book-lover. The section about creating a list of books you want to read, broken down into categories, inspired me to start using a category-based system to start choosing my books better; I'm hoping it will help me find more books that I love, as opposed to ones that are just okay.

A side note: After reading the book, I went to the author's website to check out his column. When I saw he had written about ebooks, I prepared myself for a dose of ebook hate - after all, it seems like most vocal book-lovers are opposed to ebooks. But I was pleasantly surprised - not only does he think ebooks are a good idea, he reads them!

174Enraptured
Nov 24, 2010, 8:01am Top

#123: Buddha: A Story of Enlightenment by Deepak Chopra
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: Barnes and Noble was offering the ebook for free

I have mixed feelings about this one. While I enjoyed reading this new retelling of the story of the Buddha (my mom is a Buddhist, so I'm familiar with the story), it felt unfocused at times; it seemed like the author never quite decided whether he wanted to write a novel with a strong narrative arc or a story about the beginnings of Buddhism for Buddhists and potential Buddhists. My interest also dropped off sharply after the point where the Buddha reached enlightenment, because at that point the narrative got strangely cold, and felt more distant from the character - understandable, since I imagine it would be really difficult to write from the perspective of somebody enlightened, but it was still off-putting. Still, I liked reading a novel that focused around mysticism and the search for enlightenment; that's not something I see very often. I'll probably read the other books in the series (they center around Jesus and Mohammed, respectively).

175Enraptured
Nov 24, 2010, 8:06am Top

#124: Lady in Gil by Rebecca Bradley
Rating: unrateable
Why I chose it: I was proofreading it for Bookshare

Almost as soon as I started proofreading this book, I regretted choosing it. I didn't like the voice of the main character, and the book itself was a standard fantasy-quest story, complete with a Super-Powerful Magical Item the character was supposed to find that would solve all his people's problems. The book took me forever to get through. It got somewhat better as the book went on - the dystopian/oppressive aspects of the world helped keep it interesting, and I warmed up more to the main character as the book went on. But it still wasn't the kind of thing I enjoy reading.

And then I got to the end.

I won't give it away here. But once I read the ending, I understood why it had to be a standard fantasy-quest story. The author took that collection of tropes and twisted it so beautifully that I went from struggling through the book to being amazed by it. Just in time to hit the last page, of course.

176Enraptured
Nov 26, 2010, 7:52am Top

#125: Lightning by Dean Koontz
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: I was in the middle of rewriting my novel and needed to reread something engaging but undemanding

I used to spend more time rereading than I did reading new books. I don't do that much rereading anymore, but every so often I get a craving for a particular book. I'd been wanting to reread Lightning for a while, and it really was as good as I remembered - although not quite as compelling now that I knew all the twists. I really like Dean Koontz (at least most of the time; I've read a couple of books of his that I didn't enjoy, and some I won't touch because they're firmly in the horror genre, but in general I know I'll like his books), and this is one of my favorite books of his (along with Odd Thomas and One Door Away from Heaven).

177Enraptured
Edited: Nov 26, 2010, 7:57am Top

#126: Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: Still looking for undemanding books to reread

I had been meaning to reread this series anyway, so that I could read the last book without feeling completely lost, so while working on the rewrite from hell seemed like as good a time as any. Just like when I read it the first time, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it; I only read it in the first place because so many people raved about these books. Based on the blurb I would have expected it to be one of those YA novels where the characters are all fixated on boys and shopping (yawn)... but Jessica not only has more interesting preoccupations, she's a complex and well-written character.

178Enraptured
Nov 26, 2010, 7:59am Top

#127: Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: Rereading the series

Not much to say about this one. I enjoyed rereading it, just like I enjoyed rereading the first one. The character of Jessica, and her distinct voice, is still the main draw of the series - and kudos to the author for actually creating an interesting love interest! (I'm so tired of cardboard-cutout love interests...)

179Enraptured
Nov 26, 2010, 8:01am Top

#128: Charmed Thirds by Megan McCafferty
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: Rereading the series

I didn't like this one as much as the first two. The first time I read it, something about it sat wrong with me but I wasn't sure why. This time, I figured it out. First, Jessica is so mired in gloom during this book that it's hard to read it without starting to feel kind of depressed. Second - and this is the main reason I liked it less than the others - Jessica did things in this book that bewildered and disappointed me. Her explanations weren't enough for me. These books rely heavily on Jessica's voice and being inside Jessica's head, but what she did in this book made it a lot harder for me to relate to her, which in turn made it harder for me to get into the book.

180Enraptured
Nov 26, 2010, 8:05am Top

#129: Fourth Comings by Megan McCafferty
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: Rereading the series

Not as good as the first two, but better than the third. I like how in this series the characters grow and change as they get older; these books have always had a very grounded sense of place and time, and this book made me realize that they're just as grounded in age and life stage.

181Enraptured
Nov 26, 2010, 8:08am Top

#130: Perfect Fifths by Megan McCafferty
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: It was the last book in the series, and the only one I hadn't read

I found the format of this book off-putting at first; I was used to Jessica's diary entries, and seeing the world of the series from outside her head was disorienting. But I loved the interplay between her and Marcus, especially the chapters that were nothing but dialogue. The timeframe of the book was too short to really get a sense of where Jessica was in her life and where she would be going next, which was disappointing, but at the same time, it felt like the author wanted to do something specific with this book that she wouldn't have been able to do if she'd needed to stretch out the timeframe.

182Enraptured
Dec 1, 2010, 12:49pm Top

#131: A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: Reading through the series

This book took the series in some... unexpected directions, to say the least. There's not much I can say about it that wouldn't be spoilery and that I haven't already said about the other books. George Martin is amazingly good at writing complex characters that feel real. Reading his books makes me jealous; I don't write in his style or his genre, but I would love to have his skill with characters.

183Enraptured
Dec 1, 2010, 12:53pm Top

#132: The Usual Error by Pace & Kyeli Smith
Rating: 4 stars (though I'm contemplating bumping it up to 5)
Why I chose it: I read another book by the authors

I don't normally read self-help books, so I wasn't sure whether I wanted to read this one. But this isn't really a self-help book. It's a book about communication skills, broken down into a whole bunch of useful and easy-to-understand concepts. My favorite parts: the lollipop story, the explanation of the William James zone, and the concept the book is titled after.

You can read the book for free online here: http://usualerror.com/

184Enraptured
Dec 1, 2010, 12:59pm Top

#133: Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: I had a sudden craving to reread it

This is a reread of a book I already read this year. I don't know if I should count it again or not, but since I'm already well past 75 books, I figure it doesn't really matter.

185Enraptured
Edited: Dec 1, 2010, 1:08pm Top

#134: WWW: Wake by Robert J. Sawyer
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: I really like the author

I'm not sure why I avoided reading this book for so long. Once I started it, I loved it. I like near-future science fiction to begin with, and Robert J. Sawyer does it very well. The concept of Caitlin's "websight" was fascinating and well-explained. And I loved watching the evolution of Webmind. Going by the reviews, a lot of people didn't like the parts narrated by Webmind, but I enjoyed seeing how he changed from the beginning to the end, as he became aware and began learning about the world. The book had a few too many pop-culture references, but they didn't make me enjoy the story any less.

186Enraptured
Edited: Dec 1, 2010, 1:08pm Top

#135: WWW: Watch by Robert J. Sawyer
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: I liked the first book in the series

This book was just as good as the first one. The author's ideas about the value of constant surveillance started to appear in this one - those ideas also show up in his Neanderthal trilogy - but he's a good writer who plays with fascinating ideas; I can forgive him a couple of weird themes. I especially liked the ending, which was uplifting without being cloying.

187Enraptured
Dec 1, 2010, 1:10pm Top

#136: First Stringers by Gerald M. Weinberg
Rating: 2 stars
Why I chose it: Early Reviewers book

I also posted my review on the book page, but in case you don't feel like going there to hunt it down, here it is again:

Ember, Bolton, George, and Gina were all born disabled – and they were all born with the power to manipulate the fabric of reality. They need to find each other and grow comfortable with their powers so they can defeat the group that wants to use them for its own ends.

This book was filled with elements that I love (near-future science fiction; characters hunted for their special powers; disabled characters who narrate their own lives and aren't magically cured at the end), but it fell flat for me. I never really felt connected to the characters. They had potential; I liked Ember, Bolton, and Alandra well enough, and even George and Gina, who I disliked most of the time, had some sympathetic aspects. But I never felt like I got to know them well enough to feel involved in the story. The plot also seemed uneven, with most of the action crammed into the end. That said, the premise was intriguing, and the characters definitely had the potential to be strong and engaging. A lot of times the first book in a series is a lot rougher around the edges than its sequels; maybe this will turn out to be one of those.

188Enraptured
Edited: Dec 1, 2010, 1:17pm Top

#137: Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer
Rating: 2 stars
Why I chose it: Reading the first two books in the Wake trilogy (the third one isn't out yet) made me want to read more Robert Sawyer

Normally I like Robert Sawyer's books a lot, but this one fell flat for me. The plot meandered, and never seemed to get very far. I know it was meant to primarily be an exploration of what happened after Don's rejuvenation treatment worked (turning him from 80-something to 20-something) and his wife Sarah's didn't, rather than a story about the aliens who only appeared occasionally in the background; that's not what I had a problem with. I just think there should have been more of a sense of a plot arc, of movement, of things happening.

I had a strong reaction to one of the subplots, though, so for all I know I might have liked the book a lot better if it hadn't been there. The thing with Don and Lenore really bothered me. If he had just talked about it with Sarah, I would have been fine with it, but the fact that he didn't made the whole thing Not Okay with me.

189Enraptured
Dec 1, 2010, 9:18pm Top

#138: A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin
Rating: 2 stars
Why I chose it: Reading through the series

I had heard the series sort of fell apart at this book. I didn't think it could be true, though, because the first three books were so good. But this one just dragged on and on, and it didn't really seem to be heading anywhere with purpose anymore. It didn't help that the author had to split this book into two (the second one isn't out yet) and most of the more interesting characters weren't in this one.

190Enraptured
Dec 1, 2010, 9:29pm Top

#139: Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: New Miles Vorkosigan book!

Another excellent Miles Vorkosigan book. The ending is driving me crazy, because I can't figure out whether it means hat there are more books coming or that this is the end of the series. I looked online, and no one else seems to be able to figure it out either! It would be a logical place to end the series, but there's one line in particular in the epilogue that worries me and makes me really want there to be more, if only for reassurance.

191Enraptured
Edited: Dec 1, 2010, 9:42pm Top

#140: Nonzero by Robert Wright
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: I forget how I stumbled across it, but I thought it looked interesting

The premise of this book is that human cultures always progress and evolve, and that in general they evolve along the same lines as one another, following the same basic set of steps. That idea makes intuitive sense to me, and the author laid out a good case for it. There was a hole in his theory that he never addressed: if, as he says, it was inevitable for some species to develop intelligence even if it wasn't humans... and if all cultures evolve along the same lines, albeit at very different rates... then why aren't all animals slowly developing human-like intelligence? (Or is it just happening too slowly for us to see?) Still, I do think his theory has merit - especially since improvement and development and growth are part of human nature.

192Enraptured
Dec 3, 2010, 8:05am Top

#141: Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn
Rating: 4 stars

#142: Kitty Goes to Washington by Carrie Vaughn
Rating: 4 stars

#143: Kitty Takes a Holiday by Carrie Vaughn
Rating: 4 stars

#144: Kitty and the Silver Bullet by Carrie Vaughn
Rating: 4 stars

#145: Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand by Carrie Vaughn
Rating: 3 stars

#146: Kitty Raises Hell by Carrie Vaughn
Rating: 3 stars

Why I chose them: I was sick and my life was turning inside-out in a dozen different ways; I needed something fun and undemanding to read. I'd read these books (all but the last one) before, and had been wanting to continue the series, but didn't remember enough of the previous books to do so without rereading them.

I love Carrie Vaughn's approach to urban fantasy. Her main character, Kitty, is far from the standard cardboard-cutout Strong Female Character so often seen in urban fantasy; she's complex and vulnerable, and strong in a non-cardboard-cutout way. And she changes and grows from book to book. What she did with the romance arc also surprised me (though obviously not on my second read through the series!), and in a good way - why do I suspect she's as sick as I am of the standard urban-fantasy love interests?

Normally I like my urban fantasy darker than these books, but sometimes you just need something fun. This series was exactly what I needed.

I didn't like the fifth and sixth books as well; I don't know if they were actually different or if I was just getting burned out on the series. I opted not to read the seventh and eighth books, for now, because if I really am just burned out on the series, I'd rather read them when I'm better able to enjoy them.

193alcottacre
Dec 3, 2010, 8:13am Top

#192: This series was exactly what I needed.

I am glad you found something that fit the bill for you!

194ronincats
Dec 3, 2010, 9:47pm Top

I just bought the first Kitty book, and will get around to it eventually.

Bujold's next book is about Ivan. We don't know where it will fit chronologically, other than it has to be after A Civil Campaign. An excellent blog on Cryoburn can be found at

http://www.roycemcdaniels158.com/thewalrussays/?p=13

195dk_phoenix
Dec 4, 2010, 9:56am Top

I'd really like to read the Kitty series, as I've heard some good things about it, but I haven't managed to track down book one yet. One of these days...

196Enraptured
Dec 5, 2010, 7:41am Top

Bujold's next book is about Ivan. We don't know where it will fit chronologically, other than it has to be after A Civil Campaign. An excellent blog on Cryoburn can be found at

http://www.roycemcdaniels158.com/thewalrussays/?p=13


Thanks for the link :) That's a great discussion of Cryoburn. Thanks for the info on the next book, too.

197Enraptured
Dec 5, 2010, 7:45am Top

#147: The Deception by K.A. Applegate
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: Reading through the series

A solidly good Animorphs book. I always (well, almost always) really like the ones that deal with moral dilemmas. This one helps move the plot of the series along, too.

198Enraptured
Dec 5, 2010, 10:03am Top

#148: The Resistance by K.A. Applegate
Rating: 2 stars
Why I chose it: Reading through the series

This one was written by the same ghostwriter who's written pretty much all my favorite Animorphs books, so I had high hopes for it. But... I just didn't like it. The subplot about Jake's ancestor in the Civil War didn't seem necessary; I could see how it related to the plot of this book specifically, but not to the series as a whole, and given how few pages these books have, it didn't make sense to use so many of them to tell that story. And the thing about them stumbling across the Star Trek fans didn't make sense - I could believe that they would just happen to stumble across a bunch of Star Trek fans, but the fact that the Star Trek fans all thought Star Trek was real strained credulity.

199Enraptured
Edited: Dec 5, 2010, 10:06am Top

#149: A War of Gifts by Orson Scott Card
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I love the Ender books

This book is more of a stand-alone story featuring the characters from the Ender series; it's not necessary to read it if you're reading through the series. But it was a fun story. I always like it when authors like to play with the same subjects I like to play with, and Orson Scott Card seems to share my interest in religions.

200alcottacre
Dec 5, 2010, 11:01pm Top

#199: The only book I have read in the Ender series was the first one, so since that book is more of a stand-alone, I will give it a go.

201Enraptured
Dec 6, 2010, 8:05am Top

#150: Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas
Rating:4 stars
Why I chose it: Got a sudden craving to reread it

#151: Laughing Without an Accent by Firoozeh Dumas
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: Just finished the author's other book

These two books are basically two parts of the same book; they're both made up of funny or interesting stories from the author's past, mainly about her Iranian background and how it's influenced her life in America. A lot of the stories made me laugh, and I really like the author's friendly voice. Recommended if you like lighthearted memoirs.

202alcottacre
Dec 6, 2010, 8:17am Top

#201: Those sound good! Thanks for the recommendations.

203Enraptured
Dec 9, 2010, 7:37am Top

#152: Stardoc by S.L. Viehl
Rating: 4 stars

#153: Beyond Varallan by S.L. Viehl
Rating: 4 stars

#154: Endurance by S.L. Viehl
Rating: 4 stars

#155: Shockball by S.L. Viehl
Rating: 4 stars

#156: Eternity Row by S.L. Viehl
Rating: 4 stars

#157: Rebel Ice by S.L. Viehl
Rating: 3 stars

#158: Plague of Memory by S.L. Viehl
Rating: 3 stars

#159: Omega Games by S.L. Viehl
Rating: 3 stars

#160: Crystal Healer by S.L. Viehl
Rating: 4 stars

#161: Dream Called Time by S.L. Viehl
Rating: 4 stars

Why I chose them: Still sick and looking for something relatively light to reread. This was another series where I wanted to read the next books (I had only read through Plague of Memory) but didn't remember the series well enough to read the new ones without rereading the old ones.

These books are fun. I don't tend to read the light space-adventure type of science fiction, but I liked these. Cherijo is an engaging character, and the author actually created an interesting love interest (it's sad how rare those are...). And as the series went on, I could tell it was building towards something, becoming more twisty and complicated. (The author actually planned out the entire ten-book arc before writing the first book.)

Now, what I didn't like. Books 6 through 9 were not about Cherijo, and there was no guarantee that Cherijo would even come back. I don't think it was necessarily a bad decision - it complicated the series arc in a way most writers don't manage - but I don't like the way it was done. I think that if one change had been made - if book 5 had ended with what became the prologue of book 6 - I would have felt much less betrayed and would have been more willing to accept the new main character.

In book 9, the series started to feel the way it used to again, despite the absence of Cherijo. In that book, the series started heading toward resolution, and in book 10 everything was explained and resolved. My only complaint is that everything seemed to happen so fast, to the point where I got confused some of the time. But I thought the series ended well, even if it was kind of a blur.

204alcottacre
Dec 9, 2010, 5:39pm Top

Sorry to hear you are still under the weather! I hope you feel better soon, Zoe.

205Enraptured
Dec 11, 2010, 10:14pm Top

#162: Illumination by S.L. Viehl
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: Reading through the series

I downloaded this from the author's website a while ago, but was waiting to read it until I reread the series. It's the first Stardoc novel from the point of view of Reever, the main character's love interest. I enjoyed the insight into the character of Reever; I'd be curious to know whether he actually had no human emotions until he met Cherijo, or if he just mistakenly believes that.

206Enraptured
Dec 11, 2010, 10:16pm Top

#163: The Career Novelist by Donald Maass
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: I loved the author's other books about writing, especially Writing the Breakout Novel

There's some good information in this book, but since it was written in 1996, a lot of it is outdated. The parts about building and sustaining a long-term writing career and on finding and keeping an agent are good (although good luck finding an agent now who only charges a 10 percent commission!); the information on genre trends, though, is no longer useful, and the section on electronic rights and books on CD-ROM(?!) is downright funny now. Because publishing has clearly changed since Maass wrote this book, I'm afraid to trust the information about contracts, book packagers, and so on, since I don't know how much still applies and how much is different now.

The author is offering the book free in PDF format here: http://www.maassagency.com/books.html#career

207Enraptured
Dec 14, 2010, 10:09pm Top

#164: Amnar: The Execution by I J Black (no touchstone; link goes to Smashwords)
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: I knew the author years ago, before her books were available; I just happened to find her again through random blog-hopping. I actually read a much earlier version of this story a few years ago.

I barely remembered this story from the first time I read it, but I did remember enjoying it a lot. It was just as good the second time around (actually, I suspect it was better, since this is the revised version). It's a fantasy novella set in a fascinating world; both the world and the writing style are very different from the average fantasy novel. In fact, one thing I wished was that the story included more explanation of the world; I don't remember much of the stuff I used to know about Amnar, and so at times I felt kind of lost.

208Enraptured
Dec 14, 2010, 10:18pm Top

#165: The Eternal Dungeon Omnibus 2010 by Dusk Peterson
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I've read some of the books in the series already

This is actually four novels and a novella, collected into one book. I had read three of them - Rebirth, Transformation, and The Unanswered Question - before, but the other two were new to me. I read through the ones I had already read, both because I wanted to be sure I remembered them well enough before I read the next books and because I was looking forward to the chance to revisit the series. Like The Execution, these books were just as good the second time - and also like The Execution, they're set in a fascinating world that isn't like anything I've seen anywhere else. The characters, though, are what I like best. I talk about the series much further up on the thread, in my review of The Unanswered Question.

209Enraptured
Edited: Dec 14, 2010, 10:30pm Top

#166: Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
Rating: 4 stars

#167: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules by Jeff Kinney
Rating: 4 stars

#168: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw by Jeff Kinney
Rating: 4 stars

#169: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days b Jeff Kinney
Rating: 4 stars

#170: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth by Jeff Kinney
Rating: 4 stars

Why I chose them: I kept hearing about them and wanted to try them out. Plus, I was sick, my life was turning inside out, my brain was mush. These books were simple. They had pictures.

I liked these books. They went by too quickly - it only took me about half an hour to read each one - but they were fun, and they made me laugh. I've seen reviews complaining that the main character has few redeeming qualities, but the way I saw it, that was part of the point. I thought the series was longer than five books, so I was kind of disappointed when I found out book 5 was the last one... I want the next one!

(Also, after spotting a Calvin and Hobbes reference, I have to wonder if Calvin and Hobbes was one of the author's inspirations, though the style is quite different.)

210alcottacre
Dec 14, 2010, 10:32pm Top

I have the fifth book in the series home now from the library, having read all the others up to that point. The first couple I thought were better than books 3 and 4, so I am hoping book 5 returns to that form.

211ronincats
Dec 14, 2010, 11:12pm Top

I hope your life is in a better place, now!

212Enraptured
Dec 17, 2010, 7:15am Top

#171: The Line by Teri Hall
Rating: 2 stars
Why I chose it: I'm writing a YA dystopia, and wanted to get a better look at what else is out there in the genre

The main reason I didn't like this book was the writing style. There's a certain style that some kids' books have (generally not YA books, but this book read more like middle-grade than YA). I'm not sure how to explain it; it's almost like a storybook style. Which isn't a very good explanation, I know, but I'm not sure how to narrow it down. I know it when I see it, though, and it's not a style I enjoy. So while this isn't a bad book - I'm certainly not telling anyone not to read it - I just couldn't get into it.

(One minor thing about the book did bug me - the people who fight the oppressive regime call themselves "collaborators." I guess it's probably because they collaborate with each other to fight the regime... but in general, collaborators are people who work with oppressive regimes, not against them.)

213Enraptured
Dec 17, 2010, 7:40am Top

#172: Matched by Ally Condie
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: Same reason I read The Line

The first few pages of this book left me skeptical. The main character was obsessing over her clothes and over finding out what boy she was going to be assigned to marry, and I thought, "Oh, it's going to be one of those books." But it wasn't. The main character didn't turn out to be clothes-and-boy-obsessed after all; instead, she had depth, both in terms of complexity and in terms of how deeply she felt things. She felt real, and the story felt real - not in the sense of "this could actually happen," but in terms of emotional impact. Recommended if you liked The Hunger Games and want to read more YA dystopia.

214alcottacre
Dec 17, 2010, 7:54am Top

#213: I have Matched in the BlackHole already. I hope the local library gets a copy in soon!

215Enraptured
Dec 18, 2010, 7:53am Top

#173: Fallen by Lauren Kate
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: This one had been sitting on my wishlist for a long time; I really like stories about angels, especially angels living as humans

This was a solidly enjoyable book. It's paranormal romance, which I don't tend to like (I'm not much of a romance reader), but a lot of the focus was on the mystery of what exactly was going on at Luce's boarding school and why she was so drawn to Daniel. It kept me intrigued.

216Enraptured
Dec 18, 2010, 7:54am Top

#174: The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: I'm a huge fan of Orson Scott Card, so I requested the book through LT Early Reviewers

Fantastic book! My review is here: http://www.librarything.com/work/6573413/reviews/67549401

217alcottacre
Dec 18, 2010, 7:58am Top

Nice review of the Card book, Zoe! Thumbs up.

218Enraptured
Dec 18, 2010, 8:17am Top

#175: George and Sam by Charlotte Moore
Rating: 2 stars
Why I chose it: I've heard about it in several different places, including a couple listings of books about autism, the book The Polysyllabic Spree, and a book review that suggested the author should have made her book about herself instead of about her autistic children because autistic people have no self-awareness (...?) and so their autism doesn't actually affect them, just the people around them (!!!)

I had heard a lot of good things about this book, but ultimately I was let down by it. I was expecting it to be something different than it was. I suppose the introduction by Nick Hornby should have tipped me off; it gave three categories of people who would be interested in reading this book, and I was not in any of them. From what I'd heard about the book, I had expected it to be more of a celebration of her sons' differences; instead it was about how difficult they are to raise but how she's managed to accept it. It also presents (what I'm pretty sure is) an outdated conception of autism - the idea of autistic people having little to no self-concept - although that may be because the book is a few years old. (Although after a quick Google search, I'm wondering if that theory is still in play after all; the search led me to a book from 2007 that says adults on the autism spectrum have no sense of self!)

I hesitate to entirely advise against reading the book, because I know a lot of people have really liked it. If you have or known an autistic child, especially someone low-functioning, and want to read about someone who understands how difficult it is but has accepted it and isn't on an endless quest for a cure, this may be just what you're looking for. If you want a book that explores the positive aspects of autism (yes, they exist!), or are on the autism spectrum yourself, this book probably isn't what you want.

If you're looking for a book about autism from a parent's perspective in general, I recommend Not Even Wrong by Paul Collins (which also includes some really interesting stuff about the history of autism), or possibly A Different Kind of Boy by Daniel Demont (though his son is higher-functioning than the boys in George and Sam).

219Enraptured
Edited: Dec 18, 2010, 12:55pm Top

#176: Anastasia on Her Own by Lois Lowry
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I got the urge to hunt down the books in this series late last year, but then forgot about it for a while after reading the first couple of books. I loved these when I was a kid.

Some kids' books aren't nearly as good when you go back and read them as an adult. The Anastasia books, though, are just as funny as I remember. This was one of the Anastasia books I remembered the best. I only remembered disconnected fragments, though, so it was good to be able to see the whole story again.

Also? Anastasia has a couple of the best parents I've ever seen. Those books share my "model parents" tag (books with parents who I want to be like when I have kids of my own) with the memoir Hiding Places by Daniel Asa Rose (a fantastic memoir, but it seems to be out of print now).

220Enraptured
Edited: Dec 18, 2010, 12:55pm Top

#177: Write Good or Die (no touchstone; link goes to Smashwords), edited by Scott Nicholson
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: I saw it recommended somewhere online (I don't remember where)

This is a collection of blog posts by professional writers (mainly science fiction and thriller authors) about the business of writing. I only gave it three stars because some of them weren't that useful, but there are also some really good selections in here. For a free download, it's definitely worth reading, especially if you're interested in a career as an author.

There was one thing in one of the early chapters that kind of bugged me. I really don't like the writing philosophy that says that to be a good writer you have to struggle over every word and every comma, and bleed Great Art out onto the page one anguished drop at a time. However, I also don't agree with the polar-opposite philosophy presented in one of this book's earlier chapters (and in a few other places I've seen in the writing community lately), the idea that your writing will always be best when you just write first draft as fast as you can and don't think about it. (Some people who espouse this philosophy think that revision is always harmful to the creative process, although I don't think this book went that far.) Surely there's some middle ground between the two philosophies... surely I'm not the only writer who writes quickly, with a minimum of drama, but also edits thoroughly...

221Enraptured
Edited: Dec 18, 2010, 12:56pm Top

#178: Torment by Lauren Kate
Rating: 2 stars
Why I chose it: I liked the first book in the series

I didn't like this book nearly as much as the first one. In the first one, Luce was being mysteriously drawn to Daniel without knowing why, so I could buy her loving him so strongly without really knowing him. But by this book I was having a hard time relating to her intense love for him since there still wasn't much sense of what he's like. He also seems to have come down with Jerky Hero Syndrome just like Japhrimel from Lilith Saintcrow's Dante Valentine series - suddenly he's being distant, keeping secrets, yelling at her for not following his cryptic instructions, and not explaining anything to her. I like Miles, the boy-next-door Nephilim who is becoming her closest friend, much better as a love interest.

222Enraptured
Edited: Dec 18, 2010, 12:56pm Top

#179: Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
Rating: unrateable
Why I chose it: I saw it while browsing Amazon, and it looked fascinating

I was certain this was going to be a five-star book. I loved the concept (a genius who is treated as if she has barely any mental capacity because her cerebral palsy keeps her from communicating), and as soon as I started reading I couldn't put it down. I was going to give it a glowing review, and possibly even put it on my list of top ten books for the year.

Then came the ending.

(SPOILERS - and ranting - below; read at your own risk)

This book fits into an oddly specific pattern I've noticed in a couple of other books and movies this year. The pattern: The main character, who is disabled, wants something. He tries to achieve it, but the odds are against him, mainly because of his disability. (At this point, the story is following the pattern of the typical heartwarming story of a person who succeeds against overwhelming odds.) Despite his efforts, he doesn't get what he was trying for; it's just not possible, given his disability. However, his experience helps him grow as a person. The people around him applaud him for trying so hard; they admire his courage and determination in the face of his hardships.

At first I thought this pattern was specific to books and movies about autistic characters, but apparently it applies to stories about characters with other disabilities as well. I can understand the author not wanting to do the typical heartwarming story, but honestly, right up until the end the story followed the pattern of that kind of story, and I felt like the end didn't fulfill the promises the rest of the story made. Plus, not only did the main character not succeed at what she set out to achieve, she was still stuck in the same special-ed class where they spend their days studying the alphabet over and over - despite the fact that she now has a computer to help her communicate and has amply demonstrated her intelligence.

I really don't like the underlying message of stories that follow this pattern - especially since I have a disability myself. It's almost like the authors set out to write a traditional happy ending but then realize there's no way a disabled character could achieve the ending the book is headed for. So the character fails, but then it's painted as a happy ending because the character is so brave for trying so hard, and because he/she has grown as a person. The endings of stories like this also seem to assume the reader isn't identifying with the disabled person (even when the disabled person is the point-of-view character) but rather with the people who are admiring his/her bravery; this assumption isn't true for me, so I find it jarring.

I kind of want to read more books with disabled characters now, to see just how prevalent this pattern is. But I'm also kind of afraid to.

223Enraptured
Edited: Dec 18, 2010, 12:57pm Top

#180: The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: Saw it recommended online

It was interesting to read this book on writing so soon after Write Good or Die, because the approaches they take are so different. Write Good or Die focuses on the practical aspects of being a professional writer; this book is more about the psychology of writing - common personality types of writers, how to deal with the mental pitfalls writers can get into, and how to handle the editing and publishing process. I enjoyed reading it, mainly because it was so well-written (the author is a poet turned editor turned literary agent, so she has plenty of experience with words); I could also see myself in some of her descriptions of writers, although I'm much less angsty about my writing than most of her authors seem to be. Overall, though, I preferred the practical approach of Write Good or Die. Also, the more I read of this book, the more it became clear that it was written for literary writers; the world of genre writing is different in a lot of ways, and certainly success for a genre writer looks different than success for a literary writer (for example, the author presents having a story published in The New Yorker as a huge ultimate dream that writers aim for, and while I'm certain it is for many writers, it's something that I've never thought about).

224Enraptured
Edited: Dec 18, 2010, 12:57pm Top

#181: The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters, and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama by Will Bunch
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I think I found it while browsing Amazon, but I'm not sure. The Tea Party movement confuses me, and I thought this would be a good chance to learn more about it.

This book was a good overview of how the Tea Party movement got started and what the driving forces are behind it. It's definitely written from a liberal perspective, so if you don't have that perspective yourself, and especially if you tend to agree with the Tea Partiers, you'll probably feel excluded by this book. But the author talked to Tea Partiers and tried to understand them, and didn't just dismiss them as racists like so many people seem to do. I was surprised that he didn't interview Glenn Beck, since so much of the book focuses on him, but maybe he tried and wasn't able to. This book helped put the Tea Party into perspective, too, by relating it to similar movements in the past, explaining some of the reasons why the people who are drawn to it are drawn to it, and showing that despite what some of the Tea Partiers think, their views don't reflect what the majority of Americans think. Recommended if you want an overview of the Tea Party from a liberal perspective.

225Enraptured
Edited: Dec 18, 2010, 12:57pm Top

And... that's it! I'm caught up (at least until I finish my next book)! Yay!

226alcottacre
Dec 19, 2010, 12:49am Top

Congrats on getting caught up, Zoe!

227ronincats
Dec 20, 2010, 10:35pm Top

Don't know if you'd be interested, but just a note to let you know I've set up a thread for "Future Women: Explorations and Aspirations" in the 2011 group. This is for the readings we talked about after reading The Postman in October, with post-apocalyptic or otherwise future views of women's role in societies. I'm not scheduling reading to start until February 1, but am letting people know so that they can star it and start acquiring books if they so choose.

http://www.librarything.com/topic/105210

228Enraptured
Dec 21, 2010, 10:09pm Top

Thanks, ronincats! It looks interesting; I think I'm going to join in.

229Enraptured
Dec 21, 2010, 10:15pm Top

#182: Anastasia, Ask Your Analyst by Lois Lowry
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: Rereading the series

I think this is the first Anastasia book I read when I was a kid. I enjoyed revisiting it again; Anastasia is a great character, and these books haven't aged badly at all.

230Enraptured
Dec 21, 2010, 10:30pm Top

#183: Send in the Idiots by Kamran Nazeer
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: I think I found it browsing Amazon for autism memoirs

This memoir, where the author visits several of his former classmates from the school for autistic children they all used to attend and sees what their lives are like as adults, is one of the best and most balanced portrayals of autism I've seen. The author's former classmates are portrayed as people, not collections of autism symptoms. They're not examples of Success Against All Odds or of the Insurmountable Difficulties of Autism; it feels like the author is out to show what their lives are like, not to make a point.

While I appreciated the author's portrayals of his former classmates, my two favorite parts of the book actually had nothing to do with them. One was his asides about things like the real purpose of conversation, the subtext behind the word "genius," and the differences between the political styles of Democrats and Republicans. Other reviewers found these parts boring; I couldn't disagree more. The other was the voice of the author, because the way he thinks is distinctly autistic and distinctly familiar. There's the analysis of everyday life as shown in the aforementioned asides; there's also the constant sense of trying to stay invisible, not wanting to intrude, not wanting to get in the way (which is probably also why the author wrote a book about his classmates instead of one about himself). His book was about his classmates, but I felt like I got to know him just as well as I got to know any of them.

231Enraptured
Edited: Dec 22, 2010, 8:02am Top

#184: Hunting Party by Elizabeth Moon
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: My fiance recommended it to me, because I was looking for series books that had both an overall series arc and an individual plot for each book

This was an okay book, but I had a hard time getting into it. The milieu wasn't that interesting to me, what with the aristocracy and the fox hunting and so on. Heris Serrano has potential, though - I could see myself really liking her if I spent more time with her in other books. And I do like the way the author had the vapid teenagers grow up; they actually turned into sympathetic characters, and did so realistically. My fiance says the other books in the series are more interesting than this one, so I'd be willing to try the next one out, at least.

232Enraptured
Edited: Dec 31, 2010, 7:26am Top

#185: Old Man's War by John Scalzi
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: I got the ebook for free a couple of years ago (when Tor.com was giving out a bunch of free ebooks); I wasn't sure whether to read it, but my fiance read it and recommended it

I loved the first third of this book. The ideas were really interesting, and the dialogue was great. The rest of the book wasn't as good - it was still interesting, but it was more aimless, and there was less of the great dialogue. What bothered me was that the author raised some major moral questions and then didn't really go anywhere with them. I think it may just be that my worldview clashed with this book, because if I were writing it there's no way I could ignore those questions.

233alcottacre
Dec 31, 2010, 7:27am Top

#232: I am sorry you did not enjoy that one more, Zoe. I enjoyed it and the follow up books as well.

234Enraptured
Dec 31, 2010, 7:36am Top

#186: The God Engines by John Scalzi
Rating: 3 stars
Why I chose it: My fiance recommended it

This was a fascinating and very strange story. It's science fiction (most of the story takes place on a spaceship), but also sort of fantasy (the spaceships are powered by captive gods...). My problem with it was that I felt kind of disconnected from the story the whole time. I'm not sure why; it may be that I didn't get a good enough sense of the characters, or it might have been something else. I still recommend it, though, for the very cool premise and where the author goes with it.

235Enraptured
Dec 31, 2010, 7:42am Top

#187: Anastasia Has the Answers by Lois Lowry
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: Rereading the series

I don't remember this Anastasia book very well, but I'm sure I read it at some point when I was a kid. It was a fun one... and again, I love Anastasia's parents. I just wish these books didn't go by so fast; it seemed like I had barely started it and then I was at the end.

236Enraptured
Dec 31, 2010, 7:48am Top

#188: City of Bones by Cassandra Care
Rating: 4 stars
Why I chose it: I wanted to read the other books in the trilogy, and I had forgotten too much about this one so I had to reread it

Yes, I know I read this back in January... but apparently I waited too long before reading the other books in the trilogy. I got distracted by one book, and then another, and then months had gone by and I had forgotten too much about this book to be able to read the sequels. I enjoyed it just as much the second time around, though - I needed something light and fast-moving with an interesting story, and this filled the need nicely.

237Enraptured
Dec 31, 2010, 7:59am Top

#189: Bloodthirsty by Flynn Meaney
Rating: 5 stars
Why I chose it: I was researching literary agents and came across this book by an author one of the agents represented

This book was a lot of fun! The main character, Finbar, is a romantic and kind of dorky guy who, frustrated with his inability to get girls interested in him, decides to pretend to be a vampire. The ways it poked fun at the vampire craze made me laugh (I don't really understand the vampire thing myself) - there was a hilarious scene, for example, where Finbar has to run from a pack of boys dressed as Jacob from Twilight. I also really liked the main character - like I said, he's romantic and kind of dorky, and he reminds me of the love interests I tend to root for heroines to choose (but they always end up choosing the mysterious jerk instead...).

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2010

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