blythe025's 2011 Challenge

TalkThe 11 in 11 Category Challenge

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blythe025's 2011 Challenge

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Edited: Dec 29, 2011, 11:04pm

I may not even finish this year's reading list, but I'm back anyway. (I just can't stop myself!) I'll be reading nine books in each of the following eleven categories.

1. Hello, I Love You (8/9)
I've read one book by an author and loved it. Now I want to read at least one more by the same author.

2. Put the Pen to the Paper (7/9)
Books on writing and/or making art. This is a project category, so I should participate in at least one prompt from each book (which I plan to post here, so you can see how the projects go).

3. The Universe in Verse (9/9)
Poetry. Nuff said.

4. It's a Smoldering World After All (9/9)
Apocalyptic and Post Apocalyptic books. (Maybe some dystopian novels, also.)

5. Spurs, Pinafores, and Steam Powered Automatons (9/9)
Books of the Wild West, Victorian Era, and Steampunk. Both fiction and nonfiction.

6. Unicorns from Space! (9/9)
Fantasy and science fiction.

7. The Playground (9/9)
Books for children and young adults.

8. Stories in Pictures (9/9)
Graphic novels and comics.

9. From my Bookshelf (7/9)
I have a tendency to jump at the new and shiny in bookstores and the library, rather than reading the stacks already on my shelves. This is meant to rectify that.

10. From the Modern Library's 100 Best Books (8/9)
There are actually about 200 books, since there is also the publicly voted list (with some overlaps). I'm working off the list from 2009, which is posted on my blog.

11. Miscellany (8/9)
The catch-all category for whatever doesn't fit in the above.

This is just an initial list and categories may change before January 1.

Edited: Dec 28, 2011, 3:40am

Hello, I Love You

Books Completed:
1. 20th Century Ghosts, by Joe Hill (*****)
2. Looking for Alaska, by John Green (*****)
3. Desert Places, by Robyn Davidson (****1/2)
4. Fated, by S.G. Browne (*****)
5. Sweetly, by Jackson Pearce (****)
6. Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins (****)
7. Kissing Kate, by Lauren Myracle (***1/2)
8. The Mermaid's Madness, by Jim C. Hines (****)

Possible Candidates:
Michael Ende - Mirror in the Mirror
Nicholas Kauffmann
Malinda Lo
Susanna Kaysen
Naomi Clark
Laurie Colwin
Kelly Link

Edited: Dec 6, 2011, 12:26pm

The Universe in Verse

Books Completed:
1. Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon: Selected Poems, by Pablo Neruda (*****)
2. Horror Vacui: Poems, by Thomas Heise (****)
3. Unbeknownst, Julie Hanson (****)
4. Dream Work, by Mary Oliver (****1/2)
5. Ceremony for the Choking Ghost, by Karen Finneyfrock (*****)
6. Tonight No Poetry Will Serve, by Adrienne Rich (****)
7. Paper Covers Rock and Triplicity: Poems in Threes, by Chella Courington and Kristen McHenry (****1/2)
8. How Long, poems by Ron Padgett (*****)
9. Sharp Teeth, a novel in poems by Toby Barlow (****)

Possible Candidates:
Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman
Dear Anais: My Life in Poems For You, by Diana M. Raab
A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel, Fourth Edition, by Tom Philips

Edited: Dec 14, 2011, 1:33pm

It's a Smoldering World After All

Books Completed:
1. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller (*****)
2. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick (****1/2)
3. Monster Island, by David Wellington (***1/2)
4. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins (****1/2)
5. The Last Days, by Scott Westerfeld (****1/2)
6. Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse, edited by John Joseph Adams (****)
7. Blindness, by Jose Saramago (****)
8. Deadline, by Mira Grant (****1/2)
9. Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins (****)

Possible Candidates:
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
The Postman, by David Brin

Edited: Dec 12, 2011, 12:08pm

Spurs, Pinafores, and Steam Powered Automatons

Books Completed:
1. Dreadnought, by Cherie Priest (****1/2)
2. A Book of Tongues, by Gemma Files (****)
3. Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded, edited by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer (****)
4. Behemoth, by Scott Westerfeld (****1/2)
5. Push of the Sky, by Camille Alexa (*****)
6. By Grit and Grace: Eleven Women Who Shaped the American West, edited by Glenda Riley and Richard W. Etulain
7. The Gaslight Dogs, by Karin Lowachee (****)
8. Goliath, by Scott Westerfeld (****)
9. Nellie Daredevil, Reporter, Feminist, by Brooke Kroeger

Possible Candidates:
American Legends of the Wild West, by Richard Mancini
The Alchemy Of Stone, by Ekaterina Sedia
Extraordinary Engines: The Definitive Steampunk Anthology

Edited: Nov 12, 2011, 10:51pm

Unicorns from Space!

Books Completed:
1. Muse and Reverie, by Charles de Lint (****1/2)
2. Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die, edited by Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo, and David Malki (****1/2)
3. Zombies vs Unicorns, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier (****1/2)
4. The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, by Diana Wynne Jones (****1/2)
5. An Artificial Night, by Seanan McGuire (*****)
6. Nightwatch, by Sergei Lukyanenko (*****)
7. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N.K. Jemisin (*****)
8. The Door to Lost Pages, by Claude Lalumiere (****1/2)
9. My Life as a White Trash Zombie, by Diana Rowland (****)

Possible Candidates:
Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
God Stalk, by P.C. Hodgell
Palimpsest, by Catherynne M. Valente
Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem
The Day of the Triffids, by John Wyndham
Contact, by Carl Sagan
Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, by Douglas Adams

Edited: Sep 4, 2011, 3:23pm

The Playground

Books Completed:
1. Tithe, by Holly Black (****1/2)
2. Beastly (audio book), by Alex Flinn (****)
3. Magic or Madness, by Justine Larbalestier (*****)
4. 13 Little Blue Envelopes, by Maureen Johnson (****1/2)
5. Peeps, by Scott Westerfeild (*****)
6. Speak, byLaurie Halse Anderson (*****)
7. Boy Meets Boy (audio book), by David Levithan (*****)
8. Castle in the Air, by Diana Wynne Jones (*****)
9. Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (****)

Possible Candidates:
Shiver, by Maggie Stiefvater
The Diamond of Darkhold: The Fourth Book of Ember , by Jeanne DuPrau
Cold Magic, by Kate Elliot

Edited: Oct 24, 2011, 1:37pm

Stories in Pictures

Books Completed:
1. Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth, by Apostolos Doxiadis and others (****1/2)
2. Lola: A Ghost Story, by J. Torres (****)
3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Omnibus, by various authors (***1/2)
4. Locke and Key: Welcome to Lovecraft, written by Joe Hill, art by Gabriel Rodriguez (****1/2)
5. Aya, by Marguerite Abouet & Clément Oubrerie (****)
6. Locke and Key: Head Games, written by Joe Hill, art by Gabriel Rodriguez (*****)
7. Locke & Key: Crown of Shadows, written by Joe Hill, art by Gabriel Rodriguez (*****)
8. Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Pia Guerra (****1/2)
9. Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom, written by Joe Hill, art by Gabriel Rodriguez

Possible Candidates:
Nylon Road: A Graphic Memoir of Coming of Age in Iran, by Parsua Bashi
Cathedral Child, by Lea Hernandez

Edited: Oct 24, 2011, 1:38pm

(Note: not my actual bookshelf)

From my Bookshelf

Books Completed:
1. Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes, by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein (****)
2. Don't Hex with Texas, by Shanna Swendson (****)
3. The Civilized World: A Novel in Stories, by Susi Wyss (****)
4. Heart-Shaped Box, by Joe Hill (****)
5. The Stepsister Scheme, by Jim C Hines (****)
6. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin (****)
7. The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer, edited and illustrated by Seymour Chwast (****)

Possible Candidates:

Edited: Dec 29, 2011, 11:05pm

From the Modern Library's 100 Best Books

Books Completed:
1. As I Lay Dying (audio book), by William Faulkner (***1/2)
2. Tropic of Cancer (audio book), by Henry Miller (**1/2)
3. Darkness at Noon, by Arthur Koestler (****)
4. I, Claudius, by Robert Graves (****)
5. Midnight's Children, by Salman Rushdie (****)
6. A Room with a View, by E.M. Forester (*****)
7. At the Mountains of Madness and Other Tales of Terror, by H.P. Lovecraft (***)
8. Sons and Lovers, D.H. Lawrence (***1/2)

Possible Candidates:
Of Human Bondage, by W. Somerset Maugham
The Moviegoer, by Walker Percy

Edited: Dec 6, 2011, 3:29pm


Books Completed:
1. Happy All The Time, by Laurie Colwin (*****)
2. From Alice to Ocean: Alone Across the Outback, by Robyn Davidson, photography by Rick Smolan (*****)
3. Life of Pi (audio book), by Yann Martel (****1/2)
4. Kafka on the Shore, b Haruki Murakami (****)
5. A Sentimental Journey and Other Writings, by Laurence Sterne (***)
6. Melbourne Insight Step by Step Guide, by Virginia Maxwell (****)
7. Shine, by Lauren Myracle (*****)
8. Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse (****)

Possible Candidates:
As my mood takes me.
Chekhov's Complete Short Stories

Nov 29, 2010, 6:03pm

Hello, dear lady! You've got some excellent categories for 2011 - I'll be especially keeping an eye on your Wild West/Steampunk category, and the Modern Library one as well. I'm always meaning to include some kind of a list as a category (Booker Prize, Newbery Prize, BBC's Big Read, etc) and then I panic that I'm not going to be able to easily fill the categories. I know, it's lunacy, but what can I say - I'm a crazy lady!

p.s. That color-coded bookshelf looks fun to do - I'm already picking out the books I have in common - but I've been warned against doing it myself for practical purposes. Still, it's always nice to see some bookshelf porn!

Nov 29, 2010, 7:29pm

Hey, thanks! The 100 Best Books category is definitely hard to fill, but I listen to audio books a lot on my long commute, which really helps.

And yes! I think that rainbow book shelf really is pretty, too. But practicality far outweighs looks on my books shelf. :)

Nov 29, 2010, 7:44pm

I know! On TV shows, they're always saying how to incorporate decorative objects on your bookshelves - PLEASE! I don't even have enough room for my actual books on my shelves, let alone for vases or for fun organization or anything else.

I've been listening to more audio books lately too - do you have any recs? I drive about an hour a day and I don't know many people who listen to books in real life.

Nov 29, 2010, 8:33pm

Love your categories, and the names for them! Starring you, and I look forward to seeing what you read.

Nov 29, 2010, 8:52pm

I love your categories and the images! Good luck with your reading :-)

Nov 29, 2010, 9:41pm

Hello, I Love You is such a great category idea! I wish I'd incorporated one of those (though I'm not sure where it would have fit! It gets so difficult, the choosing of categories....)

Nov 29, 2010, 10:11pm

Great categories and great pictures. Looking forward to following along with your reading.

Nov 29, 2010, 10:46pm

I always recommend Writing Down the Bones. Fondling your Muse is amusing and inspirational, too.

Nov 29, 2010, 10:54pm

>5 andreablythe: Ooh, goody, another apocalypse reader! Will enjoy seeing your choices.

>10 andreablythe: If only library bookshelves were arranged that way - it would help answer all those "the book I read was green (red, blue, etc)" questions!

Nov 30, 2010, 6:44am

Love the categories, Unicorns from Space! is a brilliant title :-). Hope you enjoy Palimpsest, quite an odd book and not to everyone's taste but I loved it.

Nov 30, 2010, 12:10pm

I've listened to quite a few audio books, so here are a few I especially liked.

- People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks, read by Edwina Wren
- Sweetness in the Belly, by Camilla Gibb, read by Kate Reading
- Pretty Monsters (short stories - dark fantasy), by Kelly Link, read by a several different authors
- Disobedience, by Naomi Alderman, read by Roe Kendall
- Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel, by Michio Kaku, read by Feodor Chin
- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, translated by Simon Armitage, read by Bill Wallis
- The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon, read by David Colacci

I have more listed in my audio book tag, but I think that's a good list to get you started. :)

Nov 30, 2010, 12:21pm

18, I'm still not fully settled on my categories. I just never know where my reading is going to go throughout the year. My categories have slowly become more broad since I started these challenged a few years ago. Categories that are too specific can make me feel trapped in them, and this really should be fun. Heh.

20, I've read Writing Down the Bones, though it's been a long time, so I may pick it up again for a reread. I'll definitely look into Fondling Your Muse. Seems like it would be good.

21, Haha! True! I've had many of those I remember the cover of the book, but not the title moments.

22, I'm really looking forward to read that one. I enjoy odd books, and the concept of Palimpsest sounds fascinating to begin with.

Nov 30, 2010, 12:31pm

great categories and pictures!

Nov 30, 2010, 9:09pm

23: Thanks so much for the recs! I'll have to browse your library for audios at some point. I'm halfway through one right now (An Assembly Such As This) and I think I have one more already downloaded that's "unread", but after that I'll be hitting up your list for sure.

Thanks again!

Dec 1, 2010, 7:01am

22 Thanks for reminding me! I was very interested reading your review a month or so back, but forgot the title. Now writing it down!

23 Reading Pretty Monsters for my 11 in 11, and can only imagine how cool Kelly Link's works could be as audio, if done properly.

Loved your review of The neverending story at your 1010 thread. If I may come with a recommendation for a second book, try the surreal, dreamlike collection of short stories/dreams Mirror in the mirror. Strange and haunting stuff.

Dec 1, 2010, 1:09pm

You're most welcome! I hope you enjoy them.

Thank you for the recommendation! Sounds like a great read, so I'll definitely add it to my tbr list. :)

Edited: Jan 2, 2011, 12:46pm

Happy New Year to one and all!

I'm excited to get started on my new categories. At the moment I've picked up Happy All the Time by Laurie Colwin and Dreadnought by Cherie Priest. (^_^ )

PS. I've changed my user name to andreablythe, which I hope isn't too confusing.

Jan 2, 2011, 4:56pm

Nope, not confusing, once I realised it wasn't a relative or so, taking over the comments on your threads completely :)

I enjoyed Boneshaker almost exactly a year ago, but thought it fell a bit flat in the end. Looking forward to see what you think of Dreadnoght!

Jan 2, 2011, 6:57pm

Haha! Nope, it's just me.

I loved Boneshaker all the way through to the end (though I do feel that the ending was a bit abrupt), so I'm really looking forward to reading Dreadnought.

Jan 2, 2011, 7:51pm

I look forward to hearing what you think of A Canticle for Leibowitz and will be following your dystopian section, looks like fun!

Jan 11, 2011, 6:12pm

1. Happy All The Time, by Laurie Colwin (*****)
Category: Miscellany

This is a book about love happening between four generally good, intelligent, and interesting people. The men are good, genuine men, who love their women deeply. The women are smart, sassy, classy women. The story that unfolds is gentle and funny, a kind of comedy of manners in which the characters say clever things you wish you could think to say. The book transpires like a good relationship or marriage, there are moments of great happiness and there are moments of great sorrow or pain, but throughout all there is steadying flow of contentment throughout. Every time I put this book down, it was with a smile on my face and I couldn't wait to pick it up again. For me, this book was pure joy.

Edited: Jan 14, 2011, 11:54am

2. Dreadnought, by Cherie Priest (****1/2)
Category: Spurs, Pinafores, and Steam Powered Automatons

Mercy Lynch works as a nurse at Robertson Hospital, where they heal more patients than they loose. She will will patch up anyone put in front of her, whether Confederate, Yankee, or Reb. In rapid succession Mercy finds out that her husband died in the war, and her father, who she hasn't seen since she was girl, is out west in Tacoma on his deathbed. Suddenly free of ties, she decides to make the dangerous trek across the continent to reach her father.

On her way, she finds herself aboard a train pulled by the Dreadnought, a heavily armored terror of a steam engine, which soon meets harsh resistance from rebels and pirates and something even more dangerous, something inhuman. Mercy can't help but wonder why the train it meeting such resistance, and begins to unravel the mystery of the second and last rail cars with their secret cargo.

I loved Boneshaker, Priest's first foray into steampunk, and Dreadnought is an excellent companion novel and fills you in on what some of the characters you loved from the first book are now up to. The book definitely picked up more steam, as the elements of espionage and mystery entered into the story, at which point I didn't want to put it down. Priest does steampunk right, presenting a torqued view of history and a fun ride through an imagined wild west.

Jan 13, 2011, 10:12pm

Oooohhhhhh, adding Dreadnought as a book for my streampunk category. Boneshaker is already there. I am starting to look forward to working my way through that category based on the great comments like yours I keep on encountering!

Jan 14, 2011, 11:57am

Well, I hope you enjoy them. I'm looking forward to seeing what you discover in your own steampunk reading. :)

Jan 14, 2011, 1:35pm


Off book-topic...! When you change your username, will all your threads change as well so you can modify the posts you made under your previous name? I heard that there was a problem before and I wanted to know if it had been fixed.

Jan 14, 2011, 3:09pm

When I changed my user name, I found that when I went into my threads, I couldn't see any threads at all, except on the starred page. But I logged out of my account and logged back in, and I didn't have a problem any more.

All of my old posts are listed under my new user name, and I haven't had any trouble editing them.

Jan 14, 2011, 4:03pm


Thank you so much!!! I've been wanting to change mine, but not if I have to restart my threads! :)

Edited: Jan 15, 2011, 5:02pm

@34 Looking at common knowledge here on LT, there seems to be a book between Boneshaker and Dreadnought, called Clementine. It has way fewer copies than any of the other two. Does anyone know why?

Great review by the way! Boneshaker didn't quite do it for me, but this sparks a renewed interest.

Jan 16, 2011, 11:58am

Clementine was released through Subterranean Press which makes slightly more expensive (though very pretty) limited editions of books. I was hoping that it would end up being printed by the same publisher as the first and third books. If it doesn't I will probably end up getting it from SP.

Jan 17, 2011, 12:11pm

41, Yeah, I was hoping for the same thing, but if I need to buy it through SP, I certainly will.

Jan 17, 2011, 12:23pm

What a cool program! I am also a big fan of Laurie Colwin, RIP.

Jan 18, 2011, 2:48pm

3. Tithe, by Holly Black (****1/2)
Category: The Playground

Tithe follows the story of Kaye, a girl who follows her nomadic mother quest for fame through dive bars in Philadelphia. Kaye is grateful when their nomadic lifestyle comes to an end, however, and they are forced to return to her grandmother's house, offering her the opportunity to reconnect with fairy friends both human and faery. It isn't before long, however, before she finds herself entangled in a political and dangerous intrigue between the faery courts. The faeries in this book are tricksy and deadly throughout, just as they ought to be. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read with enough adventure and well-wrought surprises to keep me excited. I'm definitely looking forward to the next two books in the trilogy.

Jan 18, 2011, 2:58pm


I have that book and I assumed it would be a bit "fluffy" for my taste, but it actually sounds like a really good read. I'll be picking that one up for this year, I think - you have it in a YA category, so it'll be perfect for mine! :)

Jan 18, 2011, 3:26pm

I definitely would not call it fluffy. There's some definite gritty to it, but in a way, I expect that from Holly Black, who can sometimes be very dark.

Jan 20, 2011, 6:22pm

4. Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes, by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein (****)
Category: From my Bookshelf

Using jokes to illustrate their discussion, the authors of Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar present an introduction to the varying theories of philosophy, from existentialism to applied ethics, feminism, and more. Each subject is briefly discussed, essentially just enough to get a very basic understanding of the form of philosophy before moving on to the next. It's an excellent and entertaining way to get to know the basic tenets of philosophy, so that if there is a particular philosophical field that appeals to you, you can go to other sources to learn more.

Of course, I can't leave this review without including a joke. (^_^) Here's one I liked from the "Feminist" section, which turns basic expectations of the "Blonde Joke" on its head:
A blonde is sitting next to a lawyer on an airplane. The lawyer keeps bugging her to play a game with him by which they will see who has more general knowledge. Finally, he says he will offer her ten-to-one odds. Everytime she doesn't know the answer to one of his questions, she will pay him five dollars. Everytime he doesn't know the answer to one of her questions, he will pay her fifty.

She agrees to play, and he asks her, "What is the distance from the earth to the nearest star?"

She says nothing, just hands him a five dollar bill.

She asks him, "What goes up a hill with three legs and comes back down with four legs?"

He thinks for a long time but in the end has to concede that he has no idea. He hands her fifty dollars.

The blonde puts the money in her purse without comment.

The lawyer says, "Wait a minute. What's the answer to your question?"

Without a word she hands him five dollars.

Edited: Jan 21, 2011, 3:46pm

5. As I Lay Dying (audio book), by William Faulkner (***1/2)
Category: From the Modern Library's 100 Best Books

The Bundren family must take the body of their matriarch, Addy Bundren, to her home town in Jefferson, where she wants to be buried. Along the way, the unlucky family meets obstacle after obstacle. Faulkner jumps points of view, getting into the head of each character, revealing their inner hopes and fears, with precise clarity of voice. Each character is multi-layered and complex, as though they were flesh and blood.

I certainly liked this one far better than The Sound and the Fury. As I Lay Dying, despite being innately morbid, is less overtly bleak and the writing is less dense and more readable. Though I came, bit by bit, to hate the father figure, who seemed unconsciously cruel and stubborn, I actually liked many of the characters in this book. Despite their many hardships, I believed many of the characters had enough humanity and goodness in them to find a way to pull out of the spiraling despair of their lives.

So if you are interested in reading a Faulkner, I would definitely recommend going with this one over The Sound and the Fury.

Jan 22, 2011, 9:01am

Love your blonde joke!

And thanks for the advice on Faulkner, too. I think I actually have As I Lay Dying as a LibriVox recording from many moons ago (which means I doubt I'll be able to listen to it, because the quality is so low), but I'll have to look into that again.

Jan 24, 2011, 12:08pm

The audio book I listened to for As I Lay Dying was from 2005. They had several voice actors and would switch between them, so that the voice matched the point of view. It was very good.

Jan 31, 2011, 7:15pm

6. Don't Hex With Texas, by Shanna Swendson (****)

Katie Chandler has left New York and returned to her family in Texas, said to be devoid of all things magical. However, when strange things start happening in her home town, Katie starts to suspect the forces of evil are up to something. This is the fourth book in the Enchanted Inc. series, and I hope it won't be the last.

One of the great things about this series is the relationship between Katie and Owen. There's a continued tension of will it/won't it that stems directly from the characters themselves, rather than some artificial outside influence or being dependent on any overly orchestrated love triangle. There's a sweetness to their friendship and a genuine affection that is built on more than lust or sex appeal.

I've thoroughly enjoyed this fun chick-lit series, unfortunately, sales on the third and fourth book were not high enough for the publishers to pursue publishing the next books in the series. Very disappointing, because I would love to see more of this storyline and see what happens as Katie and Owen's relationship begins to grow, not to mention all the rest of the assortment of lovable and bizarre characters throughout this world.

Here's my plea, if you like fantasy and/or chick lit, please check out Enchanted, Inc. the first book in this series, in which Katie first stumbles upon the magical world. If you enjoy it, then buy more books in the series, especially the third and fourth books and spread the word to others. Hopefully if the sales improve, the fifth and sixth books will be able to be released. This would thoroughly please me. (^_^)

Feb 1, 2011, 3:44pm

7. Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth, by Apostolos Doxiadis and others (****1/2)
Category: Stories in Pictures

Bertrand Russell, British logician and philosopher spent his life in pursuit for truth and for a clear, logical system for understanding that truth. He began with the study of mathematics (until one of his own discoveries undermined the foundations of truth upon with math stood) and later integrating philosophical logic.

The graphic novel is interesting in the ways that it is layered -- a story within a story within a story. It opens with the author of the graphic novel talking directly to the reader and explaining that this is a graphic novel about Bertrand Russell and going into the process of making the book. Then it shifts into the story itself with Russell meeting up with a group of antiwar protesters while on his way to giving a lecture on logic. The protesters call for him to join them, because he once protested against WWI when he was younger. Instead, he invites them to listen to his lecture, wherein he begins to tell his life story and how he began his life-long pursuit of truth. The graphic novel shifts back and forth through these layers of storytelling (and even eventually uncovers a fourth and arguably a fifth layer).

At first I was put off by the self-referential aspect of Logicomix. I didn't like that the author and the artists interacted with the reader. However, I soon came to realize that including this multi-layer aspect to the graphic novel, not only allowed the authors to creatively explain certain aspects of logical theory that get lost in the storyline, but the layering actually begins to embody some of the logical theories being discussed.

The graphic novel is a book the contains itself, or at least the discussion of itself, which seems to touch upon "Russell's Paradox", a theory discussed in the book, and which I'm sure that I can't rightly explain on my own. Honestly, thinking about it makes my head hurt, but it goes something like, if it contains itself, then it doesn't; if it doesn't, it does. If that doesn't make sense, don't ask me, because I can't wrap my mind around it either.

Fortunately, Logicomix doesn't dwell too much on the complexities of logic theory, but rather focuses on the people who developed them, what motivated them, and the conflict between thinking theory and trying to live it.

At the end of the graphic novel, the authors admit to bending some of the factual history to make for better storytelling and follow that up with a glossary of sorts that presented a slightly more in depth and factual look at the various logic theories and logicians that the readers encounter in the book.

Logicomix turned out to be a supremely fascinating book with gorgeous art and a passion for intellectual discovery. Definitely worth a read.

Feb 1, 2011, 4:17pm

I was curious about how Logicomix could pull off logic and math in a graphic format. The authors and illustrators pulled it off better than I had expected. I was pleasantly surprised.

Feb 1, 2011, 7:44pm

I didn't really know what to expect from the book, but I like biographical looks at theory, math, and science, so I thought it would be interesting.

Feb 8, 2011, 6:19pm

8. A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller (*****)
Category: It's a Smoldering World After All

Following a nuclear holocaust and an era known as the Simplification, which brought on a new Dark Ages, the Brothers of Order of Saint Leibowitz attempt to preserve the written word and historical documents. The story begins with the discovery of documents that may have belonged to the Saint Leibowitz himself and follows the implications of that discovery over the centuries.

This book blew my mind with sheer awesomeness. It's fascinating how it shows characters from one era interpreting the long distance past ("fallout" is a demon, according to the monks) and to see how the world and humanity both changes and doesn't change over vast periods of time. There are some mysteries that remain when the book is done, but these are of a pleasing sort, no more jarring than the mysteries of the nature and origin of the universe. I deeply enjoyed this book and seeing how this world worked.

* * * *
Currently reading: A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files and Muse and Reverie by Charles de Lint

Feb 12, 2011, 7:23pm

55 Thanks for a great review! I only heard of Canticle for Leibowitz last year, and have been eager to pick it up. But then pammab utterly loathed the book, and I became hesitant. Now feeling my curiosity rising again!

Feb 13, 2011, 2:43pm

See now I'm rethinking Leibowitz too! It was a pick for my IRL bookclub, and while I enjoyed most of the first part, eventually it became horrible to me. (I can't remember why, I just remember never wanting to pick it up again. I think pammab and I talked about how ucky it was recently - could be making that up though.) With your great review I'm thinking I should give it another shot. Hmmmmm.....

Do you have any plans to read the "sequel", Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman? I think it was published posthumously in the late 90's.

Feb 14, 2011, 2:01pm

55 & 57
I'm glad I'm inspiring you to read it. I suppose I can see why others might not like it. Due to it's post-apocalyptic nature, it is definitely dark and bleak at times. There's also a thread of dystopia that comes out in the book, which brings up more darkness in the presentation of human nature.

However, I also found the writing fantastic and the characters vivid. The thin, but perceivable thread of hope that survives in those people who want to preserve wisdom and goodness is what redeemed the book for me.

I have heard of Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman and will most probably pick it up as soon as I can fit it into my TBR stack. Based on the ending of Canticle, it will be interesting to see where the author took the sequel.

Feb 24, 2011, 12:43pm

9. A Book of Tongues, by Gemma Files (****)
Category: Spurs, Pinafores, and Steam Powered Automatons

I'm not quite sure how to summarize A Book of Tongues, so I'm going to take the lazy route and quote from the back cover:
"Two years after the Civil War, Pinkerton agent Ed Morrow has gone undercover with one of the weird West's most dangerous outlaw gangs-the troop led by Reverend Asher Rook, ex-Confederate chaplain turned hexslinger and his notorious lieutenant (and lover) Chess Pargeter. Morrow's task: get close enough to map the extent of Rook's power, then bring that knowledge back to help Professor Joachim Asbury unlock the secrets of magic itself.

Because magicians, despite their awesome powers, have never been more than a footnote in history: cursed by their own gift to flower in pain and misery, then feed vampirically on each other-never able to join forces, feared and hated by all. But Rook, driven by desperation, has a mind to shatter the natural law that prevents hexes from cooperation, and change the face of the world-a plan sealed by unholy marriage-oath with the Mayan-Aztec goddess Ixchel, mother of all hanged men, who has chosen Rook to raise her bloodthirsty pantheon from its collective grave through sacrifice, destruction, and apotheosis.

Caught between a passle of dead gods and monsters, hexes galore, Rook's witchery, and the ruthless calculations of his own masters, Morrow's only real hope of survival lies with the man without whom Rook cannot succeed: Chess Pargeter himself. But Morrow and Chess will have to literally ride through Hell before the truth of Chess's fate comes clear-the doom written for him, and the entire world,"

A Book of Tongues is a wonderfully brutal read, all the more so, because Gemma Files manages to finagle sympathy for what could otherwise be a rather unsympathetic group of characters. Many of these characters are not what you would call nice. Chess is an unapologetic murderer; Rook is desperate and ruthless; and even Morrow is a liar.

Files' merciless prose reaches out and reveals what they're made of as each of these rough-shod gentlemen is trapped, bound like a fly into the webbing of the story. They're lives quickly become interwoven, and eventually they learn that they'll need each other to find their way out.

At first Chess' character is the hardest to sympathize with, as he is the most openly violent and cruel. And because you see him through the lens of first Morrow and then Rook, it's hard to get a read on him other than his love of absinthe and bloodshed and his desire for Rook. But by the end of the book, as more and more of Chess and how he's put together is slowly revealed, it was Chess that I came to love the most. I feel deep rooted sympathy for him and what has befallen him in his life. He has had the hardest road, and in the face of it has stood up and laughed in its face. More than any other of the characters I want him to succeed; I want him to win.

A Book of Tongues is very graphic, not only in blood and gore (of which there is plenty), but also in sexual situations. Sometimes the events were so vivid in my mind that I didn't quite know what to do with them, and I had to lower the book for a moment and take a breath before continuing.

This is the kind of horror that leaves you shaken (in more ways than one), with your head spinning, and not quite sure where you stand. While actually reading the book, I don't know I could actually say that I liked it -- the experience was a little to visceral for that -- but that now I'm done reading I desperately want to read more. Thankfully, A Book of Tongues is book one of a trilogy, and the sequel, A Rope of Thorns comes out this June.

Feb 24, 2011, 1:00pm

Great review of A Canticle for Leibowitz! I have a copy buried in mount TBR and may have to move it up a notch or two.

Feb 24, 2011, 1:03pm

Got to say that that's a new one on me having never heard of this book until now. Sounds interesting though so I'll keep an eye out for it in future. Thanks for the review.

Feb 24, 2011, 2:07pm

Thanks! I hope you like A Canticle for Leibowitz as much as I did. :D

I assume you mean A Book of Tongues? I would be interested to see what you think of it if you get around to reading it. It's definitely a great book, but perhaps not for everyone.

Mar 3, 2011, 3:35pm

10. Muse and Reverie, by Charles De Lint (****1/2)
Category: Unicorns from Space!

Like Dreams Underfoot and The Onion Girl, this collection of short stories is set in De Lint's fictional city of Newford, a sprawling metropolis noted for its unusually high level of unusual activity, from goblins living in the buried old town to mischievous crow girls to rather nasty wizards to keys that can suddenly throw you back into the past.

Also like De Lint's previous stories and novels, the urban fantasy stories stem from the people within them, people lonely and lost and loving and kind, who stumble their way -- or perhaps throw themselves into -- strange and beautiful and dangerous situations. De Lint loves music and the arts, which is clear by the fact that the vast majority of his characters are musicians or artists or people of creative spirit.

It would be very hard to me to pick a favorite story from this book. There are so many beautiful tales, that picking one means discounting another that is delightful completely different reasons. This is my favorite of De Lint's books since I discovered Dreams Underfoot, and first fell in love with his writing, several years ago.

Mar 3, 2011, 9:56pm

I really liked A Canticle for Leibowitz too. I remember wishing I knew a little more about some of the things left... not exactly unresolved, but as you said, the mysteries remain. But it was a good sort of wishing. It's one I'll have to revisit sometime. I think it will only deepen with a second reading.

And it's been a while since I've read anything by Charles de Lint. I added Muse and Reverie to my wishlist. And my birthday's coming up, so maybe it'll find its way to me soon :)

Edited: Mar 7, 2011, 1:30pm

11. Beastly (audio book), by Alex Flinn (***1/2)
Category: The Playground

This update of the fairytale "Beauty and the Beast" places the story in modern New York. The story is told from the point of view of a snobby, rich, and vain high school kid, who is taught a lesson by a not-so-evil witch. As the story goes, she turns him into a beast to reflect his inner ugliness on the outside as it is on the inside.

Flinn does a great job revealing the inner workings of the beast, from self loathing to loneliness to his growth as a human being. The first person point of view worked really well here, allowing us to see fully inside his head. The manages to mimic aspects of the original fairytale rather closely, while keeping it modern and fresh. A good, fun, although sometimes cheesy, read.

Side note: I recently saw the movie version of Beastly, based on the book. As to be expected, the book is better. The movie removes many of the aspects that made the book work. I was not fond of the make up of his "beastly" state in the movie, which just looks like a guy into tribal tattoos and piercings as opposed to literally being a beast as he is in the book (I suppose the movie makers didn't want to hide the pretty boy's face). Several other aspects are changed in the movie that just don't work as well. But on it's own, the movie is okay. I saw it at the matinee rates and wouldn't have wanted to pay full price to see it though.

Edited: Mar 7, 2011, 1:30pm

12. Magic or Madness, by Justine Larbalestier (****1/2)
Category: The Playground

Reason has lived a transient life with her mother, moving from town to town in the outback of Australia. All her life she and her mother have fled her grandmother, a woman who is evil, who believes that she can cast spells, who believes she is a witch. But Reason knows better, because her mother has taught her that magic is not real; there is no magic; her grandmother is not really a witch.

However, things change when her mother goes insane and Reason is sent to live with her grandmother in Sydney. Reason begins to question the things her mother taught her, especially when she steps through a door and finds herself suddenly in New York, and she is hit with the reality that magic is, in fact, real.

This book is wonderfully complex with no clear lines of what it means to be good or evil. The rules of magic are clear and precise and deadly, creating an already complicated world of traps and snares for the characters to maneuver through as they try to figure out who to trust and how to survive.

Mar 14, 2011, 3:17pm

13. Lola: A Ghost Story, by J. Torres (****)\
Category: Stories in Pictures

Jesse sees ghosts and has visions, just like his grandmother. After his grandmother dies, Jess travels to the Philippines for her funeral. There, he is haunted by the past and begins to learn to make peace with it when his cousin finds out his secret.

The story relies on Philippine folklore and has a lot of good creepy moments. It has a steady pace to it, allowing each scene to unfold from frame to frame without needing to explain too much or rush the process.

The one bad thing was that there was not enough of it. Having become so attached to Jesse and his family, I wanted the story to continue. But it ended at a point where it seemed to be just getting started. I have no idea if the author plans to continue the story, but I sure hope he does.

Mar 14, 2011, 7:32pm

14. 20th Century Ghosts, by Joe Hill (*****)
Category: Hello, I Love You
Book That Made Me Fall in Love: Heart-Shaped Box

20th Century Ghosts is a collection of short stories. Not all are ghost stories, not all are horror, but all of them are fascinating and fabulous. They are beautiful, weird, surreal, or eerie, or sometimes all of the above. You could have a boy who is made of air, a woman who haunts a movie theater, a kid who turns into a giant locust, or a network of cardboard playhouse tunnels in which you could get lost forever. These are character centered stories; people breathe in them. Most of these stories are in some way are haunting in the way a good story lingers and settles into your skull. A fabulous collection with many memorable stories.

Mar 15, 2011, 2:40pm

I received a copy of Just for You, a book of poetry by Evelyn Chenkin, from the ER list. Poetry is a funny thing and sometimes it doesn't click at all. This one certainly didn't click for me. First, the poetry is rhymed, and I am not a fan of rhyme. Second, this poetry is constructed on the basis of sentimentality, kind of like building a house on sand. Rhyme alone is not enough of a framework to sustain it, especially not without solid imagery or metaphor. Thus, I chose not to finish reading this one. It just didn't have enough to grab me, to compel me to read it through. (I did, however, pass it along to a friend who it might click with better. Perhaps she'll write her own review.)

Now, I'm going back to my reading of Walt Whitman's massive tome, Leaves of Grass.

Edited: Mar 16, 2011, 1:57pm

15. Tropic of Cancer (audio book), by Henry Miller (**1/2)
Category: From the Modern Library's 100 Best Books

Basically an expatriate, living in Paris, louses around while often dirt poor, mooching off his friends, visiting brothels, getting drunk, and so on. Despite the poetic and rather beautiful language, there was not much to endear me to this book. The narrator is cynical and scummy and degrading to women -- in other words, not very sympathetic (all of which is made worse by the fact that this novel is semi-autobiographical). His entire outlook is pessimistic about the world and the human race, and while he has moments of supposed enlightenment and peace, they tend to come at the great expense of someone else. I read horror stories all time, full of guts and gore and darkness and violence, but none of them has left me as mildly disgusted and feeling dirtied as reading this supposedly literary classic.

Mar 16, 2011, 7:44pm

16. Creating Poetry, by John Drury (****1/2)
Category: Put the Pen to the Paper

I picked up this book because someone in an Amazon review called Creating Poetry a "muse disguised as paper". It may not go that far, but it's close. This book is full of writing prompts, each focused on the chapter's subject, from Beginnings to Tone, Form, Research, Sound, Inspiration and more. There is plenty here for a poet to use and learn from, especially if they flip around from section to section, picking out prompts on an area of their writing they want to focus on. (I don't think the best use is to read it from cover to cover as I did).

Occasionally, I thought the prompts for a particular subject were to specific, however, Drury encourages you to use this book as a jumping off point. It's not necessary to follow the prompts to the letter, if the poem goes off in another direction.

This book is definitely worth a flip through to peruse and play with the prompts within.

Also, as promised here is on of my responses to one of the prompts in the book. I followed a prompt focused on ghazal's a form of poetry traditionally from the Middle East, which arranges the poem in a series of 5-10 couplets, rhymed on the same sound throughout and using the subject of love or wine to represent mystical experience. The prompt I used asked that the reader write a ghazal of my own. You'll note that I dropped the rhyme, like many American poets do.

An Untitled Ghazal

The water in the vase is stagnant; the stems slimy.
A halo of petals on the table are emptied of fragrance.

We are always new, he says, always in the state of becoming new,
each dead cell replaced with its replicated offspring.

The leaves are dancing like translucent tissue paper.
The mottled light is bounding along the grass.

The days are an amalgamation of eyes blinking, hair growing,
lips parting, fingers thrumming over the flesh of the world.

He says, its not that time moves too quickly.
It's that it moves too quickly.

The stars glimmer like fireflies trapped in tar.
The stars are a map of the freckles on your skin.

He says, silly rabbit, you have to have lived
what you lived in order to know what you know.

The Gerber Daisy leans against the glass.
A sun resides at the heart of its petals.

Mar 19, 2011, 8:16pm

17. Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die, edited by Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo, and David Malki (****1/2)
Category: Unicorns from Space!

The concept (or gimmick, if you prefer) for this anthology of stories came from an episode of Ryan North's Dinosaur Comics. In a nutshell, each of these stories is set in a world in which a machine has been invented that tells you how you will die. To quote from the back cover: "The machine had been invented a few years ago: a machine that could tell, from just a sample of your blood, how you were going to die. It didn’t give you the date and it didn’t give you specifics. It just spat out a sliver of paper upon which were printed, in careful block letters, the words DROWNED or CANCER or OLD AGE or CHOKED ON A HANDFUL OF POPCORN. It let people know how they were going to die.

The problem with the machine is that nobody really knew how it worked, which wouldn’t actually have been that much of a problem if the machine worked as well as we wished it would. But the machine was frustratingly vague in its predictions: dark, and seemingly delighting in the ambiguities of language. OLD AGE, it had already turned out, could mean either dying of natural causes, or shot by a bedridden man in a botched home invasion. The machine captured that old-world sense of irony in death — you can know how it’s going to happen, but you’ll still be surprised when it does."

Reading the premise, I would be easy to suspect redundancy in the stories, as with any gimmick. However, each of these authors pushes the boundaries of storytelling, using the concept of the machine to present a variety of possibilities and some very human reactions. The morbid is a natural part of each tale, but it stands as a back drop for exploration of human spirit and potential. These tales are touching, sad, experimental, thrilling, exciting. They are full of love, hope, loss, despair, joy, and humor.

It's hard to pick out a favorite, because there are so many great stories to read, but here are a few, I especially enjoyed (the titles are all death predictions the machine might put out):

"Suicide" presents the story of a man bent on proving the death machine wrong, no matter what it takes.
In "Aneurysm," the machine is used as a rather unusual party game, with unusual and comical results.
"Loss of Blood" presents a frightening dystopian future, in which the world is divided along new class lines -- the "good" deaths and the "bad" deaths.
Following several years of loss and sorrow, a couple seeks out the death machine's prediction as a beacon of hope in "Miscarriage."

Many, many more could be mentioned, of course, the entire book in fact. There was not one story that I disliked outright, making this the one of the best anthologies that I've ever read. Not only was each story great in it's own way, but many were also carried with powerful, poetic writing, not to mention the bonus of having each story include an illustration, provided by some great artists. Definitely worth having on your bookshelf.

Edited: Mar 19, 2011, 11:39pm

Machine of Death sounds really good! I have a "short story" category for this challenge...looks like destiny to me!

(Edited to fix touchstone.)

Mar 20, 2011, 3:32pm

I hope you enjoy it. :)

Mar 24, 2011, 5:15pm

My short story category is full, but that sounds really good! Making note of it, and thumbing the review.

Mar 25, 2011, 12:22pm

Thanks, Ginger. :)
I hope you enjoy it when you get around to reading it.

Mar 25, 2011, 1:23pm

18. Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon: Selected Poems, by Pablo Neruda (*****)
Category: The Universe in Verse

I bought this collection of Pablo Neruda's poetry in 2001 and its taken me until now, ten years later, to finish it. This extremely slow pace should not be mistaken for dislike of the book, however. I had not read Neruda's work before I bought Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon. Traveling Mexico, I was looking for a book in Spanish and English that I could read, enjoy, and practice my Spanish with and I remembered that my Spanish teacher had mentioned this poet's name in class at one point.

I began reading the book by first reading the poem in Spanish, then in English, then in Spanish again, to begin to get a sense of the poetic phrasing and how the language was translated.

As I began reading, however, I fell in love with each new ode and the way Neruda was clearly in love with life, the universe, and everything. He wrote odes to socks, to birds, to onions, to anything and everything this world has to offer. All of these ordinary things, which he layered with sensual and resonant language, suddenly had new mystical properties. I could not look at the armored artichoke the same way again as I dropped it into a pot to boil.

One would think I would have powered through the book to read every single poem, but the truth was I could not leave my favorite poems behind. This was a book I always had at hand, on a night stand or in my stack of TBR books. No matter what other books I was reading, I always eventually came back to these poems, returning to them like old lovers. I reread my favorites again and again, while every once in a while progressing forward to the another poem, a new favorite to be added to the list.

Now that I've finally finished the book, beginning to end, I will still be keeping it close. There is so much beautiful language to revisit and rediscover. This is a book that will probably always be by my side.

Mar 29, 2011, 2:55pm

77 A life-long love story with a book is a rare thing. Thanks for sharing it with us!

Edited: Apr 4, 2011, 8:37pm

19. Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded, edited by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer (****)
Category: Spurs, Pinafores, and Steam Powered Automatons

Steampunk Reloaded is a rather good collection of steampunk tales. It has it's ups and downs, but overall the stories are enjoyable. Along with the stories, there are a couple of interesting non-fiction pieces and a round-table interview about the future of steampunk.

Here are a few of the stories that I especially enjoyed:
-- In "The Unblinking Eye" by Stephen Baxter, Europe has advanced steam technology, but has never ventured toward the new world. Rather it is the Incas, who have developed their own advanced technology, and have ventured into lands unknown, colonizing each new territory they come across. come to pay Europe a visit.
-- Caitlin R. Kiernan tells the story of a maimed young woman, who has been outfitted with steam-powered limbs in "The Steam Dancer."
-- "The Mechanical Aviary of Emperor Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar" by Shweta Narayan, presents a new take on a traditional folktale, involving the beautiful clockwork birds of the Emperor's aviary.
-- "Wild Copper" by Samantha Henderson can barely be labeled steampunk genre. It's more of a fairy story, in which a girl offers to serve Oberon to save her brother. Steampunk or not, this is still a great tale.
-- An lonely orphan builds himself a mechanical friend in "Tanglefoot (A Clockwork Century Story)" by Cherie Priest. But his souless begins to take on a life of its own.
-- "The Anachronist's Cookbook" by Cherie Priest Catherynne M. Valente rails against the accepted politics of a steampowered era as it presents the exploits of an angry and vicious young woman.

While there were a couple of stories that I was not a fan of (i.e., "A Secret History of Steampunk" by The Mecha-Ostrich and "Flying Fish Prometheus" by Vilhelm Bergsøe), overall I enjoyed this collection of steampunk fiction and art.

Edited: Apr 4, 2011, 8:29pm

20. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick (****1/2)
Category: It's a Smoldering World After All

Following a devastating nuclear war, the earth has begun to be emptied of life. Many died in the blasts from the bomb, while others died as the poisonous began to drift over the surface of the planet. Those left behind made the choice to either evacuate the earth, journeying to colonies on Mars and other planets with the promise of highly engineered androids to help them and keep them company, or to stay on the dying earth with the risk of being changed by the irradiated dust. People on earth, terrified of the loneliness, cluster together into cities and prize above all the ability to keep live animals as pets.

Rick Deckard feels lost and hopeless when his pet sheep dies. The artificial replacement, though nearly exact in its duplication and requiring the same amount of care, leaves him feeling empty. His one hope is to "retire" enough androids to be able to purchase a new animal. As a bounty hunter, it is his job to hunt down androids who have fled the off-planet colonies and try to gain freedom by passing as humans on earth. The new series of Nexus 6 androids are the hardest to spot and hunting them may cost him his life.

The mystery and the threat of the androids, the noir-ish tone, and the fabulous writing launched me into the story from page one. I could have read it in one sitting if my time had allowed me.

More than the realistic array of characters and the well plotted story, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is also deeply layered, with its biggest question being, What makes a human human? If an android is indistinguishable from a living, breathing human, then what is the point of being human? And all the while your questions what is real and what is manufactured, you begin to wonder does it matter what is real?

The book provides no solid answers. The book tricks you several times, reality seeming to effectively slip, the ground unsettled -- as it should be for a world slowly fading out. I often cared as much for the androids as I did for the humans in this story and often found my loyalties lying with both humans and androids.

I closed the final page with a smile on my face and the desire to just sit and think for a while. Then I wanted to immediately read the book again.

Apr 5, 2011, 8:20am

@80, I know that I've read that one but the memory of the story has been totally obliterated by the movie Blade Runner. I think I'll have to read it again especially after your review.

Apr 5, 2011, 3:05pm

@81, I have a vague memory of watching Blade Runner, so it didn't overshadow my reading at all. I'm sure it left out significant aspects of the book, but I don't remember well enough to be sure.

Apr 5, 2011, 4:58pm

@80 Really good review! Dick is quite something, isn't he? So interesting with an alleged pulp writer whose star just keeps rising and rising like his. Was this your first book by him?

Apr 5, 2011, 6:14pm

83, I've read The Man in the High Castle for a science fiction literature class. I enjoyed it, but it didn't absorb me nearly as much as Do Androids did.

I am definitely interested in reading more of his work after this. Do have any suggestions on which Dick novel I should read next?

Apr 6, 2011, 3:17am

I've not read even half of his vast catalogue, so there are probably better people to answer this than me. I really liked Flow my tears, the policeman said, A scanner darkly, Ubik and Counter-clock world though - for very different reasons.

I plan to read The zap gun this year, which seems to be one of the books that shows Dick ín a slightly more whimsical mood.

Apr 6, 2011, 6:25am

79 I quite enjoyed the first collection of Steampunk stories, it was a good mix. I don't think there is sadly enough new stuff in this one to buy it though :(

Apr 6, 2011, 1:17pm

85, I've been thinking about reading A Scanner Darkly, so I'll probably put that next on my list of his books to read. Though Counter-Clock World sounds bizarre and interesting, too. :)

79, Well, I picked up my copy from the library, so that helps. But there is actually a lot of great steampunk in the book and a lot of great steampunk coming out recently. The stories I listed as my favorites are definitely wroth picking up Steampunk II for a read, and there were many others in the collection that I did also enjoy.

Apr 6, 2011, 8:46pm

21. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Omnibus, by various authors (***1/2)
Category: Stories in Pictures

A collection of graphic short stories, which were written by a variety of comic authors, while Buffy the Vampire Slayer was on television. My favorite was "Dawn and Hoopy the Bear," which was quite funny and had some of the best art in the collection. I also really liked "Viva las Buffy" (which fills in the gap from when the movie ended and the TV show began and letting us know what happened to Pike) and "Slayer, Interrupted" (which shows Buffy's stay in a mental institution as an attempt to avoid her fate).

However, I was thoroughly bored by the first two stories in the collection. In "Spike and Dru: All's Fair," in which the duo cause havoc at the 1933 World's Fair. The art is just okay and the lettering is awful, and frankly I'm not a Spike and Dru fan anyway.

"The Origin" was equally dull for me. It presents Joss Whedon's original screenplay of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as he intended it to be shown. To me, it ended up reading as a bad version of the movie, which I still quite love for all its camp. It was silly and ridiculous, but it was also fun. "The Origin" looses its fun when translated to comic format, not even capturing the punch of the TV show. It should have been given more space. Instead it seems to rush through the story and end up falling flat in so many ways.

Edited: Apr 14, 2011, 5:05pm

22. Horror Vacui: Poems, by Thomas Heise (****)
Category: The Universe in Verse

I picked this collection of poems up because I liked the title, more specifically that it had the word "horror" in the title, as I'm a fan of the genre. It's not really about horror, of course, rather the title (I've just learned) is from the latin, meaning "fear of empty space", referring to works of art in which every available space is filled in with minute detail.

It's a beautiful title for the book (which makes me like the title even more) and suits the poems within, which look at how the empty spaces of our life are filled or cannot be filled. Many of my favorite poems in the collection are obviously haunted, not just in emotional content, but in the way some unknown force seems to be communicating with the narrator. It could be a ghostly presence, or god, or the narrator's conscience -- it's never clear, but it doesn't matter, for sometimes the narrator is actively interacting with this presence, and sometimes the narrator continues as though not hearing it at all.

Other poems touch upon other forms of supernatural or the mythological, while never leaving the mundane or everyday. Some are strange collisions of imagery that leave one slightly intellectually befuddled but smiling. All in all this is a wonderfully odd and pleasing collection of poetry. I would definitely recommend it.

Apr 14, 2011, 10:01pm

23. Looking for Alaska, by John Green (*****)
Category: Hello, I Love You
Book that made me fall in love: Paper Towns

John Green and his brother Hank make youtube videos, which is how I found them and learned that John wrote books and that they had created this wonderful, weird community of people called Nerdfighters, who battle against world suck. John and Hank are charming, lovable goofballs, and I honestly fell in love with them and their antics in the videos before I ever read a word of John Green's writing.

Then I picked up Paper Towns, and I'm not sure what I expected. It was sweet and funny and full of real world mystery and adventure and fun, the kind you can only have when you're sixteen and not fully tied down to all the things you should do yet. It's a wonderful book.

So, of course, I had to read more of John Green's work.

In Looking for Alaska, Miles, aka "Pudge," decides to leave the ease and safety of his home and current high school to head off to a prestigious boarding school instead. Pudge is looking for what poet François Rabelais called "the Great Perhaps," for adventure, for a life fully lived. At Culver Creek Boarding School life for Pudge is certainly less safe and far more chaotic, especially after he meets Alaska Young, who is sexy, smart, crazy, mysterious and definitely trouble. He makes other friends, too, but his center of focus pivots around Alaska, who drags him into the chaos of her world and he soon finds that after meeting Alaska, things will never be the same.

Don't think that this is the perfect set up for a romance, however, for while love is certainly present, it's mostly one sided, and things don't work out to according to the neat fantasies the boy's dream up. Life is too complex; it's too messy.

I would like to point out here that Looking for Alaska has one of the greatest passages I've ever read. It's widely quoted among Nerdighters, and I have to share it, too.
"I wanted so badly to lie down next to her on the couch, to wrap my arms around her and sleep. Not fuck, like in those movies. Not even have sex. Just sleep together in the most innocent sense of the phrase. But I lacked the courage and she had a boyfriend and I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was hurricane."

Isn't that gorgeous? It's one of those quotes that will stick in my mind, that I will savor and remember the taste of, because it's just that good. And really, the book is that good, too, with a character who's all mixed up and a story that is funny and full of longing and loss and redemption. (You'll notice that writing about John Green's writing makes me want to use a lot of "and"s, because it's so rich and multi-layered.) Looking for Alaska is a deeply moving book, and I loved it even more than I loved Paper Towns.

As a side note: Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns are very similar. Both have slightly geeky, awkward young men as their main characters, who fall hard for their beautiful schoolmate, almost to the point of obsession. Both women are highly opinionated, clever, mysterious, dangerous, sexy, and have a flair for the ultimate prank.Both stories center around the deep mystery of a person. But despite their similarities, both novels are unique, set in different worlds with a unique cast of interesting characters. Both are worth reading.

Apr 14, 2011, 10:23pm

Double book bullet! Off to go investigate John Green's works and see if my local library has either, or both books mentioned. Great review!

Apr 15, 2011, 1:40am

Thank you and you're welcome. I hope you enjoy both books. :)

Apr 15, 2011, 4:27pm

Another Double Book Bullet over here! And, I'm sure that when I head off to youtube in just a couple of minutes that I will while away a few hours watching their stuff. *sigh*

Apr 16, 2011, 10:43pm

>72 andreablythe:. Glad to hear Machine of Death was so good. Somewhere along the way I downloaded a PDF for my Kindle but never got around to reading it. Will put it on my home page so I get to it soon.

Apr 18, 2011, 1:00pm

93, Yes, I've lost many hours to watching the VlogBrothers on youtube. :)

@94, I'm looking forward to seeing what you think of it.

Apr 19, 2011, 2:56pm

24. The Civilized World: A Novel in Stories, by Susi Wyss (****)
Category: From my Bookshelf (this is an ER book)

Shifting from the Ivory Coast to Ethiopia to Ghana to America, this novel presents the lives of five very different women. At the heart are Adjoa, who hopes to open the cleanest, friendliest beauty parlor in Ghanna, and Janice, an American aid worker. Both women, though they may not realize it, are bound by singular event of violence and tragedy. Other women include Comfort, a strong, no nonsense African matriarc, who must make what peace she can with her American daughter-in-law Linda, and another woman (whose name I can't remember), who feels lost and unsteady following her husband embassy post to embassy post throughout Africa.

These stories present Africa without the sensationalism, offering stories of daily living. Even the writing itself is understated, attempting to simply describe what is, rather than over-dramatize, and allowing the reader to fill in the empty spaces. These women feel very real, and I can imagine them now, living their lives in Africa.

Apr 20, 2011, 2:38pm

25. From Alice to Ocean: Alone Across the Outback, by Robyn Davidson, with photography by Rick Smolan (*****)

In this very large coffee table book, beautiful photographs provided by National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan are situated alongside excerpts from Robyn Davidson's travel memoir, Tracks. At first I did not intend to read this book in its entirety. I planned to only flip through it and look at the pretty pictures as a way to start thinking about Australia, which I will be visiting in the fall. As I read the captions, however, I began to be fascinated by this amazing journey this woman took across the outback and ended up reading it quickly in its entirety.

Robyn Davidson's journey began in Alice Springs and lead her across the Australian desert all the way to the ocean. She made the journey with her four camels and her dog. It was a journey she felt she needed to take, for reasons that were deep rooted and not even fully known to herself. In one of her opening paragraphs, she wrote:
"There are some moments in life that are like pivots around which your existence turns -- small intuitive flashes, when you know you have done something correct for a change, when you think you are on the right track. I watched a pale dawn streak the cliffs with Day-glo and realized this was one of them. It was a moment of pure, uncomplicated confidence -- and lasted about ten seconds."

Davidson faced innumerable challenges in simply preparing for this trip, one of which being what she called "the cult of maschismo" that exists in Australia. Because no white men had ever been able to make the journey she was about to undertake, no one believed that a woman would be able to do it. So she met incredible resistance in trying to just get the training to work with camels and to earn the money to fund her journey.

The challenge of money was eventually solved when she received funding from National Geographic. It was a decision she immediately regretted. While she would not be able to make the journey without this funding, Davidson felt like a sell out. Now a photographer would be joining her at points of her trip, therefore eliminating the solitude she had hoped for (having a photographer around at times also created problems with the Aborigines, whom she also hoped to connect with).

Davidson, like the Aborigines, makes a strong distinction between tourists and travelers. Tourists being the kind of people who suck up the scenery, are glued to their cameras, and are often rude. Tourists don't care for the people or the cultures they are disrupting. While a traveler is respectful. This notion can be a little confronting to some readers, I'm sure. It just made me sad and made me think about how I travel and behave when I'm outside of the U.S.

Tied into this is the discussion of how the Aboriginal culture has been abused, made quaint by news and photographers, while many of those same news outlets did not care what was actually happening to these people -- how their culture was slipping away and how they keep getting relegated to worse and worse lands.

Whether or not you agree with her political views, at least Davidson makes you think on multiple levels and I would love to have some discussions with someone who has read this book.

I felt deeply for Davidson on her journey. Her writing allows you to connect with her and her experience, bringing you right down into the dust of the desert with her. I came to love the contradictory nature of her emotional experience and how she could swing from perfect bliss of the moment to wanting to throttle some tourist. She's funny and real and doesn't (seem to) pretend to be anything other than herself.

The only major flaw of From Alice to Ocean, as far as I'm concerned, was that is was merely the abstracts from Tracks, necessitating the need to go read the full story and get more details of the journey. However, I would argue that From Alice to Ocean is an excellent companion to the story. One of the interesting things about it was the way the photographs told a completely different story from the text. At times Davidson railed against the the photographer in her writing, hating having him there, although keeping quiet because he's a nice guys. Also, the pictures are often a lie, painting a beautiful, though highly romantic notion of the journey that was contrary to her actual experience. (Yet another layer to the possible discussions one could have about this book.)

This emotionally and intellectually complex, but ultimately fulfilling, journey is well worth a read.

Apr 20, 2011, 9:28pm

Fantastic review, Andrea! I've added it to my TBR list, as if it wasn't enormous enough. You're going to Australia? Jealous! Family friends live outside of Sydney, and another set of friends lives in Tasmania. You'd think that would be enough of an excuse/reason to go, but it hasn't happened so far. Is your trip all planned out yet?

Apr 21, 2011, 12:15pm

Thank you, Laura!

My trip isn't all planned out. I'm going there to attend a conference for the aluminum casting industry for the magazine that I work for. So I'll be visiting plants and doing interviews and handing out magazines at our booth. But my boss is wonderful and is giving me ten days to check out Australia on my own, so I'll be hitting Melbourne for sure, and may head up to Sydney, depending on my time. :)

Apr 22, 2011, 3:52pm

26. Life of Pi (audio book), by Yann Martel (****1/2)
Category: Miscellany

A sixteen year old India boy, nicknamed Pi, is shipwrecked at sea and left to survive in a lifeboat with a hyena, an orangutan, a zebra, and a Bengal tiger. Pi unfolds his story of survival like a fable, which is full of horror and beautiful, constant terror of inevitable death while maintaining gratitude for these moments in which life remains.

The first few chapters were a bit slow for me as Pi went through the necessary process of building up to the moment of shipwreck. He also has more of a tendency to lecture during the beginning, but as the story went one and I learned about his absolute devotion to many faiths (Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam), I became more and more engrossed in the story. Before long, I found myself sitting in my car outside of my apartment just so I could keep listening to the story unfold to its conclusion.

Apr 25, 2011, 12:26pm

27. 13 Little Blue Envelopes, by Maureen Johnson (****1/2)
Category: The Playground

Following the death her beloved, eccentric, runaway, aunt, Ginny receives a package of 13 envelopes. Each envelope has a letter with instructions in it, instructions that will take her over the big blue ocean to a stranger's house in London, in search of a starving artist, and across Europe. Along the way, she may just find some romance, too, if she can just let her guard down long enough to allow it.

Ginny is pretty damn brave to follow these instructions as she does, jumping into a foreign country fairly blind and trusting to the letters of an aunt who was often unreliable. But the result is an adventure, the kind of traveling adventure where there is more uncertainty and boredom and hungry reality than the glossy idea of adventure you get from travel books. I definitely sympathize with Ginny. I'm somewhat shy and I've felt the lonely, lost boredom of being in a foreign country. It's an amazing, unsettling experience that always ends up being worth the effort, even if only in hindsight.

Maureen Johnson presents a story that is both funny and touching, and I'm looking forward to reading the sequel, which is coming out this Spring.

Apr 26, 2011, 12:20pm

28. Locke and Key: Welcome to Lovecraft, Vol. 1, written by Joe Hill, art by Gabriel Rodriguez (****1/2)
Category: Stories in Pictures

When their husband/father is murdered by one of his students, the Locke family moves to their uncle's large old house in Lovecraft, Massachusetts to make a new start. The mother is trying to hold it together, the eldest son is racked with guilt, the daughter (who already saved her younger brother once) is trying to disappear into the crowd, while the youngest, Bode, explores the ghostly world of their new home. The house they move to is full of doors and hidden keys, which do all sorts of strange things, as Bode discovers. Each character is emotionally complex, and the art is beautifully dark and eerie, fitting the story perfectly. There's plenty of blood, but there's even more humanity as this family faces down the horrors that await them.

Apr 26, 2011, 5:36pm

@97 Brilliant review! Thumbs up from me!

Apr 26, 2011, 7:22pm

Thanks! :)

Apr 27, 2011, 8:01am

102 The second one is good too, so much potential in the idea.

Apr 27, 2011, 12:26pm

@105, I'm planning to read the whole series. I really love Joe Hill's writing.

Edited: Apr 28, 2011, 6:53pm

29. Monster Island, by David Wellington (***1/2)
Category: It's a Smoldering World After All

In a zombie infested world, only third world countries, those who have suffered constant military insurgencies, have been able to sustain themselves, the heavily armed population able to hold the undead back. Somalia is one of these countries, but the warlord in charge has aids and medicines are in short supply. Dekalb, a UN official and his daughter have been promised safety within Somolia if he can bring the warlord the medicine she needs.

In desperation, he leads a troop of school girl soldiers to the UN building in New York, where he is sure the medicine can still be found. But the tiny island of Manhattan is swarming with the undead and something else, something even more dangerous, waits as well.

Despite my huge love for zombies, this one didn't catch me or draw me in like I had hoped. The concept of the militarized school girls is rather cool, but because this is written from Dekalb's point of view, the girls themselves become little more than backdrop. Dekalb is a complex enough character (though kind of a weakling and not all that interesting to me), but the girls are indoctrinated cardboard cutouts without much personality themselves. Something I find to be highly disappointing.

And while the writing is good, I'm not all that thrilled with the "twist", nor with the direction the plot ultimately took. There was nothing wrong with it, per se, but the concept just didn't appeal to me. The result was that I occasionally found myself bored with the novel and switching to other books on my tbr list.

Apr 28, 2011, 1:45am

I love "zombie" books as well. I have Monster Island sitting on my TBR shelves, sorry that it didn't quite live up to expectations. It's part of a trilogy I believe, are you going to continue on with the series?

Apr 28, 2011, 12:11pm

I might continue with the stories. Wellington has a good writing style, and Monster Nation, the prequel, does sound interesting and it might be a good read.

Apr 28, 2011, 5:21pm

@107 A shame. Sounded like a cool concept.

May 5, 2011, 8:58pm

This is a movie review that I posted to my blog, but I thought it would be of interest to some readers here.

* * *

It's been a while since I've read Jane Eyre, but I remember not liking it much. The entire story was odd and unsettling to me. I couldn't understand why this quiet girl would fall in love with Rochester, who I never saw as any great catch. People have told me what a strong and passionate heroine she is, but I never saw it. Jane always seemed complacent and unfeeling to me, and I could never sympathize with her. And after everything that happens, Rochester himself seemed more detestable than likable.

The recent release of Jane Eyre on the big screen drew me in despite my reservations, however, so I took my sister to go see it. I immediately loved the muted tones and the haunting mood of the movie. The story is still very strange and unsettling, but Mia Wasikowska does a fantastic job as Jane, revealing the strength of the character I had not seen before. She manages to pull of a straight-faced innocence and the calm of a woman, who keeps her deeply rooted passions restrained in the face of a harsh world.

Rochester, too, was more appealing in the movie. (Though I still don't buy his "woe, my life is so miserable, so I can do whatever I want to get happiness" story.) He's at least intense and observant and passionate, and in some scenes comes off very sexy.

The chemistry is clear between the two actors, as well, so I never doubted that they had managed to fall head over heels in love with each other.

I'm still not in love with the Jane Eyre storyline. It bothers me on a fundamental level. But this move, despite being occasionally slow, was an excellent on the story. It rekindled my interest enough that I may attempt to read Jane Eyre again to see if there was something I missed the first time around.

* * *

Currently reading: Zombies vs. Unicorns (an anthology), Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami, and Darkness at Noon, by Arthur Koestler.

May 19, 2011, 7:23pm

30. Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami (****)
Category: Miscellany

How do I even begin to describe this book? Let's start with the bare facts. Kafka is a fifteen year old boy, who runs away from home, in part to escape the Oedipal curse his father lays upon him, and in part to find his mother and sister, who abandoned him as a child. Meanwhile, Nakata is an old man who, due to an accident when he was a child, is a bit slow mentally, but has the ability to talk to cats and has an internal wisdom that leads him to know exactly where he needs to be (if not the reasons why). The lives of these two characters are deeply connected, and yet not.

Things in Murakami's world involve strange twistings and surreal happenstances. For instance, there's the boy named Crow, who may be real and may not. A person may be a ghost while they are still alive. Things are unsettled in this book; nothing is certain. Just when you think something is what it is, it isn't. It's something more, or perhaps nothing of importance at all.

Reading, you don't quite know how all this cacophony can possibly fit together and yet it does. It's a logical disorder, full of metaphysical musings on the nature of the universe. It's a very strange and beautiful book, or possibly a very strange and deeply unsettling book. But mostly it's a book that you have to sit and think about for a while, because things are all tangled up after reading it -- which is rather quite wonderful really.

Jun 2, 2011, 1:59pm

31. Zombies vs Unicorns, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier (****1/2)
Category: Unicorns from Space!

What began as a debate between Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier on their blogs has now become a rather fabulous anthology.

Holly Black is thoroughly on the side of unicorns, which she says are noble and beautiful and far better than those icky, shambling zombies (she disapproves of shambling).

Justine Larbalestier thinks unicorns are rainbow farting freaks, while zombies clearly symbolize the human condition and can comment on any aspect of our existence.

So each writer put together their own team of young adult writers and asked them to submit stories that better prove the awesomeness of the zombie or the unicorn in literature. Stories are clearly marks as being a zombie or unicorn story, so the hapless reader can be aware of what they are getting into (though some stories are clearly hybrids of both).

The stories are consistently good throughout, however, I am thoroughly on Team Zombie (my love for zombies being what drew me to the anthology in the first place) and many of my favorite stories are the zombie one. "Love will Tear Us Apart," by Alaya Dawn Johnson, for example, is a delightfully bloody love story, and Carrie Ryan's "Bougainvillea" is a powerful coming of age story in a world ravaged by zombies.

I've never been much drawn to unicorn stories (except maybe for a time when I was in elementary school), but many of the unicorn stories in this book were equally captivating and some outright funny. Take "The Third Virgin," by Kathleen Duey, which is haunting and unsettling and redefines the idea of purity in connection with they unicorn.

Black and Larbalestier continue their Zombies vs Unicorns debate throughout the book, and their arguments are as equally entertaining as any of the stories. All in all, this is a clever idea for an anthology and they pull it off with pizzazz.

Jun 2, 2011, 3:05pm

Never heard of this. Sound utterly bonkers and pretty wonderful - thanks for your review!

Jun 2, 2011, 3:45pm

You're welcome. :)

Jun 2, 2011, 6:55pm

32. Darkness at Noon, by Arthur Koestler (****)
Category: From the Modern Library's 100 Best Books

Rubashov is a former leader of the revolutionary movement (the novel never says which movement, but makes it clear by comparisons that Russian communism is intended), who is arrested one night and placed in prison for "political divergences." There he ruminates on his life, which has gone hand in hand with the progress of the revolution. When he is not pacing his cell or chain smoking, he is dragged off to a series of interviews with his accusers. Over the course of his stay in prison, he become more firmly in the belief that the revolution has become polluted, that it is no longer "for the people," and that he is right to diverge from the party line.

I was drawn into this story almost instantly. Koestler drops overly flowery language (his character Rubashov is certainly eloquent and straight forward) in favor of clarity. The writing flows along easily, and allowed me to fall into story and relate to the characters and events. As Rubashov remembers his past and how it lead him to exactly this point of crisis, I was as fascinated as he was with his development and his formation of thinking. I was equally captivated by the intellectual volleying between Rubashov and his interrogators, both of whom strive to use logic to make their point-of-view clear and thus proven right.

This is not a happy story, per se, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Jun 3, 2011, 8:00am

113 I was worried it wasnt going to live up to its promise. Thanks for the review!

Jun 3, 2011, 7:55pm

33. Aya, by Marguerite Abouet & Clément Oubrerie (****)
Category: Stories in Pictures

Aya is a sixteen year old girl living in Ivory Coast, Africa, who wants to go to college and become a doctor, something her father disapproves of. Meanwhile, her two best friends are into partying late into the night and hooking up with guys. The story follows events over a few weeks as each girl gets into and out of trouble. It's a very normal teenage story, more comedy than tragedy and one you could just easily see set in San Francisco or New York, without the sensationalism that tends to be in a lot of stories about Africa (which is refreshing). Definitely an enjoyable read.

Jun 3, 2011, 8:13pm

34. Peeps, by Scott Westerfeild (*****)
Category: The Playground

I'm feeling lazy, so here's the description from the book:
"One year ago, Cal Thompson was a college freshman more interested in meeting girls and partying in New York City than in attending his biology classes. Now, after a fateful encounter with a mysterious woman named Morgan, biology has become, literally, Cal’s life.

Cal was infected by a parasite that has a truly horrifying effect on its host. Cal himself is a carrier, unchanged by the parasite, but he’s infected the girlfriends he’s had since Morgan—and all have turned into the ravening ghouls Cal calls peeps. The rest of us know them as vampires. And it’s Cal’s job to hunt them down before they can create even more of their kind."

This is one of the most inventive takes on vampire stories that I've seen in a long time. I love the way Westerfeld combines biology and mythology to shape the world in which the book is set. Not only does the book present a unique twist on the vampire (zombie, ghoul, werewolf, whatever myth you want to call it by), but the story veers into an unexpected direction.

Cal is well developed, brave out of necessity and smart in some ways, but also lazy and wounded in others. I liked him, and I liked all the characters.

The one caveat that I should warn you about ... in every other chapter Cal presents readers with the low down on a new parasite, which tends to be both funny, fascinating, and revolting. Reading these chapters may cause OCD compulsions to washing your hands and fear of raw meat. I'm cringing just thinking about all those lovely parasites (but also smiling, because I am disturbingly amused by this sort of thing).

Despite my newly developed paranoia (~_^), I would definitely recommend this book and I'm looking forward to diving into the sequel.

Jun 3, 2011, 8:22pm

Scott Westerfield seems to be popping up quite a bit on LT recently. Looks like he writes good YA fiction that appeals to a wider age range from what I've seen so far. Usually it has been Leviathan that has been mentioned so far so it's good to see a review for another of his series. Thanks for your comments.

Jun 3, 2011, 8:45pm

I've read Leviathan, too, and I enjoyed it. But for me, Peeps is so much better.

Jun 5, 2011, 1:18pm

Peeps sounds really good - and if we're going with "much better" than Leviathan, count me in!!

Jun 5, 2011, 6:45pm

Interesting! I thought Octavia Butler did a good job in reinventing vampires as a "natural fenomenon" in Fledgling, so your comment of "combining biology and mythology" makes me curious to check this one out. I've also enjoyed my one encounter with Westerfeld (Leviathan for me too) and am up for more.

Jun 6, 2011, 12:25pm

Ooooh, I love Butler, and hadn't heard of Fledgling. I'm definitely going to have to read that. Thanks for the unintended rec! :)

Jun 13, 2011, 11:47am

35. Heart-Shaped Box, by Joe Hill (****)
Category: From My Bookshelf

Due to my large stack of new books to be read, I hadn't intended to pick up this book and read it for the second time. But as I was sitting there, trying to decide what to read next, it just kept staring at me from the bookshelf. I kept thinking, God, that was such a damn good book, and then I found myself opening up to the first page and becoming engrossed all over again.

The story is of an aging rock star, named Jude, who has all his life sung about death and pain and has amassed a rather large collection of bizarre oddities over the years, as well as goth groupies. So, when he sees a ghost for sale on an online auction, he buys it, and ends up getting exactly what he asks for. Bad things ensue.

This is not just a great horror story, but a great story period. It is an emotionally complex journey, because facing death, Jude cannot help but look back on his life, on the decisions he's made, and the people he's either been hurt by or hurt. Joe Hill does an amazing job of making you care about these characters, even though they are certainly not goodie-goodies. Death hovers at the edges of everything in this story, but so does life and the will to live against obstacles that seem impossible to surmount. I love this story, and I'm sure after a period of time, I'll want to read it again.

Edited: Jun 13, 2011, 2:26pm

36. I, Claudius (audio book), by Robert Graves (****)
Category: From the Modern Library's 100 Best Books

The Roman emperor Claudius presents a record of his family and his life. Known as the idiot child of the imperial family due to nervousness and an unfortunate stutter (as well as a tendency to ill health), Claudius manages to escape much of the backstabbings, poisonings, and nefarious intrigues that plague the rest of his far-reaching family.

This turned out to be a fun read, although it sometimes comes off sounding like a history book (not surprising since Claudius is a historian much of his life). I don't know how much the infighting between family members and the general lust for power is based on actual history (my guess is Graves fudged quite a bit), but it is rather entertaining for the most part.

Jun 13, 2011, 2:45pm

->126 andreablythe:

I loved the TV series of that one with Derek Jacobi as Claudius. Great to hear the book is good - I have a copy somewhere waiting to be read.

Jun 13, 2011, 2:52pm

Oh, I didn't know about the TV series. I'll have to check that out.

Jun 17, 2011, 1:27pm

37. The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, by Diana Wynne Jones (****1/2)
Category: Unicorns from Space!

This mock travel guide gives the reader advice on how to "tour" Fantasyland, a generic world based on all the tropes and cliches from numerous fantasy novels. The result is part criticism, part loving tribute, and more often than not a humorous poking fun at cliches of the genre the author clearly loves.

As much as this book will be enjoyed by readers of fantasy, it is also rather invaluable to writers of fantasy, as its a rather thorough list of all the things that have been done before, done so often, in fact, that they can be easily compiled into a guide on how to navigate such an imagined reality. As a writer myself, I would use this book as a way to think about how I write, as in "Am I including this just because it the default trope for fantasy, or am I including it because it's the best available option for this story?"

Jun 23, 2011, 2:50pm

38. An Artificial Night, by Seanan McGuire (*****)

In the third book of the October Daye series, both faery and human children are going missing. Set to find and save the children, Toby finds herself on several dark and dangerous roads that lead to Blind Michael and his wild hunt.

Toby also unfolds and grows along her journey, and we learn some surprising things about why she flings herself so savagely into danger. Her relationships with all the various infuriating, strange, humorous, and lovable characters surrounding her also grow.

Seanan McGuire's writing is getting better with each book, and she has a knack for keeping the action and tension high, making An Artificial Night supremely readable, the very definition of a page turner.

Jun 23, 2011, 3:07pm

I agree with you about An Artificial Night -- and the fourth book, Late Eclipses, is even better! I can't wait for book #5 to come out in September!

Jun 23, 2011, 5:43pm

I'm so excited to read Late Eclipses and the cover for One Salt Sea is gorgeous. Also, you might like to know that Seanan is holding an ARC contest over on her blog:

Jun 23, 2011, 6:59pm

Ooh, thanks for letting me know, Andrea! I just went and entered. :)

Jun 23, 2011, 11:15pm

Good luck! :)

Jun 28, 2011, 2:01pm

39. Locke and Key: Head Games, written by Joe Hill, art by Gabriel Rodriguez (*****)

In the second book of the graphic novel series, the Locke family begins to learn more about the mysterious properties of the keys and doors within their new home. One discovery is mind-blowingly awesome (an entirely appropriate pun and cliche).

I don't really want to say any more about the book, because the surprises of the storyline are just too good to reveal. You must read them. As always the writing and art are fantastic, in fact, it seems to be getting better from here.

Jul 8, 2011, 3:22pm

40. Unbeknownst, Julie Hanson (****)
Category: The Universe in Verse

This was an ER book.

You never know quite what you're going to get when you pick up a book by a poet you've never read before. Fortunately, Julie Hanson's Unbeknownst was a charming find. Her free verse poetry is a humorous look at the seemingly mundane, elevating the everyday experience and making it sing. A really lovely book of poetry.

41. Desert Places, by Robyn Davidson (****1/2)
Category: Hello, I Love You
Book that made me fall in love: From Alice to Ocean: Alone Across the Outback

Robyn Davidson has the tendency to envisage a romantic ideal trip, like journeying in the desert with the nomadic peoples of India, only to slam up hard against a solid brick wall of reality.

Davidson thought it would be as simple as contacting a group of Ribari (one tribe of India's nomadic people) and convincing them to let her join them on one of their sojourns. She quickly learns that its easy to dream the trip, but pulling it off was a fumbling, frustrating process of continued disappointment. Many Ribari don't trust her, afraid that she might be a spy for the government and many of those who do are not making nomadic journeys at that time, either for reasons of poverty or prosperity. When she does connect with a group of Ribari, who do claim to trust her, who offer to take her with them, Davdison finds again and again her hopes dashed as the plan falls apart just days before she is meant to start her journey. Again and again over the course of over a year a blooming hope of finally bringing the trip to fruition is stomped into the dust, and she finds herself on numerous occasions considering giving up the plan entirely.

But Robyn Davidson has a tenacity and a courage that should astound anyone and eventually finds a tribe to take her with them. Again there is no romance in this, because the road is rough and Davidson is isolated by her inability to communicate with those who have welcomed her. The lack of communication means false starts and improper handling of gear. She doesn't sleep because of the sheep pressing against her cot and falls into helpless exhaustion. She is stared at where ever she goes, pointed out and hounded as the white stranger, the white, European alien. And despite her loneliness, she is never alone, always surrounded to the point that she longs for the open deserts of Australia, where she was allowed the solitude to reconnect with herself.

Cultural confusion abounds. As just one example, many of the Indian people she meets cannot understand why a rich person like her, who has the immeasurable wealth to afford car, would want to walk along the ground like peasant, while Davidson could not grasp the complacency of the cast system, which required her to sit idle and be served instead of doing things herself.

However, Davidson also becomes family with the group of Ribari she travels with. They bring her into their world, welcome her, and care for her. She does the same for them.

Do not yourself approach this book with your own romantic ideas of India, of bright colors. This is not an easy book to read. It a brutal journey, both physically as well as emotionally. Davidson is so beaten down by poverty and red tape and physical sickness and irritations big and small (from a horror of a camel guide to her own camels trying to kill her), that she comes to a state of alternating absolutes -- both hating and loving India with deep and virulent passion.

But just as there are moment of outrage and ugliness, Desert Places also contains moments of joy and laughter, beauty and compassion, of generosity and kindness.

If Davidson were a hair less of the fantastic writer she is, the book would not work, but fortunately she's wonderful and the book, though full of rough edges laying in wait to snare, is too. If nothing else, it will certainly make you think.

Jul 14, 2011, 12:14pm

42. Nightwatch, by Sergei Lukyanenko (*****)

There is a secret world of Others, sorcerers, vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, and more, that are divided into two sides, the Light and the Dark. A centuries old truce keeps them at peace, which they call the Balance and which is maintained by the Watches. The Night Watch, comprised of Light Others, polices the dark side. The Day Watch, comprised of Dark Others, polices the light side.

Anton, who has worked for the Night Watch as a computer engineer, has been thrown into fieldwork, told that he must hunt down a vampire that has gone on a rampage, violating the laws of the Balance by killing humans. His hunt throws him into a complex game of political intrigue in which the lives of a young boy and a curse woman and perhaps the entire city of Moscow hangs in the balance.

Nightwatch is wonderfully complex. The duality of Light and Dark would seem to set up the novel for a simplified sense of right and wrong, but it actually blurs things into a wide gray area of morality. Dark Others can heal; Light Others can do evil. Not to mention that the Balance requires cooperation between both sides, so that if a Light Other heals someone, then a Dark Other is given permission to do an equal degree of harm in the world in compensation. Figuring out how to do good, without that good backfiring into some worse form of evil, in a world such as this becomes infinitely complicated.

The novel is divided into three stories with Anton as the central character, a genuinely likable guy, who feels ambivalent in his role as a Night Watch agent. Each story is has its own distinct plot and drive and motivation out side of the rest, but the stories weave together and build upon each other to make the over riding whole. Anton's ambivalence grows with each story, as he learns the convoluted steps the Light choses to take in order to battle the darkness. Will it really be for the good? Or will good intentions distort into evil?

I'm definitely looking forward to reading the sequel, Daywatch.

Jul 14, 2011, 5:37pm

The Night Watch series is a pretty good read. I enjoyed all 4 books but thought that the first was the best of the bunch overall. Still worth reading Day Watch and the others if you like that though.

Jul 14, 2011, 7:35pm

138, I'm definitely planning on picking up the others. I didn't know there were four of them though.... still I'm looking forward to it. :)

Jul 14, 2011, 8:21pm

Twilight Watch and Last Watch are the other two. They're all pretty much self contained but need to be read in order to fully appreciate the whole story.

Edited: Jul 21, 2011, 7:57pm

43. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N.K. Jemisin (*****)
Category: Unicorns from Space!

From the cover: "Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky -- a palace above the clouds where gods' and mortals' lives are intertwined. There, to her shock, Yeine is named one of the potential heirs to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with a pair of cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother's death and her family's bloody history. But it's not just mortals who have secrets worth hiding and Yeine will learn how perilous the world can be when love and hate -- and gods and mortals -- are bound inseparably."

I quickly drawn into this strange and ornate world, in which gods can be slaves and humans can rule over them (at their own risk). The gods themselves are fascinating, so clearly not human and yet in many ways so similar to humanity. They are flawed and dangerous and powerful, and sometimes kind and compassionate and loving, too. The gods and their children were one of my favorite aspects of this book, especially Sieh, who is both child and not child, both playful and deadly, just as a trickster aught to be (I've always been a sucker for trickster gods).

Yeinne is a strong character with a clear voice. Raised to be a warrior and ruler of her matriarchal kingdom (on the far outskirts of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms), she can hold her own in a fight, but comes up as nearly helpless in the face of the twisting confusion of the political powerplays with in Sky. All her physical strength can't help her, and she must find new strengths to pull her through in order to survive.

I'm looking forward to seeing where the trilogy develops from her.

Jul 31, 2011, 6:58pm

44. Midnight's Children (audio book), by Salman Rushdie (****)
Category: From the Modern Library's 100 Best Books

Midnight's Children is the story of the 1,001 children who were born in the midnight hour of India's independence. Through Saleem, who was born at the stroke of midnight, we learn that each of these children was endowed with unique gifts of varying degrees of usefulness. Saleem has the ability to read all the minds of the people of India, and in this way can make each of the children aware of him and each other.

But that's not the whole story. Saleem draws great significance from his midnight birth, believing it signifies that his life is tied to the fate of the country. He points out how the small, seemingly insignificant events of of his life have had great impact on his chosen country, often intoning that it is all his fault.

But that's not the story either. The story is about how his grandfather fell in love with a woman through a hole in a sheet, how his mother loved the man in the basement, how his father always reeked of failure, how Saleem loved a girl who loved his best friend. Midnight's Children is an epic and immense tale, drawing in the fate of an entire country, and yet is also an intimate and personal tale of a boy who expects too much of himself and all the people -- family, friends, enemies -- who surround him.

Rushdie is an amazing writer with a very poetic style, and he fills these pages with complex characters, full of goodness and ugliness and beauty and kindness and cruelty. He blends the supernatural and the surreal into the everyday, making it entirely believable.

I wanted to love this novel, but perhaps the scope is too large, perhaps there's just too much to take in. I wanted to love it, but I just couldn't quite. It couldn't be anything other than what it is. To try to remove the grand scope of the story the parallel of personal and political, it wouldn't have the same power and effect, and yet, however wonderful it was, I can only say that I liked it.

Aug 1, 2011, 1:00pm

45. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins (****1/2)
Category: It's a Smoldering World After All

Katniss lives in District 12, the poorest district on the outskirts of the city of Panem (what's left of the United States after its collapse), where the main cause of death is starvation, while those who live in the city center enjoy a life of luxury. Following a failed rebellion by the outer districts, the inner city asserted their power by forcing each district to send a randomly selected boy and girl to participate in the hunger games, an arena-style gladiator match in which the children must kill one another in the hope of being the last man or woman standing.

When her younger sister is selected for the games, Katniss immediately steps forward to take her place and soon finds herself in the arena, fighting for her life. Katniss is a very shrewd character, someone you could see managing to survive this sort of thing. She's a hunter and understands how to survive in the forest, having had to gather food for her family for years. She makes mistakes, but knows how to partner up when she needs to and knows how to think her way out of a rough situation.

There's an interesting aspect of game show and popularity contest to the games (a not so subtle allude to reality TV), which puts an interesting spin on things, as well. It's brutal and savage and rather believable. You love to hate the people of the inner city (most of them), who are decadent and bloodthirsty.

The book is fast paced and quite enjoyable. You definitely want Katniss to win, while also hoping that some of the other kids in the book don't have to loose. When it comes down to it, it's a tough choice, because there can only be one to live and the author gives you several to root for and to love. I couldn't help but be caught up in the story from beginning to end.

As a side note, they are apparently in the process of making a movie from the book and Jennifer Lawrence has been caste as Katniss (an excellent choice). It will be interesting to see how the movie is handled, however, since Hollywood tends to shy away from children being killed in movies and some of the children who die in the book are as young as 12.

Aug 1, 2011, 2:15pm

46. The Last Days, by Scott Westerfeld (****)
Category: It's a Smoldering World After All

The Last Days starts off just about the point where Peeps ended, though from the point of view of a new selection of characters. (You could read these books out of order, and it would still be fairly logical.) The Last Days days is told from the viewpoint of five characters, each a member of a band that is pulled together as New York seems to be falling apart. Trash is building up on the curbs, rats are running in herds, cats are behaving strangely, and people are going crazy (trashy their apartments, fighting family and friends, and other antisocial behavior like eating people). Not to mention that something else, something far more dangerous, is rumbling underground, spewing black water, and making the subways unsafe to travel in.

Each character has a very clear unique voice. You would probably know who was talking even if the character name wasn't placed at the front of each chapter. Pearl is my favorite of the characters, even if she was a bit bossy. I don't want to reveal anything, but I hoped for a slightly different storyline for her. Zhaler is a bit whinny, but ultimately lovable, and Alana Ray the drummer is rather awesome in many ways. Minerva, the singer, is a creepy enigma, who you don't really know where you stand with -- she could be the enemy. And then there's Moz, the guitarist, who I'm not totally fond of, but accept as part of the group.

I didn't like The Last Days quite as much as I liked Peeps (too many character viewpoints to jump through maybe), but it's nevertheless enjoyable, and a good followup. One of the things I was quite amused to learn, was that each of the chapters is titled after a band name (I love things like that), which is very appropriate considering how much the book focuses on the music and its effect on people and the world. You gotta love a group of people who are going to meet the end of the world with Rock & Roll.

Aug 1, 2011, 3:02pm

47. Dream Work (poetry), by Mary Oliver (****1/2)
Category: The Universe in Verse

Beautiful collection of poem that dip into the Oliver personal association with the world around her and with her writing process. She often uses nature to relation to the spiritual or the emotional, drawing out from a deer walking by or sunflowers in a field a deeper meaning about being alive. And then again, sometimes a hawk is just a hawk and a primrose is just a primrose, and its enough to take in their beauty for just a little while.

48. Locke & Key: Crown of Shadows, written by Joe Hill, art by Gabriel Rodriguez (*****)
Category: Stories in Pictures

I don't know how to talk about the plot in this third volume of the Locke & Key and key series without giving something away, especially since it's an ongoing story. Let me just say that it continues to be fantastic and I continue to love and deeply feel for the Locke kids and hope they survive the weird and wildly dangerous world they've been thrust into.

* * *

As a side note: I'm way behind on my "Put the Pen to the Paper Society".... may have to rethink that one a bit if this keeps up.

Aug 1, 2011, 4:48pm

->143 andreablythe:

I was wondering about that too - the actors I've seen cast so far are much older than in the book, but, like you said, they probably won't have 12-year-olds dying violently in a Hollywood film.

Aug 1, 2011, 4:57pm

Yeah, it's hard to say, especially if they want to keep a PG-13 rating. Guess, we'll just have to wait and see.

Aug 3, 2011, 1:48pm

I am really enjoying the Locke and key series as well and thought number three did well to put an interesting breather on what has been a pretty intense plot. The artwork is gorgeous too :)

Aug 3, 2011, 2:06pm

A whole string of appetizing reads and good reviews here! Making note of Daywatch and The hundred thousand kingdoms, and am intrigued about the Locke and Key series, which I haven't even heard about. Thanks!

Aug 4, 2011, 12:44pm

@148, the artwork is beautiful! I keep forgetting to mention that in my reviews. The third one is killing me, though with the way it ended. I NEED to know what happens next!

@149, Why thank you. I hope you enjoy reading those books just as much as I did. :)

Aug 8, 2011, 1:20pm

49. Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse, edited by John Joseph Adams (****)
Category: It's a Smoldering World After All

Just as the title implies, this anthology compiles apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic stories by authors such as Stephen King, Octavia E. Butler, Gene Wolf, Orson Scott Card, and others (most of the authors have published apocalyptic novels of some sort). While all the stories deal with the same subject matter, the form of apocalypse varies vastly, as does the tone, which can range from terrifying to despondent to hopeful.

Because the collection features well-established authors, the quality of writing is consistent throughout. Though certain stories did not appeal to me for one reason or another, this had to do with my taste preferences rather than the skill of the author, and in general, I enjoyed reading it.

Edited: Aug 29, 2011, 12:47pm

50. Blindness, by Jose Saramago (****)
Category: It's a Smoldering World After All

A man stopped at a traffic light, waiting for the light to turn, suddenly goes blind, a white blindness, like you're viewing the world in a fog so great it obliterates all the world from view. He stumbles out of the car, calling out, I can't see, I can't see. A man takes him home. His wife takes him to the eye doctor.

Shortly after coming into contact with him, all of these people go blind as well, following by all of the people they come into contact with. An epidemic of blindness spreads through the city. The government in an immediate and swift effort to quell the spread, take all the people who are blind and all the people who have come in contact with them an lock them into quarantine, a sanatorium without doctors or anyone to aid them.

In order to stay with her husband, the doctor's wife claims that she is blind too, in order to join her husband in quarantine. She is certain that her time to be blind will come, but in the meantime, she is the only person with vision in a ward of the blind, the only true witness to the horrors that all the detainees experience.

The first thing you will notice about this book is that there are no names. In a world of the blind, Saramago asserts, identity is eliminated. The characters in this book are known only as the man, the doctor, the woman with dark glasses, the boy with a quint, etc. Unable to see each other and recognize each other, names have no meaning.

Likewise, and to assert this point, dialog is not separated out into separate paragraphs. Whole strings of conversation flow into one another within a single paragraph. To give you a sense of what I mean, here's a string of dialogue:

"What does reading do, You can learn almost everything from reading, But I read too, So you must know something, Now I'm not so sure, You'll have to read differently then, How, The same method doesn't work for everyone, each person has to invent his or her own, whichever suits them best, some people spend their entire lives reading but never get beyond reading the words on the page, they don't understand that the words are merely stepping stones placed across a fast-flowing river, and the reason they're there is so that we can reach the farther shore, it's the other side that matters, Unless, Unless what, Unless those rivers don't have just two shores but many, unless each reader is his or her own shore, and that shore is the only shore worth reaching."

What you get are dense blocks of text, paragraphs that occasionally go on for several pages. Surprisingly, this did not throw me. Saramago is a skillful writer, and I was soon able to pick up the pattern of his writing and make sense of where the dialog began and ended. I wasn't confused and the reading was easy, despite the thick chunks of text. Descriptions, scenes, dialog, and musings tumble one into the next, just as in life one day's emotional and physical events and toils tumble into each other. The story maintains clarity and carries you along as though you are merely on a boat at the mercy of the flow of the river.

Saramago's writing is philosophical, pondering, and beautiful, even as he is describing the horrifying events that occur. He manages to bring out the humanity in his characters even as he asserts that this mass epidemic of blindness eliminates the humanity of the population, which suddenly unable to care for itself is starving and desperate to survive.

Blindness is a beautiful book, one I would love to read again some time as I'm sure I would take something new away from it the second time around.

As a side note, a movie was adapted from the book, staring Julianne Moore. The movie is a fair adaptation and a good movie, though clearly it lacks the philosophical depth of the book.

Aug 11, 2011, 6:04pm

Good review of Blindness! I read it last year as part of a group read and can still remember the story vividly. One of these days I hope to read the sequel, Seeing.... I just keep forgetting about it.

Aug 11, 2011, 7:21pm

*gasp* There's a sequel?! I had no idea. I do believe that I'm going to have to read that.

Aug 12, 2011, 4:59am

I second the praise for your review. I read Blindness about ten years ago, and the taste of it still kind of lingers. I have known but forgotten about the sequel. Perhaps a re-read of the first book and then the sequel in...oh, well, from the look of it, 2013?

Aug 12, 2011, 12:19pm

@155, Thanks! :)

And lol, your TBR list must be about as long as mine.

Aug 15, 2011, 1:27pm

51. Behemoth, by Scott Westerfeld (****1/2)
Category: Spurs, Pinafores, and Steam Powered Automatons

Behemoth is book two of the Leviathan series (I'm not sure if it's a trilogy or ongoing), set in an alternate history in which WWI is between Darwinists (who use bio technology to manufacture a variety of useful beastiess) and the Clankers (who use steam powered contraptions). Definitely read these books in order, as they are a part of an ongoing story, one book starting off right where the last ends.

Book two has our two heroes -- Alec, the wayward prince of Austria-Hungary, and Deryn, a young woman who disguised herself as a boy to be a soldier -- getting wrapped up in a revolution in Istanbul in the Ottoman Empire. Not only does the book return to all the wonderful characters from Leviathan, but many more are introduced.

Westerfeld bases all of his events on historical facts, which he has artfully distorted to make the story come alive. His twist on history is detailed and well-crafted, and the political interplay between countries, rulers, and even between the captain of the Leviathan and Alec's friend Count Vogler is believable. The story continues to be great and I look forward to the third book, Goliath, which is coming out this October.

Aug 15, 2011, 1:31pm

@ 157 -- Coincidentally, I just finished reading Behemoth too! I also really liked it and can't wait to read fact, I just placed a hold for it at my library!

Aug 15, 2011, 2:13pm

Nice! :D

Aug 15, 2011, 2:26pm

I've been stalking my library's new orders and they just placed theirs for Goliath so I'm #3 on the list. Funnily enough, it was entered on their page with 2 holds already... I'm guessing those are librarians' holds - quite a nice benefit. :)

Aug 15, 2011, 7:06pm

52. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson (*****)
Category: The Playground

From the book cover: "Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that’s not safe. Because there’s something she’s trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth."

Speak is a deeply moving account of depression that clearly reveals how lost teenagers. There is no one Melinda feels she can turn to, no one she can speak to. The adults who should be there to support her are often trapped in their own heads and by how they perceive teenage life to be. Her fellow teens are no help either.

But despite her despair, Melinda manages to draw upon hidden reserves of strength within herself to dig her way out. Melinda is a powerful character. She has a clear, vivid voice and is a distint individual. And yet, she represents a universal experience.

This is a powerful story, one that even now as I write this, wants to draw tears from my eyes.

The tenth anniversary addition includes a poem compiled from the emails and letters the author received thanking her for her book and sharing how it helped them get through their own accounts of depression and rape. The poem itself moved me to tears because it so clearly represents the voices of hundreds of teenagers who have been silenced.

Aug 15, 2011, 8:24pm

Thanks for the great review of Speak. I've added it to my wishlist.

Aug 16, 2011, 2:51pm

@162, You're welcome. I hope you enjoy it. :)

Aug 18, 2011, 3:44pm

53. Boy Meets Boy (audio book), by David Levithan (*****)

When Paul meets Noah, he falls for him almost instantly. However, Paul's life gets complicated when an ex-boyfriend reenters his life and friendships fall awry. Suddenly Paul isn't sure what he wants. What follows as Paul begins to figure it all out is a sweet, charming, and funny romantic comedy that made me smile just about the whole way through.

Boy Meets Boy presents a near utopia in that the town is openly friendly to everyone, no matter the nationality or whether gay, lesbian, trans, or straight. One of my favorite characters, Infinite Darlene, a beautiful male-trans-female with flair, is both the quarterback and the prom queens. Prejudice is rare and when it does appear it does so weakly and without much malice, and is often instigated by people new to the town. This is my idea of an ideal society. One in which lifestyle doesn't determine one's worth, but behavior.

It doesn't eliminate sorrow or unhappiness, because human beings still screw up in love, act stupidly to the people they care about most, and in general make mistakes. So there's plenty of room for drama and growth and the joy of personal triumph.

Altogether a lovely book.

I also want to add the audio book from from Full Cast Audio is fantastic. Each character is acted out by a different actor and music is integrated between scenes to help set the mood. Full Cast Audio does a fantastic job and even has an interview at the end with three of the actors, who discuss and compare their own experience of high school life with gay-friendly high school in the book.

Edited: Aug 18, 2011, 5:20pm

54. 101 Best Scenes Ever Written: A Romp Through Literature for Writers and Readers, by Barnaby Conrad (***)

Conrad selects favorite scenes from literature, theater, and film, groups them into categories, and analyzes them in order to help writers and readers understand why they are great. Its mainly presented to writers as a way to show how great scenes manage the trick of making you fall in love with a story, so that they can learn to do it themselves.

As with any list that declaims "Best" in its title, there are always scenes that are left out. However, I found the scenes selected to be worth reading, so I didn't doubt their value. He sticks mostly to canonical titles and well known works, which means that there is a prevalence of works by dead white men, few women, and almost no minorities. This does not take a way from the scenes presented, as these are certainly great scenes; it just reflects on the author's preferences and biases. Any such list is going to be limited, of course, but something from The Color Purple, Their Eyes Were Watching God, just about anything by Toni Morrison, or other such works with fabulous writing could have been considered.

In terms of advice, the author lays down "rules" with a mildly patronizing tone. Many of the rules I don't agree with and Conrad makes no reference to when authors break "rules" for better effect.

Worth a read, but I recommend borrowing it from a library as opposed to buying it.

Edited: Aug 29, 2011, 12:32pm

55. The Door to Lost Pages, by Claude Lalumiere (****1/2)
Category: Unicorns from Space!

Lost Pages is a bookstore unlike any other. Inside are books that can be found no where else, histories from alternate Earths and alternate worlds, encyclopedias of the impossible, and tomes presenting varied versions of reality. These books are written in a multitude of languages, some forgotten, some not even human.

Many people find their way to Lost Pages, such as Aydee a young girl who abandoned her neglectful parents and Lucas who came to run the story after seeking sought solace in the strange tales found its books. It is Lucas who invites Aydee into the world of Lost Pages and gives her refuge. Though that doesn't even scratch the surface of the story, which is also wrapped up in a primal battle between ancient and terrifying gods. Aydee remains central to the novelette, though others find their way to Lost Pages; some are saved, some not.

The collection of stories that make up The Door to Lost Pages are creepy, sensual, weird, mystical, erotic, horrifying, moving. It's really a wonderful and strange book, one so visceral in its oddities that it would not appeal to everyone. I, however, loved it.

Aug 25, 2011, 9:15pm

Augh..... a book bullet! Nice review for The Door to Lost Pages. It intrigued me so much I did a quick check with my local library catalogue and found it. Hold placed, review thumbed!

Aug 29, 2011, 12:25pm

Thank you. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did. :)

Aug 29, 2011, 4:09pm

56. You're Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop: Scalzi on Writing, by John Scalzi (****)
Category: Put the Pen to the Paper

You're Not Fooling Anyone assembles various writing-related posts from Scalzi's blog, Whatever. His entries mostly relate his experiences in the publishing industry and present advice based on same. Scalzi doesn't much go for inspiring young artists with the idea of art for art's sake. Rather being of a more practical nature, he presents information about practical aspects of writing, namely money and how he's managed to survive as a working writer. He also writes about writers behaving badly and presents some science fiction related information (because that's the kind of fiction he writes).

As someone who had been making his living as a freelance writer for many years, Scalzi's advice and commentary is well placed, though even he admits that "your millage may vary." Not all the advice in this book will work for you. Scalzi doesn't expect it to; it just happened to work for him, so he expects someone else out there might also find it useful.

I don't know that I took any new information away from this book, as I've been reading about writing, working on writing, and submitting my writing for a while now. Though for those still just exploring the borders of publishing land, I'm sure there's plenty to learn.

If nothing else, Scalzi's is a great writer and his dry, sarcastic sense of humor is quite entertaining.

Aug 29, 2011, 4:11pm

This one sounds interesting, thanks for the review!

Aug 30, 2011, 2:33pm

57. Castle in the Air (audio book), by Diana Wynne Jones (****1/2)
Category: The Playground

Abdullah, a young carpet seller, lives in his small stall in the bazaar of Zhanzib. A disappointment to his deceased father, he daydreams himself another life, in which he is really a lost prince from a distant land destined to marry a princess. He is content with his simple life and these daydreams, when a stranger sells him a flying carpet.

In his sleep, the carpet carried Abdullah off to the gardens of a beautiful woman. He falls in love with the girl, but she is carried off in the night by a giant djinn, thus beginning the carpet seller's adventures. He is a kind and clever adventurer, who uses his wits and exceedingly polite manners, rather than physical strength, to escape a number of scrapes.

Castle in the Air is an amusing fairy tale full of the kind of interesting characters on Diana Wynne Jones could write, including a charming criminal, an grumpy yet lovable cook, good and bad djinns, a wicked genie, evil family relations, wizards, witches, shape shifting cats, and a multitude of intelligent and strong minded princesses. I especially like the princesses, who are not idling away in their tower, but actively making plans to enact their own escape. It's an excellent companion to Howl's Moving Castle.

Aug 30, 2011, 5:56pm

I have that on Mt. TBR, but haven't gotten to it yet - how much of a connection does it actually have to Howl's? Does it just take place in the same universe or do they have characters in common as well? E.g. is Howl in it?

Aug 30, 2011, 7:16pm

Well, I didn't mention it, cause I didn't want to give anything away, but yes, Howl, Sophie, and Calcifer are in the book -- though not majorly and in unexpected ways. In fact, the way they show up rather amuses me. :)

They also appear in The House of Many Ways the third companion novel, but even more marginally than in Castle in the Air.

Aug 30, 2011, 7:24pm

58. Ceremony for the Choking Ghost, by Karen Finneyfrock (*****)
Category: The Universe in Verse

Apparently Karen Finneyfrock fell into a deep poetic depression following the death of her sister and found herself unable to write poetry. When, three years later, she was finally able to come back to writing, these are the poems she wrote.

Ceremony for the Choking Ghost plays out like a poetic carnival. The people, images, and metaphors parade through this book in delightful arrays of artifice and splendor. And yet, despite the glitter and sparkle and beauty, there is too, something deeply sad and unsettling, something seedy beneath the surface. After the thrills of reading this book, I am only sad that her first collection, Welcome to the Butterfly House, is out of print, so I will not be able to immediately read more of her work.

Aug 30, 2011, 8:05pm

Oh, I'm intrigued now! And of course there's a third to add to the wishlist... :)

Sep 1, 2011, 8:02pm

59. A Sentimental Journey and Other Writings, by Laurence Sterne (***1/2)

The first writing in the book was incomplete novel (though I think it's partly autobiographical), A Sentimental Journey, which is Sterne's best known work. (I picked this up, because in the 1999 version of Mansfeild Park, Henry Crawford reads a paragraph from the book out loud to Fanny Price.) The story covers a traveler's journeys through France, in which he meets and interacts with a number of characters, including a mild-tempered monk, a French servant, a wealthy aristocrat, and numerous women of all ages and level of beauty with whom he has varying degrees of amorous feelings for.

The style of writing doesn't carry over well to the modern day. It's filled with strange grammar rules and blocks of text that I had to read multiple times in order to decipher the meaning (a challenge throughout the book), and often it's hard to tell who is talking and when. It made for very slow, very dry reading, for though the book is meant to be humorous, much of the humor was lost on me.

A Sentimental Journey has it's pluses and some of the narrator's adventures are entertaining (I still love the scene with the caged bird), but it's far too challenging for recreational reading (IMO).

Next came The Journal to Eliza, which is also partly autobiographical, partly fictional. The journal is in sense a long extended letter over many weak to Eliza (the author was in love with someone named Elizabeth Draper), in which the narrator bemoans and whines about his loneliness now that his Eliza has been whisked away by her husband to India, and woe is him because he's so damn lovesick. I think it's pretty clear that this piece was not to my taste. I don't have have much patience for that sort of lovesick whinny. I just don't.

A Political Romance was my favorite writing. It involves the story of a con-man who keeps trying to claim rights to a pair of breeches and a watch-coat. I found the writing easier to read in this piece, and while, I didn't understand the politics involved, the story was rather funny regardless.

A Political Romance also includes a section in which a group of gentlemen find the slip of paper that contained the story of the breeches and the watch-coat. After reading it, they sit around a table drinking and belabor its meaning, coming up with several possible and outlandish interpretations of the story. This was also quite funny.

The final writing in the book were a selection of Sermons by Sterne. I read them through, but didn't spend much time on them, as they didn't really interest me.

Sep 1, 2011, 9:02pm

Thanks for reminding me to read this book! Very nice review too, Andrea.

Sep 2, 2011, 12:35pm

You're welcome. :)

Sep 4, 2011, 3:36pm

60. Tonight No Poetry Will Serve (poetry), by Adrienne Rich (****)

I connected to Rich's collection of poetry on an intellectual level, rather than an emotional one. I didn't so much melt into her words (as I do with some poetry), and read, re-read, and thought about it, trying to make the connections between one phrase, line, or stanza, to the next.

Her lines a purposefully ragged, using blank space between lines and words more often than punctuation, and the tend to tumble into one another. Intellectual or otherwise, the writing is beautiful, and there are several passages and turns of phrase that linger in my thoughts long after I've read them.

Sep 4, 2011, 4:18pm

61. Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (****)
Category: The Playground

Ethan lives in Gaitlin, South Carolina, where nothing changes. Every one in school and in town is locked into the same routine and prejudiced about anything that doesn't fit neatly into their world. Ethan apathetic about the town and the people, following along with the routine until leave town when he hits eighteen.

In the meantime, he's having nightmares about trying to save a girl from falling. They are so vivid that when he wakes up, the mud from gripping the earth is still under his finger nails when he wakes up.

When Lena, the niece of the town shut-in, moves into town, Ethan immediately recognizes her as the girl from his dreams. With her arrival Ethan becomes wrapped up in strange happenings, a secret world of magic that has always lived in Gaitlin, including casters, spirits, and an ancient curse.

I do like how the novel is strongly set in its location, very clearly the south with its swamps and heat and southern manors. However, I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I liked Ethan and Lena, and felt for them as they dealt with the prejudice that the town rails against Lena. However, I also don't buy into the fated-lovers trope, in which two people (a la Twilight) connect with each other immediately and never really deviate in their love. They have fights and set backs, of course, but you know from "first sight" that they are going to be together. Their personalities sort of dissolve into each other, and their whole life and interests become just about that other person. Though this less so in Beautiful Creatures than in Twilight, as both Ethan and Lena seems to be more multi-dimensional characters than Bella and Edward. They do have problems other than each other, like Ethan facing the lingering effects of his mother's death from several years before.

The writing is good in the book, and though it was long, the story managed to carry me along very well. In fact, it keep me going, as Ethan and Lena searched for a solution to the curse and with the nastiness of the students and parents in the town, that it kept me up a couple of nights, because I needed to know what happened next.

Though, I also had issues with the curse, which along with the love story, is the main focus of the novel. The curse set the casters and the mythology very clearly along the lines of good/evil without much room for grey area, which is annoying to me. I don't want to get into the details, but this evil/good dynamic made me deeply uncomfortable on several occasions. But fortunately the book resolved that well in a way that allowed for more grey area, which was satisfactory to me.

In fact, the resolution made me even more interested in Lena. Though I really hope that book two in the series is from Lena's point of view this time. I liked Ethan and his view point, but I would like to see a different perspective. I'll get around to reading the second book eventually, I'm sure, but due to the issues I had with the first book, it may take me a while to come back to it.

Sep 7, 2011, 4:07pm

62. Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Pia Guerra (****1/2)
Category: Stories in Pictures

In a matter of minutes, a strange plague sweeps across the globe eliminating any creature with a Y chromozone. All the males in the world are gone, all except for Yorick Brown and his pet monkey. Yorick's only thought is to try to reach his girlfriend in Australia, though that plan is quickly derailed by a litany of bigger problems, not the least of which is to keep his survival a secret.

In the aftermath of the death of the men, the women are left to pick up the pieces of society. Some spend their time in mourning for those they've lost. Some try to keep order by returning to the systems of government already in place. Some find new ways to earn a living in the world (including gathering the bodies of the men for collection and burning). And some women, who call themselves Amazons, choose a more radical path, claiming that the death of men is a sign and a blessing and seek to destroy any potential for returning men to the world.

It's an interesting look at what would happen if the world were to suddenly be devoid of men. I appreciate the multiple and varied reactions of the women in how they handle this. Yorick, as the last man, is a main character, but not the only one. There are a handful of women in the book who are given equal weight; their journey being of equal importance to the story. Even the cultish Amazons, crazy as they seem, have legitimate and logical reasoning behind what they do. While they are not likable, per se, you can almost sympathize with them.

The storyline, which is interesting in and of itself, is supported by some great artwork and a clever structure, with the plot occasionally jumping back and forth through time. The structure manages to both increase tension and allow the reader to connect more deeply with the characters as they experience the events.

This is a well crafted graphic novel on all fronts, and I'm greatly looking forward to plowing through the rest of the volumes in the series.

Sep 7, 2011, 4:44pm

Sounds great! I'll make note of it and see if I can find it for my graphic novel category next year.

Sep 7, 2011, 7:03pm

I tried to read your review with only one eye as I already have this one on my planned reading schedule for next year. But your 4 1/2 star rating bodes well.

Sep 26, 2011, 3:00pm

63. Fated, by S.G. Browne (*****)
Category: Hello, I Love You
Book that made me fall in love: Breathers: A Zombie's Lament

The thing about Fabio is that he's Fate, and being Fate kinda sucks. Over several thousand years, he's handed out the fortunes to billions of humans (not great fortunes, mind you, as greatness lies on the path of Destiny). More often than not his humans have a habit of screwing everything up, often veering off their mediocre paths into something even more miserable, forcing Fabio to reassign their fortunes on a constant basis.
Watching this happen over and over again leaves apathetic and bored.

His best friends Sloth and Gluttony don't improve things either, not to mention his centuries long feud with Death. But when he meets and falls in love with a human -- a big no-no -- he starts to have a new passion for his work and his life. However, his rule-breaking love could lead to drastic repercussions, such as being stripped of his powers or worse.

When I picked up this book, I did not expect to find myself glued to my chair, unable to put it down, but I found myself quickly absorbed by the flawed and funny Fabio. The writing reflects Fabio's voice perfectly. He's not entirely likable, but I found his wry humor and analysis of human existence engaging and as he grew on me, I found myself hoping everything would turn out alright for him in the end.

I won't give anything away, but speaking of the end, let me just say: wow, omg, unsettling, weird, who the hell comes up with this stuff, and awesome. I have a deep love for zombies, but I definitely enjoyed Fated even more than I loved the wonderful and quirky Breathers: A Zombie's Lament.

Sep 27, 2011, 3:46pm

64. The Stepsister Scheme, by Jim C Hines (****)
Category: From My Bookshelf

If Danielle (a.k.a. Cinderella) thought she would live happily ever after when her prince whisked her off on horseback to the castle, the idea is quickly dispelled when her vile stepsister shows up and tries to kill her. Not only that, but her stepsister has some surprising new powers and informs Danielle that her husband has been kidnapped.

With help from Talia (a.k.a. Sleeping Beauty), who is a skilled martial artist thanks to her fairy gifts, and Snow White, a master of mirror magic, Danielle begins a quest to save her prince from her wicked stepsisters.

I love fairy tale retellings, especially ones in which the women, who are normally so passive, are reimagined as kick ass heroines. None of these women have had their happily ever after, each has faced terrible adversity (from violence to, in one case, rape) and has chosen to rise to the occasion, taking back their strength by fighting for their freedom and for those they love.

Hines remains respectful of the women, each of whom is multidimensional with a great emotional range (even if Talia chooses to keep hers hidden behind her gruff exterior). This is a fun and often funny adventure story, and I'm looking forward to seeing what trouble these girls get into in the other books in the series.

Edited: Oct 2, 2011, 6:06am

>184 andreablythe: Sounds utterly fascinating in a Sandman sort of way, and then wow, omg, unsettling, weird, who the hell comes up with this stuff, and awesome hammers it home. I mean, who could argue with that? Definitely goes on my list, thanks!

Oct 3, 2011, 12:50pm

@186, It was definitely all those things for me, and I find it the same. :)

Oct 4, 2011, 6:28pm

65. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin (****)
Category: From My Bookshelf

Shevek grew up in a society of anarchists, a near utopian society on the moon of Urras in which everyone is equal, there is no monetary system, and all goods are shared equally and fairly. However, it is also a society that has begun to reject new principles and ideas, making life difficult for Shevek, who wishes to explore the new boundaries of physics.

In order to follow the path of physics, Shevek has to turn away from his home to Urras, the planet the anarchist society abandoned hundreds of years before so that they could have their freedom. Urras is a world upon divided by cultures and countries, many at war with each other. Capitalism is king there, where there are drastic differences between the classes and just about anything is for sale.

One might think the focus of this novel is politics, from sexual politics to economic politics, -- and that would be true. Politics, philosophy, and and physics all play large roles here and are the subject of much discussion between the characters, each who have very strong points of view. Nothing is simple, however, and Sevek learns that his anarchist society is not as perfect as he believed, nor is the capitalistic society of Urras nearly as wicked as he imagined. There is good and evil in everything.

But even more story, this is a novel about a man who is lost, who is looking for a place to belong. His deep, deep loneliness and feelings of being disconnected from either world are very true and moving. Without this connection to Shevek, the story would be too tangled in philosophy and politics. Shevek's journey -- physical, intellectual, and emotion -- is really what makes this story come alive.

Oct 5, 2011, 7:40pm

I'm changing my "Put the Pen to the Paper" project category (books on writing and/or making art) to a more general nonfiction category, with a suggested, but not required, emphasis on books, writing or art.

I found that I just didn't want to deal with the project category and there would be no way for me to finish it, if I kept it as was. So I'm going for reading what I want to read instead.

Oct 17, 2011, 10:43pm

66. Sweetly, by Jackson Pearce (****)
Category: Hello, I Love You
Book that made me fall in love: Sisters Red

Sweetly is a companion novel to Sisters Red and a retelling of the Hansel and Gretel story. In this version, Gretchen has a twin sister. As children, Hansel, Gretchen, and the sister go exploring and "witch hunting" in the woods. The game ends when they find the yellow-eyed witch. They flee for their lives, but when they reach home, the twin is gone. No one believes it was the witch.

In order to escape the continued guilt and blame of that event they travel east. Their car breaks down in Live Oak, South Carolina, a small town that seems to be withering away. The siblings agree to work for Sophia Kelly at her candy store in the woods in order to raise the funds to get their car towed and repaired. However, Sophia has secrets and the something in the woods is hunting the girls of Live Oak.

More than anything else, this book is about finding forgiveness and making peace with being the survivor of a horrible event. Especially as loosing her twin, loosing her other half, Gretchen has had a hard time to come to terms with her loss. She's an interesting character that manages to not be whiny. In fact, she's rather matter of fact about her realities and accepting of her sorrow. She learns to trust in her own strength and that's really powerful.

I wasn't as interested in Hansel. He didn't seem to have as much dimension as Gretchen did, but then, he had come to terms with the loss of his sister long before she did.

Sophia, however, was definitely fascinating. You can tell immediately that she's keeping secrets, but it's hard to tell why that is until the pieces little by little begin to unfold. She's a complicated character, one you both love and fear all at once.

The emotional experience envelopes the adventure and suspense of the story, giving it meaning and depth.

Oct 21, 2011, 2:25pm

67. Push of the Sky, by Camille Alexa (****1/2)
Category: Spurs, Pinafores, and Steam Powered Automatons

Camille Alex presents a wide range of imaginative and well-wrought tales in this collection. The few poems included in the collection are not nearly as strong as the stories. They don't quite have the same punch as the stories. But the awesome of the stories far outweighs the mediocrity of the poems.

I was especially fond of "The Clone Wrangler's Bride" and its sequel "Droidtown Blues," which are space western stories about a girl and her mandroid. The girl is spunky and awesome. I loved her quite a bit.

"The Butterfly Assassins" was a beautiful murder mystery. In it a young prince loves to create clockwork creatures, a talent that is looked down upon because the arts of alchemy are more highly prized within the kingdom.

"Shades of White and Road" was a lovely little tale about a girl who runs away from home and travels a spiraling road. Along the way she meets and assortment of stray furniture and objects, who pester her and wish to become her friends.

A story about the last surviving dragon in the world is contained in "Paperheart" and an plaster figurine shares his wit in “Observations of a Dimestore Figurine.”

There are many other stories in this collection that are also powerful and moving, sometimes funny and sometimes horrifying, but always beautifully told.

Oct 21, 2011, 7:21pm

68. A Room with a View (audio book), by E.M. Forster (*****)
Category: From the Modern Library's 100 Best Books

While traveling in Italy, a young Victorian woman Lucy Honeychurch hopes to explore and learn about the artwork and architecture of the area. Instead she has a brush with violence that leads her into a an intrigue with a young man. She flees her passion, traveling from Italy back to England, where she must learn to listen to her own heart.

I was impressed with Forster's take on his characters, making them complicated and interesting and often funny. I especially enjoyed his portrayal of Lucy, who's independent spirit is hidden deep down beneath her layers of appropriate behavior. Forster treated her as a person and even advocates a level of equality between a man and a woman, especially in romantic relationships, hinting that the kind of man as protector role which puts women down is a backwards kind of ideology.

Forster is compassionate about his characters, showing depth of soul and potential for redemption even in the antagonists whom other writers might villainize.

On top of that Forster's writing style is gorgeous with crisp clean prose. He weaves in metaphor beautifully without resorting to the kind of over the top sentence construction that can be confusing and is often seen in older works. The simplicity of style makes for a smooth and easy read.

I loved it. More Forster, please!

Oct 21, 2011, 7:26pm

@ 192 -- One of my favorite books EVER!

Oct 24, 2011, 7:28pm

69. Melbourne Insight Step by Step Guide, by Virginia Maxwell (****)
Category: Miscellany

I actually read this in August/September, but totally forgot to add it to my list. This book presents a series of walking tours that you can take while in Melbourne. It offers color photographs and brief descriptions of the places listed on each tour.

Some It's a little hard to search for descriptions of specific sites, though since it's set up by walking tour, rather than being alphabetical by region. Also it focuses rather heavily on architecture and shopping as focal point, which is fine, but I'm not a big fan of shopping and ended up only skimming those sections. I would have preferred more of the local museums and such.

I used it as a general guide to come up with my own itinerary while I was in Melbourne and it worked well for me, helping me to focus in on one small suburb at a time (which is important since Melbourne is HUGE). I used the maps to help me get around, so it definitely helped me during my trip. I also appreciated that it was a slim book and fairly lightweight. Not a bad way to go, if you only going to be visiting the one city.

Oct 26, 2011, 8:10pm

70. By Grit and Grace: Eleven Women Who Shaped the American West, edited by Glenda Riley and Richard W. Etulain
Category: Spurs, Pinafores, and Steam Powered Automatons

Just as the title implies, this collection of biographical essays relates the lives and adventures of eleven women who had a significant impact on the American West or helped to shape the mythology of the Wild West. Both Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane are included, as well as many other amazing women with a variety of nationalities and cultural backgrounds.

It's a good set of essays, though it tends to be very dry. What it lacks in easy reading entertainment it makes up for with the attempt to be historically accurate. The essays represent good introductions to these women and their lives and each directs the reader to biographies and other further reading, noting those works that are based on the most factual sources, for anyone inspired to learn more.

Oct 26, 2011, 8:14pm

71. Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom, written by Joe Hill, art by Gabriel Rodriguez
Category: Stories in Pictures

Without getting into the plot -- you really should read this series starting from book one -- I'll just say that the story and art continue to be awesome with an ending to this volume that has me begging to read the next one.

Nov 1, 2011, 4:01pm

72. Paper Covers Rock and Triplicity: Poems in Threes, by Chella Courington and Kristen McHenry (****)
Category: The Universe in Verse

I always find it difficult to formulate my thoughts on why I love a certain collection of poetry, and this book contains two such collections by two fabulous writers. Both these women write about the pain and awkwardness of female adolescence straying into adulthood. Though they are very different writers with very different takes on the world, both writers provide readable and textural poems with darkly playful relevance and depth. They were a good, cohesive pair to put side-by-side.

Nov 1, 2011, 4:11pm

73. The Canterbury Tales (graphic novel), by Geoffrey Chaucer, edited and illustrated by Seymour Chwast (***1/2)
Category: From My Bookshelf

Seymour Chwast takes Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and edits them into a playful and fun graphic novel with all the raunchy humor the tales deserve. The book is illustrated with mostly black-and white art is loose and playful and matches well with this revision of the classic poetry.

Let me first say that I have only read The Canterbury Tales in part. The poetry is funny and beautiful all at once, but it's also a very dense and difficult read as well.

So, with that said, I enjoyed Chwast's version and I think it's a good book to read as an introduction before launching into the more difficult task of launching into the original. The simplified versions presented here give a good and amusing overview of what happens in the stories.

My one complaint is that the stories are perhaps too simplified, narrowed down to the most basic outlines of events, which is fine, especially since the illustrations fill in a lot of the details the text leave out. However, the text itself loosed nearly all of its poetry, and I would have liked it more if Chwast had preserved some more of the rhythm of the words.

Edited: Nov 1, 2011, 6:40pm

74. Deadline, by Mira Grant (****1/2)
Category: It's a Smoldering World After All

Book two of the Newsflesh Trilogy continues where Feed ends, leaving Shaun Mason to face the aftermath of the Ryman presidential campaign. Shaun is rather lost in this book with one foot inside the madhouse. The conspiracy that was uncovered in the first book now takes on new meaning and direction when Dr. Kelly Connolly from the CDC shows up on his doorstep with a horde of zombies following closely behind.

There's a considerable amount of exposition in this book, which recaps events from the first book. This is good for readers who may have picked up the books out of sequence (but why would they when Feed is so awesome?!). However, it was sometimes annoying for me, as I have read Feed and because the exposition is reiterated occasionally and sometimes unnecessarily at different points in the story. But this was an easily ignored flaw for me as the story was thrilling enough to keep me going.

One of the great things about the first book was Grant's (the pen name for Seanan McGuire) love and exploration of virology. The science comes through making the disease of the undead seem logical and possible. Top that off with a set of cool characters who you want to root for, and you've got a great book.

Nov 9, 2011, 1:22pm

75. The Gaslight Dogs, by Karin Lowachee (****)
Category: Spurs, Pinafores, and Steam Powered Automatons

Amazon Product Description: "At the edge of the known world, an ancient nomadic tribe faces a new enemy-an Empire fueled by technology and war. A young spiritwalker of the Aniw and a captain in the Ciracusan army find themselves unexpectedly thrown together. The Aniw girl, taken prisoner from her people, must teach the reluctant soldier a forbidden talent -- one that may turn the tide of the war and will surely forever brand him an outcast.

From the rippling curtains of light in an Arctic sky, to the gaslit cobbled streets of the city, war is coming to the frozen north. Two people have a choice that will decide the fates of nations -- and may cast them into a darkness that threatens to bring destruction to both their peoples.

This is a vision of an alternate world that presents wild west style frontier very similar to our own historical west. It presents a group of colonizing whites, who are at conflict with the native population. Lowachee does an excellent job of portraying both perspectives, showing how the differences in cultural perspectives are at the heart of the conflict. They don't understand each other and why they live the way they live.

She does this by writing both from the perspective of Sjenn, the Aniw spiritwalker, and Captain Jarret Fawle of the Ciracusan army, and she treats both of them as complicated, messy, uncertain human beings, who have their own motives and desires that are influenced and driven by their own cultures. They are forced to work with each other by General Fawle, Jarret's father. Neither is happy with working with each other, both are forced to participate, and the tension between them never truly eases completely.

Another important character, which the back of the book description leaves out is Keeley, a Wishishian warrior. (That's another thing that's great about this book. There are many different tribes, each of which have their own unique history and cultural heritage.) Keeley works for General Fawle, hired to watch over Sjenn and Jarret. He is Soreganee warrior who was partially raised by Ciracusan's. He's a man who hold on to his native heritage, while living amongst the Ciracusans. He's a more mysterious character in the book, but the author subtly add complexity to this character, and he is as vital a character to as either Sjenn or Jarret.

The Gaslight Dogs started out slow, but by the third chapter I was completely absorbed, and by the time I reached the end, I was begging for more. While there are definitely threads left untied (leaving room for a book two), the book manages to end on a satisfactory note and feels complete in and of itself.

Nov 9, 2011, 3:39pm

Nice review of The Gaslight Dogs! It's on my TBR shelf, so I'm glad to know you enjoyed it!

Edited: Nov 14, 2011, 1:03pm

76. My Life as a White Trash Zombie, by Diana Rowland (****)
Category: Unicorns from Space!

Angel considers herself a looser. She has an alcoholic dad, lives in a junky white trash trailer, dropped out of high school, has no job, and pops pills. Life has kicked her in the gut and she's wallowed in it for years.

But after waking up in the hospital from an apparent overdose, Angel finds a note ordering to work at the town morgue with the threat of jail hanging over her head if she doesn't. Work at the morgue is gross, but going fine, except for the fact that she now has a craving for brains and just when bodies are showing up headless.

Yeah, so Angel is a zombie, and she's also a pretty awesome character. She's complex and interesting, and she has a humor about things most of the time. Life has run her down, so she has a tendency to through self-pity parties, but she doesn't linger on them so long that it drags down the text. She's got a lot to struggle with, so I'm comfortable with her process of coming to terms with and taking control of her life.

I also like how the author has taken an interest in how dead bodies work. Maybe I'm weird, but that's kind of interesting science (especially after reading Stiff, by Mary Roach, which I'm I'm guessing the author read, too). It's a well put together and fun novel with well created mystery. It's not blatantly obvious who the killer is right away and I like how it all unveils.

Nov 14, 2011, 12:38am

->202 andreablythe:

Extra points for a great title, too! :)

Edited: Nov 18, 2011, 12:11am

77. Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins (****)
Category: Hello, I Love You
Book that made me fall in love: The Hunger Games

Following the events of The Hunger Games, Katniss is in danger. Her actions in the games were seen as revolutionary by the Capital, which puts everyone she knows in danger. Furthermore, as she makes her victory parade through the districts, it becomes clear that there is unrest among the people, making her position even more precarious.

I picked up this book one night, intending to just read one chapter and ended up reading two thirds of the book before I finally gave into my need for sleep. Collins does horrible things to her characters and it makes for excellent reading. It helps that she writes characters who you care about, like Katniss, who is both so strong and brave -- not because she's not scared, but because she holds her ground even though she is -- and yet to human and flawed. Or like Haymitch, who is a drunken bastard, but also more sly and clever than anyone imagines. And so on.

I'm not saying that Catching Fire is a perfect book, but it is definitely a quick pulse-pounding read.

Nov 14, 2011, 9:15pm

The Hunger Games trilogy is one that is on my 'reads it sometime' radar. Good to hear this one has some merit and is worth reading.

Nov 15, 2011, 11:46am

They are definitely dark and fun. I would recommend at least trying out the first one.

I'm excited to read the third, but also wary, as I've heard that some people were pissed off at the ending. However, I also heard other people say it was the most beautiful book they've read, so I'll have to read it and see for myself.

Nov 15, 2011, 12:13pm

Are you interested in The Hunger Games film? They just put out a true trailer for it (instead of the teaser we had all summer) and it shows more characters like Effie, Haymitch and Cinna.

Nov 15, 2011, 2:17pm

Yeah, I am. So far the trailer look great and I'm very curious to see how the movie turns out. I hope they are gutsy enough to be as brutal to the characters as Collins is.

Edited: Nov 18, 2011, 12:12am

78. Shine, by Lauren Myracle (*****)

From the author's website: "When her best guy friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover who in her small town did it. Richly atmospheric, this daring mystery mines the secrets of a tightly knit Southern community and examines the strength of will it takes to go against everyone you know in the name of justice.

Against a backdrop of poverty, clannishness, drugs, and intolerance, Myracle has crafted a harrowing coming-of-age tale couched in a deeply intelligent mystery. Smart, fearless, and compassionate, this is an unforgettable work from a beloved author."

This is an honest and moving story, and Cat is a captivating character. She starts out broken, cut-off from life and living in a self-imposed exile. It takes the shock of the brutal beating of her best friend Patrick to draw her out of her shell.

One of the things I appreciate about this book is that Myracle allows layers. The line between good and evil is blurred, and each of the characters in this book has capacity for both. Every one in this book is human and flawed. Redemption is available to everyone; it merely takes the will and courage to reach for it and keep working for it.

Elegant prose brings rich life to this small town in the South, which is desperate and lonely and sometimes very beautiful, much like this book.

Nov 18, 2011, 12:27am

79. Burn This Book: PEN Writers Speak Out on the Power of the Word, edited by Toni Morisson (****)
Category: Put the Pen to the Paper

This collection of essays, edited by Toni Morison, present varying points of view on censorship and the power of literature in the world. One that sticks out in my mind is Pico Iyer's "The Man, The Men at the Station," the story of how he met a trishaw driver in Mandalay, who shares with him a book he wrote and must keep secret.

I also quite enjoyed "The Sudden Sharp Memory," by Ed Park, which looks at the banning of the book I am the Cheese and its real and imagined effect on students.

Though a few are a bit dense and perhaps overly complex, all the essays in this book present fascinating points of view, and all are very well written.

Nov 20, 2011, 10:09pm

80. Goliath, by Scott Westerfeld (****)
Category: Spurs, Pinafores, and Steam Powered Automatons

Goliath finishes off this trilogy and Alek and Deryn's storyline. The Leviathan finds itself leaving the Ottoman Empire and on a journey to Siberia to rescue a strange scientist, who claims to have a means of stopping the war. Also, certain secrets are revealed.

I like the inclusion of certain historical figures in this one, including Hearst (the famous newspaperman), Pancho Villa, and, my personal favorite, Nicola Tesla. It's a lot of fun to read Westerfeld's interpretations of real historical figures and to see how they fit into the plot (which is quite naturally).

This is an excellent and satisfying ending to the series, which maintains the quality of the first two books. Deryn is as daring and brave as ever, and Alek is likewise, though in different ways, as he's more tied to politics. I love both these characters and I'm a bit sad that it's all over. Though there is opportunity for the two to have further adventures should Westerfeld wish to return to this world, which I hope he does someday.

Nov 21, 2011, 12:59am

Shine does look interesting and it is always great to see another Leviathan series review!

Nov 21, 2011, 1:29pm

81. How Long, poems by Ron Padgett (*****)
Category: The Universe in Verse

There are many reasons why Ron Padgett is one of my all-time favorite poets, and at the top of the list is his playful witty approach to otherwise serious situations and events. Reading his work, I have the impression of a man in love with life and laughter, despite the occasional downs that come along. Padgett cartwheels through stanzas and parades words through lines, often skipping through a variety of potential meanings and coming to unexpected conclusions. How Long is no exception to this and is a fun, thoughtful look at growing into adulthood.

Nov 21, 2011, 5:05pm

->211 andreablythe:
Great ending to the trilogy and nice potential for more, right?! :) I do hope we get more Bovril if Westerfeld does write more about this universe - he/she/it is my favorite character!

Nov 21, 2011, 6:13pm

@214, Totally. I would love to see more Bovril, too, and I would be very curious to see how the world develops and what would happen in a WWII scenario (with all their technological advancements). Though the way he ends it implies that WWII might not happen in his world, which is also cool.

Nov 28, 2011, 2:52pm

82. Kissing Kate, by Lauren Myracle (****)
Category: Hello, I Love You
Book that made me fall in love: Shine

During a party one night, Lissa is surprised when her best friend Kate leans in to kiss, but even more surprised by Kate's reaction when Lissa kisses her back. Now abandoned by her best friend, Lissa has to try to figure out what that kiss meant and what it means about who she is now.

Kissing Kate is a simple and sweet story. Lissa is kind of lost, without really realizing just how lost she is, because she doesn't wallow in it. She doesn't rage or become rebellious; she doesn't turn to drinking or to over-dramatic displays of emotion. Rather, she goes about the business of her life, school, work, and along the way she puts the pieces of herself together. This simple and personal act of self-searching is what drives the story.

There are layers to the story, of course, side characters who present new friendships and their own life challenges. Each character is in their own journey of self discovery, or figuring out what it means to be themselves in the world. It's not an easy journey and the answers are subtle and subdued. Figuring out the answers result in new questions, which really just proves that self-discovery is an ongoing process that can be enjoyable as it is challenging.

Nov 28, 2011, 5:51pm

Just FYI, I have my thread posted for the 12 in 12 Challenge for next year.

Dec 3, 2011, 5:41pm

83. Masters: Book Arts: Major Works by Leading Artists (****)
Category: Put the Pen to the Paper

The artist in this book redefine what books can represent. The art displayed is gorgeous that transforming the very nature of the book. The artists use a variety of techniques and incorporated unusual materials and unique bindings. For example, some books become sculptural, others incorporate miniature, hand-bound books into larger art pieces. Its very cool to look through the very different and captivating art pieces and read what inspires the artist.

Dec 5, 2011, 2:47pm

84. Fast, Cheap, & Written That Way: Top Screenwriters on Writing for Low-Budget Movies, by John Gaspard (*****)
Category: Put the Pen to the Paper

This collection of interviews presents a behind the scenes look at writing for low budget movies. Each screenwriter (some of whom also directed the movie they discuss) has their own approach to writing scripts and how they managed to keep budget in mind as they wrote. The editor and interviewer John Gaspard tries to cover a wide breadth of movies, from adaptations of short stories to horror movies, experimental filmmaking, love stories, and more. He also compiles what he calls a "highly subjective" list of lessons-learned from the interviews at the end of the book.

I love the idea of low budget filmmaking and have a desire to throw my hat into the ring someday. I don't know if I ever will, but in the meantime, reading about other people's experiences is a fun way for me to live vicariously and maybe amass some useful tips, techniques, and knowledge along the way.

Dec 6, 2011, 6:19pm

85. Siddhartha (audio book), by Hermann Hesse (****)
Category: Miscellany

Siddartha is an allegorical tale about a young brahmin's son, who chooses to forgo his father's teachings, choosing instead the life as an aesthetic and goes to live in the wilds in the hopes of achieving enlightenment. His journey takes him through many forms of living, from the wilds back to the garden of an enlightened monk to town life and earthly pleasures, as he continues to seek the enlightenment he desires.

This book is not a biography of The Buddha (one his names was Siddhartha), though it is meant to parallel his life and his spiritual journey and awakening to nirvana. As an allegorical tale, it's rather good, with poetic descriptions of the people and world in which it inhabits. As with such a story, which is obviously intended to instruct, that teaching presence is felt -- repetition of ideas is often used, as well as question/answer style discussions between characters meant to hash out the philosophy. It's difficult to relate an inward journey, a journey of the mind and the soul to readers without these devices, and I think Hesse does a good job with these tools to related the journey.

Another issue (which I don't want to get into in detail or get into an argument about) that colored my experience of the book, is the issues of cultural appropriation (the act of a white person claiming and writing from the point of view of another culture) and orientalizm (presenting the Asia and Asians as inherently mystical and therefore stereotyping the people). I would love to know of any articles on this subject, if anyone knows of any.

However, that being said, I have heard that many Buddhists from both China and India have found this book enjoyable and instructive and it seems that Hesse tried to be respectful in his writing.

If I read this book when I was twenty years old, I would probably have loved it whole heartedly. Now, at thirty, I have some reservations, but I can see why many people have valued this spiritual story and have found truth and wisdom within its pages.

Dec 7, 2011, 12:08pm

86. Sharp Teeth, a novel in poems by Toby Barlow (****)
Category: The Universe in Verse

A good-hearted dogcatcher falls for a beautiful woman, who is more than what she seems. The leader of a werewolf pack schemes and makes plans. Small time drug dens are being preyed upon by what appears to be wild animals. A vicious, bloody betrayal occurs, setting off a tumbling, Ruberg machine of events.

This noir inspired werewolf story is captivating from the beginning and builds to a crescendo by the end. I've read several "novels in poems" and have general found books, in which prose is strung out in lines to pass it off as poetry. Sharp Teeth is refreshing in that it tells a story with a complex assortment of characters and weaves together the intricate threads of varying storylines, while still managing to actually be poetry. The writing is concise and sharp, every word made valuable, and the lines breaks create an actual rhythm to the reading. It has a beat to it, and whether the lines are short and clipped or long and easy, the choice of line breaks is purposeful and necessary. It actually adds to the reading.

One of my favorite quotes from the book is the following:
“And were you cornered by her,
eye to eye,
you would see that
there are still some watchful creatures
whose essence lies unbound by words.
There is still a wilderness.”

So, yeah, this book is all kinds of awesome.

Dec 7, 2011, 12:12pm

I'll be unlikely to pick it up, since I'll need a syllabus-requirement before I read verse, but I'm definitely starring your review since you made me feel like I would like it! :)

Dec 7, 2011, 12:41pm

Thank you!
The verse in Sharp Teeth is actually rather easy to follow. It's definitely poetry, but I think it's readable for people who don't normally read poetry, too.

Dec 12, 2011, 6:28pm

87. Nellie Bly: Daredevil, Reporter, Feminist, by Brooke Kroeger (****)
Category: Spurs, Pinafores, and Steam Powered Automatons

Nellie Bly was all kinds of awesome and apparently was the basis for the character Lois Lane (according to Sarah Rees Brennan in her blog, which is quite entertaining and inspired me to read more about Nellie). Bly virtually invented and became known for "stunt reporting" in which she would go undercover in dangerous situations and then tell all. For example, she tricked hospital staff into thinking she was insane and then wrote and expose on conditions inside. She accepted the challenge of Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days and beat the record of the fictional character, making her world wide journey in a mere 72 days. She went to Mexico to report and was nearly arrested by the dictatorship. She journeyed to Austria and became one of the first female war correspondents during the beginning of WWI.

Keep in mind, her life spanned from 1864-1922, so not exactly a world that was used to or stoked on such feminine versions of strength.

Kroeger tracked down letters, strained her eyes looking at news paper microfiche, and trolled through dusty back rooms at libraries to compiled this in-depth look at Bly, while also offering a look at the newspaper industry in general. Bly was far from perfect, but she believed strongly in her own strength of will, claimed a place for herself in man's world, and never gave up standing for what she thought right.

Dec 13, 2011, 4:00am

>222 -Eva-: Seconding this! I read way too little poetry (even if I plan to have a poetry catgory for my 12 in 12) and have never even heard of "a novel in poetry" as a concept. But it sounds fascinating - both as form and story. Thumbed!

Dec 13, 2011, 9:44am

>221 andreablythe:, 222 and 225 - I will probably slide a verse novel or two into my poetry category for 12 in 12, considering I never read poetry and hope by doing so it will help alleviate the challenge for me, just a bit. ;-)

Anders - I was surprised to discover there are more verse novels out there then I had thought! Ellen Hopkins has a verse novel series Crank, Glass and Fallout. The Golden Gate by Virkrum Seth apparently also falls into this category, and strikes me as a good way to start Seth before I decide to dive into A Suitable Boy!

Dec 13, 2011, 12:25pm

>225 GingerbreadMan: and 226
Contemporary verse novels tend to be a bit easier on readers because they have to convey a story, as well as being poetry.

I've been meaning to check out Crank for a while now. I haven't heard of The Golden Gate, so will have to check that one out.

I've also read The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle, which is a rather good novel in poems, and Psyche in a Dress by Francesca Lia Block mixes prose and poetry to tell its story. And I love, love, love Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as translated by Simon Armitage.

There are a lot of young adult novels in verse, ranging from paranormal stories to romance novels.

Dec 18, 2011, 6:42pm

88. Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins (****)
Category: It's a Smoldering World After All

First, let me say that this was a fantastic and appropriate conclusion to the trilogy. Now, I'm going to go into more detail about my reasons -- without getting into too many specifics -- so if you don't want to risk a spoiler, turn away.

The conclusion of the Hunger Games trilogy finds Katniss as a symbol (and perhaps puppet) of the revolutionary forces housed in District 13. All of the districts, to varying degrees, are at war with the Capital, and a large part of this book deals with the public relations aspects of war. Katniss is allowed out into the field only so that District 13 can record her actions for PR commercials leaked illegally into the districts to inspire them to keep fighting.

It an interesting point of view for a young adult book to take. So many present the main characters as "the one" that will save the day and they become the most important aspect in the war and are the key to ending it. Katniss is vital to the war and is important as a symbol. But the war is so much bigger than her, and in many way's she's powerless against the tide. The war would carry on and end one way or another without her.

Katniss is certainly a strong character throughout the series, even as her emotions and actions have been coopted by one cause or another. She stands up, she fights even if she's sure that doing so will mean her own destruction, but another important part of her internal struggle (which occasionally is reflected in her external actions) is finding a space for herself, to feel, to live, to love, to be, that doesn't belong to someone else. For example, at one point, Katniss overhears Peeta asks who Gale thinks she will choose, and Gale responds that she will choose whomever will most help her survive, implying that Katniss is cold, calculating in how she approaches relationships. She never openly addresses the accusation, but is angered by it, as she acknowledges that she has never been allowed the emotional space to consider how she really felt about either of them on her own terms because the games and the war for so long has decided for her. I think Katniss' emotional journey is powerful, because she goes through such darkness, and yet finds her way out of despair to light and life and hope again.

I won't go into details about the ending, except to say that it's a war, people die and those who survive are left emotionally and physically scared. Some people, I have heard, were upset by the ending. I thought it was thoroughly appropriate, and I appreciated that Collins gave space and feeling to reconstruction, as well as recognizing the kind of sorrow and depression that can be felt while recovering from war.

Dec 18, 2011, 6:56pm

>226 lkernagh: Oh, I know many stories told in verse too. What seemed cool and different about Sharp teeth to me was that, from your review, it doesn't seem like it's epic. That it didn't just use verse like, say The Odyssey, to tell a straight story, but rather let a number of "regular" poems (for lack of a better word) link together to carry a narrative.

Dec 18, 2011, 7:02pm

>229 GingerbreadMan:
Yeah, that's pretty much it. :)

Dec 18, 2011, 10:36pm

I read Hunger Games when it came out, not knowing beforehand that it was to be a trilogy and got a bit put off by that (not the book's fault, I know), but now that the series isfinished, I'm wondering if I should give the whole set another chance - it does sound like a good read.

Dec 19, 2011, 11:49am

>231 -Eva-:
I can understand not wanting to launch into a story that's "not finished" yet. Can be frustrating to wait. Heh.

I do think the series is worth a read, though I love post-apocalypse and dystopias and dark storylines, so it works for me. :)

Dec 19, 2011, 4:40pm

I'll go along with the "post-apocalypse and dystopias and dark storylines." :) Yeah, it'll go back on the wishlist for a long weekend marathon-read.

(formerly bookoholic13)

Dec 19, 2011, 6:13pm

>233 -Eva-:
Ah, bookoholic13! I see! Thank you for pointing that out; I would have NEVER guessed.

I hope you enjoy the Hunger Games series. :)

Dec 19, 2011, 6:28pm

LOL! Yes, I think I'll keep adding that signature-block for a while... :)

Dec 20, 2011, 1:01am

89. Screencraft: Screenwriting, edited by Declan McGrath (****)
Category: Put the Pen to the Paper

I especially enjoyed this collection of interviews (as they call it, though it's not in interview format, rather more like a first person narrative) not only because the editor presented writers of different styles (from indy films to blockbusters to animation), but also because he made an effort to present screenwriters from across the world with a variety of different cultural backgrounds. It made it subtly clear that ones culture point of view plays a vital and important role in storytelling and that it should not be effaced by mainstream, Hollywood film making.

The very well put together book also provides still images from the feature films discussed, as well as scans of the actual screenplays, notes from the outlining process, and other images to give a complete idea of the screenwriting process and to better illustrate the techniques the writers described.

Dec 21, 2011, 9:26pm

90. At the Mountains of Madness and Other Tales of Terror, by H.P. Lovecraft (***)
Category: From the Modern Library's Top 100 Books

I was not thrilled with "At the Mountains of Madness." The story of an Antarctic expedition that discovers a madness-inducing mountain with horrifying creatures was overwrought. I mean, how many pages do you really need to describe the strange (and again with the madness-inducing) architecture. The story could have done with some serious cutting of redundant paragraphs. But it wasn't entirely without merit and had some moments, where the action moved at enough of a pace to keep me reading.

The second story, "The Shunned House," was better, in part because it was shorter and therefore more concise. Still a lot of overworked descriptions and very little dialog, but the ending image was awesome and one that has sparked my imagination.

"The Dreams in the Witch House" was good, about a man obsessed with a story of an old witch, who claimed to know secret geometries that allowed her to bend dimensional space. Lovecraft clearly loved the theme of insanity-inducing angles and architecture (along with bizarre old ladies, which also appeared in "At the Mountains of Madness," and again with the labored, overworked descriptions.

As for the finale story, "The Statement of Randolph Carter," I won't bother to give a description, and will just say, lame.

I don't find myself eager to read any more of Lovecraft's work (also considering what I've learned about his pervasive racism). Though I will probably also read, "The Call of Cthulhu," because I love the Cthulhu pop-culture cult following that has popped up all over the the internet.

Dec 22, 2011, 2:33pm

I've never read Lovecraft, but I have a few of his books at home because I want to give it a try, for no other reason than the pop-culture following you reference. *Lowering my expectations in hopes that I'll enjoy them a lot!* :)

Dec 28, 2011, 8:47pm

91. The Mermaid's Madness, by Jim C. Hines (****)
Category: Hello, I Love You
Book that made me fall in love: The Stepsister Scheme

Cinderella (aka Danielle), Sleeping Beauty (aka Talia), and Snow White again find themselves in dire circumstances. During an annual ceremony to greet the undine (merefolk), one of the mermaid's attacks in a fit of madness brought on after the human she loved abandoned her. The queen is left injured and it's up to the trio to find a way to save her.

One of the things I love about this series is the subtle complexity to each of the characters. To try to describe the characters -- Talia is kick ass and sports a perpetual sour demeanor, but she's a softy for the people who get close to her; Snow is constantly cheery and promiscuous, hiding a deeper sorrow; Danielle is naive, but emotionally strong -- is to make it come out blunt and glaring, but the emotional truth of each character is brought to the surface subtly as the main action of the story progresses.

It's a mystery wrapped up in a great big, fat, fun adventure. I'm definitely dying to read more. I love these chicks.

Dec 28, 2011, 9:46pm

Ooohhhh.... that does look like a good series.

Wait a minute.... how many books are in the series.... trying to avoid the multiple book bullet hit but think I have failed by reading your post above. **sighs**

Oh well, always need a few series in reserve for when the mood hits me. ;-)

Dec 28, 2011, 10:03pm

lol! It's definitely a multi-book thing. There's 4 so far, probably will be more.

Edited: Dec 29, 2011, 7:27am

What Lori said. Minus perhaps the self-deluding I always need a few series in reserve bit ;P

Dec 29, 2011, 11:59am

Yes, indeed. I'm always reluctant to start new series.

Someone should create a mathematical equation revealing the exponential way in which TBR lists continue growing larger no matter how many books you read.

Dec 29, 2011, 11:21pm

92. Sons and Lovers (audio book), D.H. Lawrence (***1/2)
Category: From the Modern Library's 100 Best Books List

Essentially this stretches a working family's life into epic proportions, giving minutia and emotions scope. The main focus is on the son Paul Morrel, who is caught between his mother and his lover, Miriam, and the emotional tug and pull that that causes.


The writing is great and I really enjoyed learning about the family and their internal conflicts in the beginning, but as the story stretched on and on and on, I grew tired of it. It was too long, too meandering, and I only finished it because it was on audio book and I needed something to listen to on the way to work.

Dec 31, 2011, 4:21pm

->244 andreablythe:

It is quite looong, isn't it. I read it in Uni and thought that I may not have enjoyed it since I was rushed, but I've since understood that it's just not an enjoyable read. :)

(formerly bookoholic13)

Dec 31, 2011, 10:46pm

>245 -Eva-:
Yeah. There were times I wanted to like it, and I might have, if an editor had the sense to trim two hundred pages off the thing.

Jan 1, 2012, 1:21pm

Here are my final stats for my 2011 reading with me falling six shy of 99. Oh, well. (^_^)

Total Books Read – 92

Fiction – 60
General – 11
Classics – 8
SF/Fantasy/Horror* – 41
*Grouped together because it’s too much of a headache to mentally debate which book falls into which category.

Young Adult** – 20
**This number does not contribute to overall total as they also fall into the above categories.

Comics/Graphic Novels – 10
Nonfiction – 1
Literary – 2
SF/Fantasy – 7

Poetry – 9

Nonfiction – 13
Writing How-To/Literary & Art Criticism – 7
History/Biography – 3
Memoir – 2
Travel Guidebook – 1

My Favorite 10 Books of 2011
(not in any particular order)

1. Fated, by S.G. Browne
2. Happy All The Time, by Laurie Colwin
3. A Room with a View, by E.M. Forester
4. Locke & Key (series), written by Joe Hill, art by Gabriel Rodriguez
5. Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die, edited by Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo, and David Malki
6. Peeps, by Scott Westerfeild
7. Push of the Sky, by Camille Alexa
8. Ceremony for the Choking Ghost (poetry), by Karen Finneyfrock
9. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
10. Zombies vs Unicorns, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier
11. Shine, by Lauren Myracle
12. Heart-Shaped Box, by Joe Hill (a reread and I still love it)
13. The Stepsister Scheme, by Jim C Hines
14. Boy Meets Boy (audio book), by David Levithan
15. The Door to Lost Pages, by Claude Lalumiere
16. Dreadnought, by Cherie Priest
17. A Book of Tongues, by Gemma Files
18. Blindness, by Jose Saramago
19. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
20. Sharp Teeth, a novel in poems by Toby Barlow

Jan 1, 2012, 3:12pm

Love the stats!

Jan 1, 2012, 3:55pm

I love that you have 20 "favorite ten books"!

Jan 2, 2012, 8:13am

I just caught up on 180 messages, and I do say -- you have a great thread. Lots and lots of stuff here that I want to investigate further. Starring 2012's, and looking forward to following! Happy new year. :)

Jan 2, 2012, 1:53pm

"you have 20 'favorite ten books'!"

That is quite hilarious!! Sign of a true LT:er, eh?! :)

Jan 3, 2012, 11:56am

>248 lkernagh:
Heh. Thanks!

>249 GingerbreadMan: & 251
Haha! That's hilliarious, and totally accidental. I meant to switch it from my "top ten" to my "favorites" because I couldn't narrow it down, but apparently messed up the edit. lol. It is very appropriate and accurate, though. :)

>250 pammab:
Thank you, pammab. I look forward to talking books with you. :)